Category Archives: Willingness – Willfulness

Recovery is a Process: When a Boulder Slams Into Our Recovery Path

Recovery is a Process

“Why try? I’m tired of trying. “Why change? Nothing ever changes?” Many folks in early recovery believe NOTHING will ever get better or they believe things will get better, but only temporarily! They expect that when things are going well, something will happen and ruin everything…the bottom will fall out again and they will end up in the same position or worse. They have trouble believing recovery will make a real difference in their life.

The truth, when we are living a recovery lifestyle things get better in our life. As recovery time increases, the big picture of our life begins to come together and many good things happen. At first, one or two good things happen. When we build on these improvements, several more good things happen…then several more…and several more. Soon, we go from experiencing relief to experiencing some life satisfaction. Over time, periods of joy occur…and meaning returns to our life! The truth, things get better when we get better. Things change when we change.

When a Boulder Lands on Our Recovery Path: Things rock along okay for a while…3 months, 6 months, sometimes longer. We’re dealing with stuff that comes our way…and we’re making gains day by day…and then, something happens. Boom! It’s like a boulder falls out of the sky and smashes right into the middle of our recovery path. We’re now faced with a huge stumbling block…something big…and something hard to get around.

The boulder that slams into our recovery path may be an old friend who shows up one day, maybe someone we’ve been in love with before. We’re feeling all the fun and excitement of the good ol’ times. We’re tempted to spend time with them to relive old times and cherished memories…however, their situation or lifestyle conflicts with our recovery plan. Maybe they still drink or use drugs, or cut, or shoplift…maybe they have a bad attitude or they don’t have steady work and want to stay with us for a while…maybe they’re moody and get very critical and ugly…maybe they’ve abused us before.

The truth…life is going to happen. Difficult things will come our way and boulders will land on our recovery path. The direction our life goes depends on the choice we make when we’re faced with difficult situations. It’s like we come to a fork in the road. We can keep on the right path or we can go down the wrong road. No matter what we do, WE ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE…to stay on the Recovery Path or to go down Relapse Road.

At this point, we’re faced with a major decision…and we have two choices. We can fight to stay on the recovery path and work to deal with the situation productively, or we can relapse into old behaviors and habits to numb-out and white-out the pain and distress. If we choose to stay on the recovery path, we’ll probably have a tough time dealing with the situation. Getting around, through, and passed a boulder takes time and we’re impatient creatures…especially when we’re expected to tolerate discomfort, inconvenience, pain, and suffering without our preferred destructive coping behaviors! We don’t want to tolerate distress and it’s very tempting to give up…and give in to old ways…the ways of relapse. We don’t want to take the time it takes…to deal with the boulder. We want the pain and discomfort to go away…fast. We don’t want the stress. We don’t want the heartache. We just want to be happy. We want life to go smooth…and when it doesn’t, we get discouraged. We want to call it quits. If life has to be like this, we don’t want any part of it.

The truth is…to maintain recovery, we must have an attitude of willingness. We must be willing to do whatever we need to do to be okay and to maintain our recovery. If we don’t do what it takes to stay on the recovery path…if we don’t try hard enough for long enough…it’s likely that we’ll relapse into our former destructive ways. Then, many of the things that became good because of our recovery will once again go bad…and that’s when we’ll walk away saying, “Why did I even try? I always relapse and things get bad again.”

The truth is…when we try…and continue to try to deal with life and all the boulders that come our way, life will get better and better. If we keep on keeping on, we’ll finally get through…passed…over…and around the boulders and obstacles in our recovery. That’s how people recover. They don’t give up…or they don’t give up for long!

Recovery is not one action. It is not something that happens in a day. It is step-by-step, decision by decision, and day after day. It is a lifestyle…and a life-long endeavor!

Why try? Because life gets good when we try and even better when we keep trying and refuse to give up! The something that happens that destroys our life is our decision to relapse. The thing that really breaks us and causes us to bottom-out emotionally and spiritually is a broken promise to ourselves…the promise we make at the start of recovery. It’s the promise that, “I’ll do whatever it takes to be okay…because I’m tired of living this way. Come hail or high water, I’ll do whatever I have to do to be okay…because I refuse to live like this anymore.”

In our recovery, there will be times when we’re holding on by just a thread…but we’re holding on. It’s only when we let go, that we fall. It’s like the saying, “You never fail until you stop trying.”

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Adapted from Chapter 3 “The Pathways of Recovery” from the DBT-CBT recovery workbook “Out-of-Control: A Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Workbook for Getting Control of Our Emotions and Emotion-Driven Behavior” – Copyright 2009 by Melanie Gordon Sheets, Ph.D.  (www.dbt-cbt-workbook.com)

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The Strength to Love Again

It certainly takes a lot to open our hearts to truly love again. It’s about the willingness to take the risk to love again…to trust that this love will bring us joy and not pain…or that it will bring us much more joy than pain…or that this love will enhance our lives in such a meaningful way that any pain experienced is well worth it and that in the long run, our lives will be much more beautiful and complete because we loved again.

A wise mind knows that when we truly love, we will also truly experience pain.  Pain is often a by-product of love…even the most perfect or true love. The deeper we love…the deeper our pain is likely to be. That’s why some who have been  been deeply hurt by love, have made a conscious decision to never love again. They “refuse” to love again. They guard against lowering their guard…they work very hard to maintain a closed heart, to be detached, and to not care too much. They are not willing to open their lives to love again.

So, in their efforts to protect themselves against future pain, they cause themselves ongoing pain and suffering. Their daily lives are marked with pain…loneliness, anger, resentment, bitterness, unresolved emotional issues and concerns…and the pain of unfulfilled needs for attachment and love.

It takes great strength to open our hearts to love again…because we know that loving someone will also bring pain. It’s the acceptance that nothing is perfect…and the knowing that our lives and the lives of those we love will be much better because we loved again.

Note:  The accompanying photo/poster was copied from a Facebook posting.  It is not an original work! 

Why We Relapse: Desperate for Peace in a World of Emotional Turmoil

I responded today to a LinkedIn discussion started by Elisabeth Davies, MC of Bright Alternatives, Inc.  and the author of “Good Things, Emotional Healing Journal: Addiction.”  The discussion topic was, “Is relapsing with unhealthy substances an attempt to get more peace of mind? Being so passionate about this recovery topic, here’s my long-winded response!

“For many, yes. Many use substances as a coping behavior to help bring their emotional level to a more tolerable or comfortable level. Also, returning to such a behavior reduces the extreme tension of wanting to do it and not allowing ourselves to…thus, the experience of immediate relief or peace in-the-moment. To help us to feel better about relapsing, we’ve probably come up with all types of reasons (emotion-driven lies) as to why it is okay to do and would help us…and how we can also quit again when life settles down, etc…unless of course, it is a major emotional reflex to an immediate stressor and we do it VERY impulsively…without giving it much thought.

Relapsing on substances is little different than wolfing down a big bag of cookies or scoops n’ scoops of ice cream, or starting to smoke again, a “forbidden” sexual encounter….whatever. I think these types of behaviors have to do with attempts to bring an “out-of-control” emotional mind into control…so that we feel better and more comfortable in the emotional moment. It is all about being desperate for relief and doing what brings us relief, often immediate relief. It’s a desperate way to experience a sense of emotional, psychological, and physical peace IN-THE-MOMENT…although we’ll have hell to pay when we come to (when the emotional moment passes and rational mind picks up strength).

When we come to and realize what just happened and are faced with the consequences of our behavior…and the unresolved problem…we feel bad again…and then we may continue destructive coping….chasing “peace in the moment”…When we use destructive coping behaviors to deal with our pain and problems, we enter the Cycle of Suffering. Our problems multiply and intensity and we go through a period of increased pain and suffering as a result.

I believe most people use destructive coping behaviors to some degree (e.g., overworking, oversleeping, physical aggression, yelling, throwing fits, being rude and ugly, ‘always speaking our mind”, lying, gambling, obsessive exercise, cheating, sleeping around, codependency, procrastination, smoking, prescription meds, alcohol, overeating or eating the desired “poison foods” for us, being hyperreligious, narcissistic….and the list goes on and on.) I actually tell my patients that it’s “normal” to be “abnormal” and entirely abnormal to be so perfectly normal and in control of ourselves. We all do some destructive coping behaviors and the healthier or more in recovery we are…the less we do these things…and the more we work VERY hard to stay in control of our emotions, behaviors, and our addictions of choice….and the more we choose life-enhancing coping behaviors instead.

I’m obviously very passionate about this…it’s one of those, “been there, done that, still doing that…having to fight for recovery at times to stay in control…and not to get too far out of control” type of things for me. I believe that when we are in recovery…we remain “works in progress.” Sometimes it’s a daily battle and sometimes, an occasional battle. We’re emotional critters and creatures of habit…and when we hurt or are feeling desperate and “out-of-control”…we tend to fall back into old patterns of relief-seeking behaviors…or to certainly think about doing them!

We’re emotional critters and creatures of habit…and when we hurt or are feeling desperate and “out-of-control”…we tend to fall back into old patterns of relief-seeking behavior…or to certainly think about doing them!”

And you know the more we think about doing them…the more likely we are to finally do them. That’s because the tension is building…we want…and we won’t allow ourselves to have…and we want…we tell ourselves “NO”…and we want…and we’re tired of the pain, problems, tension, and frustration…and we become desperate for relief and peace…that we finally do what we keep trying not to do…and we relapse. Have you “been there, done that?” Have you been through this struggle? It’s a battle of the minds, Emotional Mind vs. Rational Mind and Wise Mind. It’s a battle of wills…willingness vs. willfulness. Which recovery skills do you use to get through the “fixing to relapse” moment? Do you still have these moments?

I believe that one of our major recovery tasks is to learn ways to keep our Emotional Mind in control and to tame our Emotional Mind when it is getting out-of-control. That’s my biggest recovery task…and it’s always a battle of the mind states and a battle of will. Sometimes, I grow tired of the battle and dealing with my emotional, willful self. At those tired, weak moments, I remind myself….”Mel, what do you want…peace and stability or chaos and pain?” Isn’t it horrible that you have to parent yourself even when you’re a grown-up!?

Link to the LinkedIn discussion

Link to Elisabeth’s book:  “Good Things, Emotional Healing Journal: Addiction on Amazon

Link to Elisabeth’s blog

Question: Is Spirituality A Major Component Of Your Work – Response: The Role Of Spirituality In The Development Of The DBT-CBT Therapy Workbook

Spirituality IS a major component of my work because it is a major part of who I am as a person and a major driving force for how I live my life.  The DBT-CBT recovery workbook that I wrote was initially written as a Christian DBT-CBT workbook; however, due to the biblical focus, I was not able to use it in the therapy group I conduct at the state hospital.   At the hospital, I was using packets of information (handouts) that summarized the major DBT-CBT concepts without spiritual references.  The patients continually asked for more information to study outside of group, to work on at home when discharged, and to share with their families…while all my time and energy was being spent on developing the Christian workbook.   The pressure mounted and I felt I had to leave the Christian project and develop a secular workbook for use with my patients.  Believe it or not, I feel God blessed that endeavor and guided the writing of the secular workbook.

Here’s the brief story.  While working on the Christian workbook, I became pregnant at the ripe age of 43 and naturally lost the energy and focus on the workbook.  I ended up losing the baby and did not immediately resume work on the workbook after physically recovering.  Within months, the internal (and external) pressure to write a workbook for patient use was mounting and by the following January, I was absolutely tormented by it…I had no peace.  I was so burdened by my lack of focus on the workbook that I had to complete a Wise Mind Worksheet to deal with it!  Of course, the end result was to set a date to re-engage in the writing process, but to abandon the Christian workbook to focus on a secular one.  I finally said, “Okay God, I’ll do it…I’ll start on January…” and I specified the date.

Amazingly, at that moment of submission of my will, I lost that pressure…that tormenting burden…and I finally felt “at peace.”  Oddly enough, as I write this now, I realize the date set  was the time period when the baby was due…towards the end of January that year…pretty cool synchronicity!

When the agreed upon start date came, I got back into the workbook as I agreed to do.  I took out all the biblical references and began writing it for a secular audience.  I remained insanely focused on the project for the following 23 months…until I “got ‘er done!”  That was 23 months of near “24-7” focus on the workbook during non-hospital job waking hours!  Everywhere I went, the workbook went…kid sport practices, rodeos, traveling even 45 miles from home, “vacations,” and even to Six Flags!  I said it was an “insane” focus!

Once the book was in print, I’d flip through it…and would be stunned at the amount of work and time that went into it.  It is astounding.  I’ve often said of myself that “I was born to work” and I’ve recently decided that my degree of task energy and persistence is a God given quality…because it is soooo unnatural…and if I had it my way, I’d play and entertain myself instead!  I whole-heartedly believe that God is the driving force that has enabled me the capacity to pull off the projects I have pulled off in my life!  Without the hand of God in my life, I really don’t think I would have made it through all the life experiences I have been through…the good ones and the bad ones.

All in all, spirituality is a major driving force in my life…something that defines my life…and thus flows into all aspects of my work…and not just in the form of “works”…but also in how I choose to interact with the people that are a part of my life…including the patients I serve!

What about you?  How does your spirituality affect your work?

Using Rational Mind to Challenge the Emotional Mind Lies We Tell Ourselves That Sabotage Our Self-Confidence and Recovery: A View of Addiction Recovery from a DBT-CBT Therapy Perspective

Here’s an “adapted” excerpt from the DBT-CBT “Out-of-Control” therapy workbook.  It’s from Chapter 7, the Rational Mind chapter.  This chapter discusses Rational Mind in detail and offers many Rational Mind challenges for the Emotional Driven Lies we tell ourselves AND WE BELIEVE…ones that often sabotage our self-esteem and our recovery.

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Failure:
“I expect to fail so I don’t try very hard …so, I fail.”

SKILL BUILDER: Failing to Succeed…or Successful Failures

Consider the lies we tell ourselves about success and failure, like,

“I’ll NEVER be  able to do it.”

“Everything I try gets screwed-up somehow.”

What do you say about your failures?  ____________________________
________________________________________________________

The truth…we MAY HAVE failed at MANY tasks.  If so, we need to rationally understand why.  Quite often, we fail because we DON’T TRY to succeed.  We “KNOW” we can’t do it…so we DON’T TRY, or we DON’T TRY VERY HARD.

Despite USUALLY giving things ONLY A HALF-HEARTED EFFORT, we may recall some times WHEN WE REALLY TRIED, but failed anyway.  BUT, DON’T THINK we’re off the hook because of some FULL EFFORT failures.

WE DON’T GET TO STOP TRYING just because when we’ve REALLY TRIED, we’ve still failed!  Rational Mind would inform us that MOST PEOPLE WHO SUCCEED HAVE FAILED MANY TIMES.  There are many TRUE stories to support this TRUTH.

Which stories have you heard…about people who FINALLY SUCCEED AFTER A LONG STRING OF FAILURES? _____________________________
_____________________________________________________

Abraham Lincoln ran for MANY political positions and lost MANY TIMES before he ever WON an election.  The ONE he won was THE BIG ONE…the PRESIDENTIAL election!  There are MANY stories about business leaders who had MANY failed businesses before they hit it big!  Henry Ford went bankrupt 5-6 times because of failed businesses before he gained success in the automotive industry.  The Heinz company had the same kind of start.  Have you read that Oprah was fired from a reporter’s job because she wasn’t right for TV?  Somebody certainly misjudged her!

Some of our greatest leaders and wealthiest people failed many times
before they achieved great success.

When we fail, we need to SEEK AN UNDERSTANDING of WHY we failed.  We need to LEARN FROM IT and CORRECT WHAT WE’RE DOING.  We need to change or adjust our plan to deal with what went wrong.  Successful “failures” start with PLAN A and go to PLAN B, C, D, E…and so on until things work out!  Despite their failures, THEY KEEP ON KEEPING ON!

It’s also important to be Mindful of our successes and accomplishments and to note WE’VE ALL HAD SOME!  We also need to realize that WHEN WE’VE TRIED…when we’ve REALLY STUCK WITH IT, we’ve overcome challenges…and WE HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFUL. Consider the 8-18 attempts at recovery that it takes people ON AVERAGE to become clean n’ sober.  Through our recovery attempts, we learn about our triggers and relapse patterns.  We learn we REALLY HAVE TO change the things in our life that we DON’T WANT TO CHANGE…things that we’ve refused to change, like friendships, activities, and abusive or conflict-filled relationships.  Because of our repeated failures at recovery, we FINALLY SUCCEED!  That’s because we’ve revised our Recovery Plan SO MANY TIMES that we FINALLY GET ENOUGH OF THE NECESSARY CHANGES made!  We’re hard-headed and we’ve got to learn from OUR experiences…and in the world of recovery…these experiences ARE OFTEN RELAPSES.

Does this information change the way you think about your “failures”?  If so, explain.  ______________________________________________
___________________________________________________

Changing our LIFESTYLE and our LIFE IS VERY DIFFICULT.
We need to ACCEPT OUR FAILURES

and UNDERSTAND they’re a NATURAL part
of the LEARNING PROCESS…
IF we learn from them.

It’s clear that Emotion-Driven Thoughts like, “I can’t do it. Why try?” are lies we tell ourselves. What’s the truth? _______________________________
______________________________________________________

The truth is, WHEN WE KEEP TRYING, things FINALLY work out.  Sometimes, we don’t succeed because we aren’t going about it the right way.  Therefore, we need to get a NEW PLAN.  Sometimes, we try to do more than is do-able at one time.  We plunge head first when we’d be better off wading in and taking smaller steps!  There are many reasons why we haven’t reached our goals.  Fortunately, most of these problems can be overcome with PERSISTENCE and a REVISED GAME PLAN!

Footnote: This footnote is “margin text” from the workbook alike the dark red inserts in the text above…however, these weren’t so easily woven in!  This first one relates to the 8-18 tries at recovery it takes on average to recover from substance abuse.

“Some say, ‘Been there, done 14, I’ve got to be real close to making it!’ Folks who are new to recovery are discouraged, ‘I don’t want to do this that many times.’ Be Mindful that 8-18 is an average. Some make it on the 1st try (they need to write the book!), others on the 25th. Some make it in 3 tries, others in 20. Bear in mind though…these numbers don’t mean it’s okay to relapse 17 times and then work real hard on the 18th try!”

These are “sayings” in the margin that go along with the text:

“If we don’t put forth a FULL effort,
we’ll never REALLY KNOW if we can succeed.”

“We never fail until we quit trying.
Success comes to those who are determined
to overcome obstacles in their path.”

When we understand that our failures are part of the learning process,
then we can constructively accept our failures and learn from them.

We’re so willful and hard-headed about recovery…
we won’t take someone’s advice or learn from THEIR experiences.
We have to learn from OUR personal experiences…
which is often OUR failures!

A mistake is only a mistake
if we fail to learn from it!
When we learn from our experiences,
our failures become a stepping stone toward success!
Therefore, a recovery goal is to Turn On Rational Mind to challenge our “failure” lies…
and to Turn On Wise Mind to make some adjustments to our Game Plan!
That’s because WE haven’t failed, our plan has!

Hope you enjoyed this blog entry and that it helps to challenge destructive “failure” thoughts.  It took half of forever to format this…the format of the workbook doesn’t cut n’ paste very well…or at least I haven’t learned yet how to do it more efficiently!  Life is one big learning curve and I guess sometimes we’ve just got to hold on…persevere…and enjoy the ride!

What Causes People to Change? When It’s Painful To Change But More Painful Not To

Pain and Suffering and the Pain of Change

Pain is a type of distress.  It’s a natural part of life.  Pain is designed to be temporary.  The purpose of pain is to PUSH US TO DO SOMETHING to end the pain…so we can return to a pain-free state.  Pain is a call to action.

Alike most things in life, we have two choices when it comes to pain.  We can either LEAN INTO the painful situation and change things or we can work hard to avoid dealing with it.

If all we do is work to avoid pain…if we don’t Lean Into it…if we don’t deal with it…if we refuse to accept it…if we refuse to do what’s needed to get through it …OUR PAIN WON’T GO AWAY.  It’ll be with us for a long time.

Running from our problems just prolongs our agony and brings us to a chronic state of suffering… a long-term condition of being overwhelmed with despair and stuck in the same place and time… and we don’t move forward.

We want things to get better in our life, but we’re NOT WILLING to do the things that will make our life better.  We want life to change, but we’re not in the mood to change.

We generally DON’T CHOOSE to make major life changes “out of the blue” or on our own.  Change usually happens when we’re FORCED to make changes.  And most often, we make changes when we have NO OTHER CHOICE but to change.  We generally let things get SO BAD that the pain of living like we’re living is MUCH GREATER than the pain of change…and that’s when we begin to change.

If we really want our life to change, we have to make changes…despite the distress of change.  Our life isn’t going to get better unless we do things that make life better.  When people make major life changes, a strong commitment is made, like, “Come hail or high water, this is going to happen.  I’m going to do what I have to do, no matter what.  I’m so tired of living this way.  I refuse to allow myself to live like this any longer.”

Excerpt from Chapter 11 “Distress Tolerance” of the DBT-CBT Therapy Workbook entitled: “Out-of-Control: A Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Workbook  for Getting Control of Our Emotions and Emotion-Driven Behavior” (Melanie Gordon Sheets, Ph.D. – 2009 – Recovery Works Publications)

http://www.dbt-cbt-workbook.com

Radical Acceptance – “Accepting the Unacceptable” – From a DBT-CBT Workbook Perspective

We have a choice to accept difficulties as they come our way…
To lean into them and to get a game plan for dealing with them
AND a choice to Follow Through until we can Get Through…
OR we can choose to avoid, ignore, and numb-out our pain and problems
And stagnate in our pain and suffering.

When we choose to confront things
With an attitude of acceptance
That gives us the serenity to change the things we can
And the wisdom to know our limits.

Acceptance of our life situation and what we need to do about it…is a way of turning suffering we cannot tolerate into pain we can tolerate. It’s a way of turning hopelessness into hope. Most of us have been suffering the pain of our lifestyle and choices for years…and somehow, we remain willing to experience ongoing pain and misery because of them. We’re somehow willing to suffer long-term pain, but we’re not willing to go through the temporary pain of change. We’re somehow willing to dwell in a painful past, to remain in painful situations, and to continue painful addictions and impulsive behavior. We do so because we’re unwilling to accept and undergo the changes that will bring peace and stability.

Radical Acceptance involves accepting what we’d normally consider unacceptable. When we LIVE BY Radical Acceptance, we CAN ACCEPT something whether or not we approve of it and whether or not it’s right or wrong, fair or unfair, or pleasant or unpleasant. Radical Acceptance is about CHOOSING TO ACCEPT whatever is in our best interests to accept.

We MUST ACCEPT whatever we HAVE TO accept because NON-ACCEPTANCE keeps us emotionally troubled and stuck in negativity. To have peace, we must accept many things whether or not they’re acceptable. We must accept things from the past and present. Anything in the past that’s unfixable, we need to LET IT GO. Anything in our current life that we CANNOT CHANGE, we need to accept that it MAY NOT change. Anything we CAN change, we must LEAN INTO…to MAKE THE CHANGES we CAN MAKE. Our Recovery Goal is to live a life that MAXIMIZES peace, stability, meaning, and productivity. To do that, we MUST ACCEPT what has happened HAS HAPPENED, what we’ve done, WE’VE DONE…then, we need to LET IT GO…so we can GO ON with life.

From pages 313 and 316 – Excerpt from “Out-of-Control: A Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Workbook for Getting Control of Our Emotions and Emotion-Driven Behavior” by Melanie Gordon Sheets, Ph.D. – 2009 – Recovery Works Publications