Thursday, March 30, 2023

The Grind Part 19- Gradual Acceptance


Gradual Acceptance - VIDEO INTRO LINK

“Accept the things you cannot change” and “Radical Acceptance” are phrases based on some well-known (and highly effective) coping skills in the world of mental health and substance use recovery. The power of acceptance for coping with difficult life situations is extremely powerful and necessary. However, sometimes when life is a grind and things are really tough to deal with, it can be very difficult to achieve a level of acceptance. We may even be fully aware of the need to accept a painful circumstance but sometimes our troubled brains won’t let it happen for one reason or another. This exercise, “Gradual Acceptance” is another alternative to start the process of accepting difficult realities even when full acceptance seems too lofty of a goal. As a group, discuss the following questions focused on working toward acceptance progressively and gradually with time, patience and practice. It may be helpful to first think of something in life that may difficult to accept right now.


What am I having difficulty accepting?



What is the hardest part of it to accept? (And why?)



Use insight: What thoughts and feelings might be blocking me from accepting this situation as reality? Review the following below. There may be more than one answer:


ð      This just isn’t fair.

ð      I didn’t do anything to deserve this.

ð      Why me?

ð      If I just_____ (different choice in the past) then this would not have ever happened

ð      If I accept it that means then it means that I don’t care, because acceptance diminishes the importance of what happened (As if to say “I feel like I need to let myself suffer about this the rest of my life to prove how important this is”)

ð      I am just too angry to accept this or to move past this.

ð      I don’t feel like I can forgive myself for letting this happen

ð      I am afraid to move on

ð      I am procrastinating related to what know that I need to do for myself to move forward

ð      Other thoughts and feelings getting in the way:



By contrast, what thoughts and coping skill areas can help me at least start to accept this difficult reality. See below, there can be more than one answer:


ð      Sometime bad things happen for no good reason, even to good people.

ð      I need to stop asking “Why did this happen” – Sometimes there is no good answer

ð      I need to stop playing the “if only” game – Looking back and saying “If I only did this or that then this would not have happened, is not going to change what happened – What is done is done.

ð      If I accept this situation and learn to move on, that does not mean that I do not care.

ð      I can learn to let go of my anger, my hurt, my guilt, or my fear so I can start to move forward gradually.

ð      I can at least start to make baby steps forward if taking big strides is too much for me right now.

ð      Other ideas? 


Finally, “I acknowledge that this process will be difficult but worth the effort”. However, in the meantime: Who or what can help me with the process of first building resilience, reestablishing new routines, and gradually achieving a level of acceptance? Some suggestions provided below, but feel free to come up with your own:


ð      Therapy

ð      Support groups

ð      Opening up more about this situation with trusted friends/family.

ð      "Spirituality" – Exploring, searching, learning. and examining more about the "big picture" in life rather than focusing on the hurt, the loss, or the pain right in front of us. 

ð      Other – Who or what can help me right now? 


Closing questions:


How will I know that I am making progress (What will it look and feel like?)




Finally, what are at least two (or more) things I am going to start to work on right away to begin or resume the important process of Gradual Acceptance for my own healing?





Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Memories: A Sci-Fi Icebreaker Adventure

Intro: For this activity you need to use your imagination. 

Brief video intro link (Click)

As a group, read the following:

Scientists have just found out that an enormous a solar flare is going to cause an unexpected and unprecedented electromagnetic event. Scientists predict that the event will wipe out and erase all computers deleting trillions of tons of saved data. Even worse than that, these scientists predict that this event may even wipe out people’s memories as our brains also work on electromagnetic waves that will be disrupted. The prediction is that most, if not all people on the earth will have amnesia.


However, as is true with most science fiction disaster stories, there is one scientist who saw this coming ahead of time. He invented a small device the size of a dime that can be connected to a person’s forehead that can protect a limited amount of stored memories in our brains. These devices have been mass produced so everyone in the country gets one mailed to their home prior to the solar event.


The scientist set the memory protection device to protect each person’s name and basic identity so by using the device you will remember that. You also get to choose to protect a limited number of memories. By the time you get the protective device, you only have 15 minutes to decide which memories you want to keep from being erased by the electromagnetic solar flare. Deeply embedded basic skills like reading, writing, adding, subtracting will come back on their own but skills learned in adulthood and more advanced memories may be wiped out unless set for protection. Therefore, choose your memories to be saved, based on the following categories:


You get to protect up to three early childhood memories (Age 12 and under):








You get to protect two memories from adolescence/early adulthood (Age 13-21)






Protect two adult memories (21 and over)






You can choose five people personally from your life (past or present) whom you do not want to forget:













You can choose three other historical or famous people to remember.








You can remember three music performers (bands, singers, rappers, etc.)








You can remember 2 movies.






Remember three TV/internet shows/series.








Remember one book you’ve read in your life.




Remember three skills you have learned to do well in your life








Finally, what are any four other things/memories you want to remember, not already listed yet?










Process Questions

What memories discussed today stood out to you the most?





Who do you think would include you in their memories?






What are some emotions that came to mind based on some of the memories you shared?






Was there one (or more) people in the group who you felt something in common with based on the memories they chose to save?






Why Is it important to hold on to good memories?






What can you do today in order to make new positive memories for your future?






How can successfully managing substance use and mental health, increase the likelihood of building positive memories for your future?





Tuesday, March 14, 2023


 (A Setback/Relapse Prevention Activity and Discussion) – VIDEO INTRO (Click here)

Intro: Preventing setbacks and relapse in relation to substance use and mental health requires careful planning. At this point, most people are quite familiar with the idea of identifying triggers and then coping with triggers to prevent relapse. This exercise considers a different angle on this topic. Sometimes life throws us “curveballs” which can come in the form of unexpected events or circumstances that are sudden and challenging to deal with. A person may be doing everything right when it comes to managing substance use and mental health issues when suddenly an unexpected curveball can throw life completely out of whack for a little while or even longer. This exercise is about coping with and preparing for life’s unexpected curveballs.  This topic is then followed by a discussion about managing surprise events successfully and also living a life today that helps prevent unexpected life challenges.


Opening Exercise: Swinging at Curveballs

Below is a list of hypothetical situations that could come up in life that may cause trouble for someone working on substance use issues (and mental health issues as well). As a group take turns reviewing this list of curveballs and for each one, discuss the following three points:


1 – How do you think you would feel in this scenario? (Use feelings words, might be a good idea to have a feeling chart handy


2 – Setback/Relapse Factor: Using the following scale, how seriously do you think the relapse risk would be for you personally (make your best guess)

3 – What do you think you would do if you were actually facing this curveball? (Particularly what would you do in order to successfully prevent relapse)



Curveball List

Note for Group Leader:

Use this list in any order, and let anyone answer who wants too, it’s up to you.


Relationship Turmoil – You find considerable evidence that your significant other is cheating on you.


Sudden Medical Concern – You go to the ER for something unexpected and get a test result back that indicates that you might have a more serious, life-altering medical concern


Job Loss – You show up at work one day and get an email that the company is bankrupt and everyone, including you, is out of a job in 2 weeks with no severance pay.


Ghosted by Close Friend – Someone you care about is avoiding you, acting weird when you reach out and they won’t explain why, but its clear they no longer want you as a friend.


Bored and Depressed – You wake up one day feeling an overwhelming and inescapable sense that you are unsatisfied and bored with life which triggers an unexpected depressive episode.


Confronted by Stuff – Suddenly and unexpectedly you find yourself in a situation where someone offers you your substance of choice in an environment where you could use, and no one would see you (and you didn’t see this coming).


Ego Hit – You encounter an unexpected situation where someone gets the best of you mentally and emotionally, triggering some embarrassment and even some shame to the point where you can’t stop thinking about it days later.


Natural Disaster – A storm or other weather event upsets your entire life course, and you need to move, you can’t work, and you find yourself without your belongings and little to do for an extended period of time.


Sudden Wealth – You are doing well with recovery when suddenly you get a large sum of money which triggers thoughts that you could go back to using and afford it for quite some time even if it got out of hand


Amazing Invite – You get invited to attend an event where there is a chance you can meet a celebrity you have always admired however you know the booze and drugs will be freely flowing at this party.


Dangerous Relationship – You pride yourself on recognizing people who get high however you make an amazing new acquaintance whom you really enjoy spending time with. Suddenly this person offers you a substance that you used to misuse and tells you they enjoy using it, inviting you to join them.


Guilty Mistake – You make an unexpected mistake and it’s a bad one. You realize that at least one person in your family whom you care about a great deal is going to be devastated when they find out what you did.


Damaging Disappointment – You suddenly find out that a dream that you have had for a long time that you put a lot of time and effort into will never happen due to an unfair circumstance that is completely out of your control.


Erotic Escapade – Someone whom you find very desirable for quite some time propositions you to sneak away to get a motel room provided you use drugs together as part of this erotic escapade.


Old Times Relived – One of your favorite people from the past resurfaces and they appear to be doing well and they look well too. However, after you reestablish the relationship, you find out they are still using and they want you to join them free of charge.


Other – (If time) Can anyone in the group think of any other interesting life curveballs to discuss?

Monday, March 6, 2023



Intro - Feeling sad when something bad happens is appropriate, acceptable and “normal.” It makes sense to have some compassion for yourself when faced with unfortunate or unfair events. However, if left unchecked for too long, feeling sorry for oneself can become chronic self-pity, which can really stagnate growth.

Keep in mind, however, that quite often individuals who are having problems with self-pity may not even realize it. This is because it can become easy to convince oneself of being entitled to ongoing feelings of self-pity. In a lot of ways self-pity can breed more self-pity like a snowball rolling down a snowy hill. A person can get stuck in the cycle of chronically feeling sorry for oneself which can make it seem to that person like there is no way out. Again, it is okay to feel sad for yourself when something negative happens but there is an appropriate time to pick up the pieces and to start to try move forward. Chronic self-pity keeps a person trapped in a state of inactivity as self-pity can become an excuse for quitting and not trying anymore.


Identifying Patterns of Self-Pity: Discuss the following signs of chronic self-pity. Think about your own situation honestly if any of this may apply to you. It can be hard to admit being stuck in a state of chronic self-pity so try to be open minded:

Feeling remorse or regret in excess of the situation or for an extensive time period (Harry still talks about losing his college scholarship due to his drug arrest like it happened yesterday, even though its actually been 10 years now!)


Holding on to excuses and reasons why you were wronged. This can look like a person making a case to “prove” why they are the victim.


Keeping your radar open or casting a wide net to try to find situations where you were wronged or treated unjustly A person can go out of their way to persistently look for reasons why others hurt them or the world did them wrong


Turning away practical solutions A person stuck in “self-pity mode” may have a way out but elect to stay where they are. “That sounds like a good solution but it won’t work for me”


Turning away helping handsSimilar to above someone may want to help pull a person up out of the pit but a person experiencing self-pity may not take their hand


Turning a deaf ear on supportive compliments and encouragement – Someone stuck in self-pity may not want to hear positive words to instead stay in a rut


Allowing negative feelings to guide decision making in a way that prevents growthEx: “I got treated wrong at my last job, so I won’t work at all anymore” or “The last friend I had screwed me over so I am done with friendship entirely”


Comparing – “Everyone has it better than me”. “They all have the easy life”. “If only I was in their situation, I would be okay.”


Staying in a negative cycle of behaviors because you were hurt or wrong ‘My significant other left me so I am going to get drunk as often as I want” – Excessive blame


Difficulty feeling happiness and gratitude “How can I be happy when _____ happened to me!” Or: “What’s there to be grateful for _____ happened to me!”


Convincing oneself negative realities are true (even when they are not) “No one cares about me, no one wants to see me succeed” Or exaggerating negative circumstances: “I am the poorest person in this neighborhood”  or “I have to work harder than everybody else”


Reliving bad experiences over and overTelling the story of victimization or hurt over and over well past the time when it is appropriate to start moving on.


Excessively focusing on what you cannot do instead of what you can “I can’t go to school with my history of problems” – “There’s no way you can expect me to….”