This week, we are highlighting a new word to examine; “grief” will be the focus of our ongoing Word of the Week series. We have talked a lot here about themes that most if not all of us have experienced or will experience throughout our lives and our journeys in recovery. Grief is no exception as it is a universal experience that all of us either have already gone though, or will inevitably suffer at one point in our lives. The ability to cope and manage one’s grief is an invaluable “skill” in one’s emotional repertoire, unfortunately however, honing this “skill” requires that we experience loss which, obviously, is not an adequate practice ground for an experience that incites such overwhelming, negative emotions. Considering that the grieving process can be such a destabilizing event, it makes sense that we ought to engage in whatever preparatory actions we can before we need to inevitably go through this arduous journey. The prescription I am suggesting is that we work an intense, honest, and thorough recovery program so that when difficult times arise, we can have the courage and strength to face life’s difficulties head on.
Our Word of the Week series continues here at South Orange County Detox and Treatment as we turn our focus to a new word to examine, “influence”. As an addict/alcoholic, the first association with this particular word makes me think of “driving under the influence” or being “under the influence” of a particular drug. The next association that comes to mind, and following the natural progression of anyone who has suffered the legal consequences of addiction, is some type of criminal charge and maybe even a night, or 30, in jail. Once we admit we have a problem, however, and begin taking the necessary steps to seeking out a solution, we can begin to focus on the word “influence” in a more positive and hope-oriented light. Influences play a monumental role in the early stages of recovery, whether they are groups and communities, individuals, or even ideas. The reason it is so important to subscribe to positive influence early in sobriety is two-fold: first off, we can go back to our original association with influence, which is that of our drugs of choice. Our physical addictions, psychological obsessions, and emotional dependency on these substances were the determining factors in all of our actions when in active addiction. It is often said that one should not pull out a rug from another person without something adequate to replace it. This leads me to my second point which is that we have to be able to replace the drugs, and more aptly put, replace what the drugs were a illegitimate substitute for, in order to maintain any semblance of sanity during these first stages. I think the most obvious and universally effective replacement for the negative influence of drugs is the positive influence of a like-minded community such as is found in the rooms of AA and NA. Although engaging in the 12 steps is an invaluable tool for self-enlightenment and spiritual growth, I’m simply suggesting showing up to a meeting in order to find love and support from those who can identify with the addict’s plight as there is an inherent healing quality within this type of connection. Once this foundation is laid and one is able to feel supported by a community, it would be remiss not to turn our focus to a higher-order purpose. What I mean by this is setting our sights on emulating those individuals who might help bring us closer to our potential in whatever form that may be. As an example, if one of your goals in recovery, or life in general, is to become a great basketball player, you ought to be looking to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant as your influence and probably not setting your sights on surpassing the average Joe at your local gym. In all likelihood, none of us will ever be the Michael Jordan’s of our respective aspirations, however, adopting someone or something that will help us strive to our greatest potential will do two things for us. It will keep us in a state of humility as we will be able to recognize our shortcomings in the face of the ideal, and two, it will keep us striving to be better than we thought we could be. This may seem like an unreasonable standard to try and meet but I believe that is the point. Life is not about ever becoming the proverbial Michael Jordan, it is about working as hard as the people who we look to in order to influence us so that we may become whatever version of the “the best” that we can be in accordance with our own abilities. Everything we experience influences us in one way or another meaning that we must apply wisdom when choosing our influences, especially when walking the path of recovery.
Not only has anger been a huge part of my addiction, but it has also been something that I have had to work on throughout my recovery and will be something I will have to work on through the rest of my life. To me, my anger leads me to resentments, and resentments is typically what causes me to relapse in most cases. Usually, my anger starts within myself, for example if I do something wrong and someone calls me out on my negative behavior, I tend to get angry because I want to be stuck in that negative thinking and negative actions. This then leads to me blaming others for my actions and my wrong doings and also victimizing myself and getting down on myself. Usually when I do this, I want people to feel bad for me and like people say “misery loves company.” These patterns have come up while I’ve been using and also when I’ve been sober. This behavior can most certainly cause unjustified resentments. Another way I’ve shown anger both in active addiction and recovery is if somebody wrongs me or hurts me, this makes me feel not loved, unworthy, and not accepted. These feelings can defiantly bring me down and put me in a bad spot and cause me to become angry. I feel like there is so much anger and hate in the world today, so many horrible things happen each and every day and effect so many people in so many different ways. While in recovery, I’ve been taught to deal with my anger and resentments in a healthier way rather than dealing with them like I would in the past by using drugs and at times violence or fighting. When I get angry today, I try to think about both parts, my part and the other person’s part and try to realize that they are sick and pray for them and let go of my anger or resentment. I am by no means perfect and still have much work to do because at time’s I can still get caught up in my anger and resentments and blame other people for my wrong doings, make myself the victim and let the anger fester which is not good for me. I have come to realize that my anger affects no one except for myself which is why I need to be mindful daily to make sure I am conscious of my actions and my behaviors and show love to everyone.
Here at South Orange County Detox and Treatment, we are featuring “Loyalty” in our continuing Word of the Week series. Typically, when one thinks of loyalty, associations to a romantic partner, close friends, or even the country in which one lives are some of the presumed allegiances. Simply defined, loyalty is the unwavering support of a person, group, cause or idea. As we are focusing on recovery, I want to put a different spin on the way we generally conceive of the idea of loyalty. Namely, I want to look at the importance of loyalty in relation to one’s principles and convictions, loyalty to our fellow addicts in addiction, and finally, loyalty to the friends, family, and those who have selflessly devoted their time and energy in order to help us heal while guiding us down the path to sobriety.
Remaining loyal to the ways in which we go about treating ourselves and others is a crucial part of establishing a newfound pattern of behaviors and thoughts that is necessary to anyone who wishes to truly experience growth and contentment throughout their recovery process. If you’re anything like me, you probably didn’t apply any amount of loyalty to, what could’ve been considered to be principles prior to using, during your drug and alcohol use. This is no surprise, nor should it be, as we are all keenly aware that in order to survive while in active addiction, it is an unspoken requirement that any loyalty to pre-established conceptions of what it means to be virtuous are thrown out the window as quickly as possible. We know the drill; wake up, pray to god that we be relieved of this life that so closely resembles hell, and then get on with our business of copping by ANY MEANS NECESSARY. If you are reading this, chances are you already know that we no longer have to live like this if we don’t want to. The operative phrase in that sentence, however, is “if we don’t want to”. If we choose to not take seriously the importance of being loyal to our convictions and what we know to be true, right, and good, we are really being disloyal to ourselves, our loves one, and our creator who yearns for our realization that we are eternal, interconnected, and unified by the principle of love.
I believe, as a community that supports recovery, we also need to be loyal to one another. This means making gossip, judgements, jealousy, and pride anathema inside and outside of the rooms. This means consistent empathy and understanding for those who are walking in a different pair of the same shoes as we are wearing. This means removing condescending or dominating language with other addicts as we are no better nor worse, but probably just in a different position that could easily be reversed. Finally, it means showing loyalty to anyone who is willing to give a shot at a new life in sobriety a try. In this context, loyalty to the community is integral because the success of it is dependent on the quality of our connection to one another. As I recently heard Russel Brand state so poignantly, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; the opposite of addiction is connection.” If we take this notion seriously and understand that the opposing force that most effectively combats our disease is meaningful connection with others, we can see with clarity the importance of loyalty of this kind. I want to leave a quote from Mark Twain where he is pleading that we foster righteous convictions, and remain fiercely loyal to them as the only means for real change as a lack of loyalty in this respect facilitates the atrophy of our integrity. “Loyalty to petrified opinions never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world… and never will.”
Loyalty is the absence of selfishness. To be loyal one must instill their trust onto others. This process requires time and patience. It is just as important to gain one’s loyalty but to maintain it as well; for the slightest sense of rebellion in the relationship creates a sense of distrust. Once there is uncertainty the journey to gain one’s trust must start over. To avoid losing one’s trust and to remain loyal it is important to communicate honestly and effectively. Successful relationships are transparent.
From my experience through sports, athletes become loyal to their coaches once a rapport is built. An athlete becomes more receptive to a coaches training after there has been signs of loyalty on both ends of the relationship. The relationship is built upon a mutual goal and interest. Once there is a connection it is important to maintain trust to ensure loyalty. A coach cannot show favoritism between others because it creates a sense of division and will cause some to stray from being loyal. Vice versa for the athlete. One must put trust into the coaches training and be loyal to the process.
I have seen the differences in loyalty that produces different outcomes. When there was a bad relationship between my coach and I, I was unmotivated, there was no trust, and I ran poorly. Once I began to be loyal to my coach and trusted his training methods my mindset had shifted. I began to enjoy running and to be loyal to his training. These changes created a better relationship and ultimately I became a better runner. To me, this shows the importance of being loyal within a relationship. If there is mutual trust and loyalty a relationship is far more successful.
The concept of character is not something a person is born with. Character is shaped and molded by experiences throughout one’s life. It is not enough to simply state characteristics that you believe you have, they must be defined by actions. Growing up playing basketball I witnessed various shades of character. There are many characteristics of athletes that are favorable: hardworking, courageous, bold, and determined; but, there are also characteristics that can derive from competition that demonstrates poor character. One of the most valuable lessons that helped shape my character was learning how to win and how to lose. However, this is not a literal step process to win or lose based on points but rather based on one’s poise and actions when winning or losing. How a person acts and treats others when winning or losing demonstrates what kind of character they hold. Being boastful, spiteful, angry, and harmfully aggressive are examples of negative characteristics. Witnessing these poor characteristics helped me to piece together what I want my own personal character to abide by. I also learned that character is not only what standards a person holds themselves accountable to in front of others, but what standards they hold for themselves when there is no one around. John Wooden quotes, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” Being true to your word when others are not around demonstrates strong characteristics. Nobody is perfect. I believe someone with good character continues to hold themselves accountable to higher standards and strives to better oneself. As long as someone is willing to continue to grow it shows good character.
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” –Helen Keller
At South Orange County Detox and Treatment this week, we will be featuring “character” as our focus for our continuing series, Word of the Week. One’s character denotes the quality and consistency that they apply morality to in any given situation or experience. In other words, each of us have our own distinct character which is the summation of past choices we have made as well as the extent to which we were able to maintain integrity and hold onto ourselves despite factors that may make these decisions difficult. The compromising of our character is something that the struggling addict knows all too well. Personally, I still continue to struggle with the same defects of character that riddled me throughout my addiction which caused so much internal dissonance. The only difference is that today, combatting these defects while fostering compassion and forgiveness for myself has become much easier. If I am being honest, I continue to struggle with issues of co-dependency, an inflated ego, and laziness; I’m only stating those 3 defects because I only have 500 a few pages to finish this blog post, but rest assured, my own list of defects goes on ad infinitum. The only way that I, or any of us, have a shot at curbing our character defects is when we are sober, and as far as we can see, there is no way to circumvent this truth. In my addiction, I would have had no shot at ever really changing my behaviors or fostering a sense of ethics and morals. Conversely, the task of building quality character while shedding our old shell of faulty character is a monumental endeavor even in sobriety! The point I am making is that we cannot start on this journey until we make the commitment to do it without drugs and alcohol. Here at SOCD, our primary goal is to facilitate any changes that are required in order to help the individual learn to maintain sobriety. Part of achieving this goal, however, means that we help the individual to identify what barriers are getting in their way, and then we help show them how to move these barriers so eventually they can do it autonomously when they are not in treatment. This process is where the real magic and healing can begin. Salina, the owner, visionary, and primary healer at SOCD dedicates an inordinate amount of time with every client in order to examine and ultimately identify the defects in character that are blocking the growth and evolution of the individual so that they may grow into what they are supposed to be; she doesn’t just merely use words to convey the notion that acorns were meant to become oak trees, but helps provide clarity to their vision while actually taking the steps with each client in order to help them navigate through the darkness and into the light.
After working in recovery for the past 5 years, I can say that without sobriety, us addicts have virtually nothing. Following this premise, however, I believe there is also a component that is equally important to advancing our quality of life that is ignored in much of contemporary recovery programs and that is dealing with building up worthy character while eradicating the weight of our selfishly-directed character. If we get sober but our character stay static, we are typically referred to as a “dry drunk”. Now if you asked someone to define a dry drunk they may not give you the answer I did, however, we all know that individual who is sober yet miserable and I believe that is attributed to a lack of focus in this particular facet of recovery. Keeping one’s character in check and ensuring that we are engaged in thoughts, actions, and feelings that would not set us back in our ability to move forward is not an easy task, nor is it one that ever ends, at least for this addict. Consistency is key when discussing character because if we can evaluate ourselves and the application of morality in an honest fashion, we will realize that if we are not tenaciously mindful of checking ourselves, we will surely fall victim to our own indifference and devolve back into old patterns of behavior. For me, this is where I begin to succumb to all the defects that are still pervading and is usually a sign that relapse is eminent.
In conclusion, our hope at SOCD is that this serves as a reminder to continue working to shed old, unnecessary, and damaging defects of character while simultaneously engaging in new, ethical, and rewarding acts so that we may continue to thrive in sobriety and live lives we only dreamed of. If you or a loved one you know is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, please give us a call so that we may help shine a light on your path while we walk with you out of the darkness.
To have a dream is to have a vision of achieving a goal. However, to some individuals, like myself, there is an emphasis that is focused on being secure. This sense of security halts a dream in order to avoid failure. Being afraid to fail fills individuals with self-doubt. Wishing to avoid failure is to avoid a dream altogether. To be successful failure is inevitable. Achieving a dream is not an easy path. The differentiating factor for those who are successful and those who are not successful is the willingness to continue to persevere after failure. To dream is to face failure with an open mind and to perceive failure as a learning experience. Being said, dreams are not impossible, but they do require hard work, determination, perseverance and courage. Dreamers are falsely identified as impractical; but what is impractical is the idea that one can achieve their dream merely by wishful thinking. Others might try to discourage you, or not believe in you, but as long as you believe in yourself achieving your dream is possible. One great example that recently came to my attention is the story of Andre Ingram. Ingram dreamed to play in the NBA but was not skilled enough. However, Ingram did not give up this dream. He continued to play in the G-league in hopes to pursue his dream of someday playing in the NBA. It was not until 10 years later, Ingram finally fulfilled his dream of playing in the NBA and was contracted to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. After 10 years of pursuing his dream it finally came true. Thomas Edison quoted “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” I believe this quote is true to many. In a fast pace society, we are so entitled and want instant gratification. If the instant gratification is not achieved people tend to lose interest and give up. This lack of perseverance makes achieving a dream impossible. I personally think the mind is our most powerful tool. Once sharpened there is no telling what we are capable of. But it is all dependent upon oneself. If a dream is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse; so, how bad do you want it?
South Orange County Detox & Treatment’s Word of the Week series continues as we take an element from this week’s Art Therapy and draw inspiration from that; the word we are highlighting is “dreams”. The clients focused their energies this week on imagining what their ideal lives would look like should they continue on their path of sobriety, spiritual growth, and personal evolution. So much of recovery is focused on what is happening right now, and it ought to be. That being said, we also need to make a little bit of room for the formulation of dreams so that we have something to aspire to down the road. Everyone had different conceptions of what their particular “dream” life would look like but the common thread weaving throughout these boards was a sense of hope and imagination for lives that they have yet to live, but lives that are within their grasp. While some people subscribe to the notion that merely putting out positive intentions into the universe will somehow facilitate the coming to fruition of these dreams, however, I believe that is something lazy and unmotivated people say. The cold, hard reality for those of us in recovery, and even those of us who aren’t, is that if we want the house on the beach, the fast car, the happy family, the great career, or even sometimes in our case, the simplicity of a sober lifestyle free from bondage to our addiction, it is going to take effort, commitment, patience, and willingness. A quote referenced quite often here at SOCD is Carl Jung stating that, “Your vision will come true only when you look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.” The reason I bring this up is I think it is worth examining what he meant by this. When we look to the outside world for validation, confirmation, enlightenment, and self-esteem, we will always be let down and our dreams will remain just that, nothing more than a fantasy. If, however, we choose to address the source of our pain, anguish, and suffering, then we can begin to awaken to the reality of what has been holding us back all along, ourselves. The reason I believe the focus on dreams was so crucial and necessary here at SOCD is because we encourage our clients to “awaken” the living spirit within themselves here daily through actions and not simply through words. We hold our clients accountable even when they may not like it. We do this because we know that these goals and aspirations will go nowhere beyond the poster board that was used to create these dream boards if they are not focusing on improving themselves, their relationships with others, and the quality of their lives in sobriety. A dream doesn’t become a reality through a magic, alchemical process; a dream only becomes a reality through effort, dedication, commitment, and in the case of us addicts, through sobriety. “The only way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.”
When thinking of trust and someone struggling with substance abuse, your mind might automatically think about the damage and chaos created by the addict’s behaviors. “I don’t trust to leave my wallet around her”. “I don’t believe you are going to do what you say you will do”. If you are an addict, or know an addict, you are familiar with the lies, deception, and broken promises that shatter trust. But, do we think about the broken trust the addict experienced? At South Orange County Detox & Treatment, clients are encouraged to share the situations they experienced that created their lack of trust. Often, a lack of trust arises from abuse, disloyalty, manipulation and fear. Learning to gain trust with the healthy people in a client’s life is an important part of recovery. Rebuilding trust in recovery requires courage to be honest about the pain we experienced, an open mind to explore the feelings this generated, and vulnerability to begin to trust again. Once trust is rebuilt and strengthened, relationships