Saturday, April 29, 2023

The Grind Part 20 – When You Don’t Know Why



Picture this: Something is wrong…You feel anxiety and depression increasing lately, but you cannot assign it to a specific stressor. Your feelings are increasingly uncomfortable and difficult. What is making it worse is that you are not sure what is really bothering you. Maybe you can identify several things that could be triggers, but it is not clear in your mind what the real deal is. This state of not knowing why you feel this way may even be making you feel even more anxious and depressed.


Have you ever felt this way? Sometimes our mind wants a direct answer to our struggles and problems as if a puzzle piece is missing and we need to just identify the missing piece and then put everything back into place. As if this will suddenly make everything all okay at once. Unfortunately, when living with chronic mental health or substance use issues (or both) sometimes we may feel this way. So, if you find yourself grinding through life in this way, then here are some thoughts of things to do especially when you don’t really know what exactly is going on and what you should do to make it better.


Not everyone will be able to identify with what is being described here. However, there are certain people who will know exactly what this phenomenon feels like. Either way, when reviewing this information, try to take away what you believe will be helpful to you mentally. Below are some thoughts to consider for recovery and positive change in difficult situations:


Review and discuss the following points:


·       Knowing why a problem is happening can be helpful in solving that problem. However, it is not necessary to know the cause for you to start to get better. For example, if someone breaks their arm, it can be helpful for the doctor to know how and why the arm was broken, but it is not necessary for the doctor to know that in order to fix it and put it in a cast for the arm to heal.



·       Sometimes mental health just “flares up” similar to other health conditions. Compare depression, for instance, with a physical back problem. Sometimes someone with a bad back will be sore from doing too much physically the day before but there are other times their back may hurt for no identifiable reason (aka a sudden flare up of back pain). The same is true of mental health issues like depression. Sometimes a clearly identifiable event or situation can trigger a depressive episode and sometimes it may feel like there is no specific reason for a depressive “flare up”, just like the bad back example. For substance use issues this can also happen with cravings that seem to come up without a clearly understood trigger. Direct causes at times can be hard to identify.



·       Part of living with long-lasting or chronic mental illness or substance use issues involves learning to keep moving forward during unexpected challenging episodes. The issues we face may slow us down, but we can do a lot to keep unexpected challenging life situations to stop us from making progress. Sometimes we may bend without letting ourselves break.



·       Acceptance is key. Learning to accept that if you have mental illness or substance use issue may be easier on some days will be than others. There may be good phases and not so good ones. Accepting the fact that the change process has ups and downs can prevent discouragement and disappointment. It may be helpful to accept the fact that challenging episodes come up in life once in a while and sometimes even unexpectedly.


Saturday, April 22, 2023

Meaningful to Me


Meaningful to Me - COUNSELOR VIDEO INTRO: 

This is an icebreaker which is focused on helping people express themselves openly. Everyone should try to identify one thing in each category that is meaningful. Be prepared to discuss why each answer is meaningful to you personally. There are examples provided first and then some process questions at the end:




Animal (Domestic or pet)





“Meaningful to Me” Example:


“My dog Bruno”



“The beach”



“Bruno is always there for me in a loving and loyal way


“The beach is where I escape even in the winter. I feel at peace there”


Animal (Domestic or pet)






Family Member (Alive)



Family Member (Deceased)



Food, drink, or meal



Music Performer or Band






Person (You know or knew)



Person (Famous today)



Person (Historical)



TV show, series, or movie



Animal (in nature)



Quote or saying






Something at home



Something on you now



A hobby or activity



An achievement or skill



A belief or cause



A memory



A quality in others



A quality in yourself



Random (Pick anything)







Process Questions – Who Am I?


What do you want other people to know about you?



What is something that it takes a little time for you to open up about?



What can you/do you bring to this group?



Who do you strive to be?



·        How will you know when you get to be where you want to be?



·        What are you doing today to be your best self?



Monday, April 17, 2023

Contributing Factors


Contributing Factors: Substance Use and Mental Health 

Intro – Although there can be a lot of similarities when it comes to each individual’s experience with substance use issues, every person’s journey is unique. Developing a problem with substances often involves a complex array of factors over the course of time. One well accepted definition of “addiction” supports this viewpoint:


Addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.  - American Society of Addiction Medicine (2019)


This definition tells us that there are a variety of factors that contribute to the development of the disease of addiction. The same is true as well for most mental health disorders.


For this group exercise, group members will identify some contributing factors related to their own substance use (and mental health conditions as well, if applicable). Please keep this important point in mind:


Cause is extremely hard to determine. Since addiction can be complex and unique, it is not easy to simply say that one thing “caused” an addiction. This activity is for group members to discuss their own unique life’s journey and perspective rather than focusing on blaming one or two life circumstances as the “cause” of a substance use or mental health disorder. For example, if someone came from a dysfunctional family situation it would not be appropriate to conclude “My family caused my addiction.” Rather, for this activity, we will look at multiple types of life issues that may have been “contributing factors” rather than just one “cause”.


Directions: On a blank piece of paper, everyone in the group should make a “Contributing Factor Diagram.” An example is provided on the next page. To make the diagram, think of some factors that may have contributed to substance use issues in your life. If you also have mental health issues as well, you can consider those factors too. Write down each factor in a circle and label the circle. Make larger circles for contributing factors that you believe had larger impact and make smaller circles for less significant issues. You may add explanations for your contributing factors on your diagram (See example.) When everyone is done making their Contributing Factors Diagram, discuss your diagrams and then answer the process questions.


The following list are some known risk factors for addiction. You can use these if you want but also feel free to come up with your own or put things into your own words when you make your diagram:


ð       Family history of addiction

ð       Impulsive risk-taking personality from a young age

ð       Peer group who uses substances

ð       Learning to “self-medicate” mental health symptoms and stressors with substances.

ð       High tolerance (takes a lot to get intoxicated)

ð       Trauma (Victim of abuse or other distressing/disturbing experience(s))

ð       Social problems (Such as being bullied, difficulty making friends, loneliness, social anxiety)

ð       Difficulty managing stress, anger, or other feelings/emotions.

ð       Lack of positive role models

ð       Lack of support

ð       Financial stress/economic problems

ð       Unstructured life with poor parental oversight or supervision as child

ð       Exposure to substances (Others using in the home or in peer group – Especially at early age)

ð       Pain – Physical (injury/disability) or Emotional (Difficulty coping with past traumatic experience(s))


There are more, so come up with your own based on your own unique experiences and perspective.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Asking for Help


Asking for Help – Brief Counselor Video Intro Link


Opening Icebreaker: Whom Do You Ask?This is just a brief way to get the group comfortable and prepared for the topic of “Asking for Help.” Go through the list below as a group and have group members share who else in the group, they would ask for help with each situation, Keep in mind this is just an icebreaker to open the topic, so keep it lighthearted and fun.


For each situation below, select one group member whom you would ask for help if you needed it:


SITUATION --------------------------------------------------> WHO DO YOU ASK FOR HELP? 

Need help with ways to make money.

Want to get healthier/more fit.

Relationship advice

Need a good joke or funny story.

Legal advice

How to best work with children.

How to have fun without substances

Need to learn an interesting hobby.

Best places to shop/Fashion advice.

How to deal with a bully/threat

Survival skills in tough neighborhood

Best concerts to see.

Interesting shows/movies to watch.

Coping with family stress

Home repair

Optional follow up question:  Is there anything else not already mentioned that you believe other people in the group would be good at when it comes to helping others?