Thursday, February 25, 2021

Text Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

 Text Yourself Before Your Wreck Yourself – (Group close-out homework and follow-up activity)

This is a fun and interesting way to end a group session that provides group members with fun and easy homework to think about until next group. It also then supplies interesting content for discussion for the following group session when this group meets again. All that is needed is for each group member to have a phone that allows them to send a text to their own self (Simply text your own phone number to do a self-text)

The directions for Text Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself” are outlined below. Just read and follow these steps as a group:


First, pick a topic that is appropriate for your group. The topic should be focused on something positive that group members can try to accomplish during the upcoming week. Some suggestions are provided in this exercise however it may be a good idea for the group to pick an original topic based on what the group is currently working on. The topic selected for this exercise needs to be something that group members can try to work on at least once between the end of this group session and the next group session. Some suggestions provided:


If this is a substance use treatment group an appropriate topic might be: “Avoiding Triggers”, “Crushing Cravings”, or “Successfully Seeking Support”


Mental health topic suggestions: “Anger Management”, “Calming Myself”, “Successful Coping”


General positive topics: “Making the Right Choice”, “Grateful Moments”, “Proof of Progress”



Next, after the group has decided on a topic, everyone should text themselves the topic on their own phone. (For example, if the topic chosen was “Anger Management” then each group member should just text themselves the words “Anger Management” – If possible, group members should try to leave the text notification unanswered on their phone as a reminder to complete the task for the week explained next:


Everyone in the group is now assigned as homework to stop and record a moment during the next week (via self-text) where they successfully fulfilled the topic of the assignment chosen by the group


For example – If the group chose “Anger Management” as the homework assignment then the actual assignment would be to stop and record (via text to oneself) a moment during the week when anger was successfully managed. An example for “Anger Management” is provided here:


“Just now my brother was really getting on my case and then he started insulting me. I felt the urge to either curse him out or punch him but instead I counted to 10, took a few deep breaths and then I just got up, left, and took a walk outside to cool off rather than let my brother bait me into a fight which I would later regret. Then before going back into the house I called my sister for support and she helped me to calm down even more”


Finally, the next time the group meets, group members should all share and discuss their “assignments” by reading their homework self-text to the rest of the group and discussing how things went


Some suggested discussion points:


What was it like to successfully fulfill this assignment?


How do you feel about what was going on then and how do you feel about it now?


What did you learn from the experience and how will you use this experience in the future?


For more great free group material visit 


Monday, February 15, 2021

Taking the Escalator Guest Blogger: Nicole Tierney, LAC – COPING WITH AN OVERACTIVE MIND

 Nicole Tierney has over 10 years in recovery, thanks in part to receiving treatment using the Taking the Escalator methodology which helped Nicole focus on self-awareness, insight and motivation building with equal attention given not just substance use alone but also co-existing mental health concerns as well, which you can clearly see in this inspiring and helpful personal blog entry:

One of the things I remember most vividly about when I was first trying to get ‘sober’ and stop drinking and using drugs was that people were very nice and gave me a plethora of helpful advice and information

However, for many reasons, I could not cognitively or emotionally deal with so much information or stimulation. 

I had been using prescription pain medicine daily for at least ten years.  That habit had evolved into using other substances and drinking too.  While I knew I did not want to live the rest of my life like that, I also felt incapable of processing so much advice, albeit helpful and caring, at once when my brain and heart were still so raw.   Similarly, I can remember my thoughts racing all the time.  Worry, panic, rumination, pondering.  I actually felt tired because I could not seem to stop thinking and feeling.

I remember fondly a counselor whom I confided in about this constant battle in my head suggesting I try ‘thought stopping’.  It sounded so appealing and relieving.  However, here was my problem, at that time, I was estranged from most family members, really had no social connections or support, had a no-contact order with my children, recently filed for bankruptcy, and would-be starting drug court in a week.  So therein was the conundrum, I can stop the negative thoughts, but then what do I think about?  What fills the void in my overactive mind, from a cognitive and emotional perspective? 

I was also given the advice to stay present, be positive, and always be grateful, but those feelings were difficult for me to conjure based on my nonexistent self-esteem (or more aptly described as self-hatred and self-loathing) and my current external position.  I simply did not have the tools or capability to develop those replacement thoughts or feelings internally.  I knew I would use substances before long if I did not address this painful and taxing issue within my brain. 


On one particularly bad day, I did not know how I would last another minute with myself.  My thoughts were so toxic and noxious.  I needed a break.  That is when I saw a stack of books my aunt had given me, which she purchased at a garage sale.  My aunt meant so well and I remember wishing I could only stop ruminating and read.  Having absolutely nothing to lose, I tried.  I grabbed what appeared to be the thinnest book and the shortest story, which just happened to be Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  I was expecting the book to be about birds, but I was sorely mistaken.  The book was so difficult to understand, I found my negative thoughts had unwittingly paused.  I was reading and re-reading.  I was trying to understand and process the letters and words on the pages, and I was enjoying it.  Well enjoying may be a strong word, but I was no longer suffering in the company of my own vitriolic thoughts. 


Therein began my healthy go to coping mechanism – reading.  I would read anything.  It was the salve my mind and soul needed.  Over time, I began reading about recovery, substance use disorders, stories of perseverance, spirituality, and even neurology.  I literally got lost in words.  

Over time, as my mind and soul healed, my thought pattern slowed, and I was able to increase control and occasionally engage in the occasional ‘thought stopping’.  I was able to respond and not react.  I was able to experience gratitude and stay present.  Notwithstanding those improvements in my abilities and thinking, I still love reading.  I subsequently came to learn that Jonathan Livingston Seagull was actually a popular book about life, self-perfection, and flight.  Though the messages are still murky and the meaning not completely clear, I truly consider Jonathan Livingston Seagull my first friend in recovery and his story played a huge role in my journey of wellness and healing. 


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Click the link below to hear some more of 

Nicole’s amazing story in podcast format:


A Story of Recovery and Hope - Nicole Tierney

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Goodbye Group

Goodbye Group - Often in group programs people eventually have to leave the group due to completing the program or some other reason. This worksheet provides structured activities for the group to honor the person who is leaving on their last day in group.


Part 1 – Opening Interview: These questions are an interview for the person who is leaving, to get this group started. There will be time at the end to do a farewell speech and say goodbyes so hold off on that for now as this is just an opening interview to get started. Interview the person leaving with these questions:


1.    About how long have you been in this group?


2.    What are some things that you have accomplished in your life during the time you were in this group?


3.    What do you hope to do next with your life? Where do you see yourself one day?



Part 2 - Sharing the Memories: This is the group’s opportunity to review some of the memories shared and experienced during the time that the person leaving was in this group. Not everyone has to share but all are encouraged to try to do the best they can for as many memories as possible. The more people share, the more enjoyable and rewarding this activity can be. Remember that there is something to be learned from every person and every experience


1.    Unique or FunnyDoes anyone in the group have any memories that fit this category from the time when this person was in group? If you can’t think about something funny that’s OK, then instead think about and try to share about something unique about this person who is leaving


v  Does the person leaving have any funny or unique memories from group? (Think of something that you likely won’t forget from your time here)


2.    Wisdom and ExperienceDoes the group have any memories to share of things that they learned during the time this person was in group, either directly or indirectly from this person?


v  For the person leaving: What have you learned from being in this group while you were here?



Part 3 - Expressing Goodbyes: This is the group’s chance to share some goodbye thoughts, hopes and wishes followed by the person leaving having the chance to say goodbye. *Group goes first, then close out with the person leaving getting their chance to say goodbye


1.    Words of Wisdom or Encouragement – What parting words of wisdom or advice do group members have for the person leaving?


2.    Words of Gratitude – Is there anything you appreciate about the person who is leaving?


3.    Words of Hope – What do you hope for the person leaving? (Goodbye well wishes)


*First the group should give these goodbyes to the person leaving while person leaving listens. Then when the group has all had time to go through all three (Wisdom, Gratitude, Hope), the person leaving can say their goodbyes, sharing either a specific goodbye to each other group member or one overview goodbye speech to the entire group as a whole


If there is a certificate, coin or other award of some kind, the group leader should give it to the person at this time to close out the group (if applicable)

Sunday, February 7, 2021

What Do I Do? (Getting Started up the Mountatin)


NEW: Motivational Reading - What Do I Do? – (Getting Started up the Mountain)

When it comes to taking on a life change such as dealing with a substance use problem or trying to overcome any bad habit, getting started can feel like we are standing at the bottom of an enormous mountain without any gear or tools, thinking “How in the world am I going to climb this huge mountain???”


Well, the answer to the “How do I get started?” question with addiction or other habits (like weight loss for example) is the same answer as one would expect from the “How do I climb this mountain?” question. The answer is that we do not have to climb the mountain in one day. We don’t even have to climb it in one week…not in one month either: We just have to take a few small steps “up the mountain” today and that’s all. That’s all getting started really is.


This is all about just reframing our perspective and readjusting our focus a little bit. The huge mountain-like task ahead of us is always going to seem overwhelming when we look up the entire mountainside all the way up to the peak. Instead, if we keep our eyes focused on just the few rocks that we need to climb that are right in front of us and then move forward and upward, that is all it takes to get started. Yes, it is that simple!


To put it in real life perspective… (Some examples)


Ø  If you feel like you need to go to the gym and get in shape, but an hour-long workout is overwhelming: Go to the gym for 15 minutes – If that’s too much, do a few pushups at home – If that’s to much, try to do one pushup! – Do what you can!


Ø  Quitting smoking too much to imagine? Smoke a third less cigarettes today – If that’s too much, smoke one less – Do what you can! Just do something!


Hopefully, the point is made, getting started is all about making any steps forward, no matter how small. That is all that you to do to get yourself going forward in the right direction. If you want to do more, then do more but for now, the only requirement is that you do something!


(Oh yeah, one more thing – Wake up again tomorrow and do it again, even if it just a little -keep it going.  Then you’ve got it started and you are really moving forward toward your goals and before you know it you will be halfway up the mountain! – Try it, it works!)


 What is your plan to get started moving forward and upward?

Taking the Escalator = Keep Moving Forward and Upward






Monday, February 1, 2021

Red Flags for Decision Making – Warning Signs for Productive Living


When dealing with substance use and mental health issues it is important to make positive lifestyle changes. However, it is just as important to make sure to avoid repeating past mistakes, especially ones that can derail your progress. One way that we can prevent repeating our mistakes is to see the warning signs or “red flags” ahead of time and then change our course in time to prevent making a bad decision. This exercise is about recognizing some red flags in life and then coming up with a personal plan to prevent negative decisions so we can stay on the positive course toward forward progress.


Opening Exercise - Directions – Review this list below and consider the following points for each one and discuss your answers:


Have you heard this before? If so, what were the circumstances?


What red flags come to mind? What potential concerns may be present when you hear this kind of statement?


12 “Don’t worry” Phrases that Should Potentially Trigger Worry -

(…Or at least trigger some legitimate concern because of potential red flags)


Have you ever heard someone say…?


“Don’t worry, there’s no way we’ll get caught”


“Don’t worry, this is 100% a sure thing”


“Don’t worry you have absolutely nothing to lose”


“Don’t worry that was the past, I’ve changed”


“Don’t worry, there is no chance (I/you) will get pregnant”


“Don’t worry I know I did it to all of them, but I won’t do it to you”


“Don’t worry, if something goes wrong and we get caught, I will just say it’s all my fault”


“Don’t worry, even though I may look a little off, I am in complete control”


“Don’t worry, all of those warnings are just there to scare people”


“Don’t worry I know you caught me, but this was the actually first and only time I ever did this”


“Don’t worry, I know you found out, but I promise was going to tell you”


“Don’t worry, you can’t get hooked if you are just smart about it”


Other?  – Have you heard any other dubious “don’t worry” statements in your life? – If yes please share them with the rest of the group




Discuss: “Sensible people will see trouble coming and avoid it, but an unthinking person will walk right into it and regret it later.” (Proverbs 22:3)


Discuss the following RED FLAGS and what the greater meaning could be… (Answers provided)



A plan or scheme sounds “too good to be true” … (It probably is)


Someone lies about little things, sometimes even for no reason… (They will very likely lie about big things)


Person treats everyone else poorly… (You’re probably next in due time)


Someone goes out of their way repeatedly to convince you how honest they are… (They are probably not)


Disconnect – Lots of positive words but not a lot of action to back it up… (Their words have little value)


Ideas designed to appeal to your emotions but little substance behind them… (Probably not reliable)


Someone trying to make a deal with you looks like they could pack up and leave quickly… (They just might)


Person has an answer for every single thing… (No one really has an answer for everything)

Person uncaring with animals, children and/or family… (Good chance they may treat you poorly eventually)


Again, what are some of other red flags that you try to always stay aware of in life?