The Cycle Of Denial

The Cycle of Denial

One of the hardest things for somebody to do is actually to ask for help, to realize that they need help, and that happens when somebody decides they want to go to rehab because life has become too painful for them and they want to do something to change the way they’re living their life. Honesty is something that you find difficult when you’re in active addiction. You develop strategies which will justify and rationalize what you’re doing, you start being dishonest with your colleagues, your family members, about the amount you’re drinking or using, you start telling people that you’re doing really well when in actual fact you’re not and you’re feeling miserable. You start to rationalize, you start to think that, well, if you had my job you’d drink, or if you were in my relationship you’d drink or use or whatever your substance is.

When addicts rationalize, what they are actually doing is trying to find a good enough excuse that will justify using. So, if I have a job that I really don’t like and I find difficult, well if you had that job you would drink too, or I can’t sleep at night, that’s a huge one, I need it to sleep. We look for ways to make sure that ultimately, we don’t have to admit to ourselves that we’ve got a problem. I mean, who does, who wants to admit that they’ve got an issue that they can’t deal with themselves, it takes a lot of pain and consequences before one is willing willing to do that and ultimately that’s what the process is.

Addicts go through a lot of pain and discomfort, lie emotionally, psychologically, lying to ourselves, lying to other people. The pain of that as human beings becomes very difficult to bear and the only way that we can really carry on doing that is to continue using a substance, but our substance use then, in effect, is causing the consequences, so you get caught in this loop that just spirals down. Hopefully you’ll get to a point when the consequences and the pain have got so great that you have one choice left: you have to do something about it.

Once we’ve rationalized and once, we’ve justified, our denial patterns, our denial mechanisms become reinforced. We learn to live in a certain way that allows our addiction to continue. Now, once you come into recovery you start looking at those patterns and behavior and you realize, or hopefully you start to realize, and become aware of those patterns of behavior which have allowed you to do what you’ve been doing for a long time. Those patterns which may have helped you and have been useful in addiction are no longer useful and actually cause you more harm.

Firstly, it can be difficult to recognize those patterns of behavio,r and secondly it can be difficult to actually do something about it. Awareness is great and it’s really powerful to become aware of your behaviors and your denial, but actually then to do something about it, that’s where the hard work starts. In denial, even though we hear from our family, from our friends, from our colleagues, they all tell us about what they see going on in our lives but we find a way to deal with it: we just don’t listen. We refuse to listen, we start getting angry with them, ‘why are you having a go at me all the time?, it’s not my fault, everybody else drinks or uses, it’s just normal’, etc. We start using loads of statements like this to justify, to rationalize, to deny exactly where we are and what the consequences are to ourselves.

Shaking denial and becoming honest is about recognizing the difficulties that we have and asking for help, which in itself is a very difficult process. This is difficult because one of the things that we have to do if we want to get well is to allow ourselves to become vulnerable. People seem to think within society and the wider culture that it’s seen as a weakness to become vulnerable but actually if you can allow yourself to become vulnerable, that takes courage, real courage of a type that most people struggle with. However, people do respond to vulnerability and you start to get well when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and start talking about what’s going on, Change begins when you get the denial, the justifications, the rationalizations out of the way and you start being honest with others, and more importantly honest with yourself and where you are.

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Signs You May Be An Empath Or Highly Sensitive Person

Signs You May Be An Empath

An Empath or Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) are people who deeply feel the emotions of those around them. Just as introverts, empaths are likely to feel overwhelmed by crowds and loud noises. They are also prone to feeling drained and completely exhausted to the point of fatigue. Although introverts and empaths share many traits, there are several characteristics that distinguish empaths.

An HSP is sensitive to many types of energies, and reacts emotionally to being over-stimulated. It’s not like you cry over spilt milk or anything, you just feel emotions – very deeply. If someone is telling you about an incredibly difficult time they went through, chances are you’ll be the one who starts tearing up. On the other hand, you’re quite susceptible to extreme mood swings, because you are so deeply affected by the emotions of others.

Empaths have a deep sense of knowing when it comes to understanding other people’s motives. You can usually tell if a person is lying or not being authentic. You are very observant of the subtle messages other people send through body language and facial expressions, so you can easily read people like a book.

Being an empath or HSP means that you simply can’t stand disagreement. In the face of conflict, you will either completely avoid the situation, or seek to resolve theissue immediately. Your motto is “there is always a way,” and thanks to your persistence, you usually find it. You’re also very sensitive to violence and aggression in the media. You are deeply affected by the news, television and movies. You may be moved to tears or even feel ill from watching violence on television.

Having a keen energy antenna not only leads you toward being an empath, but usually towards creativity, as well. Whether a painter, musician, mathematician, inventor, or social revolutionary, you feel inspiration from beyond, and this propels you to do things that move society forward;Things that most people don’t currently understand, and that seem to go against the grain.

Empaths tend to listen to a broad range of music genres. Your music preferences are usually influenced by your varying emotional states. However, you should be especially mindful of the messages in the music you listen to. You can be deeply affected by the lyrics in a song. Sometimes, an empath may be better off just listening to instrumental music.

HSP’s tend to connect deeply with animals, and they’re not going to be the people who tie their dogs up outside for hours on end. You likely have a pet or two at home, and you may feel the need to be outdoors often in order to neutralize negative emotions you take on from others. And since you can feel the pain of animals, eating meat just throws you off.  You may decide that it’s easier on your heart to simply go vegan.

People often go to empaths when they need to talk about something, and empaths are usually great listeners, but they’re not good at listening to a bunch of small talk. One second you’ll be listening to your friend telling you about her day at work, and the next you’ll be thinking about what someone said to you earlier, trying to decipher its meaning. If something is particularly boring or completely disconnected from emotion, you tend to drift off into your own little world.

Empaths may walk into a party or social event, and immediately feel the energy of the group. Whether it’s positive or negative. If you sense it as positive, you likely join in with the socializing. If you sense it as negative, you may just decide to leave.

An HSP, at heart, is a free spirit who finds rules and routines debilitating.  Spending eight hours a day in a cubicle?  No thanks! You get bored easily if you aren’t properly stimulated, and if you don’t find what you do for a living very interesting, you’re probably going to end up leaving your job sooner than expected. You like to feel free to express yourself in the world, in your own unique way, and you are often drawn to adventure, travel – and of course, freedom.

Empaths often attract people into their lives like magnets because of their gentle compassionate nature. But you pick up others’ emotional energies like a sponge, and this drains you. An empath may feel like others actually suck the energy out of them. As an HSP, you may just want to get away and be by yourself to reset your energy field and gain your sense of balance. Solo time also helps you feel inspired and creative. If you find you resonate with the information provided here, then you’re likely an HSP.  If so, take it as a good thing, a gifted and creative way of being.  Are YOU an empath?

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Love Addiction

Love Addiction

The concept of love addiction comes out of the addictions treatment community, thus the name addiction and there’s this understanding or it was previously thought that love addiction was rooted in what would be called an addiction process or a process addiction. Therefore, the treatment, the thinking, the approach to working with love addiction was similar to working with other addictions.

Attachment styles, or a system that’s built into our brain and is connected to our nervous system and this attachment system being how we bond and connect with people, which in turn comes from our family, from our parents. Another phrase used is called primary caregivers. So, if we had a close person that was our significant caregiver, we developed an attachment style that really allows us to use that template in our mind for how we create and recreate adult relationships in our life.

Now there’s a challenge to this attachment system if there were insecure attachments within your family or with the primary caregiver, often times if we have some kind of history of being abandoned or neglected or ignored and for some people that also includes being abused. Regardless of where you fall in that spectrum when there is an insecure attachment, we seem to bring that into our adult lives and we then create an insecure attached relationship. This is not conscious, it has to do with the part of the brain called the limbic brain and the limbic brain is not the thinking brain or the conscious brain. It’s the part of the brain that operates from a very primal, emotional place that experiences trust and safety and knows how to interact and relate with another person.

If the limbic brain gets triggered or activated in such a way out of an emergency, a sense of separation, feeling like the relationship is not full of trust and safety, what’s going to release are a number of hormones. Hormones will get released into your body, certain chemical processes, and it’s going to activate anxiety. And how we manage this anxiety really determines or will evidence the number of symptoms that we call love addiction. So, what love addiction is all about is developmental, emotional trauma that is rooted in attachment injuries. That’s a little bit of a different focus than channeling our thinking through an addiction lens or an addictions model for how we would work with these symptoms and characteristics referred to as love addiction.

To seek out a relationship with another person is to say will you show up, will you listen, will you bring a level of responsibility, a level of seriousness to this conversatio, to be able to witness the part of the me that I need to share; part of my humanity. A way to capture the importance of relationships and a reason why love addiction begins in the first place, is due to our personal history. For love addicts that were not seen, known, heard or understood. When they are seen, known, heard and understood, there’s an exchange. There’s this emotional attunement, there’s an emotional connection that’s made between two people and our bodies are nervous system functioning in our brain actually activates and we sync up with another person and this allows us to calm down and to feel a sense of peace. Life will have a sense of possibility when we derive strength and support from other people.

This is what we all want deep down on a very fundamental basis, we want to experience that level of connection, of being seen, known, heard and understood. When a person is struggling with an attachment injury and you have a lot of anxiety or you have the symptoms showing up that get referred to as ‘love addiction’, it’s impossible to think yourself out of the activation of that anxiety. The reason is there are different parts of the brain that are working when this emotional trauma is activated or triggered. It’s not thinking based, you’re not just going to be able to think yourself out of it. For that reason, phrases like, ‘just let it go, just get over it, calm down’, etc. are essentially unhelpful because they appeal to reason & not emotion.

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Resentment: The Main Offender

Resentment in Recovery

Resentment is the number one offender on the road to relapse in addiction recovery. When we really can hold on and really feel the pain that we’ve had, in some cases for a very long time, where maybe we feel we’ve been wrongly done or we’ve been hurt where perhaps we shouldn’t have been…it can really take grip and keep us wrapped up in addiction. Resentment serves to help us re-feel old pain and we kind of torture ourselves with it by re-feeling it and hitting the replay button many times. Doing so actually turns into self-resentment, loathing and self-pity, we can take ourselves out of the equation feeling that we have no part in that resentment. Probably we did and it normally works out that we had a lot more part than we believe and it wasn’t all on the other person, place or thing.

It is important to work on your resentments in rehab, in recovery and throughout life in order to stay sober. Many people struggle with resentments towards family members and that can be really difficult, it’s an ongoing thing, a work in progress. We have to change our actions, really recognize our part and learn to show compassion towards people who are imperfect. People tend to deal with what’s been passed down to them and so much resentment is just passed-on pain patterns with which we need to break free. When we can have compassion, that people are just human, people make mistakes, we can break free from resentment, we can give ourselves a good chance to not keep hurting.

If we believe its important just to find some peace in life, especially in recovery, then its best not to keep re-living our grudges. The more we disengage or isolate and cut people off when actually we crave connection. The deeper into a resentful attitude we may descend, the closer to relapse.  It’s through connection, it’s through belonging that we are going to succeed in recovery. Often what we see with resentment is that we’ve actually engaged in the same behaviors that we are angry about, what we feel has been done to, then we’ve gone on to do the same things to others. So can we really be so blameful towards those people when we’ve done just the same to them or others?

Can we see that perhaps we’ve wronged people in similar ways and it was all because of our addictions turning us into somebody we never wanted to be? Things we never really wanted to do, we ended up doing because of the grip of addiction. We can break free from that and change behaviors, actions we take today so that resentment doesn’t keep us returning to active addiction. In recovery, its important that we highlight this issue and do the work that we need to. There’s work to be done and this work can never be done alone, we’ll never get out of resentment on our own. Our own head makes it real, it makes it true, but when we share what we are feeling to another human being in an honest attempt to rid ourselves of resentments we can get another perspective. This may help us see things clearer and find freedom.

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Resilience & Action Lead To Long-Term Recovery

Resilience in Recovery

Resilience is a psychological skill, it’s actually a life skill. It’s not a trait, it’s a combination of thoughts, behaviors and actions and it’s going to help you to deal with stress and emotional pain. Have you ever wondered why some people are really good at dealing with stress, trauma, crisis?  Why some people are better than others at adapting to adversity? The good news is that resilience can be learned. You can learn how to see and think about events in a different way, you can self-regulate your emotions, and then become more resilient.

Accept that change is inevitable. The serenity prayer, ‘God grant me the serenity to accept things that we cannot change’, is not just words. Acceptance is the most difficult step, but it’s the first step. Even though you have goals and expectations, and even if you take the right decisions, things might not turn out well. You might realize that some situations and some people, you cannot control.  You can control what you think and you can work with your rigid thinking, with your ‘shoulds’:  Life should be fair, people shouldn’t be doing that.  Loosen up your black and white, rigid thinking pattern. You can become more flexible and accept reality, so you will have realistic expectations of life.

Change is inevitable, but growth is optional. It’s up to you if you want to see obstacles or challenges, if you see mistakes as failures or learning opportunities and opportunities to grow. The same goes for learning from the past. Look who you have become. You are most likely stronger than you think. Look where you come from and look where you are now. How did you survive? What did you learn from yourself? What did you learn about how to relate with other people? What kept you going and what kept you hopeful? If you choose to use your experience as fuel to move forward, you will be happier and even be able to help people in recovery as well. It is possible.

Whether you’re a religious person, or spiritual, or the logical type, things will get better if you think they will get better. Start with small steps, be thankful for what you have, the people you have around you. Find gratitude for small things in your life. It could be very simple, like you wake up sober and you go to bed sober.  Train your brain and your soul to see the positives of life. Appreciate the people that you have around you, family, friends, but also those in your recovery community, like NA, AA, SMART Recovery, Radical Recovery, etc.

The opposite of addiction is connection, so make new connections. Volunteer groups, people with the same hobbies as you. Action is as important as resilience. You don’t need to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. And yes, stepping out of your comfort zone is scary, but it’s going to give you a feeling of accomplishment and empowerment. You’re going to have a boost of confidence, and that’s going to help you, and that’s going to have a huge impact on your recovery. So start with small steps, realistic expectation. You can start something daily, whether it’s going to the gym, practising your non-volitle communication skills. Start small and keep practicing, because practice will make routine and routine will become automatic habit.

Finally, take care of yourself.  Especially in early recovery, self-discovery is going to be a big challenge. You lost yourself in addiction. You might not know who you are any more, you need to find what your needs are now. So be gentle to yourself, identify your emotions, listen to your body. Sometimes it could be with meditation, mindfulness, tapping. It could be easy and simple, like placing your hand on your heart. Connect to yourself. Resilience is about becoming more flexible with your mind, learning to rely on others. Some optimism is necessary, a realistic expectation of life, and get to be more confident with your strengths and your abilities. Remember action is more important than intention and be gentle to yourself.

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Starting New Relationships While In Treatment

Relationships in Treatment

Coming into a treatment center means you’ve identified that you want help, which is great. It may be the bravest thing you’ll ever do. Generally, when someone comes into treatment, they are coming because there are pieces of their lives that may be missing, maybe they can’t deal with life on life’s terms and are struggling with day-to-day existence.  People come into treatment normally as vulnerable adults & with that comes emotions that may not have been expressed for some time. Feelings that perhaps someone doesn’t even know how to express.  It can be a very emotional and confusing time.

While in the confusion of ‘what is my life going to be like, what am I going to do?’ all the thoughts, reasonings, fears that you’d go through while in treatment, normally what we would do with that, is we would use drugs. We would do something to suppress those feelings because that is our coping mechanism, that’s what we do to cope with life, that’s what you do to cope with feeling out of control. So it’s very common for men and women to start looking for other things, external of themselves, to fix that feeling. In treatment you generally don’t have access to drugs and alcohol so therefore it’s very common for you to start fixing on people.

Romantic relationships blossom in treatment quite regularly simply because people generally don’t have access to habitual ways of suppressing feelings. Yet conversely, romantic relationships also stir up both new & old feelings and this is highly dangerous for the individual in treatment who is not yet adequately equipped to handle their own emotions. Treatment, early recovery is a chance for you as an individual, to grow, to learn, to process and to get out any of that stuff that you’ve been carrying around, probably for many years and which has helped fuel addiction. This is an opportunity for you to learn and grow. Perhaps this time should be used most wisely.

Relationships can actually light up the same parts of the brain as when you are using drugs or alcohol, some of the same receptors, it’s the same reward centers in the brain. In effect, you are fixing your feelings so therefore you are still using in a sense, but through people instead of substances. The chances of relapse can be much higher once getting into a relationship while in treatment or early recovery simply because of the chemical reward. You may not be focusing as much on treatment, not on the real reasons you have come to treatment. One may actually start to focus on another person because they are fixing those feelings, so they become the new drug.

Staying out of relationships in early recovery, while a seemingly trivial guideline, is really important. Say the other person was to relapse, or this other person was to abscond from treatment, how would you feel then? How would you be left, in even more pain (?) which you’d want to suppress even more…but now you have nothing else to suppress those feelings with. With emotions now heightened, you may also abscond from rehab to join your new partner. One’s ability to make good, sound choices is compromised once in a romantic relationship because the focus is lost.

Recovery is about self-discovery, an amazing new journey if you can keep the focus on yourself. This is why it’s been recommended in some recovery circles not to get into a relationship for the first year. There may be a good reason for that, you’re going to learn skills, you’re going to learn tools, you’re going to learn how to self-regulate emotions and feelings. You’ll be going to meetings, making new connections, you’re going to start to develop new social skills. If you don’t know how to practice all that already and you’re not giving yourself a chance in the beginning of your recovery, then what chance will you have later on? The relationship is only a deterrent from what the problem actually is and that lies within.

Relationships in treatment or early recovery can also be an avoidance of self. Some people like to take care of other people in order to avoid what’s actually going on with them. It’s like, ‘if I just look after this person over here then I don’t have to actually look at what I’m feeling and acknowledge how scary it is to feel feelings.’ It is important to feel & acknowledge how scary it is to express feelings, all the fears that surround feeling and emotions. However, its highly important one learns to do that early on in order to have a successful recovery and therefore not avoid things. You come first in your recovery. Take care not to use other people’s vulnerabilities to fix your feelings and don’t allow somebody else to fix off your vulnerability either. Remember you are in treatment for you. You have to put yourself first, probably for the first time in a long time.

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