Sunday, November 27, 2022

The Grind Part 15 – Don’t Go Down that Road


Don’t Go Down that Road – VIDEO INTRO:

A huge, often self-induced obstacle that can slow us down when life is grinding along, is entering a self-destructive pattern or phase. This phenomenon of “going down bad a road” toward a self-destructive pattern is often unique to each person and can vary greatly. When we have insight into our own destructive habits and patterns and what fuels them, then we may have some idea of when we are starting to go down a bad road mentally, emotionally, or behaviorally (or any combination thereof) – To illustrate, consider an example.

Situation: Disappointment: We didn’t get the outcome that what we hoped for

Self-Destructive “Bad” Road to Travel:

Negative thinking “I didn’t get what I want because I am no good…”
Negative Feeling(s) – Discouragement, shame, self-doubt, insecurity

Unproductive or Self-Destructive Behaviors: Oversleeping, isolating, Misusing substances, etc.


Again, it helps immensely to know our own patterns (insight). Knowing what happens when go down a bad road is also helpful, as the eventual outcome may be depression, regret, consequences, etc. Once we truly know and understand our patterns and triggers, then we can begin to ask ourselves is: What can I do to prevent myself from going down a negative road?

The following questions below are for self-examination and planning on this topic. Discuss:

What is my “bad road” like in the following areas?


·       Mentally – What kind of negative thoughts may enter my mind?


·       Emotionally – What feelings might be difficult for me when I may be taking a turn for the worse (Shame, discouragement, depression, self-doubt, anger, resentment, etc.)


·       Behavioral – What habits, actions and decisions do I to need to look out for during these difficult times? (Addictions, avoidance of responsibility, acting out angrily, shutting down, etc.)


What are the warning signs that things may be going in a bad direction for me?


·       How can I see trouble coming before it’s too late?


·       Who can help me to see that I am going down a bad road?


What’s at the end of the bad road? – Where does it usually lead?


·       How do I end up feeling when I go down that road?


·       What are some consequences and outcomes of going down that road?



What can I do to divert myself from traveling down that bad road?


·       Thoughts – How can I change my thinking? What specifically can I tell myself that may help?



·       Coping skills – What skills do I know that get me back on the right track when I need it most?



·       Supports – Who can I turn to that will take the time to help me get back on a good course?



·       Alternatives – What else can I put my time and energy into to divert myself away from negativity?



·       Other – What else helps? (What helped in the past? – What might you be willing to try?)



Start! – If you are currently at risk of going down a bad road, what are you going to start doing ASAP:










Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Resilient Brain

 The Resilient Brain – Not to Fear our Brain Can Heal

o   Video Intro:

Intro- The human brain is truly amazing and there is still so much to learn about it. When it comes to substance use disorders, we know that the brain is impacted. However, research continues to show that the brain is very resilient and with the right recovery plan, the brain can get better. A recovery plan is unique to each person and includes a variety of aspects ranging from things like medication, support, physical exercise, different types of therapy, lifestyle changes, coping skills and much more. People impacted by substance use and mental health disorders should establish and maintain a multi-faceted recovery plan that works for their individualized needs. This can promote lifelong learning, growth, and healing. Recovery and positive change is a process that really works when we find the right plan and work along with it, making adjustments as needed along the way.

The Brain Can Recover

Part 1: CRAVINGS – One of the most difficult things people with substance use disorders often experience is cravings or urges, which can be quite challenging to cope with. People trying to recover from a substance use disorder may ask: Will I always experience these intense cravings?

There is growing scientific evidence that the brain does recover from addiction. Although for some it may never return fully to its “pre-addiction” state, the brain is still very resilient and with time and the right recovery plan, cravings can be reduced dramatically to a manageable level. They can be reduced in both intensity and frequency. For example, one study specific to methamphetamine use showed that with prolonged abstinence from this substance, natural dopamine levels in the brain returned to normal levels. 

Planning a Recovery Plan for Cravings – Discuss the following:

Who in the group is learning (or has learned) to effectively cope with cravings and urges?

Link to Cravings information and worksheets for future groups:

(Both of these worksheets are available free on the Taking the Escalator website, under the heading “Cravings”) 

Part 2: PSYCHOLOGICAL WITHDRAWAL is often associated with the concept of Post-Acute Withdrawal (PAW). Most people know about physical withdrawal symptoms which are those unpleasant things that can happen to the body after stopping prolonged daily substance use such as nausea, cramps, sweats, chills, etc. (often dependent upon the type of substance). Physical withdrawal can last days or even weeks but eventually subsides with time. Psychological withdrawal symptoms, however, can last many months after substance use is stopped. Psychological withdrawal happens because the brain is conditioned to the effects of substances and when those substances are removed, the brain can have lasting problems and difficulties adjusting. Some examples of psychological withdrawal can include:

o Anxiety
o Mood swings
o Depression
o Irritability, stress, and agitation
o Emotional dysregulation (Ranging from numbness to uncontrolled outbursts)
o Low confidence/self-doubt
o Poor focus/ difficulty concentrating
o Difficulty finding pleasure in activities that are supposed to be pleasurable
o Sleep problems
o Lack of motivation

Discuss: Has anyone in the past (or currently) experienced psychological withdrawal symptoms since starting to work on substance use issues?

There is scientific proof that the brain can heal from psychological withdrawal. 

“Neuroplasticity” is defined as the ability of the nervous system to change its activity in response to intrinsic or extrinsic stimuli by reorganizing its structure, functions, or connections…”

(Source: “Neuroplasticity” - )

The brain can heal in both structure and function with time and healthy habits. Some things that are proven to promote healing of the brain to overcome psychological withdrawal include the following list below:


As a group review this list of proven ways to help the brain heal from psychological withdrawal. Check the items on the list you are working on or planning to work on: 

o   Limiting stress and learning stress management skills

o   Learning and practicing healthy coping skills

o   Participating in healthy peer groups

o   Healthy diet and regular hydration

o   Good sleep habits

o   Therapy

o   Limit stress

o   Learn new recovery skills

o   Join healthy peer groups

o   Get about eight to nine hours of sleep

o   Eat healthy foods

o   Stay hydrated

o   Exercise

o   Emotional and behavioral therapy

(Source: WebMD)


For a follow up exercise in future groups, see “Self-Care Review” on the Taking the Escalator website to review an extensive list of ways to assure health and healing in recovery –


Or go to the Taking the Escalator “Group Activities by Topic:  page and look under the heading “Self-Care” 

Part 3 - TRAUMA is an ongoing emotional/psychological response to an event or series of events that are disturbing or distressing. The events that can cause trauma can vary greatly and can be different between one person and another, based on individual perceptions and experiences. Trauma can do a lot to adversely impact the brain including:  

o   chronic stress, anxiety and/or fear

o   feelings of guilt and shame

o   desire for social isolation

o   feelings of hopelessness

o   anger and irritability

o   unpredictable emotions

o   difficulty managing and sustaining relationships

o   loss of sense of “self”

o   self-destructive behavior

o   poor memory

o   sleep problems including nightmares

o   flashbacks

o   dissociation (feeling disconnected from yourself

or with the rest of the world) 

(There are also a variety of physical symptoms that can be associated with emotional trauma including headaches, aches, pains, etc.)


The brain can heal from trauma with time and effort. Some things that people who have experienced trauma can do regularly to help heal include the following:


o   Practicing insight and self-awareness (aka mindfulness) by learning to stop, slow down and pay attention to your thoughts and feelings as well as physical sensations which can then help shifting to a focus of calm and effective coping.


o   Creativity (art, music, writing, etc.) can be a way to channel emotions in a positive manner.


o   Self-care and serenity: Finding peaceful places and situations like walks in nature, taking a relaxing bath, or just resting on the beach, for example can help one cope with trauma


o   Avoid substance misuse (or addiction) – There can be a direct correlation between addiction and trauma. People may misuse substances to cope with or avoid trauma (ineffectively) so learning to live without substance use/misuse can promote effective recovery and healing


o   Connection helps heal trauma. This can include connection with others we know for support as well as connecting with others we don’t know as well (or at all) by helping others and engaging in volunteer work. For people of faith seeking a deeper spiritual connection can be helpful for healing.


o   Therapy – There a variety of therapies for the treatment of trauma. Talk to a licensed therapist, psychiatric nurse practitioner, psychiatrist, or other trained professional to learn more and find something that works for you.


Discuss as a group what people in the group are doing from this list to help with healing and recovery


For more activities on Trauma see the Taking the Escalator Trauma Resources page:


Saturday, November 12, 2022

Incoming Text Icebreaker

Introduction: This is an activity to get the group sharing and talking openly. Some of these questions can also bring out various feelings about personal life situations. The counselor/group leader should selectively use the two lists in any order. The first list is the "Sender" list and the second list is the “Incoming Text” list. The group members should take turns with the counselor selecting an incoming text and a sender from the two lists. The counselor should mix and match using the two lists to try to come up with a scenario that suits the person whose turn it is. (For example, try not to choose the sender to be a child if the person sharing does not have children or choose “boss” for someone who is not working)

The counselor should read aloud the selected incoming text and sender, for example: “You receive a text from your younger sister (Sender) saying “I need you ASAP- right now!” (Incoming Text)

The person who is taking their turn should describe to the group the following in response to the text (as if it were actually happening)

  • Thoughts – What thoughts are going through your mind? (What do you suspect is going on?)

  • Feelings – What feelings are you experiencing

  • Behavior – What do you think you will do in this situation? (Just to keep things simple, assume that the sender stops answering any follow up texts or calls after this initial text)

LIST 1 – Sender – (Keep in mind, you can also make up your own senders to make it more interesting)


Relationship Partner

Best Friend

Friend’s relationship partner

Oldest Daughter

Oldest Son

Youngest Daughter

Youngest Son


Your most recent ex


Coworker you like

Coworker you don’t like



Older sibling

Younger sibling






Your Boss’s Boss


Your first kiss

Someone from this group

Childhood friend you liked

Childhood friend you didn’t like

OTHER? Make up your own…

Sunday, November 6, 2022

CBT and Me, Part 3: Changing Behaviors


CBT and Me Part 3 – Changing Behaviors 

Part 1 of this 3-part series was on Thinking, Part 2 was Feelings, and now part 3 is about Behaviors. Many people have behaviors they are trying to manage. This worksheet reviews some skills specific to changing *negative behaviors (*For the purpose of this exercise, to avoid being judgmental a “negative behavior” is any behavior that a person recognizes as unhealthy or otherwise not good for their self. People are encouraged to focus on their own behaviors for this exercise and not judge one another’s choices)

You are not alone if it has been challenging for you to change some behaviors and habits.


Opening DiscussionEasy, Moderate, Difficult.

Discuss the following three questions about changing behaviors. Not everyone may have an answer for each one which is okay:

1.    What is one behavior that you successfully changed in your life that went relatively easily for you?



2.    What is a behavior you changed that was moderately difficult (You succeeded but it took time and effort)



3.    What is a behavior that has been difficult for you to change, and why? (Addictions, habits, etc.)


·       Keep difficult/challenging behaviors in mind for the remainder of this exercise


Behavior Change Using CBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tells us that our behaviors are very often a product of our thoughts and feelings. Based on this concept then to change our behaviors we need to adjust our thoughts and manage our feelings. There are several ways that this can be done. This worksheet reviews some skills for adjusting thoughts and managing feelings that can perpetuate negative behaviors that we want to change/

Think before acting РThis may sound like a clich̩, but it is very true and very effective. When we pause before taking action there is a lot we can do to change what behaviors we decide to act on.


Thoughts that can perpetuate negative behaviors – As a group review the list on the following page and share examples from your own life if you have ever thought or said any of these things to yourself about a negative behavior or habit that you know you need to change.

Keep in mind, that everyone has their struggles with changing some kind of behavior. Change can be quite challenging, and we all change at our pace so there is no shame if this process takes a long time and a lot of repeated efforts to get things going. The point is not to give up trying. Change can be a lifelong process, but the struggle is worth the rewards.


Review and discuss the statements on the following page:

  • The pattern of each statement to follow is:
  • Negative or distorted thought we may tell ourselves – followed by more accurate and truthful explanation

“One more time won’t hurt” – It might, one more time often keeps the problem going and going

“I’ll start tomorrow” – Have you said this to yourself in the past? What often happens when tomorrow comes?

“I don’t care” – You may not care now but later if you don’t like the outcome might you care then?

“This makes me feel good” – Good temporarily maybe, but long term, negative behaviors may not feel so good

“I don’t have what it takes – Yes you do, everyone has capacity to learn and improve even if its gradual

“I am justified this time” – Rationalizing a negative behavior is just an excuse to keep going down a bad road

“I just can’t stop” – It may be difficult, maybe the hardest thing you’ve done yet, but progress is still possible

“They made me do it” – No they didn’t “make you”, maybe they triggered you but coping skills can still help

“Its just who I am” – Maybe it is today who you think you are, but we all have potential for growth

“I messed up again so I should give up” – We all mess up, but we can all keep trying as long as we are alive

“If my life was different, I could do this” – That may be so, but change is still possible despite circumstances

“I’ll never….” – Never say never – People can do some amazing things they thought they never could

“I’ll always…” – Yes, there are some things we cannot change in life, but we can choose how we act and react

Feelings-based distortions

Discuss how we can erroneously use emotions as an excuse for negative behaviors:

“I did (negative behavior) because I was ______ (Angry, offended, hurt, sad, depressed, embarrassed, etc.)

Keep in mind feelings can be powerful triggers that can be challenging to deal with, however still we can develop skills for coping with feelings without making negative or harmful choices regarding our behaviors


Take home thoughts for positive change:

What is at least one (or more) thought that you will try to work on changing to better manage behavior?


What is one (or more) encouraging and helpful statement you can start to practice telling yourself to inspire positive growth and steady progress?