Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Taking the Escalator Blog is Moving

Going forward, Taking the Escalator blog entries will be posted on the main Taking the Escalator website on the "Blog" page of the site. 

Here is the direct link: https://www.takingtheescalator.com/blog

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

A Step Outside the Comfort Zone


VIDEO INTRO: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/lkFo_HG9QZk 

A Step Outside the Comfort Zone

This “open sharing” activity has some challenging topics to discuss that can take a person a little out of their comfort zone. Choose a topic from the list that you feel able to share in the group. These topics are involve sharing some potentially uncomfortable stories however the idea behind the exercise is that going a little outside of the comfort zone can bring the group closer which can promote an environment of healing. This will be especially helpful if after a person shares, the rest of the group is able to provide a listening ear and some empathetic and supportive comments while being careful not to be judgmental.


Choose one selection below that you are comfortable enough sharing about and share your answer:

Talk about something that makes you very angry in as calm, understanding, and loving way as possible.

Share something that people compliment you on that you feel uncomfortable repeating out loud.

Tell the group something from your past that you should apologize for but never did.

Let the group know about a prediction that you were very sure about but ended up being inaccurate.

Share a double standard that you have.

Tell the group about something in the world that you realize is true, but you try to just ignore it.

Tell the group about a fear you faced or one that you did not.

Fill in the blanks – I used to insist that ______was right, but now I realize that I was completely wrong.

Share something that people should be careful trusting you with.

Complete: If I was to get called out for _______the evidence against me would be overwhelming.

Reveal a healthy habit that you know you should do regularly, but you often don’t.

Share about a time when you should have spoken up but did not.

Explain a situation when you bailed when you should have stayed.

Share about a situation where you stayed too long and regretted it.

Reveal a past (or current) responsibility you were entrusted with, but you just did the bare minimum.

Let everyone know about a bad business or financial decision you got caught up in

Share a situation when you should have been more trusting but weren’t

Share a situation when you trusted and got burned for it later.

Share something you said or did in the past that makes you cringe when you think about it today.

Let the group know about something someone called you out on, and they were right.

Share a story about a lie or deception that ended up costing you.

Share about a time when you knew better but went ahead with something you shouldn’t have.

Reveal a story about a time where you stayed on the sidelines when you should have gotten involved.

Complete the sentence: I gave it away when I should have kept it when….

Share about a time when you tried to beat or cheat another person but later wished you didn’t.


First, discuss: How can we learn and grow from our regrets?

How can this group help with that process?

Next, as a group discuss the following questions based on this diagram:

*This diagram has been copied from the internet. The original source could not be found to be properly credited

Fear Zone:


Consider what it says in the fear zone in the diagram. Share if any of these apply to you and explain.


What can this group do to help someone move past obstacles and properly address what is in their fear zone?


Learning Zone:


What can help make this group a positive place to explore the objectives listed in the learning zone in the diagram above?


Growth Zone:


Where do you see yourself when you are consistently achieving the objectives in the growth zone?


How can this group help you get there?


Finally, what can YOU do personally to contribute to this group being a place where both yourself and others here feel comfortable sharing who they really are and what is really going on even when it is uncomfortable?

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The Grind Part 21 - Facing the Music

The Grind Part 21 - Facing the Music – VIDEO INTRO: https://youtu.be/xczqvouz9fg


In certain instances, we may have to grind through a tough situation in life because of the aftermath of our own choices. We all do what we can to try to always make good decisions but in our own imperfection at times we find ourselves confronted with stressful circumstances due to having to “face the music” related to an undesired outcome of a bad decision. This worksheet is specifically for coping with these types of situations when we know a tough period of time may be ahead due to the consequences, ramifications and reverberations of our own past actions and choices. So, if you are in a situation where you are thinking something like: “I got caught…”, “I took a bad risk”, “I wish I would not have done that”, “I messed up…”, “I regret…” then this worksheet can help you grind forward in a positive way, even though you may need to face the music.


(To avoid distraction from this topic, keep in mind this is not about situations involving getting into trouble unfairly due to a mistake completely outside of our control, or some other injustice (such as discrimination or a false accusation). Rather, this is about facing the music when we knowingly can confess that we made a bad decision that we may now regret.


What does “facing the music” entail?  - Review and discuss the following points:


Facing the music includes:


ð      Accepting the unpleasant reality and outcome of the situation


ð      Accepting responsibility for your role (even if it was not all your fault)


ð      Preparing to adapt to life changes whatever the consequences may be.


ð      Preparing for the criticism or judgement that may come with the situation (even if it is unfair)


ð      Owning the situation honestly without lying, cover-ups, avoidance, or deception - Surrendering


ð      Coping with the feelings of guilt and shame


ð      Coping with regret without stagnating and moving on.


ð      Most importantly, moving forward in as positive way as possible despite all of these challenges

Are you ready to face the music? – Discuss: (Or if you are not facing the music now, to contribute to the group discussion, share about how you may have faced the music, or wished you faced the music, in the past)



Saturday, May 20, 2023

My World


My World - VIDEO INTRO: https://youtu.be/2-DGwgnuBZA


Scientists have made a breakthrough in space travel and now every corner of the universe is easily accessible. Because of the vast size of the universe, selected people on earth are being chosen for the opportunity to rule their own planet. If you had this opportunity to set up a new world on a new planet, what are some of the things you would want to include? Consider the following areas below:




What kinds of people would you want to live in your new world? (What are some qualities of people whom you would want to invite to live there?)





What kind of people would you avoid allowing to live in your new world and why?





Is there anything else special about the people you want in your world that you have not mentioned? (Personality type, skills, attitudes, etc.)





Living Conditions


What would you want living conditions to be like for people in your world (For example would people live in cities or the country or on islands in the sea? Would they live in caves, huts, houses, etc.?





What will people do for work?





What can people do for fun and recreation?





What kinds of animals, plants and other wildlife do you want on your planet?





What kinds of terrain do you want on your planet? (Mountains, rivers, deserts, seas, forests, etc.)





Rules and Laws


What are some of the rules and laws of your land?





What are some things that you would not want in your world?





What else would be some of the characteristics of your world that make it special?





What are some things compared to our world that you want to keep?





What are some things compared to our world that you want to change?






How will people feel living in your world? How will you feel there?





How does it feel for now you talking about this world?

OPTIONAL ACTIVITY:  Draw your world. If there is large paper and materials to draw with and if the group is interested, allow people some time to draw their world and share drawings with one another.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Why Be Honest? - Talking About Relapse and Setbacks


Why be Honest? – Talking About Setbacks and Relapse – VIDEO: https://youtu.be/h4d6WwsWLRw


Opening Exercise – Relapse Role Play


Directions – Choose a volunteer in the group to share a fictional relapse story. The volunteer can feel free to make up the details for this imaginary scenario. For a few minutes as an icebreaker for this topic, the group should role play providing support for this fictional relapse. When the group has completed this brief icebreaker, discuss the following questions:


·        What are some challenging feelings that someone may experience when opening up to the rest of the group about a setback or relapse? (Try to identify some feeling words such as fear, anxiety, guilt, etc.)


·        After sharing about an actual relapse with the group, what are some feelings that someone may experience after receiving support from the group? (Ex. Relief, encouragement, gratitude, etc.)


Everyone in this group has probably heard this before:  Sharing openly about life situations, even difficult ones, is helpful and good for our personal process of positive change and recovery. Yet, still in substance use treatment groups, hiding the truth or even lying about relapse still may occur. Why?


Most people know the importance of honesty for therapy and treatment to be truly effective. Still, even knowing that, why do deception and dishonesty still happen sometimes in groups? Discuss some of the thoughts and feelings that may trigger dishonesty in therapy.


What are some common reasons for dishonesty in groups? – Discuss the following list as a group:


Misguided Pride – It is normal to want respect and dignity which we all deserve. However, our opinion of ourselves can prevent us from being honest about our mistakes. Pride can lead someone to hide the truth about a relapse based on the thinking that “I do not want people to think less of me, so I won’t tell them about my mistakes.”


Habit – Sometimes lying can become automatic if someone does it enough. It is important to learn to break the “lie when I get caught” habit if that is the case. A person who habitually hides the truth can re-learn the process of being honest even when things are difficult. It may take practice, but people can learn to be honest.


Shame – Similar to pride, sometimes a person may hide or lie about a mistake because of shame, which is an uncomfortable, sometimes even painful, feeling that can arise when something is perceived as “bad” or “wrong”. It is important in group therapy that people should feel comfortable sharing mistakes without being “shamed” by others. People recover in different ways and setbacks may be a normal part of the process in many situations.


Ambivalence – Someone may present in group as wanting to change substance using behaviors but internally still have “mixed feelings” about actually following through. Change is often easier said than done so a person may choose to hide their substance use from the group due to a need to still work on internal motivation for lifestyle change. Group therapy can help with the internal motivation building process.


Avoidance/Procrastination – This can become a cycle which works something like this: A person experiences a setback or relapse but decides not to share it with the group because of reasoning “I’ll tell the group about it next time (but not this time)”. The problem with this is that when the next relapse happens, that person may say it again “next time I’ll get honest” or “I’ll be honest tomorrow” but tomorrow may never get here


Lack of trust - Sometimes people may hide the truth to put up a barrier so others cannot know who they really are (aka the “real me”). Some people have difficulty trusting others enough to share openly about mistakes and weaknesses. It is important for a group to be a place where people can learn to build trust with one another.


Fear – This common reason for hiding the truth about a relapse often is linked to consequences of substance use. For example, a person with a legal situation may be afraid to reveal a slip or relapse for fear of legal repercussions. As harm reduction is becoming more widely accepted, many legal authorities are more accepting of relapse, especially when a person with a legal situation is making an effort. Counselors can help advocate for clients in legal situations as well, especially when overall progress is being made.


Chronic Shyness – Similar to lack of trust, some people are naturally shy and private so opening up may not come easily. Again, a group needs to be a place where people are encouraged to be honest and open even when a group member is shy or reserved by nature.


People pleasing – A person in group therapy may like the group to the point where there is a fear of disappointing others by sharing mistakes or relapse. It is important for the group to express unconditional positive regard for one another even when relapse happens.


Thrill – Getting away with something can be exciting for some people. A person may actually enjoy the “thrill” of getting away with using without others finding out. Sadly, this does not usually end well when there is a substance use problem as eventually repeated deception can catch up with a person over time.  


Denial – If a pattern of deception becomes persuasive, a person can lie to themselves by denying or distorting reality. Minimizing is an example of denial where a person may reason “it wasn’t that bad, so I don’t need to tell anyone else.” Justifying is another example where a person may reason “I deserved to use and not tell anyone because my life is hard, and I am going through a lot.” We all know that denial is not a healthy way to cope but rather working on self-awareness, openness, and honesty surely leads to better outcomes in the end.



“I relapsed and I don’t know how or am afraid to talk about it” – What to do.


Suppose you are in a situation where you experienced a relapse or a setback or you have something else you need to share but you are not ready or don’t know exactly how, here are some suggestions.


1.     Talk to a counselor first – A counselor can provide coaching or guidance on how to share about a relapse, setback, or other challenging topic. A counselor can help you introduce the topic in group.


2.     Just do it – Sometime the only way to share difficult news is to just say 1,2,3 and go! – Let it out. There might be no easier way than just blurting it out and getting it over with. It often feels better when it is out.


3.     Choose an optimal time – In an IOP or inpatient setting there may be a certain time of day that may be the best time to share about a relapse. Get to know your program and when open sharing is encouraged then also prepare (which is the next step)


4.     Prepare – Practicing what you want to say and how you want to say it can make it easier to be honest.


5.     Remember you are not alone – Most people understand relapse so it is important to stay aware of the fact that it is okay to be honest as others in the group (and your counselor) Most others will surely understand. Group is a place of empathy, compassion, and support, not of shame, fear, or judgement.


6.     Forgive yourself and remember honesty is for your own good – It is important to work past feelings of inappropriate pride, shame, or a desire to please others and instead focus on the reality that even if you made a mistake, the best way to get better is to just be open about it. The healing will only increase with the truth being out there to discuss. Relapse can be a powerful learning process when discussed openly in a supportive environment.



Sunday, May 7, 2023

Strength Building for Positive Change


This is a brief but positive and practical exercise focused on identifying and discussing personal strengths that can be used effectively for positive change especially related to substance use and mental health issues.

VIDEO INTRO - https://youtu.be/wWnAA2uCdUg 


Opening Icebreaker – Group Strength Sharing

Directions: Everyone in the group should take a turn. When it is your turn each group member should share a strength, they see in you. Use the list for ideas if needed. Group members should describe their answers.


For example: “I can see that you are very loyal because you have stood by your family during difficult times for so long.”



Identifying Our Strengths Further:


As a group, discuss the following strengths-based questions:


Strength from Experience


Share with the group, at least one life experience you have had that you are now stronger from



How can you use your strength from this experience to make progress toward your current recovery and positive change goals?



Natural abilities


What is one skill or trait that you have always been good at even from a young age? (It can be something that does not seem important like “I’m funny” or “I am good at fishing” or it can be something more day to day like “I am a good problem solver” or “I’m intelligent”)



How can you use this natural ability or skill today to better your life? (For example, even if you said “I’m funny”: How can you use humor to better your life (for example a sense of humor can be a positive coping skill if used correctly)




Looking Forward:


Are you using your strengths to your advantage today?



·       How can you improve?



What strengths can you build on?



What strengths do you need to develop? How can you do that?

Saturday, April 29, 2023

The Grind Part 20 – When You Don’t Know Why



Picture this: Something is wrong…You feel anxiety and depression increasing lately, but you cannot assign it to a specific stressor. Your feelings are increasingly uncomfortable and difficult. What is making it worse is that you are not sure what is really bothering you. Maybe you can identify several things that could be triggers, but it is not clear in your mind what the real deal is. This state of not knowing why you feel this way may even be making you feel even more anxious and depressed.


Have you ever felt this way? Sometimes our mind wants a direct answer to our struggles and problems as if a puzzle piece is missing and we need to just identify the missing piece and then put everything back into place. As if this will suddenly make everything all okay at once. Unfortunately, when living with chronic mental health or substance use issues (or both) sometimes we may feel this way. So, if you find yourself grinding through life in this way, then here are some thoughts of things to do especially when you don’t really know what exactly is going on and what you should do to make it better.


Not everyone will be able to identify with what is being described here. However, there are certain people who will know exactly what this phenomenon feels like. Either way, when reviewing this information, try to take away what you believe will be helpful to you mentally. Below are some thoughts to consider for recovery and positive change in difficult situations:


Review and discuss the following points:


·       Knowing why a problem is happening can be helpful in solving that problem. However, it is not necessary to know the cause for you to start to get better. For example, if someone breaks their arm, it can be helpful for the doctor to know how and why the arm was broken, but it is not necessary for the doctor to know that in order to fix it and put it in a cast for the arm to heal.



·       Sometimes mental health just “flares up” similar to other health conditions. Compare depression, for instance, with a physical back problem. Sometimes someone with a bad back will be sore from doing too much physically the day before but there are other times their back may hurt for no identifiable reason (aka a sudden flare up of back pain). The same is true of mental health issues like depression. Sometimes a clearly identifiable event or situation can trigger a depressive episode and sometimes it may feel like there is no specific reason for a depressive “flare up”, just like the bad back example. For substance use issues this can also happen with cravings that seem to come up without a clearly understood trigger. Direct causes at times can be hard to identify.



·       Part of living with long-lasting or chronic mental illness or substance use issues involves learning to keep moving forward during unexpected challenging episodes. The issues we face may slow us down, but we can do a lot to keep unexpected challenging life situations to stop us from making progress. Sometimes we may bend without letting ourselves break.



·       Acceptance is key. Learning to accept that if you have mental illness or substance use issue may be easier on some days will be than others. There may be good phases and not so good ones. Accepting the fact that the change process has ups and downs can prevent discouragement and disappointment. It may be helpful to accept the fact that challenging episodes come up in life once in a while and sometimes even unexpectedly.