Domestic violence refers to any behaviors that are used to control, manipulate and gain power over an intimate partner. The different types of abuse include physical, emotional, verbal, mental and financial. Each poses its own danger and are often combined by an abuser to sustain power and control over an intimate partner.
Domestic violence, like addiction, has no prejudice; it affects people from all walks of life. Both men and women are abusers and it’s just as common in homosexual couples as heterosexual couples. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, an estimated 85 percent of domestic violence victims are female, and women have a five to eight times greater chance of being victimized than men.
Recognizing Domestic Abuse in Relationships
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services defines physical abuse as the “non-accidental use of force that results in bodily injury, pain or impairment. This includes, but is not limited to, being slapped, burned, cut, bruised or improperly physically restrained.” On average, 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, which comes out to a total of 10 million men and women per year.
Verbal, emotional and mental abuse are interconnected through a series of behaviors that an abuser uses to create confusion, undermine the victim’s self-confidence which allows the abuser to control the victim. Signs of this abusive dynamic are isolation, intimidation and manipulation.
An abuser may use the following tactics to control their victim: screening or monitoring texts, calls and social media, recording the odometer mileage on the car after use, as well as driving by workplaces or known locations, not allowing or becoming increasingly displeased by certain makeup, hairstyles, and clothing choices.
Emotional abuse is the result of verbal and psychological abuse that aims to diminish another person’s sense of identity, dignity and self-worth. Verbal abuse is making direct or indirect threats, yelling, screaming, and insulting. Psychological or mental abuse is using statements that distort reality or invalidate the victim’s emotions, thoughts or feelings.
Financial abuse is the withholding or controlling of all the income, not allowing the victim to access funds or putting the victim on a strict allowance. An abuser can also prevent or sabotage the victim’s attempts to secure employment by refusing transportation, making them late, or calling/harassing them at work frequently.
Sexual Abuse is using coercion, force, guilt, manipulation or not considering the victim’s desire to have sex. Exploiting a victim who is unable to make an informed decision either because they are asleep, intoxicated or otherwise drugged, or targeting a victim who is too young, too old or dependent upon or afraid of the abuser is also sexual abuse.
For victims in an abusive relationship, daily life is centered around reading your partner’s moods, walking on eggshells, saying or doing anything to keep the peace for fear they may become violent. Eventually the manipulation and fear can become so great that a victim will often feel they deserve to be abused.
The Link Between Substance Abuse and Domestic Abuse
Substance abuse tends to bring out the worst in people; it’s no surprise that statistics are finding a direct connection between substance abuse and abusive relationships. While under the influence of drugs or alcohol a person’s ability to make clear decisions and control their impulses is severely diminished.
Alcohol is often used as a social tool to feel comfortable and release anxiety, but just like all addictive substances, it carries a darker side. Alcohol abuse is one of the leading risk factors for partner violence—a study from 1994 of domestic abuse cases that resulted in death found that more than 50 percent of the accused had been drinking at the time of the murder.
Between 40 and 60 percent of domestic violence incidents involve substance abuse and abusers will sometimes encourage their victim to use drugs as a method of control and to create dependence. Often, when a victim is under the influence of drugs they may not be able to accurately assess the level of danger they’re in. In fact, they may be afraid to report any abuse out of fear they will be arrested for using illegal drugs.
While it’s possible for both men and women to be the abuser, it’s statistically more likely that a woman will be the victim. In these cases, it is not uncommon for a woman to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with an abusive spouse. The fear for herself and her children, if they were to leave the abusive relationship, can be so crippling that she may feel that staying is the only option.
Effects of an Abusive Relationship
Life after an abusive relationship is a complex puzzle of putting yourself back together. Mental and emotional abuse can leave a person doubting their own sense of self, second-guessing every decision and living with deep shame. Victims are usually left with a general mistrust of others; it may lead to a complete aversion to dating or building relationships without a genuine connection. It’s common for many to be diagnosed with substance abuse disorders, eating disorders, depression, anxiety and PTSD.
How to Escape an Abusive Relationship
Making the decision to leave an abusive relationship is difficult—a victim may believe that their partner will change and that things will get better, but the reality is that many abusers have complex emotional and psychological problems.
When faced with the consequences of their behaviors, abusers will make promises to stop the behavior and profess intense guilt and shame, literally begging for forgiveness. They may mean what they say at the moment but when the threat of their partner leaving has subsided, they’ll return to their abusive behavior.
Worrying about what will happen if they leave, where they will go, what people might say, has led many victims to stay in abusive relationships. There are simple steps one can follow to help them disengage from their abuser and get out safely.
Create an exit plan; doing so means that you are less likely to return to your abuser for any reason. When creating an exit plan, reach out to a friend, family member or local resource for help. Establish a safe word that they’ll recognize if you’re in danger and call the police.
Set aside any money you can and keep a bag packed and hidden should you need to leave at a moment’s notice. When you’re ready to leave, take what is necessary and recognize that you can always replace clothing, jewelry or other items. Your safety is not worth risking over material goods.
Have a person that will keep you accountable for your decision. Change your phone number and seek out a restraining order. Be kind and loving to yourself; this is a time of intense emotion, so it’s okay to be scared.
Find the courage within yourself to separate from an abusive partner, reach out to support groups and family, and remember: you are not alone.
What is Service?
Service, simply put, is helping out in a group. In addiction we become so focused on ourselves that we lose the habit of considering what others need. In early sobriety, getting involved in helping others can be critical and is beneficial to anyone despite how long he or she has been sober.
Service can mean many different things; it can be a big commitment or a minor activity. Opportunities with meetings include chairing the meeting, serving as treasurer, GSR or helping with things that get the meeting running on time and smoothly. Maybe you decide to show up early for a meeting and prepare the meeting room. Or you could make the coffee.
Often, people who have consistently shown up to a meeting at their home group begin to take on bigger commitments. Treasurer, chair, co-chair and GSR are all positions that further your understanding of the way 12-Step groups work, what is required to keep a meeting going and provide you with much needed service.
Chair and co-chair run the meeting, sometimes for a month, several months, or just about any other duration. Some meetings have people chair certain days of the week, whereas meetings that meet less often may have someone in charge of the meeting for blocks of time of various lengths. The chair or co-chair is typically responsible for finding speakers, volunteers for the meeting readings and handing out chips.
The General Service Representative is another service position. The GSR represents his or her home group to district committees and area assemblies. He or she may have to travel to a local assembly and report back to his or her home group, then returns to the area assembly or district committee and votes as instructed by his or her group members.
Volunteering in the community is another form of service that may be done separately from 12-step and other recovery groups. Animal shelters, soup kitchens and other organizations are always in desperate need of volunteers.
The Self-Service in Service
The key to service is finding a position that you find rewarding and will maintain consistently. When you show up on time, every week, day or month, you are helping yourself and others. Though serving helps others, it helps you most of all; it helps you stay sober in various ways.
Having a service commitment helps keep your mind focused on the present. Too much time on your hands, especially in early recovery, can allow a person to get stuck in his or her own head. Self-pity, problems you’re dealing with and ruminating on the past can cause people to veer off the recovery path and into a downward spiral. Service helps you get away from the negativity and focus on helping others.
Having a service position provides you with responsibility and builds self-esteem. While suffering from addiction, we were directed by our using and needing more. In recovery, we learn to keep a healthy schedule and show up when we say we will. Over time, the consistency and fulfillment of responsibility gives us great cause to feel good about ourselves and see how far we have come.
Benefits of Service
While we were out drinking and using, all our time and energy went towards our addiction. We were completely focused on self; our entire world revolved around alcohol and drugs.
Now, in recovery, a new pastime must be found. Service positions within 12-step groups, as well as volunteering and charity work help you and others. Getting out and pitching in to help builds relationships and a new social network of people you can rely on.
By helping others, you may find new passions and discover things about yourself you didn’t know before. You challenge yourself to do better and be better, every time you show up and help out.
Continuing to sign up for opportunities to serve gives you an invaluable chance to remove yourself from who you used to be. You can prove to others, but most importantly to yourself, that you are not your addiction.
New morals and values develop as the improved version of yourself surfaces. You develop a new sense of self-worth and freedom.
The Importance of Service in Recovery
When we first arrive in the rooms of a 12-step fellowship, most of us simply take. Others make the coffee, chair the meetings, and show us the ropes.
As a more established member, it’s now your turn to help the newcomer. Service allows you to give back to the sober community that helped you. You can help others stay sober, while also helping yourself. You may wind up helping someone who otherwise would not have gotten the help he or she needs.
Many people hesitate to get a service commitment due to scheduling and time restrictions, but the vast majority of people have the time, if it were made a priority. Take the leap and sign up for one. You’ll discover the endless benefits of having a service commitment.
By being a strong sober community member, you also show others that recovery is possible and that the 12-steps work. You prove that it’s possible to change your life for the better.
Someone was there for you; be there for someone else.
If you are new in recovery, you may be looking for events and activities to fill up your weekends. You may even wonder if you’ll ever find something that’s fun to do without having alcohol or drugs involved. If you already go to 12-step fellowship meetings, you may or may not know that there are plenty of events besides meetings that people can attend for fun and fellowship. One of the vital components to 12-step programs is that they operate under the premise that addicts and alcoholics should never do recovery alone.
If you’re already a part of the program, or even if not, (there are no requirements for membership other than you must have the desire to stop using or to continue to not use drugs and alcohol), you should try spending a weekend at a 12-step convention. The importance of being social and stepping out of your comfort zone to be a part of the recovery community is essential to your recovery and the benefits cannot be underestimated.
12-step conventions are a place to soak-in everything recovery related, connect with new people in the recovery community, and hear the experience, strength, and hope of addicts and alcoholics that can encourage, motivate, and inspire you to keep going.
What are 12-Step Conventions?
Many 12-step fellowship programs host annual conventions. Conventions are a place where you can attend marathon meetings, workshops, dances, and more – all related to the specific 12-step fellowship like Alcoholics Anonymous, Heroin Anonymous, and more. Almost every type of 12-step fellowship has an annual convention.
Most of the time the conventions are held in venues such as hotels that will usually have a pool and local restaurants nearby. Each convention has a giant speaker meeting where everyone does a sober/clean time countdown – you will be able to stand up when you hear your clean/sober time called with the rest of those who share similar recovery lengths and celebrate your success. This meeting will have at least one speaker who will often be from another part of the world to share their experience, strength and hope with everyone at the convention.
Often times there are other events too, such as stand-up comedy hours. During the convention, you can enter in raffles to win prizes, or you can go to one of the several booths that sell 12-step literature that can help you in your recovery or memorabilia, like a convention t-shirt. Conventions are a fun affair for everyone involved and a great way to recharge your recovery batteries.
Why should I go to a convention?
There are many reasons why those in recovery see conventions as important parts of their recovery. For many, going to a 12-step convention is a way for them to recharge their batteries and get back in touch with the spiritual program that saved their lives. For others, it’s a way to reconnect with people they haven’t seen in a long time in the recovery community, people they may not see on a regular basis. It’s also a great chance to meet new people and make connections.
It’s important to know that you can choose the types of meetings and workshops that you would like to attend during the convention to ensure that you are hearing messages that are suitable for where you are in your own personal recovery. For example, if you have been in recovery for 10 years, you may not want to go to a newcomer meeting but you can take advantage of others that are more suited to you.
You can also take the convention as an opportunity to be of service to others; there are always tons of volunteer positions that need to be filled for these events which can attract hundreds, potentially thousands of people depending on which fellowship the convention is for.
How do I find Conventions? How Do I prepare?
You can find out what conventions are coming to your town, or in any surrounding areas, by visiting the specific 12-step fellowship websites or by simply asking someone at the regular fellowship meetings which you attend. Often, there are bulletin boards that you can find in fellowship halls and meeting spaces that have information about all of the upcoming conventions in your area.
Once you have chosen a convention that you would like to attend, you can usually go to the convention’s website (which you can find on the flyer) and pre-register. If you want to make an entire weekend out of the convention and stay from Friday-Sunday, you should look into hotel room reservations where the convention will be held. Usually, there are discounts especially available for those attending the convention, and you can always check the website or call the hotel for more details.
Another possibility is to bring along a friend for the weekend to spend time together and recharge your recovery batteries- you could even share a hotel room to make it more economical by splitting the costs. 12-step Fellowship conventions are always a great way to be reminded of the miracle that is recovery and the importance of sharing your recovery with others.
What is Animal Therapy?
Animal-assisted therapy, or AAT, is connected to health benefits such as pain reduction, anxiety, and depression. Individuals who find healing and happiness with therapeutic animals include people suffering from substance use disorders, veterans with PTSD, and even chemotherapy patients.
The Americans with Disabilities Act defines service dogs as animals trained to do or perform certain tasks for an individual with a disability such as the loss of a limb, deafness, blindness, diabetes, and epilepsy.
However, service animals are not limited to helping those with physical disabilities. Emotional and mental illness is something that affects millions of people every day. Animals that assist with emotional and psychological challenges are known as emotional support animals and they are beneficial to those suffering from addiction and PTSD or other mental health issues.
Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy
Dog ownership and animal therapy have numerous benefits in both the psychological and physiological realm. Animals help people in drug and alcohol addiction recovery find substitute methods for stimulating the brain.
Animal-assisted therapy, service dogs, and emotional support animals help those who are recovering from addiction rewire their addicted brain in a healthy way. On top of that, therapeutic or pet animals assist in the establishment of healthy bonds, support, loyalty, and daily routines.
Whether for a service, emotional support, or friendship alone, animals have a significant impact on the happiness of mankind. Interestingly enough, researchers have come to discover that spending time with a dog or another furry friend can speed up the healing process for a person’s mental, emotional, and physical health.
Comfort Dogs for Crisis Response-How Our Fur Friends Help Through Crisis
There are many ups and downs throughout one’s journey in recovery. Whether living with a dual-diagnosis or drug and alcohol addiction alone, we all need to feel a sense of safety. Often, feeling safe and secure comes in the form of trust and companionship. Animals offer comfort and a sense of peace, especially in moments of extreme stress.
At times, recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, as well as other mental illnesses, can become overwhelming and unbearable, making you more susceptible to the stresses of life. Dogs and other furry companions are great for diverting one’s attention from psychological pain and pressure to pleasure and friendship.
In fact, there are comfort dogs who are trained specifically for handling a crisis response. Comfort dogs help individuals in a personal crisis who feel hopeless, fearful and have extreme anxiety.
During a crisis, such as an anxiety attack, dogs replace the experience of the crisis with feelings of compassion, hope, safety, and love.
All in all, dogs and other animals are an excellent tool for self-care and psychological first aid in recovery.
How They Help Overcome Triggers and Stressors
Staying clean and sober in recovery can be challenging and feel nearly impossible. However, having a dog or access to canine-therapy can help you hold onto the hope for a brighter future all while maintaining a sense of peace.
Activists of animal therapy claim that when a person bonds and forms a relationship with a dog or other animal, he or she develops a stronger sense of self-esteem and trust. Moreover, animal therapy helps people with improving communication skills, emotional regulation, self-stabilization, and social skills.
Unconditional Love When You Need It
Animals make us feel safe and a love that’s more or less unconditional. Additionally, dogs not only make us happier and more satisfied with life, they also help us feel more socially connected. Ultimately dog therapy allows us to open up and be honest with ourselves and with other people.
Leaving a life of isolation involves putting yourself “out there,” but in a social setting, it’s normal for most humans to feel uneasy; a fear of rejection often stops many of us from experiencing new things in recovery.
Fortunately, scientists have proven that dogs do help to diminish the unhealthy need for social isolation, allowing us to feel calmer to open up to others.
Dogs for PTSD Treatment-PTSD and Animal Therapy: Getting you Through it All
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is common among people with substance use disorders, although other mental health disorders are common. Having two or more disorders that co-occur is often referred to as dual-diagnosis.
PTSD alone can cause a person to be debilitated by overwhelming anxiety, horrific flashbacks, and unwanted memories. The most common causes of the disorder are childhood abuse/trauma, violent or sexual assault, military combat, and natural disasters.
Generally, those with PTSD cope with the mental and emotional pain by abusing drugs and alcohol. In fact, it’s so common that treatment centers have now dedicated an entire specialty to those wanting to recover while also suffering from PTSD or other co-occurring disorders.
Having a PTSD service dog or engaging in animal therapy is known to be highly beneficial to those who deal with addiction alongside a mental health disorder like PTSD.
Having a dual-diagnosis and getting into recovery from addiction is challenging, but there is still hope. Service dogs have an incredible impact on healing from addiction and PTSD. Among many other characteristics, a dog’s unconditional regard, nonjudgmental stance, and their protective nature can help individuals overcome the difficulties of living with PTSD and recovering from a substance use disorder.
“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.”
Recovery is the ground that you build yourself up from after you’ve torn yourself down. It goes far beyond getting clean and sober—it’s a rebirth, the letting go of patterns and behaviors that no longer serve you and finding new tools to help you cope with the many ups and downs of life.
So, what happens when your partner isn’t willing to take the leap into recovery with you? Is it possible to sustain a healthy relationship with someone who is using drugs or alcohol? If they have the intention to join you but continue to relapse, how much time do you allow them before cutting ties?
You are here because these questions have been circling through your mind. Perhaps you’ve been keeping your partners use a secret and living in fear of the judgment you may receive from friends and family. Maybe you came here on your own in search of another way.
Identify Why You’re Staying
The first step, and really the keystone to this journey is identifying why you’re staying. Start by asking yourself, “Why am I choosing to stay in this relationship?” and then write down at least 3 responses.
Love is more than likely a top contender. They’re a good person that has lost their way is another common reason. They couldn’t survive without you or you have concerns for their wellbeing if you left. Maybe you have children with your partner and are not ready to throw in the towel. These are all good and valid reasons to stay, but more often than not these are surface reasons and something more dysfunctional is hidden underneath. When addiction is present, co-dependency is not far behind and it’s important to consider the influence it may have on your relationship.
People with co-dependency form and maintain relationships that are emotionally destructive and/or abusive, they choose partners that will never truly meet their needs and often fall in love with a person’s potential in hopes that true love will inspire them to live up to your expectations.
It’s common for one partner in a co-dependent relationship to be more dominant and demanding and the other to be submissive and always seeking to please their partner to avoid conflict. Generally, the submissive partner will have a tendency to feel like they’re not enough and can never live up to the needs of their demanding partner.
In many people’s experiences, becoming aware of the co-dependent cycle of the Drama Triangle is a real game changer. It’s the concept of changing roles throughout conflict to perpetuate a negative self-image and thus keep the cycle of mental and emotional abuse going.
The Drama Triangle
The drama triangle is a dynamic model of social interaction and conflict developed by Dr. Karpman when he was a student of Eric Berne, M.D., father of transactional analysis. Karpman and other clinicians point out that “victim, rescuer, and persecutor” refer to roles people unconsciously play or try to manipulate other people to play, not the actual circumstances in someone’s life. The three roles of the drama triangle are archetypal and easily recognizable in their extreme versions.
Victims utilize the classic “woe-is-me” attitude, taking no responsibility for their choices and feeling hopeless, dejected, and ashamed. A person in the victim role seeks out someone who will rescue them; a savior to all their problems and someone they can resent if their chosen rescuer fails or refuses to relieve them of whatever circumstance they feel oppressed by. Victims also have difficulty making decisions and understanding their self-perpetuating behaviors.
Rescuers like to be helpful—they consider their self-worth to be directly related to how valuable they make themselves to others through saving. The rescuer often casts their own needs to the side and devotes all of their time and energy to the person who needs their help. They need victims to help and often use guilt to keep their victim’s dependent on them. Rescuers are frequently overworked, and deeply resentful at times.
Persecutors point fingers, often using sayings such as, “Look what you made me do!” or “It’s all your fault!” They are bullies and often use a person’s shortcomings as ammunition to assert their status above the victim. They are rarely vulnerable and are deeply afraid of being victimized themselves; they rarely offer a solution and use blame and resentment to manipulate others.
Here is an example: Sally is dating Brad and they’ve been going steady for a few years now. Sally is new to recovery and has put down the drugs, but still clings on to hope that Brad will get clean. Sally starts finding empty drug bags in Brad’s pockets while washing clothes.
She confronts Brad and persecutes him for lying to her. Brad plays the victim and admits he has been struggling. He blames his traumatic childhood and stressful living situation. Sally then feels an intense desire to save Brad, and so she invites him to go to a support meeting later that night. Brad agrees to go and never shows up.
Sally then goes looking for Brad and finds him at his friend’s house. She is upset and makes a scene in front of everyone. Brad becomes upset because she crossed the line and then blames her for his behavior. He cites her traumatic childhood and victimizes Sally, implying that she is damaged and says she’s lucky he is willing to put up with her, implying that he is her savior.
In this example, both Sally and Brad transitioned into all 3 roles to manipulate each other and furthered the co-dependent cycle they’re both engaged in.
Accepting that You Can’t Save Your Partner
Following the previous example, Sally responds with strong emotions because Brad lied to her; he gave her hope that he was changing and then he made the choice to visit with his friends rather than make a change toward getting clean. At this point, Brad has made his choice clear, and there is nothing Sally can say or do to change his mind.
Sally may still try and convince him, and may still believe that she can save him or that her love for him will be enough to bring him out of the depths of his addiction. The hardest part of being in this situation is coming to realize that there is nothing more you can do. If your loved one wanted treatment, they would be taking opportunities to do so.
With addiction, you must look at a person’s pattern of behavior instead of the words that come out of their mouths. If they promise to do something and then follow through with it, they are telling you, with their actions, they are ready to change. However, if they continue to let you down, such as making commitments to change and then being unreliable and are stringing you along with the hope of better days, then it’s time to consider leaving.
Protecting Yourself Against Relapse
For your own safety, please consider the following tips to prevent relapse.
• Regularly attend a support group of your choosing
• Have a safe support figure, someone you can be completely honest with
• Identify your relapse triggers and be aware of them
• Take positive action when you are triggered
• Seek out professional counseling services
• Have an exit plan should you decide to leave the relationship
Setting clear boundaries in your relationship will be the difference between your partner making a positive change and enabling their addiction. Enabling is when you feel the negative consequences of their addiction. The more you do for them the longer they will use.
Remove any and all ways that you support their addiction—don’t lie for them or otherwise cover up their behavior and don’t allow them in your home if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
An addicted individual will seek out help when they have reached their bottom. By offering financial bailouts, rides, and allowing them to get away with using keeps your partner from reaching a point where they are ready to change.
Where to Turn to for Help
Hope for your partner is found by seeking out a reputable addiction treatment center and traveling outside of your partners home state if possible. Look into a center that can address any underlying causes and conditions to using like depression, anxiety, or PTSD, and remember: hope for the best for them, but be prepared to cut them out if they are damaging to your recovery.
Breaking the Cycle
Forgiveness is freeing, and you deserve to be free and forgive yourself. Everyone in recovery has dealt with guilt and shame and understanding the two are important in recovery. The importance of these two emotions centers in the discomfort they lend, which motivates us to adhere to the value system to which we prescribe.
As humans, we have a moral code taught from day one, which helps society function. Some believe morals and values are divinely inspired, but regardless of your view of their origin, these guidelines allow millions of people to live peacefully side by side.
First, the two concepts must be distinguished from each other. The two definitions are as follows:
Guilt: the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime.
Shame: a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
Guilt means you have done something wrong, whereas shame is the emotional state that arises from the knowledge of one’s own guilt.
Shame can continue indefinitely if not addressed and chronic negativity is nothing but destructive. Moving forward becomes especially difficult in an atmosphere of shame, as the intense negative state can lead people to behave in such a way that creates more guilt, and thus, more shame.
In order to overcome this, the relationship between guilt and shame should be determined. For instance, when I steal candy from the corner market, I feel bad. This example may be simplistic, however other instances that commonly arise may not be as obvious.
Maybe you’re procrastinating at work or with school or eating things that make you feel terrible. Whatever the case may be, finding the source of shame is the first step to stopping the cycle.
The Importance of Learning to Forgive Yourself
If you never forgive yourself, the weight of all one’s mistakes over a lifetime is enough to break anyone. We all make mistakes, the key is not to hate or shame yourself for mistakes made, but instead to learn from the past and use that knowledge in the present and future.
Successful and healthy people don’t destroy themselves every time they make a mistake. Instead, they learn to work through the situation while continuing to move forward.
Say, you bomb a test, for example. Don’t beat yourself up or call yourself names like “stupid.” Instead, realize that everyone does badly on a test at times and find where you misunderstood the material and plan a better study schedule before the next test.
The critical component is that you forgive yourself for the bad grade and move forward. Staying in the past will not make anything better. On the contrary, remaining stuck in past experiences where you were not the person you aim to be will create feelings of insecurity and low self-worth.
Negative mental states, such as low self-worth or self-esteem, are ingredients for disaster. Such negativity leads to relapse and other self-destructive behaviors that, in turn, create more guilt and shame. The cycle must stop.
Steps to Forgiving Yourself
1. Write it out
Writing is a fantastic therapeutic tool. In fact, the 12-steps specify that resentments and such must be written because thoughts swimming in our heads can spin out of control. Putting thoughts on paper gives your mind a rest and allows you to let go of whatever it is that is bothering you. Instead of having to constantly keep the thought present so it is not forgotten, simply jot it down.
Write down why you are upset, your feelings, and anything else that comes to mind. Writing is expressive and provides much-needed relief. Once you have written everything down you will find that your mind is far more peaceful and clear than before you started.
2. Remember you can’t change the past, but you can take control of your present and future.
The past is gone. It’s that simple. You can learn from the past, but you cannot change it. The good news is that the present and future are unwritten stories that you control. You can do anything you want if you work for it. Who will you be in 5 years? Challenge yourself to see the innumerable possibilities.
3. Have compassion and love for past self.
Nobody is perfect. You have made mistakes, true, but you’re only human and cannot expect yourself to live a life free from mistakes and missteps. The only thing to do now is to have compassion for yourself, as you would have for a dear friend who has made mistakes.
4. Recognize morals and values now and act on them.
Perhaps you’ve violated your own morals and values in the past. Again, no one is perfect. What matters is that you recognize those morals and values now and adhere to them to the best of your ability.
Maybe you stole while you were using. Now, you recognize that stealing is wrong and hurtful. From now on don’t steal and forgive yourself for your past mistakes and transgressions.
5. Remember every day is a new start.
Every day is a new beginning and that it’s never too late to change or start over. Staying in the past is a conscious choice and not a very advisable one. Realize that today you can be the best version of yourself.
6. Learn to love the person you have become.
You wouldn’t be the person you are now without everything that has happened up until this point. As difficult as the past has been, it has made you who you are today and that is a great thing!
What to Ask (and Not to Ask) Your Loved One in Recovery
Millions of Americans are affected by addiction every year; addiction is a tricky disease, and it doesn’t discriminate, causing heartbreak and hurt for so many families and friends. It’s a fact of life that most of us will encounter addiction at some point, whether it’s our family or friend. This is a difficult journey to navigate for everyone involved, and it’s important to go into such a challenge with an open mind and willingness to listen and love.
If you are facing this situation, you’ll want to know how to best talk to a recovering addict. There are some things you should say and ask, while there are some questions you should avoid bringing up. Although this can be a tricky time for everyone, as emotions—such as stress, frustration and disappointment run high—it’s important to do your best to communicate in a healthy and open way, which will benefit both parties.
If you’re struggling with this scenario and you’re not sure where to start, take a look at some of these tips and suggestions on how to successfully communicate with an addict in recovery.
ABTRS wants to help you and your addicted loved one communicate better as your relationship becomes stronger and healthier.
What can you ask and not to ask your addicted loved one while they are in recovery without causing a relapse?
What Addicts in Recovery Really Need: Positive Attitudes & Support Group Guidance
It’s absolutely essential to rely on positive thoughts and encouragement when talking to those who have faced drug addiction. It’s crucial that loved ones know what to ask and what not to talk about because this knowledge will empower them to serve as the best possible support system. If you don’t know how to talk to someone about their drug addiction, then you may find yourself at a loss for words or saying the wrong thing.
ABTRS understands your worry and wants to help you through this.
In order to succeed in sobriety and achieve a better, happier and healthier lifestyle, a recovering addict will need a lot of resources, not only at their rehabilitation center but also within their group of family and friends. This is especially true for those who are parents or in a romantic relationship.
Oftentimes, partners and spouses have to cope with intense feelings of worry, distrust, anxiety and anger while the recovering patients are more likely to be striving for happiness and hope. This means that family and friends need to work through their feelings before talking or visiting their loved one because they need a pathway for clear communication.
With thoughtful support and careful conversations, recovering addicts can unlock the tools they need to remain dedicated and determined to get better and eliminate their drug and alcohol-related demons for good. In many cases, family and friends of addicts can benefit greatly from participating in support groups, where they can learn more about the guidelines for safe and healthy communication during this time, as well as get the chance to talk openly about what’s on their minds.
What Can You Ask Your Addicted Loved One About Their Recovery from Drugs & Alcohol?
One thing to remember is that you may not be able to have the same kind of conversations that you had when your loved one wasn’t in rehab. Instead, when it comes to speaking to this person, make sure you remember to be sensitive and straightforward.
Comfortable Topics that are Trigger Free: One of the top suggestions for those wondering how to talk to a drug addict is to ask the recovering person what they feel comfortable about, and what topics they would rather avoid. Some people may feel better if they address their situation head-on, while others may prefer to talk about other things and just enjoy their time with family and friends.
During your loved one’s recovery, It’s a good idea to ask questions such as “How are you feeling?” and “What do you need?” The key is having honest and healthy conversations and letting loved ones know that they can come to you for support and guidance.
It’s perfectly fine to ask for suggestions as to how you can best help. Be upfront about the fact that you’re going to be there for the long run, and you will be by their side as they strive to get better. It’s beneficial if you set up boundaries and expectations for communication and contact.
Stand by Your Word & Stick to Your Boundaries: If you promise to be available 24/7 for your loved one, then you should stand by your words. If you don’t feel like that’s possible, then set up some other expectations instead, such as that you’ll visit once a week or call three times a week. Do your best to stick to this schedule so you can provide some stability to your loved one during this difficult time.
Providing Constructive Feedback: Other ideas to keep in mind is that you can ask for permission to provide feedback on the recovery process. Once you have the go-ahead, you can let your loved one know how proud you are of them and what differences you’re noticing in their behavior and health.
This subtle yet meaningful encouragement can make a huge difference and give people the motivation and momentum to continue with the recovery process and stick to their sobriety. As part of this new chapter, you should also provide supportive and constructive suggestions and comments about room for improvement, so you can help the person achieve more and stay on the right track to a better future.
Let Them be in Control of Their Journey in Recovery: Also, you should remind the person that they are in control of their journey and their destiny. You can be there to help them as much as you can and offer that much-needed and appreciated love and guidance, but your loved one needs to make the right choices to continue recovering and truly take care of themselves.
What Does Their Support System Look Like: Talk to them about their other support systems and resources, such as counselors, life coaches and doctors. It’s great to give these people a chance to speak openly about their experience, and how they’re coping with all of life’s changes. Make sure you bring up healthy choices and lifestyles, such as getting enough sleep at night, eating a balanced diet and participating in safe and social activities that promote improved mental and emotional health.
Avoiding Topics that Cause Relapse: What Not to Ask Your Recovering Addict
You want to keep your conversations with a recovering loved one in a respectful, caring and productive light. That means there are some things you shouldn’t say in order to maintain a good relationship and support, rather than hinder, their recovery journey.
It’s not necessarily natural to know exactly how to talk to an addict, but if you want to be close to your loved one and continue to help them throughout their recovery, then you’ll need to watch what you say and focus on positivity, not negativity.
Avoid Details About Active Addiction: Rather than asking about the details of their drug addiction, ask questions about their other interests and passions. It’s important to remember that drug or alcohol dependence doesn’t make up an entire person, and there’s much more to every individual than just addiction. That’s why, rather than asking them about where they got the drugs and who they did them with, you should bring up more promising areas such as sports they like, subjects they enjoy studying or pastimes they participate in. Addiction should not be what defines them as an individual, and you should be careful to ask questions and bring up topics that reflect such a belief.
Traumatic or Shocking Experiences: Another talking point to stay away from is your surprise or shock they suffer from addiction. Every newfound sober person is extremely susceptible to triggers, and hearing something like “You don’t look or seem like an addict,” isn’t helpful.
Everybody has a different experience, and addiction doesn’t discriminate based on race, gender or socioeconomic status. Even the most put-together, professional and successful people can fall into the trap of drug and alcohol abuse and saying statements like this just promotes ignorance and misunderstandings rather than support and encouragement.
Similarly, try to shy away from extremely personal and difficult topics like overdoses, moments of clarity and hitting rock bottom. When a former addict is trying to move forward and put their addiction behind them, the last thing they need is to be reminded of their darkest days. Such a question may bring up detrimental feelings surrounding spirituality, self-awareness and shame, which could really set your loved one back rather than put them forward in the recovering process.
Respecting Their Boundaries to Remain Abstinent: In addition, asking questions about one’s ability to still drink alcohol is also a no-go area. Addiction can easily span multiple substances, and just because an individual may have become dependent on heroin or painkillers, doesn’t mean they won’t have an adverse reaction or become addicted to alcohol. Using alcohol is not the right kind of topic to be talking about with a former drug addict.
Educate yourself About Addiction as a Disease Before You Ask: Lastly, it’s in the best interests of you and your loved one to avoid asking a question like “How do you know you’re an alcoholic/addict?” While you may be curious, this isn’t a good time to be asking such questions. Not only will you seem ignorant, but it may also seem like you’re challenging the person’s self-judgment.
Instead, you should try to educate yourself about the recovery process and the multi-faceted disease that is addiction. This way, you’ll be able to make a big difference in your loved one’s recovery process, and your relationship with them will reap the benefits.
Make your marriage, partnership, friendship or familial bond a priority by doing your best to understand the addiction journey and help your loved one any way you can, including through positive communication. You’ll be amazed at the difference this will make!
The Negative Effects of Stress and Isolation
Human beings are social animals; we are designed to live and work with others. Without a community, individuals are prone to stress associated with isolation as the innate need for human connection is deprived.
Stress can negatively affect the body, mind, feelings, and behavior. Isolation causes a specific type of stress that is more serious than just a bad mood. With no one to communicate with, we are stuck with a dialogue with ourselves. The more stressed we become, the more negative and hurtful the self-dialogue can become.
With constant isolation, our mind can begin to play tricks on us. Our feelings turn into a catalyst of torture and, with such hardship, our behavior can transform completely. With altered behavior, the common trend is that people seem to lean toward self-destructive actions that contribute to the negative spiral.
In addition to the distress isolation causes, unchecked stress can lead to health problems. Our bodies respond to stress by releasing stress hormones, which help in short-term situations—this is the fight, flight or flee response that helps us react when our lives are in danger. For example: we see a tiger, we run, thus prolonging our life. However, the stress response is designed only for short-term situations like this. After the trigger has moved on, the stress disappears.
In the case of long-term stress, the consistent presence of stress hormones in the body slowly eats at the body and mind like an acid. The constant heightened responses can cause extreme stress, panic attacks, and can generally make a person feel like the world is a hostile and lonely place.
When a person lives in constant anxiety, heightened by the biological processes intended for short-term situations, we experience considerable misery and torment. Our biological nature is intended to include times of relaxation and relief from such intense situations. Without this relief, a person can spiral into a state of tortured anxiety.
Stress and Drug Addiction
Everyone experiences stress differently. Where one person might recognize the stress, attempt to identify the source and work toward dissolving the root cause, others try to escape.
Not all stress can be eliminated, however. A healthy way to manage such stress is to accept its existence and attempt to use it in a positive way. For example: perhaps you’re in a stressful work situation. One way to handle such a situation is to address the stress head on. If your boss is asking you to complete a difficult project quickly, communicate your concerns to your boss then use the assignment’s difficulty as motivation to work hard. But this requires quite a bit of healthy coping skills and self-awareness.
More commonly, people under intense or chronic stress try to escape. However, when the stress is rooted in your own biology or your own way of looking at the world, wherever you go, stress will follow.
When stress is constant and no matter what you do, no relief can be found, the tendency to self-medicate becomes commonplace. Having a drink after a stressful day may not seem bad, but the insidious nature of relying on a mood or mind-altering substance to relieve stress is problematic.
Relying on substances for relief can create a vicious cycle of substance abuse with the ever-increasing difficult life circumstances.
Isolation and Its Link to Addiction
Isolation is stressful, and stress is strongly linked to addiction. Chronic stress causes people to seek relief from sources they would not usually consider. Chronic stress has been linked to many health problems, including blood pressure issues, heart attacks, depression and substance abuse disorders.
When a person uses a substance to alleviate stress, a cycle of abuse often begins. The person in distress reaches for a substance such as alcohol or prescription pills, however the effects of such substances causes even more stress on the body and mind. This begins the cycle of using for relief, then feeling stressed due to the effects of the substance, causing you to use more.
Though stress in general can instigate and perpetuate this cycle, isolation is unique in its ability to drastically increase the level of dysfunction in an individual’s life.
First, being isolated is sad; it’s that simple. Without the love and support of others that we require, we tend to dive into a mixture of depression and anxiety.
Additionally, isolation removes positive influences that come with social situations and interactions. This is especially dangerous when someone abuses substances and isolates. Basically, the individual is stuck in their own negative thoughts and emotions without having anyone around to challenge their destructive behavior or negative downward cycle.
Isolation causes stress that promotes using substances to feel better, then, through the lack of outside influence, perpetuates one’s using. On top of this, isolation may make it difficult to see any help and support that’s available.
How to Better Manage Stress and Feelings of Isolation
Healthy stress management is a fundamental necessity in life. Everyone encounters stress on a daily basis—from traffic to lines at the grocery to personal relationships and bigger issues like politics and terrorism. However, we simply cannot fall apart at every instance of stress, and neither can we hide from the world and remain healthy.
Ways to healthfully cope with stress are numerous and diverse. There’s no “one size fits all” way to handle stress that is best. You have to find what works for you.
Mindfulness activities are one great way to manage stress. Mindfulness aims at keeping you grounded and aware in the moment—not fretting about yesterday or worrying about tomorrow.
Physical exercise is critical for stress management and a healthy lifestyle. Our bodies were meant to move; however, most people don’t get nearly the kind of exercise needed to keep major organs healthy. Adding a regular exercise routine to your schedule can drastically improve mood, clarity and stress level.
A healthy diet is equally imperative for stress management and health. Just a few hundred years ago the average diet consisted of nearly no sugar and no processed foods. Sugar was consumed maybe a few times a year and processed foods simply didn’t exist.
Today, however, finding healthy options on a full schedule can be challenging. Give your body the food is was designed to eat—fruits, vegetables, and other natural products.
Time management is one of the best life skills you can have. Learning to manage your time so that you can get done what you need to get done and have time for what you want to do is a skill that will change your life. Managing your time so that stress is taken care of in an efficient manner.
When stress has become too great and you don’t know how to handle it, reach out to the many resources for help and support. Counselors and therapists are a great source of information and guidance.
Depending on the source of your stress you may feel it more necessary to speak with a doctor, your boss or a friend. Whatever the case, do not dwell in stress—it’s consequences are serious, and you deserve to live a happy and healthy life.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is one of the most important aspects of life—every living thing requires some form of self-care and people are no exception. In addiction many people become accustomed to ignoring basic human needs. Looking for and using more drugs or alcohol takes up so much time and energy that there is nothing left to care for yourself.
Self-care is simply the maintenance of self and making sure you’re taken care of so that you can do the things you need to do. Self-care has several components, including caring for yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and socially.
Going for a jog, getting enough sleep, and making time for friends are all ways to promote positive self-care. Some self-care tasks are more difficult than others, however with time and practice, things will start to fall into place.
Why is it Important?
If we don’t take care of ourselves, no one will; we are responsible for our own well-being. This means we must learn healthy self-care techniques in order to obtain or maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Overworking is a common problem today. Many people have relationship and health problems related to too much work and too little healthy habits. If you don’t take time for yourself, you can quickly become over-stressed, exhausted, disillusioned and disinterested in life.
Ever had a friend who needed a favor or to talk through something, but you were just too busy or tired to help? It happens all the time. When we don’t take care of ourselves we have nothing to give others who may need our help.
For those in recovery, self-care is especially important. Being worn down, isolated from a busy schedule or continuing with unhealthy habits can all decrease your quality of life. When your quality of life is down, and you’re exhausted and stressed, the probability of relapse increases exponentially.
Types of Self-Care
There are several types of self-care; each is as important as the others and has its own requirements.
Physical self-care means you eat well, get enough sleep and eat a balanced diet, though in today’s hectic lifestyle, these can be difficult. Nevertheless, if you generally check in with your body and give it what it needs, you should be alright. If you notice that you feel overly stressed or fatigued, you may need to revisit your physical needs and adjust your schedule.
Emotional self-care means you are true to yourself. Emotions are not things you can control, but with time and effort, you can manage them in a healthy manner. Expressing your emotions is key to your overall emotional health. Creative outlets can help to relax and process emotions in an effective and healthy way, plus it can mean time for self which is important. Keep a journal, set boundaries, speak up when something is bothering you and don’t be afraid to just walk away if things become overwhelming.
Spiritual self-care can be one of the more difficult areas of life to cultivate and learn. Most people in early recovery are disconnected from spirituality. A spiritual connection must be created, accessed and maintained for it to benefit us on a daily basis. Meditation and prayer are two great ways to maintain a spiritual connection.
Mental self-care is just as important as all others. Remember: you are not a machine. As a human being you need stimulus and relaxation. Often people try to work too hard in some areas of their life when they enter recovery in an attempt to make up for the past. Remember that you deserve kindness and don’t be afraid to take time to relax.
Last, but not least, social self-care involves keeping one of the most fundamental human needs satisfied. We are social creatures and without the love and support of friends tend to self-destruct. Take time out of your busy schedule for friends and loved ones; go to a movie or meet for coffee and talk about your day.
Often, one action will provide you with several types of self-care. For example, meeting friends for dinner provides you with social, mental, emotional and physical self-care. The fulfillment of these needs doesn’t need to be complicated or overwhelming, after all, moderation in all things tends to be the healthier option.
Self-Care and Its Correlation to Self-Love
Taking care of yourself produces a better you. When you’re functioning at your best level, your sense of self-worth inevitably increases. When you have showed up and helped out consistently, how can you not be proud of yourself and your progress?
Self-care leads to increased self-esteem and self-love, both of which are important for a happy and healthy future. So often are we hard on ourselves, especially in early recovery. However, we must take a moment and appreciate the good qualities of ourselves—no one is void of positive attributes.
When you take the time, you may just learn more about yourself. You might find that you really enjoy a certain pastime or exercise habit.
Taking care of oneself is not selfish or self-centered; taking care of oneself is a healthy and necessary aspect of life. Taking care of yourself brings happiness and you deserve to be happy!