SECRETS OF A SOCIAL WORKER

Find peace. Find happiness. Find yourself.

Tag: addiction (page 1 of 2)

Finding Peace Through Pain

The entire concept and culture around emotional pain completely fascinates me. We hurt a lot as humans; it’s a part of our growth and resiliency while we venture through life. And most of the pain we deal with day to day is our thoughts. What is fascinating to me is that we choose to let pain burden us, and because of that we experience things like confusion, irritability, difficulty concentrating, fear, anxiety, anger, rejection, humiliation, perceived failure, mood swings, guilt, shame, and self-blame (to name a few)…And to add to this long list, pain causes us to mentally rewind time, replay situations, ruminate,  and wish for different outcomes. AKA-we are constantly and subjectively experiencing mental suffering. And do you know the worst part is? It’s addicting…

It’s easy for our minds to focus on and discuss the negative; what isn’t going well, what hurts, what upsets us, what we don’t like. Our minds are hardwired to have a stronger focus on and easier pull towards pain rather than happiness and optimism. It’s engrained into our cultures and entangled  in our every day life to focus on negativity…It’s contagious to experience pain because it helps us relate to others and gives us something to talk about.  We are motivated by pain and negativity, and we gravitate towards focusing on others’ pain and negativity more so than what is going well in their lives.

I am constantly being asked how I manage pain from my personal life experiences as well as the secondary trauma I acquire from helping those that have endured horrific pain. I did not realize how much pain could gradually seep into my life until working in a career filled with it. That being said, I have come to live by a few very important rules regarding pain and how I ensure it doesn’t control me…

  • First and foremost – every painful, broken piece of us doesn’t need to be analyzed, collected, or remembered… Some pieces need to stay lost because they don’t belong to us, they happened to us. Let the pieces go. Move forward, and do not hold onto these things. Do not claim the pain, just understand that it was an experience. And as hard as it is, do not tie emotion to it. It just is, and let it be just that.
  • Change your beliefs about the pain. We cannot experience love, humility, positivity without an understanding of gratitude. And without any pain, we would fail to see how great life can truly be. How can you look at the painful experience as a learning curve, or a helpful step in the right direction? What positives can come out of this pain? How can you change the belief about the purpose of the pain to help it motivate you?
  • Do not run away from pain, allow yourself to feel everything. Be present with your feelings, allow whatever it is that wants to come up to do so. Do not be embarrassed; purge the emotion. This is how we move forward, otherwise we stuff things deep inside to be dealt with later, on top of all the other pain we try to avoid. Embrace what you need to feel; it helps to understand and accept the pain… A very good tool for this is meditation.
  • Slow down. We cannot allow ourselves to feel if we are constantly going at a pace of 100 miles an hour. Give yourself time to breathe, and figure out how to move forward with these painful experiences. I am guilty of purposefully going 100 miles an hour so I do not have time to ruminate on pain… It’s how I distract myself, and it is not healthy. Take time to be with yourself, and work through the pain before it gets stuffed deep down to come up later. And trust me, it will come up later.
  • When you are right in the muck of your pain, ask yourself if there’s any piece of this that you can control. If the answer is no, you cannot control or change anything about this, then learn to let it go after you process through it. *Meditation is super helpful here also*. We cannot hold onto pain that serves us no purpose. If we can’t make any positive changes, and if the situation is not in our control, we must move on and move forward.  What other option do we really have?
  • And lastly – how can you make your pain a part of you? Always remind yourself to use pain to your advantage. Remind yourself that pain makes you who you are, and it has helped to develop you into your current self…Your soulful, resilient self. And isn’t that a beautiful thing?


You are never more than one thought away from peace~

-keep shining

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A Simple Bowl of Chili….

FullSizeRender

Do you ever have one of those weeks where nothing goes your way? Like the entire universe is against you and laughing at you…
I was having quite a pity party last week. I was not feeling the best, worked long hours, traveled a lot for work, and had numerous unpredictable mishaps. Not to mention, when you feel you’re having a bad week it seems you stub your toe on every corner, bite your tongue a few times, and don’t seem to get quite enough sleep. You name it, and I was complaining about it.
This happens to us all from time to time, doesn’t it? We just get in this rut of ‘life is hard’ and ‘I can’t even”. But I will tell you about an experience I had last week that totally changed my mindset. It was a great reminder that life really isn’t all that bad.

We had a youth event at my place of employment last week where homeless youth could come in for a hot bowl of soup and a free haircut. Amongst the youth walked in a 52 year old homeless man who had a long ponytail and looked disheveled. But one thing I noticed about this man is that he was in great spirits.
He stated that he heard we were giving free haircuts today, and of course we welcomed him openly to the event regardless of his age.
Along with getting a free haircut, this man grabbed himself a hot bowl of chili and started eating in our conference room. I walked into the conference room to say hi and have a conversation with this man, however I felt awkward staring at him while he ate. A coworker suggested I grab a bowl of soup and sit down with him, so I did just that.
Now trust me when I say that this man did not come up for air when he spoke to me. All it took was me sitting next to him with a bowl of chili for the flood gates to be opened. It took patience and some active listening from me to sit through this man’s unending and repetitive stories for an hour, but I tell you it was the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. It was a beautiful thing to witness unfold.

The art of listening is so powerful, and not something we utilize often enough as a society. We would gain so much from being able to listen to others, and not just listen to them but also hear what they are saying.
The reason I was able to be such a good listener that day is because I knew that this man probably hadn’t had a single person listen to him in a very long time. He was alone, homeless, and an addict who was working towards becoming healthy again. All it took from me to make sure this man felt heard and loved that day, was to listen. And how simple is that? The simple act of listening and allowing someone to feel heard is so ridiculously powerful. Yes, it took an hour out of my day to do so, but what better way to spend that hour than to be sure you’re making a difference in someone’s life who is less fortunate than you. I have a warm home to return to, I know I will have food in my belly, and I know I have a huge support system of people who I can turn to. One hour is not so bad when you think about all the great things you have in your world.

Amongst being homeless and disheveled, this man was grateful, he was cheery, he was warm, he was harmless. Once I started listening to him, I did not even see what was on the surface.  I only saw his great spirited attitude. Once we give someone a chance, rather than focus on judging at first glance, we can learn so much. 
Without any prompting, he told me about where he was from, his past, his addiction, his health, his life goals, and his art that he is so passionate about. After he left, one of my coworkers said to me, “Wow, you did such a great job listening to that man, I would not have been able to do that”. That is when it dawned on me that it is really difficult for us in this society to take time out of our day to listen instead of talk. But not only to listen, but to hear what is being said….To take what is being said and apply it to our lives in order to better people. It truly is a difficult task that takes some humility and discipline to accomplish. But by doing this, we gain so much, and unfortunately it is so overlooked.

How often do we just wait our turn to speak next? Not listening to the one currently with the microphone, but just waiting our turn to say what we think needs to be said. How often do we have a question or thought while someone is speaking, and then make that our focus rather than continuing to hear what that person is saying? All to often, this is how we communicate in our society, thus not leaving any room to grow and learn as individuals. It is through others that we learn about humility, acceptance, and diversity. And I was so grateful to have that opportunity on the day that I met the 52 year old homeless man in great spirits.

When asked if my cup is half full or half empty, my response is always that I am grateful to have a cup ~

-keep shining
(Don’t forget to ‘like’ and share my Facebook page and posts at www.facebook.com/secretsofsw/ )

First Thought Wrong

Halt-Bord

‘First thought wrong’ is a concept I learned from comedian Mark Lundholm. I first heard about Mark when working at a psychiatric and  addictions hospital where his motivational and comical videos were utilized in our treatment facility. I fell in love with  his concept of ‘first thought wrong’ as it pertains to individuals suffering with the disease of addiction and their impulsive mindset.  I also feel this concept can be utilized in many other aspects of our lives as it helps to remind ourselves to  s l o w d o w n  sometimes.

My definition of First Thought Wrong: Acting compulsively and speaking impulsively. Not taking the time to filter through our thoughts which leads to inappropriate responses. Speaking or doing too quickly. ‘First thought wrong’ is the concept of reacting too quickly therefore our responses may be wrong.

When I am using my emotions to think through a problem or disagreement, that is where I need to utilize this concept the most. How often do we respond impulsively using our emotions, rather than taking time to filter our thoughts and process our response before blurting it out loud?  It is when I am deeply connected to something that is being questioned that I get defensive and utilize my emotions to respond quickly, not giving myself any time to filter my words. ‘First thought wrong’ reminds me that typically in these heated and emotional moments, the first thing I plan to say may be wrong  and better kept to myself. It is a reminder that I should back up and count to 10 before acting or responding. This helps me to react logically and professionally rather than with my emotions.

One thing I have learned through social work is that silence is a good and helpful thing. Sometimes, no one has to say anything and we can all just be silent, process our thoughts, and take time to think things through. This is difficult, as sometimes 10 seconds can feel like 5 years! However, I have noticed that a little silence goes a long way, and sometimes not saying anything says a lot. Practice being comfortable in moments of silence, and do not feel badly about verbalizing your need to take some time to think through your response…. It is okay. You are benefitting yourself by slowing down and taking the extra time to formulate your responses.

Mark Lundholm states that sometimes his ‘first thought wrong’ can take many days to process through. It can take that long to remove ‘first thought wrong’ and replace it with the right thing to do. Sometimes it will take us days to replace  ‘first thought wrong’ to produce a  positive thought which leads to appropriate and calm  responses.

Think about a time when you could of utilized the concept of ‘first thought wrong’…. What would of have been different had you used this concept? What benefits could ‘first thought wrong’ have provided in this situation?

Take the extra time to calmly and correctly respond. You will learn more about yourself in the process, and that is something special!

First thought wrong becomes next right thing” – Mark Lundholm

-keep shining

HALT

Halt-Bord

HALT
Hungry
Angry
Lonely
Tired

The first time I heard about HALT was working with individuals who struggle with addiction. HALT is used a lot in relapse prevention programs, however I think it can be utilized daily by anyone who finds it beneficial. I use HALT a lot to ensure that I am taking care of myself and queuing into what my body is telling me that it needs. Simply asking yourself each day to assess your body for HALT symptoms (‘Am I hungry, angry, lonely, tired?’) will help you be more aware of what you need, and aware of how you’re interacting with the outside world. Paying attention to these simple needs is quick and easy, and will ensure that we are aware of our own well-being.

Hungry: Sounds pretty self-explanatory, right? But, how many of you skip meals or forget to eat when life gets busy? It happens more than we realize! We all know the importance of a healthy, balanced diet and how this truly is fuel for our brains. I know when I have skipped a meal or eaten late, I can feel myself get tired, impatient, and unfocused. There is no way to function every day feeling like that! For anyone to complete their daily tasks successfully they need to refuel their brains and bodies. People aren’t lying when they say breakfast is the most important meal. Even if you are not hungry in the mornings, try to get something in your body to fuel up your brain and body for the long day ahead. It is also so important to eat full meals throughout the day. We all get busy and have to settle for a granola bar now and again, but when you have time to plan ahead, try to prepare nutritious meals. There are many tips and tricks on the internet to take shortcuts and make meal preparation a breeze!

Angry: People associate anger as such a negative thing. Anger is just a feeling, it does not need to be anything more than that. It is okay to feel the way you feel. I wrote a blog about this a while back to remind you all that you are entitled to your own feelings! ( http://swsecrets.net/?p=43 ) Why are you angry? Just recognizing your anger can make a huge difference in the way you feel the rest of the day. Identify your anger. Have you ever tried ignoring your anger and then lashing out at someone later on in the day? We are all guilty of that, I bet! Taking time to recognize our anger and using steps to calm ourselves will keep us from lashing out at others. Plus, once we are aware of our anger it is less damaging to our mood. Awareness is everything.

Lonely: Everyone knows what it feels like to be lonely at some point in life. However, there is a difference between being lonely and being alone. If you feel lonely, there are always ways to make more connections with people. Whether that is online, community activities, scheduling more time to spend with friends…There are endless opportunities, and this is a great way to practice that self care I know you’ve been working on 😉 ( http://swsecrets.net/?p=174 ) Take a leap of faith and put yourself out there! Make a small effort each day to do one thing that helps you to feel connected to someone else. Just be sure to spend time with people who you feel comfortable with. Spending time with people that are not good influences in your life, or someone you’re not comfortable around, will not fulfill your feelings of loneliness. Make these interactions meaningful and fulfilling.
I personally struggle with being alone. I could be surrounded by people all the time and would rarely feel the need to have any alone time. This is something I am working on  changing about myself because silence is a beautiful thing. We are constantly surrounding ourselves with noise, but just being in silence can be so peaceful. I do not listen to music on the way home from work anymore, and it feels so good! Silence is golden.

Tired: Being tired takes a serious toll on our bodies. How often do we feel ‘tired’ and practically chug 8 cups of coffee before noon? It’s easy to ignore how tired we are when each day is filled with meetings, errands, other activities…Our ability to think accurately diminishes when we are constantly running on fumes. And if you add hunger, loneliness, and anger in the mix…Look out! Increasing the amount of sleep you get each night or finding a few moments in the day to close your eyes may be all you need to have a better outlook on life each day. Satisfying your need for rest is what keeps us healthy- both physically and emotionally. Simply recharging your mind/brain can be helpful- using self care techniques such as listening to music or deep breathing may be all you need to get through the day, and recharge your batteries!

HALT is a quick reminder to be sure we are meeting our basic needs each and every day. Am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? Taking a simple assessment of our needs will help us to practice being more in-tune with our bodies. Just take one minute per day to HALT, think about yourself, and how to manage the remainder of your day. You owe it to yourself to be happy and healthy.

It is health that is real wealth, not pieces of gold and silver.

-keep shining

Abuse vs. Dependence

Chrysanthemum

There is a lot of gray area and uncertainty when it comes to addiction, and one area in particular is the differences between substance abuse vs. dependence. Addiction comes in many different forms, and looks different for everyone affected. Not only is the person who is addicted affected, but so is their family and friends, coworkers, and everyone they come in contact with. Both abuse and dependence are considered an addiction, regardless of how often or how much of the drug is consumed. The difference between the two relates to the way the addiction affects the individual’s every day life, and how it affects those around them.
This topic strikes a cord with me because of the many former patients with addiction I had the opportunity to work with. Some of those patients would not see binge drinking on occasion, for example, as an addiction. This would make working on a treatment plan for these individuals challenging as they would not view their drug use as an addiction, therefore obtaining treatment felt unnecessary to them. This was always concerning to me because of course I wanted those patients to get better! But, the choice must come from the patient to want to receive the help and understand that there may be an issue to come to terms with. There are many different ways to receive help, and sometimes obtaining treatment from a facility may feel intimidating and foreign. There are many other ways to receive help, and I want people to know that!

Below is more detailed information on abuse and dependence which can be helpful in deciding what type of treatment to utilize or how to ask for help, and having a better understanding of addiction in general.

ABUSE
Substance use that harms you physically and/or your mental health causing anxiety, pain, or sorrow.

  • Ongoing legal problems related to substance use (DUI, paraphernalia…).
  • Continuing to use substances even though it is causing problems in your social  life (canceling plans, arguing with peers, physical fights…).
  • Repeated substance use which affects your ability to complete responsibilities in your home life (spending time with family, getting yard work completed…), affects your ability to work (late, ‘no-show’), or affecting your ability to be successful in school.
  • Repeated substance use regardless of the usage being physically dangerous (drinking and driving, unsanitary needle use…).

DEPENDENCE
A pattern of substance use leading to pain, sorrow, or anxiety if demonstrated in 3 or more points below:

  • The individual often takes the substance in mass amounts, or for longer periods than they expected.
  • There is ongoing, unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control the substance use.
  • A lot of the individual’s time is spent in activities closely related to substance use or that provide the ability to gain the substance (selling drugs, working at a bar….).
  • Give up or greatly reduce enjoyable social or recreational activities due to ongoing usage.
  • Tolerance- a need for increased amounts of the substance to obtain intoxication or the sought-after affect. Or the substance seeming to be less effective over time with the same amount of consumption. (If typically it would take a person 5 beers to be intoxicated, over time this would increase to 10 beers before the individual felt any effects.)
  • Withdrawal- if the definition/attributes of withdrawal for the specific substance being abused is what the individual’s symptoms are. Or the same substance is taken to avoid/relieve the withdrawal symptoms. (Waking up and consuming alcohol to avoid a hangover).
  • The individual lies about their using or is in denial of their use.

*There are self assessment tools available online to help people determine if they are suffering from either abuse or dependence.
As mentioned earlier, both abuse and dependence are considered an addiction. This is so important to understand when trying to come to terms with addiction and get the help you, or someone you know, may need.

Steps to take to help yourself or someone you know:

  • Utilize an online self assessment tool to gain a better understanding of your addiction.
  • Research research research! There is TONS of helpful information and resources for free on the internet.
  • Tell someone you trust about your addiction. Recovering from addiction is much easier when you have guidance, support, and encouragement from others. It is so easy to fall back on old patterns when you do not gain support and understanding from others.
  • Attend NA/AA meetings in your area (trust me, there are tons being offered daily)
  • Challenge yourself- try to eliminate substance use for a certain amount of time to see if you’re able to accomplish that. With time, hopefully you notice how much better, clearer, healthier, and happier you feel. Setting goals, such as this challenge, is great practice in figuring out what you are capable of accomplishing on your own!
  • Think about how your substance use is affecting things in your life that are important to you. Remind yourself not only to make the change for yourself, but also for the people and things you love.
  • Speak with an addiction counselor or individual therapist (your information is kept confidential). Most addictions are the root of a pre-existing problem such as depression or trauma.
  • Contact local agencies who specialize in addiction to discuss options they have to assist you. Check online to find options in your area.

Please remember that it takes courage to get the help you need. It is no easy task; do not give up on yourself. Most addicts are not successful on their first try, and that is okay! Any amount of time sober is worth celebrating. Be proud of yourself for recognizing there is an issue. Be proud of yourself for attempting to gain education and get the help you need. It takes time, commitment, and motivation to make the change and become a healthier you. We all know change is hard, so if you’re prepared and ready for that you can make this happen!

Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle. Create a life you can be proud of.

keep shining

 

 

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