Saturday, December 31, 2022

The Grind Part 16 - Deep, Difficult Feelings: Dissect and Deal


Deep, Difficult Feelings: Dissect and Deal

Warning: This exercise tackles some difficult topics that some people just may not be ready for. This exercise should be done in a supportive and safe environment. There is a degree of insight and experience needed to honestly ask and answer some of these difficult questions.

COUNSELORS: Please watch introduction video before using this exercise 


Intro: Something is wrong, and you can’t describe it. This feeling is lingering, and it won’t go away by itself. Why do you suppose it can be helpful to identify and name your feelings especially in times like these when you aren’t fully sure what is going on? Thinking of this logically, whenever there is a problem, it helps to better clarify what that problem is. Examining our feelings can help us open a doorway of insight and self-awareness into our own minds. This can put is in a better position to cope. Like the way a mechanic diagnoses what is wrong with a vehicle that isn’t driving right, it can be helpful for each of us to dissect our own mental state by first understanding and then even naming our difficult feelings when something does not seem right. This can then help us to choose a correct course of action to cope and make healthy decisions.

The hard part of this process is asking ourselves honest questions about our innermost feelings and then providing honest answers. This can be very difficult and for most people it takes practice. The process of acknowledging the ugly truth can at times feel…. ugly. Still, when we are honest with ourselves and face the truth, then the coping and healing can take place at a deeper level.

There are too many difficult feelings to cover each one, however this list categorizes some of the most common challenging feelings followed by some insight questions to ask ourselves.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Don’t Just Set Goals: Keep Them Going


This information corresponds to the video of the same name:


Introduction: Setting goals can be easy and at times it is even fun. Dreaming about some of the things that we can achieve can be quite inspirational and imaginative. However, the actual work needed to attain our goals is often much more challenging and time consuming. For example, many people set the goal to get in good physical shape. They may even join a gym or buy exercise equipment and make a good diet plan. However, eating right and going to the gym over the next several months is a lot harder in practice. Often the “follow through” is a lot harder than just setting the initial goal. Therefore, the purpose of this exercise is to examine some things to keep in mind and try that will increase the chances of actually staying with our goals so that we can achieve them.


First: What are your goals?

What are three moderate to long term (several months to yearlong) goals you desire to achieve in the upcoming year or so? It is good to write SMART goals:







My Goals:










10 Key Points for Moving Forward with Goals:


If You Can’t Do a Lot – Do a Little – This is rule #1 when it comes to positive change goals in life. Change can be challenging and overwhelming, so it is okay to start small. If you can’t quit smoking, start cutting back. If exercising for an hour seems impossible, do it for 10 minutes. If you can do a lot, then do a lot, but if you can’t, do a lot then do what you can. Every effort matters. The key is to steadily increase over time. For example, if you exercised for 10 minutes, after a few days try 15. Keep moving forward and upward and don’t give up.




Avoid the “Might as Well” Phenomenon – When we are working on our goals, we are bound to have some setbacks and make mistakes. However, just because we make a small mistake that does not mean we should give up and let it become a big one (if we can help it.) If you can “stop the bleeding” so to speak, by all means do that rather than saying “might as well” quit now that I made a mistake” - These examples below illustrate the “might as well” phenomenon:


Ø “I was doing good on that diet until I had piece of that cake so I might as well have another one too, maybe three”


Ø “I had not had a drink in two months until last night I messed up and had a few too many. Might as well just start drinking again” 


(Again, when it comes to substance use disorders and addiction, sometimes stopping once started can be extremely difficult but at least try not to give permission to yourself to fully let go. Like the saying goes, “if you fall off the horse, get back on”. Any effort to minimize the damage makes a difference. Every effort to get back on track matters)





Go Public – If you are setting a goal to change a habit, the more people who know about it can help with some positive external motivation. For example, if you are trying to lose weight, consider telling some of your coworkers and family. Having eyes on you can be positive peer pressure. (Of course, be reasonable about this one, you may not want to tell your coworkers about quitting drug use or something that can jeopardize your employment however if you are fortunate to have that kind of open support use it to your advantage)





Write Your Goals Down and Keep Them Around – Writing things down can make it more real. It is good to keep your goals visible and in front of you as a form of motivation. It can be easy to forget without reminders. Visual reminders are powerful.






Consider Online Communities, Apps, YouTube Channels, etc. – Listening to and watching videos of others working on similar goals can be quite inspiring. There are many online applications that can help you track progress. Be cautious about your source but when you can get free expert advice it can be very helpful.





Keep a “Spiritual” or Meaningful Focus – Whatever you believe, try to connect your goals to a sense of deeper meaning in your life. For example, stopping using drugs can be an admirable and meaningful goal, but quitting drugs to be a better person so you can one day help others can make it even more meaningful. Consider how your goals fit into the “big picture” in your life’s long-term journey. This can help inspire and motivate.





Learn About It – Did you ever meet someone who changed their diet who wanted to preach to you about healthy foods? That is because that person did their research. The more you learn about your goals for a better life the more inspired you may get. There is so much to read these days about every topic, why not take advantage of that? (Again, check your sources first)





Keep Support and Encouragement Around You – We hear this over and over because it is so important. Having people in our lives to support us when we need a listening ear and encourage us when we feel like we are losing momentum is extremely valuable and helpful. Find people out there, if you look hard enough there are people who care enough to help.





Develop an Enjoyment Your Goal – People who sustain their goals develop the ability to enjoy the process even if it is difficult. For example, people who successfully lose weight learn to enjoy exercise and eating healthy. People who succeed in recovery learn to enjoy their new lives as a person in recovery. This can be a challenge, but it is so worth it. You can only “white knuckle” progress for so long. It needs to become a lifestyle you can feel good about






Visualize the Reward – It is good to make your goals real by imagining what it will be like to be where you want to be. For example, if substance use is what you are working on visualize a life where you have more money, less stress, no more legal problems, positive relationships, etc because of no longer misusing substances. Make it real in your minds eye and in your heart and you start to believe that you will get there





DISCUSS: How will I specifically use these points to achieve my goals in the next several months to a year?


Monday, December 19, 2022

Wish List


Wish List – This is just a simple group activity to generate discussion about what good things people wish for themselves, for their loved ones, and for others, and how to take action to attain these hopes. First watch this VIDEO INTRODUCTION:


Directions: As a group complete and discuss the following “I wish” sentences:


I wish to get better and better at…

I wish to increase this positive quality in myself…

I wish I knew and truly understood…

I wish more people understood this about me….

I wish I could learn…

I wish for myself (Something realistic that you didn’t already say) …

I wish for myself (fantasy – anything goes) …

I wish for my child or children….

I wish for my significant other/spouse/partner, sibling(s) or parents…

I wish for my other family member (pick one you haven’t mentioned yet)

I wish more people would/could…

I wish the world as a whole would/could…

I wish for everyone in this group…

I wish that (group member) could (positive and encouraging thought) …

Three random wishes I have not already mentioned are:

I wish….

I wish….

I wish….

Closing Discussion Questions:

What is something you either heard or said today that stands out to you the most?


When you consider why you are here, how can your goals related to this group or program help you see some of these wishes start to come true?


What action can you take personally to make some of these wishes and hopes come true, even if it’s a start?


Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Before and After

Before and After: 

Planning for and Coping with Special Events



This is a multi-part exercise to first plan for then effectively cope during a future event or special day where it may be challenging to manage substance use, mental health, or other issues. This exercise can be useful for holidays, anniversaries, and other special occasions where unordinary or unexpected challenges may surface. Preparation is key is such situations, so thinking about things beforehand makes is much more effective than going into situations blindly and hoping things work out for the best on their own. The probability of preventing setbacks in our progress is much greater when we take the time to identify risks and challenges and then develop the right set of coping skills and supports that we may need to thrive and survive whatever may come our way. Being prepared can be a lifesaver.


Complete and Discuss the Following:

What is the event? (Is it a holiday, an anniversary, a day where something important may happen (for example the day to go to court or the day you have to speak in public) – This can be anything where there may be internal setback factors (like difficult emotions) and external setback factors (like seeing a person you have not seen in a while who is difficult to face)








What’s your basic PLAN for this special event? – What are you going to do that day of the event (For example, visit family, stay home alone and binge watch shows, etc.) – Share some detail:









Part 1 - What are some potential CHALLENGES? What may make it hard for you to manage substance use and/or mental health issues effectively? Answer and discuss each type of challenge below (Some may be not applicable but be open minded to every possibility):


PEOPLE – Who might you run into that may stumble your progress if you are not careful? (For example: “If I see ________ things could get ugly”)





PLACES – Where might you find yourself on this day that could be difficult for you? (Example: If we end up at my aunt’s house, there’s always a ton of people overdrinking by the end of the night)





THINGS – What else might you come across that could trigger you or present a challenge? (For example, specific conversations, political arguments, reminders from childhood that bring bad memories)





THOUGHTS – What negative or hurtful thoughts may come up at this event/situation? Think of things that may run through your mind:  Examples “No one cares about me” “I need to get high to get through this” “These people are getting on my nerves I am about to lose control”





FEELINGS- What feelings may come up that may be difficult? (Sadness, loneliness, frustration, jealousy, embarrassment, shyness, anger, resentment, shame, other?)




TRAUMA/HURT/PAIN – Are there any sensitive situations from the past that may come up? How might that impact you?




BEHAVIORS – What negative behaviors might you be tempted to engage in? (Substance related, fighting, arguing, lying, insulting, running away, self harm)

Part 2 - Coping, surviving and thriving – It is always best to match your coping skills and supports specific to your personal situation. In other words, what works in one situation for one person may be different from person to person. Some coping skills are better for emotions, and some are better for behaviors.

For example, if in the FEELINGS section above a person identified “Loneliness” as a challenge: A specific coping skill may be having a friend available to text during lonely moments at the event.

One way to write it out is in a “if- then” format:

For example, “If I remember some of the TRAUMA/HURT/PAIN from my past, I will step outside, take some slow deep breaths to calm myself and if that doesn’t work, I will call my best friend to help me calm down”


GO BACK and PREPARE: With this in mind, go back through the list above and identify at least one coping skill or strategy you will use for each CHALLENGE you identified for Part 1. Discuss as a group




Part 3 – After: (OPTIONAL) – For more advanced groups, have everyone write down their answers and when the event is over when the group re-convenes in the future, go back AFTER and review how the event went.


Some discussion questions for discussion days AFTER the event is over:


How did it go overall?



What (if any) challenges actually came up during the event?




What worked for you and what helped you?




Was it helpful to be prepared ahead of time? If so, what did you learn for next time?




Saturday, December 3, 2022

Good Times, Bad Times


Good Times, Bad Times...(You Know I've Had my Share)

Bad things happen. It’s an unfortunate reality in this world and we have all had our share of bad experiences. At times bad things happen for no good reason at all. Wrong place, wrong time. You can be doing the right thing and the wrong things can happen.

With that depressing thought out of the way, one positive takeaway from negative experiences is that in all life situations, good or bad, there are life lessons that can be learned and used again for the future. We can make progress in our lives in spite of negative circumstances and situations by insightfully drawing out these life lessons and using these lessons in our own process of healing and recovery.  As we heal, we can grow even stronger similar to the way a broken bone fuses back together even stronger than it was before it was broken.

Also, let’s not forget that in life unexpected good things happen sometimes too, and lessons can be learned from these experiences as well. This group should not be just about the bad things. Instead mix and match by sharing about anything where a life lesson was learned in both good times and in bad.


Directions: Take turns picking a life area topic from the list, then share a personal story about a situation related to that life area. When done with your story, try to identify one Life Lesson learned from the experience; especially something that has been useful in your life since the event. Feel free to discuss and process stories further as a group especially if anyone else in the group has had a similar experience and come to a similar conclusion. It may be a good idea for someone in the group (or the counselor) to record a list of the life lessons shared for further group discussion at the end of the exercise (optional)


Example: Topic selected from the list: Good Time: Recovery Milestone

Story (Example) – “Just last month I reached 90 days sober which I have done many times before, but this time is different because I learned the Life Lesson to finally change people, places, and things. I am doing so much better since I started listening to some of the suggestions my counselors and peers have made instead of being stubborn

Good Times



Proud Family Moment

Got the job (or promotion)

Rags to Riches (Financial gain)

Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

Recovery Milestone

Figured it Out (Solved a life problem)

Successful completion (Finished a challenge)

Right Place, Right Time

The Right Decision Paid Off

I Made the Moment Count

I Followed the Right Advice

Hard Work Paid Off

I Walked the Walk

I Saw the Trouble and Avoided It

The Right Attitude Paid Off

I Did Not Give Up


Come up with your own “Good Time” and Lesson...

Bad Times (Challenges)

Unexpected News

Loss (Person)

Loss (Material, Financial)

Loss (Opportunity)

Family Problem

Break Up (Relationship)



Legal Trouble

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Bad Decision, Bad Outcome

Close Call but I Missed Out

I Should Have Listened…

I Didn’t Apply Myself When I Should Have

I Talked but Didn’t Take Action

I Got Sucked into a Bad Situation (I should’ve seen)

Burned by my own Bad Attitude

I Wish I Didn’t Give Up


Come up with your own “Bad Time” and Lesson….

Process QuestionsWhen the group is done with the exercise, discuss the following:



Why is it important to try to learn something from every situation?




How have you specifically changed your current behaviors based on some of these lessons that you have learned in the past?




How have you learned to prepare for the future based on your past experiences?




Have you learned to improve your attitude and outlook based on (or in spite of) your past experiences? If so, how?




What specifically are you doing to cope and heal from some of the negative experiences you have had?




How can you increase your chances for more good things to happen for you in your future?




What life lessons that were discussed today stood out to you as something you want to work on more?




Finally, put a plan into words: What is at least one or two things you are going to do differently to enhance your life and your recovery going forward today?






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