Monday, March 31, 2014

The Power of a Word

It is amazing how much power can result from changing one word. I have done this with the word HAVE, changing it to GET. That one change has transformed my life because it has completely changed my attitude about things. It is amazing the different way I have been able to look at most things that I go through in my life because of it. I no longer see things as obstacles but instead as opportunities. Here is how it is applied.
I used to hate going to recovery meetings. I would be fine once I got there, but the motivation to get there in the first place was missing. I would look at the clock and think to myself, “I have to go to a meeting tonight.” It was very low on my totem pole of things to do, even though I realized how important they were to my sobriety.
As I began to get more involved with the meetings, I opened myself up to doing more at them. I would chair meetings, volunteer to do readings and set up/break down chairs and tables for the meetings. I became necessary to the meetings and began to see them not as things I HAD to do, but things I GOT to do.  Soon I would see it was almost time for the meeting, and would say to myself, “I get to go to a meeting.”
Thinking of the meeting as something I got to do instead of something I had to do changed the way I looked at it. I began to appreciate the meetings I attended. I could have been in county jail or prison due to my use, but I had some freedom. I could have been in the hospital or the graveyard due to an overdose or drug deal gone bad and yet I was healthy enough to be outside. I got to be at a meeting. Being there was way better than some of the alternatives I could think of, so why not focus on the positive aspects?  
I now use that shift in vocabulary with everything I do. I don’t have to go to work; I get to go to work. I don’t have to go to trainings; I get to go to trainings. I don’t have to wake up in the morning; I get to wake up in the morning. I know the direction my life was headed in my addiction. My life’s trajectory has done a complete 180 thanks to Christ and recovery. How can I not appreciate what I get to do?
If you are always miserable, then you are working your program wrong! Will you have days that are disappointing? Of course you will. It is your choice whether you let the disappointments or the successes define you and the rest of your days. I chose to put the majority of my focus on my successes. I introduce myself not as an addict, but as one in recovery because of that. I am defined by my success, not by my shortcomings!
So the next time you are having a pity party for yourself, remember that there are much worse things that could be happening in your life. The next time you are at a meeting filled with people holding Negative Nancy and Debbie Downer attitudes, shout the praises of your recovery. Remind everyone that recovery is filled with joy and hope. There is a better life in recovery! After all, that is the message newcomers needs to hear, and a lot of people in our lives need to be reminded of.

Monday, March 17, 2014

But My Counselor's Never Been an Addict

I often hear people in the recovery process talk to me about having issues with their counselor because they have not had an addiction issue. It brings back memories of my first residential rehabilitation experience. I knew that if my counselor had never been an addict, I would never succeed. As it played out my counselor was in long term personal recovery, and I relapsed anyway. Would it have been different if my counselor had not been in recovery? I will never know.

What I do know is there are two different schools of thought on this issue. One says that you need to have had an addiction in your past, and the other says that it does not matter. Today we will look at the recovery specialists who have never had personal substance abuse issues themselves. The questions sound something like this, “How can they possibly understand what I am going through if they have never had problems with drugs before? How can they relate to me?”

The most frequent reply I have heard is, “You don’t have to have cancer to cure cancer.” This is very true. Most doctors who work in oncology departments have never themselves had cancer yet they have the ability to give great services and to use the best modalities available for treatment. I personally never liked this response. This was the response I was given when I voiced concern of my counselor not being in recovery themselves, and it did not assuage my fears. So I came up with different ways to address the issue.  

I ask people this question, “So does your psychiatrist/psychologist struggle with (Fill in mental health disorder they have here such as Bipolar/Depression/Anxiety)?” When they tell me no, then I ask them, “Well then how could they ever relate to you and help you with yours?” This often gets a laugh which reduces their anxiety and softens the walls they have up. Then I will remind them that everyone has been impacted by addiction, maybe not personally but by growing up with parents, siblings, significant others or close friends who struggled with substance abuse. After all, addiction impacts everyone.

So, do I think that you have to have an addiction to treat an addiction?  No, I don’t feel that you have to have a substance use issue in order to give good services to people. I know some amazing counselors who work in the recovery field who are not in recovery themselves. Instead, they have some very important characteristics that all counselors whether in recovery or not need in order to be successful.

1.       Empathy – The ability to understand another person’s experiences and emotions from their perspective. This requires caring enough about someone to see their issues from their point of view. Many times no one has ever tried to see what they are going through from their perspective. Hurting people are used to being treated with pity and sympathy when what they really need is empathy.

2.       Genuineness – Truly caring about the person/people you are working with and enjoying what you do. The population you work with be they children or adults know when you don’t care. If you don’t care, neither will they! Also, be true to who you are. Don’t try to use vernacular that is foreign to you just to fit in. People know a fake when they see one. Be authentic at all times.

3.       Unconditional Positive Regard – Accepting and supporting people where they are at not where you want them to be. This also allows them to see they possess the ability to accomplish anything they want. They are used to pity and sympathy not compassion. Be the first person to acknowledge someone can be successful and the sky is their limit.

4.       Hope – In order to instill hope in others I must have hope myself. Hope that life gets better, hope that everyone has the ability to heal from past hurts, habits and hang-ups and hope that no matter how bad today is tomorrow is a brand new day. I can then pass that hope on to my clients. Without hope recovery is impossible. You can get sober, you can be abstinent but recovery will elude you. Hope breeds optimism and optimism is vital to recovery.

5.       Therapeutic Alliance – According to research developing a good rapport with a client is the single most important ingredient for success. Rapport builds trust and respect. If they do not trust or respect you nothing you do will be effective. In order to build a positive alliance you need to display empathy, genuineness and unconditional positive regard while dealing hope to the person you are with.

In closing, I truly believe that by utilizing the above skills, you can be a good counselor. I have gotten a lot of positive help from good counselors. There is how ever another school of thought, and we will get to that in a future blog. Thanks for reading, I’ll talk to you next time!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Dealing Hope and Decimating Stigma through Recovery Events

Better Life in Recovery (BLiR) is off to an amazing year so far. Things are really starting to come together. I have been in discussions with the web developer, who is creating the new BLiR website that will hopefully go live in April. We are trying to create a unique yet easy to navigate website and it is starting to come together.
We have been working on the mission statement and here is where we are currently at with it: To deal hope and decimate stigma surrounding recovery that men, women and children face every day through education and awareness events that celebrate people in long-term recovery.
This brings me up to what I am most excited about this year, the events that will be occurring here in southwest Missouri later in the year. We had our first meeting in January and our second meeting in February. Our goal is to reduce stigma by hosting major events in the community combining treatment providers and recovery groups which will help us build a united front to support long term recovery.
Meetings have been well attended, with representatives from: Celebrate Recovery, Victory Circle, Living Free, AA, NA, Alternative Opportunities Treatment Services, Higher Ground, Hand Extended Outreach, Jericho Commission, Ozark Counseling Center, Glendale Christian Church, Ridgecrest Baptist Church, Greene County DWI Court and Drug Court Programs, the Regional Partnership Grant, the Recovery Coalition of the Ozarks, Better Life in Recovery, Missouri Recovery Network, Missouri State University, Evangel University, as well as an attorney and several local business owners.
Our unity will allow us to have larger events that will make it easier for the community to see that those with a mental and/or substance use disorder live healthy and rewarding lives while rejoining and giving back to the communities they live in. Together we will spread the message that prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover. In turn this will promote the message that recovery in all its forms is possible, and encourage citizens to take action to help expand and improve the availability of effective prevention, treatment, and recovery services for those in need.
Here is what happened at our last meeting:
We began with introductions of the group. Then the primary purpose of the events we are doing was discussed. That purpose is to celebrate people who are in recovery, educate the community better on all the great things that people in recovery are able to achieve and reduce stigma for those who are in recovery. We are proud to be a part of the recovery movement and plan on making National Recovery Month this September a month of celebration in southwest Missouri.
Then we did updates on where each of our committees is at:
1.       Recovery Day at Hammonds Field - The date isAugust 29th. We will have a parade around the field; the scoreboard will have information about recovery month and advertise for the 5K/10K while we are walking around the field. We have already had a $500 donation to purchase tickets for kids whose parents cannot afford to buy tickets for them. Tickets will be $10 and we should have vouchers that we can give to people who purchase tickets available within the next 2 weeks.
2.       1st Annual “Getting Dirty for Staying Clean” Run– It was decided that the Run and BBQ will be combined so that they are done on the same day and location, but they will have separate committees. The date we have set tentatively isSeptember 6th. Location is yet to be determined. Several places have been contacted and we are waiting to hear who has the best deal before we decide which one to use.  We may have an event sponsor, but it will have to be voted on by the coalition during their next meeting the beginning of April. We may also have several other possible sponsors for the event: one may sponsor the start/finish line and the other may sponsor t-shirts.
3.       Recovery Day in the Park BBQ - – See above for date and location. We have a volunteer who will do the cooking. We are starting to reach out to multiple stores in the area for donations of goods and services. Several bands are being contacted to see if they would volunteer to play at the event.
4.       Multidisciplinary Forum at Missouri State – This project has several professors at Missouri State who are currently working on it. Date is yet to be determined.   
5.       “Keeping it Clean” Float and Fun Day – The date is tentatively set for September 29th and Hooten Town is the tentative location.  We may have a sponsor for the cost of the campsite rental for the day. Camping will be free if we get the sponsor and the canoes will be $20 each.  We will also need to have sponsors for random giveaways, raffles, event prizes, as well as food for breakfast and lunch. Bands are being contacted for this event as are speakers. We will have 3 speakers the night before the float sharing their recovery: one from NA, one from AA and one from a faith-based organization.
We had a discussion regarding the direction and name for all of the recovery events we are planning. We talked about the possibility of me joining the Recovery Coalition of the Ozarks as an individual and then being their events chair and doing all of this under the direction of the coalition. We also discussed doing it under the name Better Life in Recovery (BLiR), which is an existing organization that focuses on sharing recovery and hope. BLiR will then have the opportunity to join the Recovery Coalition of the Ozarks as a member. The committee moved to use the organization Better Life in Recovery for the events and begin partnering with other organizations in our communities so that this event can be successful.
Chairs were selected for all of the subcommittees. The chair will:
·         Give progress reports at monthly meetings
·         Establish goals and develop a plan of action to insure successful implementation of their event
·         Assign duties for their subcommittee members
·         Follow up with each subcommittee member and insure they are doing their part within the subcommittee
·         Pick up any slack that could slow down the subcommittee’s progress in making their event successful
Our next meeting is set for March 22nd at 1. If this is something that you are interested in becoming a part of, please let me know so that I can add you to the mailing lists I send out to remind people about the date, time and location of the meeting in March.