Substance abuse, addiction, cinima therapy and negativity

Last night in program we were dealing with negativity in the recovery process. It is difficult to speak about negativity without referencing the ego. The ego is that part of the psyche that sees everything in duality; good and bad, right and wrong, positive and negative.

If we’re not willing to see through our ego in the recovery process we cheat ourselves out of the ultimate joy of the journey. Ultimately what we’re all addicted to is our unconscious negative, irrational thoughts.

One brave and honest man was willing to courageously explore his negativity as his peers witnessed and supported him. Once he was willing to become consciously aware of his negativity and self-proclaimed self-pity he was able to let it go and get on with the difficult work of making conscious choices about what the next right thing for him to do is.

In the films “The Pursuit of Happiness” and “Rudy,” both based on true stories, the main characters reveal an amazing sense of courage and persistence despite surreal challenges in their lives. These are characters we can admire as we cultivate our own heroic attitudes in the recovery process, whether we’re in recovery from substance abuse and addiction or anything else.

Substance abuse and addiction – A mindful approach to recovery

Mindfulness practice has infinite practical applications to recovery from substance abuse and addiction. The one discussed here regards trigger and craving management.

Triggers and cravings consist of thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, emotions, sensations, behaviors, patterns of speech and how we relate to others.

What a coincidence because mindfulness practice is training in meditative discipline which teaches us how to respond (vs. react) to the same beliefs, attitudes, emotions, sensations, behaviors, patterns of speech and how we relate to others.

When we respond to these phenomena we are making conscious choices about them. When we react to them our unconscious habitual patterns of reactivity make our choices for us.

Meditation practice breeds mindfulness. Mindfulness helps us significantly in our recovery from substance abuse and addiction.

Read Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book “Wherever You Go, There You Are” for an amazing boost of inspiration in your practice.

Substance abuse and Addiction – Cinema Therapy

The film “When the Game Stands Tall” is a great depiction for the recovery process – PROCESS. We typically view life from the mentality of “eventful thinking.” Our tendency is to think of life as one event after another. But if we change our attitude and start experiencing life as an ongoing practice we may find that we enjoy the journey more.

In “When the Game Stands Tall” (based on a true story) the football coach teaches his players how to see the game as a means to the process of living a life of integrity. “It’s not about the game” he says throughout the film. Similarly, we get lost in the recovery process thinking it’s an event, something that happens in a short period of time, a means to an end.

Quality recovery from substance abuse, addiction or anything else requires a mentality of being willing to put in the effort and letting go of the results on a moment to moment basis.

Do yourself a big favor and watch this film, observing the judging ego as you view it…




Is Relapse Inevitable in Substance Abuse Treatment

Though it happens, relapse is NOT inevitable. We were talking about this last night in the intensive outpatient program. When someone is sincerely attempting a recovery program, relapse is usually indicative of a lack of structure and support. Custom designing enough of each is a big responsibility! Recovery is an active process vs a passive event. “Active” means you have to take specific actions vs. just hoping things will get better. “Process” means it doesn’t end. This means that if you are planning on recovering from substance abuse you need to realize (make real) a daily structure that will support your goal for abstinence.

We practice our program moment by moment, breath by breath, putting in the effort and letting go of the results. If relapse happens our response to it is more important than the lapse itself. “What’s the next right thing to do?”


Substance Abuse, Addiction and the Ego

This post is inspired by Eckhart Tolle’s books “The Power of Now” and “A New Earth”

Whether you are in recovery from substance abuse, addiction or anything else the ego has a big role in the process; one might say a starring role. But it’s tricky because the ego is quite insidious in its manifestations through us.

In my intensive outpatient program we practice meditation weekly (and I encourage the participants to practice daily) to learn how to relate to our ego’s differently, that is to say, more consciously.

The four pillars of recovery (from anything, not just substance abuse or addiction) are these: Thoughts (which includes beliefs and attitudes), Emotions, Behaviors (which includes patterns of speech) and relationships. Changing our relationship to our ego involves making more conscious choices in each of these realms.

If you’re looking to deepen your practice of the recovery process please considers reading Mr. Tolle’s evolutionary books to help.

In-patient or out-patient, you make the call

Last night, someone in the intensive outpatient program, who is in recovery for alcohol abuse and substance addiction was trying to decide whether or not to go into in-patient treatment. He couldn’t decide where he should go or how long he should stay. I offered him the appropriate guidance and his peers in group were quite supportive.

Of course there are many advantages to getting residential treatment. However, no matter where you go or how long you stay, life is waiting for you whenever you discharge. We’re still responsible to deal with the reality of our lives once we leave the womb of the many wonderful treatment centers in the world.

No matter where you go to treatment you are left with what I call the four pillars of recovery beginning the day you discharge. Whether we’re in recovery from substance abuse and addiction or anything else the four pillars apply. The four pillars consist of thoughts (which includes beliefs and attitudes), emotions, behaviors (which includes our patterns of speech), and relationships (including our relationship with ourselves).










The Evolution of Our Consciousness

Recovery from substance abuse and addiction is really an evolution of our consciousness. Last night in the intensive outpatient program I showed a clip from the movie “28 Days.” It was a scene from the end of the movie showing how Sandra Bullock’s character’s identity (consciousness) had evolved from one of a drinker/user to that of a sober person. It’s a funny movie, but also has some quite poignant scenes about the recovery process. Watch it and see what you think, even if you’re not in recovery from substance abuse or addiction.

We’re all in recovery from something. Another word for “recovery” is “life.” The problem is that many of us aren’t so alive as we are merely existing. Committing to the long-term process of evolving our consciousness is not easy, but well worth the effort. Invest in yourself every day. You’re worth it!

Growing Up

Last night in the intensive outpatient program for substance abuse and co-occurring disorders I showed a clip from the movie “Lars and the Real Girl.”

It was about growing up and what that really means. A large part of the recovery process is about maturation. We tend to stop developing emotionally when we use substances as our primary coping mechanism. Then, years later when we initiate abstinence we find that we are developmentally delayed.

So much of our recovery work from substance abuse has to do with changing how we manage our thoughts, emotions, behaviors and how we relate to others. Abstinence from our drugs of choice is just a prerequisite for recovery. We need a better resume’ than “I don’t drink or drug anymore.” Recovery from addiction has many facets, all of which are better managed with a mindful attitude.

Why do we use and abuse substances

While it’s natural and normal to want to mood alter, we seem to take it beyond it’s normal limitations. Why is this? At some point we have decided (consciously or unconsciously) that the feeling of wellness or well being just isn’t quite enough. We build a tolerance to it and then crave something more intense, like outright euphoria.

A big part of the recovery process from substance abuse and addiction is re-learning that wellness is not only good enough, but that it’s really satisfying. It’s NICE not to be dependent on something external to us to feel good. Learning how to do this again is a long-term process that is well worth the time and effort invested.

We don’t have to abuse substances and become addicted to anything to feel good. After all it’s our brain chemistry (neurotransmitters) that are responsible for the feelings. If we exercise or create friendships or read something fun we are enjoying the same neurotransmitters that we stimulate with drugs and alcohol.

Try something healthier to mood alter next time you need to and see what you think…







Pet Cemetery

Each person in the intensive outpatient program for substance abuse, addiction and co-occurring disorders presents their autobiography. Many of them are surprised to make a connection between past traumatic experiences and their unconscious habitual patterns of reactivity, including substance abuse and addictive behaviors. Unfortunately, many people learn of this connection only through multiple relapses. There are at least two major consequences to not dealing with unresolved issues in recovery. The first is a history of chronic relapse. The second is poor quality sobriety. Please carefully consider the ghosts in your closet as you actively participate in your recovery from substance abuse and/or addiction.