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Discovering Yourself and YOUR Own “Normal” in Recovery
Normal (adjective) – conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.
At some point in each of our lives, we’ve all wondered what it means to be “normal”. In the last couple of months, the entire planet’s existing idea of the word has been challenged. Many have found themselves struggling to adapt to the new standards of normal–working from home, limited contact with others, and so on. But what about for those in recovery?
Sobriety reshapes your entire lifestyle. When in recovery, the focus of your life shifts away from substance use and towards self-care. What was once “normal” to you, eventually may become something altogether foreign. One of the keys to successful long-term recovery is establishing a new sense of normalcy in your life and accepting it as a better alternative to your past life when you were actively addicted.
Here are some easy tips to help you re-define your very own “normal” and enjoy your life in recovery:
Focus on figuring out who you are without the disease.
A good starting place to establish your sense of normal is to ask yourself, “Who am I?” If this is something you struggle to answer, perhaps try to think about how you’d describe yourself to a stranger, or how a close friend might describe you to others. Are you pleased with these descriptions? Who do you want to be? Self-improvement is a constant, endless process of discovering things about oneself. Take inventory of the things you enjoy about yourself, and the things that you do not. Set small, but achievable goals to improve what you can each day.
Reflect and discover new passions.
Oftentimes, substance use can distract you from things you once prioritized and cared about. This could be artistic passions such as music, cooking, and painting, or even activities such as spending time with your friends and family. Whatever it is that brings you joy and feeds your soul, seek those things out and do them often. Sobriety doesn’t mean that life cannot be fun or exciting–in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Accept and become comfortable with idle time.
Staying busy can be a positive coping strategy for those in recovery. However, it is important to accept that idle time will eventually present itself. Sometimes, you will experience boredom. Part of rediscovering yourself is learning to accept downtime, and even relish in it. Rest is a wonderful thing. While you’re discovering your own identity, set a routine for your days and stick to it–but build in time to do nothing! Use time like this to reflect on your day. Journaling is a great way to document your feelings, sort through your thoughts, and can even be used to track your progress.
Use the tools you’ve been taught along the way.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Use the things you learned in treatment because they work! Review your 12-steps often, log-in to meetings online as often as you need to, and stay connected with your recovery network.
Have patience and embrace the unknown.
While finding a new normal for your life can certainly be a challenge, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t have to happen overnight. In fact, it definitely won’t. The initial stages of life after addiction are tough. Your brain is figuring out how to operate without substances and this can impact you emotionally and physically. Pushing through the speed bumps that present themselves in early recovery will help build a strong foundation for long-term success in your journey. Don’t rush yourself or the process of changing your life for the better. None of us can foresee the challenges tomorrow may bring but if you equip yourself with the proper recovery tools–you will be ready for anything that comes your way.
About Fellowship Hall
Fellowship Hall is a 99-bed, private, not-for-profit alcohol and drug treatment center located on 120 tranquil acres in Greensboro, N.C. We provide treatment and evidence-based programs built upon the Twelve-Step model of recovery. We have been accredited by The Joint Commission since 1974 as a specialty hospital and are a member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers. We are committed to providing exceptional, compassionate care to every individual we serve.
Steps YOU Can Take to Manage Anxiety and Depression in Recovery
Addiction is a unique disease in that it can be triggered in part by anxiety and depression, but it can also subsequently cause anxiety and depression during both active addiction and recovery. At Fellowship Hall we understand that when life beyond active addiction begins, those in recovery have to establish a true mental and emotional baseline in sobriety. Tal Fish, licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor, and one of Fellowship Hall’s Extended Treatment Counselors says, “Patience is very important in the beginning. It won’t get better right away because the brain needs time to heal from the effects of active addiction. It may take some time for moods to improve.”
However, there are steps that you can take each day to manage these mental health disorders and foster successful, long-term recovery.
- Understand that you are not alone in your struggles.
The disease feeds on feelings of isolation and loneliness. Tal highlights the importance of understanding that what you’re going through is valid: “Co-occurring disorders (when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance use disorder at the same time) are common with people with substance use disorders. Many people cope with both anxiety and depression in recovery. The first and most important thing I want people in recovery to know is that they’re not alone, again, this is not uncommon. A lot of people suffering from substance use disorders self-medicate to cope with these symptoms caused by underlying mental health disorders.”
- Utilize your support network.
A crucial part of recovery is utilizing your support network. Allow yourself to open up in meetings and to your sponsor. Don’t be ashamed of your emotions. What you feel is valid and worth talking about with others. Chances are, someone else has experienced similar feelings during their own recovery. “There’s no shame in struggling with anxiety and depression. It is important to talk about how you feel and what you’re experiencing during recovery. Don’t be afraid to be honest about it and seek proper support,” Tal said. “Not addressing or tending to these emotions can be a relapse risk if they go un-managed.” Now, more than ever before, those in recovery have access to round-the-clock care and support via digital meeting platforms. Don’t forget to take a look at the resources on our website here: https://www.fellowshiphall.com/alumni-online-resources.php
- 360 Wellness
Anxiety and depression can be all-consuming. If you’ve experienced these emotions, you know that they impact us physically just as much as they do mentally. Simple tasks can become difficult and it’s easy to slip into a pattern of poor habits when struggling with these emotions. You can combat this by setting small, achievable positive goals. These goals don’t have to be massive overhauls or major life changing events–these wellness goals can be as simple as taking a walk three times a week, attending a meeting each afternoon, or calling a good friend. Just reflect on what you can do today to feel your best. Strive after something you can achieve, so that you can enjoy the rewarding feeling of completing a goal and keeping a promise to yourself.
- Don’t underestimate the power of a little “TLC”
That’s right TLC- tender, loving, (self) care! We know that if our body feels good, we most definitely feel much better. Some simple ways to practice self-care in recovery are:
- Nourish your body with fresh, healthy foods.
- Stay hydrated.
- Staying active (even just 30 minutes of light movement a day can make a massive difference!)
- Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is a huge factor for mental well-being.
- Engage in ANY spiritual activity that fulfills and centers you.
- Review the 12-steps.
- Do things you enjoy. Connect with your passions, paint, sing, read, do yoga.
While self-care isn’t the ultimate cure for mental health disorders, it can be used as an effective and positive coping strategy. Discovering ways that make each day manageable and as enjoyable as possible are important for long-term recovery.
At Fellowship Hall, we’re working to constantly provide support and care both on-campus and digitally those in recovery. For more information, resources, and encouragement, ‘like’ the Fellowship Hall Facebook page and follow us on Instagram at @FellowshipHallNC.
Advantages of Residential Treatment Programs for Recovery Success
Featuring Fellowship Hall Clinical Director, Kelly Scaggs
A residential treatment program is defined as a live-in health care facility that provides therapy and aid for substance use disorder. Residential treatment programs also address and manage some of the health, mental illness, and behavioral issues that are caused by the disease.
Outpatient treatment and counseling programs are also utilized as a measure of substance use disorder treatment. This includes intensive day programs, individualized drug counseling, and group counseling. While all forms of treatment are beneficial to those suffering with substance use disorder, residential treatment has significant advantages.
It is a well-known adage in the recovery community that you cannot get well in the same place that you got sick. This is more pertinent now than perhaps ever before. Many impacted by substance use disorder are bound to their home due to the COVID19 shelter in place ordinance. While being home and having downtime is a haven for some, it can provoke challenges for those struggling with alcoholism and/or addiction.
Triggering home environments, idle time, isolation, financial strain, stressors, and anxiety about the rapid changes in the world, feed and drive the disease. Fellowship Hall Clinical Director Kelly Scaggs says that residential treatment programs can help combat some of these factors: “Anytime someone can come to residential treatment, it is advantageous because they are able to step out of their own environment into a new place that is completely recovery focused. Right now, you also have the advantages of personal interaction to combat isolation.
Fears associated with stepping away from a career, friends, and family members often serve as obstacles between the individual and residential treatment. Kelly believes that “now is the perfect time to seek help as everyone has been asked to step away from their life because of the virus. This is the perfect time to seek treatment, get help, and come out of this current situation better than before.”
Residential treatment provides individuals with an opportunity to focus exclusively on self-improvement and building their support network for life after treatment. “This is one of the only times where folks can focus solely on what they need to do to heal themselves while also stepping into a huge support network,” Kelly says.
According to Kelly, the ideal way to establish long-term success in recovery is to build a solid foundation during residential treatment, progress to an intensive outpatient program, then move to outpatient treatment.
At Fellowship Hall, we have nearly 50 years of experience in helping individuals discover the path to recovery and build lasting support networks to help them maintain their recovery for the long-term. For more information about our programs and services, check our Treatment section on our website.
It Only Takes Two People to Have a Meeting: At Home Recovery Meetings During Quarantine
From the 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, Tradition 3:
“Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation.”
The recent shelter in place mandate has presented new challenges to those in recovery, specifically in relation to the access to meeting spaces. The world is quickly adapting and digital resources are becoming readily available at a consistent rate. No matter the hour of day, thanks to the accessibility of the internet, individuals impacted by substance use disorder can find recovery meetings online. For more information on how to access these online meetings, please visit our website at https://www.fellowshiphall.com/alumni-online-resources.php.
However, there is something intimate and healing about meeting with others and sharing a face-to-face conversation. The shared connection and vulnerability that happens during a meeting is an agreed upon central component to long-term success and sobriety. While some are unfortunately isolated without roommates or family members, others are fortunate enough to be in quarantine with at least one other individual whether it be a spouse, roommate, friend, or family member. A recovery meeting can be held with only two people. These two people can be members of different recovery communities as well (for example, you may be someone that attends AA meetings, while your spouse or roommate attends Nar-Anon meetings.)
What works from person to person and household to household may vary, but the most important aspects of holding a meeting between two individuals are:
Carve out a comfortable place to meet in your home
Step away from work and high traffic areas for purposes of confidentiality.
Honor the traditional meeting structure:
- Open with the Serenity Prayer
God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can, and
The wisdom to know the difference.
- Do the respective readings for the 12-step group of choice (or both!):
Alcoholics Anonymous examples:
-12 Steps of AA
-12 Traditions of AA
-Thought for the Day (Daily Reflections)Narcotics Anonymous examples:
-12 Traditions of NA
-Just for Today (Daily Reflections)
- Choose to read from one of the tools above and discuss, or pick a specific topic to focus on, perhaps from a step or a tradition, or something related to the thought for the day.
- Share with one another about the chosen or related topic.
- Close with the Serenity Prayer.
Respect traditional meeting rules:
Respecting the traditional meeting structure and observing formal rules is crucial to holding an effective meeting. The meeting should not feel like a casual conversation with a partner or friend. One very important rule to observe is “no cross-talk”. As tempting as it may be, it’s important to refrain from directly commenting on another person’s share — instead keep the floor open for them to express how they feel.
Addiction is a disease that thrives in the feelings of loneliness and isolation. Whereas quarantine and social distance rely on varying degrees of isolation to prevent the spread of disease. While the traditional format of AA and NA is the preferred method of meeting, many in recovery may continue to find themselves slowly making adjustments and adapting to new routines to remain successful. Review the tips above and continue to follow our blog and social media accounts for more resources to navigate your recovery during this time.
This blog is a part of our ongoing series on recovery tips. Each month, a Fellowship Hall counselor will give our readers their very best tips for getting treatment, being successful in therapy and maintaining sobriety. Be sure to read them all.
My name is Bernard Shalvey, and I am a “Men’s Primary Counselor” here at Fellowship Hall. I currently hold a M.S. in Couples and Family Counseling as well as a M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I am a NCC (Nationally Certified Counselor) and have the following provisional licenses: LCMHC-A and LCAS-A. I started at Fellowship Hall shortly after finishing my M.S. from UNCG’s counseling program on May 15th , 2019. I started working at Fellowship Hall after completing my yearlong internship where I worked under Kendria Harris in the family program, and in the main program under Joe Peascoe.
I provide counseling services to individuals and groups with varying identities, primarily on 12 step based work addressing their SUD (Substance Use Disorder). Each treatment plan is created collaboratively with the guest in treatment and tailored to their specific needs. Treatment goals are added based on an individual’s presenting concerns. Additionally: I complete regular group counseling sessions, provide lectures, complete bio-psycho-social assessments, assess for safety and the appropriateness of a guest to remain at our level of care, work with families and our aftercare coordinator to provide appropriate referrals, and teach specialty classes via psycho-education. I use a variety of interventions with guests including EFIT (Emotion focused individual therapy) IFS (internal family systems theory) and MI (motivational interviewing) with a primary focus on the 12 step philosophy. I work collaboratively with a team to provide the highest level of integrated care (psychiatric, medial, clinical and after care). I meet with each guest for 8 individual sessions during their 28 day stay in treatment. I work diligently, and with great passion, with the team here at Fellowship Hall to ensure that each individual has the best possible opportunity for success in long term recovery.
There is an old saying that goes, “may you live in interesting times,” and we seem to be living in quite interesting times indeed. The COVID-19 virus outbreak is an unprecedented situation–bringing new anxieties and challenges to those in recovery. Work and gathering restrictions vary by state and region but nation-wide, the Center for Disease Control has encouraged individuals to stay inside and practice social distancing. Here at Fellowship Hall we are thinking of everyone in recovery and their families during this time.
Now is the time to look after yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually. At Fellowship Hall, we are committed to the safety, well-being, and success of both our current guests and our alumni.
Bernard has put together some of his best advice and suggestions for recovery below. Though some of the suggestions offered involve face-to-face meetings and social contact (AA/NA meetings), we have provided resources at the foot of this post where you can find digital supplements for these components of the tips.
Bernard’s Top Tips:
- Getting through detox: Find distractions and people who have done it successfully to help remind you that it does not last forever and that it will pass in time.
- Getting through treatment: Allow yourself to be challenged [and] to investigate your internal emotional self. This type of internal work will be challenging but it is ultimately what will allow you to be successful in recovery. Also, listen to the guidance you are given even when everything in you is telling you to reject it. Figure out the difference between your diseased thinking and the truth.
- Making the first phone call: Talk to your counselor about guilt and shame first, and ask for their guidance. Don’t make amends to your loved ones at this point (amends come at steps 8 and 9 when they will be more meaningful). Also, set boundaries with your family members/loved ones. This is your recovery and if you find that you are shamed for your behavior, set some boundaries to protect yourself from that hurt (also talk to your counselor about the specifics of this, as well as recommend the family program to your family members).
- Handling your first event: Evaluate your motives. If there will be alcohol served or drugs present, ask yourself what your true motive for wanting to go is (you may be plotting your own relapse without really knowing it yet). You may be triggered, just by being with family members. Let someone know before you go that you will be in a potentially triggering situation, in addition to having an “escape plan”. An escape plan can be easy access to a vehicle or ride to leave the event, an alibi or someplace to be at a certain time (NA/AA meeting, coffee with your sponsor, meeting others in recovery somewhere, etc.), or come early and leave early.
- Generally Speaking: To be successful in recovery ask for help, listen to the guidance and act on it regardless of how you feel about it. Seek “outside help” as addiction/alcoholism is traumatizing. Act in self-compassion and see a therapist who can help you process what you have been through and what you are currently going through. Remain teachable and constantly engage with the concept that “I cannot use successfully just for today”.
Each morning on our Instagram page (@FellowshipHallNC) and our Facebook page, we will be sharing passages from the AA/NA Daily Reader, reviewing the 12 steps, and posting positive affirmations and helpful tips for recovery. Please turn on post notifications, check the pages daily, and share with friends. While those in recovery may not be able to attend face-to-face meetings, there are several digital resources available. Visit our Alumni Online Resources page for a current list of online resources.
Addiction to alcohol and other drugs is a disease that impacts both the substance user as well as their entire family network. When we think of recovery, it can be easy to feel that the process is only applicable or crucial for the suffering alcoholic or addict. But, a critical component of combating the disease is the recovery of the family.
When a loved one is struggling, we may find ourselves in a state of tunnel vision–only focused on the needs, wants and feelings of the one we care about instead of our own. As the disease progresses, the added stress and turmoil continues to build atop our family’s foundation, and if not tended to, our foundation can crumble.
Family recovery begins when we admit and understand that our loved one is powerless over substances and that subsequently, their family life has become unmanageable because of their disease. As family members, we can gain insight from the 3 C’s of Addiction:
You did not Cause the addiction
Nothing you did or didn’t do caused your loved one to become chemically dependent.
You can’t Control the addiction
The alcoholic/addict is the only one who can take responsibility for managing their disease.
You cannot Cure the addiction
There is no cure for the disease of addiction, only treatment.
Once we understand the 3 C’s, working to improve our own healing can begin.
- You can take Care of yourself
Make time to do the things that are good for you and that make you feel good. Read a book, go for a walk, journal, make a good meal or soak in the bath. Do things that promote your own personal sense of connectivity, health, and well-being.
- You can Communicate your feelings
You are allowed to say how you feel. Addiction is a disease that is often associated with feelings of guilt, sadness, anger, frustration, grief and shame for alcoholics, addicts, and their family members. Own your truth and be honest, be direct and specific when sharing your feelings.
- You can Celebrate who you are
Remind yourself of the things that are special about you, your hobbies, your passions, your goals. Do not lose sight of these aspects of your identity. Addiction can blur many lines in the family system, allowing us to lose sight of where our loved one ends and we as individuals begin. Our identity can become so wrapped up in caring for another individual that we often lose sight of ourselves. By celebrating our individuality, our uniqueness, we are reminded of who we truly are and our purpose outside of the realm of the disease.
- Set aside time to heal
Addiction is a war of attrition at times. It can be time consuming and exhausting. Once a family member has agreed to accept treatment, it is easy to feel as though the work is done.
“I’ve already missed so much work/school/social activity and am so behind in life because of this disease I don’t have the time to try and heal myself!” You deserve to heal. You deserve to guiltlessly prioritize yourself and work through the trauma that addiction can cause.
- Set boundaries
Boundaries are an important component of family recovery. Boundaries provide us with a sense of individuality and allow us to own our feelings, our experiences and our problems. They also provide a sense of contentment and peace with the self and allow the family to work to not personalize the addict’s problems. To set healthy boundaries, the family must learn to detach with love. Detaching with love does not mean to shutout or isolate the loved one. It means to detach oneself from the disease
- Release guilt, shame, blame
Addiction is a disease that feeds on the power of dark and all-consuming emotions. Guilt, shame and blame often draw us inward and leave us unwilling to reach out for the support that is so incredibly important when a family is in recovery. Work to release these emotions as you focus on the positives of the journey ahead.
- Find your support system (NAR/AL ANON), ask for help, and rely on these support systems
Again, the way to heal is to make the time to do so. Prioritize yourself and your sanity and seek out support through groups such as NAR/AL ANON family group meetings. For help finding your local group, please call one of the phone numbers listed below
- Al-Anon and Alateen Family Groups
Phone Number 1-888-4525-2666
- Nar-Anon Family Group
Phone Number 1-800-477-6291
- Al-Anon and Alateen Family Groups
- Forgive yourself and focus on today
Unfortunately, you cannot change or undo the past. Move forward with confidence in regard to what you can control. Focus on what is directly in front of you. Ask yourself, what do I need to accomplish today to be well?
- Recovery is not an event, but instead an ongoing, evergreen process.
Family members can also relapse in a sense. We may relapse into old unhealthy behaviors or ways of thinking. The key to healing is understanding that recovery is not an event, but a process that will always require our attention and the prioritization of our self-care.
Finally, in times of trouble remember the serenity prayer:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
This blog is a part of our ongoing series on recovery tips. Each month beginning in October 2019, a Fellowship Hall counselor will give our readers their very best tips for getting treatment, being successful in therapy and maintaining sobriety. Be sure to read them all.
“It never too late to start and to start over. It’s a process. Don’t get discourage if it takes a while or if you make mistakes. Just don’t stop going forward. Keep trying and working at it.”
The 12 Steps have been established as a guideline to the best way to overcome an addiction. The program was created by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. Due to the success of the program, over the years it has been adapted to meet the needs of all types of addictions and not just substance abuse.
The original conception of the 12 Steps is based on spiritual principles, however; people with no specific spiritual believes also find the program to the helpful in recovery. The program allows for individuals to find the best approach that works for their particular needs.
Steps 1, 2,& 3 are considered the foundation of the 12 Step program. Here are all the steps as they are defined by Alcoholics Anonymous:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings
- Made a list of persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse. Remember, you don’t have to do it alone. We suggest you find a treatment center that is based on the 12 Steps that can help you beat your addiction.
This blog is a part of our ongoing series on recovery tips. Each month beginning in October 2019, a Fellowship Hall counselor will give our readers their very best tips for getting treatment, being successful in therapy and maintaining sobriety. Be sure to read them all.
“There are no bad addicts or alcoholics trying to become “good.” Alcoholism and addiction are illnesses that impact all areas of life (emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.) If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, know that help is available. What I like about Fellowship Hall is that we offer hope and a better way of living.”
Joseph L. Peascoe, MS, CRC, LCAS, LPC-A
Alcoholism and drug addiction is a disease, not a lack of willpower, not a moral weakness, not a sign of a weak character, not a result of life’s pressures, and not a symptom of another disease or disorder. Alcoholics and addicts drink/use because they have a disease. The bio-chemical changes in their brains create a physical craving for the chemical. This makes it very difficult for them to abstain from (to choose not to use) alcohol or drugs, especially if they don’t realize that they are addicted. You may have noticed the alcoholic or addict in your life trying to “control” their alcohol/drug use in a number of ways, not realizing that the disease is deciding for them, and indirectly, you. You cannot control the alcoholic/addict, their alcohol/drug use, or their disease.
Alcoholism/drug addiction is primary; it is not a symptom or a result of another condition or disease. For example, depression does not cause addiction but addiction often causes depressive symptoms. The addictive process can be arrested and managed, though never cured, just like many other chronic diseases such as diabetes. The alcoholic/addict, family and friends may not readily notice the changes caused by the disease until they reach crisis proportions and the problems become “unmanageable.” It is also a progressive disease that goes through stages, and if unchecked only gets worse, and is eventually fatal. The causes of fatalities because of addiction include organ damage/failure, overdose, suicide, and addictions.
What can I do as a concerned friend or family member? Learn about the disease, including the effects it has on you. Take the responsibility for your choices and learn to develop and set healthy boundaries. Allow and respect the addictive persons need to take responsibility for his or her choices and behaviors. Except your situation honestly, realistically, and lovingly. Reach out for help and learn from others’ experiences through community support networks. Give yourself credit for slow steady progress. There are no quick fixes.