Saturday, April 13, 2019

Wisdom and Intelligence

Some key terms:

Intelligence: noun:
·         Capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude for grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc.

Wisdom: noun:
·         The ability to think and act utilizing knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight

In simple terms: Intelligence is the ability to take in, learn and mentally “absorb” knowledge whereas wisdom is our ability to effectively use that knowledge.

Group Discussion: Try to describe person who has a lot of intelligence but very little wisdom -

What about a person with lower intelligence but a lot of wisdom?

Discussion Questions:

What are some areas where you believe you have a good degree of knowledge? (Intelligence)

·         You can consider academic (related to formal education) areas such as math, history, science, etc.

·         Also think of other life areas and experiences where you picked up a degree of knowledge and expertise such as work, hobbies, trades, other interests

In what life areas do you have a lot of wisdom? (The ability to make good decisions based on your knowledge)

·         Some areas to consider – Running a business, managing a family, health, relationships, dealing with other people, risk management and safety, general life skills (“life hacks”)

In what areas might you need more wisdom?(Think of where you need to make better decisions)

Challenging question: Have you ever thought you were wise, but then you had a shift in your thinking and you started to make decisions differently?

Tuesday, April 2, 2019


> To undergo, experience, or endure without giving way or yielding.

> To keep (a person, the mind, the spirit, etc.) from giving way, when under trial or affliction.

There is a lot involved when it comes to trauma, as often a great deal of patience and persistence is required for the process of healing. One harsh reality is that in spite of trauma, no matter how serious or complex, eventually one goal for moving forward is to be able to sustain some level of stability so that growth and recovery can take place.

Therefore, overcoming a history of trauma is not just looking into the past in an effort to try resolve past trauma. Rather, identifying and then implementing a few basic skills and strategies for sustaining functioning and moving forward even if it is gradual and slow is equally as important if not more so. Having basic tools to sustain some degree of forward momentum, in spite of occasional struggles or setbacks, is essential for long-term progress, strength and resilience.

Question for discussion:

> What simple things get you through the tough times?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Straight D’s – A Simple Harm Reduction and MAT Illustration

Mona was so upset when her son Bryce came home with the worst report card that anyone could ever imagine- straight F’s. Bryce failed every single subject! Mona, a single mother who was completely consumed with many problems of her own, felt disappointed, hurt and overwhelmed about this dilemma .She immediately sat down with her son and let him know that she was expecting his grades to improve immediately or there would be serious consequences

Bryce agreed to try harder but when he went back to school, he still struggled and it wasn’t long before he found himself still unable to pass a single class on his own in spite of his increased effort. One of Bryce’s teachers saw that Bryce was at least showing up and trying harder this time so he linked Bryce with some extra help by assigning Bryce a personal tutor for the rest of the semester.

When the semester ended, Bryce and his mother opened up his new report card to find that this time Bryce got straight D’s in every class.

Discussion – The Moral of the Story

Consider the following:

1 - If you were Mona, how would you react to Bryce’s latest report card?

It is very likely that most people would react positively to Bryce moving from all F’s to all D’s. Even though a report card of straight D’s on its own in most situations would be considered to be less than desirable, in Bryce’s situation it demonstrated significant improvement. The new report card showed that things were at least now moving in a more positive direction. It would probably be very discouraging and hurtful for Bryce if Mona decided to withhold praise for Bryce’s improved effort and outcomes as he moved up the ladder from F’s to D’s on his report card, wouldn’t you agree?

Meaning 1: This illustrates a key aspect of Harm Reduction which is referred to as “Accepting incremental change”Simply put, people quite often tend to change steadily and gradually over time rather than suddenly and quickly. So getting back to this analogy of grades, it would be unfair to expect someone to go from an “F” to an “A” – In this case the slow and steady but positive change from F’s to D’s illustrates the idea of accepting and embracing change in this gradual, person-centered manner over time. Similarly, expecting an individual to go from using intravenous opioids on a daily basis for an extended period, to suddenly go to complete abstinence is a similarly highly unrealistic expectation. Serious addiction issues often require acceptance of incremental change over time based on the Harm Reduction model.

2 – Now suppose that Mona told Bryce she was pleased with his improved report card, but then when she found out he had used a tutor to help improve, she again was disappointed as she felt that the tutor was a “crutch” and Bryce should have made the improvements on his own, without the tutor. Does this seem fair and reasonable?

Meaning 2 – If Mona were to refer to the tutor as a “crutch” and if she used this as an excuse to minimize the progress that Bryce had made, this obviously would be very unfair and unjust. The truth is that progress is progress, regardless of what is needed to get there. This idea illustrates the negative attitude that some individuals still have toward Medication Assisted Treatment- MAT: (Medications prescribed to aid in the recovery from substance use disorders, particularly with regard to opioid use disorders.) The truth is that MAT is like the tutor in this example. Bryce tried on his own and he realized he was still struggling so getting extra help from the tutor was just what he needed to get over the hump and to start making more measurable improvements. Not only is there nothing wrong with seeking a little extra help, in many cases it is advisable. The same idea holds true with MAT: The right medications can be the difference maker when it comes to helping someone who is struggling with a persistent opioid use disorder to finally get to a safer place to then be able to continue to get better over the long term.

Did you understand the meaning? If you are a family member or loved one of someone who is struggling with an opioid problem, rather than wait until “all else fails” hopefully this illustration will help you consider an open-minded approach to Harm Reduction and Medication Assisted Treatment.  It is highly recommended to discuss this perspective with a trained professional who is knowledgeable of Harm Reduction and MAT for Opioid Use Disorders

"Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can" - Arthur Ashe

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Braking the Cycle of Broken Promises

Have you ever found yourself stuck in a repeating rut of promising you will change, then working on it for a while, but then before you know it you are back to the beginning again? Almost everyone has had this experience when it comes to addiction or bad habits.

An individual might find him or herself stuck in this cycle for months, years or even for an entire lifetime. This is referred to as the “Cycle of Broken Promises” Consider five simple but powerful pieces of advice for overcoming what may be be perpetuating this negative cycle over and over again.

SIMPLE ADVICE: Stop Making Excuses! Today

SIMPLE ADVICE: Don’t forget the consequences –
 Keep your memory fresh

Promising “Just one more time “is a lie

SIMPLE ADVICE – You can work to build up your self-confidence instead of letting yourself down

SIMPLE ADVICE: After you make a plan to change, don’t stop there - Follow through: Stick with the plan

Friday, February 15, 2019

Inspect, Reflect, & Protect

Just about every reasonable person wants to improve their chances to succeed at their goals. Protective factors can be likened to the armor a soldier would wear in a battle. The stronger the protective factors, the better the chances of successfully getting through difficult struggles in life which would include being able to effectively cope with a substance use or mental health issue. Consider the following three stage process for identifying and enhancing protective factors which help us stay out of harm’s way and help us to keep up the good fight for self-improvement and positive change:
Inspect – verb: to look at something closely to assess its condition or to discover any shortcomings - It all starts with looking at or inspecting your own situation. If you can be honest with yourself about where you stand today, then that opens the doorway to self-improvement. Try to take an objective look at your situation with a view toward strengths and also potential weaknesses which will lead to an accurate inspection of what positive things you have to work with, and which areas you need to work on.
Reflect – verb: Think deeply and carefully about - This requires more honesty and insight. After you have done a self-inspection of your strengths and areas of need, then it is time to honestly reflect on what you are willing to do at this time. For example rather than just saying that you will work on all of your issues at once, it is better to reflect and think about just a few important areas that you are willing to get started with. Questions for self-reflection such as “What am I willing to work on now?” and “What am I not ready yet to change” can help you identify which areas to focus on. Start with what you are ready to work on
Protect – verb: to cover or shield from exposure, injury, damage or destruction - One you have identified a few areas that you are willing to work on then it is time to get a plan started to protect yourself in these areas. What can you do to increase these identified protective factors in your life? It’s worth the effort

Friday, February 1, 2019

Trauma Triggers

When someone has suffered from past emotional trauma, there can be certain events that can set off symptoms of re-traumatization. A simple example would be to think about a physical wound that isn’t fully healed. To reintroduce a new traumatic event to the injured area could easily bring about enhanced physical distress. To put this in even simpler terms, imagine having a wounded leg and then getting accidentally kicked in the shin again and how much that could bring back the pain from the previous injury.
However, a trauma trigger in itself does not have to be something traumatic, hurtful or frightening. Quite often, a trauma trigger can simply be a subtle or even subconscious reminder of a past trauma. It can be anything that stimulates a traumatic response such as a smell, or sight, situation or person that “awakens” a past traumatic memory or reactivates a present trauma response even if a specific traumatic memory is not fully realized.
When someone has unresolved trauma, there are environmental and emotional triggers that can quickly bring about emotional distress tied to the past trauma but experienced in the present. Most people are well aware that traumatic responses have varying degrees of discomfort and distress ranging from a mild anxious reaction to a full blown panic attack. Let us consider three categories for trauma triggers: Avoidable, Unavoidable and Unexpected

Ø Avoidable/Preventable – When a person knows ahead of time what can potentially set off a distressful emotional reaction then it is important to ascertain if these triggers can be circumvented simply by avoiding them when possible. For example, if an individual knows that he or she is sensitive to loud and aggressive people then that person could attempt to prevent re-traumatization by staying away from places where loud and aggressive people may be more likely to be present. A person in this scenario might, for example, avoid bars, contact sports, and other places where there may be crowds of loud people. Avoidable trauma triggers are obviously “best case scenarios” as there are many situations in life that are unexpected or unavoidable, which leads to the next two categories. Of course not all potentially traumatic places and people can be avoided but it can be helpful to know what kinds of places and people you could successfully avoid without compromising your overall life goals.

Ø Unavoidable – There are some trigger situations and people that are unavoidable. For example if a person is aware that a close family member can be a source of stress that can trigger a traumatic reaction then that person may often find themselves stuck in unavoidable family scenarios at times.  Also if someone works or goes to school or has any other required affiliation with an area or place that has known trauma triggers then they may not be able to avoid these places especially if they are part of one’s regular routine. There are other unavoidable triggers that can be connected with other essential life events such as going to the doctor, being stuck in traffic, stressful work scenarios, or any other situations that can be triggering and difficult to prevent, circumvent or avoid.

Ø Unexpected – Unexpected trauma triggers are those which may feel like they came out of nowhere. It is unfortunate that in spite of the best laid plans, sometimes someone who is suffering from trauma can be triggered by something that was impossible to anticipate ahead of time. As stated earlier a trauma trigger can be very simple and very subtle therefore at times completely unpredictable. Often the timing of unexpected triggers can be quite challenging due to the surprising nature of these incidents
Group Discussion – As a group try to come up with examples from each category, whether from your own personal experience or if you do not have experience, come up with some ideas from your imagination based on what you’ve read:
·       Avoidable -
·       Unavoidable -
·       Unexpected -

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Window of Self Awareness

It is critical to remember that insight is not a fixed state of consciousness. Actually, insight is a lot like a window that closes and opens with changing life experiences. Someone may have a full understanding of an issue one day but after only a few days or weeks later, excuses can creep in as to why what was once believed to be true no longer applies. The window of self-awareness can therefore open and close as our level of insight changes in differing circumstances

Things that OPEN the Window of Self Awareness:

Honest, self-reflection: Asking yourself the tough, soul searching questions can open up your window of self-awareness if you take the time to ask them, and more importantly display the courage to answer them honestly. Some examples:

Am I really doing all that I can do to improve?

Instead of blaming others, what can I actually do to make things better?

What role did I play in that situation? What could I have done differently?

Playing “Devil’s Advocate” – It is natural to think of all of the reasons why you may be right when it comes to certain issues. It can be much more challenging to really consider the possibility that you may be wrong. You can learn from being open minded in this way. Consider the following example

Thought – “Other people keep telling me I have an attitude problem. They don’t know what they are talking about, I’m a nice person - I am fine, they all just need to shut up and leave me alone”

Same Thought reframed for self-awareness- “With all of these people telling me I have an attitude problem, maybe I should think about how I am acting and what I am doing that gives people that idea. Maybe I need to adjust the way I speak to people”

Consequences – One of the positive things about consequences is that when something negative happens as a result of our choices and behavior, it can be a wakeup call and open the window of self-awareness. Consider these examples:

“I was late to work again after a night of drinking and now I am in trouble with my boss. I promised myself I wasn’t going to let that happen again but I did. Maybe it’s time to consider taking an honest look at my drinking”

“I told my significant other I would get help for being depressed but then I didn’t. I called out of work again to sleep all day because I was too depressed to get up. I think I may need help this time”

Things that CLOSE the Window of Awareness

Time – Sometimes just the passage of time can trigger a false sense of security. A person may feel motivated to change something one day but then if that motivation is not nurtured, with time it can fade

Excuses – Blaming, rationalizing etc. – Making excuses is usually just a way to deny or deflect reality. Excuse making is often rooted in an effort to avoid responsibility for one’s own role in a situation and therefore avoid responsibility for being part of the solution

Self-Deception- Similar to making excuses, people can close the window of insight by simply lying to themselves. Refusal to recognize the truth by burying your head in the sand just keeps the window of awareness closed thus preventing the “light” of self-awareness and reality from shining in

Discuss as a group:

Can you describe what it is like for you when your window of insight is open?

What about when the window closes? What is that like for you and what can be the cause?