Abusive Relationship and Addiction

By | Domestic Violence | No Comments

Abusive Relationship and Addiction

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

How My Abusive Relationship Led to Addiction

Fall consists of such joy for most of us. Football games, Halloween, pumpkin everything and festive family holidays. However, it also encompasses Suicide Awareness in September, Domestic Violence Awareness, World Mental Health Day and Mental Health Awareness Week in October.​​​1, 2 This reality gives those of us in recovery cause to reflect on lives lost to addiction, as well as domestic violence, suicide or undiagnosed mental illness and those currently in the throes of Hell.

As we know, these very serious issues are not necessarily exclusive. In fact, a great deal of active addicts report experiences with domestic violence, instances and patterns of mental illness in the home—including but not limited to addiction, alcoholism and depression—co-occurring mental illnesses and suicidal thoughts or even attempts. Additionally, given the negative effects of active addiction on the family, the vast majority of us are all too aware of the cycle of addiction and abuse.

Many of us—prior to entering recovery—found ourselves the product of one or both cycles. Taking accountability and claiming responsibility for our own lives, we courageously took the first step, erasing our victim mentality and empowering ourselves through active healing. But some of us have only cracked the surface. There will always be another layer to uncover. As an adult child of an addict, raised in an abusive home and co-parented by an untreated adult child of an alcoholic with clinical depression, I can personally attest to that fact, and in honor of those who share a similar experience, I am openly sharing my story.

As a child, I witnessed active addiction; a confusing and scary experience for anyone too young to grasp the explanation. But untreated depression was no less damaging. I felt abandoned, emotionally neglected, lonely, fearful, distorted and burdensome. Both illnesses spurred a great deal of anger, frustration, irritability, shifts in mood, negativity, neglect, verbal and psychological abuse. More importantly, neither depression nor addiction offered a safe place for me to be me, and coupled together, they resulted in suicide attempts and domestic violence.

Becoming the Victim of an Abusive Relationship

I was not visibly battered or bruised, excelled in school, involved myself in extracurricular activities and appeared normal, so I was overlooked by school counselors and other helping professionals. When it came to assessing a need for help, I slipped through the cracks, so to speak, as most children in these situations do. I was a mixture of the Hero and the Lost Child—rarely seen and shining, when in view.

Yet, I witnessed terrifying bouts of violence, active addiction and suicide attempts.​​​3 However, other than hand marks across my face, there were no physical signs of damage or injury. So, like a car accident victim with no lacerations, bruises or obvious broken bones, my condition wasn’t viewed as an emergency. But—just as with an auto crash—very serious injuries can be unseen, worsen and be potentially fatal without care.

So why didn’t I ask for help? Because I didn’t know I needed it. Denial was a close friend of the family. The psychological and emotional injuries deepened and worsened over time, and I simply learned to distract myself, escape the pain and self-medicate—something passed down from family. Unfortunately, denial, avoidance, escapism and substance abuse weren’t the only dysfunctional behaviors I acquired from family. I had seemingly perfected their same inability to love, honor and protect me.

As a teenager, I found myself in an abusive relationship with a star athlete—a popular kid adored by all the girls. But he was also a substance abuser with an undiagnosed mental illness who suffered extreme mood swings and attempted to kill me. In other words, he was strikingly familiar and felt like home to me. My immediately family did nothing to intervene. In fact, they blamed me—an opportune manipulation or way to justify their acts of abuse and shift responsibility to me. Blaming the victim—as we learn in recovery—is characteristic of active addicts and abusers. It’s an attempt to keep people weak and reiterate a destructive message already playing, repeatedly; “It’s your fault. You make people hurt you.”

Was My Abusive Relationship a Part of a Pattern in My Life?

The experience of abuse in relationships was a pattern throughout my life. Active addiction and other untreated mental illnesses—as well as the accompanying dysfunction and abuse—were more familiar to me than sobriety, mental health, personal growth or serenity. In fact, those without an active addiction or untreated mental illness who had a grasp of life skills and healthy coping were honestly boring and certainly foreign to me.

It seemed I had learned to navigate in chaos. So much so, I was turned off by calm waters and now subconsciously but actively sought the drama of stormy seas. I didn’t know how to sit comfortably in peace and quiet. In fact, it terrified me. I had not learned to be accepted, loved, nurtured, supported, encouraged, valued, respected and accurately reflected.

Then, I hit age 30, and suffered a devastating panic attack which forced me to seek counseling. In the first session, I came to realize something quite profound; the person doing the most damage to myself was me. I was now an adult and no longer being involuntarily subjected to abuse, addiction, dysfunction and chaos by adults, entrusted with my care and responsible for my emotional and physical safety. Instead, I was now knowingly subjecting myself to all those things. My relationship with myself had become the most abusive, and that’s the relationship on which I needed to focus—the one I needed to change.

I was fortunate enough to have an amazing counselor who suggested I envision a 5-year-old child sitting next to me. She told me to imagine that child constantly with me, and in every situation, ask myself, “Should this child be hearing or seeing this? Should this child be treated this way?” If the answer was no, it meant I needed to walk away. But it wasn’t just others who posed a threat. I had become my own worst enemy—my own abusive parent to the child within me.

I neglected my own emotional needs, starved myself in an effort to be pretty, physically beat myself up by running and working out constantly, criticized myself relentlessly, and so on. I had learned to abuse myself as others abused me and, therefore, continued to seek abusive, addicted and unavailable people because it was all I knew, until I learned something different in counseling.

Acceptance vs. Enabling

Family members and friends of individuals struggling with active addiction often face their own inner battle. It is difficult for parents, partners and peers to witness the self-inflicted pain and suffering. Moreover, the compassionate heart of a parent often seeks to provide unconditional love, support and acceptance, regardless. Spouses feel bound by the vows which state “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.”

Additionally troubling is the reality friends face of wanting to support, encourage and accept the person they love to avoid adding pain to their destructive process. The idea that being that sort of ride or die friend constitutes true friendship is a dangerous one in most situations. In the case of active addiction, it is deadly.

Dr. William Glasser—father of Choice Theory and Reality Therapy—designated acceptance as one of the seven caring habits.​​​​​​4 Alongside trusting, supporting, encouraging, listening, negotiating differences and respecting, accepting is a behavior which nurtures and serves to grow relationships. The seven opposite of these are defined by Glasser as deadly habits and essentially destroy or kill relationships of any category.

Caring Habit or Destructive Pattern

Because the above is true, friends, family and significant others feel they are wrong in refusing to accept the negative behaviors, consequences and resulting chaos created by the individual in active addiction. In fact, they toil over the idea of emotional detachment—the process of letting go—because the terminology and experience seems cruel or lacking in empathy for their loved one.

However, there is a difference between acceptance—a caring habit—and enabling. Enabling is a destructive pattern of behavior which resembles acceptance and other caring habits. But, contrary to its appearance, enabling is not love. It is in fact anti-love because it ultimately serves to keep the individual in active addiction.

Enabling is the process of;

  • supporting, encouraging and accepting destructive, self-sabotaging behavior,
  • repeatedly listening to chronic bouts of victimization typically resulting from self-orchestrated, self-inflicted or self-perpetuated personal drama,
  • trusting the behavior will change regardless of the obvious pattern,
  • attempting to negotiate differences by merely taking a passive stance in the face of addiction’s anger and ego,
  • respecting the privacy—or secrecy—and destructive path of the individual rather than intervening.

Though the root of enabling is clearly prefaced with the seven caring habits, including but not limited to accepting, it does not grow or nurture the relationship or the individual. In fact, enabling kills both.

The only healthy way to practice acceptance with an individual in active addiction and avoid enabling is to simply realize there is a problem which is bigger than the individual. It is one only professional help can address. Rather than accepting the individual’s destructive behavior and resulting chaos, refuse to allow either in your life by suggesting professional help and emotionally detaching until that help is received.

The latter is not a cruel action, nor is it selfish. It is a practice in self-care—setting personal boundaries which protect against dysfunction. Moreover, it is an act of love toward the individual in active addiction because it holds them accountable, attempts to raise them to a higher standard of functioning and ultimately seeks to spur them into healing and recovery.

The Codependent Fable in an Abusive Relationship

A woman was walking along a bridge and noticed a man standing near the edge. As she approached, the man called to her,

“Excuse me, ma’am. Can you please hold this rope for a moment?”

The woman, wanting to be helpful, easily agreed without giving thought to her busy schedule, her destination or the dreams that awaited her on the other side.

“Hold the rope tightly, please,” the man instructed.

She grasped the rope tightly. She began to wonder what exactly her purpose would be, and she became concerned with time. She had a million things to do, all of which would open doors to personal success and long-awaited opportunity. Yet, she made no mention of the time for fear of what the man might think. She wanted to appear helpful, selfless, compassionate and kind.

So, she stood there holding the rope, gripping it tightly.

Suddenly, the man leaped off the bridge. The weight of his body dropping to the depths below pulled her violently to the edge. Stopped only by the safety railing, she found herself staring down at the man who now dangled precariously from the rope she was holding.

Little did she know, while she was thinking about her dreams that awaited her on the other side, the increasing scarcity of time and finding herself perplexed by her obvious need to set boundaries versus her tendency toward people-pleasing, the man was busy affixing the rope to his body. Now, she found herself in charge of this man’s safety. His life was literally hanging in the balance, and the rope to which she was now grasping was his only hope for rescue.

Getting Trapped in a Codependent Relationship

“What have you done?” She screamed. “You must climb up! I cannot hold you. Your weight is too much for me to bear. The rope is slipping. Climb up!”

She tried desperately to cling to the rope, bracing her body against the edge of the bridge, but the fibers were now ripping into the flesh of her hands. Her arms were already noticeably scraped and bloody from the concrete edge on which they now attempted to rest. But the constant pull of the man’s body, as it dangled and swung below, shifted her weight, and with every shift came a painful blow from the concrete’s rough surface.

“Climb up!” She shouted. “I cannot hold you any longer.”

The man stared up at her and screamed,

“You must hold the rope! If you let go, I will fall onto the rocks far below. I will die!”

She began to cry, reeling in the physical pain she experienced with every movement the man’s body made and terrified of the responsibility she now faced.

“I cannot hold you!” She exclaimed. “You are too heavy. I need you to climb up!”

The man stared up at her, seemingly helplessly, and shouted a desperate plea.

Don’t Get Pulled Down by Your Codependent Relationship

“Then tie the rope around your body. I gave you enough length when I first handed it to you—just enough to easily secure me to you. Use your body to bear the weight of mine. Do not let go of the rope. If you do, I will surely die.”

The woman immediately replied,

“If I tie the rope around my body, I could easily be pulled off with you. Besides, I have a million things to do. My dreams await me on the other side. I cannot stand here all day. I cannot hold you forever. You must climb up! You need to think about me and my needs too!”

The man became angry and bellowed,

“You’re the one that agreed to hold the rope! Why are you suddenly upset about it now? This is my life you have in your hands. A life is a bit more important than your to-do list, don’t you think? How could you be so selfish?”

The woman, not wanting to seem heartless and selfish, pulled the few feet of rope that remained on the bridge and carefully wrapped it around her body, tying it tightly to prevent release. The weight of the man’s body instantly cinched the rope to an excruciatingly painful point. It felt as though she was being squeezed in half.

She pleaded with the man, again.

“Please, sir. I need you to climb up! You are killing me!”

Recognizing Codependency and the Start of Recovery

The man gave one final response.

“I will not climb. Why should I? As long as you are holding me, I will not hit the rocky bottom below. Besides, it was your choice to hold the rope, and now it is also wrapped around your body. So, you might want to think twice about angering me. If I decide to throw a fit, that would be truly painful and possibly fatal for you. As such, it seems your life is in my hands now too. You have no choice. Only I do, and I refuse to climb.”

Letting Go of an Abusive Relationship

The woman, hearing those words, knew what she had to do. Valuing her life, the dreams she so wanted and deserved to achieve, she took a deep breath, untied the rope and simply let go.

abusive relationship

Ready to Recover My Abusive Relationship

In recovery for what I would come to realize were issues resulting from being an ACOA (Adult Child of an Addict), I discovered the panic attacks from which I had been endlessly suffering were a result of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). The traumas of my childhood and resulting, tumultuous young adult life had left me with a diagnosis shared by soldiers who return from war.

That’s what abuse and active addiction is—war, in the home. The exposed and victimized children become products of constant battle, traumatic war scenes and shocking survival tactics, rather than simply having the joy of being a carefree child. Instead of memories, we have flashbacks, and we typically suffer from PTSD, depression, addiction and other mental illnesses, as a result of the horrifying war waged within the abusive and addicted home. It is a cyclical effect.

But, of course—as we know—there is hope in recovery from addiction. However, if we’ve survived abuse and/or addiction in our childhood home, we need more than simply treatment for the symptoms of our pain. We must also face the images, feelings and constantly playing messages—residual negative energy—haunting our minds. We must seek the help of a professional—or team of professionals, if necessary—who can guide us through the necessary healing process.

There is access to counseling, available through treatment centers and some IOP’s and sober houses—like Stages of Recovery—and provided for the purposes of promoting successful recovery. Support groups, medical treatment for anxiety and depression coupled with therapy not only provides the optimum effect with regard to healing; it helps prevent relapse. But, it’s up to us to reach out and request the additional help, so we can be the change we need and break the vicious cycle. And, like the step we took to get sober, we must first admit there is a deeper problem than merely our addiction; that, in fact, the disease is a symptom of the toxicity to which we were consistently exposed in childhood. We must detox from that too.

Personal Growth in Recovery

By | Addiction and Recovery | No Comments

Personal Growth in Recovery

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

Personal Growth and Accepting Anger

Too often in today’s society, we are asked to suppress or deny our anger. Concepts like the power of positive thinking and manifesting our reality can work to steer us away from fully feeling and expressing our anger. Moreover, they may imply and impose upon us a dangerous level of guilt and shame for desiring to do so. The latter is something we likely already acquired in ample supply from our days in active addiction or dysfunction. Besides, where guilt and shame serve only to hurt us, anger can actually help us heal.1

The Gift of Anger

Anger is often a demonized emotion. Many people fear it, not knowing how to appropriately confront, express or release it. Some simply try to deny or dismiss it. However, the vast majority of people—in active addiction, recovering or not—simply believe it to be a state of victimization. Even some specialists within the addiction treatment field see anger as a result of a lack of gratitude or an emotional expression of self-pity.

Learning to Allow and Accept Anger

However, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to feel and express anger while simultaneously maintaining a sense of gratitude. But the awareness of lessons learned and the ability to see a silver lining does not negate the justification for anger. Moreover, to deny ourselves or anyone else the right to feel and express it is to engage in oppressive recovery—the opposite of helping and a setup for relapse.

Truthfully, anger is indeed a gift. It is an internal alarm that loudly sounds when personal boundaries have been repeatedly crossed or disrespected. Anger amplifies our voice when we desperately need to speak and be heard and wakes us from a potentially holistically comatose state. Additionally, it is a normal, expected, and necessary stage of grief, personal growth, and healing.

As such, it is vital to successful recovery for individuals and helping professionals to learn to allow and accept the gift of anger within ourselves and others. After all, it is not anger that destroys us or causes us to relapse. But, in fact, the suppression of it can easily do both.

Addressing Distortion and Denial for Personal Growth in Recovery

Individuals with active addiction often become very defensive when confronted—even carefully—about their drinking or drug problem. In fact, many react with extreme emotional outbursts, as though someone has threatened their best friend or a beloved family member. The truth is, to an active addict, anyone attempting to confront the reality of their addiction is in fact bullying their closest friend.

An active addict’s drug of choice is not simply a substance. From their perspective, it is their security. The relationship they develop with drugs or alcohol becomes their most intimate and valued one. Therefore, people in their lives who were once cherished begin to feel abandoned and betrayed, as if they have been replaced by drugs or alcohol. Indeed, they have.

Unfortunately, if friends, family members or significant others voice these feelings, thoughts or experiences regarding this reality or attempt to rescue the individual from the throes of active addiction, they are typically met with varying degrees of denial and distortion.2 These defense mechanisms usually present with the active addict’s efforts to;

  • deny a problem with drugs or alcohol,
  • dismiss any expressed pain or suffering caused by the abuse of these substances,
  • accuse those confronting the addiction of wrongful behavior,
  • shift blame and accountability to the intervening individuals,
  • manipulate said individuals with victimization, excuses and verbal expressions of martyrdom and self-pity.

These behaviors work to defend active addiction by denying its existence and distorting the reality of its destructive nature. Ultimately, the combined forces of denial and distortion—as presented in the bulletin points—create a chaotic maze of the active addict’s circular logic and the loved one’s dizzying cycles of repeated attempts to communicate concern. The latter continually gets stonewalled and eventually shut down. The well-orchestrated topsy-turvy outcome serves to distract and dissuade everyone from their attempts to confront the active addiction in the first place.

In short, the process of confronting active addiction can be crazy-making. Moreover, to attempt to address it repeatedly is the definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. It is both a setup for and a characteristic of codependency.

The Truth About Active Addiction’s Most Powerful Bodyguards

That is the very reason denial and distortion are indeed addiction’s most powerful bodyguards. They not only work to protect the addictive substances and addiction itself. They also formulate such an insane, dysfunctional experience that those who become concerned and wish to interfere or intervene are forced to either maladapt and become increasingly codependent—a condition which requires recovery as well—or back off and simply let go.

Though the latter is always easier said than done, it is the necessary step each concerned individual must take in an effort to protect their own sanity and overall wellness. Aside from an organized intervention in which at least one helping professional is present to facilitate and mediate, there is nothing more that can be done to save an active addict from themselves. To prevent becoming an enabling part of the problem or an enmeshed piece of the dysfunction, loved ones must quickly employ their own empowering entourage; detachment and disengagement.

personal growth in recovery

Personal Growth in Recovery is About Progress, Not Perfection

Perfection is something for which many people strive. Yet, perfectionism is—ironically—a factor in active addiction and, for those of us in recovery, can easily lead to relapse. Why? Because the driving urge to achieve perfection is the equivalent of trying to please everyone, everywhere, at the same time. It proves disappointing to everyone—namely, ourselves—and ultimately leads to dysfunction.

Perfectionism manifests in many forms and varying degrees, but can invade our minds and distort our self-perceptions to damaging and detrimental extremes.​​​3 Any perverse demand of perfection placed upon us by others—including but not limited to our parents—potentially leads to addiction and other forms of mental illness. To impose perfectionism on ourselves has equally devastating consequences, as well.

Unfortunately, many of us arrive in recovery thinking we have to do recovery, perfectly. But perfect recovery doesn’t exist. In fact, even successful recovery is not about perfection. It’s about progress—daily progress. That’s why we hear handfuls of wisdom which reiterate that point; “One day at a time,” “Keep it simple,” “Keep coming back. It works, if you work it,” and so on. These phrases were devised by recovering addicts and alcoholics who likely struggled with perfectionism and—more significantly—the guilt and shame that followed anything less than perfect.

Guilt and shame result in pain which, without healthy coping skills, cycle us into negative behaviors and consequences. They are our worst enemies in recovery, and they are the spawn of perfectionism. And, in order to achieve success in recovery, we must break our own cycle of pain by denouncing the desire to be perfect and, instead, simply aspire to make progress.

Whether the steps are baby steps or giant leaps, recovery requires only that we focus on our forward movement, rather than the steps we will—no doubt—take backward. We are addicts. Yes. But, we are in recovery, which means we are healing, and it is a process; not an overnight procedure. Besides, we cannot forget, underneath our disease, we are also human.

Finding Peace and Joy for Personal Growth in Recovery

Almost every holiday song, greeting card and festive, seasonal sentiment we hear or see, this time of year, mentions peace and joy. The two have seemingly become synonymous with the holiday season. Of course, no one can argue the collective desire to experience both, at least once a year. But do we really have to wait until December to make peace and joy our focus?

The answer is a resounding no.

Those of us in recovery for addiction, codependency, ACOA, and more are aware of the chaos and misery behind us. We know the self-orchestrated drama, heartache and failure tied to active addiction and dysfunction. And, though we had a glimmer of hope, the holidays never saved us. In fact, they typically became opportunities for more victimization, manipulation and self-sabotage.

Recovery, on the other hand, has given us chances to understand and experience serenity—inner peace and joy—on a daily basis. We have learned and are continuing to acquire life skills and coping mechanisms that grow us, rather than stunting our personal development and thwarting our success. And, as a result, we can face the holiday season, better equipped to deal with our own ghosts of Christmas past.

So, maybe it’s time we extend the holiday sentiment of peace and joy far past December. Perhaps we—in recovery—need to encourage each other to experience these terms as states of being, rather than simply fleeting emotions. That isn’t to say we should learn to wrap our daily struggle and pain in holiday lights—so to speak—and pretend all is right with the world. In fact, just the opposite.

Rather than rescuing ourselves with happy holiday tunes and the bells and whistles of Christmas—or any other day—we should learn to sit with our pain, peacefully and joyfully. More to the point, we must become comfortable in the silent nights, befriend and fall in love with ourselves—everything about us. The good. The bad. The ugly. And, when we do, we will know—continuously and consistently—the true meaning and experience of peace and joy.

20 Gifts to Give Yourself for Personal Growth in Recovery

The holiday season usually has us racking our brains to think of the best gifts to give our loved ones. But what about ourselves? Aren’t we our loved ones too? We certainly should be. In fact, that is a very important aspect of successful recovery—loving and honoring ourselves.

Many in recovery are in the process of not only discovering and respecting their personal adult needs, but also those of their inner child. Much of that newfound journey is the result of being forced to grow up too fast. For some, the need to do so may simply originate from a lack of nurturing in childhood. Regardless of the reason, focusing on the child within us is an excellent addition to our recovery regimen.

So, this year, add yourself—the adult and child version—to your holiday gift list. Here are 20 suggestions, for those of us who find even ourselves difficult to shop for:

  • Long walk
  • Spa day
  • Time with a dear friend
  • One hour of silence
  • Nap time
  • Trip to the toy store
  • Hot cocoa
  • Cartoons and holiday specials
  • Movie
  • Coloring book
  • Toys—whatever you like
  • Jigsaw puzzle
  • Paint by number set
  • Board games
  • Teddy bear
  • Cozy slippers
  • Fluffy blanket
  • Adult onesie
  • Tour of holiday lighting
  • Visit with Santa

Whatever you choose to do, whether it is listed here or not, give yourself something special this holiday season. It’s not like it will be the first time. Recovery is one of the greatest gifts you have already given yourself and your inner child—even if the latter is not your chosen path. But it shouldn’t be the last gift you receive from you. And, for the record, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add a heartfelt card too.

5 Ways to Love Yourself Today for Personal Growth

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.​​​4 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.

10 Fears that Addicts May Have When Seeking Treatment

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

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

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

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

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

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

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

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

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

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

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

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

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

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

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

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.

THE BACKGROUND STORY

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.

THE EMOTIONAL RECOVERY STORY

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.

THE WEIGHT-LOSS CONNECTION

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.