Resilience

Resiliency

It’s a fickle thing, really. Over the past several years, thanks to Brene Brown, we have seen a peaked interest in the idea of being emotionally resilient. This general idea of focused perseverance, rooted in an emotional strength and discipline of sorts. It’s something that we as humans have inherently, and it’s something that continuously is mistaken with will-power, or strength of character.

It’s only natural, that the idea would move from personal development into the world of recovery. There is something about addiction that feels discipline based. Something that feels, as if it could be based on will.

My favorite imagery to use to describe resiliency is to compare it to a tree. We as humans, are more alike to our arborous neighbors than we think. As trees move, bend and snap in the face of bold weather and adversity, they always stay rooted. They always come back to center, they adapt to their new conditions and continue to grow. Be like a tree.be resilient like the trees they may sway but they always come back to center

The idea of willpower alone, is something that is a common “hot-topic” when we discuss substance use. It is the deception of the brain that will have you convinced that you can “will” yourself out of addiction, or “just quit already.” As we come into a less stigmatized world-view of addiction, we know that will-power alone will never be enough on its own. It’s not possible, you don’t “will” yourself out of dis-ease.

So then, what is resilience? We know what it is not-

Resilience is not:

Willpower

Strength

Discipline

Control

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Here is my definition of resilience:

To be able to spring back from challenges, into the present moment with an increased awareness. 

And for everyone curious about Webster:

 

The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Inherent in both definitions, is the idea that there will be difficulties. That is unavoidable, and the same is true of recovery. It will always, be challenging. Obstacles are inevitable. It’s not our ability to have the control, it’s our ability to come back with vulnerability to the present moment.

It’s the ability to supersede the moment in order to achieve some sort of insight, otherwise unavailable to you. To learn from mistakes, challenges and difficulties to come back  as the best version of ourselves. And that ability is what makes people in recovery superheroes. Resilience is your superpower

It takes a lot to come back to the moment after you’ve been using. Each relapse and mistake in recovery, can feel like a thousand steps backwards. That slippery slope only makes it easier for us to yield to our preferred escapism and coping mechanisms. A cycle, that I argue can be broken by cultivating more resiliency.

How do you cultivate resilience?

I would argue that resilience is cultivated. It’s grown, built upon over time layer by layer and through time and experiences. It’s a seasoned conditioning, that happens every time we come back to the moment.

Researchers argue that humans are more resilient than we think, and that there is a strong benefit to adversity. Becoming more resilient develops a better stress response, and helps us to feel better suited to cope with things that come up. The more resilient, it’s argued, are the least stressed among people.

5 things you can do daily to cultivate resilience:

Resilience begins with the ability to come back to the moment. These daily tools can help you recover from difficult times, and help keep you centered and prepared for future difficulties.

  1. Intentional Breathing- The very of act of engaging with the breath will send you quickly back into the moment. Try it now. No really, just take a few deep, clearing, intentional breaths. Feel better right? Do this as often as you remember. Practice. Meditate. It will help you react a little less, stress a little less and come back to the moment a little more.
  2. Journal- I’m a bit of a journal hound and I realize it’s not for everyone. If you belong to the category of interested in writing about my feelings club, hear me out. The process of sorting out our thoughts and feelings on paper regularly, really provides you some insight into where you are getting caught up. Taking a few minutes at the end of the day to even make a list of things you felt, can be really healing.
  3. Basic Self-Care- I know. This is almost implied, and has become a bit of a pretentious fad in 2018. But let me make a distinction, and argument of support for self-care. No matter who you are, you cannot heal your mind and spirit if your body isn’t taken care of. You need sleep. You need nutritious food. You need movement. You have to take care of your basic needs. The candle-lit bubble baths are great, but come secondary to you being well-fed and well-rested.
  4. Positive Turnarounds- When you are faced with adversity what is your reaction? I invite you to practice changing your thinking. Instead of participating in victim thinking, turn it around into “What is this trying to teach me?” “How is this contributing to my growth?” “What benefit is this going to bring me later on?”
  5. Support- Possibly the most important. You have to have support, connection. You have to have somewhere to come back to, when you do come back. Who is that going to be? Getting connected is crucial.

 

 

 

An Ode to Freedom

There’s this fear when you get sober, this overwhelming fear of losing your freedom. It’s easy to romanticize the lifestyle as being free, an experience of rebellion coated with substances abound. I get it.

There’s not a lot of other obligations to uphold when your priority is always to get high again. The vulnerability of asking for help, the locked treatment facilities, the burned bridges and lost trust- that part of getting clean can make the lifestyle of drug use feel more like freedom.

But I’m here to tell you that is not freedom.
Freedom is Not-
Relying on substances to connect with people in your life
Requiring a high to experience joy and pleasure
Waking up in a sweaty sickness needing to use
Spending your waking hours in progress to your next high

Freedom is: an experience of love and connection. It is making strong decisions, and being accountable for them. Freedom is staying in integrity with yourself, who you are and what you want.

hikingFreedom is honoring your body, so it may take you where you decide to go.

Recovery should feel like freedom.

While you are giving up the thing that binds you, you are releasing it’s mental, emotional, physical and spiritual hold on you. When you get clean, you are being freed.

The Tragedy of an Overdose

The Tragedy of an Overdose

Today, is international Overdose Awareness Day. I have struggled to find the words to begin. A lump in the back of my throats hangs stagnant, and I almost feel defeated. Almost. Instead, I feel anger. Angry that we have to devote an entire day, to the awareness of a disease.

A disease most Americans are hesitant to call by it’s name- despite the fact that it’s insidious ways have crept into every corner of this society.

What other diseases, require an awareness day just so that it can be classified as such?

The tragedy of an overdose- an overdose eventually treated in a hospital, preventable with treatment and care and oftentimes manifested from the medical industry itself-

The tragedy of an overdose is that it is preventable.

It is preventable. On a social scale, we can be working towards:

  • Supervised Safe Injection Sites
  • Widespread accessibility of Naloxone
  • Universal Access to affordable and effective substance use treatment
  • Drastically changing the American model for Pain Management

If you are still suffering from substance use, below are five ways you can work to prevent overdose

Five Ways to Prevent an Overdose:

  1.  Don’t use alone. If you overdose, no one can help you.
  2. Start with low doses.  Especially if you have had a period of abstinence- after your tolerance has lowered you are at a higher risk for overdose.
  3. Know what you’re using. Fetenanyl test kits are available at some Harm Reduction Action Centers, and can save lives.
  4. Don’t mix your drugs. Drug interactions can be fatal. Don’t compound your chances by drinking or taking another kind of substance.
  5. Talk to your friends, family and loved ones. It can be truly scary, but talking to your family members about what an overdose looks like, and how they can help can save your life.

If you are looking for more help in recovery, look here for Hayley’s recovery services]l

Cody’s Miracle

When you’re in recovery, your friends die.

Your friends die, a lot.

That may seem brash, or cold, or dehumanizing; But I promise it isn’t. It’s a truth that I came to live with, the reality. Each death, while still heartbreakingly tragic- became less and less shocking. I was growing increasingly complacent. Until, that is, I decided to do something about it.

I went through a period in early recovery, where the heaviness of substance use followed me. The severity of the opioid epidemic in particular, was a prevalent and unavoidable weight; It was unshakable.

My friends were dying. My friends were dying of overdoses.

Once the levy was broken, a flood of deaths and bad news bombarded my life. I couldn’t open social media without a new homage to a dead friend. Phone calls with old friends, turned into disclosures of lives lost. Suddenly, a normal response to, “You okay?” became, “Yeah. Just another friend OD’d today.”

Cody’s death was not the first to pass through my scope. It’s unfortunately not been the last, but was significant to me nonetheless. Cody’s death has inspired a miracle, a miracle that is still impactful and life changing today. Not only for me personally, but for the families benefiting from the charity created in his name. Cody’s death was different.

Cody, Jackie and I brushed shoulders in a few different recovery circles. The two entered and left my life, always at the right time and always with great compassion. Cody was not what you imagined, when you thought of someone in recovery. He appeared normal by every definition of the word, and even happy. I can’t recall an experience with Cody where that striking smirk didn’t creep across his face. But that’s the deception of substance use- it doesn’t discriminate.

1924328_1438148513114653_6605512022963143466_nDespite us never being significantly close, Cody and Jackie were welcomed faces in my recovery. Cody always offering meaningful support in moments of weakness, an overwhelming space of non-judgment. Jackie has seen my at my most vulnerable, and my best. Always determined to be the best version of herself, inspiring others to hold themselves to higher standards. Even in their darkness, they shone through the recovery community as leaders.

I was thousands of miles away in Nevada when I heard the news of Cody. I was in that stage of early recovery, and the news of his death came after news of at least three other friend’s deaths. My mother mailed me the obituary a few days later. With that scrap of paper in my hand, Cody’s sly smirk looking back at me and a tangle of incomprehensible words- I cried. I cried for the first time in weeks.

The weight of grief dislodged itself from my gut, and I wept. 10312612_1427117824217722_7549289451276458481_n

I cried for Cody, and for Jackie’s grief. I cried for all my friends, that I would never see again. I cried for the ones still using. I cried for the ones that were grieving them. I cried for the helplessness- stacked against an epidemic out of my hands. I cried because I made it. Why them, and not me? That could have been me.

Cody’s death brought an awareness. It was suddenly unavoidable, this was an epidemic. Something had to be done, and complacency wasn’t helping. It reminded me too that, I am not the only one who has these stories. It is with good confidence that I can say that most Americans have been touched in some way by the destruction of substance use, and even the Opioid Epidemic in particular. I can compassionately confront the grave reality of the situation, while still contributing to movement to make change.

I am not the only one who was inspired to make light and positivity out of the current state of the world. Cody’s mom Mary and Jackie, have set up Cody’s Fresh Start, which raises money to help get people in active use the treatment that they need. Their commitment to helping others is an inspiring one. As people in recovery, with every moment that we have survived this battle, we must help the ones that are still struggling.

The miracle of Cody’s death, is that it moved people. It personally moved me from a place of victimhood, to an empowered desire to help others turn their lives around. It moved Cody’s most loved to battle an epidemic. It has moved a community of people, to begin to speak up and talk about it.

People are dying.

But if we have the courage, we can make the choice to do something about it.

 

Information about Cody’s Fresh Start or to make a donation located- Here.

 

The Opposite of Addiction

Mindfulness in Recovery

One of the most increasingly popular treatments for substance use, is mindfulness. The term for most, conjures up images of sitting silently in a dark room. While it can at times be silent meditation, it is likely to look a little different for someone in recovery. Despite it now become more popular, it is not a new idea. Rather, an idea we see seeded throughout twelve step, DBT and traditional substance use treatment programs; Only accompanied by a new name.

The Nature of Addiction

One could argue, and I certainly will, that addiction is a conscious decision to check out. We learn, over time, how comfortable it is to avoid our emotions. That avoidance, through using, becomes a deeply ingrained coping mechanism. A coping mechanism that easily mutates into a substance use disorder.

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If we chose to check in, or practice mindfulness, we would see that those emotions are not as foreboding as we make it out to be. Mindfulness can literally help you change the way you interact with your world.

DBT & Mindfulness

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is the most recent approach to substance use treatment, that fully embraces mindfulness in recovery. In short, DBT approaches recovery with four “modules”. Mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance and emotion regulation. Mindfulness being the first principle- includes answers to two very important questions:

“What do I do, to practice core mindfulness skills?”-

Answer: Observe, describe, participate.

“How do I practice core mindfulness skills?”

Answer: Non-judgmentally, One-mindfully, and Effectively

Two New Mindfulness Techniques: So often, we find ourselves operating on autopilot. Consuming, moving and acting without much thought.  The following exercises, are a few easy places to start integrating mindfulness into your life.

  • Mindful Shower- The shower is a place where we tend to fall into our autopilot thinking the easiest. I hear people say, “but the shower is where I get my best ideas!” What would become of a more intentional shower then? I invite you to give it a shot.
    • As you shower, focus on the water. Innate in the sensation of water, is some sort of healing capacity. Move your attention intentionally, to the idea that as the water is washing over you, it is washing away all the negativity. The warm, soapy water literally clearing you of all the negative energy, and splashing right down the drain. Try not to let your mind wander too far, and spend that shower time being deliberate with your body.
  • Mindful Walk-  This exercise can be done while going about your daily activities. It can also be accomplished by taking intentional time, to get away for a walk. Either way, incorporating this technique will change the way you experience walking in nature.
    • Start by taking a few deep breaths, noticing how they feel when you are walking and moving. Once you feel connected to the breath, allow it to be your first focus as you walk. Notice where you feel your breath, when you’re breathing more and how it feels. After a few moments of mindful breathing, begin to integrate various body parts. Notice how your feet feel- pulling the pavement along. What about your knees? How they bend and straighten. Notice your arms- are they moving along with your body? Are they tight and clenched? The idea, is that you are spending your walk being mindful about your body, and how it interacts with your environment.

Both of these exercise begin to beg the question, What would happen if we started to be just a little more present for our lives?

Regardless of substance use or not, being focused on the present moment can change your world. If you are not being intentional, and operating from autopilot, you are missing life. Chances are, without mindfulness, we have gotten ourselves into all sorts of funky behaviors and habits. Make a commitment to live just a little more intentionally, and I promise you won’t find yourself in them quite so often.