Thursday, December 30, 2021

The Grind Part 5 - Recognize, Revive, and Survive


Recognize, Revive, and Survive

“Old habits die hard” as the saying goes. Sometimes when we are working through the grind, old stuff from the past can come up and creep back in to our minds. Self-esteem and self-confidence problems, guilt and shame, resentments and a host of other negative emotions and mood states can seemingly pop up out of nowhere, sometimes when we least expect it. Therefore, it essential that we have a plan in place to survive these moments, intervals, and episodes when they rear their ugly presence and disrupt our mental peace and stability. Often the simple passing of time using our coping tools can be enough to sustain us, but on occasion we need to employ our emotional survival plan to push on through and keep on grinding forward with positive motivation and momentum toward ongoing inspiration and progress.


Who can I turn to help me get back on a good track when I am starting to feel like negative thoughts, moods and feelings may be starting to get the best of me or disturb my peace of mind?


What self-soothing and self-coping strategies work for me when mentally or emotionally things look like they may start to take a turn for the worse?


What is my safety and survival plan if things get out of control (For example, when thoughts and feelings become potentially unsafe or unmanageable. Specifically: What is the action plan?)

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Common Goals


Common Goals


Introduction – This interactive exercise is focused on identifying and discussing goals as a group and then sharing goals that we have in common with others. Then, after the opening exercise, each group member will have the opportunity to email their future self with some encouraging goal statements based on this exercise


Common Goals Opening Exercise


Directions – Set up a group order and allow one person in group to go at a time. When it is your turn, share a goal statement with the rest of the group. Some life goal areas are provided below to help group members come up with ideas. Once the goal statement has been shared with the group, others in the group should make comments based on the following choices:


A.  Common Goal – This is a goal you also share and want for yourself

B.  Maybe one day – This goal is not one you share now, but it sounds like something you may consider

C.  Interesting but not for me – This goal sounds interesting, but it isn’t something you have on your radar


Keep in mind it is important to be encouraging and motivating to one another. So negative statements about other people’s goals such as “that’s stupid” or “that’s impossible” or “that’s crazy” or any other negative remark is to be avoided in this group.


Life Goal Areas – Any personal goal statement is appropriate for this exercise, but these are some life goal areas just to help with ideas


o   Family

o   Relationship/Social

o   Employment

o   Educational

o   Career

o   Financial

o   Legal

o   Physical

o   Health/Medical

o   Fitness/Exercise

o   Emotional/Mental Health

o   Personal (Hobby or other personal interest)

o   Recreational/Experiential

o   Spiritual


Remember, good goal statements are SMART:


Closing Exercise – Letter to My Future Self


Directions – Everyone in the group should choose 2 or 3 goals statements from the previous exercise that stand out as meaningful. Use a smartphone with email (or if this is done at a facility, then it would be helpful to have a computer or tablet available for group members who do not have smart phones.) – 

Go this website:



Group members should take a few minutes to draft an inspirational letter based on their goals and enter it onto the “letter to my future self” website – However before hitting SEND, group members should read their inspirational letter to the rest of the group. After sharing it with the group, then his send to have the letter emailed to your future self at a time interval agreed upon by the group (such as 1 year into the future)


Your inspirational letter to your future self will appear in your email inbox at the time you selected today

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Yankee Swap Icebreaker


Intro – This is a group cohesion building activity focused on giving imaginary but meaningful gifts in a group setting. This activity follows a “Yankee Swap model with the following directions. Many people know how to do a Yankee Swap already so if there is anyone in the group who knows the rules, it would be good to have that person help explain the rules. Here are the rules for a Yankee Swap explained:

Set an order for group members to take turns by selecting someone to go first with others following in order from there. The first person should pick one of the gifts from the list and read it to everyone. After the first person reads their gift, the next person has the option to either a) select a new gift from the list or b) take the already selected gift from the first player. If he or she decides to steal the gift from the first person, that person then gets to unwrap a new gift.

This continues with each consecutive player. For example, the third person then has the choice to either a) also select a new gift or b) steal from any of the already selected gifts. Keep in mind that the person whose gift is taken can only select a new gift—he or she cannot swap at that point. This goes on until each person has gotten a chance to pick a gift.

Gift List   - Remember, do not read the gifts out loud until they are selected. A person can select a gift by saying the gift number then after selecting the gift, read the description

Gift 1

Acceptance to and paid full scholarship to any college or other educational program in the world

Gift 2

Clean slate – Free lifetime full expungement of legal record, license restored, all fines paid

Gift 3

An all-expenses paid one-week family vacation anywhere in the world, yearly for life

Gift 4

Get to be lifelong friends with a celebrity (You pick who)

Gift 5

Lease a new car every 3 years for life, fully paid

Gift 6

Lifetime personal supply of one type of food

Gift 7

The person with this gift finds the love of their life

Gift 8

Get to select topic and star in a feature film with multimillion dollar budget

Gift 9

Get to be CEO of large corporation

Gift 10

Free clothes for life, provided you wear them yourself and don’t sell or give them away

Gift 11

Unlimited startup money for one year to start your own successful business

Gift 12

Your children all guaranteed to grow up with successful careers to the best of their ability

Gift 13

You get one mistake erased from your past

Gift 14

Free entry and front row seats for 2 to any professional sporting event for life (non-resalable)

Gift 15

Get a one-hour call to make suggestions to the president once per month for the rest of your life

Gift 16

Part time personal assistant 5 hours/day for life

Gift 17

Heal one person (besides self) of a chronic illness or condition

Gift 18

Remove one physical defect or injury



Thursday, December 9, 2021

Event Planning to Prevent Setbacks


Event Planning: Preparing for Upcoming Events to Prevent Setbacks

Background: This activity is designed for active preparation for an upcoming event that may be challenging to deal with as related to substance use and co-occurring mental health issues. Often events can bring with them various triggers and other obstacles that can make it challenging to maintain a course of progress. It makes sense to plan ahead when a challenging event is on the horizon so as to prevent setbacks.

There are many examples of the types of events that can qualify for use of this exercise – Review:

Holidays – Or celebrations


Anniversaries - (Either positive or negative such as anniversary of a loss)


“Firsts” – First date, first day at new job, first day at school, first time going somewhere sober, etc.


Social events – Meeting new people, meeting people from the past, large gatherings, being around people we don’t know, etc. Knowing we are going to have to be around certain types of people and places can also be a challenge, including:

People who are intimidating, rude, mean, ignorant or aggressive

People who we feel like we may have “unfinished business” from the past

People we have not seen in a while, and we do not know how they are going to react today

People whom we have a negative or traumatic past or history with

Places associated with substance use

Places associated with emotional stress, trauma, or bad memories

General life situations where we know there will be pressure to use


Performances - Public speaking for example or anything where we may be “in the spotlight”


Challenging or anxiety inducing appointments – Court date, important doctor appointment, etc.


Other - Any event that is known to be coming up soon that is has factors that could derail a pattern of progress can qualify for this activity. Some issues of concern may be events that trigger the following:

Past trauma

Difficult emotions


Insecurity/Self-esteem struggle

Anger or fear inducing

Activity – Choose an event using the list on the previous page that needs Event Planning to Prevent Setbacks - Then fill out your own answers on the last page and then discuss what you came up with


There are three columns to fill out in the grid:

Potential Setback Factor – Anything that can set you off, lead to difficult emotions or urges, or put you in the general wrong direction that you may encounter at this upcoming event. These can be seemingly positive situations as well such as celebratory feelings or excitement.


Impulsive & Emotional Reaction- What negative reactions might you need to watch out for? These are the reactions that happen when we don’t think or plan ahead. What might you do when you are not prepared?


Planned & Practical Reaction – Think now about what an effective way is to handle this setback factor if you should you come across it. What is a positive plan that you can follow to avoid trouble? Think of coping skills and supports that you know work for you


Event: “Going back to visit my family for the first time since I stopped using drugs recently”

Potential Setback Factor - Old friends may hear I am back in town and reach out to invite me to go places that I know I should stay away from

Impulsive & Emotional Reaction - Just give in and go and see the old crew and worry about the consequences later

Planned & Practical Reaction - Prepare some refusal statements ahead of time like “I can’t go out with you, I promised to spend time with my parents” Also don’t answer unknown phone calls and texts

As a group decide if everyone is going to do the same event (like a holiday if one is coming up) Or else everyone can come up with their own event based on their own lives. Fill out the chart on the following page while trying to come up with the best plan that you can. Discuss your Event Planning grids as a group.

Shorter version – The group can fill out one grid collectively as a group instead of everyone doing their own

Name/Type of Event (Use list from first section) _______________________

Potential Setback Factor 1 –


Impulsive & Emotional Reaction 1-


Planned & Practical Reaction  1 – 


Potential Setback Factor 2 –


Impulsive & Emotional Reaction 2-


Planned & Practical Reaction  2 –


Potential Setback Factor 3 –


Impulsive & Emotional Reaction 3 -


Planned & Practical Reaction  3 –


Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Defining Addiction


Defining Addiction

People have been trying to come up with a good definition of addiction for a long time. The above definition was adopted by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) in 2019 and many people feel that this definition seems to work for a variety of reasons. Review and discuss this definition of addiction below and share your personal thoughts and experiences

For each aspect of this ASAM definition of addiction listed below, answer the two following process questions as a group. Everyone is invited to participate and give their opinion however try to be open minded and flexible in this discussion to avoid arguing. Rather share and discuss these points to increase awareness and share views:

1.  Do you agree? (Why or why not?)

a.  For example, in the first item “Addiction is treatable” – Do you agree and believe that addiction is a treatable condition? Why do you feel as you do?

2.  How does this apply in your personal situation and experience?

a.  For instance, in the first item “Addiction is treatable” someone may say answer this question in this way, for example: “I think that addiction is treatable because I am living proof as treatment has helped me a great deal. I believe that I definitely have been really improving my life since I entered treatment…”


Discuss the following aspects of the “Definition of Addiction” below by answering the two discussion questions for each item – Items for discussion are underlined

 ·      Addiction is treatable: Treatable, adj. - “Able to be healed”

·       Addiction is chronic: Chronic, adj. – “Persistent or long lasting (Not acute)”

·       Addiction is a medical disease:  Disease, adj – A disorder or harmful condition in a living thing

·       Addiction is complex: Complex, adj. – Not simple; complicated

o   Addiction involves interaction between several factors:

§  Brain circuits – Addiction affects and impacts the “wiring of our brain” including decision making and overall mental health 

§  Genetics – There are hereditary factors in addiction as we can inherit addictive traits

§  The Environment – Our surroundings in life can impact the likelihood of addiction as well as recovery. The world around us can have an impact on the processes of addiction and recovery. Where we live and whom we live with and associate with play a role.

§  Individual Life Experiences – What we live through and go through in life, both good and bad can impact addiction and recovery. Trauma can be a potentially harmful factor while positive experiences, supports and opportunities can be protective factors which enhance recovery

·       People with addiction:

o  Use substances – What was your use like? 

o  Engage in compulsive behaviors – Compulsive, adj.- Driven by obsession – How did this apply to you? 

o  Continue despite harmful consequences – Consequences, n. – Outcomes of negative behaviors - what kinds of consequences did you experience and for how long did you keep using?


Closing questions:

What are you going to take away from this discussion? What stood out the most to you?


How can some of the things you discussed today help to motivate you to make positive changes in your life?


OPTIONAL EXERCISE – Defining Addition Crossword


Many of the addiction related terms used in this worksheet have been uploaded into a crossword puzzle which can be accessed online using the following link -