I normally don't blog two days in a row but this series of questions from Oprah's 21-day Meditation Challenge fit right into yesterday's question about fun.
Let's take a moment and check in with ourselves right now.
My fun today was walking a client through memories of childhood joy and reclaiming some of the things they did for fun then but put away as childish when they became adults.
Ballet, piano, kite flying, swing set play, bowling. What have you quit doing that used to make your heart happy?
What's keeping you from doing it again?
It's a fair question that comes up shortly after you put down your drug-of-choice. Without something to take the edge off, life becomes dull, dreary, depressing.
According to the textbook of Alcoholics Anonymous, people drink because they like the effect produced by alcohol. And they feel "restless, irritable, and discontent" when they try to quit.
I know that was true for me. Food was my fun. My entertainment. My hiding place. My comforter. There was nothing wrong with me a Snickers wouldn't cure.
My first diet in elementary school opened a lifetime of high-highs and low-lows associated with the punishment and rewards of dieting. Spending your life trying to fix something that isn't broken is crazy-making. And NO fun.
For those of you who struggle with food, compulsive overeating, chronic dieting, or other eating disorders, there is a support group (closed to passers-by) on Facebookgroups/dreamsnotdrama where I hang out in my off hours.
It is how I stay sane and sober with a hectic travel schedule.
You can too!
The four P’s of therapeutic change are:
This is where you can’t go it alone any more. A safe person gives you permission to be who you are, all of who you are, without gossip, comment, judgment, or repeating.
Recovering your power is the next step.
According to the Caron Foundation, to minimize your risk of relapse maintain vigilance over the following 6 situations or emotional states:
Anger and Frustration - Angry people tend to drink more as do people who can’t express anger in a healthy assertive way. You probably can’t eliminate anger and frustration from your life, so to reduce your risk of relapse you may want to learn anger management and assertive communication skills.
Stress – Excessive stress impairs your ability to think clearly and feel healthy…and it’s also a major relapse trigger. Cut the stress from your lifestyle, and if you can’t get rid of it, learn stress management techniques to at least minimize its destructive – relapse provoking – power over you.
Celebrations – When everyone’s pouring out the champagne and having a blast it can be awfully tough to stay no. Get prepared to deal with the good times while staying sober today, or you’ll be sorry tomorrow.
Symptomatic Mental Illness – Addiction and mental illness get along like two peas in a pod, and when one comes back, the other is likely to follow…so do all you can stay mentally healthy and happy…and clean and sober.
Exposure to Triggers – Frequent exposure to people, places and things that provoke cravings increases your risk of relapse. Minimize your exposure, as much as is possible.
Overconfidence – With a little sober time under your belt it’s easy to grow overconfident and start overestimating your ability to resist temptation. With overconfidence people often stop doing those things that have been working (going to outpatient sessions, participating in a 12 steps group, avoiding people and places they used to use in/with) and they start to put themselves in high risk situations – and unsurprisingly, this often leads to relapse.
Someone said once that there are only 4 basic human emotions: mad, sad, glad, and afraid. All else is nuance.
People who are afraid usually take one of two paths. They either act out in rage, blame, and shaming others or they act in with depression, anxiety, and phobias.
All because we were never taught how to authentically feel and navigate emotion. If anger wasn’t an acceptable emotion when you were growing up, then you would naturally do whatever it takes to bury it so you could "fit in."
The problem with that is that buried feeings get buried alive. And they stay there right where you left them until something or someone else triggers a similar response. Then the buried feeling breaks out in some unexpected passive-aggressive sarcasm or cutting behavior.
A few symptoms of hidden anger are:
It’s important to face and feel any hidden anger before it comes out sideways and hurts somebody.
Forget Everything and Run.
Face Everything and Rise.
Our actions don’t come out of nowhere. Actions are fueled by our feelings. More accurately, by our FEAR of feelings.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, tells us that our reaction to an event starts with our thinking, which makes us feel a certain way, which causes us to act on that emotion.
Addiction is fueled by fear and shame. Shame for feeling the way we truly feel, and fear of others finding out. Fear keeps us disconnected and living a double life of impression management.
It is hard to keep up a false front. f humans are hard wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain, then there's a good reason we are driven to the next drink or drug or bet or mall or chocolate bar. It keeps us from feeling painful emotions. For a minute.
The problem with stuffing our feelings with food, or drowning our sorrows at the bar, is that they don't go away. They just go underground. Feelings that are buried don't die. They're like zombies - buried alive - digging and clawing their way back to the surface.
Here's a little exercise to help you ease fear and regain control of those dark places. Just fill in the blank:
"The one feeling or trait that I am most afraid of someone seeing in me is _____________."
For me, the answer is "vulnerability." It has taken me years of switching addictions and healing work to come to terms with my humanity and develop the confidence to stop worrying about what other people think of me.
How about you?
Kim Halsey is a human resource professional and executive coach who helps people overcome life damaging habits, restore important relationships, and live their dreams without drama.
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