Practicing Gratitude at Thanksgiving

When asked for topics at a meeting this week the odds are good that someone will suggest gratitude as a discussion topic. Just by virtue of being in recovery we have plenty to be grateful for, and now with Thanksgiving so near we have that extra reminder that gratitude makes everything we face so much easier. But how do we get Being grateful to stick?

The advice I have been told and that I tell others is to “practice gratitude.”

But did you ever stop to think about what that means. How –exactly—do we practice gratitude? I’ve been asking people how they actually practice gratitude, and I learned some great things.

First, and this seemed so obvious but gratitude is a habit. It’s a habit like exercising or smoking or not eating sugar or worrying.  Habits are repeated patterns of behavior or thought and they can be for good or ill. And we can learn or unlearn habits. I never thought of gratitude in quite that way. I just thought that gratitude was something that came over me occasionally, but wasn’t in my control.

Not the case.

So how do you get a gratitude habit? It’s like the man in New York City who asks, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The answer: “Practice. Practice. Practice”.

Psychologists tell us that new habits require 21 days to form or to “take”. So we can do some kind of gratitude practice for 21 days to make the mind learn gratitude. Twenty-one days is a kind of magic number for new habit formation.

When I teach new writers I use this “21 day rule” to help people become regular writers. They do a mini writing practice for 21 days, or write in their journals for 21 days. It’s the same with exercise or walking—commit to 21 days. One of my favorite stories comes from a fitness trainer who asks his clients to simply dress in their sneakers and exercise clothes every morning for 21 days. “Once they are dressed”, he admits, “they mostly will do some kind of exercise; we have created the habit of suiting up to exercise.”  I think that’s brilliant.

So to give yourself a lasting attitude of gratitude you have to create a ritual—a habit and actually do a practice —for at 21 days. Here are some things you could try:

  • A daily gratitude list—you know this one. But do it in writing so that the hand and eye are involved. This makes the brain imbed the new habit faster. Decide on a number: Three items each day? Or five? Or 10? And stick to that number—in writing.
  • Set the timer on your watch to the same time each day. An odd number is good like 12:34 pm or 10:10 am. When the alarm rings you stop and quickly name three things you are grateful for.
  • Expand that idea to your phone. Teach yourself to have one grateful thought on the first ring of your phone, later let that grow to the first ring of any phone you hear.
  • At home: when you are shaving or removing make-up—begin by naming out loud one specific gratitude from this day.
  • When you throw something in the trash tie that physical action to saying, “I am grateful for…” quietly to yourself.
  • What other simple habitual gestures can you link to naming a grateful thought? Taking out your keys? Starting the car? Taking your coffee mug from the cabinet?

The more simple, repetitive actions you can attach to specific things you are grateful for the stronger your habit of grateful thinking will become.

This blog was written by Diane Cameron, author of OUT OF THE WOODS

This blog was written by Diane Cameron, author of OUT OF THE WOODS

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I Have the Power

The power to change the way I react to the disease of addiction.

The power to stop its destructive spread.

For too many years I was consumed by the poison my son was consuming. I snarled and yelled and argued and begged and cried; I re-negotiated the non-negotiable; I rationally discussed the irrational; and, at night, I either paced the house―holding vigil for Joey’s life―or dreamed of growing octopus arms to squash down all his problems.

There was no room in my head for anyone but Joey; that’s just what happens once an addict starts wearing a beloved child’s face.

So, while Joey was the one consuming the poison, the poison seeping into our household was passing directly through me, sneaking in on the umbilical connection. I was a carrier―the Typhoid Mary of addiction―spreading misery and destruction through our family. Helping the disease to do what it does best.

You see, for too many years, I was trying to change something that wasn’t mine to change: Joey.

The truth is, the only thing I can change is me.

(And that has real power.)

Addiction is horrible enough without me making it worse, so I’m done with that. There will be no more ripping apart of hearts and lives―not by my actions (or my neglect). Not by my words, thrown around like poison darts. I will not blame or argue. I will not get sucked into dramas or force issues that don’t belong to me. I will protect my boundaries, making room in my head for all the people I love. I will be calm not crazed. I will be positive. I will have reasonable expectations. I will change the tune and change the dance; I will change my family’s chance. This doesn’t mean I don’t care. Or don’t hurt. Or won’t cry. It just means I will fill the hole in my life where Joey should be with goodness, not badness. Kindness, not madness.

I will honor my son with my words and my actions―not the addict.

The destructive spread of the disease of addiction stops with me.

This post was written by Sandra Swenson, author of THE JOEY SONG: A Mother's Story of Her Son's Addiction

This post was written by Sandra Swenson, author of THE JOEY SONG: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction

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Relationships in Recovery:  Six Pitfalls and Six Blessings

We thought this information, which is not in our book, might be useful for couples in recovery, especially those in the early stages.

First, by recovery, we mean from addiction to substances (such as alcohol or other drugs) compulsive behaviors (like overeating, gambling, or debting) or people (as in the case of as sex/love addiction, co-dependency).

Let’s talk first about the pitfalls or challenges:

  1. It’s particularly challenging if only one person gets into recovery, especially if the partner also practices an addiction.  Ideally, a non-addict spouse would get involved in a support program such as Alanon.  At the very least, the partner who may not need a recovery program must fully respect and support the other’s need to be actively involved in a recovery program on an ongoing basis. Note:  We would add that this can be a MAJOR change – not usually as simple as,“if only he or she would quit practicing the addictive behavior everything would be fine.”  They call addiction a “family disease” for a reason.

2.   Each person needs to work their own program.

3.   Each person must have his or her own sponsor or mentor, and not make the     other his or her Higher Power.

4.   Because recovery involves huge transformation and a vigorous program of action, two people could find disparity in the rate of progress, and there is always the danger that someone may stop working a program and regress or relapse.

As an aside, if you are dating someone in recovery, are they a “good prospect?”  Maybe – what you may want to look at, is not only longevity, but

a.  Are they grateful for their recovery?

b.  Are they committed to giving back?

c.  Are they actively engaged with their recovery program and giving service?

These are all good signs.

5.  It requires time apart from each other to work a recovery program.

6.  It requires balance to keep nurturing the relationship.

NOW, what are the potential rewards or blessings?

  1. Sharing a common experience of having survived some kind of addiction.
  2. Sharing a common identity
  3. Sharing a common purpose
  4. Sharing a common fellowship
  5. Speaking a common language
  6. Sharing common spiritual principles

We’ll end by saying that, when both people work a recovery program, those tools and spiritual principles can also be applied to achieving a peaceful and harmonious union– with multiple shared blessings!!

This blog post was written by Steve & Angie McCord, authors of A SPIRITUAL PATH TO A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP

This blog post was written by Steve & Angie McCord, authors of A SPIRITUAL PATH TO A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP

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Is There a Cancer-Prone Personality?

More than twenty years ago, the American Cancer Association asked the question, is there a cancer-prone personality? At the time, results were inconclusive and researchers needed much more information before they could put the debate to rest. Since then, studies have shown that there may indeed be a link between behavior and personality and the onset of and recovery from cancer.

We know that emotions such as depression, anger, and hostility make us more prone to illness and disease; and it’s been shown that positive attitudes such as hope, optimism, and happiness strengthens our immune system and protects us from disease. Recent studies point to two personality types that seem to make us either cancer-prone or cancer resistant.

Cancer-Prone Personality Types

• Represses both positive and negative emotions.

• Shows anger, resentment, or hostility towards others.

• Takes on extra duties and responsibilities, even when they cause stress.

• Reacts adversely to and does not cope well with life changes.

• Is negative or pessimistic.

• Becomes easily depressed or has feelings of hopelessness.

• Worries often and excessively about others.

• Feels the need for approval and to please others.

Cancer-Resistant Personality Type

• Expresses emotions in a positive and constructive way.

• Controls anger and resolves anger issues positively.

• Knows when to say no.

• Copes well with stress and feels in control of situations.

• Is optimistic and hopeful.

• Does not become easily depressed.

• Seeks out and maintains social support networks.

• Does not worry excessively.

• Likes to please, but does not seek approval as an emotional crutch.

As with everything else, there are always exceptions: some of the most optimistic and positive among us will get cancer, and some of the angriest and most hostile will live to be 100, cancer-free. But when a cancer patient is told that his or her disease is terminal, those who adopt cancer-resistant traits tend to live longer because their newly acquired behaviors will automatically boost immunity.

Mind-body techniques such a meditation and guided imagery can have a positive effect on cancer treatment. A patient’s coping style, behavior, and recovery strategy are critical factors in five-year survival rates. Furthermore, mortality is typically reduced for those who have a social support network compared with those who are socially isolated; and patients who establish a recovery program that includes stress management and relaxation techniques have fewer relapses. So there is, indeed, a link between mind and body when it comes to the effectiveness of cancer therapies.

If researchers have learned anything it’s that even a disease like cancer is much more easily overcome when we use the mind-body connection to help fight it. And that by strengthening and conditioning the mind part of the mind-body connection, we can extend life and optimize the chances of recovery. In future blogs, I’ll discuss using self-healing images and other specific techniques from my book Mind-Body Health & Healing that anyone can use to boost immunity and help reverse cancer growth.

This blog originally appeared on the Psychology Today website

This blog originally appeared on the Psychology Today website

This blog was written by Andrew Goliszk, PhD, author of Mind-Body Health and Healing

This blog was written by Andrew Goliszk, PhD, author of Mind-Body Health and Healing

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Moving Toward Emotional Balance

The best way out is always through. ~Robert Frost

Being out of balance emotionally usually involves either not allowing yourself to experience your feelings as they evolve by avoiding or suppressing them, or being so attached to and identified with them that your feelings are all-consuming. Emotional balance occurs when we allow ourselves to feel whatever comes up, without stifling or being overwhelmed by it, and learn to accept our feelings without judgment.

Most people try to avoid emotional as well as physical pain. After all, who wants to be in pain? Our wishful thinking tells us that if we can just avoid the pain, it won’t affect us. Ironically, efforts to keep painful thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations at bay may work temporarily, but in the long run only prolong those experiences and intensify the suffering connected to them. Suffering is a function of how people think and feel about the emotional and physical pain they experience, and the beliefs they attach to it. There is a direct correlation between the amount of effort expended to avoid pain and the degree of suffering experienced—the harder someone works to avoid pain, the greater his or her suffering tends to be.

Avoidance doesn’t work because pain is an inevitable part of life. It is an essential aspect of being human. It is in how we choose to respond to the emotional and physical pain we experience that determines whether we are able to get through that pain, or unwittingly extend and amplify it.

In the same way that lightning always finds a path to ground, feelings—including those that are uncomfortable and painful—always find a path to expression. If we don’t allow ourselves to feel them and, as necessary talk about them, if we avoid or suppress our feelings, then they invariably come out “sideways”—in indirect forms via our behavior. When feelings are expressed through behavior, they typically operate unconsciously, outside of our awareness and ability to steward. When this happens we’re on autopilot, often doing things we don’t want to do and that we know don’t work for us, and we have no idea why we keep doing them.

It’s similar to a pressure cooker. Pressure cookers are instruments of balance inasmuch as a lid is required to keep the contents from spilling all over the place, but a means to release the accumulating pressure is also necessary. If there is no release valve to provide a safe path to expression, what happens? The pressure builds up until the vessel can no longer contain it and it explodes, causing potentially serious damage. Similarly, if we don’t provide our emotions a safe (though at times uncomfortable) path to expression by allowing ourselves to feel them consciously, they will still find a way out—often through some sort of unhealthy, self-defeating and/or explosive behavior.

There are several levels of awareness involved in cultivating emotional balance (as straightforward as these may seem, for many people they do not come easily or naturally):

1) Become consciously aware that you are experiencing an emotion. Although you may not know specifically what the feeling is, it is important to simply notice and acknowledge that you have some feeling.

2) Identify the particular emotion. It may be helpful to close your eyes, turn your focus inward, and allow yourself to experience that emotion in your body. Different emotions are typically experienced in different parts of the body. For example, anger might manifest as tightness in your neck and shoulders, sadness as an aching in your chest, fear as a knot in your stomach, and joy as warmth in your heart.

3) Put the emotion into words. “I’m feeling anxious.” “I’m feeling angry.” “I’m feeling sad.” Putting the emotions you experience into words by making these simple self-statements can create the space you can use to respond intentionally rather than react automatically and unconsciously.

Emotional balance is facilitated by practicing emotional regulation and distress tolerance. Emotional regulation relates to identifying the emotions that are being felt in the moment, and observing them without being overwhelmed by them. Emotional regulation skills include self-soothing activities that help to reduce emotional intensity and provide a calming effect, such as: meditation, intentional breathing, yoga, listening to music you enjoy, progressive muscle relaxation, taking a walk or a hike, reading something pleasurable or spiritual, singing a favorite song, exercising, visualizing a comforting/relaxing image, journaling, etc.

Distress tolerance refers to enduring and accepting discomfort, and learning to bear pain skillfully. Distress tolerance enhances coping capacity by strengthening resiliency—the ability to adjust to change. Distress tolerance skills are an outgrowth of mindfulness practices, and involve the ability to nonjudgmentally accept both oneself and the current situation in spite of the emotional and/or physical pain it may bring.

It is important to clarify that acceptance does not equal approval. We can learn to accept and co-exist with uncomfortable, distressing emotions when we don’t like them at all, and even when we dislike them intensely.

Emotions, especially powerful, disturbing ones, can seem as though they will last forever. However, whether they are positive and bring smiles to our face and laughter to our lips, or painful and bring hurt to our hearts and tears to our eyes, feelings are always temporary. They come and go like guests who come to visit: some are welcome and we’re delighted to see them; others, not so much. Sometimes they leave sooner than we would like; other times they stay way past the point when we want them to leave—but eventually they all leave.

The status of one’s emotional balance is never static; it is almost always in motion. It may be helpful to think of it in terms of a see-saw or teeter-totter, a piece of play equipment once common to school yards and public playgrounds. Typically, two children would sit on opposite ends of a wooden plank supported in the middle by a metal fulcrum and ride up and down so that as one end goes up the other end goes down. The end that is up then goes down and the end that was down goes up in alternating fashion. Sometimes the movement of the see-saw is more extreme, rapidly fluctuating up and then down, and sometimes, it’s slower and more gradual.

Although there may be brief periods when the see-saw is perfectly balanced, this never lasts long. The vast majority of the time there is some movement, as the respective ends of the plank move up and down, sometimes very slightly and subtly. The same is true of emotional balance, even under the best of circumstances—rarely does anyone achieve perfect balance, and when they do, it doesn’t last. As the circumstances of your life change, so will your state of emotional balance. The key is to be consciously aware of it and utilize that awareness to take whatever actions will move you back toward balance.

This blog was written by Dan Mager, MSW, author of SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED

This blog was written by Dan Mager, MSW, author of SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED

This blog originally appeared on the Psychology Today website

This blog originally appeared on the Psychology Today website

Posted in Addiction, Addiction & Recovery, Author News, Blog, Chronic Pain, Pain Recovery, Personal Development | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Once upon a time I was just a mom.

A regular mom.

When I held my little miracle in my arms for the very first time, I rubbed my cheek on his fuzzy head and whispered, “Joey, my beautiful son, I will love and protect you for as long as I live.” I didn’t know then that my baby would become an addict before becoming an adult, or that the addict taking his place would shred the meaning of those words to smithereens.

When Joey tumbled into my world, he arrived without an instruction manual, but I was the best mom I could be as someone with good intentions and no experience. I stumbled through parenthood like everyone else — rocking my baby to sleep, kissing the scraped knees of my little boy, setting unwelcome limits for my sometimes testy teen, and hoping I was doing things kind of right.

Then, slowly at first, came the arrests and the overdoses, the needle marks and the dealers, interspersed with big fat lies. My loving child was turning into a monster, manipulating me and using me and twisting my love for him into knots, but I was befuddled by this scary new world I didn’t even know I was in and that I knew nothing about. You see, I thought I was still just a regular mom stumbling through regular parenthood like everyone else. (You see, a mothers trust and belief in her child’s inner goodness aren’t easily cast aside.)

Addiction is a disease, but not even the professionals have it all figured out yet — and they aren’t trying to figure it out while in a blind panic, running through the fires of hell with fears and dreams and maternal instincts tripping them up. So, I shouldn’t feel like a total failure for having missed so many clues and for not being able to love and protect my child as I promised… but still, sometimes I do.

Joey became an addict in his teens, lured to drugs and alcohol by a culture that glorifies substance abuse — the same culture that later, so ignorantly and harshly, passes judgment. I am judged for helping or fixing or pushing (or not helping or fixing or pushing enough) the sick child of mine who won’t be helped or fixed or pushed. I am judged for over-reacting and under-reacting, enabling and letting go, and, most hurtful of all, as a mother whose love must be somehow flawed.

Once upon a time I was just a regular mom, stumbling through parenthood like everyone else — and then I had to figure out how to be the mom of an addict. I had to figure out how to love my child without helping to hurt him, how to grieve the loss of my child who’s still alive without dying, and how to trade shame and blame for strength.

To be the mom of an addict is to be an ambassador of truth and understanding.

No more shame. No more silence.

This post was written by Sandra Swenson, author of THE JOEY SONG: A Mother's Story of Her Son's Addiction

This post was written by Sandra Swenson, author of THE JOEY SONG: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction


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Men, Relationships, and Trauma

The role of trauma in men’s relationships is interesting – to say the least. What is so difficult about it is how hidden it can be. I have learned a lot about trauma in the past decade. Before then, despite being over ten years in recovery, it simply was not on my radar. At least not as an issue that affected so many men as I now believe it does. And, perhaps most importantly, not an issue that had affected me so much!

Something you will hear from me over and over again is: “The best way for a man not to have trauma, is to simply say ‘I don’t have trauma.’” That, of course, does not make that statement true. I have no doubt that trauma is at the heart of a many a man’s failed relationships. The worst part: he just doesn’t know that. The thing you have to always remember is that men are not socialized to see their experiences as trauma or to have an accurate perception of what trauma even is.

Until you have quietly reflected on this issue and looked into it at some length with an open mind, you may not know whether or not you have experienced any trauma. What I can say is that I know far too many men who have lived with trauma for many years of their recovery with no awareness that trauma was at the root of their suffering and feelings of disconnection. Do not let contempt prior to investigation prevent you from exploring something that could offer you a degree of peace and freedom you never thought possible.

The challenge a lot of men have is that they do not necessarily see their experiences as traumatic because they compare them to other people’s traumas—what they might consider “real” or more serious trauma. Many men probably look at their traumatic experiences in hindsight with an adult’s understanding, saying to themselves something to the effect of “I see how this could be traumatic for a six-year-old, but I am forty years old now and it’s not a big deal. I am over it. That was a long time ago.” That is the danger. Our brain, particularly our brain’s limbic system, does not care about our age, then or now. And it maintains the emotional memories of those experiences, no matter how long ago they occurred. That is why people’s trauma reactions can be triggered so long after the original events took place. Our bodies also carry the memories of traumatic events, and we may have physiological reactions to external stimuli without realizing that this is a common trauma response.

The challenge for us men is that given how difficult it can be for us to be emotionally aware or engaged is that trauma can drive much of our behavior and we do not even realize it is happening. It eats away at our relationships, from the inside and we think it is everything and everyone else. Before we know it the relationship has fallen apart, the marriage is over, the man is in jail for abusing his partner, his addiction has gotten even more out of control, and/or he has even taken his life. He sits there scratching his head wondering why it is hard for him to connect. Why is it so hard for him to be able to keep a relationship together? Why, when his heart seems to want it more than anything, is it so hard to love and be loved?

This post was written by Dan Griffin, MA, author of A Man's Way Through Relationships

This post was written by Dan Griffin, MA, author of A Man’s Way Through Relationships

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Short. Direct. Callous. And as It Turns Out, Life Saving

Did you hear the one about the 450-plus pound man working in the fashion industry? I certainly did; mainly because I was that guy. The same guy whose scale would read ERR (short for “error” since the scale couldn’t register any weight over 400 pounds), the same guy who would be out of breath just from talking on the phone, and the same guy who threw his candy wrappers in other employees’ trash cans so the janitors on our floor wouldn’t know who was eating multiple 3 Musketeers bars in a single afternoon. And boy, did I think I had everyone fooled.

And yet, while working for R. H. Macy & Co. (back when the store was more known for its cutting-edge styles), I was definitely the odd man out. Mainly because I wasn’t fitting in with my fellow employees, each of whom, with a quick outfit change, could have doubled for one of the many professional models we featured in our magazine ads and editorial spreads. But not me. I was the big guy buying my sixty-inch-waist pants at Casual Male XL, rather than using my Macy’s in-store 20 percent discount.

And so it happened that one day, while sitting in a meeting during which buyers introduced us to the new season’s clothing lines, I realized I was the living and breathing version of a “before picture.” Everyone else in the room — from the other writers (like myself), to the art directors, the buyers, the managers, and even the lady setting up the coffee service — all had something I did not have: a normal body weight.

Why were they all thin while I was so fat? Had I missed the day at work when an email with “secrets to being thin” had been sent? Or had other employees received this clearly covert information before working in the advertising department? Maybe they’d taken a special class in college, one that my university didn’t offer. Or maybe they’d been given a leaflet while on the subway one evening. No matter, I suddenly became convinced that there was some kind of classified information being passed around about how to be thin and gorgeous while still being able to eat the donuts that were on display near the lady who set up the coffee service.

And yes, I was in touch with the fact that I was eating chocolate (and more) when no one was looking. But these strange, mystical thin folks were eating chocolate while people were looking. This was fascinating to me. Why wasn’t a Jane Goodall-type covering all this on a PBS special? This was a great mystery, and I was determined to get to the bottom of it.

I narrowed my focus to our department’s vice president, a man who seemed to have it all: beautiful wife, great personality, twinkle in his eye, ability to eat anything without gaining an ounce, and someone who sported a 34-inch waist. (Or was it 32 inches?)

Thus I braved up, marched into this VP’s office, and explained to him that I was overweight. (Just in case he didn’t realize that I weighed over 450 pounds.) After I recovered from his blank stare, I leaned across his desk and asked him, point blank, “What can I do to lose weight?

I didn’t have to wait long for the advice that was so callously handed out to me. His words of wisdom? His “secret” to staying thin and trim? His suggestion for my being able to have my home scale register my weight again? “Just stop eating so much.”

What? Excuse me?

I quickly deducted that this VP wasn’t willing to share his secret for staying lean. And, quite frankly, I’d never been more offended. “Just stop eating so much?” As if. I mean, just how much did he think I was eating? This was something I pondered as I marched back to my cubicle and sought therapy from my friends, the 3 Musketeers.

And yet, I couldn’t stop thinking about those five words. The more I thought about them, the more incredulous I became. I could barely believe the audacity of this person. Didn’t he know that being overweight wasn’t my fault? After being raised by extremely abusive parents, after being the victim of sexual abuse as a child, after living a lifetime of eating to cope, didn’t this person realize that I was a victim and needed sympathy and a pat on the shoulder?

Wait a minute. Was that what I was doing in his office? Did I need my reasons for being obese to be validated? Did I want to be enabled? Looking back I would have to say… probably. Only instead I got served some shorthand advice. Advice I couldn’t quite shake. And as a result, before much longer, the phrase “just stop eating so much” wasn’t swirling around in my head as much as it was resonating in my soul.

It was now dawning on me that although this VP might eat donuts or candy bars in public, he sometimes didn’t finish the whole donut. And other times, I would see him consume just one candy bar as opposed to three. Or an apple. Or even say, “No thanks,” when someone told him they were making a snack run for our department.

“Just stop eating so much,” you say?

Well, it turns out that the rudest and most insensitive advice I’d ever received also happened to be the most effective. It wasn’t long before I did just stop eating so much and, along with incorporating healthy amounts of exercise, took off over 250 pounds of excess weight within a year’s time. No pills, surgery, or any wacky diets required.

To this day, I’ve never shared this story with the VP who tore my bandage off fast and instantly rendered all my years of ridiculously intricate (and pricey) dieting “tricks” — and excuses — worthless.

And yet, I feel like many times, when we’re looking to overcome a challenge or obstacle, no matter how addictive that challenge or obstacle might be (and trust me, food can be as addictive as heroin for many of us), the simple, forthright and, yeah, rude advice can sometimes be the most beneficial. It can manage to knock us out of our comfort zone. And let’s face it; too often our comfort zone involves those “things” we are addicted to, be they food- or whatever-related.

So for me, that quick, callous advice was also the most valuable. Today, once people learn that I used to weigh over 450 pounds and have been at a healthy weight of around 175 pounds for well over a decade, they want to know what magic wand or “trick” I used to take off the excess poundage. And when I give them the same answer I received all those years ago, they usually look at me with the same shock and awe.

We want the answers to be complicated, enabling, and even pricey. But often the best advice we can receive comes without any fancy packaging or outrageous promises or gratuitous politeness — or, for that matter, candy wrappers.

This article first appeared on the Huffington Post

This article first appeared on the Huffington Post






This post was written  about the new book WEIGHTLESS. Click here to buy the book

This post was written about the new book WEIGHTLESS. Click here to buy the book

Posted in Addiction News, Author News, Blog, Child Obesity, Eating Disorder Recovery, Family & Addiction, Personal Development | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Tell-all book chronicles man’s 250-pound weight loss

Gregg McBride doesn’t hold anything back in his new book that details his incredible weight loss.


By Lori Corbin

Thursday, October 16, 2014 10:30PM

Gregg McBride is one of millions of Americans who has struggled with weight. A tragic childhood led to food addiction and then morbid obesity.

His parents responded to his eating disorder by locking the kitchen cabinets.

“When I was eating it was always in secret. I would steal money from my dad’s wallet. I would buy junk food — I’d have to hide it in my room. I would even hide ice cream,” said McBride, author of “Weightless.”

The average American male waist size is 40 inches. McBride, at his heaviest, wore a 60-inch belt and weighed more than 450 pounds.

McBride’s parents put him on countless diets but abuse was really the root of his problems.

“Neglect, abuse, he was sexually abused. His mother was ill. His father was alcoholic,” said psychologist Dr. Rick Shuman.

“My mother was basically a pathological liar, she would tell people that I was adopted. She eventually started to tell people that I had a disease,” said McBride.

Now 250 pounds lighter, McBride has chronicled his journey in order to help others.

“Part of the point of ‘Weightless’ is at 18 years old, I was then responsible for it and it turns out I needed to get rid of the mental weight as much as the physical weight,” he said.

Dr. Shuman agrees.

“There’s nothing magic in this formula. There’s never going to be anything magical in this formula. It’s about the self-discipline and the self-understanding that allows you to make different choices and better choices growing up,” said Shuman.

McBride did just that. He started walking an hour every day, then added gym time.

He stopped the gimmicky weight-loss tricks and began eating the basics, focusing on fresh food in the proper quantity.

McBride wants to help others fight what he calls “fat thinking.”

“People are always trying to fix their stomach, whether it’s certain food group combinations or surgery or pills. And I say over and over again, the problem is in our heads,” said McBride.


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Yoga Cannot Cure All

Yoga is an amazing practice.  The physical postures energise at the same time they relax you, strengthen the body while adding flexibility and balance.  Breathwork and meditation can be used at anytime to recenter you, bringing you to present time awareness.  Self knowledge can be developed with an ongoing yoga practice that can lead you into a deeper understanding of the union of body, mind and spirit,; how you feel and what happens to you are recorded in the geography of your body and nervous system. Yoga can release these. Yoga truly can help you heal.  It is NOT a remedy for all illnesses, it is not a panacea. It is an adjunct to any recovery process not a replacement for treatment.

Yoga teachers and the often associated healing modalities such as massage, acupuncture,  nutritional counseling and so on, can promote a mistaken position that these practices can replace and supplant western or modern medicine.  Some yoga communities eschew modern remedies to the point of shaming those who integrate medicine and medications into their healing.  This is wrong headed, whether you are looking at physical illnesses or diseases of the brain.  For the yoga students and teacher who do reach outside of yoga for help this shame is like the Buddhist’s “second arrow”; an injury upon the injury.

Lee Ann Finfinger

Lee Ann Finfinger

Lee Ann Finfinger is a well known yoga teacher based in Pittsburgh, PA.  She has taught in many venues, in the states and internationally.  Beloved by her students and  she lives the ethic and values of yoga.  She is the real deal.  She has also been a victim of the “meditate not medicate”  mantra of the yoga culture.  Yoga culture can be pedantic when it come to illness.  Unfortunately as the result of this Finfinger has felt the need to suppress her challenges with mental illness in order to conform to the yogic culture.  Yoga culture can remorselessly maintain that whatever your challenge is “yoga” can address it.  Insomnia? Do this practice. Hip pain? Do these poses.  Mental Illness? “healing can come from holding crystals, chanting, or doing any special mood-elevating yoga poses” (Finfinger).  Yogis can be quite dogmatic in their promotion of nutritional and asana (pose) remedies to illness and disease.

Yogis are not all purists, mind you: there are “Yoga and Wine” events, yogis who use cannabis (or other drugs), yogis who smoke, and not to overlook that yoga festivals in general can include parties of all sorts. Evidently that is “different”; it is RECREATIONAL and OK.  People who practice or teach yoga do not necessarily abstain from all intoxicants and drugs.

Many yogis talk a lot about detoxing, cleansing, tongue scraping, lemon water and juicing. Others whisper to one another about non-gluten free treats and cups of coffee they have had as if there were truly forbidden fruits.  We have our secret consumptions and yet become haughty over western medicine. With teachers who feel shame in reaching to western medicine there can be a schism between the private life and the presentation in the classes.  This can be in response to the overall silence if not disdain for those who have an injury or an illness and cannot find a yoga-only remedy.

There can be pushback to taking care of yourself with ongoing medication, taken for anything from menopause to mental illness.  Both the unspoken and the verbalized opinion is that there has to be something lacking in your yoga practice if you need medication.  Herbs, oils, lotions and diet change should be sufficient.  If you have a mental illness that requires a prescription you haven’t looked hard enough to find a yogic answer.  The implication is that your yoga practice is imperfect therefore supplemental treatment is required. It is really the other way around:  yoga completes the picture not replaces the treatment.  Finfinger writes:

“When I found yoga at the age of thirty, my practice supplemented the care of my disorders. I cannot stress that enough. My yoga practice supplements my mental-health care. It is not a replacement for my psychiatrist, therapists, or daily medication.” (emphasis mine)

I am a person in long term recovery. I, too, have found yoga to supplement my recovery.

While I have not found any resistance in the yoga community regarding my recovery: bear in mind recovery from addiction only requires abstinence.  I have not been urged to leave my meetings and to practice yoga exclusively to address my recovery and to prevent relapse.  I have had many years to build up my shawl of comfort with my recovery and I no longer feel shame.  Society on the other hand has an impact on others who are not yet ready to confront or address their addiction in a public way.   Students who attend my recovery oriented classes are often concerned about having their name associated with the class, or to be seen coming into the class.  This has more to do with society in general than with yoga in specific.

It is important for me to stress to my students and to other teachers that yoga does not replace my regimen of treatment: meetings, service, working my steps and continuing to be involved with my recovery community.  Yoga augments the union of body, mind and spirit.  Yoga leads me to be aware of my physical being, to sense my reactions and responses to life at a gut level.  Yoga also give me a way to become and stay as well as I can, from both the exercise perspective and from the perspective of emotional balance and wellbeing.  As I use the steps of my recovery program to work through issues of behavior, character and attitude; yoga helps me work through the issues as they stay lodged in my body; feelings of fear, insecurity or loss that tighten my structure and cause pain and loss of breath.  In spite of these amazing benefits- yoga cannot alone sustain me in my recovery. I need my outside help- I need my program of recovery.

I do know of students who have come to classes hoping to burn away the toxins from a heavy night of drinking and using. I know students who come to yoga and meditation classes, to spiritual talks and sharing to address the longing within that drives them to use. They do this to avoid facing their illness and to avoid going to recovery meetings. Yoga cannot replace a program of recovery.  It is folly to believe that a few hours on the mat can cure our disease. Even the full practice of all the limbs of yoga cannot replace a focussed practice of the principles of a 12 Step program.

Yes, like mental illness, addiction is a disease. Finfinger writes that there still remains a “stigma about mental illness”.  Surprisingly stigma and shame remain in society regarding addiction as well as her terrible sister; codependency.  Each of these illnesses require outside help.  This help beings with a 12 Step Program (or other recovery based model) and can include therapists and for those who suffer from dual diagnosis, whose disease includes mental illness, medication.  And there are more and more people who have been discovered to have mental illness as part of their challenge in recovery. We cannot take away a managed approach to stabilization due to societal stigma.

Yoga teachers cannot take on these issues for their students and, above all, they must address them in themselves.  Taking spiritual or nutritional or chakra balancing  bypass to avoid dealing with the disease does a disservice to the traditions of yoga and to the traditions of recovery.   Yoga teaches strength, flexibility and balance.  Take these practices off the mat and apply them to life. Yoga teachers can help by supporting one another in being open and honest that each may authentically demonstrate the self care they are trying to teach their students.

Kyczy Hawk E-RYT200, RYT500 is a leader of Y12SR classes, and the creator of SOAR(tm) (Success Over Addiction and Relapse); a teacher certification training. Find out more about her, her classes and the SOAR(tm) training at

Kyczy Hawk is the author of YOGA AND THE TWELVE STEP PATH

Kyczy Hawk is the author of YOGA AND THE TWELVE STEP PATH









Click here to read Lee Ann's article 'The Culture of Yoga and Mental Illness' in full

Click here to read Lee Ann’s article ‘The Culture of Yoga and Mental Illness’ in full

Posted in Addiction, Addiction & Recovery, Addiction News, Author News, Blog, Mental Health, Mindfulness, Mindfulness, Yoga | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment