Tag Archives: coping skills

5 Tips to Enjoy a Sober Holiday Season

Posted on October 20, 2016

Addiction recovery during the Holidays
by Richard Song

Plan For Holiday Triggers

The holidays can be a particularly difficult time for people new to recovery. The number of challenges to your recovery can be daunting, between family gatherings, parties where alcohol is present, and emotional triggers such as stress and sadness related to past memories. You can build resistance to these triggers by preparing a plan. Here are some general tips that can help those recovering from an addiction through the holidays:

1) Be careful about which events you attend. Avoid those that will be highly tempting and that focus around “using” such as wine tastings and cocktail parties. When you arrive at an event, take note of the potential triggers and come up with a plan that will address each of those triggers – for instance, position yourself away from the bar.

2) Have a backup plan in case the temptation is too strong or you feel uncomfortable at an event. Bring a sober friend who will support you and leave with you if you don’t feel comfortable staying. If you feel comfortable doing so, let the hosts know your situation. That way, you won’t feel like you offended them if you decide to leave early. Continue reading

Overcoming Addictive Behavior

Posted on October 12, 2016

Use Logic and Reason to Change Addictive Behavior
Jonathan von Breton, LCMHC, LCDP

There is a very helpful addiction recovery tool that can change the way that you think about drugs and alcohol. It is called the ABC Tool and it is used in SMART Recovery®. The underlying assumption of the ABC Tool is that how we think has a major impact on our emotions and behaviors.

Change our thinking…and then our feelings and actions will change as well.

The ABC Tool is a self-help activity that you can complete any time that you feel like drinking or using, or when you want to stop drinking alcohol** for a month or more. In effect, the ABC Tool helps us unravel our thinking about drugs and alcohol and is the basic way to abstain from any chemical or behavior that negatively impacts our life. But what is the ABC Tool? And how do you put it into action? We review here. Continue reading

Defeating Addictive Urges

Posted on August 24, 2016

Anatomy of an Urge

by Farmgirl68 (Connie)

While taking the facilitator training, I watched a video with Joe Gerstein where he showed the ABC relationship with a lapse and how it often involves a belief (B) or a consequence (C) turning into another activating event (A) thus creating a cascade of ABCs.  This intrigued me, and putting it together with the way I had noticed my own urge experiences, I realized most of the time there is a basic pattern an urge takes on for me.  Being a very visual thinker, I began to formulate on my computer screen a picture of how my urges occur. 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.

Continue reading

Veterans in Addiction Recovery

Posted on July 6, 2016

Veterans Enjoy the Comradery of VA-facilitated SMART Recovery Meetings

By Melinda Gaddy, Ph.D.

Make the impossible possibleA SMART Recovery group member at VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System (Dwight D. Eisenhower Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center) stated during their first meeting back after a period of absence from SMART, “The ABCs are so annoying, but they really do work.” We had just finished setting our agenda for the meeting. I believe the individual was speaking not only to a group member newer to SMART, but also to themselves as they settled into a chair, ready to begin again in applying SMART’s well-researched tools to their life circumstances: recently released from the hospital and solemnly resolved to do what was needed to rebuild. I appreciated the statement for a number of reasons. It helped other group members to get focused and ready to dive into the ABC tool, it conveyed hope, and it was a great example of just how good Veterans are at telling it like it is. Opinions and experiences can be offered without need for a “polite filter” since meaningful bonds are formed quickly among Veterans in recovery. This makes facilitating SMART Recovery groups within the VA an incredibly dynamic and rewarding experience.

In recent decades, VA has become increasingly focused on providing military Veterans in the United States with evidence-based treatment programs and recovery tools. Continue reading

Spring Has Sprung, Should You be Worried?

Posted on May 17, 2016

Spring has sprung! The sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and birds are singing. While you are replacing your boots with sandals and pants with shorts and skirts, you can feel the energy buzzing in the warm spring air. Sounds great, right?

As you work to cultivate a life of mindfulness and present-moment attention, you may start to notice another side of spring. The change of season can bring on a whole new set of challenges which may come as a quite a surprise for those trying to change their use of substances.

The sidewalk cafes are bustling with brunch-goers drinking wine and laughing. You may find yourself wondering, “Why can’t I have just a glass? It feels so good to finally get back outside after a winter of being cooped up indoors.” “Perhaps smoking a joint would make me feel even better?” “How can I go to a baseball game without a beer to go with my hot dog?” You may find that the impulse to pair fun, social, or just outdoor activities with the use of substances can grow much more intense as the weather heats up.

For people who do not struggle with substances, the decision to use a substance (including alcohol) or not can carry about as much weight as whether to have the steak or the fish for dinner. However, for people working on changing their relationship with substances, situations like these can be challenging, difficult, intimidating, and even overwhelming. External triggers (sidewalk cafes, concerts, sports, beaches, longer days) and internal triggers (feeling good, memories of warm weather past, relaxation) can become more apparent with the change of season.

So what can you do if you are looking to make changes? What can you do if you find yourself wrestling with these thoughts and feelings? How can your loved ones best support you? Improving your Awareness and Coping skills and well as building your ability to Tolerate is a threefold approach to relapse prevention which can be applied to coping with the change in the season.

To start, try to increase your awareness of the high risk situations, people and feelings that might increase ambivalence about your goals in this season of change. This will allow you to prepare yourself and plan for ways to stick to your goals. For example, you might take some time to think through your triggers and identify that seeing people at a sidewalk cafe drinking is triggering to you. Then you can plan your route home to limit the number of cafes you pass, or perhaps you make sure that you have an alternate form of decompression ready for you when you get home. Either way, your awareness of what triggers you allows you to prepare yourself in advance.

Next is coping. How does one cope with all of the new “triggers” brought about by the spring? One action for this might be making the decision to avoid certain events. Is a backyard BBQ full of beer too tough for you right now? How about planning a massage or lunch with a friend you don’t strongly associate with drinking? Another strategy might be to reduce the time you spend at these events and/or to bring a safe friend along. Maybe you can go late to the concert just for the music you want to hear and leave as soon as it’s over? Maybe you can bring a supportive friend or family member to the beach, since there is no need to do it alone. Find a way to have a (non-alcoholic) drink in your hand and partake in the food that is available in order to avoid people pushing drinks or craving a drink because you are hungry. Finally, if you find that your emotions start running high or your capacity to stick to your goals is weakening, have an exit strategy planned in advance. You can also book-end events with healthy people or things on either side of a potentially tricky situation.

And what about the all-important role of tolerating? What exactly does this mean? In this case what might be most important to remember is that cravings and feelings (both negative and positive) are time limited and they do pass. In the moment of intense cravings or feelings, it may seem as though the desire to use will never end. The reality…is that cravings always end.

If you are trying to really change your relationship with substances, it’s important to build up your ability to tolerate cravings and feeling of ambivalence without doing something that goes against the goals you set for yourself or makes things worse. Here are some suggestions to increase your ability to tolerate these tough moments…

  • Have a friend to call who can remind you that you will get through this moment and that you have before.
  • Make a note and put it in your wallet to remind yourself of your reasons for wanting to change and ways you have tolerated these moments in the past.
  • Create a mantra that you say to yourself over and over until the feeling or craving passes.
  • Cheerlead yourself with positive, supportive feedback. The way you “talk” to yourself really matters!
  • Practice meditation on a regular basis.
  • While none of these suggestions are a quick, easy fix, that all will build your capacity to tolerate difficult situations that may arise.

If you are new to making changes, getting through this change of season can seem a little daunting, but if you embrace and use these skills you can get through! If you’re a seasoned veteran of behavior change, it’s good to remember these skills! Each experience you have for the first time may challenge you in unexpected ways. Some things may be easier than you expected, some may be harder, and some may be just what you anticipated. Whatever the case, your decision to change is admirable and inspiring. Using these skills can help you achieve and maintain your change goals.

Julie Jarvis, Ph.D.

Reprinted from the Center for Motivation and Change at http://motivationandchange.com/cmcs-blog-for-individuals-and-families/