Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Summer Refreshment Part V

With Labor Day approaching, here are some more iced teas to wet your whistle.

Pineapple Iced Tea

  • 1 quart water
  • 7 tea bags
  • 1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Remove from the heat. Add tea bags; cover and steep for 3-5 minutes. Discard tea bags. Stir in the pineapple juice, lemon juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate overnight for the flavors to blend. Serve over ice.

Mint Iced Tea (unsweetened)

  • 2 bags each of Darjeeling and English Breakfast tea
  • 1 bag of mint tea
  • 2 cups cold water

Heat water to boiling and pour over teabags in pitcher. Allow the tea to steep for 15-30 minutes. Remove the teabags, fill the pitcher with cold water and refrigerate to chill. If you wish to drink immediately, fill the pitcher halfway with ice cubes then add cold water to top.

Blackberry Swizzler
probably from the Lipton website

  • 6 blackberry flavored black tea bags
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 can (6 oz) frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed and undiluted
  • 1 cup raspberries, blueberries or sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup chilled lemon soda

In saucepan, pour boiling water over teabags; cover and steep five minutes. Remove teabags, stir in sugar, and cool. In large pitcher, combine tea, lemonade concentrate, and fruit; chill. Just before serving, add soda. Serve with ice.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Getting to Recovery episode 3

The third episode of the Getting to Recovery podcast series, is now available. If You're Happy and You Know It discusses Statement Three and finding happiness in recovery.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Seven Days Sober: Tackling Irrational Beliefs

I have previously discussed that thoughts become cravings, and how, unless we interrupt the process, a trigger will lead to relapse. For many, the process of getting sober starts with a long series of attempts, each failing when a trigger event cascades into drinking. During this period, we have a choice; we can give up – assuming we are simply incapable of sobriety – or we can do what is necessary to stop the cycle of quitting and relapsing. Finding a program is one major step in this process, but another is working to understand the reasons for our ongoing failures.

Albert Ellis developed a model for anger management that has great application in this area (Ellis, 1979, and Ellis and Harper, 1975). His A-B-C-D model, also called the Rational-Emotive Model, is based on the idea that it is not events themselves that produce feelings such as anger, but our interpretations and beliefs about these events. According, the Ellis, as people become angry, they engage in an internal dialog which feeds their anger. I like to think of this process as a “thinking spiral”, where we fuel an initial negativity with ever greater negative thoughts. In the Trigger > Drinking cycle, this is where we talk ourselves into the relapse.

The Rational-Emotive Model uses the approach of identifying irrational beliefs and disputing them (the “D” in the A-B-C-D Method) with more rational or realistic perspectives. A rational belief is one that is measurable, objective and rooted in reality. For example, an irrational thought might be that you MUST do something perfectly or you have failed at it. The dispute would be to ask, Why? The replacement rational thought might be, “Things don’t always go the way we want. I can only do the best I can with what I have.” This thought modification is then applied to the next situation where the original irrational belief might arise.

In the A-B-C-D Model, the process goes:

A – an Activating situation or event occurs
B – your Belief system feeds you self-talk based on your beliefs and expectations of others
C – the Consequence is how you feel about the event based on your-self talk, and your reaction
D – Disputing your self-talk, examining your beliefs and expectations, and determining whether they are realistic or irrational.
I have modified this model slightly (it is for all intents the same, with different words. I make no claims of ownership or originality) to what I call Recovery CARES. In this version, the activating situation is the trigger event which leads to a relapse.

The Recovery CARES approach:

C – the Cause of the trigger. The cause can be viewed from two angles, what you think happened, and what a camera would have seen. Identifying the Who, What, When, Where and Why is important in helping uncover the specific combination of things leading to the trigger firing.
  • WHO was there?
  • WHAT was going on?
  • WHEN was it?
  • WHERE were you?
  • WHY were you there?
A – your Auto-response to the cause. What did you tell yourself? Did those thoughts lead to other thoughts, in other words, did your initial reaction start a thinking spiral?
R – the Result of the auto-response. How did you feel? How did you act? What was the end result?
EExamine your responses. Were they rational or irrational? Dispute the irrational beliefs and replace them with rational responses.
SSum it up. After looking at the trigger event and your responses step by step, make a plan to prevent a similar event from resulting in a relapse. How can you react differently in the future? What people, places, things, thoughts, emotions and combinations thereof should you be careful of in the future? What irrational thoughts do you want to work on replacing in your mind? Importantly, what affirmation will you use to interrupt the thinking spiral the next time?

It may seem that this is a long process to go through, and it is. If you are serious about getting sober though, identifying and changing irrational beliefs is vital. Spending an hour now is far better than losing a day to a hangover. If you apply this process each time you face a trigger event, you will begin to see a picture emerging of the things in your life that need to change in order for you to achieve your goal of lasting sobriety. The very act of filling out the worksheet following a trigger event, especially if it led to a relapse, is a positive step. It reinforces your intention to beat your addiction and prevents the continuation of the thinking spiral after the fact by stopping the “I am a failure” self-talk.

You have it within you to become sober. By tackling the things which lead you to drink, you embrace Statement One: I have a life-threatening problem that once had me. I now take charge of my life and my disease. I accept the responsibility.

More information on Albert Ellis and Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy
The Recovery CARES Worksheet (PDF)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Disaster Preparedness: Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

There is a hurricane heading for the East Coast this week, expected to hit here in Florida on Friday with winds of around 115 mph. Time to pull out the old disaster preparedness plan and run through the checklist: water, prepared food, gas, sobriety ...

Sobriety? What is that doing in a disaster plan? So many people, when they think of a disaster, think only of the physical concerns they may encounter; food, water, shelter. The psychological needs that come with experiencing a natural disaster are too often ignored or unrecognized. Today, especially, it is vital to take your sobriety into consideration when making a disaster plan.

Think of the horrific scenes of destruction from the tornadoes of this past year, the stories of entire counties without power for weeks. How would your sobriety hold up under those kinds of stressors? If you do not have a specific plan for handling a natural emergency or disaster, you are planning to fail in the event a disaster strikes you.

What sorts of things should your emergency sobriety plan include? One of the biggest things you should prepare for is not having electricity and/or internet. You won't necessarily be able to log onto your support group site to post your frustrations and fears. Your phone may not work either; during the hurricanes of 2004 we were without phone service for almost ten days. Road blockages and damaged buildings may mean that support meetings will be cancelled. In other words, you may find yourself cut off from the majority of peer support you currently rely on to help you stay sober. It will be up to you to maintain your sobriety until services can be restored.

Here are a few tips for creating your emergency sobriety plan:

  • Have a written disaster plan - knowing what you will do before, during, and after a disaster ahead of time will alleviate a great deal of stress during an emergency. FEMA has good information on creating a plan and preparing an emergency kit.
  • Know your triggers - specifically, make a list of triggers that are likely to occur during an emergency; stress, anxiety, general or specific fears (such as a fear of the dark if you may be without power for a period of time), and possible injury to yourself or others are all major triggers for many women. Have a concrete plan for handling each trigger without drinking.
  • Include craving reducers in your kit - If chewing gum or hard candy help with cravings, make sure you have plenty in your emergency kit.
  • Plan to keep busy - Boredom can be a huge trigger in a disaster. A deck of playing cards or a board game can keep your mind occupied during daylight hours when there is no electricity.
  • Make a Sobriety Notebook - print out posts, emails, and websites that you would turn to if you had access to a computer and keep them in a notebook where you can refer to them as needed. Keep extra paper and pens so you can journal. Print out the statements and put them in the front of your notebook for easy access.
  • Keep a routine - Try to maintain your sobriety routine. Continue morning meditation, do daily reading and journaling, and practice gratitude thought at night.
The most important thing to remember in a disaster is this; drinking will only make your situation worse. Being prepared before an emergency happens, both physically and emotionally, will pay off in spades in the event a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or other natural disaster strikes. WFS Statement 12 reads, I am a competent woman and have much to give life. This is what I am and I shall know it always. By planning to keep your sobriety intact during periods of emergency, you reinforce your competence and strengthen your recovery.

Friday, August 19, 2011

ASAM Releases New Definition of Addiction

The American Society of Addiction Medicine has released a new definition of addiction. The full text may be read here. This definition begins with: Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.

In part, the new description states:
Addiction is characterized by2:
  1. Inability to consistently Abstain;
  2. Impairment in Behavioral control;
  3. Craving; or increased “hunger” for drugs or rewarding experiences;
  4. Diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships; and
  5. A dysfunctional Emotional response.

2. These five features are not intended to be used as “diagnostic criteria” for determining if addiction is present or not. Although these characteristic features are widely present in most cases of addiction, regardless of the pharmacology of the substance use seen in addiction or the reward that is pathologically pursued, each feature may not be equally prominent in every case. The diagnosis of addiction requires a comprehensive biological, psychological, social and spiritual assessment by a trained and certified professional.

Seven Days Sober: Thoughts Become Cravings

How many times in the past have you been trying to stay sober only to having your own thoughts sabotage you? Your sober mind and your drinking mind start arguing over what is best for your body. When we have drinking thoughts, we often feel put on the defensive by our own desires, as though we must justify remaining sober to ourselves. The brain only knows what has worked to maintain itself in the past; alcohol has been the way for it to remain balanced, and so it tries very hard to get us to turn to alcohol again when we start to feel unbalanced in early sobriety. Knowing the sequence that follows and how to disrupt it is vital in getting through those drinking thoughts.

Trigger => Thought => Craving => Use

The only way to prevent a trigger from leading to relapse is to interrupt the process at the thought, before the craving can arise. There are a variety of suggested techniques for stopping this drinking thinking (from the Matrix Intensive Outpatient Treatment for People With Stimulant Use Disorders manual).

Visualization: Create a scene in which you deny the power of the drinking thought. For example, picture turning off a light switch or slamming the door in the face of an ugly fuzzy creature. Have another picture ready to think about instead.

Snapping: Wear a rubber-band loosely on your wrist. Each time you become aware of a drinking thought, snap the rubber-band and say, "No!" to the thought. Have a subject ready to think about instead that is meaningful.

Relaxation: Feelings of hollowness, heaviness, and cramping in the stomach are cravings. These often can be relieved by breathing in deeply and breathing out slowly. Do this three times. You should be able to feel the tightness leaving your body. Repeat this whenever the feeling returns. You may wish to recite a short affirmation; statements 1,2,4,5,12 & 13 are all excellent here.

Call Someone: Talking to another person provides an outlet for your feelings and allows you to hear your thinking process. You could also journal, or post or chat on a support site if you belong to one (see the Women for Sobriety site at www.womenforsobriety.org for information on their online support site).

Allowing the thoughts to
develop into cravings is
making a choice to remain
dependent on substances.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Getting to Recovery podcast, episode two

The second episode of the Getting to Recovery podcast is now available. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Seven Days Sober: Worry Journaling

"I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened." ~ Mark Twain

Read my post on Worry if you haven't already. Worrying is something that everyone does, and most of the time we don't need to. Too much worry can paralyze us, especially in early sobriety when we are still working on ways of dealing with stress without using alcohol. There are interesting statistics regarding the things we worry about:

  • 40% never happens – so in essence we are wasting our time by worrying.
  • 30% of what we worry about has already happened. Learn to “let go” and forgive yourself and others. You cannot change the past – no one can. Accept it for what it is and go on.
  • 12% are needless worries, such as what someone else thinks about us.
  • 10% are petty and unimportant such as we worry about what’s for dinner, we worry about being late, we worry about what to wear.
  • 8% of what we worry about actually happens. Of this percentage…
  • 4% of our worries that happen are beyond our control. We cannot change the outcome. These worries may include our health, the death of a loved one or an impending natural disaster. Often times the reality of these events are more bearable than the worry.
  • 4% of what we worry about we have some if not all control over the results. Basically I think this is the consequences of our actions or inaction on the problems and challenges we face.

(from http://www.pickthebrain.com)
Dale Carnegie in "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living" gives the advice that we should prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We must accept the worst possible outcome and then take action to improve upon it. For many of us, the worst possible outcome includes drinking. If we immediately remove that option from the table, we have already improved "the worst that could happen", and things will certainly look up from there!

Here is a suggestion for worry journaling. You may wish to create a separate section in your journal just for this.

  1. List your worry at the top of a clean page. Be as detailed as you can regarding the worst possible outcome.

  2. Pause and center yourself. Now is the time to recite an affirmation or Statement (#4, Problems bother me only to the degree I permit them to, is a perfect one for this). Open yourself to all solutions.

  3. Consider: Is this worry something I can control? How much of it is within my control?

  4. If the worry isn't within your control, list the ways you might let go. You could create an affirmation to say when you find yourself worrying about this again. Say to yourself, I release this worry to the Universe, it is not mine to bear.

  5. If there are parts of the worry you can control, make a list of those things you can and those you can't. Release the parts you can't control as in step 4.

  6. List possible solutions to the things you can control. Also list things (drinking should be at the top of this list!) that you should not do in response to this worry.

  7. Finally, make a plan that includes a successful resolution. Make your steps small and doable.

Do the first thing on your plan. Make notes, did it work? How do you feel about the worry now? Continue through your plan. If something doesn't work, go back and list other solutions. Don't be afraid to adjust, just keep trying until you reach the end of your plan successfully (and you will be successful!) . Once you have conquered your worry, you may wish to put a gold star on the top of the page to reward your diligence and effort.

Worry needn't paralyze you. Take charge of your life and conquer those worries and fears!

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

Worry is Action Without Direction

"Worry is misuse of the imagination" — Mary Crowley

When we are faced with an obstacle, whether we fear failure for ourselves or that the worst will happen to others, we worry. We don’t know what action to take; we don’t realize that worry itself is an action. It’s action without direction. We have created the energy to attack the problem, but we don’t know where to direct it first. This energy churns inside us seeking an outlet, and that outlet becomes worry.

One of the most common forms of worry in sobriety is the fear of relapse. The newer we are to sobriety, the greater this fear is although it can be intensified in later sobriety through stress, temptation, or Post-Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome . At one time or another, it is safe to say that every sober alcoholic worries that they will pick up a drink. The greater the temptation, or urge, the stronger the worry.

In this case, worry only adds to the problem. The energy charging through our bodies seeks, and will eventually find, release. When our minds are unsure of the outcome, it becomes much easier for that release to come in the form of a relapse. The worry itself increases the chances that what we are worried about will come to pass.

As Mary Crowley (founder of a multimillion dollar company in a time when women rarely worked outside the home) said, “worry is misuse of the imagination”. This is so true. In the simplest sense, when applied to worry about ourselves, our thoughts create our reality. If we worry that we will drink, we greatly increase the chances that we will.

So what do we do? The first and most important step is to decide what we can and cannot influence. If we are worried about relapse, that is entirely within our control. If we are worried about a sick relative, there is little we can do to directly influence the outcome.

Once we have made this division, we must put aside the parts that we cannot control. We must accept that some things are beyond our abilities and that we must redirect the energy we are spending in worry to positive action. Worrying about things over which we have no say only damages ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically. It is human to be afraid of the unknown, or to be afraid of something we know is coming that we cannot stop, but we must not allow that fear to overwhelm us.

Every situation has some part of it that we can control. Every situation. In the case of a sick friend, we can at least offer support. We can help in small ways to ease their burden. This we do have control over. This allows us to release the energy otherwise spent in worry in a positive way.

When the worry is about ourselves, we have greater control. If we fear relapse, we build up extreme amounts of energy within ourselves through worry. It is imperative that we find a positive outlet for that energy if we wish to avoid the thing we fear.

The second step in eliminating worry is to identify why we are worried. Why do we fear relapse? Is it a situation, time of year, reaction to other stressors in our lives, or something completely different? It may prove beneficial to write down the reasons we are being tempted or that we fear being tempted. This in itself releases some of the energy that worry has built up.

The third step is to identify the underlying causes of those reasons. If we fear drinking at a wedding, it could be because it is traditional in our circle to drink at these events. In early sobriety, it is usually because we have so recently stopped drinking and do not believe in ourselves enough to be certain we will never drink again. Again, writing these things down releases some of the energy we need to disperse.

The fourth step is to break these underlying issues into smaller, manageable parts that we can control. We can create a plan for attending the wedding; even if we have to come up with an excuse for not going, we can decide ahead of time what our strategy will be. Likewise, if we are early in our New Life, we can plan to attend chats, post on the boards, call sober friends, or engage in activities where drinking is not possible or has never been associated with. Write these down. Put them in order of the easiest to do to the hardest.

The fifth and final step is to implement our plan. Rehearse what we are going to say, get phone numbers and email addresses, laminate a copy of the statements, create a toolbox, locate where to participate in activities. Do these things before you need them. Each positive action that you take eliminates more of the energy that is being taken up with worry. Keep your list with you at all times.

Being prepared will eliminate most, if not all, of your worry. And eliminating the worry is more than half the battle. Worry is action without direction. Once you have given that action direction, there is no longer a need to worry.

This essay is from Moving the Mountain, available from lulu.com or Amazon

Friday, August 5, 2011

Now Podcasting!

I have finished the first episode of a new podcast series, Getting to Recovery, which will follow my essay series on the Thirteen Affirmation Statements.  It has been submitted to iTunes for inclusion in their store, and I will keep my fingers crossed for success!  This audio podcast will allow you to listen to my essays on your iPod or other audio device.  As always, use caution listening to my voice while driving!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Seven Days Sober: Addictive Behaviors

There are certain behaviors which those who abuse substances often use in an attempt to maintain an appearance of normalcy. During sobriety, the reappearance of these behaviors may indicate the beginning of a slide into relapse.

Behaviors associated with drug and alcohol use

  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Compulsive behavior (too much eating, working, sex)
  • Irresponsibility (not meeting family or work commitments)
  • Unreliability (skipping appointments, breaking promises)
  • Loss of interest in family life, recreation
  • Isolating
  • Carelessness in personal health and grooming
  • Poor housekeeping (cleaning less often than you usually do)
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Using other drugs, increased smoking
  • Stopping prescribed medication
 Journaling Exercise

Pick three behaviors from the list that you used when you were drinking.  In your journal, discuss how to recognize the recurrence of these behaviors and what steps you can take if you find yourself using them.