Yoga in the recovery process: Meet Kyczy Hawk

Please meet Kyczy Hawk who is a 12-Step Recovery (Y12SR) yoga teacher extraordinaire.  In this interview, Kyczy shares the value of yoga in recovery and the benefits on how to help yourself as a parent.

How did you first because involved in yoga and what have been the benefits for your overall life?

Aside from the videos and TV yoga class experiences my first actual yoga class was in Maryland.  This is the first class I “count” because I was really practicing yoga.  I had put myself in the hands of a skilled yoga teacher who saw ME and guided me through the poses.  It was not an exercise class, it was not a class of physical daring and pretzel-ation, it was a class designed to move me into my body and my own feelings.

I needed that. I was isolated and work oriented; going through the motions of being engaged in life, but divorced from my insides.  Even though I had a good relationship with my husband, I had recovery friends, and went to meetings, my inner landscape had become a desert.  This disconnect was the basis for my experience of being deep into an emotional relapse.

As a woman in recovery I cannot afford to become emotionally / psychologically bereft.  I know how to BEHAVE like a woman in recovery.  At that point I did not know how to FEEL like one.  Yoga helped moved me into my feelings and to loosen some of the past traumas that had become lodged in my body.  The unaddressed traumas needed to come out.

A continued practice of yoga has kept me vital, has kept me in touch with my feelings (physical and emotional) and given me tools to work through my feelings rather than thinking them away, pushing them down, denying them.  Being in myself, believing in my feelings, allowing them space and the chance to leave, has made me a very grounded person.  I am solid, and I am in touch.  I can feel and express compassion without being enmeshed; I can accept myself just as I am.

You’ve become certified in Yoga of 12-Step Recovery (Y12SR). What are the benefits of yoga being integrated into the recovery process. Please share one of the challenges and one of the  most rewarding experiences with Y12SR.

Y12SR is a most amazing recovery meeting and yoga experience. I have been holding space for over five years.  In that time several hundred people have come and gone and many have stayed in the group.  We have the deepest sharing and have become quite close.

In fact, a chronically ill woman has joined the meeting portion by phone in order to have a meeting and stay in touch with people who love and support her.  We use the philosophy of yoga as it pertains to recovery as the jumping off point for discussion. Using one of many books (mine included- “Yoga and The Twelve Step Path”) we talk about how the concept related to our recovery and how we handle our daily lives. It is very solution oriented.

The yoga classes are designed around the topic for the day and is for all people, with our varied body types and abilities.  Unlike conventional yoga classes – there is talking and laughing along with the practice. People who never thought they would do yoga come back time and again.  They, too, notice that bringing attention to one’s body can and will help us to integrate.  Breath work and meditation round out the classes.

In all the years and all the classes I have only had to ask one person to leave.  I did this to keep the space safe for the others:  I cannot have inebriated people in the room.  Unlike conventional recovery meetings where everyone is welcome, people who are still using can be a danger to themselves or others in the yoga practice. 24 hours clean is the rule.

The other issue that I keep in mind is that, as an all recovery path meeting (with people from all anonymous fellowships welcome) having an active drinker or user in the group could trigger someone and that would be counter to the ideal of maintaining a safe container; a sacred circle.

What is SOAR (Success Over Addiction and Relapse) and what motivated you to become involved as a teacher?

S.O.A.R.(tm) is a training program designed to teach yoga teachers about the blend of yoga and recovery, how to incorporate yoga language with recovery language when teaching.  It is also to guide teachers on how to hold safe classes in a trauma sensitive way: what this means in terms of words and instructions, body placement in the room, dress (yes, how we present our selves as a teacher is important – it sets the tone) and whether or why we would walk around the class and give hands on adjustments.  Additionally somatics is a huge part of re-inhabiting the body and teaching classes in a somatically significant way is an important skill the teacher can use.

I designed the training to help guide teachers to avoid the pitfalls and mistakes I had made in my early experiences teaching.  The training I had taken did not give me a strong foundation in HOW to teach people in recovery. I got the why, I got the neurology and the scientific background of the disease, I got the nutritional needs and many other important aspects offering holistic recovery to people, but I was teaching yoga.

I had read about trauma; I had been traumatized. I know what some of the needs could be. With the trainings I had taken, additional research and my own experiences on both sides of the studio (as a teacher and as a student) I put together a training program this is quite robust.  It is now available online with recorded presentations and personal phone calls, as well as in person workshops. I balance the two modalities in honor of our environment.

What is the message that you hope your readers will take away from your book, “Yoga and the Twelve Step Path”?

I would love for the reader to be able to find more depth in their recovery and more depth in yoga.  We sit in meetings and we process our feelings through the steps with our sharing, our listening and with our friends. A physical yoga practice, with breath work can enhance meditation and bring health to the body. I want people who practice yoga to know there is so much more than the asana, the poses, the physical practice.

Yoga is deep and addresses so many types of challenges humans face.  Yoga enhances our relationship with ourselves, and I believe, at core, all forms of addiction flow from a disturbed relationship with oneself.  Addiction and co-addiction isolate us from each other and fundamentally from ourselves.  Yoga will bring us back together. I hope the book can be part of that journey.

It looks like you have some exciting workshops coming up. What is “SELF CARE AND SANTOSHA” and who is the workshop for?

This is my favorite workshop to present and I am expanding it to a retreat this Spring 2015.  Santosha means contentment.  My new saying is “Acceptance and Gratitude are the bookends for contentment.”  With that in mind we are going to do some gratitude practices, find compassionate ways to self acceptance, practice some specialized yoga designed to calm, nourish and to create community.  All this is 48 hours!

This workshop is for anyone at all. This is not exclusively recovery based, but because that is my background, I certainly bring wisdom I have learned in the rooms into my teaching.

If you had a suggestion for a parent who is struggling as they try to cope with their child’s abuse or addiction, what would it be?  How can parents best help themselves?

This is such a complex and painful issue.  I had to ask my 17-year-old son to leave the house due to his drug use many years ago.  That was incredibly hard to do. My rules and regulations, my admonitions, my stories and my recovery were not enough to guide or dissuade him.  He had to go. I couldn’t help him. (He is doing well now, and says that is the best thing I could ever have done for him.)

My other son is now more than two years clean from meth.  His partner has over a year now.  This was a horrible and painful journey.  He needed to be clean to be in our home, he went to meetings for a year and doesn’t go anymore. I have to let go of that.  Even taking “that look” off my face that indicates that I have advice, that I have a preference.  I need to let him, and his partner, find their bottom in sobriety before they can address the hole that got them into addiction to begin with.

You can’t do anything – as a parent this is a horrible point to come to but it is the truth.  At a certain point in life, if you have the financial ability, you can push a younger child into treatment.  Without finding treatment for yourself, though, this is only half a solution. Even if the treatment sticks – this is a family disease and getting clean and sober doesn’t fix it.

RECOVERY does.  What would I say to a parent?  Get help and support for yourself first; you will be healthier, stronger and more able to offer appropriate help to your child.  You will be able to do so without  forsaking your other children or your spouse or your SELF.  Get a counselor skilled in working with families struggling with this disease and you will see your life change for the better. No matter what.

Kyczy Hawk, author of “Yoga and The Twelve Step Path” and founder of S.O.A.R.(™) Yoga, (Success Over Addiction and Relapse yoga teacher training) had been in recovery for nearly thirty years  (4/29/1985.)  As the child of an alcoholic and the mother of a recovering meth addict she knows this family disease from all sides.

She has been teaching yoga to people in recovery for over six years, and maintains several Y12SR groups: Yoga and 12 Step Recovery.  Know to many through her workshops and her blogs, she continues to write about yoga, recovery, and the subtlety of  potential relapse.

She holds both an E-RYT200 and an  RYT500 certifications from Yoga Alliance.  She has certifications also from Y12SR as a group lead and from Yoga of Recovery as a YofR(m) counselor.  Over 100 yoga teachers have completed her S.O.A.R.(™) training, holding yoga /recovery classes and workshops in studios and treatment centers across the United States and Internationally.

Interviewed by Rob Schware, William Hunnell, Darren Main, and Tommy Rosen (to name a few) she has also had articles published by Indigo International, Om Magazine, Yoga Times, The Examiner.com, OmExchange and Yoga.NZ.Org and others.

Kyczy has online Recovery infused yoga classes broadcast on StudioLiveTV.com, and has recorded presentation of her S.O.A.R.(™) work available as well. Enjoying her family, her yoga practice and her writing she continues to face “life on life’s terms” one day at a time.

This interview first appeared on Cathy Taughinbaugh's website

This interview first appeared on Cathy Taughinbaugh’s website

 

 

 

 

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

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

Posted in Addiction, Addiction & Recovery, Author News, Blog | Leave a comment

Why We Can’t Expect to Reach Our Goals If We’re Still Thinking of Ourselves as Failures

New year. New you. Right? But wait… Who exactly are you as this brand new year begins? How do you think about yourself? What kind of energy are you projecting into the world? And, if I Googled you, what results would there be that define you? Answer with the first word and/or descriptor that comes to your mind…

Fabulous?

Amazing?

Incredible?

Fat?

Sadly, it’s often words like “Fat,” or phrases such as “Too big” or “Too this or that” that we would choose as the first thought that defines us as of right now. As dieters, we often think in terms of negatives — as if those depressing thoughts might motivate us to finally stick to our diet and take off some excess weight. But in my experience, keeping negative words and thoughts at the forefront of our inner dialogue can actually be pretty destructive.

Think about someone close to you. Someone you love. Someone you think hung the moon. When that person comes to mind, do you think about one of their shortcomings? Or do you think about their many qualities and the warm, fuzzy feeling you get as a result of having them in your life?

Now, think of someone you’re not a fan of. When you think of this person, do you list one of their qualities first? Or do you focus on the reason you consider them someone you really don’t want to be around?

One thinking process felt good, right? And the other? Not so good.

And yet I’m willing to bet that when you think of yourself, it’s often in the same sort of light you think of someone that you dislike or want to avoid. In other words, you’re not feeling any of the warm fuzzies in regard to yourself. And I’m here to tell you that you should. After all, you are an incredible, amazing person just as you are right now (in this very moment).

I don’t care if you have 5, 10 or 100 pounds (or more) of excess weight to lose. I don’t care if you recently lost your tempter with your significant other. I don’t care if you goofed off at work the day before yesterday. I don’t care that you haven’t quite achieved or perhaps haven’t even started working toward your goals for this new year. You are still incredible. You are still amazing. You are still perfect — right in this very moment.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to encourage you to lose excess weight, get healthier, look better and meet all of your goals. But I doubt you’re going to do it if you’re defining yourself by what you perceive to be your shortcomings. In other words, it’s time to stop defining yourself by negatives (like your excess weight) and start accentuating the positive.

When it comes to helping someone change, wouldn’t you be more likely to do anything to help the person you imagined earlier that you care about? And isn’t it just as likely that you wouldn’t really care to help the person you imagined earlier who you’d like to avoid? So why would you think that you can be down on yourself and still accomplish your goals? By filling your thoughts with shiny, happy ones, you’ll add a little pep to your step and be motivated to initiate the changes you want to see come to fruition this year.

Another example: Think of man’s best friend (aka dogs). Are they more motivated by having their nose rubbed in excrement? Or by getting a loving pat and lots of praise when they do something good? You know the answer.

So yes, I want you to stop rubbing your nose in the “excrement” of past failures — not to mention defining yourself by the same. None of those failed diets, exercise plans or goals matter. They can all be counted on as great lessons about what worked and what didn’t. My book Weightless is a testament to this. In it I chronicle the countless times I began (and then “failed” at) dieting. And yet if I had stopped trying — if I had not decided to try one more time with self-love instead of self-loathing — I might have never taken off over 250 pounds of excess weight (excess weight I’ve kept off for over a decade).

Today is a new day. Heck, it’s a new year. A year in which you can accomplish anything. But only if you think of yourself with love, with acceptance and with the knowledge that you got it goin’ on — even if you’re not at your ideal weight quite yet.

So let’s all give ourselves some mental hugs today, shall we? And let’s start defining ourselves by our positives, rather than our negatives. This mental channel change — and new definition of ourselves — can lead to amazing things (including weight loss, better health and a happier life).

What have you got to lose? Aside from the negative thoughts, that is?

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This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post

This post originally 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, Addiction & Recovery, Author News, Blog, Child Obesity, Emotional Eating, Emotional Eating in Children, Family & Addiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Creating Healthy Relationships

For the longest time of my early recovery I wanted someone to love. I do not mean just to have sex with. My heart longed for connection. And I never thought I would find it. Once I started actually dating then I not only thought I would never find love but that, even if I was able to find it, I would ruin it. Somehow. Of course, I would not admit this to other men. I would do what we all did – just talk about getting laid or talk around the fear and insecurity without truly addressing it. Why do we diminish our desire for love and connection so often? Why do we avoid the hard conversations?

The Man Rules™ imply it is unmanly to admit that we value our relationships and want to connect with others, or that, God forbid, we need others in our lives. Yet there is an incredibly rich and rapidly growing chorus of scientists, psychologists, quantum physicists, sociologists, and others who are finding irrefutable evidence for how human beings are intended to connect to one another; that we are all wired for connection.

For years now, certain putative relationship experts have been calling men on the carpet on national TV and in best sellers for how we act in our relationships and our overall lack of relational competence. But what I almost never see is these folks looking at the man and saying, “You know, Dan, I understand that nobody sat you down and told you how to do these things. I understand that you are doing everything you have been taught to do. I believe there is a part of you that really wants to do things differently.” No, they are happy to put on a show, shaming these men, and playing to the anger and hurt of the women in the audience, with little true respect for either the men or the women. Rarely have I seen a genuine compassion and love in these so-called relationship experts’ diatribes against men. Why is that? It is a lot easier to complain about men’s disengagement from our relationships than it is to attempt to understand where it comes from and what else might be going on.

My work is all about how we find the tools to create healthy relationships when very few of us were given the tools we needed to succeed. Part of the Water is not seeing how men have ended up with these relationship challenges but rather judging men’s difficulty in relationships as an inherent – and even insuperable – deficit. God knows I will not win any awards for the relationships I work my ass off to foster and grow. I will never do it perfectly and the Man Rules can still often rule the moment for me – and maybe even the day sometimes. But I will never stop trying because I believe that the love I have experienced is what life is all about. I believe in that journey I will become the best man that I could ever be.

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

Posted in Addiction, Addiction & Recovery, Addiction News, Author News, Mental Health, Personal Development, Relationships | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How Your New Year’s Resolutions Might Work Against You

It’s that time of year when I’m bombarded with questions about losing weight and/or making positive changes in one’s life. When learning that I took off and have kept off 250-plus pounds of excess weight over a decade ago, friends, family members and strangers all want to know my “secret.” When they hear it was accomplished through old-fashioned eating less and moving more, they register a look of disappointment (having wanted the “magic wand” answer). But they still commit to losing weight and getting into shape for the New Year — resolutions I whole-heartedly support via my blog, Just Stop Eating So Much!as well as my writeups for for Psychology Today.

But no matter what your resolutions this January, you might be surprised that when it comes to the common “Out with the old and in with the new” attitude, I actually encourage people to hold onto the old.

There are lots of reasons for this — beginning with the unhelpful notion that we’ve been doing things “wrong” up until now. Fact is, now is where we’re at. This month. This day. This minute. And everything we’ve gone through (even the seemingly mistaken decisions) has made us who we are today. And this includes being someone who’s ready to initiate real and lasting change.

When we start bashing ourselves, mentally, or even deciding that we’ve been living life incorrectly, we fall into a trap that can actually lead us back to the bingeing (or whatever) cycles that got us into this need for change predicament in the first place.

Instead, I suggest not only accepting your past, but embracing it. Keep it as a part of who you are — and wear it as a gold medal ribbon that indicates you’re not only a survivor, but a thriver.

There are actually some very good lessons to be found in our past mistakes. For example, I remember when I used to overdo it, food-wise, and would wake up in the middle of the night in terrible pain, sweating profusely and tasting the remnants of the previous night’s meal in my throat because the food in my overstuffed stomach was virtually bubbling over. I also remember what it was like to have an important meeting (whether for business or even with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages) and having to say a “Hail Mary” (even though I’m not Catholic) in order to get my jeans up around my hips. (Side note: Mary often did not come through and I had to opt for sweatpants with a more forgiving waist.)

Remembering these things helps me in the now — even over 10 years after I took off all of the excess weight. It’s a part of who I am. I know these are situations I never want to have to experience again. Thus I now reach for an apple more often than a donut as a result. And on that same note, I even keep the reasons that I started overeating in the first place with me (abusive parents, sexual predator, my love of ice cream — the list goes on, all of which is chronicled in my book, Weightless: My Life As A Fat Man And How I Escaped). To deny or suppress that any of these issues happened might lead the same kind of behavior that had me overeating in the first place — stuffing down these memories with food in an effort to try and block them from my psyche.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t wear these life events as scars, but as merit badges… As proof that I have what it takes to survive. And that means I have what it takes to meet any goals (whether food-, health- or otherwise-related). Sometimes “Well, that happened” can be the best kind of therapy. With acceptance comes peace. And with peace comes the real ability to ask yourself, “Where do I want to go from here?”

So as the new year begins and you look in the mirror with determination to accomplish whatever goals you’ve carved out for yourself, remember to look at your whole self… Every inch of yourself (both physically and metaphorically). You have made all the right decisions in the past — even if you would make some of them differently today. But just the very fact that you know this proves that you learned from those supposed “incorrect” decisions — and that you can make more productive decisions from here on out.

Own your “old.” Embrace it. Accept it. And choose to move forward — hopefully with not only determination, but also grace, gratitude and a sense of humor (all of which will, thankfully, add no additional calories to your New Year eating plan).

This blog originally appeared on the Psychology Today website

This blog originally appeared on the Psychology Today website

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, Addiction & Recovery, Blog, Child Obesity, Eating Disorder Recovery, Emotional Eating in Children | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Jennifer Kunst interview on New Books in Psychoanalysis

What happens when a Kleinian psychoanalyst wants to write an intelligent self-help book for the general reader?  First, she recognizes that one must have an online platform from which to launch, so she starts a blog called “The Headshrinker’s Guide to the Galaxy.“ Then she sets about writing her debut book, Wisdom From the Couch: Knowing and Growing Yourself from the Inside Out (Central Recovery Press, 2014).  Dr. Jennifer Kunst began to write not only to fulfill a personal dream but to help her patients and the public at large ponder the question: how is it that perfectly intelligent people do such obviously counterproductive things so much of the time? Vis a vis Klein these answers reside in the unconscious, in our internalized object constellations and in at least some recognition of how difficult it is to live in the world with its inevitable pain, loss, disappointment and imperfection.  Many of the concepts that Klein felt were central to the human condition are laid out in the book: omnipotence, mania, splitting, projective identification, ambivalence, the paranoid/schizoid and the depressive positions to name a few.

In this interview Kunst explains that above all, Melanie Klein was intensely concerned with love. And she was passionate about making sense of the process by which people learn to love one another in all its forms: parental, platonic, romantic and analytic.  It goes something like this: we are designed as highly emotional creatures who love and hate in equal measure. For Klein, the question of how we remain in loving connection with one another while accepting loss, hurt and inevitable disappointment was key. Kunst writes, “Aggression and desire, envy and gratitude, hope and dread are all roommates in the inner world.” One of the tasks of mature development is getting these opposing parts of our self in dialogue with one another achieving a kind of working harmony.  Enter Kunst’s translation of the depressive position: all roommates are welcome at the table.

Dr. Jennifer Kunst has an uncanny knack for translating Melanie Klein’s complex theory of the mind into psychically nutritious bits.  In Kleinian parlance, it’s a proper feed.

This blog is written about Jennifer Kunst, PhD, author of WISDOM FROM THE COUCH

This blog is written about Jennifer Kunst, PhD, author of WISDOM FROM THE COUCH

Click here to listen to the whole interview

Click here to listen to the whole interview

Posted in Blog, Personal Development | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Benefits of Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

“When I look back on the suffering in my life, this may sound really strange, but I see it now as a gift. I would have never asked for it for a second. I hated it while it was happening and I protested as loudly as I could, but suffering happened anyway. Now, in retrospect I see the way in which it deepened my being immeasurably.” ~Ram Dass

It’s that time of year. In addition to providing an opportunity to gather with family and friends to gorge ourselves on food and football, Thanksgiving is an annual culturally compelled celebration of our various blessings—a specific occasion to “give thanks.” As meaningful as this holiday can be and as helpful as it is to have structured encouragement to express gratitude, once a year is quite simply not enough. The bio-psycho-social-spiritual benefits of gratitude are myriad. Cultivating conscious contact with gratitude is a skill, and we can profit immensely by learning and practicing it.

Gratitude is about feeling and expressing appreciation: for all we’ve received, all that we have (however little it may be), and for all that has not befallen us. It functions as an antidote for attachment to what we want but don’t have and aversion to what we have but don’t want. Gratitude is the opposite of being discontented.

It’s valuable to be aware that nearly all experiences have both “positive” and “negative” aspects. Consistent with the above quote from Ram Dass, even circumstances that are brutally physically and/or emotionally painful, often contain considerable psycho-spiritual blessings in the forms of learning, growth, and healing. Sometimes we have to work harder to locate the positive and unearth its gifts (and sometimes these become manifest only in retrospect)—but if we make the time and invest the energy to look closely and search consciously, we will find them. There is always something to be grateful for, no matter how negative or desperate things may seem.

Gratitude changes perspective—it can sweep away most of the petty, day-to-day annoyances on which we focus so much of our attention—the “small stuff” situations that bring up feelings of impatience, intolerance, negative judgment, indignation, anger, or resentment. Gratitude is a vehicle to diffuse self-pity and self-centeredness, increase feelings of well-being, and prompt mindful awareness of that which is beyond oneself—of belonging to a greater whole, and of connection to others, as well as to the world.

Over the past decade, numerous scientific studies have documented a wide range of benefits that come with gratitude. These are available to anyone who practices being grateful, even in the midst of adversity, such as elderly people confronting death, those with cancer, people with chronic illness or chronic pain, and those in recovery from addiction. Research-based reasons for practicing gratitude include:

•    Gratitude facilitates contentment. Practicing gratitude is one of the most reliable methods for increasing contentment and life satisfaction. It also improves mood by enhancing feelings of optimism, joy, pleasure, enthusiasm, and other positive emotions. Conversely, gratitude also reduces anxiety and depression.

•    Gratitude promotes physical health. Studies suggest gratitude helps to lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, reduce symptoms of illness, and make us less bothered by aches and pains.

•    Gratitude enhances sleep. Grateful people tend to get more sleep each night, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and feel more rested upon awakening. If you want to sleep more soundly, instead of counting sheep count your blessings.

•    Gratitude strengthens relationships. It makes us feel closer and more connected to friends and intimate partners. When partners feel and express gratitude for each other, they each become more satisfied with their relationship.

•    Gratitude encourages “paying it forward.” Grateful people are generally more helpful, generous of spirit, and compassionate. These qualities often spill over onto others.

Two specific ways you can practice the skill of being grateful are by writing gratitude letters and making gratitude lists. A gratitude letter is one you write to someone in your life to express appreciation for ways they have helped you and/or been there for you. Gratitude letters can be about events that have happened in the past or are happening in the present, and often help to strengthen or repair relationships. A gratitude list consists of writing down 3 – 5 things for which you’re grateful every day, each week, at other intervals, or under situation-specific circumstances.

You can test the effectiveness of these methods by tuning in to your current emotion(s), mood, and attitude. Once you’ve done that, take a few minutes and identify 3 things or people that you are grateful for and briefly describe to yourself or in writing the reason(s) for your gratitude. Then notice how the way you feel has shifted after doing this simple brief exercise.

For five years during the 1990s, I was the clinical director of a hospital-based addiction treatment program outside of New York City. I worked closely with the program’s medical director, a psychiatrist who was in recovery for many years through a twelve-step program.

At a conference on addiction he gave a talk that focused on his personal recovery experience. During a powerful and moving presentation, he described being grateful that he was an addict. He went on to say that, in contrast to most people who operate more or less on automatic pilot and effectively sleepwalk through life, embarking on a process of recovery had given him the awareness to live life much more intentionally. As a result, he took little for granted and appreciated much. Although his reasoning made sense, it was difficult for me to comprehend the idea of having such profound gratitude for an experience that involved so much suffering . . . until I found my way to my own recovery.

There are no guarantees of anything and we can take nothing for granted in this life. Every day is a gift; every breath is a gift. What we do with them is a choice.

This blog originally appeared on the Psychology Today website

This blog originally appeared on the Psychology Today website

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

Posted in Addiction, Addiction & Recovery, Addiction News, Author News, Chronic Pain, Family & Addiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Annual Holiday Party

We are entering the time of year that makes seasoned managers cringe and human resource directors want to leave town.  Despite fine words to the contrary, there is little Peace on Earth at the office around this time because we are getting ready for the office Christmas, oops, I mean “holiday” party.

Yes, we’ve learned to choke on the word Christmas and insist that the December party where we dress in sparkles, bring wrapped gifts, and drink eggnog standing next to a lighted evergreen tree is just a winter event. But language games are the least of it when we have to plan the annual—“no one will be happy no matter what we do”–office holiday party.

The annual holiday party is ground zero for what is known in Human Resources as the CLM, or Career Limiting Move. Career gurus give us the usual reminders: you must attend, you should not drink, don’t dress like a stripper and try to make small talk with many people.

The list of issues is long: Should we go out to a restaurant or stay in the building? Will there be dancing? Music? And biggest bugaboo: booze or no booze?  Even those of us in recovery a long time get split on this one.

Divisiveness is in the details. One of the words tossed around liberally in the weeks leading up to the party is “they” as in  they don’t have kids, they don’t like to drink, they drink too much, or they don’t have to pay a baby-sitter. Preferences will also break down by personality type: Extroverts love the parties; Introverts want to die.

And people in recovery? Newcomers will stay away; old timers will try to be of service.

So what’s at the heart of this holiday ritual? Well, for starters we have strong cultural memories and it’s dark this time of year and we are longing for light. Workplaces have their own kind of darkness so it’s human to want to brighten that up too.

Today, in our workplaces, we play out that feeling. In mature recovery we have the skills to create instead of criticize, to find the good instead of the gossip and despite all the tension it takes to get there, we’ll toast our teams at the party with hopes for prosperity and peace at work.

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

Posted in Addiction, Addiction & Recovery, Alcoholism, Author News, Blog, Family & Addiction, Personal Development, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Is Post-Thanksgiving Guilt Hurting Your Diet Psyche?

Okay… So Thanksgiving eating is now behind us. How are you feeling?

Happy and successful – in that you stuck to your commitment to enjoy just the Thanksgiving meal and not derail your healthy eating habits for the rest of the weekend?

Or are you feeling miserable because you missed the mark either partway or entirely and went on somewhat of a binge for the whole holiday weekend? Well, if that’s the case – and you’re feeling stuffed, sorrowful and depressed on this day after your binge… Get over it.

Despite what most of us think (and, therefore, act upon), feeling guilty does not aid the dieting or goal setting processes at all. Believe me when I tell you that I know all too well from experience that including the exercise of feeling guilty after a binge into our “cheating routines” actually works against us and becomes so familiar, that it can become cyclical and lead back to overeating in a very short amount of time.

Feeling guilty is something us dieters are overly familiar with. Liken it to atoning for our sins, if you will. We know we didn’t just stop eating too much. We know we’re feeling stuffed into our clothes (and even bodies) as a result – and now we feel like participating in a whole lot of “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” along with “I’m a weak and bad person” self talk is part of what we have to go through to make up for our shortcomings. But in actuality, nothing could be further than the truth.

The reason some of us “cheated” over the long weekend was less about a fall from grace than it was acting on old habits. In our pasts, holidays and special occasions were always a ‘good’ reason to break our dieting efforts. Add to that the eating holiday that Thanksgiving represents, followed by a very long weekend to boot? It’s a cheater’s holiday. But even if we ate our way from Thursday to Sunday, there’s really no purpose in feeling crappy today. In other words, it’s time to move on.

So what? You cheated. You ate too much. Blah-blah-blah.

Guess what? A lot of “normal sized” and “thin people” did the same thing. The holidays can be tempting eating experiences for many people (no matter if they’re eating for the taste of it or as a means to escape some holiday- and/or family-related anxieties).

Despite what some well meaning therapists might assert, I believe that thinking about the “why it happened” doesn’t serve us. Thinking about the “why I must never do it again” doesn’t serve us. And certainly the “I must make myself feel very bad and very guilty today and for the rest of the week” doesn’t serve us either.

In fact, whatever beats down our self esteem actually serves the “cheating monster” we all fear we have inside. When we feel negative about ourselves and our lives (not to mention our bodies and our health), why would we want to bother to eat right or exercise? We wouldn’t. Guilty consciences don’t lead to never doing it again. They lead to feeling miserable. And feeling miserable leads to choices that can make us even more miserable.

So again, I urge you to get over it.

Today is a new beginning. This is a new moment. And both are brilliant opportunities for you to remind yourself, “That was then, this is now.” And all we have is the now.

So let’s embrace this new day and focus on what’s good in our lives. We’re living. We’re breathing. And we’re in this together. Just your showing up here to read this blog post shows that you have what it takes to move beyond the binge and get healthy and get used to the success that you deserve.

Feeling guilty serves as a trap that we count on to lead us right back to binges, cheating and other behaviors that keep us from our goals.

Let’s stop being our own worst enemies, shall we?

So abandon the guilt and move forward – with a bright outlook that doesn’t chastise your shortcomings, but builds up your self esteem. I believe in you. So you cheated? So what. Been there, done that. On many Thanksgiving weekends in the past – and even sometimes in the present. But I still managed to take off over 250 pounds of excess body weight and keep it off for over a decade as detailed in my book Weightless: My Life As A Fat Man And How I Escaped. And trust me, my friends – if I can do it, you can do it. And I did it (and keep doing it) without guilt or self-hatred.

So out with the old (way of thinking) and in with the new (way of thinking). Together we can put the shame and misery that used to plague us behind us – forever. We are moving on… Starting… now!

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, Addiction & Recovery, Author News, Blog, Eating Disorder Recovery, Emotional Eating | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Addiction, Addiction & Recovery, Author News, Blog, Family & Addiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment