stress & anxiety relief

5 Easy Steps to Train the Addictive Brain For JOY

Joy training for the addictive brain? Yes, it’s possible I’m happy to say. I was at my brother Lee’s 12 Step N.A. meeting when he got his 1 year chip. Yeah Lee!!  There were 100 people in the room celebrating each other for their hard work to stay sober from 1 year to 28 years.  It was amazing to see and feel the hope, love and JOY in the room.

Addicts and those of us in the addiction field know that negativity, stress and fear are part of addiction and that recovery includes good coping skills.

Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness says that the brain’s thinking naturally skews to the negative. “The brain is velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive.”

The brain has a “negativity bias” and that’s good for survival.  Those happy, joyful, la la people apparently didn’t make it because they didn’t see and respond to the dangers of life.

BUT, this negativity bias makes it harder to find JOY in our adult lives. Not kids – kids ARE happy for the most part. It’s sad to say, but we grown ups have to WORK at JOY.

Twenty-five years ago I went on a quest for JOY when I recognized my own tendency to react to stress, be run by anxiety and negativity. That led me to The Course In Miracles. Another time.

The other truism is that “what fires together, wires together.” To counter the natural negativity of the brain and CREATE more JOY it takes practice, practice, practice.

Here’s a simple practice that if you’ll do over the next 30 days will lower stress and anxiety and increase happiness. (*Abbreviated from Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson)

Take In The Good

1)   Notice what you’re thinking or feeling without changing anything. Notice your body. Breathe and begin to relax.

2)   Think about a strength you have or recognize protections such as a friend nearby. Notice that you’re all right, right now.

3)   Bring to mind one or more things you’re grateful for or glad about. Think about something that makes you happy.

4)   Think about one or more people (or a pet) who care about you. Feel appreciated, liked or loved. Be aware of your own warmth and caring for others.

5)   Let this sense of peace or contentment weave together and rest. Imagine moving through your day with this sense.

Practice for 30 days a 3 or 4 times a day for 20-30 seconds at a time.  Brain research shows that this type of practice counters the negativity bias of the brain and increases feelings of contentment, peace – even JOY.

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Lynn Telford-Sahl, M.A. Psychology, Certified Addiction Counselor, National Speaker & Author of Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom, writes the blog for addictionmodesto.com from her 25 years experience and research in the addiction field. 

Wealth Addicts: Is There Ever Enough Money?

How much money is enough? There's never enough! If I ask people how much money will make them happy many say: "Just MORE." How much more? They don't know. The quest for more money without a specific number or goal keeps us acting like hamsters on the wheel - running, running, running toward MORE and often away from meaning, purpose and happiness.

Sam Polk, author of the NY Times article, "For the Love of Money", is a former hedge-fund trader whose last bonus was $3.6 million and it wasn't enough. Sam grew up with little, but in his new career cwas soon making millions. Over the years, his goal was to make a billion dollars and he truthfully admits money meant power. Sam says his "wealth addicted" co-workers are like "alcoholics driving drunk and are responsible for the ever widening rift between rich and poor." Remember McDonalds C.E.O., Don Thompson, with an 8.5 million bonus and a brochure for his workers about how to survive on low wages? Addiction anyone? (NY Times Jan 19, 2014)

Sam's awakening came through his bosses and co-workers who were endlessly greedy and never satisfied. He says we are letting money addiction drive too much of our society. Sam, was lucky because as a recovering addict he recognized the signs of addiction - always looking for the next high, doing whatever it takes to get that high - including lying, cheating, stealing, denial of how your behavior is affecting yourself or others, emotional numbness, emotional isolation. 

I think the difference between wealth addicts and the average American, besides the money, is that wealth addicts are power seekers and most middle-class Americans are happiness seekers. Money does provide power - especially in large amounts, but it can't provide happiness.  "Money can bring pleasure, but it will never provide JOY." Robert Holden, of Happiness Now.

Most of us aren't wealth addicts. But be aware of that push to always want MORE money. My advice is to figure out how much money is enough for you. My enough number is $80,000 a year. Harvard Researchers and authors of Happy Money state that after $75,000 more money does not increase happiness - AT ALL!!

Lynn Telford-Sahl, M.A. Psychology, Certified Addiction Counselor, Certified Money Coach, author of Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom, National Speaker. Lynn has a private practice in Modesto, CA and specializes in treating addiction, anxiety, co-dependency and family addictive concerns. As a Certified Money Coach she works to identify top money challenges and create positive strategies to move forward.  

 

 

Tips to Handle Holiday Stress, Anxiety & Depression for Addicts & Alcoholics

Holiday stress, anxiety and depression are relapse triggers for the newly sober and just plain stressful for recovering folks depending on the health and sanity of your family.

While the Holidays can be a fun, family time, for many, they are also a sad, depressing, no family time.  See picture - is this your family?  Perhaps - but remember we can all pose for a picture...

Family celebrations can also be stressful if you're newly sober and there's alcohol around. Or, stressful and anxiety provoking because of family "stuff" - you know - Susie always comes late to dinner and Mom makes excuses for her. Sam's kids get the best presents - obviously mom and dad like them better. Our head tapes can get very active during the Holidays.

Here are some suggestions to keep you sane and healthy during the Holidays: 

1) Think about what kind of Christmas Holiday you'd like to have. Then make decisions about whether you'll be staying home in your cozy little place or venturing out to parents or other family. Really, you have a right to choose where you want to be for the holiday, and yes, sometimes that creates a wave of upset with family. However, in my experience, they are able to move past it with time.

2) If you're going into a Holiday celebration that's stressful or anxiety producing, consider setting a time limit and letting folks know ahead of time.  "I'm looking forward to being with you all and we'll need to leave by 7 p.m. - or whatever).  This allows you to feel you have some control and and will cut down on anxiety.

3) For Family Gatherings:  

If you're at a family gathering or office party and you're feeling uncomfortable or anxious ask yourself what's up - what's pushing your buttons - take a breath (you don't have to solve it, just become aware) and then decide if you want to stay or not.  If not, find the host, thank them for the party and gently excuse yourself. You don't have to give a reason. "Thank you so much for the party. I'm going to need to get going." (If you need to make up an excuse to politely leave - just say I have to get home to take care of my pet, grandmother, ...)

4) Attend more 12 Step Meetings during the Holidays if you have been going. 12 Step is still the MOST effective treatment approach for addiction because the commaraderie replaces the isolation, the meetings give you a safe place to go instead of drinking or using, and as you build friendships and connections you build trust - in the group and in yourself to stay sober.  

5) If you haven't tried 12 Step meetings. Do.  See #4 above.

6) For anxiety - breathe - really - take 10 breaths - here's a FREE MP3 that shows you how. Also see Lucinda Bassett's work http://tinyurl.com/nmsudo8  Midwest Center for Anxiety & Depression

7) For depression the path out is with medication for some - talk to your doctor - and by looking at the quality of your thoughts. Part of the illness around addiction are the negative thoughts that generate depression. Resources:  Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom and Happy for No Reason Marci Shimoff.

Dr. Drew Pinsky: Not Responsible for "Celebrity" Deaths?

Is Dr. Drew Pinsky is responsible for the celebrity death of Mindy McCready, a 37-year-old country singer who appeared on his "Celebrity Rehab" television show?* No, not fully, but certainly he is partiaily responsible. Like Dr. Phil who has clients on TV for entertainment value, so does Dr. Drew. Dr. Pinsky says he hasn't seen Ms. McCready in years so he's not responsible. I get it. Am I responsible for a client of mine who leaves counseling and later starts using again? I'm not legally responsible, but in my heart it feels different. That heart-ache is part caring, part over-responsibility and part helplessness about the nature of addiction, treatment and recovery. I imagine Dr. Drew has similar feelings.

What's the real problem Dr. Drew is faced with? A national television show means it's in the spotlight.The spotlight shines very brightly on the good and the bad and the ugly.That's what makes these types of reality shows popular. People love the drama and the trauma. But while dating shows can cause hurt and pain, addiction is a volatile, dangerous subject, a risky subject to address on national television. People die from the disease of addiction every day. (approximately 40,000 from alcohol in 2010 alone). That's not Dr. Drew's fault, it's the collective responsibility of the medical and therapeutic community that our treatment approaches haven't changed much over the last 30 years. 

So what's a celebrity Reality Show Star like Dr. Drew to do? Keep talking about addiction. Keep talking about the reality of what it takes for people to get and stay sober. Continue talking about the fact alcoholism and addiction are diseases that need to be treated, not judged as a morality issue. Keep talking about the abysmal recovery rates and the lack of prevention, early education and lack of money for treatment options for poor and middle-class folks with no insurance. Talk about the effective medications now available like Vivitrol, a once a month injection that cuts the high of alcohol (like antabuse) and reduces cravings. Use the platform and use it to help educate and move us toward better treatment. Using the limelight to educate as well as entertain is Dr. Drew's responsibility.

 

 

*NY Times article "Where Rehab TV Meets Reality" June 9, 2013

 

 

 

Americans Addicted to Legal Drugs - Vicidin Anyone?

Americans are addicted to legal drugs and by drugs I mean pharmaceutical drugs. Pharmaceutical companies are the most profitable industry in the world. Marcia Angell, M.D. first woman editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine reports that in 2002 the $35.9 billion the top drug companies earned were greater than the profits of the other 490 Fortune 500 companies combined.
In my city of Modesto, California, (and two other small cities close by) there are 31 Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid pharmacies. This doesn’t count all the pharmacies within grocery stores, Target or Walmart. Many of these have been build in the last few years.

In 1997 the FDA reversed it’s policy on direct-to-consumer advertising. At that time, 220 million a year was spent by pharmaceutical companies on advertising. In 2002, the amount was 2.8 billion. Big pharma spends twice as much on advertising as research and development and it’s working.

Perhaps we’re buying so many more prescription drugs because we’re being brainwashed to believe we need what they’re selling. “Tv advertising, works by mobilizing the appeal of group morale. "By showing you pictures of beautiful, happy people, they persuade you that everyone else in the world is having a terrific time, only you are left out. Want to stop being a lonely loser? Join them -- just tune into this, or buy that,” says Bill Manville, ex advertising copywriter for Grey Advertising and now NY Daily News columnist.

Pharmaceutical ads subtly increase fear and worry about medical conditions. For example, statins were first prescribed only to those with heart problems. Now, they’re routinely prescribed for anyone with high cholesterol. (Click here for a guided imagery stress/anxiety relieving free download)

As an addiction specialist for more than 25 years I understand and support the benefits of medications for the right reasons. I’ve seen suicidal clients survive because of the anti-depressant they were taking. I’ve also seen clients so over-medicated they were zombies. Somewhere there’s a healthy meeting place between personal responsibility, the medicine now available and all the seductive advertising. The good news is that many of us are looking for ways to combine traditional with non-traditional medicine. The National Center for Complimentary & Alternative Medicine states that consumers spend 33.9 billion out of pocket on complimentary and alternative therapies.

Often people with real pain slip into addiction over time. I have a cousin, he's a professional, he has good family support. A few years ago he developed residual pain in his face from a medical condition. He just went into treatment for a big problem with vicidin and oxycontin. I know how severe this problem can be.

If you're struggling with an addiction or dependence to oxycontin, vicidin or other drugs of this type, there is help available.  Check out AA or NA groups. Try 6 before you decide you don't "like" them - after all, in order for something to change you will have to do things differently.  There's also plenty of online support these days.

Look for 1 thing each meeting that you can take and use for yourself. The tendency for the mind is to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but a focus on 1 positive thing you can take for yourself is good.  Also, see a physician, or a treatment program in your area, and get help for withdrawal symptoms. It can be very dangerous to stop taking these types of medications cold turkey. One step a a time.