10 Fears that Addicts May Have When Seeking Treatment

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By: Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

When entering drug and alcohol rehabilitation, or rehab, addicts often have many fears. In fact, fear is typically the reason for hesitation to seek treatment. As such, if you’re active in addiction and contemplating change but experiencing seemingly overwhelming fear about the possibility, you’re not alone.

We’ve all been there, to some degree.

In fact, there are common fears every recovering individual typically experienced when going from active addiction or dysfunction to recovering in rehabilitation or therapy. As an adult child of an addict who sought recovery through counseling, I can attest to them. And, for the record, I realize they’re the same ones that kept my mother active in her addiction for so long.

So again, you’re not alone. But, to prevent letting those fears rule you, it’s important to be aware not only of the fears but the debunking facts that squash them.

Fears and the Facts

Fear 1. “Rehab will be like a mental hospital”

Fact: Though rehabilitation occurs in a hospital environment, images of scenes from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest need not apply. However, active addiction is a disease and, as such, it is seen as an illness. Therefore, the idea that you are being treated in a hospital facility for a mental/physical diagnosis is based in fact. But, the fears you may have of being heavily sedated, strapped into a bed or straight jacket and electro-shocked? You can put those to rest.

Fear 2. “I won’t have any friends in there, and I’ll lose all my own.”

Fact: Truth be told, many of the so-called friends you have in active addiction aren’t even friends to themselves, much less you. That may seem like a harsh statement, but if they’re enabling your addiction by providing for, using with or supporting you in it, they are not being true friends. In fact, they likely need help too. And, though you may not have any established friendships within the rehab facility, you will likely make new, healthier connections with people who are on a road to recovery, rather than self-destruction.

Fear 3. “They’ll brainwash me or make me think everything is my fault.”

Fact: Rehabilitation is not about brainwashing individuals. And, for the record, getting sober and joining a recovery community isn’t the same as joining a cult. Though you will probably learn a whole new way of thinking, speaking and being, it will not be an effort to brainwash you or save your soul. Rehabilitation is about saving your life.

As for convincing you that everything is your fault? Well, blame is a deadly habit and though it serves a purpose in active addiction, it doesn’t serve anyone in recovery. As such, you can let that fear go, as well.

Fear 4. “My life won’t improve.”

Fact: Although there are many steps to take in active recovery, the first one is certainly to admit there is a problem. Entering rehab implies you’ve taken that step. From that point forward, your life is already improving.

Fear 5. “I’ll fail.”

Fact: Relapse is a part of recovery. That doesn’t mean you will relapse, nor does it imply you have to. But, if you do, you won’t be seen as a failure. You’ll be seen as an individual who is struggling with the disease of addiction. And, for the record, everyone in recovery who is battling the disease knows to take recovery one day at a time. Why? To prevent getting caught up in the what-ifs of tomorrow. Today, you are entering into rehab. Today, you are successful in your recovery efforts.

Fear 6. “I’ll have to go to church.”

Fact: Though there are faith-based recovery programs, rehabilitation is typically scientific. There may be spiritual aspects included in rehab, but that speaks to the holistic view of treatment for the disease of addiction which includes physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual elements. However, you are not forced to accept any doctrine of faith or attend faith-based gatherings. Again, rehab is about saving your life, not your soul.

Fear 7. “People won’t think I’m cool anymore, and my life will be boring.”

Fact: It may burst your bubble to know this, but active addiction is never cool. More times than not the legend you see as yourself is in your own mind. But, the stories you’ll have of survival and overcoming with regard to recovery will most definitely be cool.

As for your life being boring? No. You will simply start living your life, rather than slowly trying to end it. And, with regard to recovery, your life will only get more exciting because you will finally be able to achieve your true potential, feel your feelings deeply and connect with others, intimately. Recovery doesn’t take you from excitement to boredom. It takes you from numb to alive!

Fear 8. “I’ll lose my identity.”

Fact: Though you will lose what you know to be your identity with regard to that which is related to active addiction, you will not lose yourself. Quite the contrary. In rehab is exactly where you will start to find or rediscover yourself.

Fear 9. “I won’t be able to be myself.”

Fact: Just as the aforementioned fact stated, you will be able to find and begin to be your true self in rehab and recovery, possibly for the first time. And, though you may see only aspects of active addiction as identifiers, there are elements of you—the way you express yourself, books you like, movies you watch, your favorite color, etc.—that are simply you. But, remember, rehab and recovery don’t threaten you. Addiction does. Active addiction steals us from ourselves and those we love. And, as far as rehab is concerned, you can be completely you, as long as you are sober and working on the issues that kept you in active addiction.

Fear 10. “Everything I know will change.”

Fact: Yes. A great deal of what you know will change. That is true. But, with regard to the fear of that fact, it should not be viewed as a negative. When everything you know in active addiction has gotten so bad you are contemplating a change, then change is exactly what you need. Embrace it, and let the winds of change carry you where you need to be.


What a Future in Recovery Looks Like

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By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

When contemplating sobriety and recovery, there are often numerous questions, concerns and fears. These can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, they often prevent individuals from seeking the help needed.

It’s the unknown future in recovery that becomes the potential obstacle for so many in active addiction.

As such, it helps to get information about recovery from those who have been in your shoes and are in recovery now. They know the fear. But, more importantly, they understand the ways fear can destroy you with regard to preventing you from getting sober and entering recovery.

As someone who had my own questions regarding the unknown future in recovery for an adult child of and addict, I can speak to some of the questions and fears; will my life be boring? Will I lose all my friends? What about my identity? Who will I become? What if I fail? Do I have to become religious? Etc.

Thankfully, the fear of the unknown I experienced was not greater than the pain of my rock-bottom experience. As such, I charged forward into unknown territory, regardless.

But, when I did so, I found that though my questions were valid, my fears were my dysfunction’s defense mechanism; my ego’s last-ditch effort to remain in control and keep me active in my dysfunction.

Recovery doesn’t steal your friends. It sheds light on the truth about the individuals you’ve been labeling “friends.” It helps you learn what friendship and caring looks like, and assists you in seeking real community with true friends; the kind who won’t enable you. More importantly, recovery gives you the opportunity to become a friend to yourself—your best friend, rather than your own worst enemy.

Being in recovery isn’t boring, unless you are. And, for the record, that’s something you have control over too. It’s up to you to find new ways to have and be fun without drugs and alcohol. The recovery community you plug into will certainly help with that endeavor.

As for your identity, recovery doesn’t destroy who you are. However, it may feel that way, as you will be grieving not only your drug of choice but the life and identity you knew and adhered to in active addiction. But, in truth, recovery gives your original identity—who you were meant to be—and potential back to you. It just may take a while for you to recognize yourself, as you’ve likely been missing for some time.

For the record, the latter will be true of family members as well. It will take some time for them to see you as you and not the addiction they’ve identified you with for so long.

And, lastly, recovery doesn’t force you into religion. Although spirituality is a vital part of recovery, it has nothing to do with organized religion. And, with regard to the spiritual paths available for you to choose, the options are limitless and can easily be customized by and for you.

The most important thing to remember when contemplating your future in recovery is that no matter how unknown and, therefore, potentially frightening a life in recovery may be, it certainly can’t be worse than what you already know of a life in active addiction. Take the leap.


5 Things to Strive For in Recovery Now That You’re Sober

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By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Now that you’re sober, the real work can begin.

That may seem like an insulting statement for those who have struggled through detox to get to the other side of withdrawal. But, as with any truth that’s difficult but necessary to hear, it may be a shock to the system to read words that imply your likely painful experience in detox is merely the tip of the iceberg. Still, it’s true.

Your journey is just beginning.

Sobriety and recovery are two completely different things. In fact, though most active addicts tend to assume that being sober would be enough, that’s merely the first step. And, without recovery, it’s not only sobriety that is threatened. Sanity eventually goes out the window too and serenity is not a possibility.

That’s exactly why it is necessary for individuals who have entered a state of sobriety through detox or other means to seek real recovery. Moreover, it’s important to strive for a handful of things in the recovery process to keep sanity intact and serenity in reach.

Sobriety – Getting sober is something you’ve already achieved. You must take a moment to celebrate that victory. However, finding new ways to celebrate most anything will require that you do the work to stay sober.

Typically, in recovery, individuals require support to maintain sobriety. It isn’t enough to merely detox and move along with life. Most newly sober individuals seek sober communities, recovery groups and sober living situations. Any or all of the three are great ways to maintain sobriety, especially when new to recovery.

Sanity – A great deal of dual diagnosis occurs with active addiction. As such, once you are sober, it is necessary to treat or continue managing any dual diagnosis issues. Depression, anxiety and other mood and personality disorders can quickly hinder your sobriety and prevent recovery.

As such, it is necessary to plug yourself into therapy and begin facing any unresolved emotional, psychological and/or spiritual issues. Regardless of the existence of a diagnosis, active addiction and the experiences that accompany it are enough to require emotional recovery.  Additionally, it is vital to continue managing any diagnoses requiring medical therapies through the appropriate means suggested by your healthcare provider.

Self-Love – In order to truly solidify recovery, one must learn to love oneself, unconditionally. The latter is the difficult part.

It’s seemingly quite easy to love ourselves when we are achieving our goals and accomplishing our dreams. But what if we’ve been wrapped up in an active addiction for so long we let our dreams and goals pass us by? Then it might not be so easy to love ourselves. More importantly, we might not find it easy to forgive ourselves.

That’s where the self-love stage of successful recovery begins; forgiveness. We must forgive ourselves and embrace who we were, are and that which we now strive to become.

Spirituality – A vital piece of successful recovery is spirituality. It is key to a delicate balance that offers us the ultimate goal of inner peace. And, as such, it is necessary to find ways to regain a sense of spirituality after achieving sobriety.

Spirituality is not the same as religion. As such, church or organized religious beliefs are not necessary here. But striving for spirituality by finding a higher power and seeking the higher self is.

Serenity – Once the aforementioned stages are achieved and remain a part of daily existence, serenity, or a newfound sense of inner peace, is not only a possibility. It is guaranteed.

And, for the record, once serenity is accomplished, relapse in thinking or behavior is no longer necessary. You simply evolve.

Remember, you’ve taken the first and most vital step. Now, let your journey begin.


3 Ways to Prevent Fear from Kicking In

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By Toshia Humphries

Fear can quickly become the enemy of successful recovery. In fact, it potentially threatens any form of personal growth. But, fear itself, is merely an emotion we all experience from time to time. Therefore, the power we give it is a choice.

Additionally, most everyone fears change. And, with regard to active addiction, that particular reality is quite concerning and significant. Conversely, however, fear can also be a great motivator, depending on the perspective.

As such, it is important for active addicts contemplating treatment as well as those individuals already on the path of recovery to keep their fear in check, so to speak. Learning how to prevent fear from kicking in and finding ways to reign it in when fear becomes overwhelming can become unexpected survival techniques and keys to successful recovery.

Below are three ways to prevent fear from kicking in and taking over:

Be mindful. When we focus on the past, we live in yesterday. If we concentrate on only the future, we are living in tomorrow. Either leaves us lacking the ability to live in the only moment we truly have; the present. Staying in the present moment and gently reminding ourselves to redirect our thoughts to the here-and-now can ease our fears over consequences of the past and of anything unknown in the future.

Stay well-grounded. Fear that becomes overwhelming and out of control is typically irrational fear. Those who experience anxiety or panic attacks are aware of this reality. As such, the implications for those who encounter both as a result of active addiction are great.

Rational thought is not something that accompanies active addiction, as such, fear can be a motivator here. But, for the record, it is not a place to get stuck. Quite the contrary. Fear is not a place anyone wants to live. As such, moving past contemplation into action with regard to seeking help for active addiction is one sure way to attempt to move from fear into the much more hospitable environment of hope.

For those in recovery, it is important to find ways to stay well-grounded. Finding a “safe person” to call or talk to when irrational fears creep in, plugging in to recovery groups, acquiring a sponsor, therapist, life coach, spiritual counselor, etc., can all be active steps toward staying well-grounded and accountable.

Open up. Talking and expressing personal feelings, thoughts and experiences is a necessary, yet sometimes difficult, practice for preventing and calming fear. Although the vulnerability involved often creates a bit of anxiety, finding emotionally safe ways to express and safe people to open up to will ease the experience.

Recovery groups are a generally a great place to begin the practice of honest, open communication. Of course, different rules apply for every group, so be sure to respect those which apply to communication within or directed to the group.

As with anything else, practice makes perfect. The more you communicate, the easier it gets. Writing letters (unsent or otherwise) is one way to start opening up without the fear of judgment. But, remember, the point is to grow and continue to gain new life skills, including but not limited to honest, open communication. As such, don’t get stuck in the safety zone of unsent letter-writing. Find your voice, and let it be heard.

Regardless of whether you’re an active addict considering change or an individual in recovery grappling with the reality of a sober life, these tips are important to keep in mind. Nothing gets better in active addiction. As such and with regard to that reality, it’s also vital to keep Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words in mind; “the only thing you have to fear is fear, itself.” With regard to active recovery, just remember this; the unknown is certainly a better alternative to that which you’ve known, and what becomes of it is solely up to you.



4 Tips for Following Through on the New Year’s Resolution to Get Sober

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By Toshia Humphries

It’s a new year. And, as such, many people have made some important resolutions to begin changing their lives for the better. Vows to eat healthy, exercise more and reestablish connections with friends or estranged family members are just a handful of examples.

Still, some resolutions are life and death matters. Getting sober is certainly one of those. Seeking treatment and entering into a lifelong recovery process, however, is not always the wording or perspective used when making that resolution.

Yet, as we know, getting clean is just the first step on a journey which requires commitment and a lot of work and support to sustain.

Of course, other resolutions—like eating better, working out and reestablishing relationships—takes work too. But, with regard to getting sober and staying sober, the work is a bit more involved and a lot more challenging.

What could be more challenging than turning down sweets or fried foods? Facing yourself and all the pain you’ve been suppressing, avoiding and attempting to numb throughout your active addiction.

The thought of that makes going to the gym every day look pretty easy, right? Right.

But without emotional, psychological and spiritual health, physical health is pointless. And, with regard to active addiction, all of the above are completely compromised.

As such, it is important to know what steps to take to follow through on the New Year’s resolution to get sober. More importantly, it’s vital to learn tips for maintaining that sobriety through active recovery.

Seek Treatment. Of course, the first step to getting sober is to admit you need to. Kudos for recognizing there is, indeed, a problem.

However, getting sober is not as easy as putting down the drugs or alcohol. In fact, to do only that is potentially deadly, as alcohol withdrawals can be fatal. Additionally, to stop drinking without treatment or recovery is referred to as “white-knuckle sobriety,” and it is a setup for a relapse which spirals one further down past the initial rock bottom.

As such, it is vital to seek treatment. There are residential, rehabilitation and outpatient treatment facilities available. Find what best suits your personal and financial needs.

Find Community. Once you have entered treatment, you are considered a recovering addict/alcoholic. As such, you will meet many others while you are in treatment who are recovering as well. This creates a wonderful support network of people who understand your struggle and can easily relate.

The challenge begins when you leave treatment and all those individuals, supportive staff members and the safety of the facility behind.

As such, it is necessary to plug yourself into a recovery community as soon as possible. You can begin asking for information on how and where to access sober living, recovery and/or collegiate recovery communities while in treatment. Otherwise, you can easily find this information online.

If you live in a rural community and have limited or no access to these communities, it may be necessary to simply seek the support of a sponsor, counselor, church community or spiritual group or commute to the nearest recovery group, if possible.

Get Support. When you are plugged into a recovery community, it feels like enough. But, for the record, it isn’t. Though you are surrounded by people who understand and have likely been in your shoes or are currently going through it who can help you work the program, they are not capable of being your personal therapist. This is especially true with regard to dual diagnosis.

For that reason, it is best to seek a counselor or psychologist, along with a sponsor and/or recovery coach, when in recovery. Finding a professional who can help you sort out any emotional/psychological issues resulting from your time in active addiction, as well as those that spurred or perpetuated it, is vital to preventing relapse.

Do the Work. The process of recovery is not an easy one. It is a lifelong journey of personal growth, healing, empowerment and enlightenment. And, because it requires a lifetime commitment, the work never ends.

However, the workload does decrease. Once the deep wounds are surfaced, the grieving begins and (of course) and dual diagnoses are addressed and treated, the work becomes about maintenance.

Of course, that doesn’t mean things get easy. Conversely, there are no easy routes in recovery. But, if you do the work—the hard, grueling and scary work—in the beginning, the journey becomes less daunting, and the gifts that result becomes clear and accessible.

The resolution to get sober is an admirable one. But, just to state it as a desire or a promise to yourself is not enough. Active addicts break promises to themselves and others every single day. It’s a criteria for diagnosis.

As such, make this resolution stick, so you can be around to make another one on the last day of this year.

5 Ways You Can Love Yourself Today

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By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Contrary to what some believe, self-love does not equate to selfishness. In fact, learning to love oneself often prevents it. After all, to fully love others, one must first love oneself.

With regard to active addiction, love of self is typically completely lacking. The reasons vary, but the reality is the same and it is one of chronic self-sabotage. In other words, active addiction is a means of self-destruction, not an exhibition of self-love.

For these individuals, making a decision to seek help is the first step toward self-preservation and self-love. And, for the record, since active addiction is the acute situation, that particular step is most vital. It must be taken before any other efforts toward self-care or love of self can be employed.

That said, once treatment for active addiction is sought, the biggest and hardest step has been taken. As such, those in active recovery have already moved from a place of self-destruction to one of self-care. And, with that in mind, congratulations and a moment to reflect on that uplifting reality are in order.

But, as we know, the journey doesn’t end there.

For that reason, it is important to find ways to continue to practice self-love throughout recovery. Love of self is vital to relapse prevention and key to successful relationships, as well as holistic wellness. And, as with recovery, the practice of self-love is one we can employ one day at a time.

Let the first day be today by employing these five ways to love yourself:

Get rest and relaxation. Sleep is necessary for holistic health. Physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual health rely on rest and plenty of it. Relaxation is also key to overall wellness. As such, making sure you get a good night’s rest (ideally, 8 hours) or find time to nap in an effort to compensate for any sleep lost due to situations out of your control is first on the to-do list. Finding ways to relax—taking a hot bath, going for a walk, yoga and meditation, etc.—throughout the day needs to accompany this step, as relaxation leads to a restful mind and body.

Take time for mental health. Whether you can afford to take the day completely off—no school, no work, no appointments of any kind—and enjoy a mental health day, or simply find an hour to devote to doing nothing, it is necessary to take time to let your mind unwind. Zoning out to music, watching a beloved movie, reading a book, etc., are all great options for “vegging out” and giving yourself a break from the stressors of everyday life.

Get moving. Exercise gets the blood flowing, stagnate energy moving and endorphins kicking in. All of the above are vital to overall wellness. It keeps you physically healthy and typically makes you feel better about yourself, all while relieving stress and promoting relaxation. Additionally, exercise is prevents and effectively helps reduce depression and provides a great distraction when and if cravings become an issue.

However, as with anything else, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Distraction is a temporary fix, not a permanent solution. As such, remember; the purpose of exercising is to maintain holistic health as a practice of self-love, not self-destruction. If you’re reasoning is based on self-loathing or insecurities, be sure to address this with a helping professional. Exercise bulimia is a dangerous reality and should not be taken lightly.

Get moving, but don’t get a substitute addiction.

Feed your body and mind. Food is necessary for survival. Healthy food is vital for quality of life. Making the time to prepare or acquire a healthy meal, at least three times a day, with healthy snacks throughout the day improves if not ensures physical and mental health.

Food for thought is also necessary, especially with regard to successful recovery. Employing daily affirmations, positive quotes and so on at the start or end of the day is a great way to feed the mind and nurture the self.

Get quiet. Quiet time is something we needed as children, and that does not change when we become adults. Getting quiet means turning off all background noise—no tv, radio, computer, video games. Nothing. Complete silence. Whether you choose to get quiet via the practice of meditation at a local yoga studio or decide to do so by simply sitting in the silence of your own home, finding ways to get quiet offers opportunities to sit with, face and lovingly embrace yourself.

These five steps don’t require much extra effort. Sleeping and eating is something we should already be doing, so employing the proper amount and method should be simple enough. However, if there is resistance to any of the above, that is not an abnormal experience. If self-love came naturally to us, addiction would have never been an issue.

The truth is self-love is not easy for the majority of individuals, mainly because it is not something we are taught. It’s something we generally have to teach ourselves. And, more to the point, it requires us to be our own best parent—setting boundaries and instilling norms and expectations we don’t always initially like. But, as with our need to access treatment and get recovery, the need to further our journey of self-love is a reality and one we will find gets easier and more fulfilling as we move along.

5 Ways to Prevent the Relapse Grinch from Stealing Your Holiday Spirit

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By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

The holiday season is upon is, and it is one which typically brings social gatherings, time with family and friends and a varying degree of hustle and bustle. While all of the above can be enjoyable to a degree, many of us find ourselves dealing with family drama and dysfunction, financial stress and temptations and opportunities to use or drink.

The latter list is less festive and often causes a sense of dread prior to the holiday season. For those who are new to recovery, this time of year can be especially challenging. But, like the Grinch that stole Christmas, the potential for relapse threatens to steal the true spirit of the holidays and potentially more.

Remember, relapse begins with though, not action. And, as most of us know, much of that mentality is based around victimization and irrational thinking. With regard to both, the holiday season has a tendency to surface and sensationalize.

For that reason, it is important to know how to prevent relapse thinking and behavior during the holidays. Tips on how to maintain sanity and serenity and continue a journey of successful recovery, regardless, are vital.

As such, we’ve offered five important tips on how to prevent the relapse Grinch from stealing your holiday spirit, below:

Stay connected. Many people travel during the holidays, take time off work, spend days with family, leave the university for weeks at a time and become otherwise unavailable. As such, those who struggle during the holidays often feel alone.

Additionally, much of the holiday festivities involve social gatherings and parties stocked with    alcohol. For those in early recovery, this can be especially challenging. Relapse thinking often kicks in and tells us that “one drink to celebrate the holidays with family and friends won’t hurt.” Of course, we could never be more wrong.

As such, it’s important to stay connected to a recovery community, as well as your sponsor and/or counselor during the holiday season. Creating events like Friendsgiving—a gathering for friends during the traditional November holiday of Thanksgiving—and other holiday-inspired, friend-oriented festivities not only helps you stay connected to sober friends. It keeps the spirit of togetherness alive for those without or unable to be with family.

See the magic. Children truly seem to enjoy the holiday season more than anyone. Most would agree the reasoning is not necessarily completely to do with presents and time away from school. Children simply seem to see the magic.

It’s a gift many of us seem to lose as we move along life’s journey. Issues with family, grief and loss, our time spent in active addiction often steals the magic away. But, only if we allow it.

The magic is never gone from our lives. It’s always there, and the holiday season is the best time to attempt to reclaim it. Looking to children for the “how to” is likely the best way.

Of course, there’s no need to ask a child. Just observing children in the line to sit on Santa’s lap (or better yet, standing in line with them), watching classic children’s holiday movies, attending a holiday storybook reading, etc. offers the opportunity to see and feel the magic of the holidays and life, itself.

Heal the past. The holiday season has an uncanny way of surfacing unresolved issues, especially those involving family. As such, there’s no better time than the holidays to start working on those issues. Whether with a counselor or via a self-help book, attempting to heal the past rather than run from it prevents the overwhelming desire to find unhealthy ways to escape the surfacing emotions and memories.

Be objective. Though issues that occur with family members (or those that occur due to a lack of) feel and often are very personal, it is best to try to be objective during the holidays to avoid relapse thinking and behavior.

Being objective requires stepping back and simply observing the dynamic within the family or that which is surfacing due to a lack of family, rather than engaging or giving in to self-sabotage. It is an exercise in mindfulness, and it prevents over-personalization and irrational responses by allowing you an opportunity to simply be an observer, rather than an active participant in the dysfunction.

Get help. The holiday season can be extremely difficult for many, especially those who have no family or are unable to be with them. Though the aforementioned steps offer ways to get through the holidays, regardless, often the pain is rather overwhelming. And, when that is the case, these steps alone are not enough.

Do not hesitate to reach out to a counselor, life or recovery coach or even a crisis hotline (which are always available, regardless of the day of the year), if you are feeling overwhelmed with emotion or a sense of loneliness.

No matter what steps you decide to take to keep the relapse Grinch from stealing your holiday spirit, remember there is a lot to celebrate this holiday season. You’re alive, you have a recovery community (even here, on this site) that cares about you and, because you are sober, you have you. As such, you’re not alone, and the potential for a bright future ahead is yours to fulfill.

For some of us, that new reality is quite the holiday miracle.

How Emotional Recovery Helped Me Lose Weight—Not Your Average Weight-Loss Story

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By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A

I am an adult child of an addict, referred to in the addictions field as an ACOA. That fact will never change, regardless of the years I spent in counseling and the lifetime I will spend in active emotional recovery. But, because of the latter, many things about me have changed, drastically, including the weight I once constantly carried around.

But, before I divulge that weight-loss story, let me share a little personal history.


I was born into a severely dysfunctional family, riddled with addiction and abuse. My mother was hooked on drugs by the age of 15. At 17, she was pregnant with me. But, incidentally, she wasn’t my abuser. She was simply the one, other than my absent biological father, who abandoned me.

Born without obvious, physical drug-related deformities—thankfully, my mother abstained from heroin, her drug of choice, throughout her pregnancy—I was the only child to my mother and sole grandbaby to her parents. As a baby, we lived with my grandparents who helped my mother raise me—co-parenting, so to speak.

My grandmother was a teetotaler. She never touched an illegal drug or consumed an alcoholic beverage. But she was a heavy smoker, an addiction that would eventually take her life.

She was the daughter of an alcoholic; a very abusive man. According to my grandmother, he had subjected her to violence all her life. Witness to the beatings of her own mother, she suffered a great deal. Through broken conversations, she also revealed his tendencies toward sexual abuse.

Eleven years older than her only sibling, she was forced to bear the abuse, alone.

She never received counseling or help of any kind. Choosing simply to steer clear of the substance she blamed for her pain, she chose a life of sobriety. Her only tool for coping was to escape her home by marrying young and burying herself in work; distractions she acquired at the early age of 15.

Her only child – my mother – suffered at the hands of her father, too. Sexually abused, my mother became obese; a common defense mechanism for victims of sexual violations. The obesity was an embarrassment to my grandmother who, due to her adverse childhood, had become afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorder tendencies and other ACOA-related issues.

At 11 years old, my mother was prescribed amphetamine-based diet pills, at my grandmother’s request.

Four years later, she was an addict, willing to try anything to get her fix and provide an emotional escape.

My grandmother took no responsibility. From her perspective, she simply became a victim of addiction, again.  Eventually, I became a victim to her and all her untreated ACOA issues, while she seemingly transformed into her father and became my main abuser.


I suffered various forms of abuse and numerous traumas throughout my childhood. Though not all were at the hands of my grandmother, the vast majority greatly resembled scenes from Mommy Dearest.

My young adulthood saw the death of my mother, who died from the disease of addiction at the young age of 38, and my grandfather, who I truly believe died of a broken heart after the loss of his daughter. I was twenty years old, and I lost both of them in less than a year’s time.

Of course, their deaths left me with no one to call “family,” other than my grandmother.

Additionally, my grandfather was the only father I’d ever known. As such, that was certainly the most emotionally challenging year of my life. However, that wasn’t to say it was the worst thing I’d experienced. It wasn’t. But, as grief and loss often do, the finality unhinged the door I’d been closing and locking on my feelings for years.

That’s when the anxiety attacks and depression kicked in; a direct result of what would later be diagnosed as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

As such, I found myself seeking counseling. Actually, initially, I just wanted to make the crippling anxiety attacks stop. A few bouts with suicidality also landed me in a counseling office or two, neither time of my own free will.

Eventually, the anxiety was so bad, I was willing to do whatever it took. Additionally, I was in a horribly dysfunctional and abusive relationship. The latter became the catalyst that set me on a path of personal growth and emotional recovery.


I spent the next seven years in counseling. After finding the right fit with regard to my therapist, I spent many sessions facing my pain, revisiting traumas in an effort to heal, dealing with myself and all the learned dysfunctional behaviors and finally grieving the multitude of losses. It was a long, painful and often terrifying process.

But, as I moved forward on that journey, I began to feel lighter. I was no longer carrying all the weight of my past, my dysfunctional family, their pain or stuffing down my own. The weight of their world was no longer mine to bear, and I was able to release the grief I’d been suppressing.

I had begun to write my own story, rather than just becoming another screwed up chapter in theirs. And, as such, my heart was no longer heavy. My pain was no longer weighing down my wings. I lost the dead weight of addiction, abuse and dysfunction and found myself.

Discovering Who You Are After Addiction

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By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

In active addiction, much of what we identify with is in direct relation to our addiction. In fact, many of us become quite known for our partying antics. Unfortunately, some of us become less labeled as the life of the party and more associated with the legal issues we find ourselves in as a result of the party.

Whether our reputation as an active addict becomes one of popularity among groups which have seemingly perverted the definition of fun, or finds us labeled “the black sheep,” our identity becomes defined by the drugs we do, alcohol we use, dealers we know, bars we frequent and friends (or enablers) we find in active addiction. That fact leaves the majority of us who enter treatment grieving not only our substance of choice and the connections we had, deemed toxic during recovery, but our very identity as well.

Because that can pose a very real and challenging threat to our longevity in recovery, we must find ways to discover who we are after addiction. Here are some steps to take in an effort to do just that:

  1. Shift your perspective. When we enter into recovery, it is vital to our success that we switch our perspective from one that sees a lost identity to a view which gently reminds us we simply gained one. We are now in active recovery, and that will be a new, positively-defining part of our identity. That does not deny us our need to grieve. However, it does give us a way to maintain gratitude and hope for a new normal within our experience of grief.


  1. Get back to basics. Entering treatment may threaten the identity we have unfortunately embraced throughout our active addiction, but it does not rob us of our basic identifiers. Our gender, race, culture, religion, ethnicity, etc., are still intact. Moreover, our role as daughter, son, brother, sister, mother, father, aunt, uncle, family member and friend are not lost to us. In fact, many of those aspects are potentially strengthened. Returning back to basic identifying factors can help us ground ourselves in times where we feel as though we have no anchor.


  1. Embrace the new. Change is not easy for anyone. It can be a terrifying experience, even when we are aware that which we are leaving behind was destroying us. It is the fear of the unknown. And, as such, it is a common one which branches far beyond that experienced by active addicts entering into recovery. However, if we merely embrace the new life that lies before us and the simple fact that we get a chance to actually live it, we have a better chance of not only discovering who we are after addiction, but falling in love with the newfound freedom to become whatever we dream.


Though the challenges to losing a sense of one’s identity can be overwhelming, the aforementioned simple steps can truly lessen that load. Though the grief will still be valid and certainly needs to be processed, the journey forward will be an easier one if we are open to the progress. A great recovery community, addiction specialists and counselors can assist with the journey as well.

It Will Hurt—A Reminder to Recovering Addicts, “You Are Supposed to Feel Pain”

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By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Throughout life, all individuals experience a wide range of emotion. Everything from joy and ecstasy to grief and depression is possible. However, not everyone is comfortable with or even willing to accept variations of the latter. And, with regard to emotional pain, addicts are especially quick to kick and scream or attempt an avoidance or escape tactic.

The latter is due to one simple fact; they’ve spent the duration of their addiction and then some trying desperately to suppress and deny pain.

Active addicts typically utilize their substance of choice as a means or method of achieving that end. In fact, the drugs and alcohol begin to suppress and dull emotions so well, addicted individuals become seemingly numb. To a degree, that experience mirrors the initial stage of grief; denial. Incidentally, the latter is of course also exactly where active addicts typically sit with regard to their disease and the need for help.

But, in defense of active addicts everywhere, the state of denial isn’t populated by addicts alone. Generally speaking, it’s where humans feel safe and secure. It’s one reason any truth that shakes the core of one’s beliefs or forces feelings by shedding light on tragedy or injustice is typically met with resistance and distortion. To attempt to force anyone out of denial is to potentially actively engage in war with one’s ego.

Ego. It is the forerunner in the perpetuation of active addiction, and it’s not big on humility, accountability, personal growth or pain. And, as such, active addicts who are seemingly controlled by ego continue to refuse to deal with themselves, their underlying emotional or mental issues or the disease of addiction, itself. They remain in denial and defend their state with the fervor of native Texans.

That’s one reason rock bottom isn’t always low enough. The pain has to be so great that it outweighs any level of intoxication and outnumbers the enablers left standing in false support. More importantly, the active addict has to come to realize that the substance of choice is no longer suppressing or numbing pain, but seemingly adding to it.

That wakeup call occurs in seconds, and unfortunately it can be quite fleeting. Why? Because pain, however, is not.

Pain lasts longer than detox. It extends past twenty-eight days. And, typically speaking, when the drugs, alcohol and numbness wear off and the physical ramifications of withdrawal have dissipated, the guilt, shame, grief and pain floods in, along with numerous other overwhelming and sometimes mixed emotions.

Additionally, the grief alone is a process. And, generally, it is intensified in recovery because addicts must let go of everything they know, including themselves, or at least the identity they have acquired during their active addiction. As such, emotional recovery becomes a vital piece of recovering from addiction.

However, not all recovering addicts seek or receive emotional recovery; a fact which may contribute greatly to the staggeringly high statistics on relapse. But, for the record, there isn’t an individual alive—addicted, recovering or not—who couldn’t benefit from emotional growth and healing. Why? Because everyone experiences pain. Everyone.

The experience of pain doesn’t always equate a diagnosis. More often than not, it’s simply part of being human. We are meant to feel pain. To deny, suppress, avoid and escape pain only prolongs and ultimately intensifies and multiplies it. In fact, eventually, the unresolved painful emotions can have a very detrimental physical effect.

Part of successful recovery is realizing it will hurt. Recovery, personal growth, letting go, starting over, being born again—whatever label is placed on the process, it will hurt. Why? Because it is birth; the birth of a new you.

And, yes. You are supposed to feel pain. Moreover, you are supposed to feel. Period. It is one way to know you are more than just merely alive. You’re living.