Creating and Sticking to Routines in Recovery

In a world where it can feel like chaos is unending (perhaps even moreso since you got sober because of the clarity gained), routines can provide an enormous amount of comfort and stability. When drinking and using drugs, you might have had a hyper-structured schedule and may have used substances to find relief from the mundanity and tedium of that routine. Perhaps you had little to no routine, which enabled binge usage with very few parameters. Or maybe you had a safety net of routine when you were in a sober living and find independent living to be paralyzing when it comes to finding a daily rhythm. Whatever may be the case, it’s undeniable that routines (or lack thereof) can have a tremendous effect on how one uses or stays away from substances. Likewise, in recovery your routines and rituals can provide emotional and physical scaffolding between you and picking up that first drink or drug. Maybe the idea of incorporating some structure into your days makes you recoil, but try adding some into the day, however temporarily, and decide for yourself as to which practices feel like they will be sustainable.

A Flexible Routine

The definition of routine is “a series of actions regularly followed.” Think back on the routines you had around using substances and how they might have been non-negotiables to you. Had you not upheld these routines even in times of treacherous weather (whether literally or regarding the state of your mind)? I recall many a time traveling in dangerous conditions to head to a party or to procure certain substances. In sobriety, upholding helpful and healthy practices can help you not just […]

Resolutions in Recovery

With a plethora of recent violent political unrest in the United States, many have joked that the spirit of 2020–a year of everything unexpected and wildly unprecedented–is very much alive in 2021. While you may be powerless over external circumstances, you are very much in control of how you choose to go about navigating your internal circumstances and recovery. Whether you love resolutions or stray far from the word and those who insist on announcing theirs to everyone, it’s not a bad idea to check in on where you were last year (emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically, recovery-wise) and how you would like to proceed in 2021. 

 

Challenges in 2021

In your drinking and drugging days, how many times would you resolve to not use, use less, or only use in certain socially acceptable situations? For me, those instances were innumerable and the disillusionment that followed was painful and disheartening. Every broken resolve was a prime opportunity for self-flagellation. In sobriety you don’t have to resolve anything with dramatic declarations, let alone on your own. There is an easier, softer way of navigating reflection on the past year while mindfully looking ahead in a clear, confident manner. 2020 can, indeed, be eclipsed by the rich possibilities of 2021 and sobriety is a baseline in helping you get there. It’s safe to say that we have all been scarred on a local, national, and global level in 2020. It would make sense to look onto the new year with thick apprehension and fear about what’s to come. It may seem like uncertainty is the only certainty we have alongside feelings of overwhelm, confusion, and lack of direction. All of […]

When Queerness and Sobriety Meet

“Sobriety is a queer issue. In a world full of hardships, distractions, and escapes, to be clear, to be awake, and to be focused, makes one queer…Sobriety as radical queer practice has the potential to be truly socially and politically transformative,” writes Dr. Jen Manion in her brilliant op-ed “The Queer Politics of Sobriety.” To some, sobriety is simple: you abstain from alcohol and drugs and proceed as normal, no longer shackled to the substances and accoutrements that seemed like friends. To others, sobriety is far more complicated and expansive, defined by more than simply choosing not to do something. Likewise, one’s gender identity and sexuality can be just as complicated, nuanced, and (what feels like) a moving target at times (if a target at all). Perhaps as a result of clarity gained in sobriety, you’ve started to question your gender expression and/or sexual orientation. Maybe you’ve been on this road for a while, the questioning only occurring in states of inebriation or in the painful mornings after riddled with “hangxiety.” Or maybe recovery friends and peers have started a journey of questioning and you’d like to be a better ally. This article is but a drop in the growing world of articles exploring the intersectionality of sobriety and queerness. As a cisgendered female who has historically oriented herself as “straight” but is finally coming to terms with her queerness, I now see the crucial role of sobriety in helping me get here.

 

Challenges to Queerness 

It’s important to unpack and challenge beliefs around gender identity and sexual orientation, especially for those of us who have grown up […]

By |December 28th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Inclusivity and Diversity in Recovery Spaces

In honor of the opening of K.C.’s House, Avenues’ new all-gender transitional living house, this month’s article is about inclusivity in recovery spaces. The make-up of individuals in recovery from alcohol and drugs is growing increasingly diverse. Many are from marginalized communities who face additional barriers when it comes to getting and staying sober. As such, the landscape of diversity and inclusion work in recovery should shapeshift to address, reflect, and actively include these individuals. 

Inclusion does not entail dismissing or minimizing another’s experience. It is the practice or policy of providing equal access to resources and opportunities for individuals from marginalized groups, such as people with physical or mental disabilities or those who identity as being part of the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual), TGNCNB (Transgender, Gender non-conforming, Non-binary) and/or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities, to name a few. As a queer person of color, I can attest to the need for greater inclusivity in recovery meetings and institutions. Let’s take a look at why inclusivity is essential to a more holistic landscape for long-term recovery and how it can benefit everyone involved. 

How Mainstream Recovery Falls Short

Traditional recovery spaces, namely Alcoholics Anonymous, function on the heteronormative and cisgendered insistence that “men stick with the men and women with the women” when it comes to choosing a sponsor. There is also a “singleness of purpose,” which is “to carry the message of hope to the suffering alcoholic” and to avoid discussing “outside issues,” or items unrelated to alcoholism. While I appreciate the focus that this can bring to a meeting, what constitutes “outside issues” can […]

By |November 30th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Claim Your Space in a Sober Living

As you might expect, in the wake of COVID-19 sober livings have diligently adapted their services to support their community, which can range from in-house clients, after-care clients,  and alumni to staff. If you’re completely new to sober livings, feel free to peruse past articles that explore what to expect at a sober living, as well as other options for transitional living if sober livings don’t feel like the right fit for you. While everyone is urged to take precautions in maintaining physical distance amongst themselves at a sober living, I also encourage residents to think about the ways in which this pandemic is offering the opportunity to engage with other kinds of space, namely one’s internal space or bandwidth. Much has been said about how this pandemic is an opportune time to be still and get to know ourselves on a deeper level, but it can be just as easy to fall into old habits and ways of thinking and doing that may not serve you despite being chemically sober. Learning how to navigate internal space is a key skill that can strengthen your recovery, which will ultimately inform how deeply you can show up for the community around you.

 

How Sober Livings Are Adjusting

Virtual alternatives to forms of community support outside of a sober living, such as nearby recovery meetings, have swiftly been put in place, offering even more options for those who want to explore recovery in other parts of the country or world via online platforms. Unfortunately, some sober livings have had to reduce the number of available beds in order to […]

Befriending and Recovering From Shame

The recent Netflix series Feel Good explores the protagonist Mae’s journey of recovery from substance use disorder as she navigates a new romantic relationship. In one scene at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, one of the supporting characters tells Mae that substances and behaviors are often used for pain relief but why is it that the pain is there in the first place? This moment stuck with me as I thought about shame as a primary reason for why I am prone to addictiveness. 

As discussed in last month’s article, much is at stake when shame is not addressed in recovery. Once internalized, it functions the way an addictive chemical might. It can fester to the point where it derails one’s progress no matter how much time they have sober from alcohol, drugs, and other substances and behaviors. Last month’s article was an exploration of shame and its inextricable link to addiction and recovery. Here, I’ll describe tools available for shame recovery which, like sobriety, is not a linear journey.

 

Externalizing Shame

Finding a Safe Group

It’s crucial to emerge from the shame cave and all that it entails: hiding, isolation, and secrecy. Finding a social network, whether it’s a support group or 12-Step meeting, that can hear and mirror what you need to share is important. Ideally this group will have guidelines and boundaries that are respected and revised as needed if additional concerns are brought up. It would be advisable to have multiple safe group members to bond with as well as licensed support outside of the group. 

Shamebusters

One of my favorite group […]

By |September 29th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Shame Underlying Addiction

Reading John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame That Binds You (originally published in 1988), feels at once like a hug and a punch. Shame is at the core of addiction and “addictiveness.” It can be deeply entrenched in the psyche in ways that may not be obvious to you and explains why one chooses to turn to addictive substances and compulsive behaviors in the first place. Though I’m grateful to have found it now, it’s a book I could have used in early recovery to demystify the indescribable discomfort I felt when I put alcohol and drugs down. The discomfort makes so much sense in hindsight. 

Bradshaw outlines the effect of shame, one of which is its destructive co-occurrence with addiction (they both fuel each other in a vicious cycle). An oft-misunderstood word, shame isn’t talked about enough, which does a great disservice as it thrives in isolation and secrecy. Is it that we don’t want to talk about it or that as a culture we don’t know much about it? Where should we start? There’s been a recent uptick of cultural interest in shame. This could partly be attributed to Brené Brown, a self-described “shame researcher” whose TED talk “Listening To Shame” went viral. A better understanding of shame can greatly enhance one’s comprehension of “addictiveness,” which still surfaces for me in recovery. This article is the first of two exploring the mysterious terrain of shame and its role in substance use disorder and recovery.

 

The Origins of Shame

Where does shame originate? A complex combination of messaging from dysfunctional family systems, institutions, […]

Food Freedom in Sobriety

I’ve fallen into many nutrition rabbit holes over the last decade, seduced by promises regarding certain foods and manners of (not) eating. When I think about the precious bandwidth spent on these trends, I’m exasperated. A disordered relationship with food began before I ever picked up a drink or drug, but I didn’t get sober to transfer that addictive and compulsive energy back towards food. When I think of all the other things I could have focused on, it’s upsetting but every compulsion, addiction, and obsession serves a purpose and, for me, is rooted in early childhood trauma. Being in recovery from multiple substances and behaviors reminds me this journey is not linear and that it’s never too late to reclaim my energy around food so I can be truly present in my life.

 

Food Challenges in a Pandemic

Even without a history of disordered eating, this pandemic might be triggering episodes of emotional eating and increased or decreased appetite. Trying to practice safety guidelines while food shopping can also be stressful. I’ve found it helpful to write my shopping list out, which can be tossed instead of referring to a list on my phone where the virus could potentially be transferred. I try to trust my hunger and fullness cues. Non-stomach hunger cues can look like irritation, anxiety, tiredness, headaches, and low energy. Waiting until my stomach is growling is a sign that I’ve gone too long without eating, so snacks are essential to stabilize my blood sugar levels.

Shortly before quarantine started, I took up jogging and started experiencing chronic digestion issues. I obsessively tried to diagnose the cause. Was it due to the […]

Embrace the Nothingness 

Far from a nihilistic cry, my suggestion to embrace nothingness–specifically of being and of activity level–is borne out of frustration from trying too hard for too long, both before and in recovery. I needed to be someone and to prove some things. Sitting with my own insignificance is both terrifying and freeing, joyous and upsetting. The global pandemic in conjunction with increased attention to systemic racial violence towards Black Americans has further propelled me to take a seat. The former is an unprecedented experience for those alive today and the latter is what we have, unfortunately, come to know too often. This climate vaguely reminds me of moving through the sludgy trenches of active addiction and moving into the scary new terrain of sobriety, which brings its own drawers of highs, lows, and moments of paralysis. In not knowing how to proceed, sometimes the kindest action to take for my recovery is to take none at all and to embrace my nothingness and mortality while also upholding that I am important, matter, and can be an agent of change.

 

How Do You “Do Nothing”?

So much of any addiction or obsessive tendency is an allergy to stillness, an orientation towards doing to get out of one’s self, which is to say, the body and feelings. This state of dis-ease and restlessness might render it seemingly impossible to take no action, but it is in inaction that one’s potential, inner energy and thoughts can cull and incubate. This period of rest and stillness is essential for growth and taking actions and speaking from a wiser place. […]

Holding Recovery Boundaries in a Pandemic

In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic requires those of us in recovery from substance use disorder to stay especially vigilant about our boundaries around our sobriety as well as our changing relationships to ourselves, others, and our physical surroundings. A call to strengthen recovery boundaries may sound like a paradox in a time where restrictions are aplenty, but restrictions denote a sense of deprivation whereas holding and maintaining boundaries — another important addition for your sober toolbox in a pandemic — can usher in a sense of space, abundance, and spiritual growth towards your recovery.

 

Definition of a Boundary

Boundaries aren’t walls. They are non-negotiable feelings, thoughts, needs and preferences that are unique to you explaining what you will or will not do, accept, or tolerate. Boundaries demonstrate where we end and someone else begins. 

For those of us also in recovery from codependency, people-pleasing may be familiar to us and lead us to numerous incidents of self-abandonment. While being in active addiction is a very obvious form of self-abandonment, saying “yes” when you mean “no” or “no” when you mean “yes,” are other examples of violating your own emotional boundaries. Codependents use external stimuli and signals to define and regulate themselves emotionally. If this pandemic renders you without employment or a reduction in other opportunities or experiences you were looking forward to and that affects your sense of self-worth or intrinsic value, that is a sign that you may be too-closely identifying with your externals to determine your sense of self.

 

Virtual Meeting Boundaries

As we connect virtually more than ever and less in person, it’s essential to know our limits in the […]

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