Monday, December 28, 2020

2020 to 2021: A Transition Like No Other



2020 was a year that all people across the globe will remember for sure. The COVID-19 pandemic changed all of our lives and the hope for a better 2021 can open up many possibilities. Consider the following activities as a group based on this transition

Getting Started

Opening Icebreaker - Directions: Everyone should draw one picture entitled “2020” and then another picture entitled “2021” The counselor/group leader should allow the group time to creatively work on their pictures. Anything goes and creative expression is highly encouraged. When everyone is done, each group member should share their drawings and discuss them side by side in comparison. Discuss feelings, thoughts and hopes that may come up when explaining these drawings.

Allow group members to ask each other questions and give positive feedback (no criticism as this is not an art show but for the purpose of self-expression and identifying feelings)

Follow up discussion: Quarantine-Proofing” your Goals for 2021




What are some of your “Hope Goals” for 2021- (These are goals you want to achieve if the world successfully returns to some semblance of being “normal” in 2021 – For example, places you would go, things you would like to do if there was again more freedom to freely go to places and gatherings one day in 2021)



What are some of your “Fallback Goals” for 2021 – What are things that you can still work on even if restrictions remain for most or all of 2021. These are things you can work on regardless of social or travel restrictions due to COVID-19 (For example, getting an online degree or losing weight)



Next: As a group share where you hope to make progress in each of these areas in 2021:

Treatment and Self-Help Goals – (Such as emotional and mental health goals or substance use related goals)

Employment/Education/Career Goals

Family Goals

Relationship Goals




Physical/Health Related Goals

Legal Related Goals

Financial Goals

Spiritual Goals – (Increasing meaning and purpose in life)

Fun/Entertainment/Recreational/Hobby-Related Goals

Other – (Areas not already covered)


Group close out questions:


How can you stay motivated, positive and hopeful all year round in 2021, (no matter what direction things may go)? 


Who or what will help you along the way?


How can this group help and support you in achieving your goals in 2021, no matter what comes our way?








Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Give the Gift of Kindness and Hope

Background: This group activity can be done any time of year however it can also be a useful activity during occasions or times of year where giving may be expected or customary (such as a holiday). This group activity can be done in person or via telehealth. If done in person, group members will need pen and paper to secretly submit their thoughts and ideas in written “secret ballot” format to the group leader. If this is done via telehealth, group members should use the chat function on the telehealth platform and send messages privately via chat to the group leader.


Directions: In this group, members will give and receive two things: thoughts of kindness and thoughts of hope. Everything is done anonymously so group members can share their honest thoughts without feeling shy, reserved, or anxious

Someone in the group should volunteer to take the first turn. When it is a person’s turn, the group messages will be directed toward that person. Everyone in the group should anonymously submit two messages: The first message, a thought of kindness, should be a kind statement or observation about the person whose turn it is. The second should be a message of hope. Submission should be done via private chat or secret ballot as described earlier. Once all are collected, the group leader will then, one by one, read the group’s messages to the person whose turn it is. 

Review the following rules first:

Positive messages only. This group is designed to be encouraging and fun, so this is not the time for group members to reveal secret gripes or resentments. Insults or criticism is not appropriate for this group. The counselor/group leader should not read a message that is mean-spirited, insulting, critical or that violates boundaries or is otherwise inappropriate. Positive messages of hope only should be acceptable. Again, this is supposed to be fun and positive. For example, a message such as “I hope you get what’s coming to you” would not be an appropriate message of hope


Author of messages is to be kept secret – If messages are kept anonymous then people can feel free to be more open and honest. The counselor/group leader should just read the messages but not announce the author or give any hints. Group members should refrain from saying “I wrote that one!”


For thoughts of kindness, complements are OK as long as they are appropriate – For example it is okay to submit a message such as “You have a great smile” but it would not be appropriate to say, “I would like to date you” or to specifically make a sexually oriented comment. If possible, it is better to focus on personal qualities (intelligent, funny, outgoing, honest, etc.) rather than physical qualities


Messages of hope are better if they are realistic – For example saying “I hope you win a billion dollars” is nice but not all that meaningful. Something specific to the person which is realistic and attainable is much better such as “I hope you to get the career you always wanted”

The group leader will read the thoughts of kindness and the thoughts of hope to the person who is up for their turn. Before ending a turn, the person taking the turn should share with the rest of the group how they feel about the messages they received and comment on anything that may have stood out to them

When a turn is over, switch to the next person and allow them to have a turn receiving positive messages from the rest of the group.


A general rule for the whole group is the old principle – “If you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all” - However, group participation is encouraged for all wherever possible



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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Irony of Addiction


The Irony of Addiction

Irony occurs when what actually happens is much different from or the opposite of what is expected

Simple, easy to understand basic examples of irony:

  • The teacher fails the test
  • The firefighter’s house burns down
  • The health and fitness guru dies of cancer

Some interesting true-life examples of irony:

  • Duct tape should not be used for sealing ducts
  • The most commonly stolen book is the Bible
  • The inventor of the stop sign never actually learned how to drive
  • The founder of, encouraged everyone he knew to join it, including his girlfriend. She eventually left him for a man she met on
  • For 35 years one CEO at Crayola crayons later admitted after retiring that he was colorblind
  • Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone which changed the world, but he refused to keep one in his place of work because he feared it would distract him 

On a much more serious note – Consider how their can be irony in substance use, addiction and recovery

As a group: Review the following ironic statements that can be related to substance use, addiction and recovery. Not everyone may find these all to be true as everyone has their own unique beliefs and experiences.  However, when you find that any of these applied in your own life and experiences, share this with the rest of the group if you are able 

  • Drugs and alcohol: What often can start out as the funniest, most relaxing and most enjoyable thing in the world does the most painful, stressful and destructive things to you later down the line
  • In order to start to think straight first you may have to stop trusting your own thinking
  • As it says in 12 Step philosophy: You get sick of getting sick and tired of being tired
  • You may have to give it up to get it all back
  • In order to learn about who I really am I had to forget about who I thought I was
  • What used to make me feel good, I had to use just not to feel bad
  • In addiction you can go from thinking you know everything to realizing you know nothing
  • It may take struggle and hard work to achieve serenity and peace
  • Before you can start growing you may have to realize and recognize you have been withering away
  • What you once used to escape becomes a prison
  • I got high to feel free but ended up feeling trapped
  • In order to learn how to love myself again, I had to learn that it was ok to be loved
  • I couldn’t really start feeling until I finally stopped numbing
  • I had to stop lying to myself before I could be truly honest with others
  • At first you may break but it ends up making you stronger

Your own examples? – Can you think of any other ironic statements related to substance use, addiction or recovery?

Addiction, Insight and Experience – Sometimes this involves learning that things are not how they seem to be. (Sadly, at times this may be learned the hard way) – Often how we think things will turn out are very different than expected early on when it comes to substance use and addiction

Group Discussion – Have you ever said any of the following statements to yourself in your past? If so, share how that turned out for you?

Have you ever said the following?....If "YES" how did it turn out for you?

(Early, before changing)

“I won’t ever lose control of how much I use”

“There is no way I will ever mess with the hard stuff”

“I can hide this, no one will ever find out I am getting high”

“I’ll quit tomorrow”

“I won’t ever let it get to the point where I will ever____ (Fill in the blank)

In treatment or recovery (During the change process)

“Now that I have to stop using, I will just stop, no problem, I got this”

“I can still hang with my old friends who get high and not get high myself”

“I’ll just use around the days of drug tests so I don’t get caught”

“I’ll just use a plan to avoid or fake the drug tests”

“I will just set daily limits on how much I use and stick to it”

“I’ll just use stuff that doesn’t show up on the tests”

“I don’t need help; willpower is all I need”

“I know what I need to do, I don’t have to listen to these so called “experts””

“I can just lie and deny my way through this”

“I don’t need to change anything. I’ll just stop for a while”

Closing Discussion Questions:

Out of all that was reviewed and discussed in this session – What stands out to you as some of the most important life lessons you have learned along the way?


What are you doing (or planning on doing) in your life now to remain self-aware and positive so as to prevent yourself from returning to faulty thinking patterns that you may have had in the past? 


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