For the millions of Americans who are living with an addiction, learning how to cope with the stress and pressure of getting sober can be overwhelming. Relapses are common, and they can bring a weight of guilt with them, which can in turn lead to more substance abuse. It?s a very difficult cycle to break, but it?s important to figure out the best ways to get healthy in every way–mind, body, and soul–so that you can get back on track without sacrificing everything you?ve worked so hard for.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help things fall into place after a relapse. From opening up communication with your family members to practicing meditation and learning how to relax, taking care of yourself is the first priority. Whether that means ridding yourself of guilt and shame or simply learning how to cope with stress, finding out what works for you will help you break the cycle for good.
Keep reading for some great tips on how to feel better and get healthy after a relapse.
Ask for help
It can be very challenging and humbling to ask for help, especially if you?ve already done it once before, but suffering a relapse is nothing to be ashamed of. It happens to many individuals who have made a commitment to turn their lives around, and it?s not an indication of failure. The key is to recognize the issue and ask for help as soon as possible so that you may begin rebuilding. Find a counselor, therapist, or group session you can join, or talk to your sponsor or a close family member or friend.
Stress is a major contributing factor to many relapses, so it?s imperative to learn how to cope with those feelings and reduce them. This might mean learning how to say no, finding a way to reduce your task load at work, or working on family issues.
Think about the things that bring you the most stress and how you can effectively make your life easier. In the meantime, you can practice meditation and/or yoga to help break down those feelings. This has long been a benefit for those who are struggling with stress and anxiety. Make sure you have a quiet space to relax in that is free of distractions. You can find out more about creating a meditation space here.
The way you handle your relapse is extremely important. If you feel guilt or shame, it will be nearly impossible for you to move on and make healthy choices, so it?s important to learn how to handle those emotions and how to forgive yourself. This may require the help of a therapist, or you might talk to your friends and family about your struggle. Sometimes, simply being open and honest about what we?re going through is the best way to move on.
Adjust your strategy
It?s always possible to make changes to the way you approach your sobriety, and it?s important to do so if you feel it isn?t working. You might take a look at the people you spend the most time with. Are they supportive? Are there people in your life who abuse drugs or alcohol when you?re around? It can be difficult to make major changes, especially when it comes to your relationships, but it?s critical to make your own health a priority.
Coping with addiction relapse is never easy, and it often takes time to get to the place you want to be in. Try to be patient with yourself during this time, and think hard about the way any changes you make to your lifestyle will affect you down the road. With a good plan, you can get your life back on track.
Constance Ray started Recoverywell.org with the goal of creating a safe place for people to share how addiction has affected them, whether they are combating it themselves or watching someone they care about work to overcome it. The goal is to share stories of hope from survivors who know that the fight against addiction is one worth having, because no matter how it affects you, life can get better.
There is an old proverb, ?Confession is good for the soul?. ?But is it really?
It sounds odd but can talking with somebody make you feel better? ?It can and it does. But why does it work? Why can just something as simple as talking about something that you are worried about, or feel guilty about make you feel better and less stressed?
To understand that question you have to understand how memory storage in our brains work. ?Doctors as far back as the 1890?s have recognized some memories fade into nothing and some memories resist that fading away. ?Mostly the memories that won?t fade are ones that are charged with emotions.
Simply, there is a part of us that feels and there is a part of us that thinks. ?Generally, we want to keep these things in balance. However, in life when we are scared, worried, guilty or sad we feel those emotions strongly. ?When your feelings are strong it diminishes your capacity to think; especially, your ability to say what you are feeling.
Have you ever seen a parent tell their screaming child to ?use your words?? ?The parent instinctively recognizes that a child has to calm down and talk before they can stop being hysterical. That is because when the part of your brain that feels gets overwhelmed your body will actually shut down parts of itself in order to conserve fuel. ?When the ?fight or flight? part of your mind is triggered, energy is diverted from other parts of your brain?systems in order to give you energy to fight of run. One area that is impacted?is your ability to think rationally. ?
So, let?s say you got in an argument that escalated. Or that you made a mistake at work and are scared you will be fired for it. ?So, in that moment you are feeling strong emotions instead of thinking.? If you do not communicate with anyone about it, after your emotions have calmed down, you will be putting that memory into the bookshelf of your mind with an emotional charge.
So what does an emotionally charged memory do? ?An emotionally charged memory is one that when you think about that memory you feel that emotion all over again. So you could be lying in your bed after having had a great day but start thinking about something from your past and BAM! Right there in your bed you feel what you felt then. ?Despite the fact that you just a moment ago felt at peace with the world. That is an emotionally charged memory.
Going back to the initial question, why does talking help you feel better?? Because in order to take the charge out of a memory you have add thought to that memory.? ?Remember that you both think and feel.? A memory that is all feeling and no thinking will remain a charged memory.? But when you talk about the past, especially when you think about what you were feeling and why, it helps add thought to that memory . ?A memory that has thought and feeling in it a memory that can be put on the bookshelf of your mind and just fade into the thousands of other memories there.
When you talk to someone who influences you to think about why you felt what you felt it can make that emotional charge go away which feels wonderful. ?This is why the whole practice of counseling even exists. To help people remember their past without feeling what they felt in the past.
Do you feel that you are haunted by your past? ?Do you feel that there are things in your past that you will never get over?? Let’s get together. I can help you move forward. Contact me today!
Saying the mind and body are connected is nothing new. The Ancient Greeks attempted to understand the mental phenomena of emotions and their complex connections to physiological order. That fascination continued through the Roman era, the Renaissance, and on throughout history — and that?s just Western European culture. Physicians and philosophers all over the globe have explored the mind and body connection since the beginning of time and even recent science backs up the claim that they are intrinsically connected.
If you are not taking care of your physical self, your mental health is likely not where you want it to be. For instance, one of the main symptoms of depression is poor personal hygiene. Addicts are another good illustration of this problem. Addicts turn to self-harm in the form of drug or alcohol abuse as a way to cope with their own mental health issues. While environmental and genetic components also contribute to the disease, the mind/body link plays its part.
Taking the time to take care of the physical self can have a helpful impact on your mental health and addiction recovery. In addition to seeking help and supervision through a physician, try incorporating the following self-care rituals into your routine.
Establish a Solid Sleep Routine
Sleep is awesome, so why do so many of us get so little of it? According to the American Sleep Association, 50 to 70 million American adults have some sort of sleep disorder, insomnia being the most common one. Sleep problems are common in addicts, as well. Drug and alcohol abuse disrupt the body?s natural rhythm along with the neurochemicals and hormones that help control rest. After a while, the body forgets how to rest properly.
Thankfully, you can retrain your body by establishing a sleep routine and following it religiously. It?s not just about going to sleep and waking up at the same times every day — although those two things are key. Practicing good sleep hygiene has a lot to do with how you spend the hours before bedtime.
- Limit stimulants including nicotine and caffeine.
- Invest in some soothing herbal teas you can drink leading up to bedtime to help brain and body relax.
- The glow of your television, computer and smartphone screens keep the brain alert. Turn them off and put them away an hour before bed.
- Turn your bedroom into a sanctum of rest. Buy yourself nice linens, keep the room temperature cool, and use a white noise machine or essential oils to create ambience.
- Read a chapter of a book before you fall asleep to help your mind wind down. If you are still not sleepy, read another chapter until you are.
You may think exercise is just something you have to do if you want to lose weight, but it?s essential to the addiction recovery process. Drugs and alcohol trick your body to think it needs them by triggering the brain?s reward system. When you give up those substances, you can help beat cravings with exercise. Physical activity also stimulates that part of the brain while also releasing neurochemicals like dopamine and endorphins, which relieve pain and promote a positive mindset. You don?t have to train for a marathon to get these benefits, either. Just walking an extra half hour a day provides significant benefits.
Explore Healthy Stress Release
Finding some way to release stress and anxiety in a healthy manner is essential for addiction recovery. Meditation, yoga and hobbies like knitting help people tune out those thoughts and criticisms without having to use drugs or alcohol. Think of them like exercise for your brain. During these mindful exercises, you will experience negative thoughts. However, by recognizing those thoughts, dismissing them and returning your attention to your activity, you are training your brain to dismiss them on its own. The more you practice, the easier it becomes and your brain learns to automatically pass over self-criticisms in your day-to-day life so you can stay focused.
Since the mind and body are connected, your physical health has a significant impact on your mental health and vice-versa. When you struggle with a mental health issue like addiction, incorporating a solid sleep routine, exercise, and healthy coping mechanisms for stress all contribute to recovery. Incorporate daily physical self-care routines in your efforts to heal yourself holistically.
We all have bad days. It’s okay. But, it is essential to keep in mind that we all choose how much we allow our circumstances, at any given time, to influence our energy?positive or negative.
It?s okay to be human. We all make mistakes We all repeat the same slip-ups until we decide to choose another option?which often requires a paradigm shift. Changing one?s frame of mind is never easy. Change is hard!
Know what else is tough? Learning to walk and talk, but we did it?because we kept trying to learn. We were intentional about acquiring that skill because at that time, it was important to us.
At some point in adulthood, people get stuck in a cloud of shifting priorities. Work. School. Family. Church. Social engagements. We all?at one time or another?feel drained! The question is, what are we going to do about it?
For a change to happen, one must intentionally create new habits. These behaviors are meant to replace the old ways that were not contributing to our success. These new habits should be designed to impact areas in our lives that we need strengthened. Nothing changes, when nothing changes.
Marty was just like you?busy, overworked, stressed. She?s a single-parent who works very hard to provide for her two boys.
One day, Marty decided that she was going to do something about her energy. She had been reading a book by Brendon Burchard, High Performing Habits, that inspired her to generate more positive energy by intentionally adopting simple habits that would allow her to do so.
On a Tuesday morning, Marty set 2 random alarms?one at 10:17 am , another at 2:29 pm?that prompted her to stop what she was doing and take 10 deep breaths. She was intrigued by how effortless and odd, yet apparently obvious this exercise seemed, because Marty had known for quite some time that she wasn?t taking breaks throughout her day to just breathe?and as a nurse she knew how vital breathing is to one?s well-being.
Her first alarm goes off. She gets up from the nurse?s station, walks outside, and starts to count 10 deep breaths. Once she has started breathing she is supposed to ask herself, ?what kind of energy do I want and need right now?? She thinks about her to-do list, the patients she is caring for, and then she feels gratitude.
?I am grateful that I have all of these things to do and that I am entrusted with these people to care for. I choose to BRING THE JOY!?
This heartwarming moment was a gamechanger for Marty. A few hours later, when her next alarm went off, she once again walked outside to get a breath of fresh air. She started to breathe and as she did she felt the tension release from off of her shoulders. She was in the moment. She had already ?brought the joy once.? She thought about what kind of energy she needed at that moment, then, like magic, she had laser-like focus as she intentionally dialed into her mind to generate the energy she wanted. She caught up her charting and made her rounds again?with the intention of bringing more joy!
Six months later, Marty still has her 2 alarms that go off, and she has found that she takes more time to be present, in the present. She is able to stay focused at work. She?s incorporated a 3rd alarm. This one goes off on her drive home. She breathes, releases the tension, and asks herself what kind of energy her family needs. These triggers, changed her behavior in a way that impacted her state of mind, her work, & family relationships. Marty took control of her energy production.
Another key aspect of generating energy is taking control of our health?optimize it. If it has been over a year since the last physical exam, ?we really should get one soon. We all have to start somewhere, and this is a good place. Finding out where to improve our health and our body, and then intentionally improving those areas will bless us with health, strength, and vitality.
Exercise plays a HUGE role in one?s ability to generate energy. A good place to start is in the morning. Wake up 10-15 minutes earlier, stretch, and do 5 push-ups. Do this Monday through Friday for a month. Get excited about waking up earlier to do this?after all, by doing this, you are changing the world (your world). Increase your exercise to, eventually, consistently exercising for at least 30 minutes a morning, 4-5x a week.
Robin Sharma said, ?Good health is a crown on the head of a well person that only a sick person can see.?
As we choose to do simple, different things like setting random alarms to breathe, breathing to intentionally set the tone, and optimizing our health, our bodies will reap from the choices we have sown. We will grow in health, mental clarity, and our ability to generate energy will have increased by leaps and bounds.
There are no shortcuts. Choices can and should be tough. Growth is never easy. Change is always possible. Change comes when we choose between comfort and wisdom?and choose to grow. It comes when we ask ourselves, ?What is TRULY best for me right now?? Then acting upon that answer.
Do you want the secret to life? Act. Do. Become.
Act on your choices, choose your reactions, and intentionally generate the energy and the feelings that are most important to you and will help you become the best version of yourself.
If you struggle with learning new habits, if you need help from a mentor to coach you as you strive to become all that you have the potential to become, or if you are ready to take it to the next level?career, relationship, personal life?then I can help you.
To know?where you are going, first?you need to?know who you are. Then, you need to?have a reason?to reach your destination.?Why?do you want to make it there??Why?is it important to you?
Dr. Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says that you must?begin with the end in mind.?Focus with me?as his words?guide?your thoughts:
?In your mind?s eye,?see yourself?going to the funeral of a loved one.?Picture yourself?driving to the funeral parlor or chapel, parking the car, and getting out.?As you walk inside the building, you notice the flowers, the soft organ music.?You see?the?faces of friends and family?you pass along the way.?You feel?the shared?sorrow?of losing, the?joy?of having known that radiates from the hearts of the people there.
?As you walk?down in front of the room?and look inside the casket,?you?suddenly?come face to face?with yourself.?This is your funeral?three years from today. All these?people have come?to honor you,?to?express feelings?of love and appreciation?for your life.
‘As you take a seat?and wait for the services to begin,?you look?at the program in your hand. There are to be four speakers.?The first?is from your family, immediate and extended-?children, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents?who have come from all over the country to attend.?The second?is one of your friends,?someone who can give a sense of what you were as a person.?The third?speaker is from your work or profession.?The fourth?is from your church?or some community organization where you?ve been involved in service.
?Now think deeply.?What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life?What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would you like their words to reflect? What kind of son, or daughter, or cousin??What kind of friend??What kind of working associate?
?What character would you like them to have seen in you??What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember? Look carefully at the people around you.?What difference would you have liked to have made?in their lives??
Think about those answers.?Take a minute to truly reflect. I would even suggest writing your answers down on a piece of paper.
Who you would ?have them remember you as?or what you would have them remember you for?is?your personal definition of success!
Using this exercise, I’ve defined my own roles in my life and this perspective has helped me to create a personal mission statement.?You must know who you are?and what you need to do to become the best version of yourself.?Doing this will be your?driving force?to get to your ultimate destination. This is called seeking clarity.
There is?great power?in?beginning with the end in mind.?As I strive to become the man I envision myself becoming, I have a?deeper satisfaction?in life. I have a stronger conviction?to accomplish my goals.?I have a purpose. I also have a reason to challenge myself by setting goals to develop into the best version of myself.
To?truly?know where you are going,?to have a clear vision?of where you are headed;?you must first have a clear picture of?who you are.
As your life coach, I can help you develop your vision, help you set goals to achieve your vision, and inspire you to grow into the person it will take to make your vision a reality! Contact me today for a free consultation.