In keeping with the last few blog posts, one of the most (usually) misleading responses to "How are you?" is "I'm fine."
90% of the time when we say "I'm fine" we really mean we are anything but fine and we don't want to talk about it. I heard a song on the radio about a month or so ago that, strangely, touched on just that. It is a song by a Christian artist, but it still seems very relevant to not only many of the people I have worked with over the last several years but to people in general, sometimes myself too.
AA and other recovery group like their sayings. In AA, fine stands for Fouled-up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional - meaning that is how we feel when we say we're fine. Also, I have heard many recovering people encourage others "Don't 'fine' yourself to death." We think our feelings are going to kill us sometimes but they won't; using substances just might.
The link to the song's music video is here. There is tremendous power in the truth.
Matthew West - Truth Be Told (Official Music Video) - YouTube
Evidently, I have been nominated for My FM Quest for the Best in the category of Counselor in the Milford region. The contest is run by local Milford radio station WMRC. I am honored and humbled by this nomination and am very grateful for it. I guess at some point there will be an actual vote which begins on June 2nd and ends on June 16th.
There is info about the contest here: MyFM Quest for the Best
I am very appreciative of the nomination and am glad that people are finding this a worthwhile place to invest their time to get more out of their recovery.
Another feeling we often find ourselves experiencing especially in the earlier stages of recovery is sadness. While unpleasant, sadness often informs us when we have been hurt, wounded or wronged. If we sprain an ankle and keep trying to walk normally on it without support we only risk further injury. Sometimes it may seem there is nothing we can do; the hurt has been incurred and what can be done now?
Someone who works in this field once told me that there are toxins in tears that we cry when we are hurting that are not present when we cry, say, from laughter. So while it may sound strange, something we can do is simply to cry. We allow the hurt to surface and we cry it out, either for a time or until we are done. This can help facilitate the grieving process.
Sadness may also tell us where we need recovery: in certain relationships, pertaining to certain memories. These things tell us where we have been hurt. We talk a fair amount about PTSD: post traumatic stress disorder. There is also such a thing as post traumatic growth. Often it happens when we reach out to help others who have been wounded similarly to how we have been. This is a big reason why many people recovering from addiction become AA or NA sponsors or become professional addiction counselors.
Helping others redeems our pain into something useful, maybe even something beautiful, which tells us that our pain is meaningful and that good can come out of it.
Bottles and Feelings
During my conversations with clients over the years, a common refrain keeps happening. If we bottle our feelings, we reach for a bottle. By which we mean that when we stuff, ignore, or hide from our emotions it prompts us to drink, use substances or engage in our compulsive behaviors of choice. But as someone I worked with several years ago said, "My feelings won't kill me, but using heroin might."
So why do we hide form our feelings?
We aren't sure if they are normal. They frighten us. We were raised to ignore or dismiss them, often by our parents, guardians, teachers or peers treating us in such a fashion where our feelings didn't matter. This doesn't mean we should decide everything based on feelings, that would be an error towards an opposite extreme. Feelings are like the check engine light, they tell us something is going on under the hood. If you value going to the doctor for regular physicals then checking in with our feelings regularly serves the same purpose psychologically.
Ultimately, few things that bother us simply get better on their own. Feelings and emotions can be learned from and, when we do, we find that we don't need our alcohol, drugs or behaviors nearly as much anymore. Those things are often duct tape to keep the car together; they work, but only for a while. Eventually we need more tape and eventually there may not be enough or we may use too much.
Sometimes the best thing we can do is sit with our feelings for just five minutes. Sometimes crying is the only thing that holds us back from a drink or a drug. That's ok. I daresay it can even be very healthy.
People Matter More
What a year it has been. Between covid and quarantine, debates and elections, Black Lives and Blue Lives Matter, Defending and Defunding the Police, we have witnessed a lot of hurt, shock and rage. I think one of the things that bothers me most about this year hasn't been the hardships but the conflict. Our relationships with coworkers, friends and family are now jeopardized by where we stand on these issues. Enough, we are told, is enough. In doing so, we have made one another our mutual enemies.
I have little to no control over politics, presidents or opinions but I do have control over myself. I may not be able to make the world into the kind of place I think it should be but I can be kind to other people. In so doing I can sow peace where there has been strife.
I can assume that people who voted for Trump are not deplorables but people who want a better future for this country. I can assume that people who voted for Biden want the same and both are to be commended for their passion, not derided for their politics.
I can assume that just because someone says "all lives matter" doesn't mean that they are minimizing anyone else's struggle and I can also assume that people who say"Black lives matter" don't mean that only blakc lives matter.
My training and experience as a psychotherapist has taught me to have "unconditional positive regard;" that people are generally doing the best they can with what they have in any given moment. Jesus taught something similar thousands of years ago, he called it "grace."
I will listen before I speak, practice acceptance before I criticize and refrain from assuming the worst about people. I will communicate in word and deed that people matter to me more than ideas. That is how I want to be treated. That is how I can begin to change the world. That is how we can have peace with one another in the face of an unpeaceful world. Grace and peace to you this coming year.
An Interview: Trauma & Growing Up
I was introduced to Thomas through a mutual connection. Thomas has his own podcast about trauma, youth, growing up and incarceration. He was kind enough to have me on his show last week. Here is the link to the episode:
Thanks again Thomas for having me on!
Given the signs of the times with covid-19, social distancing is the new normal at least for now. While I am supportive of the steps our government is taking to combat this epidemic, it is important to be aware of the consequences of ongoing social distancing.
When we are isolated, the same part of the brain lights up as when we are being stabbed. Isolation easily triggers stress, as does telecommuting (I read the other day that we are working 3 hours more on average by working through zoom and other online options), helping to suddenly homeschool children and frequent blurbs on social media about death tolls, susceptibility and other hardships. Stress works on our fight-flight-freeze neuropathways and, when frequently triggered, can cause problems both physically and mentally.
Frequent living with this part of ourselves dominant leads to depression and anxiety from the duress. Living under frequent duress feels terrible and eventually prompts us to seek numbing or release, which can prompt us to turn to things like alcohol, drugs, pornography, self-injurious behavior or gambling. The more we turn to these things, the more likely we are to turn to them in the future.
There is something about connection, meaningful interaction with other people, that helps take us out of that survival mode and helps prevent us from turning to problematic or addictive behaviors. I encourage all of us, myself included, to get creative in order to interact with people. My wife and I visited with some friends outside, shared pie and socially distanced. Afterwards they texted and said “thanks, we didn’t know how much we needed that.” The other day we were blessed when another married couple rang our doorbell with a present for my wife and we stayed six feet apart and caught up for a while.
Whether its through zoom, visiting outside, texting, snapchat, mailing letters or presents, we need one another. Now, arguably, more so than ever. Self-care is most important when we are most stressed. Make the time and if you need help, give me a call: 978-536-1056.
With rising stress because of the corona virus, children suddenly attempting to school at home, work changes and health risks the threat of addiction significantly increases. How do you tell if someone has an alcohol or drug problem? There are several signs and symptoms.
Disheveled, Unhygienic, Smell of alcohol or other strange smells
Glassy eyes, Pinned or dilated pupils, Red eyes
“Nodding,” Unsteady gait
Slurred speech, Tense or pressured speech
Changes in weight or eating habits , Nausea/vomiting, Constipation
Flat / constricted / blunted affect (especially given subject of conversation)
Over-reactions, overly aggressive, overly passive
Disinhibition, increase in irritability or emotionally unresponsive
Missing regular appointments/responsibilities (school, work, gym, etc)
Isolation, sudden changes in social circle
Physical or emotional symptoms present in social circle
Concerns with “cleansing;” cranberry juice, “fake urine
Changes in depression and/or anxiety
Delusions or hallucinations, abnormal fixations, paranoia
Manic or depressive crashes; high-risk behavior
Changes in spending habits (suddenly without money/borrowing money)
Also, discovering drug paraphernalia can also be a significant indicator: spoons, pill bottles, needles, blunts, bottles/nips, strange powders/packaging.
The important thing is not to freak out. Have a calm, non-accusatory conversation. Also listen to your instincts and be aware of someone minimizing, justifying or otherwise shifting the focus of the conversation. Also check out Alliesinrecovery.net for some help and support on how to talk about these things with a loved one in an effective manner.
Come on In...
Thanks to Samantha Katz and Laura from the Milford Area Chamber of Commerce, I was featured in a brief interview a few weeks ago.
So, feel free to meet me and take a brief look at the office:
I am also offering services to help people with process or behavioral addictions. Sometimes a behavior, such as eating or sex, can become a way to detach from stress, to disconnect from our feelings or to make ourselves feel better after a hard day, week, month or sometimes it feels like a lifetime.
These behaviors, just like substances, can become addictive when they demand more frequent or more intense acting out and start to become more challenging to put a stop to. The negative consequences can be numerous and damaging.
Don't suffer in silence. Together we can find a way out. Schedule your free consult today. Let's talk about finding a way out for you into a life worth living.
I help people who struggle with drinking or using drugs find a life worth living. Helping people thrive in Milford, Franklin, Medway, Uxbridge, Bellingham, Mendon, Whitinsville and surrounding towns.