By Aleah Johnson, The Meadows Alumni Coordinator
What if I were to tell you that all aspects of your past would be used as an asset? Would you believe it or would you instantly regret and want to change it?
I have a love/hate relationship with the word "acceptance." As a stubborn addict, I am not supposed to agree with everything, right?
Acceptance is defined as "the act of taking or receiving something offered." Sometimes I really have to stop and take inventory of the things in my life, both personally and professionally and ask myself if I am fighting or if I am accepting.
One of the most crucial bits of advice I have learned in recovery is to accept my past as an asset. It is important to accept ourselves where we are on our journey and be able to leverage ourselves for good.
The past is a place or state of being in an earlier period of a one's life, career, etc., that might be thought of as shameful or embarrassing. We have all done things in our past that we may not be proud of— choosing to resist or deny our past only leads to more suffering. Acceptance allows us to live in the present moment and not "future trip" or worry about the past.
Resistance is often about control; the more we try to control our lives, the more out of control they get. Acceptance allows emotional balance and gives us the ability to accept people and things exactly as they are, even when we can't see the WHY or when we're not getting what we want.
Acceptance is a key solution to our problems. When we are disturbed, it is because we find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of life—unacceptable. We can find no serenity until we accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at that moment.
Until we accept ourselves, our situations and our life, on life's terms, we cannot be happy. We need not concentrate so much on what happens in the world as on what needs to be changed in ourselves and in our attitudes. (Page 417, The Big Book)
Early in my recovery, an old-timer in one of my first meetings told me, "You can make this as easy or as hard as you want, little lady, but ultimately the choice is up to you." I fully accepted this not only as a piece of advice but also as a challenge.
Nobody is perfect and everyone has battles and struggles; this is part of this amazing journey that we call life. Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. It is our job to accept all aspects, to start where we are, use what we have, and do what we can to make the best out of the life we have left.
If you are a graduate from any of The Meadows inpatient programs, The Meadows Intensive Outpatient program, any weeklong intensive workshop at the Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows, or a family member who attended Family Week, you are welcome to join The Meadows Alumni Association!
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Adult Coloring Books were big sellers this past holiday season. If you checked Amazon.com’s list of top-twenty best-sellers at any time in the last couple of months, you would find that up to 10 of the books listed on any given day were coloring books. The books feature mandalas, secret gardens, enchanted forests and a number of other intricately patterned designs.
So, what’s behind the coloring craze? Many people feel that coloring has stress-relieving qualities and helps to facilitate the practice of mindfulness. Some even consider them to be “therapeutic,” but behavioral health professionals caution against chalking them up as “art therapy.”
Jennifer Noto, The Meadows primary Expressive Arts Therapist, says that although coloring is no substitute for therapy, it can be a useful tool to help patients self-regulate and focus. We asked her to share some of her insights into coloring, its therapeutic properties, and its relationship to Expressive Arts Therapy.
Expressive arts therapy (EAT) is defined as “the use of [visual] art, music, dance/movement, drama, poetry/creative writing, play and sandtray within the context of psychotherapy, counseling, rehabilitation or health care. (Source: Malchiodi, C. (ed.) (2005). Expressive Therapies. New York, NY: Guilford Press.)
The overarching goals of our Expressive Arts Therapy program at The Meadows are to externalize emotions and thoughts for deeper self-reflection, challenge perfectionism, and learn appropriate spontaneity. There are usually more specific goals in sessions such as trauma resolution and resolving core issues.
At all of our programs—The Meadows, Gentle Path at The Meadows, the Claudia Black Young Adult Center and Remuda Ranch at The Meadows—we encourage patients to create spontaneous art based on themes that we use in group sessions. Themes may include: emotions, boundaries, positive and challenging childhood memories, cultivating safety, identifying personal strengths, cultivating body awareness, working with control issues, etc. Patients use a variety of art materials such as drawing, painting, sculpting or working with found-objects to create the art.
For example, in one of our weekly group Expressive Arts Therapy sessions, I present a theme and everyone works on projects related to that theme unless it’s not a good fit for them. What’s so interesting about art therapy, though, is that usually what the person needs to work on that day is what comes up, regardless of the theme or project.
Let’s say we’re doing a project where I’m having patients paint masks and I’ve asked them to let the outside of the mask represent their outside selves (how they present to the world), and let the inside represent who they really are inside. For some patients, this may be just the right project at just the right time. But, if a patient is in their final week of treatment they may no longer find it useful to go back and look at how they were presenting to the world before treatment. So, they may use the mask project to instead look at their authentic self versus their addict self. There’s always room for someone to interpret the project in their own way. And if the project doesn’t work for them at all, I’ll just give them something else.
We seldom do anything coloring related, since the process of creating one’s own imagery is significant to gaining personal insights.
Well, we’ve had the Mandala coloring books at The Meadows for some time now—at least in the four years since I’ve been here—so it’s not entirely new to us. Even before they became best sellers, we would have patients sitting and coloring in group therapy sessions. Many of the primary therapists would encourage them to do that because it helped them focus and self-regulate. The main difference in the coloring books that are popular now is that the designs are more elaborate.
A few months ago, in early February or March, I noticed that patients started showing up with the latest coloring books, like The Secret Garden. They’d say things like, “Oh, my mom sent me this and it’s really helping me.” I thought it seemed like a great tool to help patients focus and relax.
I wonder if they’re so popular in the public now because there’s generally more awareness about self-care and mindfulness and people see coloring as an outlet. People are probably also drawn to it because they know they can do it without having the pressure of creating something from scratch. I think it’s just a smart way of doing mindful work.
There is definitely a difference between therapy and therapeutic activities. For example, coloring can help calm someone down in the moment, getting them more present and ready to do therapy and address their issues. If someone has childhood trauma, coloring may relax them for a time and teach them a healthier coping skill for distress. But, it won’t resolve underlying core issues, core messages and nervous system dysregulation.
I definitely think coloring can be therapeutic and healthy for many people. Any mindful activity that doesn’t have negative consequences, and is done in moderation, can help a patient feel more calm and centered.
I believe coloring could be helpful with patients suffering from anxiety, depression or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). It could be calming for those with anxiety, enlivening for those with depression (working with colors; focusing on enjoyable imagery), and it could help those with ADD focus their attention.
Since Expressive Arts Therapy is so diverse and can include music, movement, play and drama, there is usually something that every patient will connect with. Many patients enter the art room with fear and a bias that they aren’t creative and leave the session with a sense of empowerment and playfulness. I have even had patients who have art-related trauma (i.e., their abuser was an artist, or they were sexually assaulted at art school) who end up finding the process helpful, because they are able to renegotiate their relationship with art and reduce traumatic responses. There are a small handful of people who come in with a dislike of art and leave with the same perception, yet even for these patients, I think the process of trying something new is significant, and therefore, not contraindicated.
I like to read the energy of the room before assigning a theme or project in order to make appropriate modifications. For example, if I’m with a group of patients from Remuda Ranch, and I can tell that they’re feeling kind of frustrated about meals, or are having a hard morning, or are feeling rushed, I’ll think, “Okay, they just need to play today.” So, instead of asking them to take on a childhood trauma that day I may ask them to just pick their medium and topic of choice and see where it takes them.
At The Meadows, our patients are at a point in life where they need a full regime of therapies and approaches to combat their trauma and addiction problems. The Meadows Model is an important part of the work I do in the art room. I’m also a Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner and incorporate this viewpoint into my approach. I think it’s important to have an understanding of the core issues as well as how trauma impacts the physiology when working with any patient in any approach.
Expressive Arts Therapy is so fabulous because it can work with any type of treatment! Patients will often share their art projects with their primary group or in an individual trauma session. We work closely as a team at The Meadows and feed off the work each counselor is doing with a particular patient. For example, a patient may create artwork of a “safe place” in group with me, and then take that for use in their EMDR session. Expressive Arts Therapy also works well with the 12-step approach, as we can explore topics of acceptance, surrender, courage, and consequences of addiction.
Whether it’s Expressive Arts Therapy, Equine-Assisted Therapy, or 12-step, The Meadows programs can find the right combination to help you get on track and stay on track with your recovery. Call us today for more information. 800-244-4949
In the Murray Method, special emphasis is placed on the personal work of the health professional/student based on the belief that a therapist always must address his or her own issues first in order to be an effective clinician and a healthy role-model personally and professionally.
This workshop will provide behavioral health professionals with an introduction to The Murray Method and an integrated view of the effects of childhood trauma, abuse and deprivation on personality development.
The Murray Method is a theoretical model for understanding the effects of trauma, abuse and deprivation on individuals and families. The theory and treatment modalities will provide clinicians with basic concepts that will help them and their clients…
Sessions are conducted with time devoted to didactic instruction, experiential work, and small group participation each day.
The course will be conducted by Marilyn Murray, M.A., creator of The Murray Method.
CEUs will be available.
The workshops will be offered on the following dates in 2016:
For more details, call 800-244-4949. Our Intake Coordinators are happy to assist you between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. MST on weekdays, and from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. MST on weekends.
24.5 Continuing Education Credits or NBCC Clock Hours Available
The Meadows provides 24.5 continuing education credits from the following agencies:
By Lynn Litschke, Chaplain/Spiritual Care Provider at The Meadows
‘Tis the season of celebration. The landscape of our everyday lives is transformed with the glow of candles, the jingle of bells, the fragrance of pine and spice, wrapping paper and ribbons, feasting and festivity. There is a touch of magic in the air.
Yet for those of us in recovery this can also be a difficult season fraught with triggers, painful memories, and feelings of being disconnected and flawed. In the midst of it all are opportunities to lean solidly into our spirituality and discover new understandings of ourselves and of the season.
This season of holidays originated as “holy” days set apart to commemorate and celebrate very special events. The stories and traditions surrounding these events are packed with spiritual meaning and messages that can be helpful to recovery from addictions and trauma.
Hanukkah reminds us that we can endure and that there can be victory in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. In the deepest places of despair, our needs can be met with surprising abundance by a Power greater than ourselves.
At Winter Solstice we can choose to enter into the longest, darkest night and, in the midst of our fear, discover hope in the eternally faithful return of the light at dawn.
On Christmas Eve we can reflect on the joy of discovering that Love can and does appear in the lowliest and most unexpected places. In a playful spirit, we can rejoice with the creative imagination of Dr. Seuss as he reminds us that even the grinchiest of bah-humbuggers can be transformed by child-like wonder and gratitude in the face of bitter disappointment.
In recovery, we set each day apart, one day at a time, to commemorate and celebrate the very special event of freedom from our addictions. Every day in recovery can be celebrated as a holy day and an opportunity to share the message of experience, strength, and hope.
In this season of celebration, consider the awe and wonder of a poor shepherd, cold and alone in the desert, when a bright light illuminates the darkness and an angel sings out, “Fear not. I want to give you a message of great hope and joy. Glad tidings!” Consider the awe and wonder of a broken, desperate, hurting individual sitting in the back row of their first 12-step meeting when an angel disguised as a simple human being opens a big, blue book and begins to read, “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path…” It is cause for great celebration.
Here at The Meadows, we know our Director of Outpatient Services, Jim Corrington, to be the kind of guy who goes above and beyond as a therapist and sponsor for those in recovery. So, we were exceptionally proud to see him recognized for these same qualities at the Sierra Tucson “Gratitude for Giving” celebration.
Jim received the Gratitude Recognition, which honors a medical or clinical professional for lifetime achievement.
Jim has served the recovery community for more than 30 years. “I have never seen someone so passionate and driven to help people recover from their addictions, “says Sean Walsh, CEO of The Meadows. “He is constantly advocating and fighting to get patients plugged into the recovery community and goes above and beyond to make sure patients and their families get the support that they need.”
Congratulations, Jim, on your well-earned recognition. We’re glad to have you as part of our team!