Recovery from Addictive & Harmful Behaviour - Nourishment and Self Care . Finding peace for self or helping others to find ways to recover...................................
Breaking addictive and harmful behaviour is most successful when clients acknowledge that underneath their behaviour are underlying feelings towards themselves that they may feel need resolving, these may need some time in therapy before they fully emerge but quite often they are masked with denial or justifications of the presented addictions i.e “ I just love to party for days – it’s the way I am” or “ I don’t know why I self – harm but it gives me some relief.” Or “ I don’t know why I use several dating sites while I am in a committed relationship.” The coping behaviours which are addictive, tend to change our brain chemistry and state of mind but give us short lived results which have a detrimental consequence on our health on many levels. In truth, the artificial gold is a quick relief as opposed to the inner richness and gold within, it is at a cost on physical, emotional , psychological and spiritual levels. Addictive, harmful behaviours also impact our loved ones, children and families, our friends and colleagues and can impact our finances, spouse , career and general enjoyment of day to day life.
Good news! Deep down there is a part of people that knows what is good for us ……
Breaking the chains ……
Once an addictive, harmful or unhelpful coping behaviour is stopped and this can take some will power, planning and resourcing, also prior preparation in therapy to stop initially – that is when the windows of exploration can open – once the addictive behaviour is refrained from i.e excessive habits, self - harm, excessive drinking, drugs, gambling, sexual compulsive behaviours or whatever mind altering addictive behaviour is being used ( smoking etc) then the underlying emotions can surface – what the addictive behaviour tends to do is defend against ‘feeling ‘ or experiencing something on some level . Underneath the addiction could be an emotional pain or angst , self- loathing, feeling inadequate, feeling not good enough, stress, fear, anxiety , panic, loneliness and many other factors to consider . Sometimes clients can be guarding against memories, flashbacks, lack of ability to sleep, depression and many other difficulties, maybe physical pains.
Listen to your wise self………..
Listen to the niggle or sense or what you should or shouldn’t do – there is a wise part of you that in quiet moments will drive you on a right path to recovery . Things will catch you that remind you not to keep on down this road – your child’s innocence, the love shown by someone, the sunrise or sunset. Don’t be alone on this journey, reach out to others for help and support. Learn to trust your intuition on finding the right therapist for you or support group. There is light at the end of the tunnel on this journey of recovery – I have seen many clients move from a place of concern and worry about the impact their behaviour is having on their health and their relationships to a place of self-worth, confidence, vitality and feeling happy with their new projects and goals.
Facing the truth ………..
As painful as it is , its better to look things in the eye and know what you want to change. It’s not comfortable facing vulnerability but it is the start of positive change. Ask what your beliefs are about yourself and your sense of worth? Ask if what I am doing is loving and nourishing to myself or the opposite? We need nourishment and love as humans in order to grow and be happy – ask how well do I nurture myself? What is my attitude to myself?
The Recovery and Healing Journey …………..
What qualities do I need to offer myself?
Do I need to allow myself to forgive myself or others, do I need self compassion? Do I need to allow my grief to process? Do I need space? Do I need comfort and love? Ask yourself what do I really need to make this recovery a success? Do I need support from friends or family?
What positive micro habits can I begin to slot into my daily life?
Small changes can make a massive difference…….
Relaxation, Mindfulness and using the breath to bring balance while processing emotions
Find something life enhancing you love to do i.e golf, drawing, music, cooking, gardening, reading, yoga – whatever you love that lifts you up and makes you feel good that is healthy for you .
Ask yourself – why and who am I recovering for ? Keep your Life Priorities at the fore front of your mind
Remember moving forward and personal growth is always positive and worthwhile, a slight dip or relapse is not a failure it s a learning journey up the spiral ! Be kind to yourself always .
Remember you can do this !
Reach out - Speak out - Get the support you need ! Don't feel alone........
Client Experience of recovery :
"I sought help after coming to terms with addiction. It was affecting my relationship, my motivation to do day-to-day chores and causing me stress. After being honest with myself and several chats with Lisa, week by week I came out of the rut I was in, found a focus (which was training) and kept myself busy. I found different things to do other than go to the pub in my spare time. I feel so positive and motivated now. The temptations slowly faded away the more I kept busy and stayed away from what became the 'norm' which was drinking alcohol and taking cocaine with it. I am now in a far better place mentally, my relationship and family are back together and I feel a family man again. I am still training in my spare time which I feel has been a substitute for the drinking and drug use. Lisa was so supportive throughout and I owe a big thank you to her for great advice and support. "
When clients ask themselves , "will I ever feel better?" or " once I have felt this way , how I will I ever go back to being how I was before?" I often think of the healing process as something we grow through and around. We become aware of what has hurt and what has been difficult but throughout the therapy journey, our experiences can be understood and we develop new ways of being and dealing with life. Within a Psychotherapeutic setting, clients are encouraged to be real and honest in a way that is not always easy in everyday life . We take on roles in our lives , as parents, carers, professionals, teachers, directors, to name but a few: yet what we cannot do in these roles is always be truly honest in the sense of what is going on for us in our internal worlds : we may want to protect others or not put any worries onto them or we may be having to function and survive.
Being real: at some points we need to confront what is challenging us and we may ask for help, often people feel overwhelmed to the point they feel physically unwell and cannot carry out their usual daily routines and activities. There is also a lack of connection with loved ones or people may feel they have lost some of their spark and motivation.
What I love most about the work I do as a counsellor is the way people amaze me . The strength , depth and tangible resilience of spirit I see in individuals leaves me
in awe of the human soul’s capacity for healing. When we talk about trauma , we don’t talk enough about the post traumatic recovery and growth. The end of therapy is where it all begins from what I have witnessed.
I have seen clients overcome debilitating anxiety to live full , happy lives . I have witnessed those who have lost loved ones , despite the pain, move into a place of giving and receiving so much love and support to others . My younger clients who have witnessed traumatic events , events which could shape them, refuse to be defined by them . They say to me they don’t want people to see what they went through , only the people they have become through the experience.
Hiding behind someone’s deepest pain are parts of themselves that need to be reclaimed, through therapy the difficulties have a space , people reconnect to themselves and integrate all the parts of themselves so things have a fluidity and emotions and come and go in a healthy way .
Our body is a vessel for our emotions and we can store and hold frozen capsules of experience unknowingly, often when we are ready to look at these things they will thaw and float to our consciousness , sometimes taking us by surprise . I have clients ask me why after so long would they get a reaction to an event that happened many years ago . There are several factors to consider, there may have been a trigger to an emotional memory , they may have embarked on a healing journey willingly and be implementing new tools for exploration, they may hit a low point and this can be a catalyst for a past event or it may be that they are simply ready and in a stronger place to deal with something that happened long ago .
Survival may mean that at the time of an event it may not be safe to fully process, so nature will allow us to tuck things away until the time is ripe to really sort out and process what happened .
In healing and recovery there are a few things to consider : support is needed , as much support as you can find in terms of friends, family , colleagues , therapists , pets , calm environments and healing spaces .
Consider you are healing physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually - all levels are entwined . When we work on the body we work on all levels and same the other way .
Journal your thoughts , dreams, ideas, feelings and insights along the way .
Find a therapist with the model of counselling which resonates - do your research .
Self- care is paramount , self compassion and an open mind .
Recovery is all about the journey and the unfolding , take each moment step at a time . Listen to yourself, what do you need? What is your intuition telling you ?
Remember behind the tough times we find ourselves ! The human soul is amazing . I have seen miraculous things happen over and over . Believe in the essence of who you are .
It's that time of year again, the build up to exam and assessment time in schools. This impacts young people in very different ways. We would ideally like exam time to be a smooth , positive experience for students. However, if it does evoke concerns for you as a parent or difficult emotions for young people, please read ahead for tips on how to try and tackle exam related stress and those 'oh so difficult' feelings of apprehension, anxiety and bubbles of fear that may prove troublesome!
1)Keep a realistic perspective &
Celebrate all successes small or large : As we know, what we feel will be extended to our children, hence our attitudes to exams will be picked up on by our teenagers and children. As parents, we can reflect back to our own experience of exams, just gently checking in on emotions we have about them and our own experiences. Our attitudes and experiences can be passed on unknowingly, so explore and get a handle on your own perceptions. It helps to remember the exams are one part of the academic year and work throughout the whole year should be celebrated with your child. Remember all aspects of the curriculum count , your child may flourish in some subjects more than others and this makes them individuals . Seek out and nurture your child's strengths and passions, work with them and their natural talent. Encourage all aspects of their personality such as leadership, caring for others, seeking knowledge and asking questions, learning about the world around us , debating and discussing topics close to their hearts. So many qualities about our children cannot be measured easily, so keep this in mind and point this out to them .Our children are much more....remind them that they are amazing simply for being themselves and give them a boost to feel proud of who they are! This will help them to flourish and in turn give them confidence to tackle exams with excitement rather than trepidation! This lifts pressure off the exam itself.
2) Relationships & Talking...
take time out with your teen or child : Take at least ten minutes everyday to check in with your child or teen emotionally , find out how they are , what is going well , what is difficult, how are they feeling? Use your fabulous parent and guardian intuition to sense if they are telling you the whole story or the truth about their feelings . Let them know they can talk to you and share their deepest worries and anxieties as you understand and want to help.. this will comfort them, knowing you are there even if they currently don't feel like chatting much. If they do not want to talk, it may not be the right time, try not to take it personally. There are other ways to give opportunity to talk, maybe just plan an activity you both enjoy and this will give them a break from the thought of exams and school. Building on your relationship will have numerous benefits. Encouraging your teens and children to express how they feel is healthy and as adults we also need to demonstrate an openness and honesty. If you can be true to your feelings and find healthy ways to cope, then this will assist your children. Make sure as a parent you also get time out for you and the support you need, taking care of yourself as a parent will make you more emotionally available to your teens and children , especially during exams.
3) Give buckets of reassurance, explaining that nervousness, fears and difficult emotions are all natural, this is a relief for young ones to know they are not alone in this : remind your child it is completely natural to feel these things around exam times and it helps to talk about them , ask them where they feel the anxiety and fear, the butterflies in their stomach and the physical feeling we get when something important is going to happen . Our bodies will tell us what is wrong if we listen to it. Once we acknowledge the feeling and express it, the energy of emotion tends to dissipate and clear. Calming visualisation can really help, walk them through the event of the exam, explaining that often the feeling is worse than when the exam takes place as they will be in the moment . Use relaxation techniques and taking calming breaths - do this activity with your child at a time that is convenient for you both. Stress that these feelings will flow and go - they are completely natural to feel and its ok!
4) Make revision fun, emotions spark memory ! Find out your child's best learning style - are they good listeners, work well by seeing something visually in the form of a diagram or through demonstration or are they kinaesthetic and have to practise by doing the work physically . Make revision into games , and see what works for your child. Discuss this with your child's teacher for hints and tips!
Things that evoke humour, a feel good feeling and emotion will be remembered more efficiently. Do you remember that one teacher who made a difference to you at school? If you think back, was the teaching fun, explained in great story telling, felt safe to listen to and captivated your attention? When the learning is emotive it helps us remember and uses our senses and imagination. Be creative to help revision in a way that suits your teen or child. Ask what they think works best?
5) Encourage Self -Belief and bring out their inner life warrior ! Young people & Children have the capacity to achieve and do their very best , with the right support, motivate them by reminding them how well they have done. Finding small examples of something they have achieved or overcame will remind them of their capabilities. Mirror their strengths back to them and hold them in high esteem and this will help them to feel like they can handle challenges better. Use simple affirmations with them so they can say to themselves " I can do this!" Believe in them!
6) They Shine Their Light Bright: Children need to be able to shine and know their potential , this is being able to feel safe and calm with a quietly confident inner knowing . Build on their inner knowing with positive words of encouragement, celebration of small and big successes but ultimately , simply remind them how much they are loved and valued and what they mean to you as much as you can ...........they are awesome - so don't forget to tell them.
Sleep Well, Eat Well, Keep the fun times and laugh with your children......that is both you and your child, remember you are a parent doing a fantastic job! Give yourself credit too!
Tips taken from the book ' Young Life Warriors' - soon to be available on Amazon - a guide for helping parents and young people thrive in the times we live in !
Lisa-Jayne Maltby is an Integrative & Humanistic Therapeutic Counsellor (MBACP & UKCP) who works in private practice and agency settings in Hampshire. She works with Young people, Parents and Individual Adults and has a background in School Counselling ( both private and secondary state schools ) in the UK and Internationally. Specialises in working with individuals experiencing Bereavement, transition and change, Post trauma work and a variety of emotional and psychological challenges, helping people for over 16 years.