Category Archives: Lifestyle Balance

Is SMART Recovery® a Moderation Organization?

Posted on March 28, 2017

By Tom Horvath Ph.D., Lorie Hammerstrom, and Brett Saarela, LCSW

choices

SMART Recovery® supports (1) abstinence from any substance or activity addiction and (2) going beyond abstinence to lead a meaningful and satisfying life. Our 4-Point ProgramSM addresses addiction itself (Points 1 and 2) and quality of life (Points 3 and 4). Points 3 and 4 are the primary focus of discussion in many meetings. To remind you, Point 1 focuses on motivation to abstain; Point 2 on coping with craving; Point 3 on problem solving (when practical problems can be resolved) and emotional self-management (when practical problems may not be “solvable”); and Point 4 on building a life of enduring satisfactions (a meaningful and purposeful life).

SMART Recovery® encourages attendance by individuals in any stage of recovery. Those maintaining long-term abstinence will likely be most interested in discussions of Points 3 and 4. Those in early recovery will likely pay more attention to Points 1 and 2. SMART Recovery® recognizes that individuals may be in different stages of change, at any one time, across what is likely to be a range of addictive behaviors. For example, one participant may be ready to stop drinking but not ready to stop smoking. Another participant may be ready to quit cocaine but not ready to quit marijuana. Both participants may be drinking excessive caffeine and overeating, and be unaware that these are also addictive behaviors.

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The Four Most Important Things I’ve Learned in Recovery

Posted on February 22, 2017

Guest blog post by Lisa Hann, author of How to Have Fun in Recovery

Every day we’re given countless opportunities to learn. We may not always “get it,” but over time we amass a set of values and skills that guides us through our lives. We go through different stages where we’re met with different challenges in which we get to “practice” the things we’ve learned and to learn even more. Addiction and recovery are stages that offer some of the richest experiences and learning opportunities. Today I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned in recovery.

The first thing I learned is what I’ve already mentioned – that we’re always given opportunities to learn. When you see people making the same mistakes, it’s because they haven’t learned anything from their experiences. I want to improve myself every chance I get, so I actively look for the lesson in every situation. When something bad happens, I ask, “What can I learn so that this doesn’t happen again?” When something good happens, I ask, “What can I learn so that this keeps happening?” The answers aren’t always obvious, but they’re there. Continue reading

Are you leaving? Or are you going?

Posted on October 4, 2016

Making Something Important
by Hank Robb, Ph.D., ABPP

A person was walking down a street and saw two women sitting with wool yarn and knitting needles. Curious, our observer asked, “What are you doing?”

The first said, “I’m making one stitch after another.”

The second answered, “I’m keeping my child safe and warm from the winter wind.”

Which of these two would you rather be?

Building and maintaining motivation is the first point in SMART Recovery’s 4-Point Program®. Changing your behavior isn’t very likely to happen unless there’s a point to doing so which is the last point in SMART Recovery: building a balanced life. “Giving up something” isn’t much to build a life around. It’s just one stitch after another. As the psychologist Ogden Lindsey once noted, no goal a dead person can accomplish is that great a goal for a living one. Dead people never drink, snort, shoot up or place a bet. “Not doing” is something all dead people “do” quite well. Continue reading

How to Manage Your Emotions

Posted on July 26, 2016

Building Resilience Part II: How to Manage Your Emotions

Originally posted here, for the Center for Motivation & Change

resilience_1Being resilient means being able to face adversity and cope well enough that you recover relatively quickly. In Part 1 of our resilience discussion in the March newsletter, we reviewed the ways that your perspective can actually mitigate some negative effects of stress. Now in Part 2, we’ll discuss the research that tells us about how to decrease the stress you experience through prevention by managing your emotions with skill and being mindful of the positive things in life. In Part 3 next month, we will talk about the value of getting enough sleep, exercise, oxygen, and healthy food.

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Self-Expression and Creativity: Managing Feelings

Posted on June 7, 2016

Self-Expression & CreativitySome feelings are hard to verbalize. Some thoughts we don’t want to say out loud. So what do we do with them? My thoughts and feelings used to drive me to get high. I had learned that drugs could change how I felt, whether it was dampening my anger or invigorating my boredom. But, that change was always only temporary.

Now that I’m living a life in recovery, I still deal with impulsive thoughts and overwhelming feelings, but I find a way to manage them by expressing them. Self-expression sounded like a lot of “Dear Diary” nonsense to me, but  the creative arts are an amazing outlet for our recovery.

We can write our thoughts down privately into journals, stories and poems. But, we can go beyond words and express through paintings, drawings, doodles, and photographs. We can express through music, dance, and song. Self-expression involves any activity where we can transfer the energy from our thoughts and feelings into another form. And, usually, this makes us feel better.

Self-Expression

When we express our feelings honestly, we are better equipped to deal with them because we actually know what we are feeling instead of denying it. A UCLA neuroscientist, Alex Korb, has even conducted experiments that show how the brain can benefit when we express ourselves.  In an fMRI study, participants viewed pictures of people with emotional facial expressions. Then, their amygdala—the part of the brain that plays a primary role in our emotional reactions—activated to the emotions in the picture. Yet, when a participant named the emotion, it reduced the amygdala’s reactivity and lessened the impact of the emotion. The study even found that when we try to suppress our negative emotions, our inward stress and anxiety can get more intense!

By virtue of being human, we are full of thoughts and ideas that inhabit us with energy. And if the creative energy in our mind sits untouched, it can turn on itself and we feel all sorts of anxiety and restlessness. To maintain our emotional well-being, we need to exercise our creativity.

Flow

The therapeutic benefits of artistic activities come in many forms: hands-on tasks can soothe our minds, they offer a healthy form of escape, and such tasks can free up our unconscious minds. Coloring books geared towards adults have gained popularity recently, and they are marketed as therapeutic tools.  When we get into a state of creative “flow,” our minds enter an optimal state of consciousness where we feel and perform our best. Our concentration is so focused that everything else falls away, and we lose our sense of time and self.

Normally, our brain is in a fast-moving state of beta waves. In flow, our brainwaves slow to an alpha state, the same as our day-dreaming and meditation mode, where we slip from thought to thought easily. Our prefrontal cortex is also temporarily deactivated, which allows us to simply create without self-consciousness or judgment. Making time to use your brain creatively can bring your brain and body the same kind of benefits as meditation: practicing mindfulness and decreasing anxiety.

Arts and Healing

Art and health have been a subject of human interest throughout our history as a species, using pictures, stories, dances, and chants as healing rituals. In a hospital setting, studies have found that clinical outcomes improve more in patients who participate in art therapy than in those who do not. Creative expression may be a catalyst in our emotional healing process.

Expressive writing has been particularly successful in long-term improvements of mood and health. Writing about our emotional states can bring us more self-awareness, but studies have also shown that it helps us manage those emotions and cope with them.

When the intent behind our art is self-expression, the value in the art becomes the emotional benefits. The process we go through to create our art, to transform a mental image into something physical, is a reflection of our thought processes. How many times in a day do you stop to consider what or how you are feeling? Much like paying attention to how we feel physically, the creative arts allow us to check in with our mental well-being and emotional state.

The Power of Creativity

Expressive arts bridge the gap between the conscious and unconscious mind. When we put our mental process into a physical form, we feel more in control of our thoughts and feelings, and we understand them more clearly. We can’t always explain an emotion using logic. Creative activities allow us to externalize our thought process and observe it from a distance, and then we don’t have to act on our feelings impulsively.

The creative and artistic processes allow us to merge our emotional and our logical parts into one identity. This is a key step in our healing—to learn that what we think logically may not match how we feel, and that’s okay. It is a part of our process. Having a creative outlet where we can express ourselves means we can better manage those thoughts and feelings.

Nadia Sheikh is a content writer and web developer for Sober Nation.

Have you tried creative expression, either as a way to manage thoughts or as a “Vital Absorbing Creative Interest?”  If so, have you found it helpful?

Managing Your ‘New Life’

Posted on May 30, 2016

Adjusting to a richer, fuller life experience
~Green-In-MI, SMART Recovery Volunteer

“Getting used to sober life can be a process of adjusting in a number of ways.”

Life in the Fast LaneOne of the things the SMART community talks about is making changes in your life as part of the process for sustained abstinence from your drug of choice or problem behavior. People share experiences like creating new circles of friends or even moving to new places or cities.

SMART specifically talks about finding one or more VACIs (Vitally Absorbing Creative Interests). A number of us spent an awful lot of time planning on using, using, and recovering from using. For many of us, our drug of choice was the focus of day-to-day life. Without it, many find themselves clear-headed but with nothing planned for the evening and wondering what to do. As you continue to build a new life, you re-engage old friends and pick old hobbies back up. You also find new friends and new activities. These are all good signs of progress.

If you’re like me, you might find yourself very busy all of the sudden. At some point you threw yourself into your life, dominated by your drug of choice. Now you’ve thrown yourself into a new life, a life of addiction recovery. There’s family, work, friends, hobbies, and keeping up with the general demands of day-to-day life, Continue reading