Thursday, October 7, 2021

Letting Go of Regrets

Regret - a feeling of sadness or disappointment over something that has happened or been done.

Discussion – Read, consider and discuss the following points about Letting Go of Regrets


Letting go of regrets can involve the following aspects:

Forgiving yourself – Forgiveness is about letting go of feelings of resentment and releasing yourself from the shame or excessive guilt that we may carry or hold onto after making a mistake or doing something wrong. Sometimes what happened was not even our fault but we still may need to forgive and let go

 

Acceptance – This can be a hard concept to define, yet it is so very important. One way to look at acceptance is to say that acceptance is the ability to internally look at a situation, circumstance or experience and honestly say to oneself “it is, what it is” or “the past is the past” and thereby allow oneself to learn to escape negative emotions such as anger, hate, disappointment, injustice, or fear.

 

Another way to conceptualize acceptance, is to achieve a point mentally where we believe in our heart that:

 

·         “There is nothing I can do to change this circumstance (or situation)

 

·          I can only change how I adapt and cope and try to make productive choices going forward (Therefore I will do my best to move forward in as positive a way as possible)”

 

 

Some more points for discussion about letting go of regrets

When you let go of regrets you can rechannel your energy- Think of the energy wasted on regret. Imagine rechanneling that wasted energy and emotion into your present life and future in a positive way.

 

Letting go of regret can enhance and fuel motivation - Rather than hold on to regret, you can allow your experiences to make you work harder to be better today and tomorrow

 

You are allowed to move on from regret – Others may continue to judge you, stigmatize, blame, shame, etc. but you don’t have to continue to do that to yourself.  It is your choice. Your only responsibility is to make your best effort to learn from the past and make better choices in the future

 

There can be positive lessons learned even after regretful experiences - We are all products of our experiences and sometimes we “grow” past negative trials. Sometimes there are gains that come out of past bad experiences, even when those experiences fuel feelings of regret.

 

There is no guarantee that if you had made a difference choice, your life would have been better – Perhaps you feel like you regret a past decision and you feel like your life would have been better had you chosen a different path. That may be true. However, you will never know for sure. There is always a chance that had you taken another path in life, that may not have had the good outcome that you expected. It is better to accept what has happened and learn from it than perseverate on “what if’s” which just led to more frustration and often more regret – “What ifs” are a waste of time (Refer back to acceptance which is about letting go of “what if’ scenarios.

 


Coping with Regret – Regret can be likened to an anchor to a ship, holding you back, keeping you from moving forward as you should be. Regret can be that weight slowing down your journey. If you can “cut the anchor” of regret, you will likely soon find that you are “sailing forward” toward growth and positive change

Thoughts that can “cut the anchor” of regret - As a group, discuss which of these examples stand out to you the most as helpful and explain why:

A.   I did what I thought was right at the time

B.   I was a different person then, I’ve learned and moved on

C.   I honestly did not know better

D.   Other people were influencing me in a negative way, so my judgment was not clear

E.    I was using substances at that time, so my judgement was impacted, and I clearly wasn’t thinking straight

a.    Did you know that science shows that addiction adversely impacts the parts of the brain that are needed to make decisions? (The prefrontal cortex and hippocampus)

F.    I was not appropriately caring for my mental health at that time which affected and impacted my judgement

G.   I didn’t know then what I know now

H.   I’m human, I messed up, but I am entitled to another chance

I.      I am not the first, not the last person in this situation: Others have been forgiven and I deserve the same

J.    I have done some bad things, but I am not a bad person

K.   I was desperate, hopeless and afraid and I am not like that any more

L.    I’m truly sorry for what I’ve done so I am entitled to move on

M.   I’ve grown and I am simply not that person any more

N.   I’ve paid for my mistakes

O.   I deserve forgiveness

P.    My past does not define me

Q.   No more “what if’s” for me, I am done thinking about “what if” scenarios

R.   Other Can anyone in the group think of a statement of your own that you find helpful?



Process – Discussing Regrets

First make sure that the group is comfortable with this sensitive topic – Is everyone ready?

If so, it is important that there is a “no judgement” rule in place. Group members need to feel safe sharing their regrets without being shamed or criticized by others

If everyone is prepared and agrees to a healthy discussion of regrets, this is a suggested format for processing regrets (optional)

Start - What is something that you regret? (You feel sadness or disappointment about. Hard to let go of)

Digging deeper:  Why do you suppose you feel that way? – What messages might you be telling yourself that sustain feelings of regret (For example, messages of shame, self-judgement, humiliation, embarrassment, stigma, bitterness, disappointment, etc.)

 

How can you reframe those negative thoughts? – If it helps, use one of the thoughts listed above:  

A through P from list

 

Finally, allow group to share support and encouragement - The power of the group! We all can help one another get through this!


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Friday, October 1, 2021

Fun Facts

Background– The purpose of this activity is to help the group get to know each other and build group cohesion which helps build comfort and trust. A group that feels comfortable and trusting has a greater potential to advance together in the therapy process. Substance use and mental health topics will also be discussed


Directions – For this group everyone will be discussing “fun facts” – Just to make sure everyone is on the same page, consider these two following qualities of “fun facts”

1)   A fun fact is a fact. This means it should be something real and truthful as opposed to just a made-up story or a random thought or personal opinion


2)   A fun fact should be fun – For this exercise, things that people share as fun facts can be happy and fun or they can be dark and not so fun. If you are going to share something darker, please make sure it is something you are comfortable with today and it is something you have accepted and can share without getting emotional. Consider some examples below

A fun, fun fact – “Fun fact: I consider myself a Disney fanatic as I watch all the old Disney movies repeatedly and I go to the theater on opening day for every new Disney movie”

 A “darker” fun fact – “I have a glass eye from an accident I had when I was a teenager”

ØIf the person sharing this feels anger, sadness or other unresolved emotions, it is NOT a fun fact and should not be shared in this group (perhaps in a future session or later today but not now).

Ø If the person sharing this feels comfortable and can discuss this without getting upset, it can be a “fun fact” (even if it does not sound all that “fun” when it happened)


Now just take turns going around the group sharing fun facts. The counselor//group leader should generate follow up discussion as appropriate (For example “Can anyone else in the group relate to that?”)



Part 2 – Fun Facts about Substance Use Disorders and Mental HealthReview and discuss as a group:

 

Studies repeatedly show that addiction is treatable and can be successfully managed. (Good news, right?)

 

Although drug/alcohol addiction is very serious in the world, tobacco is #1 as annually it kills more than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined.

 

Research shows that men are more likely than women to use almost all types of illegal drugs

 

People may at times tend to value memories more than actual people, so sometimes you may really just miss the memories, not the actual person. (Keep in mind, this says “may” and is not always true in every case)

 

Many factors can influence the development of addiction. Environment, mental health, genetics, substance use and past experiences such as trauma can all be causes of addiction. (It does not seem to be just one thing alone, rather it is a combination of factors)

 

Legendary composer Johann Sebastian Bach created an opera specifically about an addiction to coffee

 

At one point in Vietnam, marriage applicants were required to obtain a Certificate of Good Mental Health from a doctor, proving that they are "mentally sound for marriage", before being allowed to marry

 

Some researchers who study brain scans have found that a brain in the initial stage of love looks surprisingly like a brain experiencing a drug addiction.

 

Some degree of stress can be a useful motivator for increased performance and productivity; therefore, stress isn’t always all bad

 

Maladaptive daydreaming is a psychiatric condition characterized by intense daydreaming that distracts a person from their real life and therefore can negatively impact relationships and functioning

 

Research shows that cuddling strengthens the frontal lobe of the human brain, the region of the brain responsible for how you react to emotional stress. (The “snuggle buzz” is real!)

 

Dopamine, the pleasure hormone, can cause some people to become addicted to seeking information. This is why some individuals find themselves struggling to stop endless scrolling on the internet or social media.

 

The smell of chocolate has been found to slow down brain waves, making us feel calm.

 

Convicted serial killer Ted Bundy worked at a mental crisis/suicide hotline and probably helped several people work through what they were dealing with and may have even saved lives.

 

Crying has a physiological effect on the body, releasing neurochemical substances that can improve mood.

 

The cells in your body react to what your mind says, so negativity can bring down your immune system

 

Studies show that massages, hugs, and hand holding reduce stress and boost the immune system

 

People who oversleep tend to crave even more sleep.

 

Evidence shows that listening to music can improve memory, strengthen immune system, and reduce depression risk

 

Reading aloud (and talking to yourself about the material) helps you learn more. Talking it out helps!

 


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Monday, September 27, 2021

"The Grind" Part 2 - Preparing for "Rough Seas Ahead"

 


Preparing and planning to cope when things go off-course - Consider some of the following points about successfully navigating the grind of life and discuss the questions provided:

Prepare for the unfair – Life is going to hand you unfair and unjust situations, scenarios, etc – What can you do to make yourself ready to bounce back

Retake the mistakes – In spite of your best efforts, you will mess up and disappoint yourself and others on occasion. It happens to the best of us – What is your plan to keep moving forward in spite of mistakes

Push past the disasters – Sometimes one thing that can feel worse than mistakes is bad things happen, especially when it seems like there is no good reason why  – Are you ready to be able to adjust your approach to changing and unexpected circumstances?

From comfort zone into awkwardness  - You will be thrust into difficult and at times awkward situations in life where you either have to stand your ground, speak up or come up with another plan to survive and thrive What can you do to prepare and then cope?

People skills - Even good people whom you love and trust will at times disappointment you and at other times act like they don’t understand you. Are you ready to deal with that and move past it? If so, how?

Discouragement – Sometimes for good reason and at other times for what may seem like no reason at all, yo may feel discouraged and even feel like you may want to quit. How do you plan to conquer discouragement?

My survival statement - What can be your saying of survival during the mistakes and tough times?

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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Rethinking Boredom


Overcoming Boredom in the Change Process:

Introduction– Boredom is quite often cited as one of the more challenging aspects when dealing with recovery from substance use issues. It is safe to say that no one likes boredom, and we all have to face boredom at one time or another. Therefore, it makes sense to be prepared for boredom when making life changes as we move away from a life of addictive behaviors. One way to do this is to adjust our viewpoint on boredom. We can learn and practice mastering boredom instead of allowing feelings of boredom to derail our progress.


As a group consider and discuss the following thoughts about refocusing the viewpoint on boredom. After each point is read, discuss ways in which you may agree (or disagree) with these points and discuss how each point may apply personally in your life and experience:

 

§  Boredom is not an excuse – “I started getting high again because I was bored”. “I went back out with my old friends who get high because I was bored” “I stopped my routine for recovery because it got to be boring” – Statements like these are just excuses. Sure, boredom happens in recovery, and it can be a relapse trigger, however it still is not a valid reason for returning to a self-destructive lifestyle. As you read on you will see that there are better ways to cope with feelings of boredom

 

§  We can learn to accept boredom – Another way to rephrase this is that we can learn to tolerate boredom. Very few people on this earth have a life that is exciting 24-7. Boredom on occasion is a part of most people’s lives. In fact, most people welcome some “down time”. For example, some really good stories and movies have slower parts that help build up the overall plot and add to the larger story. We can use these “less exciting” times in our lives to our advantage as down time can be a productive part of our recovery process

 


§  Boredom does not have to be as bad as it seems – “Boredom is what boredom does” – In other words, what we choose to do when we feel bored is the most influential factor in overcoming boredom. Preparing ahead of time to fill our more boring times in life with positive or productive activities can make all of the difference. Reckless decisions based on boredom often have reckless outcomes

 



§  We can embrace boredom as a challenge rather than an obstacle – Our attitude about boredom means so much when it comes to conquering boredom. For example, if we get in the habit of sulking and just staying stagnant during boring times then our boredom will likely persist. Rather, we can learn to look at boredom as a challenge to overcome using creativity and ingenuity. A person with a good attitude about boredom may say something like: “I’m feeling bored right now, so what new and interesting idea can I explore to get rid of this feeling?” This approach will help rather than just sitting there waiting for boredom to pass on its own or doing the same old boring things to fill boring times like scrolling the internet or social media aimlessly or surfing channels on TV.

 


§  Boredom can motivate you (if you let it) – Similar to the previous points, if we feel like there is too much boredom in life, rather than give up, let this motivate you to make changes. If you feel like your life is far too boring, this can be the fire that ignites a positive lifestyle change like seeking a new career, learning a new skill, taking on a new responsibility, exploring a new hobby or doing something creative or innovative.

 


§  Gratitude can help (“I’d rather be bored and stable than excited but in chaos or trouble”) – A stable life in recovery may at times be boring by comparison with the substance using lifestyle, yet the safety and security of recovery far outweighs the chaos and consequences of addiction. Therefore, we can actually learn to be grateful to be bored occasionally if it means a better overall life for us.  It is better to be a little bored but happy rather than feel excited in between periods of misery (like in active addiction for many)

 

Skills for Mastering Boredom


Review the following and work on making your own “Boredom Plan” by taking note of which skills and suggestions you are going to apply in your own life to prepare for, cope with and conquer boredom


1.   Look beyond entertainment – Sure, things like, TV, YouTube, internet, and social media can help with boredom, but these things alone can get tiring, boring and unfulfilling especially over time. There is nothing wrong with these types of entertainment but its best to not have them as your only way to deal with boredom or it is likely you will stay bored.

 


2.   Creativity – Music, art, building, designing, writing, developing, etc. are all great ways to overcome boredom on a long-term basis. Think outside the box! Create and innovate

 


3.   Learning – Taking an interest in a topic and building our knowledge and skills can be a great way to overcome boredom. Learning a language, studying history, researching the origins or science of things that interest you or finding out how things are made or work, are examples of learning that can be very interesting. It may take time to develop a love for learning about various topics, but it works!

 


4.   When a task is boring, try it a different way – If there is something in life that you have to do that you find boring, is there a different way to approach it? Again, this could require creativity. For example, doing something like combining chores, like cleaning with exercise, dancing or singing can make it much less boring. Meeting your best friend at the laundromat then getting coffee can make a task like that fun, for example

 


5.   Take healthy risks – If you are bored can you think outside the box and try some things that you thought you would never like? You might surprise yourself if you try a few times. Maybe a friend or your partner has a hobby or interest that you thought you would never try – Why not try it again with them a few times even if you didn’t like it in the past when you were using. An interest for new things can catch on with time and practice if you keep an open mind and patiently approach new ideas.

 


6.   Consider things from your youth – A lot of people find interest in going back to things they did when they were growing up as they are able to reignite the same passion for these things as adults. Maybe when you were a kid you were into comics or collecting something or maybe there was a game or sport you loved as a kid you could get back into as an adult.

 


7.   Consider helping others – So many people have found fulfillment in helping and doing things for others. For example. learning to bake cookies for yourself is one thing but doing it to share your baked goods with friends, family or neighbors can be even far more fulfilling and motivating. So many millions of people have stories of volunteering or just helping their community or neighbors as a satisfying way to spend their time.

 


8.   Learn to engage deeper – If there is something you have to do in life that you find boring, ask yourself: Am I fully engaged in this process? For example, sometimes people may try 12 step meetings and find that sitting there listening quietly can be boring. However, becoming an active part of the group by participating and taking on a commitment can deepen appreciate and engagement which is a great way to alleviate boredom. This can apply in a lot of life areas as well based on the general rule: “We get out what we put in” to an activity

 

Closing discussion – What is included in your Boredom Plan?


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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Remembering When...



Directions: This is a group activity for personal sharing and group cohesion building. The directions are simple: Take turns as a group discussing the following questions from this list. There is no specific order

 

Start each question with: “When was the last time that you…”


Had an argument with a close friend

Had a good time socially while sober

Made a new friend

Did something to help others

Left the state

Left the country

Went somewhere fun

Finished reading an entire book

Helped someone who needed it

Listened to someone who needed support

Did something to care for yourself


Ate a really, really good meal

Cooked a really good meal

Used your support system effectively

Got in trouble at a job

Got a raise at work

Had insomnia

Had a really restful night’s sleep

Felt “true love” (romantically) for someone

“Crushed” on someone

Felt a real and meaningful connection with someone

Went out on a date

Had a break-up


Cleaned your home really well

Got really muddy or dirty

Had an especially good day

Reached a milestone or achieved a goal

Had a good satisfying exercise session or work out

Got good news from the doctor or medical professional

Achieved a physical or health goal

Chose the healthy option

Avoided stress or anxiety effectively by using a coping skill

Avoided anger by using coping skills

Made a really good decision or avoided a really bad one

Made the ethical or moral choice even if the wrong one was easier 


Prevented yourself from falling into a depression

Felt a strong sense or motivation or inspiration

Realized something about yourself that you had not before

Bought something for one of your hobbies

Hiked, camped, fished or did something “out-doorsy”

Practiced one of your hobbies

Didn’t get up because of depression

Laughed uncontrollably

Cried uncontrollably

Had a nice dream

Had an incredibly bizarre dream


Felt embarrassed or regretful for something you did

Felt really proud of something you did or achieved

Felt a true and deep sense of gratitude

Felt that “everything is going to be okay”

Gave a nice complement

Received a really nice complement

Had a pet or animal make you laugh

Did something nice for a pet or an animal

You thought about moving

You thought about a career change or going for more education or training

Got into a physical altercation

Were able to effectively share or explain your true feelings with someone

Prevented a fight from escalating

Made the best of a bad situation


You had something randomly or accidentally good happen to you

You did a solid favor for someone or helped them through something

You gave someone a random or unexpected gift

“Overdid” it with substances

Went a day without thinking about drugs or alcohol

Had police involvement

Had to apologize and did

Were apologized too

Felt like a villain

Felt like a hero

Did something creative

Felt a sense of “awe”

Moved on from something that you needed to let go of


Took it easy on someone instead of giving them a hard time

Someone took it easy on you when they could have given you a hard time

You made someone feel good (emotionally not physically or sexually)

Lost or had to pay a good amount of money

Came into a good amount of money

Hugged one of your loved ones

Ran into an old friend

Spent quality time with immediate family

Someone checked in on you and it was helpful

Sacrificed your time to help your family

Were there for a family member who needed help

Said something you regretted later

Did something you regretted later

Felt grossed out

Planted something


Won a competition, award, or reward

You said or thought to yourself “never again”

Said to yourself “I am really happy”

Were able to have a positive escape from the world without using substances

Experienced something that you will surely remember for life

Learned something that was life-changing

Had a “moment of clarity” or “awakening”

Looked in the proverbial mirror and felt comfortable with what you saw

Had a mysterious feeling like “someone out there is looking out for me”

Thought deeply about the meaning of life

Thought deeply about where you want your own life to go

 

This list is long but feel free to make up your own…


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