Saturday, January 28, 2023

The Grind Part 17 – Overcoming Obstacles and Breaking Down Barriers


The Grind Part 17 – Overcoming Obstacles and Breaking Down Barriers 


Sometimes in the grind of life we may feel like overwhelmed because too many things seem to between where we are today and where we want to be (our goals). Some people call those things barriers and some call them obstacles. Whatever we call it, it is important to be able to devise a workable plan to move forward in spite of what is in our way. That is what grinding it out is all about: Pushing forward past barriers and cleverly circumventing obstacles. Therefore, this exercise is all about identifying what is getting in our way so we can build hope and momentum to move forward in a positive way and to keep pushing through when life is a grind.


To get started: Think about the following and if doing this as a group discuss together:


Where am I now? (Describe in terms of your goals)




Where do I want to be? (Again, describe with your primary goals and realistic hopes in view)




Next, as a way to grind forward through life’s challenges: Identify some obstacles and barriers that are getting in the way between where you are now and where you want to be. Consider some life areas for obstacles and barriers: Check all that apply in your situation.


ð       Mental Health – Do you have a mental health situation (Depression, anxiety, etc.) that can add challenges to achieving your goals?

ð       Physical (Not Health) – Are there physical barriers, (lack of transportation for instance) getting in your way?

ð       Physical (Health related) – Are you dealing with a health situation that is a challenge?

ð       Informational (Knowledge) – Sometimes not knowing or understanding exactly how to do what we need to do is a barrier or obstacle.

ð       Social – Are there social difficulties making things challenging? (Lack of support, difficulty making friends, trust issues, social anxiety, etc.)

ð       Financial – Lack of funds can certainly make things more challenging (but can be overcome).

ð       Fears – Fear is an internal barrier to progress: Is fear or insecurity holding you back from your best?

ð       Motivational – Is it challenging to get started, keep going, remain driven, and stay inspired?

ð       Decision Making – Is it difficult for you to make a choice and commit to it?

ð       Pride – Our own ego can get in the way of changing. Often it is necessary to be humble first, to then move forward.

ð       Educational – We may have a lack of degrees needed for certain careers and other life prospects.

ð       Societal – Legal problems or history (like having a record) can present challenges as well as social biases and prejudices.

ð       Time and Responsibility- A busy life can make things harder to manage (Like needing to work or care for children)

ð       Other? ______________________________________________________________________________


We can overcome all of these with time and effort.



Exercise: Identifying Ideas and Strategies to Break Barriers and Overcome Obstacles


This can be done one on one with a counselor or other helper or as a group therapy activity.


Directions: Everyone in the group should write down on the back of some of these cards some of the specific barriers and obstacles you are facing in your path between where you are now and where you want to be. You can be honest. Try to be specific. Cut out the cards and put everyone’s cards in a pile. Go around selecting a card with a barrier/obstacle, read it aloud, and then as a group, brainstorm ideas for breaking down that barrier and overcoming those obstacles.



·        Lack of knowledge: “I just don’t understand how people have fun without drugs or alcohol”?

·        Mental Health: “My depression holds me back sometimes even when I am doing well’

·        Fear: “I think I sabotage myself sometimes because of fear of change and fear of success”

10 Quotes about Overcoming Obstacles:


“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” – Michael Jordan


“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.” – Molière


“Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.” – Roger Crawford


“Achieving success is a challenge but so is struggling so you may as well choose success.” – Rob Liano


“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy


“Our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.” – Martin Luther King Jr.


“Worry never accomplishes anything. When you have a problem, it is best to concentrate on the solution to that problem, not the problem itself.” – Thomas D. Willhite


“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” – Albert Einstein


“Well, if it can be thought, it can be done, a problem can be overcome,”E.A. Bucchianeri,


“Many times, we are our worst enemy. If we could learn to conquer ourselves, then we will have a much easier time overcoming the obstacles that are in front of us.” - Stephan Labossiere



Closing discussion:


Which quote stands out to you the most and why?




Sometimes people fall into the “YEAH-BUT” trap: People will hear a solution to a problem, say “YEAH (that sounds good), BUT not in my case, that won’t work because of <Excuse>”


·       Why is it important to avoid the “YEAH-BUT” trap?




What takeaways and ideas will you bring home from this session for overcoming obstacles and breaking down barriers in your path toward success?




Keep in mind: Some of the things discussed in this group can be topics for future groups.


Thursday, January 19, 2023

Life Skills Profile


Life Skills Profile



Intro: Sometimes in substance use treatment groups and programs the focus on substance use can be overemphasized. Of course, learning skills specific to substance use recovery is important. However, there is so much more involved in the long-term positive change process. There are things about just living life in general that may need to be addressed. Areas of need must first be identified with a host of positive “life skills” to follow. Managing life without substances involves just that: Managing life. This exercise is focused on identifying and discussing positive life skills. Everyone’s needs are unique and different so share what you need and be open minded and honest in this discussion.


Directions: Read, review, and discuss each item on this list as a group. Try to identify which life skills apply to you the most. There are more life skills than these however this list contains some common situations for people who have a history of substance use issues.


Life Skill Areas Often Associated with Substance Use Recovery


Boredom Tolerance – Using substances is exciting and fun at first for many, which can be part of the hook. Nothing to do today? Get high! Or if you need to do something boring like clean the house:  it’s a lot less boring when high, many will say. A boring job can become tolerable with the addition of mind-altering substances. The problem is that with time, it can become impossible to tolerate boredom without substances. The truth is that life for the vast majority of people has boring parts. It can’t always be exciting and new. Therefore, learning to be bored without turning to substances to cope can be an area of struggle for some. How about you?


Ø Boredom Tolerance Skills:


o   Learn to entertain yourself in boring situations: With time you can develop ways to entertain yourself with your own thoughts.


§  Healthy fantasies about your goals are one way. Can you see yourself in a better future?


§  Learning to observe – People watching, nature watching, listening and taking things in can help make a boring situation tolerable.


§  Get involved – Strike up a conversation with a stranger. Join in with what is going on around you.


§  Exercise: Walk, get some steps in, stretch. Use down time to your advantage.


§  Read: Download a book on your smartphone and learn to love reading


§  Learn: Again, use your smartphone to learn things. Look things up, take an interest in increasing your knowledge when you are bored you can learn to love learning.


§  Create – Draw, write, etc. Use your “boredom” time as a way to create something new and interesting.





Making Friends – Some people get into drug use because it’s a way to be a part of a group. This is especially true with young people. Getting together with others to get high or drunk is a way to bond, even though it can soon become an unhealthy way to do this. Older drug users may tend to isolate more often but still making new friends can be a real challenge when the substance is removed from life. How about you?

Ø Friend making skills


o   Take Risks – Try new things, speak to new people, join groups you may have though were weird. Go to new places.


o   Widen out - Open up your mind to possibilities you may not have considered like older or younger friends or people who are very different than you.


o   Find Common Interests – There are many people out there who like things you like, get out there and find them and make some friends.


o   Be a friend to make a friend – Offering to help other people is a great way to meet new people and on top of that it is very rewarding.



Intimacy – Getting close to people - Alcohol and other substances can be a “social lubricant” meaning that two people using can get closer quicker and easier than “normal” When some people stop using substances, they may find it difficult to get close to certain people. It can be a challenge to “let others in” and know the real you if you are not accustomed to it. How about you?


Ø Building Intimacy (without substances)There are things you can do in order to get closer to people and to allow them to get closer to you, but it can take practice. Here are a few:


o   Learn to share you real feelings (other than anger)- People get so comfortable telling others what they don’t like or what pisses them off but what about letting someone know your fears or insecurities? Showing a little vulnerability can build intimacy.


o   "Friends-First" - People can get in the pattern of making relationships all about sexual interest and conquests. Learning to make friends, without focusing on romance can be a way to work on real intimacy building.


o   Share who you really are and take the time to really learn who others are – Get away from the small talk and learn to get into deeper conversations about what motivates others and what they are all about and also what you are all about. What is meaningful to you and to others?


o   Learn to find people you can trust – Yes there are people out there whom you cannot trust but not everyone in the world is out to get you. You can develop the skills to steadily build trusting relationships with others who you can then build more intimate and close relationships with. You can improve your ability to find these people as you get to know people who are trustworthy. Learning to be discerning (using good judgement) without being paranoid is a process.




Decision Making for the Long Term – The substance use lifestyle can keep you in the day to day, or even the hour to hour. Sometimes when substance use gets really out of hand, life becomes a repetitive cycle of finding resources to get high, getting high, then recuperating to do it again. Long term decisions can get lost in this cycle. Has this happened to you?

Ø Learning to Focus on the Long Term – When substances are gone and life is about more important things, long term decision-making becomes a key part of everything. There are skills involved in doing this successfully. What is best for your future and the future of those you love and care for?


o   Overcome impulsivity – Learning to wait, pause and THINK becomes an essential life skill for so many in recovery. This takes practice too but is achievable.


o   Become a goal-oriented person- Learn to sacrifice the immediate pleasures of today for the lasting rewards of tomorrow. Saving money is a great example. Can you do without the latest and greatest clothes and devices to save money for more important things down the road?


o   Good things come to those who wait – Learning patience and persistence is an important skill for long term success. Grind out educational and career goals, for instance, to one day get the job you really want instead of going for the fast and easy money (for example)



Facing the Music – Substance use can become about avoidance: Avoiding responsibilities, avoiding problems, avoiding challenges, for instance. People may get high to run from past pain and trauma rather than learning to cope. You can only run for so long – Things tend to catch us eventually. Can anyone relate?


Ø Learning to face the musicFacing difficult situations is challenging but there are things that can help with this process such as:


o   Support – When you face things with a friend or loved one, it can still be scary, but less so


o   Professional help – Are you running from the past? A therapist can help you face the past and empower yourself for a better future in spite of your past. (Posttraumatic growth)


o   Successive approximations – This means gradually “molding” new behaviors by moving toward things little by little by little but getting stronger and stronger as you go. Facing things in life can be scary but if you start small and make baby steps, you can continuously build confidence and inner strength.



Closing discussion:



Which of these (if any) areas stood out to you?




What are some things you can try to focus on going forward and try or discuss with your therapist? (If you have one)

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Realistic Self Talk


Realistic Self Talk – Corresponding video introduction:


Introduction – Positive self talk is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) coping skill that has been around for quite some time. Positive self talk is known to be effective for many types of mental health conditions. This activity is focused on using positive self talk to cope with anxiety. However, there is a slightly different spin on the concept. For some people, being positive does not come naturally. This can be due to a variety of issues possibly stemming from childhood or it can be a personality trait. Whatever the reason, it can be easier to start with “Realistic Self Talk” as an easier to identify with method for starting a dialogue with ourself to overcome challenges. This worksheet takes you through the process of learning to practice realistic self talk to cope with anxiety and other stressful life challenges. Learning to have an encouraging but realistic dialogue with ourselves can be a life changing way to cope when things seem overwhelming or difficult to face.

Part 1 – Define


Start by defining the problem and your feelings. It is important to be honest with ourselves during this process. For the purpose of this exercise, everyone participating should try to identify one problem that causes anxiety and stress.


Think about something that you tend to dislike or even avoid doing because it can be overwhelming, stressful, scary or anxiety provoking. Some examples:


“I am afraid of public speaking”


“I have difficulty starting and maintaining conversations with people I don’t know”


“I have a chance at a promotion at work, but I don’t have the guts to go for it”

“I have a difficult time saying “no” and I am in a situation where I really need to say “no” to someone


Try to come up with your own challenging or anxiety-provoking situation and share it with the group

Part 2 – Identify


This part requires some more self-awareness and introspection. Think about the problem or the difficult situation that you defined in the previous section. Then try to identify what negative things that you may be thinking to yourself that hold you back or discourage you. How are you speaking to yourself in your own head? Examples are provided below based on the same examples from the previous section:


“I am afraid of public speaking”


Self thought example: I think to myself that “If I speak in public, I will make a fool out of myself” or “I am not interesting enough to do public speaking”


“I have difficulty starting and maintaining conversations with people I don’t know”


Self thought example – “If I start a conversation with strangers, they will reject me and not want to listen”


“I have a chance at a promotion at work, but I don’t have the guts to go for it


Self thought example - “If I go for the promotion, I won’t get it so what is the point” or “I won’t be able to handle the rejection if I try for the promotion”

“I have a difficult time saying “no” and I am in a situation where I really need to say “no” to someone


Self thought example - “If I say no then this person won’t like me and they will reject me”


Now based on your identified problem or difficult situation, what thoughts may be holding you back? Share these with the group or even write them down if you are able:


Part 3 – Develop Realistic Self Talk Statements

This is the final task in this process. The idea here is to come up with encouraging but realistic statements to counter the negative and discouraging statements you identified in the previous part. One rule is that it has to be believable. The key is to “convince” yourself that you can succeed with a realistic believable statement that contradicts your negative thoughts.


Below is an extensive list of “Realistic Self Talk” examples. Review the list as a group to get a good idea and circle some that stand out as being potentially helpful to you.


List of Realistic Self Talk Statements:


So maybe I am not the best right now, but I am good enough


I may need some practice but if I work on it, I’ll get there


People get rejected all the time and life goes on, so why should I let stop me?


People with less skill and ability than me have done this, so clearly, I can do it


Almost everyone gets nervous when they do this, so I don’t need to let anxiety hold me back


I’m going to make some mistakes but if I keep pressing forward, I will succeed


It is okay to be stressed for a while but if I keep coping it will get better with time


I can be uncomfortable for a while but eventually I will feel better and better


I always find a way to get it done if I keep on trying


I will stay focused, and I’ll find a solution


I have been through worse and survived so I can do this too


I can still be happy even when life is challenging


After enough time passes will anyone even remember or care about what I am worrying about now?


I might bend but I won’t break


Even if I feel weak, I can muster up enough strength to get through


I am not perfect and that is okay, I just need to make an effort and that is good enough for now


I don’t need to fear failure as everyone fails sometimes and its just a learning experience


Even when other people are difficult, I can tolerate that if I need too


I have nothing to prove to anyone other than just proving to myself that I can at least try to do this


In the grand scheme of things, is this really worth getting so worked up over?


If its too much I can do this little by little and I will get there

Closing it Out:


Finally, for your situation, what realistic self talk statements are you going to use? The four examples are continued below to provide ideas:


“I am afraid of public speaking”


Ø I think to myself that “If I speak in public, I will make a fool out of myself” or “I am not interesting enough to do public speaking

o   I may struggle a little if I try but everyone struggles a little bit so I can still do this

o   If I prepare and speak from the heart, I will be fine, and some people will be interested


“I have difficulty starting and maintaining conversations with people I don’t know”


Ø Self thought example – “If I start a conversation with strangers, they will reject me and not want to listen”

o   It might be nerve wracking at first to start a conversation, but I have nothing to lose by trying

o   If the person doesn’t talk back, it really doesn’t matter. It will be uncomfortable, but it happens to everyone


“I have a chance at a promotion at work, but I don’t have the guts to go for it


Ø “If I go for the promotion, I won’t get it so what is the point” or “I won’t be able to handle the rejection if I try for the promotion”

o   I have nothing to lose by trying. Even if I don’t get it I am still in the same situation, no worse

o   Rejection will hurt but it wont break me as I can get past it


“I have a difficult time saying “no” and I am in a situation where I really need to say “no” to someone


Ø “If I say no then this person won’t like me and they will reject me”

o   It can be uncomfortable to say no but I will feel so much better after its done



What are your realistic self statements that you will use to get through your identified situation? Assignment: Practice Realistic Self Talk for the next week and report back to group how it worked