U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s release of Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health at yesterday’s Facing Addiction Summit was an unprecedented moment in our country’s fight against addiction and substance misuse. It is the first time in history that a U.S. surgeon general has issued a report focused on drug and alcohol addiction. The report comes at a time when more and more Americans are struggling with the effects of addiction to opioids and heroin. One person dies every 19 minutes from an opioid or heroin overdose. And, the statistics related to other addictions are no less grim. One in seven people in the United States will face a substance misuse disorder, and only 10 percent will get the treatment they need to overcome it.
In her #Mindful Monday presentation on Facebook, Meadows therapist Joyce Willis reminds us what forgiveness is and what it is not:
“Forgiveness is about bringing peace to ourselves. Forgiveness is a way to end suffering for ourselves and others and to bring dignity and harmony back into our lives. It is fundamentally for our own sake, and for our own emotional health. It is one tool that we can use to let go of the pain that we carry.”
In AA’s Big Book, the 4th step calls on people in recovery to search out ‘the flaws in our make-up which cause our failure,’ and understand that ‘self, manifested in various ways, is what has failed us.” The book goes on to identify the number one failure of self as resentment.
However, for people who have been abused or mistreated, resentment is perfectly reasonable feeling to have toward the perpetrator (or perpetrators.) When people with histories of emotional trauma approach this step in their recovery, they can sometimes feel stuck. Some interpret this step to mean that they have to find a way to accept some responsibility for what happened to them—that they have to somehow find their part in allowing themselves to be victimized.
This notion can most certainly be counterproductive to trauma survivors’ processes of healing. And, it can intensify the shame and self-blame that likely fed their addictions and behavioral health issues in the first place. That’s why there has to be some nuance and balance to interpreting this step for those who have experienced physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse.
No one is responsible for someone else’s decision to abuse them. In order to heal, it’s not the abuse that the survivor has to accept responsibility for but for the ways in which they may have acted out as a result of their feelings related to that abuse. If a trauma and abuse survivor realizes through their work in recovery that they have behaved in ways that were harmful to themselves or others, they can ask themselves “What other choices did I have? Could I have done better given the circumstances?”
All in all, forgiveness is not about absolving the abuser of guilt or letting them “off the hook.” Instead, it’s about letting go of feelings and beliefs that prevent a survivor from living the full, connected, and authentic lives they deserve.
Forgiving is not easy. It is not something you can do in an instant. You can’t simply decide to forgive and then expect all of your anger and resentment to instantly disappear; it is something that you will have to work through over time, by letting go of a little bit of your anger each day.
You may need more than meditation to help you let go of resentment, especially if you have been abused or mistreated. Therapy and self-care can also be crucial to forgiveness, but meditation can play a key supporting role in the process by helping you cultivate your capacity for love, compassion, and healing. Meditation can help you access and accept the past as it is, and help you gain a deeper understanding of the thoughts and beliefs that are blocking you from having a full emotional life and reaching your full potential. More on Mindfulness and Meditation
Check our Facebook page every Monday for a new guided meditation led by one of our experts. Coming up on Oct. 31, Joe Whitwell, MAC, LAC, CCTP and Therapist at The Meadows Outpatient Center will present a mindfulness talk and exercise on Anger.
And, for a more intensive experience, consider registering for or 5-day Mind & Heart: A Mindful Path to Wholehearted Living workshop. For more information call 866-494-4930 or reach out online.
By Dan Griffin, MA, Senior Fellow at The Meadows
Here we are again: One more tragic tale of a good man, with a good heart, being destroyed by addiction, trauma, and the effects of toxic masculinity. The world—including those closest to former NBA player Lamar Odom — were waiting for him to die just a couple of weeks ago. It is clear now that drugs played a critical role in Mr. Odom’s near-death experience. It is also clear, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the trauma this man has had to deal with has been eating away at his soul and affecting every facet of his life. Because that is exactly what trauma does.
But, of course, real men don’t have trauma. Star basketball players? They don’t have trauma, and if they do it has helped to make them who they are. It only destroys the weak ones. Those traumatic experiences are unfortunate parts of his life that have helped him become the [add superlative of choice here] athlete he is – or more appropriately, was. (The verb tense means everything to the context of the story and how the story is told.)
This is not a new story. It is playing out right now in the lives of thousands of men across the country. Thousands will die this week because we live in a culture with such warped ideas of masculinity that you can have an owner of a brothel—where a man’s reckless behavior was enabled and lead to serious, nearly life-ending consequences— shamelessly show up in the media and act as if he was just a guy having a good time.
The truth is that this was a man scraping a barrel for some morsel of happiness where there is none to be found. Yet, our society still tells men that it will not only make us happy, but affirm our masculinity and cure our pain.
Mr. Odom apparently has been saying for some time, “It seems death is following me.” He is right. The experiences of trauma that Mr. Odom has lived through would leave the strongest and most resilient men scarred.
This story is getting old. I am tired of the tragic stories where we all lament the men after they are gone. The same news outlets that were pillorying Mr. Odom for the past decade were the same ones oozing compassion and empathy as his life hung in the balance. You see, two weeks ago was the time for everyone to trot out the long list of traumas as part of the conclusion of Mr. Odom’s story.
Yes, he is talking now. It really is a miracle. Yet, any of us who have been immersed in the world of trauma, addiction and recovery for some number of years have known that even miracles such as this rarely provide the necessary wake-up call to give a man in the downward spiral a new life. I have buried men – including my own father – after sitting with them in the hospital room when their second, third, or fourth miracles had being given to them, only to watch them dance with the devil again. And lose.
As preposterous and insane as it seems, that is the logic of addiction. So it makes complete sense to those of us who understand the narrative. Events such as Mr. Odom experienced a couple of weeks ago offer such an obvious opportunity for a happy ending. Yet so many men haunted by trauma rarely find it. Mr. Odom seems to have been given a second chance. But there are contingencies. The most important condition is that at some point if he wants to find peace – let alone recovery from his addiction(s—he must hug the monsters.
Mr. Odom needs to find people and places safe enough for him to stand still in the storm and trust something bigger than himself. He has to trust that he can get through it without the drugs, prostitutes, or any other illusion of connection. And at some point our society, that is merely reflected in the absurdity of our media, will have to truly grapple with the fact that we wait for men to be dead before we finally create enough space for their pain and are willing to honor their real story.
Sober life can be filled with fun in the sun, so take advantage of all life has to offer this summer. Here are ten ideas to help you put some spice into sober life.
1. Take a Joke: LOL! There’s nothing like humor to soothe the soul. Grab a bunch of your sober friends and check out a recovery comedian. Or, have a movie fest in your living room by playing your all-time favorite funny flicks on a Friday night. Whip up a batch of popcorn and let the good times roll!
2. Hola: You may have thought about learning another language, but never had the time to see it through. Now’s a good a time as any. Learn Italian and head to Italy to show off your new vocabulary. How about a trip to France after your French is simply fabulous? Learning a language allows you to expand your social network and will keep your mind sharp. What’s more, you can learn via DVDs, online courses, or the old-fashioned way in classroom settings.
3. Team Effort: There’s a healthy supply of leagues to choose from –softball, football, soccer, baseball, basketball and even bowling – so jump right in. Get in some hearty exercise while joining forces with like-minded individuals. You’ll be compelled to show up for every game because the team is counting on you. You have to be in it to win it – so sign on.
4. Lend a Hand: There’s an abundance of organizations that would welcome your help. Volunteering is a win-win. Both parties reap rich rewards. The first question is where do you want to focus your energy? Would you like to tutor children? Feed the homeless? Comfort the elderly? Help preserve your local park? You can test out several options to figure out which one most warms your heart.
5. Hot Stuff: Eat and greet. Check out local cooking classes and dine in style with your co-chefs after your meal is elegantly served. Take recipe notes and recreate your meal for you and your fab friends in the comfort of your own home. You can even learn to create and decorate your next birthday cake at the abundance of baking classes springing up! Cooking classes are all the rage, so be sure to bring your appetite.
6. Get Crafty: Join the artsy crowd and get crafty. Take up beading, pottery or knit your favorite aunt a sweater. You’ll enjoy the process and feel a sense of accomplishment after showing off your creations. Or, try your hand at painting. You never know what talents lie within!
7. Take a Hike: Summer is a great time to embrace the great outdoors. Take a scenic hike through your favorite park or go camping with your best buddies. Be daring and have a karaoke competition with your fellow campers. Kayaking is another fun way to spend a leisurely afternoon. There’s nothing like a little fresh air to rejuvenate your soul!
8. Listen to This: Do you love the sound of guitars? Or, do you prefer the melody of a piano? Learning how to play an instrument does wonders for your self-esteem. Pick up some sheet music and take an online course to get you started. Gather your family and friends and play to a standing-room-only crowd.
9. Of Course: Do you have a craving to learn American History at midnight? Do you want to figure out how to amass money in the stock market? Are you eager to learn how to help your family eat better? Online courses cover the gamut from banking to baking, so choose a course and power on your computer.
10. Move On: Gyms now offer everything from dancing to dashing. You can opt for a Zumba class or make a dash for the treadmill. Opt for a few sessions with a personal trainer to secure an appropriate regimen for your fitness level. You’ll surely find something to get you going and you’ll feel better for it.
To learn more about The Meadows, visit us here or call (800) 244-4949.
Putting your thoughts and feelings on paper can accelerate your journey from addiction to recovery. Journaling is a powerful tool that can help you process your emotions, so you can realize a life-altering transformation. Check out these five tips to effective journaling.
1. Let it Flow: Stream of consciousness writing can be empowering. Ask yourself a compelling question such as “What brings me joy?” Close your eyes, relax your body and jot down whatever comes to mind. Don’t feel compelled to polish up or refine your writing. Write without filters. There’s no need for formalities. Let your hand flow freely over the page and jot down your thoughts and feelings. You can opt for nifty notebooks with lots of bling or use a simple notebook. Write for five minutes or until you feel like you’ve exhausted your response. You may very well gain a new perspective on the concept of joy or whatever question you pose. Save your work, so you can refer back to it at a later date.
2. Come to Your Senses: Take a deep breath and still your mind. Become aware of your surroundings as you scan your senses. How are you feeling? Is there a familiar scent in the background? What do you hear? You can also respond with a drawing or picture. You’re in the driver’s seat. Noting the answers to how you feel at any given moment helps put you in touch with your authentic self. So, savor the now.
3. Attitude of Gratitude: There are things to be grateful for on even the most challenging days. So, count your blessings via a gratitude list. Write down three to five things for which you are grateful. You can accompany your words with sketches or pictures. Express gratitude for the flowers blooming in your garden or for your best friend. You can choose something simple or elaborate – whatever floats your boat. As you jog your memory for all the gifts in your life, you might be surprised to find that you have more than five items on the list.
4. Give Yourself a Hand: Allow your non-dominant hand to respond to a question written with your dominant hand. It could be anything from “my most cherished memory” to “what makes me laugh.” Doing so may very well tap into the unconscious thoughts of your inner child.
5. Take a Step: Writing out your step work in a designated journal is a great way to keep track of your progress. You can refer back to your notes to review the steps you’ve already completed and to remind yourself of how far you’ve come on your recovery journey. Keep the names and numbers of “program” people in the back of your journal, so you’re not scrambling to find important numbers in an emergency.
6. So, take that first step! Write on!
To learn more about The Meadows, visit us here or call (800) 244-4949.