Getting Sober in LA

getting sober in la

Getting getting sober in LA is the best choice you can make if you want to recover from addiction.  So, I have been asked on several different getting sober in laoccasions why I wanted to leave New Jersey and fly out to L.A. to get sober. My first response was; “Well, who wouldn’t want to be in L.A.?” I had no reasons to back up my answer. However, after living here in L.A for the last year, I am able to explain why L.A. is such an amazing place to get sober and engage in recovery.

First and foremost, the weather. In New Jersey I can remember in the dead of winter how brutally cold and wet it was. The disaster of trying to drive in a winter storm, constantly shoveling my driveway, and wearing four layers of clothes just to stay warm is something that I could not stand. In New Jersey, you truly get all four seasons, which some people enjoy, but I do not. So when I researched California and saw what the weather was like it was a no brainer for me. L.A. is witness to over two-hundred sunny days a year. Only thirty days a year is it actually raining in L.A. The temperature hardly ever dips below fifty degrees, and there is a spring/summer vibe going on all year round. I play basketball outside in the dead of winter, in shorts and a cut-off. Now that is pretty awesome! The weather being as beautiful as it is there are countless activities to participate in on a daily basis.

Now let’s talk about the city of self-expression and individualism. Being an alcoholic in recovery, I was very insecure about many things: the way that I looked, the way I dressed, and what people thought of me. Basically, how I was viewed by the entire general public. In New Jersey, the mentality is different, people are not so open-minded and accepting to originality and individualism. So, that being said, I was unable to express myself in a way I liked, because of my crippling fear of being judged. In L.A. I do not have that problem. I dress and wear whatever I want to, without a second thought. Everyday I go out, see people wearing interesting outfits, and dressing the way they want. This holds especially true in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. Never will you find a group of people more free and more themselves than in an A.A meeting here in L.A. Witnessing my fellow peers in recovery engaging in self-expression reinforces the fact that I am not being judged and I can be who I truly am.

When I flew out here to L.A I wasn’t sure what A.A. would be like. New Jersey was the only other place where I had gone to meetings. It took two weeks for me to find meetings in L.A are unrivaled. There are over 3,000 meetings a week in L.A.. 3,000! When I first heard that I did not believe it; until I heard it over and over again. That means the recovery community in L.A has to be incredibly strong and very much sought after. The diversity of meetings in L.A. is awesome. You can go to your typical speaker meeting one day, then go to a yoga meeting, a meditation meeting, silent meetings, music meetings, book studies, participation meetings, men’s meetings, women’s meetings, meetings inside, and even meetings outside. I mean the list goes on forever on why getting sober in la is a good idea. What I find really cool is, the by-product of all these meetings and individuals in recovery; it leads to so many sober events and parties. There are groups of people who organize these sober events at public buildings, parks, museums, the beach, the mountains, and etc. So many people attend them! You can socialize, have a great time in a sober environment with sober people, and really see what life has to offer. I have built great relationships and connections with people throughout the sober community. I wouldn’t change it for the world. It really seems as if L.A is the holy mecca of recovery! That is what I find absolutely amazing.
So, fifteen months ago, I left New Jersey for L.A. to embark on a journey to save my life. I was not sure whether L.A was the spot for me or not, but after experiencing L.A. and all that this city has to offer I couldn’t be happier. There is nowhere in the world that I would rather have gotten sober and continue to live my life. I am truly blessed to be here in L.A. I feel like a part of such a great, influential, recovery community. My response to the question, “Why did you pick L.A?” is a lot different now than it once was.  Hopefully this post helped convince you of what I learned, that getting sober in la is the best idea for struggling addicts.

Contact Us at The Nook Sober Living for more info on getting sober in LA.

-Josh C

Personal Boundaries

personal boundaries in recovery

personal boundaries

What are personal Boundaries?

Boundaries determine acceptable behavior. Safety cannot exist without boundaries. Imagine driving without any traffics rules, signs or lights! Boundaries simply exist to keep ourselves protected from harm. Personal boundaries work the same way. They are the emotional, physical and mental parameters we set for ourselves. Love and healthy relationships cannot exist without the enforcement of personal boundaries because they protect ourselves from disrespect, exploitation, manipulation, and violation.  

There are many types of personal boundaries. Material boundaries govern whether and how much we give to others, such as money, items, etc. Physical boundaries relate to personal space and how close we let others get to us. Mental boundaries concern our values, opinions and thoughts. Emotional boundaries separate your own emotions from others. Sexual boundaries reinforce your level of comfort with sexual touch and experience. Spiritual boundaries apply to your beliefs and experiences with a higher power. Internal boundaries relate to your relationship with yourself.

Why are they important?

Setting personal boundaries is our way of establishing and communicating self respect, self esteem and self worth. Personal boundaries create individuality and keep us safe from external factors. Healthy personal boundaries are important because they allow you to take care of yourself and not let others define who you are.  

Can you have too many or too little personal boundaries?

Personal boundaries come in three groups: rigid, porous and healthy. Rigid boundaries refer to too many boundaries. Meaning you don’t let others get close to you at all and avoid intimacy. Porous boundaries include too loose of boundaries. For example, sharing too much with others too quickly or tolerating someone crossing your own boundaries. Healthy boundaries are shown in sharing an appropriate amount of info, respecting other’s boundaries, and valuing your own opinion, and not compromising your own boundaries.

How do you know they are being crossed?

Boundaries can be both easy and difficult to detect. For example, someone who doesn’t have many personal boundaries themselves will most likely not be able to detect when they’ve crossed other’s boundaries. The first step in becoming aware of boundary crossing is to become more self aware. Asking yourself questions like the following can be helpful in gaining self awareness: Do I feel angry at certain people? Does something feel off when I am around someone in particular? Do I often times feel overwhelmed and burdened by others needs? Writing down lists and your expectations of others can help as well.

Why do boundaries get crossed?personal boundaries 2

Often times people who lack self awareness tend to be unware of their own boundaries and therefore lack the awareness of other’s boundaries. People who have grown up in households with few boundaries often grow up to have issues with boundaries. Some people cross boundaries to take advantage and manipulate others.

Boundaries are crossed because they can be both confusing and conflicting. Sometimes boundaries are not clear all the time and also vary from culture to culture. Additionally, personal boundaries are often not reinforced enough in childhood and teach children that their own boundaries are not important. For example, parents will pressure their children into hugging a relative that they don’t feel comfortable with. This reinforces the idea that their boundaries are not important and that it is okay for others to do things to them they don’t like and to ignore your own boundaries. Furthermore, because we are all unique and imperfect, boundaries are bound to get crossed from time to time. It’s impossible to know other people’s boundaries all the time and to never cross any. For example, when meeting someone for the first time, you don’t list off all your boundaries right away. Boundaries are learned over time and are usually enforced when they have been crossed. The important thing is that we listen to our own and other’s boundaries and do not habitually or intentionally cross or ignore them.

How do you set them?

personal boundaries 3

Your tone is very important when setting boundaries. The most effective way to set boundaries is with a calm, clear and assertive tone. You can also communicate the clear consequences. More

 importantly knowing your own boundaries is the first step in setting them. Developing self awareness is key. Second, it is imperative that you understand you have a right to your boundaries. Third, let go of how others may react. We cannot control how others react to our boundaries. If someone does not want to respect them or does not care for you because of them, then they may not be a safe person to have in your life. Finally, practice setting boundaries. Role playing with someone can be helpful. The more you set boundaries the easier it will get.

Anxiety Disorder and Substance Abuse

Anxiety Disorder and Substance Abuse

Anxiety Disorder and Substance Abuse is more common then you would expect.  Experiencing anxiety in life is inevitable. But it’s not all bad. Anxiety is a survival skill. In fact, anxiety played an important role in ancient humans. Thousands of years ago, when Homo Sapiens inhabited the earth, anxiety was used when taking action during immediate danger and problems. For example, a lion may appear in the plains and anxiety would be used to run and find safety.

Today, anxiety is still used as a tool. It can help motivate you to accomplish your assignments, to work hard, and to be cautious in various environments.

However, anxiety and anxiety disorder are different things. Anxiety disorder involves excessive worrying and fears that are intense, may last for long periods of time, and is impairing to areas of life.

Although there are different types of anxiety disorders with specific symptoms, they all have these same general symptoms, which include panic, fear or uneasiness, sleeping difficulties, difficulty staying still, cold, sweaty and numb extremities, trouble breathing, heart murmurs, stomach discomfort, muscle tension and dizziness.

There isn’t one initial cause for anxiety disorder. In reality, it’s more of a combination of biological dispositions/ genetic makeup and trauma/ environmental stress.

The five major types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social phobia. Although these mental illnesses are similar and all fall under the anxiety disorder umbrella, they do have differences in treatments and symptoms.

Although anxiety disorder can affect anyone, women and non-Hispanic whites are more likely to experience this mental illness.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the U.S. but less than 43% actually seek treatment. There are many reasons as to why people with anxiety disorder do not seek treatment. For example, mental health stigma can contribute to not seeking treatment out of shame or embarrassment. Another reason being that many people with anxiety disorder may lack insight, awareness or the tools to seek treatment.  People with anxiety disorder and substance abuse need to seek treatment.

anxiety disorder and substance abuse

It’s not uncommon for those with substance abuse problems to also suffer from one or more psychiatric disorders, like anxiety disorder. Many studies show that those diagnosed with either substance abuse or anxiety disorder are at an increased risk for developing the other. Both illnesses work together to exacerbate the illnesses symptoms.

Fortunately, anxiety disorder and substance abuse is treatable with psychotherapy, medication, mindfulness and overall health!

I’ve personally struggled with anxiety disorder and substance abuse since before I can remember. It wasn’t until I began treatment for an eating disorder ten years ago, that I realized how long I had been struggling and how I didn’t see it because it was my norm. This made me realize how possible it is for those with anxiety disorder to go their whole lives without seeking treatment, even if they experience impairments.

It was terrifying seeking treatment for many reasons. For one, I was young and not many people my age around me were openly struggling with addiction and mental illness. Two, my family and the culture I grew up in reinforced a mental health stigma, making it shameful for me to be vulnerable and ask for help. Three, treatment is expensive. By the time I was nineteen, I was working three jobs to help pay for individual therapy, eating disorder anonymous meetings, nutritionists, group therapy, etc. Although, I had barriers to recovery, I did have enough support and privilege to keep me going.

Along my recovery I was diagnosed with OCD, panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Once I began taking medication, educating myself more on these illnesses, exercising, while still going to various forms of therapy, I felt my recovery reached a new level of redemption.

I still struggle and still have anxiety disorder symptoms and still have eating disorder tendencies, but my recovery is the most important thing to me and being on this path feels so much more cathartic and meaningful than being imprisoned by unhealthy habits.

Thrive Treatments Intensive Outpatient programs can make it possible for you to succeed, no matter what barriers may be present. They have a strong emphasis on affordable recovery because everyone deserves to recover and to receive the upmost care. At Thrive, staff work to empower individuals to become their own recovery advocates and give you the tools necessary build a successful and personalized road to recovery.  We treat those struggling with anxiety disorder and substance abuse.  The Last House offers a safe and stable environment for those struggling with addiction to get clean and sober.

road to recovery

ADHD in Recovery

ADHD in Recovery

Managing ADHD in Recovery

ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is one of the numerous psychiatric disorders I have encountered. Through these encounters I have seen the impact that this disorder has on someone’s mental well being and those around them.

Managing ADHD is hard enough on its own and throwing recovery into the mix can be a lot to handle.

Whether you have ADHD in recovery, struggle with ADHD alone or perhaps you know someone seeking sobriety with ADHD, it’s important to understand what this disorder is and how it impacts individuals and loved ones.

ADHD is one of the most common mental disorders and is described as difficulty with sitting still, trouble focusing, being messy and disorganized, being easily distracted or forgetful, and being impulsive.

The impacts alone of ADHD are significant in those diagnosed and those around them. ADHD can negatively affect education, employment, relationships, finances and quality of life. Likewise, addiction and substance abuse can negatively affect those same areas.

Many times those with addictions also struggle with mental disorders like ADHD and there is an additional risk for substance abuse in someone diagnosed with ADHD. There are various reasons that those with ADHD are more susceptible to addiction, one of them being that people with ADHD become hooked on other substances as a means of coping with the symptoms that ADHD present.

adhd in recovery

 

It can be hard to manage ADHD symptoms and recover at the same time. However, Thrive Treatment Center has expert staff that provide treatment for dual diagnoses. At Thrive, experts focus on treatment of both addiction and ADHD simultaneously. The treatment programs focus on modifying destructive thoughts and behaviors with therapies like DBT and CBT, building self esteem and motivation through trauma-focused therapy, controlling symptoms and identifying triggers with Mindfulness modalities and educating loved ones through family therapy.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse and ADHD, please call Thrive for help and for additional resources.

It is also advised that those struggling with addiction consider a sober living environment.  The Last House Sober Living in Los Angeles is a highly structured sober living and is a great place for those struggling with ADHD to recover.

 

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.”– Nelson Mandela

Chronic Relapse

Chronic Relapse

Chronic Relapsechronic relapse

Author: Claire Godden

Addiction in itself is a chronic brain disease and anyone who is attempting sobriety is at risk for relapse. But what makes some of us stay in recovery while others relapse over and over again? The cycle that is chronic relapse happens for a variety of reasons and can mean that the underlying causes of addiction have either not been fully addressed or treatment needs repeating in order to work properly.

Recovery is a lifelong commitment and relapse is a common and expected part of the process for some. It’s important to remember that chronic relapse does not mean that time in treatment has been wasted. It does not mean that the addict is a failure. It just means that treatments must be repeated or modified in some way to better focus on the triggers that keep leading to relapse.

Reasons for chronic relapse are often the same ones that led the person to addiction in the first place. Issues such as stress, anxiety, boredom, depression, traumatic experiences, and co-occurring mental health disorders must be addressed fully for the individual to have a solid chance at long-term recovery. Chronic relapse is also seen more often when there is a higher level of dependence on the drug and when withdrawal symptoms are worse.

Addiction treatment must also be a two-way street. The more you fully engage in the various therapies and work hard to follow your prescribed plan of action, the better chance you have of staying sober. Clients must stay in treatment as recommended by their team of therapists. Failure to stay in the program for the duration leads to a greatly increased risk of relapse. Also, if you are not honest with yourself or with your therapist, important factors that lead to the initial addiction and now the relapse, will be left untreated.

In order to brave the world without the use of drugs or alcohol, new life and coping skills should have been acquired during treatment. A good treatment program will help the individual gain valuable tools for dealing with the things that drugs previously allowed them to avoid. Patience, hope and belief that it can be done are key when you are learning how to live every hour of every day in a new way. Home and work life, social life, and relationships with family and friends must all be addressed and assessed. Reactive behaviors have to be recognized and managed and new, constructive, hobbies and pastimes may be introduced or reignited. Substance use and abuse has been part of your everyday life and to suddenly stop, means you must consistently replace the destructive activities with others that are positive and productive.

There are signs one can watch for that indicate relapse may be on the horizon. Some of these signs are feeling more depressed or anxious, having trouble sleeping, beginning to avoid people, and no longer actively working to stay healthy and engaged in life. If you feel you are heading for a relapse, reach out to your support system whether it’s a trusted family member, your sponsor or your therapist. If cravings are imminent, remove yourself from the people or from the place that is triggering the cravings and make yourself wait it out. Some say 10 – 15 minutes is enough for cravings to go away. Others will say it could take 1 – 2 hours for them to subside. When you begin to recognize that you may relapse, you must think about the behaviors that got you into treatment in the first place. You must look at everything you’ve gained while sober. If you “slip” – an unintended one-time use of a drug or alcohol – you can see it as disastrous and fall back into full-blown addiction because of the guilt and shame of it all or you can view it as a powerful learning opportunity.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be incredibly helpful throughout the entire recovery process and is used to combat negative and distorted thoughts. It can be particularly useful if you slip and begin, for example, thinking about how you “failed” and about what you should or shouldn’t have done to avoid it. This negative thinking will only keep you in that moment replaying your mistake in your mind. You cannot move forward and learn from what you did if you don’t change your thinking. You must look at and analyze what you did it to learn from it but then also look at all you have achieved so far during treatment and all the good things that have happened while you have been sober. Focusing on the positive and the gains you have made is far more beneficial to you than sinking into despair when you experience a slip in your sobriety.

Some key factors to sustaining sobriety and preventing chronic relapse are:

• Support – from your sponsor and other positive peers, family or friends – particularly in the early stages of recovery.
• Hope and belief – the brain can adapt and re-adapt but you have to allow plenty of time for it to do so.
• Learning and maintaining new strategies for everyday life.
• Learning and maintaining new strategies for what to do and how to cope when the unexpected happens.
• Staying motivated – again, support from another person or group may be particularly helpful here.
• Continuing therapy for the addiction and/or continuing other treatments for any
co-occurring disorders.
• Staying fit and healthy – looking and feeling good lifts our mood.
• Avoidance of certain people and situations/places.
• Getting organized and keeping busy – fill your life with healthy activities and hobbies.
• Not getting too comfortable with your recovery status – just like driving, stay alert to the dangers.
• Staying connected – stay in regular contact, including regular face-to-face contact where possible, with people who are committed to supporting you long-term and who are positive influences.

One of our primary therapists here at Thrive Treatment, Samantha Levy, says that connections and community are what keep us healthy and whole human beings. She says relapse happens when we slip away from ourselves, from our program, from our people. It happens when we stop talking about what’s not working and stop doing what is. Samantha says you cannot get and stay sober unless you have the will and the want. Fear gets in the way of us believing in ourselves, in something better. It’s easy to stay where we are and in what we know. It’s challenging to take a leap into something new and strange. It is 100% scary. If you stick through it, the bad stuff ends and you will find that there is light on the on the other side. You just have to keep going. She says that sometimes we don’t hold on long enough and that’s where relapse happens – before we’ve had the opportunity to see the light. Time can lead us into a false sense of security where we forget the bad things

Our Clinical Director, David Pavia, says this about chronic relapse:
I don’t think there are any shortcuts in life or sobriety. Confronting yourself is the key. Being willing to be accountable to others is also a big factor. Living in an environment that demands that is a great start. The hardest thing to figure out is whether you will be able to get that out of meetings and sponsor commitments alone or if you need more structure and peer accountability. Individual and group therapy is also a very good idea and all of these things work best together for many reasons. Twelve-step groups, sponsorship, psychotherapy, sober living. are all best done early on in sobriety if you want to give yourself the best chance at staying sober and reaching your best self.

Above all, stay optimistic and hopeful.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Place for Mindfulness

a place for mindfulnesss

When you eat your lunch, are you also on your phone scrolling through the news or social media? Do

you even remember what you eat each day? The simple practice of slowing down, savoring every bite and being aware of the taste, smell, and texture of our food, is a small and easy step toward becoming more mindful.

But what is the point of being mindful? Well, first, let’s look at the definition:

Mindfulness is defined as the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something while accepting, without judgment, whatever thoughts, sensations, and emotions arise

Examples of mindfulness techniques

To begin with, we can look at the example above. When you sit down to eat any meal or snack, put your phone away, turn off the TV, or take the meal outside of your office and away from your desk to somewhere quieter. Before you eat anything, take note of why you are eating. Are you really hungry or are you eating because you’re bored or trying to take your mind off of something else? Maybe you have to eat now as it’s your only chance, time-wise, to do so. As you begin to eat, notice the food’s color, smell, taste, and texture. Chew each bite fully before taking the next. Think about where the food came from and how it was made. Think about whether or not it is good for you. If you begin to think about the grocery shopping you need to do tomorrow, acknowledge the thought and then bring your focus back to the food and the present moment. As you get more practiced, you will not need to always move somewhere quiet and you will even be able to eat mindfully while at social gatherings.

So why should we bother?

The benefits of mindfulness are many and include improvements in mental and physical health and in overall well being. Also, as you practice mindfulness, you will begin to truly acknowledge the present and, in doing so, develop a sense of calm and control over your life. The best part is, it is not complicated and it doesn’t require a lot of time. It just requires a commitment to practice it daily to see the benefits.

How does this fit with addiction?

One of our clients graduated today and said at our community group meeting that part of his recovery was learning to not only appreciate, but also be ok with, the present moment. He spoke of how, before treatment, he tried to avoid and deny negative and uncomfortable feelings. Now, he says he is able to accept and face the not-so-positive feelings and sensations when they arise. Recovery requires honesty and doesn’t allow for running away from anything. It requires the ability to respond in a less reactive way to things that you don’t like. In this aspect, mindfulness is a wonderful tool and one that can be used for life.

Being completely conscious of what we are feeling in the present moment might not be calming at all at first and can be incredibly uncomfortable and disconcerting for some. With practice, however, mindfulness can bring us a sense of control over our emotions, our thoughts, and the sensations within our body. Bringing our focus to only the present means we are not avoiding anything but are, instead, fully able to address things. Mindfulness is honest and real.

As you become more practiced at being not only aware of but also comfortable in your present moment, you can find yourself more able to deal with cravings and the uncomfortable thoughts that accompany them. Instead of automatically reaching for your drug of choice, you can feel more armed and ready to address the sensations and thoughts that lead you to the drug use. Skillful and intentional responses can replace automatic and previously learned reactions.
To explore this further, you may want to look at Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP). MBRP is a relatively new treatment modeled on the already well-established Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. The difference is that MBRP focuses on negative emotions and cravings and on a person’s reactions and impulsive behavior. Mindfulness, remember, is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. MBRP helps the person have more confidence and strength when facing feelings of self-judgment and negativity. If you would like to read further, Carolyn Gregoire has written a very interesting and informative article on MBRP.

Dealing with negative thoughts

By practicing mindfulness regularly with something simple like eating your lunch or taking a shower, you can hone your concentration skills. As you get better at being calm and focused while performing these everyday tasks, you will be ready to practice mindfulness at other times, such as when things around you are more chaotic or negative. As you tune in to your inner thoughts, negative feelings, such as shame or guilt around your addiction, may arise. You don’t need to fight off unwanted thoughts or sensations but, instead, acknowledge them honestly in the here and now. Ask yourself if the content of the negative thought is really true. Question where it is coming from and try to replace it with something more positive. A good therapist can really help you in this area if you are having difficulty.

Anyone can do it!

Life is busy. Of course, we cannot spend our whole day in a state of intense concentration and acknowledgment. But that is precisely why we benefit so much from the minutes that we do spend being mindful. Mindfulness is a relaxed state where you will focus on current, inner thoughts and physical sensations completely free of self-judgment. You do not have to be wearing yoga pants and sitting cross-legged to practice mindfulness! Although, if you can spend 30 minutes each day being mindful in peace and quiet on a yoga mat, even better! Mindful minutes can be taken on a five-minute walk outside of the office. A few minutes spent practicing mindfulness in your car before you head home from work can provide a healthy transition between work and home. Even taking a few minutes before bed to sit and focus only on how you feel in the present, not your day at work, not tomorrow, but how you feel right now, can do wonders for your mental, emotional, and physical health.

Going To College Sober

It all felt so normal, second-nature, and routine—like folding laundry. I had this problem called life, and it was killing me, but I had this solution called inebriation, and it worked.

It worked so well at first, that when it turned on me, I didn’t notice it subtly rob me of all control; I couldn’t see that it was killing me too. Life moved forward, as it does. People and places came and went. Possessions, friends, family, morals, and sanity had long since been lost. Naturally, there was one constant, the alcohol and drugs. There were these moments I would have: moments of resolve, moments of a voluntary tour in treatment, moments of improvement. They were just that though, moments.

At some point, that moment would end. I wouldn’t show. I’d disappear claiming to be sick (oh, how sick I was). The universe was reduced to my next drink, my next hit, and my next line. Then came this one moment, unlike any of the others, shortly before everything changed: I sat there and sobbed. I sobbed until my belly ached, until my face was hot and red, until I could barely breathe — pleading to go home. I cried for help and slid to the ground; I cried until I choked. Curled up, I held my knees close, thinking of all that never was, and all that could have been. Like the first pair of glasses, I saw myself, the situation I was in, with clarity I had not known before. Save for a select few, I saw that I had fashioned all of my problems. You were never the genesis of them, it had always been me. I saw with a painful lucidity the person I had become: the liar, the degenerate, the victim, the shell of a human. I saw that although I had created this mess, I couldn’t solve it, just as much as I couldn’t solve my alcohol and drug problem. I had gained a different perspective, I started to grasp the reality of my situation. Unfortunately, it wasn’t sturdy enough to stay sober on for long; however, it was sturdy enough to prop open my window of opportunity, holding it until my time came to jump through. The 17th of July in 2013 was my first day — and I don’t just mean sober. I gave up on the morning of the 17th. I just let go. I spent that day, and the next twenty-nine in a rehab in the mountains of Santa Cruz. It was an overwhelming, stressful blur. There were countless process groups, therapy sessions, and meetings, but I listened. I listened to what others had to say and I listened when my counsellor told me I needed a sober living. The Last House was the name, as in, the last sober-living house one needs to go to, but that’s not why I found myself there. To be entirely truthful, I was standing on their doorstep that Sunday in mid-August, because my counsellor thought the owner was cute, so she called him. And there I was, bags in hand, on the doorstep, my dad, somewhere behind me, watching—waiting for my next move. I knocked. I knew I couldn’t solve my alcohol and drug problem, and I knew I couldn’t survive long if I turned back, for existing with or without the alcohol and the drugs had become unbearable. I was caught in a conundrum when the door to The Last House swung open and I walked in. I would have been ecstatic with ‘okay’. I would have happy with ‘not miserable’. Anything but this constant wanting to die, it would have been a success. I didn’t think I could set the bar any higher. I didn’t think I deserved it to be any higher. I had given up hope of happiness. Having a dream was a waste of time and an inevitable disappointment. And so it goes…I grew, painfully, that year in the house. Bit by bit, I learned to live. I began to feel, see, and grow fully and I watched with my very eyes the person I was always meant to be materialise in the reflection of that bathroom mirror. Life became bigger as I grew up. With The Last House and the Twelve-Step Recovery process, I was transformed. The person I was no longer resided within me, and with that, it was time to move back into the world, and so I did. I have been brought to me knees, humbled several times, had to reground and recommit myself, changed in even more profound ways, discovered passions, chased dreams and then dreamed bigger. And even in the worst of times, it’s still a miracle that I’m even here, in college sober and breathing. It’s a strange sensation when you wake up in a dream that’s been realised.

I live a world away, an entire person away, a whole way of living away from where my story began. Life brought to me the opportunity to continue my studies in Paris, and I jumped.

I’m far away from the Last House, the Twelve-Step program, and the community in which I got sober. When I was told that the tools I was being given were portable, when I was told that this design for living works and it works anywhere, I was told the truth —

I tested it.

 

HOW To Fix Your Problem

HOW To Fix Your Problem

As a psychotherapist here in Los Angeles I often have clients who come to me seeking help for a wide variety of life problems and personal difficulties. This Article is intended to help your problem. Anxiety, depression, financial insecurity, drug addiction and marital problems are just a few of the issues that I see people struggling with. Often, by simply revealing and discussing their issues with me these clients start to see a reduction in their difficulties, such as less anxiety, improvements in both their mood and their relationships, less struggle with their addictions, and more. But sometimes the problems don’t seem to get better and I often see that what is needed is a deeper commitment to making changes in one’s life and the willingness to take action. Those who can acknowledge their problems, can be open-minded towards trying something new and who are willing to commit and take action invariably begin to feel better and function more efficiently in their lives. I am continually amazed at how quickly and successfully people start to heal mentally, physically and emotionally.

This has lead me to often ponder the question: What are the factors that lead to growth and healing in people and a reduction of their problems? What I’ve found is that a person must exhibit three qualities for real and deep change to occur in them. Those three factors are reflected in the acronym HOW: Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness. *(I must confess that I in no way originated this idea. These three factors are often mentioned in the 12 step recovery programs and appear in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, also known as The Big Book.)

In this blog post I would like to explore these three qualities and discuss how they are essential in helping people overcome their difficulties in life.

 

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

― Aldous Huxley

 

Let’s begin with the first letter, H, i.e. Honesty. Since we were children we’ve heard idioms such as “Honesty is the best policy” and “honest to goodness” and it is my belief that most people believe that honesty is better than dishonesty. Such things as lying, cheating, stealing and slander are all forms of dishonesty that without fail have negative consequences for a person who engages in them. But in the context of overcoming personal life problems honesty can be looked at in a particular way. Unless a person is able to acknowledge that a problem exists, i.e. admit to themselves and to another person that they have the problem, very little attention or help will be directed towards the problem and thus rarely occurs. Another way to state this is that often people are in denial that a problem exists, or they minimize the severity of the problem to themselves or others.

The need for honestly admitting one’s issues in order to be able to change and overcome life problems is nicely encapsulated in the book Alcoholics Anonymous at the beginning of the Fifth Chapter “How It Works”. “

“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average.There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.”

I have witnessed this many times my clients. If a person is able to be unflinchingly honest about their problems and can begin to be more honest in all aspects of their life, they invariably begin to feel better and their problems begin to decrease.

 

“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.”

― Frank Zappa

 

I must be clear that Honesty is just the initial factor needed and without the second factor, Open-mindedness, progress will surely begin to falter. One definition of open-minded is a willingness to hear and consider new ideas. (www.yourdictionary.com)

Why is it important to be open to hearing and considering new ideas in order to overcome one’s problems? I might state it simply in this way: It’s difficult to learn anything without having an open mind. And I strongly believe that in order to fix serious life problems a person must learn possible solutions to their problems and be willing to enact those solution.

If a person is open-minded to making changes in their life and for trying new things, they are well on their way to improving their lives and seeing their problems decline. However, many people are resistant to being open-minded. Various factors can contribute to this lack of open-mindedness. Prideful obstinance, denial, trust issues, over reliance on self-will, fear of change, and many other forms of resistance can lead to a person being close minded to hearing and considering new ideas.

I would like to share an example from my own life to highlight the need for open-mindedness. When I was a boy growing up in South Louisiana, I came to believe, by observing the other boys and men around me, that a “man” was not supposed to share his feelings with other people. If a male was sad or upset the societal belief that I tuned into was that they should “suck it up” and “drive on.” I can remember hearing phrases like “boys don’t cry” and “crying is for sissies.”

Looking back I understand now how unhealthy these ideas were for me and the extremely negative consequences that resulted in me as a result. Fearing that any expression of negative feelings would be met with judgement or disdain from other males, I learned to bottle up and bury any feelings of sadness, anxiety, fear, etc. You can probably guess where this headed to. By not “processing” my negative feelings in a healthy manner, over time these normal human experiences such as angst, anxiety, depression, fear, and such became worse and worse. My solution to these issues was to often self-medicate and numb these feelings or avoid them altogether.

Now what does this have to do with open-mindedness? Well, quite simply, I had to learn and practice a new way of engaging with these negative and toxic emotions. It was suggested to me that I start to talk about these feelings with others and to start to get more “vulnerable.” This went against my social conditioning and definitely was outside of my comfort zone. Luckily I was desperate enough to try something new and my road to emotional healing began.

 

“The future depends on what you do today.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

 

The last component in our three part formula HOW is willingness. A definition of willingness that I particularly like is “The quality or state of being prepared to do something; readiness.”  This suggests one’s being willing to take action. And “action” is the key. Without taking some form of action a person, in my experience, will not change. A person can be honest about their problems and open-minded to possible solutions but without taking action in all likelihood no real change will occur. What types of action are we talking about? That depends on the person and their problem. However, for emotional and psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, anger and the like, activities such as meditation practice, going to a therapist, prayer, exercise, yoga, EMDR therapy, equine therapy and others have all been shown to have therapeutic benefits for people. But without the action of participating in these activities, they can’t help a person change.

In closing I would like leave you with perhaps my favorite quote of all from the writer and philosopher Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

–Charley Allen

What do successful grads think you should study?

going to college sober

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Learn to think smart.

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Follow your instincts

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