The Weird & Wacky plan to avoid relapse

brain maze PSYCHEDELIC 6Need rescue from cravings?  This two-page worksheet is aimed at helping people in recovery get through the hard times.

The handout is from the Journey into Recovery: a Weird and Wacky Addiction Workbook.  Since this website is to promote the book, we’ve gotta say it: the workbook features multiple resources for urge management apart from the worksheet below.  That includes:

  • An emergency “deal with cravings” card
  • Worksheet on handling triggers
  • A five-page toolkit to help avoid relapse
  • A six-page toolkit to deal with relapse should it happen
  • An appendix section listing hundreds of calming, fun, and survival ideas
  • Jokes and cartoons that keep things… interesting

You’ll find the two-page worksheet below.  Consider magnifying your screen to see it clearly.

relapse prevention jpeg

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How to make friends

“You cuss too much. You have questionable morals. You’re everything I ever wanted in a friend.” – From a greeting card by Skel Design

new doc 2017-12-15 11.54.22_1Sometimes there’s a wall between you and the rest of the world.  It’s hard to meet people, never mind find friends.  People emerging from addiction are no exception.  Isolation can be painful.  But finding hang-out buddies and best friends doesn’t have to be reserved for the lucky.  Here are some tips on how to meet people and make friends.

Start with long lost buddies.

Past friends. Most of us have friends we haven’t talked to in years.  Look up that elementary school peer, college roommate, or aunt you haven’t talked to for years.  Think of all the people you’ve known.  Text them out of the blue: “What up?”  If it’s more formal, tell them someone you saw reminded you of them.  Ask them to meet up for old time’s sake.  Even if you find you have nothing in common, that “having nothing in common” might spark a new kinship.

Familiarity breeds friendship.

Pick a place that appeals to you, and visit it often.  Don’t obsess all day long, but go there a few times a week.  You don’t have to talk to anyone, not in the beginning, but once you’ve spent enough time at this place you’ll start to recognize the “locals,” and they’ll start recognizing you.

Are the owners of the tiny street café friendly?  Do other coffee-lovers grin approvingly as you buy a super-sized triple-shot vanilla and pumpkin spice latte with skim milk?  What about the museum?  Is there another patron who frequents the Dali room every Monday night like you do?  What about the library?  Are there other students who, like you, prefer to study at 3 in the AM?  If so, greet them and smile.  Next time, ask about the weather or comment on how good the coffee is/good the painting is/hard the exam is.

Apart from cafes, museums, and libraries, other places to consider frequenting include:

  • Restaurantsnew doc 2017-12-12 07.56.17_2
  • Bookstoresnew doc 2017-12-12 07.56.17_1
  • Sunday school
  • Churches, synagogues, or temples
  • Community pools
  • Gyms
  • Pet stores or zoos
  • Saunas
  • Casino
  • Senior citizen centers (if you’re a senior citizen)
  • Student centers (if you’re a student)

Consider visiting different places: a bookstore on Saturdays, the café on Sundays.  Remember, you don’t have to talk to anyone until you feel comfortable. Just get to know the faces and personalities. In time hi-bye conversations turn into talks about the weather or sports (or coffee and exams), which turn into deeper connections.  Go at your own pace.

Join a club, any club.

Be part of a club.  Pick an interest, and join a group of like-minded people.  This interest can range from hobbies or sports to getting help for a challenge you’re dealing with.  For many people, this means 12-step meetings, but there are other clubs.  Check online or your community paper for information about local groups, meetings, events, and workshops.  Many communities have groups that meet regularly or have guest speakers  lecturing about different subjects.  Here are some ideas:

  • Hiking, book, knitting, art, stamp-collecting, or movie groups
  • Sports groups, like rowing, sailing, or soccer clubs
  • Depression or anxiety support groups
  • Cancer-survivor, diabetes, or chronic pain support groups
  • Alzheimer caregiver support groups
  • Ping pong, bowling, or card-playing leagues
  • Writer’s or artist’s workshops
  • Symphony or rock bands
  • Lectures about politics, philosophy, reaching your dreams, or making money
  • Weight-watchers
  • Theater or musicals

Sign up and go!  The more you show up, the quicker you’ll get to know people.  You don’t have to talk to anyone until you feel comfortable, but little by little you’ll make friends.

Take classes.

Friendship 101School for adults is an excellent way to meet people in a structured environment, where there’s no pressure to carry on a conversation unless you want to.

Local college.  Ask your local college for a list of their community classes.  Usually these are low-priced and available to everyone.  Some colleges also offer OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute).  These classes are officially for people over 55, but they do accept younger folks when there’s availability.  Community classes vary widely in subject, ranging from Getting to Know Shakespeare to Russian, GED, and English as a Second Language.   Some schools offer career enrichment courses like construction technology, Notary Public, or  continuing education for nurses.

Community stuff.  No college or university nearby?  Don’t forget community resources!  Look into arts and crafts, music, and other specialty stores to see what classes they’re offering. Often you’ll find gems like cooking lessons  and jewelry-making instruction.  Consider local specialty schools too, where you can find lessons in dancing, yoga, tai chi, karate, the instrument of your choice, and probably much more.

Become a volunteer.

Want to meet kind-hearted people with a cause?  Volunteering gives you a chance to spread compassion while reaching out to others for friendship.  Places that often need volunteers include:

  • Hospitals and emergency rooms
  • Nursing homes
  • Humane Society
  • Museums and historical sites
  • Soup kitchens
  • Shelters for the homeless
  • Red Cross
  • Salvation Army
  • Tutoring students at schools and university
  • Local organizations with special causes, like helping illegal immigrants, victims of domestic violence, children with cancer, or people with illiteracy
  • International organizations like the Peace Corp or Doctors Without Borders

Alternatively, call a business where you’d like to spend time and offer to help out for free.

Surf the web.

Frankly, going online is a great way to avoid being alone.

new doc 2017-12-15 07.45.34_4Meetup.com is a social networking site that helps get people together.  There’s something here for everyone, from stuff for business-owners, writers, and vegetarians to support groups for Star Trek lovers, soccer enthusiasts, and people with bipolar disorder.  Just plug in your location and your interest, then peruse the groups that come up.  Meetups usually meet in person once a month, but members of each club can keep in touch online.

Online forums are conversation threads touching just about anything.  This resource allows you to engage with others in a controlled, semi-anonymous manner, where you don’t have to worry about the “complexities of real conversation” while establishing connection with others.  Forums let you answer at your own pace and consider your words carefully before submitting them to the world.  They’re a good way of befriending interesting people who live far away, people you’d never meet locally.

Online support groups are a type of forum; they’re a wonderful resource for people to get extra support for a problem they’re having, without having to give away their personal information or make their problem public.

Friendship sites are a third option.  They’re like dating sites but used primarily to help people find friends.  Interactions include chats, small social groups, and big group get-together’s.  Information can be exchanged, like favorite songs, business information, exercise records, or most recent drawings.  Friendship websites vary according to desired age group, gender, sexual orientation, interests, etc.  Some help couples find friends.  Others are geared towards young career women.  Still others are only for people trying to get in shape.  Examples include Girlfriend Social, Social Jane, Active, My Social Passport, Couples List, and Cupple.  Most are free.

Be smart when using these options.  Don’t offer personal information to strangers.  If you decide to get together with someone you’ve only known online, meet in a safe, public place.

Conclusion

So you’ve figured out a way to meet thousands of potentially interesting people?  The next step is to talk to them.  Be open-minded.  Be kind.  Be interested.  And make sure to keep in touch.


Friendship is so weird… you just pick a human you’ve met and you’re like “yep, I like this one” and you just do stuff with them. – Bill Murray

 

Puzzle: 12-step inspiration, oddlike

The following is Handout 87 from the Weird and Wacky Workbook for Recovery. Remember that inner kid, the one who loves life and imagines a brilliant future?  Okay, now imagine that same child in school learning consonants & vowels, and have a go at the following homework.


website 12 step program jpeg


* The Weird and Wacky Workbook for Recovery has more than 40 activity pages, some more cerebral than others.  Why have activities like this in a manual for recovery?

As mentioned, recovery is more than quitting drugs and alcohol.  It’s about surviving cravings, painful emotion, broken bridges, scattered thoughts, and stress.  It also marks the start of a new life narrative as a person in recovery.  The painful and the amazing.  Weird and Wacky‘s activity section offers mindless tasks and distraction for the bad times, plus a conduit for creativity, playfulness, and (hopefully) joy for the “new.”

Cravings aren’t all or nothing

Put cravings into context.

Urges aren’t all or nothing.  You might feel like an urge is all-encompassing, but if you stop to think about it, there are a thousand levels of desire between zero and 100.  Put the craving into context.  Do you feel it come in waves?  There will be good days and bad days.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of surviving the moment.  If you’ve been clean a while, are the cravings better and less frequent than they were earlier in your recovery?  You’ll likely find the answer is “yes.”  Maybe the craving oscillate between 100% and 40%, and 40% is more tolerable.  Knowing that will help get you through the 100% days.  Hold onto that.  Recognizing that cravings aren’t black and white make them easier to deal with.

 

Flying cash registers and you

This was supposed to be a “Frequently asked questions” sheet about our book, Weird and Wacky Workbook for Recovery.  But we got distracted.  You are so very interesting.   So today we answer FAQ’s about you, not us.

Disclaimer: you realize we’re a group of psychiatrists, or course?  Shrinks are good at questions, and we’re (supposed to be) even better at finding answers.  We should be more than qualified to tell you all about…well, you.  Whether that’s true remains a mystery.

Even then, we need your help.  For each question or statement, choose an option.  We’ll base our answers on your answers.

FAQ 1. “How are you today?”  Which of the following would likely be your response?new doc 2017-12-11 07.53.46_2

(a) “Fine, thank you.”
(b) “Fine, thank you.  And you?”
(c) “Fine, thank you.  And you?  I mean, is it okay for me to ask a psychiatrist that?”
(d) “How do you think I’m doing?  You’re the psychiatrist.  You tell me.  What do you think I’m paying you for?”
(e) &D^%%*__?

How’d it go?

→ 33%, 33%, and 33% of patients answer (a), (b), and (c), respectively.  These are super answers.  If you chose one of the first three, you’re a stunning picture of mental health.  We admire your progress in life.  (And we’re doing fine too.  Thanks for asking.)
→But did you choose (d)?  If so, it will unfortunately require extensive psychodynamic existential psychosurgery to determine whether you’re fine or not.  You’re the perfect patient.  We’ll see you tomorrow morning at 10AM.  For an extra 199 dollars, we’ll review your ego strengths and take you bowling.
If you chose (e), our response is 55h4&^#*%–?78  45*4.

FAQ 2.  “So what have you been doing lately?” 

weird art - flying cash register(a) “Those little cash registers are back, the ones that fly around and hide behind the fridge.  They read my mind and send messages to the government.”
(b) “I was out partying last night when I realized I’d broken curfew.  I ran so fast I lost my shoe.  Then my carriage turned into a pumpkin.”
(c) “I made a pumpkin pie.  It tasted like a carriage but, hell, it was worth it.  The Fairy Godmother was pissed.”
(d) “Last night?  I spent the night researching my psychiatrist online, why?”
(e) “I told you, &^#H&&%#.”

Here are our answers to your answers.  

→If you answered (a), then please get rid of the cash registers as soon as possible.  They’re downright scary.
→(b) Cinderella, is that you?  Can you ask the Fairy Godmother if  she knows anything about flying cash registers?
→(c) Oh, dear.
→(d) Can you also research flying cash registers?  We hear they’re sending messages to the government.
(e) &^#H&&%#, really?  As I said before, the answer is no.  Absolutely not.  We’re not allowed to treat that sort of thing.

FAQ 3. “Do you ever think you have special powers?”

(a) “God tells me I’m here to save the world.  It’s got something to do with flying cash registers and stupid quizzes.”
(b) “I live life through a series of multiple choice questions.”
(c) “Sometimes I think I can heal people’s mental problems by looking at them in a smart way and asking ridiculous questions.”
(d) “Seriously, doctor, these FAQ questions are getting annoying.”

Which option did you choose?  If you answered:

→(a) [Doctors groan] Please, no more flying cash register jokes.  What’s this about a stupid quiz?
→(b) How do you feel about these multiple choice questions?  Choose one of the following: (1) sad, (2) angry, or (3) choose one of the following: (i) it stems from my childhood, (ii) it’s based on cognitive distortions, (iii) oh, never mind.
→(c) Delusions of grandeur?  We’re going to look at you in smart way, ask stupid questions, and give you a prescription for Haldol.  You should feel better by morning.
→(d) See question #4 about enhancing frustration-tolerance.

FAQ 4. How do you deal with annoying people?

(a) “I have a large assortment of coping skills.  In fact, I’ve been told I exhibit superior frustration-tolerance abilities.  Conflict management is my middle name.”
(b) “My thoughts are very violent, so I avoid the world and surf the web looking for FAQ articles.  It’s the only relief I get.”
(d) “I stalk people who are annoying.  I take hundreds of pictures, make notes on their every movement, eavesdrop on their conversations.  For example, this is a photo I took of you at 2 this morning…”

→Hmn, I’m sensing a bit of angst in the room.  Why don’t we bring the session to a close and try again next week? That’ll be 550 dollars please. [Wait, there’s more: please move onto FAQ#5).

FAQ 5. [Doctor sighs and shivers.]  “I’m terribly sorry to inform you that your health insurance has declined coverage.  They don’t pay for FAQ-laden group therapy sessions.  That’ll be 550 dollars.  Credit card or check?”

(a) “I’ll pay with credit card.”
(b) “I’ll pay with check.”
(c) “You’ve got to be kidding me.  It was better when the flying cash registers were still around.”
(d) [A stranger enters the room, face red, fists tight, anger in their eyes; they have a history of violence and property destruction.  Arson too.]  “What?  My insurance won’t pay?  Well, just tell them that if they don’t pay I’m heading over to their office, I know exactly where to find them, and… my face is red, my firsts tight, there’s anger in my eyes, I have a history of violence and property destruction, and arson too.  My visit won’t be good for them, Doc.  Tell them that.  You’ll see how fast they pay. It always works.” [Stranger slumps into doctors’ sofa and stares emphatically.  There is nothing but silence.]

If you chose:

(a) and (b). Great.  Please send 550 dollars to your favorite charity.  Personally, we recommend the American Association of Poor Psychiatrists Who Are Trying To Publish a Book, but the choice is up to you.  Thanks.
(c) No, not the cash registers again.  That’s it.  We can’t take anymore.  Ladies and gentleman, quiz is over.
(BTW, if you chose (d) there’s no charge.  Ever.  Just don’t hurt us.)


That’s enough FAQ for now.  Thanks for joining us today, and make sure to visit again.  Until next time.

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Four ways to deal with cravings

running scaredOld Lady Addiction

You’re trying to escape addiction.

That could be food, drugs, alcohol, gambling, smoking, or something else.  One of the biggest challenges you’re dealing with, especially at the beginning of your recovery, are the urges to “feed” the addiction.  You’re bound to have cravings.  It happens to all recovering addicts, and it isn’t easy.  But remember, while the urges can be intense, they diminish with time.  Each minute you resist giving into the addiction, each time you decide not to use, the closer you get to long-term recovery.

Many people cope with their urges by gritting their teeth and “white-knuckling it,” but it doesn’t have to be done that way. You’ll find four urge-busting strategies below.

(Note: links lead to articles from Dr. Rosenthal’s other website.)


Method # 1. Get rid of those triggers.

Triggers jumpstart cravings. Some triggers are obvious, like watching people use drugs, having access to money, or seeing a beer commercial on TV.  Others aren’t so obvious.  Perhaps it’s something you’re hardly aware of, like a vague scent, song on the radio, or a stressful thought that inadvertently makes you want to relapse.

Whatever the case, identify the trigger and fix it.   How?  Here are some specific tips:
new doc 2017-12-07 12.05.32_2⇒ If possible, avoid triggers.  Stay away from places that push you in the wrong direction. Stay clear of addiction-friendly people, or those who make you emotional and more likely to relapse.

⇒ If you know an upcoming event or encounter is a trigger for you, plan ahead to minimize relapse.   How will you deal with the situation or person?  Consider having a support person accompany you, planning an early get away, and preparing catch phrases to use when necessary, even something ludicrous: “No, my shrink said I’d become aggressive and hurt people if I keep using, and I don’t want to hurt you.”

⇒ Sometimes you’ll run across a trigger unexpectedly.  If you find yourself in an unsettling place, leave.  If it’s something on the TV, change the channel. If you can’t leave, reach out to a support person, distract, or run some sort of safety mantra in your head, like “this ain’t gonna happen” or “I’m a recovered alcoholic now.”

⇒ Guard your conversations.  Sharing old drinking tales and other drug war-stories can quickly get you into trouble.

⇒ Guard your thoughts.  Practice mindfulness and meditate to enhance control over your thinking and decrease sensitivity to problem cognitions.  Learn to rewrite negative thoughts or change your perspective.

⇒ Are your cravings running you over like a herd of angry elephants? Take three breaths and move onto one of the strategies below.   Continue reading Four ways to deal with cravings