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

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