Strategies for Staying in Recovery
As I revealed in this post on overcoming sugar addiction [there's a link at the bottom of this post], I am deeply into trying to stay in recovery from an addiction that covered up some really negative emotions. And wow, has it been a lesson. I mean, I have known and dated addicts my whole adult life, and I have studied and had a deep intellectual understanding of addiction for decades, but never did I actively try to heal my own because I conveniently kept myself unaware of the important/necessary emotions I was covering up. Now that the process of uncovering and healing the emotions has begun, so has the process of sticking to my recovery from addiction.
These are my basic strategies, probably subject to change. I am no expert, just a person dealing with healing and wanting to share what I do.
1. I remember to honor FUN and joy. My addiction kicks into overdrive when I am denying my need for fun and childlike-ness and focusing only on Ms. Responsible’s over-the-top adultlike-ness. I have done this a lot since getting married. That's why my addiction went totally off the deep end recently. Now that I know that I have these two sides, and that both of them need to be honored in equal measure, I stop each time I am craving cake or sugar and I think, “Where is the fun today? What can I do to honor my emotional and spiritual sides?” There’s always an easy answer: call a friend, read some Italian, find a good movie to watch, dance to my favorite music, etc.
2. I read The Tibetan Art of Serenity, by Christopher Hansard, whenever I feel like I’m going overboard and not dealing with the emotions that my addictions helped cover up. I have had conversations with religious-minded folks who are in recovery, and some have told me that they flip open a Bible or other religious text daily, read a passage, and the passage always seems to be exactly what they needed to read that day to help them make it through. As a religion skeptic, I scoffed at that. But I can now say that it always happens to me when I flip open this book. I bought Hansard's book on a whim because the title sounded cool, and it has been the best book purchase I have made all year. And I have bought some other amazing books this year, so that says a lot!
3. I engage in conversation with my loved ones who know what it’s like to be facing such tough issues. This is a big one, because it involves being totally honest and vulnerable. I don’t have a problem with this, but I know that a lot of people do. The humans in my life who are dealing with recovery have, without exception, learned to be vulnerable, and they have no issues with opening themselves up to that vulnerability and letting me see it. In return, I feel totally comfortable doing the same. I think all addicts in recovery need this, and maybe that’s why group recovery sessions are so popular?
4. I engage in Yoga/checking in with my body. This is an extremely important one for me because 99% of my trauma has been in my physical body. Ever since my parents’ divorce, my physical body seems to have taken over the role that “feeling my emotions” should have done. I won’t go into that too much here, but I know that I need to get on my mat or on the floor, sit or stand quietly, check in with what needs to be addressed, and then engage in either pranayama, asana, or meditation for as long as it takes to feel centered again. Sometimes it’s 5 minutes, sometimes 75 minutes, but it always happens. And I no longer crave sugar to hide my emotional discomfort afterward.
5. I engage in outdoor activity. Moving my body forward, using my own two legs and lungs, always makes me feel better and allows me to focus on the positives in life. Sitting indoors, staring at a computer, makes me feel awful unless I have already made time for fun and physical activity first. So frequent walks in the hills (like those pictured up there, near my house), breathing fresh air, feeling what my muscles were meant to do (i.e., propel me forward on land), I feel like myself again—the healthy self, not the unhealthy one seeking ways to cover up the emotional discomforts of life.
6. I start writing in my journal. Anything and everything is fair game, but it usually has to do with what I am feeling and/or trying to not feel. I do this writing with pen and paper, because nothing is more satisfying than YELLING on paper with ALL CAPs and double underlines and many, many exclamation points!!!!! Writing on screen can never compare, although once the dust settles, writing blog posts like this one is always enjoyable and something I consider fun. That’s new for me, and I am pretty ecstatic about it.
7. I find healthy ways to release unwanted emotions. This one is a new activity for me, and I love it. I can recognize now, easier than ever, when I am boiling over from some emotion that I have not been adequately dealing with. When that happens now, I beat up the mattress or the huge pillows on our couch. Damn, it feels good. I have to be careful not to clench my teeth so hard that I break them, because really, when I am engaging in this boxing match with padded furniture, I seem to clench my jaw pretty nicely. J recommends I wear my mouth-guard next time, and I think it’s the right suggestion. I don’t feel the need to do this release very often, but the mouth-guard is ready when needed.
The funniest part of this strategy—and hell yes, it’s funny—is that I think we have all seen it played out in movies and thought “How cliché and ridiculous! No one ever needs to do that ‘beat up this pillow’ thing in real life!” In fact, it reminds me of that hilarious scene in “First Wives Club” when Diane Keaton’s meek character is faced with whacking her therapist (who she just found out was sleeping with DK’s character’s husband, also in therapy) with a foam tube to “get out her anger.” She just can’t do it, until finally she snaps and… watch the clip below. It’s classic. I wouldn’t attack a person—even with a foam tube—but pillows, mattresses, and couches are fair game the few times a year when I need them.
Like I said, hilarious. If someone has a good GIF for this, will you post it in the comments?
To wrap up, those are my most salient ways of dealing with being in recovery from my sugar addiction and finally learning to handle the “negative-labeled” emotions I have been covering up and allowing to fester for so long.
You can read my post about sugar addiction here.
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