Everyone has negative emotions. It’s part of life. At times those negative emotions will generate uncomfortable feelings which can start out as feeling less than, not good enough, fearful of rejection or just a fear of failure. If we don’t do anything about it we can begin to let our brain overtake our emotional state with a feeling of hopelessness.
Finding out what is behind these negative emotions and the best way to move past them, has become the research model of Rick Hanson Ph.D., a neurophysiologist and founder of the Wellspring Institute. Hanson believes that humans are evolutionarily wired with a negativity bias, and his research shows that as our primitive brains were developing, they also stayed on high alert in order to avoid threats and dangers within the environment.
Well if we fast forward to today, we’re not generally trying to fend off saber tooth tigers or search out a warm cave to sleep in, so our brains have focused on our emotional fears and insecurities in order to keep on guard. There is plenty of psychological and therapeutic work that can be done over time to lessen the impact of these negative emotions, but I have found the quickest relief comes from Action Based Coping or the ABC method for short.
For this example, I will use my Monday morning disagreement with the scale. Sunday was just a little bit too much fun this week and I helped myself to an extra slice of pizza and a couple of desserts on Sunday night as well. So it was no surprise that there was a revolt staring back at me when I looked down at the scale on Monday. Immediately, my mind goes negative and starts berating the choices I made just hours earlier. It says things like you don’t follow thru on eating well, you couldn’t, you should have, you’re a loser.
Well, at that moment I have to take action. I could throw in the towel, head for Denny’s and order a double Grand Slam breakfast with an extra Cinnabon and just resign myself to being a failure or I can simply eat
a healthy breakfast and get right back on track. You see, I am where I am because of what I have done and I’ll be where I’m going because of what I do next.
As we travel on the road of recovery, we make a decision to start building healthier habits. One step at a time, one day at a time, one meeting at a time. I have the same choice in recovery. When those negative feelings hit and I’m in financial fear or a relationship is ending I can revert back to unhealthy habits to cope with and avoid those feelings. It could be to harm myself by drinking or using or even just isolating and binge-watching Netflix or scrolling social media at home alone. Avoid those behaviors and the negative consequences that follow.
Instead, commit to healthy habits to deal with those feelings. Make a call to a sponsor, get to a meeting, call a newcomer or do any other number of things that are consistent with the healthy goals I have for my sobriety and my life. The result is I am learning to feel better by doing better. It’s a habit that will last and build me up instead of tearing me down. So we take that first step and we go for a jog or go to the gym or go for a walk…and we feel better when we do. Then tomorrow we do the same thing and now we feel
even better because we just did it two days in a row. Our sobriety started that way, so why can’t all our healthy actions?
We decided, oftentimes with someone’s help, to get sober. So we stopped drinking or using and we went to a meeting. When we felt like drinking we called our sponsor or went to a meeting, but we made it through another day…and we felt better about ourselves.
So let’s build more action blocks into our lives. More exercise, more studying, praying, volunteering, writing, working-it’s all good. It doesn’t have to be for hours and hours, but you can start with small increments of time, based on your schedule and needs. The goal is to be consistent, and as you build these healthier habits into your daily schedule to deal with those uncomfortable feelings, you will create a positive momentum that will carry you to your goal of living a healthier life.
Stay Committed and stay hopeful,
Substance abuse and alcoholism are effecting our population at an alarming rate. One pattern I have witnessed myself over the last 11 years is the increased number of young people under the age of 18 who are suffering from the disease of alcoholism and addiction. The youth today face increased pressure from so many sources, and whether its trying to ease the feelings of not measuring up to some imaginary standard they’ve attached themselves to or any one of a hundred other reasons, they’ve found drugs and alcohol as a method of comforting themselves.
In 2018 the Center for Addiction presented some eye-opening facts.
- 9 out of 10 people who are addicted to nicotine, alcohol or other drugs began using these substances before they were 18.
- People who began using addictive substances before age 15 are nearly 7 times more likely to develop a substance problem than those who delay first use until age 21 or older.
- Approximately 50% of teens have admitted to misusing drugs (prescription or illicit) at least once in their life.
- 63.2% of high school students reported that they have consumed alcohol at least once in their life.
- Every year that substance use is delayed during the period of adolescent brain development, the risk of addiction and substance abuse decreases.
The good news is that they are embracing recovery at an earlier age also. So now the young student has gotten sober and has a solid support system in place to help them maintain their sobriety, when suddenly it’s time to go off to college. The college landscape is filled with a minefield of triggers and temptations as the sober student will need to interact with other students, who may be partying as part of the “college experience”, in the fullest manner possible. If left without a safety net, old feelings may surface and they may reach out for the chemically induced comfort as a quick fix solution.
Enter the Collegiate Recovery Programs (CRP). All across the U.S., college administrations have taken notice and more importantly, taken action in providing recovery assistance to students. One such program is the Collegiate Recovery Program at Fairfield University in Connecticut where I graduated from in 1988. This award-winning program has given sober students the resources to excel academically while living in a sober atmosphere that provides support and accountability to those students who strive to maintain their sobriety. It has become a model program for campus recovery in the United States. This directory provides a listing for Collegiate Recovery Programs all across the U.S. and if you or a friend or relative is facing these challenges while pursuing a higher education, having a resource like the CRP may prove to be invaluable.
Stay Committed and stay Hopeful,
The largest portion of your life is spent where you live and if you have roommates who either don’t respect your sobriety or don’t understand it, then it’s time for a change. Notice I didn’t say it’s time to make a decision-there is no decision to make. Your sobriety comes first, period. It is common sense that if you are around people who are drinking and getting high, you will be tempted to use again and thoroughly understanding that will be the difference between staying sober and having a relapse. Identifying past triggers and having a written plan to deal with them as they come up should have been part of the tools discussed in the rehab, detox or out-patient process. As you enter into the recovery phase of your life, seeking out a sober living arrangement will be the number one priority. Counselors at your treatment center or detox may have some suggestions of a sober living residence nearby, but there is also a growing number of online resources aimed at helping those in recovery to find sober roommates. A couple of those resources are listed here:
An ideal living situation is to have roommates that are committed to living a sober lifestyle and supporting your efforts to do the same. The bonds that are created by the shared experience can be a powerful after-tool when trying to navigate a sober landscape.
Stay committed and stay hopeful,