Jennifer K.– Thrive Nassau Volunteer
Let us begin with the definition of meditation. Everyone has their own definition of meditation. If you tried you could probably find 200 different meanings of what meditation is to you and to 200 different people. For example, for me meditation is connecting my body with my breath and mind to a place where I feel centered and present. Let’s face it not though, not everyone has an easy time with sitting still or some struggle with concentrating, some just don’t have the time or patience.
Alternatively, many of those that cannot find relief with traditional meditation will find relief with movement meditation. Movement meditation uses the movement of our bodies to help quiet our minds. The movement of our muscles, our extremities in combination with our controlled breathing allows us to expel excess energy that we incur just from everyday stressors in life. Releasing the left-over tension in our bodies actually help us to focus easier.
Exercise is a great form of movement meditation. A perfect example of this is the practice yoga. Yoga aligns itself particularly well because of the close association with breathing and movement of the body. Although, any movement can be incorporated; even running, swimming or cycling.
The main goal is to focus on quieting our minds, controlling our breathing and becoming present as we move our bodies. As time progresses and you learn to control your thoughts easier you feel calmer and more present. Like regular meditation you will not only reap the benefits of a more pleasant well-being but you will also have physical rewards from the act of moving. You will start to feel happier not just after your workouts. Also, you will begin to become more watchful and conscience of your thoughts. Especially those that are not helpful and or toxic.
The holiday season can often leave you feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, and depleted. It is important to take care of yourself and your recovery in order to avoid many of the stressors that can come with the holidays.
In recovery, I’ve learned different ways to alleviate stress and anxiety. I’ve tried different tools and practices for stress management and I use the ones that work for me. There is no one pathway, no one size fits all approach. Just as there are multiple pathways to recovery and some of them didn’t work for me, I was open minded to trying and exploring new things in order to find what works best for me.
FIVE TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES FOR ELIMINATING STRESS AND STAYING CLEAN & SOBER DURING THE HOLIDAYS
At THRIVE, we have a Meditation group that meets every Tuesday and Thursday at 12pm, and a meeting called “Gratitude in Recovery” that meets every Monday at 1pm. Both meetings are available in person and on Zoom. Please visit www.thriveli.org to view our calendar of events, and to learn more about our groups and services. If you need help or support, you can always reach out to THRIVE.
Lucille Marchica, Person in Long-Term Recovery, CRPA-Provisional, THRIVE Nassau Volunteer
Hi everyone, it’s Erin again! Has the pandemic effected your motivation to want to live a healthy lifestyle? How do you work out and stay active? I want to share with you some of my healthy lifestyle journey and where I am at today with motivation, during these times of uncertainty.
Towards the end of my drinking career I had gained a lot of weight in a short period of time. I became more insecure than I already was about appearance. I worried about what others thought of me. But it got to that point where I was sick and tired of feeling sick. I had the willingness to be open to change in my life. My first year of sobriety I focused on staying sober, gaining a sober support network, and attending fellowship meetings. After my first year I began to create new goals for myself as well as growing in my sobriety. January 2nd, 2019 I became sick and tired of feeling bad about my appearance. Come to realize later on that it doesn’t matter how big or small I am. Weight loss won’t change how I am feeling inside.
When I began my weight loss journey, I started out doing Weight Watchers. Initially WW worked out great for me. I was motivated and determined to get to where I wanted to be. I was feeling great! During that time I also signed up for the gym. I was working out a few times a week. But I am a creature of habit, just because I stop drinking and work a program doesn’t mean I can’t get addicted to anything else. I became obsessed with tracking what I was eating and how many points I would have in the day. My fears and delusional thoughts telling me, “I’m not good enough” were holding me back. I was totally self-sabotaging. I decided to stop tracking my food and weight. It wasn’t until I stopped WW that I got to where I wanted to be.
At this point I was happy, having a balanced healthy lifestyle where I was working out and mindful of what I was putting into my body. I am someone that likes structure. That’s why I enjoyed going to the classes at NYSC (the gym I was initially going to). After a while of pushing myself to the gym I felt more comfortable and confident with what I was doing. I knew that no one would force me to go, I had to want it for me. One of the instructors at the gym had mentioned CrossFit to me which at that point I was interested in doing. In the past, CrossFit was something I had heard of but was too intimidated to try. At this point I knew that I had to remain willing to give myself a chance and to do things out of my comfortable zone. So I joined CrossFit Seize the Day.
Knowing that everything is only temporary helped motivate me through my journey. I’ve learned that it’s really about being in the present. I felt like it was something greater than me that removed the urge to go to town on a cake. I would have a few pieces of chocolate and was content. I had never experienced that before. I usually wouldn’t be able to just have a few of anything. I think in a way what helped me was that since I was consistently losing weight I was determined to keep going. Once I started doing CrossFit, my healthy fit living changed even more. I was going to the classes at least 3 times a week. I began learning more about my nutrition and living on a paleo based diet. It’s really a community of people coming together that enjoy working out and motivating one another. I felt apart of and as if I was on a team which I had never felt before.
When I was younger I would get anxiety about being on a team. I used to swim, run cross country and play soccer. But I decided to stop. I let my fears and irrational thinking of not being good enough get in the way of doing things for myself. I was putting myself down for so long that I became unmotivated to do sports. It wasn’t until I got sober, I gained self-esteem by doing things for others and not always thinking about myself. I was very selfish and self-centered. It wasn’t until having the realization, it’s not about me, that I was able to move forward with the uncomfortability.
Realizing it’s not about me. People are just trying to do the same thing as me… be happy and get by with life. There may be someone staring at me but who cares? I’m just doing me! It can be uncomfortable having someone stare but who knows what they are thinking? I would always think they are judging me but at the end of the day, I don’t know nor do I need to know. Everyone has their own opinion and that isn’t my business.
Thanksgiving last year I decided to give myself a bit of a break. I would go to the gym occasionally and ate really whatever I wanted. I told myself that I would get back on track once the New Year comes around… which wasn’t the case. I was still not really focusing on living any type of healthy life style and was going to the gym less. I would want to go to the gym but I wouldn’t make time for it.
Come March I am stuck in quarantine; I knew that my lifestyle could go one of two ways. Instead of sitting around being lazy and complacent I decided to work out, and be as active as possible. On my lunch breaks I would go for runs, bike ride, and/or workout. I began juicing again and doing the things I had been slacking on months before that. I’ve realized that working out and staying active makes me feel good emotionally and physically. I loved having more time for me.
Fast forward to August, I stopped working out as much but continued to stay active wither it was hiking or going for an occasional run. I began working in-person at Thrive Recovery Center fulltime again. Since then I’ve been having a hard time balancing work, my personal life and self-care. I haven’t really made time for myself to workout. I had gotten so used to being able to do things from home that once I began working in person I fell off.
In the beginning of the pandemic, I had to adjust to the change. So why am I having a hard time with adjusting to change now? Why not make time for myself to work out now? My thoughts have been, well if I get a gym membership now it might a waste if we have to go back into quarantine; it’s also going cold out so I’ll have to work out inside or I am more motivated when I have someone to work out with…
These are all excuses I’ve made for myself. Excuses aren’t going to get me anywhere. Instead of sitting around doing nothing why not get up and move around? If I’m not taking time for myself I am going to end up feeling warn out which leads me to complacency. What it comes down to was surrender, being in the present, and willingness to do things even when I don’t feel like doing them. I’ve learned that surrender, being in the present, and willingness has to be done in all aspects of my life, not just in my recovery. Once I focus on these three things, I am able to continue to grow in my healthy life style.
What if the challenge of the moment was really an opportunity to press pause, to reflect, to discover?
What if the uncertainty of these times is really a gift to redirect, inspire, develop?
If we take the time and focus on what fuels fear, how would we recover?
Recovery is a part of everyone’s life, and those who self-disclose are no stranger to the skills that are necessary for ongoing survival. We need to utilize those skills more now than ever. The holiday season is here, combine that with the uncertainty of the times and you have a breeding ground for old behaviors and insecurities to gain center stage in your minds and scream loud. The good news is- the essence of your recovery foundation is powerful. It is totally normal to feel drained by the current state of “living” but don’t forget just how many supports you have at your fingertips to combat them. Whether its COVID “fatigue” or the anxiety of the impending holiday season- THRIVE has a ton of resources available for you to choose a from.
For my survival- I have always turned to journaling. Writing has always been an integral part of my recovery process and has served me timelessly, as a steadfast reflection of my hopes and fears but also my successes. During some of the darkest moments of my life, I journaled for an outlet.
It made me think, "what if"...
What if this process was a gift for me to own. What if I changed how I handled what happened to me as an opportunity, what if this process was exactly what I needed to press pause?”
I can’t help but think, how similar I feel now. During such unstable times, the most important piece of anyone’s recovery is still action forward thinking and planning towards our future success. We owe it to ourselves, and every other individual who is struggling and still searching. Recovery is based in connection, but that connection is not just with others; it is finding love within and using that to heal and grow. Healing is what helps us propel to the next best version of ourselves. The process is ongoing and everchanging, but we must never stay idle.
So, “What if we take today's opportunity and create tomorrow’s success?” That’s the mindset shift I need to keep me on track this holiday season. What’s yours?
Struggling with what could help, come visit us at THRIVE! Meet with a recovery coach or check out our support groups! You are not alone, we are here to help.
Reflection allows me to draw upon my experiences and I can honestly say that my experiences have shown me that Family Support has several parts. Prior to recovery from substance use disorder my perception was that families should have unconditional love and “no questions asked” kind of support at my disposal. I was so wrong. I am blessed to have learned that family support and unconditional love is really shown through setting hard boundaries and letting go of the idea that anyone can control the outcome of another’s life journey.
When my substance use disorder was active my family did not realize it was not helpful to allow me to continue to borrow money, stay in their homes, pay my bills, and bail me out of jail. They also weren’t helping when they were blaming the medical professionals, treatment providers and especially themselves. The decision to seek treatment was ultimately mine and nothing they were doing could create that surrender for me. They had no control over my outcome.
My family being my soft place to fall was essentially them putting a pillow under my rear end so it did not hurt when I was hitting the hard cold ground known as active addiction. I could not see that I needed help until they finally said, “NO MORE”. They finally came to a place in their lives where they realized I was not getting any better under their current definition of unconditional love and family support. So, they changed the definition.
This is when the magic happened. My family started to set hard boundaries with me. I was not given any financial assistance or support of any kind. If I was using mood- or mind-altering substances I was not welcome at their homes for any reason. Which for me meant I was NEVER allowed to be in their company.
For the first time in my life the current pain was finally greater than my fear of change. The intense mental torture of being alone, hungry, tired, dirty and with no options left forced me to surrender and ask for help.
That was 3 years ago. Yes 3 years!!! In my early recovery my family kept their boundaries and said until you rebuild your life entirely, we will not “help” you. After treatment at Nassau University Medical Center I went to live in a sober house. An FCA employee from THRIVE Recovery Community and Outreach Center came to that recovery house to tell us about the substance use disorder recovery services at thrive. My real-life journey began. My authentic self was born. THRIVE staff supported me in learning what their services and resources were, and I used every single one. Their groups, their legal barrier removal resources, their volunteer opportunities, LIRA’s recovery coach training and most importantly their support. My 12-step fellowship coupled with Thrive recovery community and outreach center created a solid foundation of recovery for me. That solid foundation is where I still stand today. UNSHAKEABLE!
You see unconditional love is really defined by showing up for ourselves to live a life of freedom both mentally and physically. Hallelujah!! Recovery for individuals and families is possible.
The FCA THRIVE and SHERPA Programs will show you the way, too! Anyone, anywhere needing support with substance use disorder or substance use exposure please be courageous and reach out for support:
THRIVE Suffolk: (631)8722-3396
THRIVE Nassau: (516)765-7600
SHERPA Nassau and Suffolk: (516)592-7385
November has long been known for preparation of Thanksgiving and the two largest shopping days of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. When we think of Thanksgiving, we think about families across the country traveling and gathering around large tables to feast on turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and a whole host of other dishes as they celebrate gratitude and love. For a lot of our population battling Substance Use Disorder, this picture is far from the norm. As a member of the recovery community, Thanksgiving for me hasn’t always been the same as a lot of other people. I am no stranger to an isolated Thanksgiving Day. I also am very familiar with those feelings of loneliness and sadness being comforted by overshopping and overspending.
This year has not be easy for most of the population from adjusting to a new normal, to grieving loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, homes, savings; the list goes on.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the two largest shopping days of the year. In past years, people went out in droves to purchase items they don’t necessarily need simply because they were on sale and “may use them in the future.” Shopping addiction is also an affliction in our society and Black Friday and Cyber Monday both trigger addiction. I found a great article that talks about this phenomenon. https://www.dw.com/en/psychology-of-shopping-sprees-on-black-friday-your-brain-forgets-everything-else/a-46407306
When we take a look at particular seasons that trigger relapses in recovery and add in the isolation and stress we have all been experiencing during this time, it can be very dangerous for the recovery population at large.
There is a solution, however. Although we must remain socially distant, proper PPE and adherence to guidelines allows for us to share this communal time together with others. THRIVE Recovery and Outreach Centers (both Westbury and Hauppauge locations) offer open hours during the holiday to provide comfort and a space where people can voice their concerns as well as express their gratitude for this time of year.
Around the country, Mutual Aid Fellowship based groups offer 24-hour meetings on Zoom (information can be accessed on your local intergroup websites).
I cannot stress enough how important it is to remember that during this time, however physically isolated we may be, emotionally you are not alone. Sherpa is also available if there are an acute crisis that should arise, and we can be reached at 516 592 7385 from 10am-8pm.
As we continue this journey together, I want to wish each and every one of you a safe, COVID free, positive holiday.
Alexis Jinks, CASAC-T, CRPA
Program Manager for Sherpa, FCA’s Peer-Led Crisis Intervention Program
Before becoming an active participant in the recovery community on Long Island, I had a very limited view of what recovery looked like. It wasn’t until I became open minded enough to accept that multiple pathways is a reality for individuals recovering from Substance Use Disorder. Mutual aid meetings were all that I knew and I was boxed into one method. Since participating in the Recovery Coach Academy, I have been able to see other individuals’ recovery from a more open minded perspective. Our approach to helping people find their own pathway to recovery has opened my eyes to meeting people where they are and motivating them to take action within their comfort zone. We have seen more success across the board with harm reduction and empowering individuals to take charge of their own recovery rather than formulating a generic template for everybody. Every individual is different and their plan of recovery should be specific to their own needs.
There was a time earlier on in my recovery when I did not believe in Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for substance use disorder, believing that they would ultimately hinder any chance at long term abstinence. My experience in support of serving struggling individuals with substance use disorder since has shown a much larger success rate in pursuing a life of recovery rather than continue living actively using in a detrimental way. MAT prescriptions assist people suffering from Opioid Use Disorder in bridging a gap between active use and maintained abstinence. Not all individuals are willing or capable of spending time in a treatment facility for detox. MAT prescriptions grant individuals the comfortability of not being in severe withdrawal from substances, while allowing them to explore therapy for behavioral change with a clearer mind. This provides opportunities that have not been as widely available before.
Since joining the recovery community on Long Island, not only have my views on certain issues changed, but I have been openly shown the amount of work and advocacy that goes into supporting individuals with Substance Use Disorder. Friends of Recovery – NY have been spearheading the movement since before I had even began to know what recovery meant for me and my own well-being, sending advocates annually to Albany in order to advocate for the public resources necessary to help those who seek and need it. This has resulted in additional funding of Recovery Community and Outreach Centers and Centers of Treatment Innovation (COTI), making recovery related services more accessible to New York communities.
Recovery Community and Outreach Centers have been able to provide resources and support for many individuals with SUD who may not be interested in engaging with treatment providers. THRIVE Recovery Centers in Hauppauge & Westbury on Long Island provide a safe space for people in recovery or seeking recovery. Taking a person centered approach, THRIVE encourages all participants to seek multiple pathways to recovery in order to find what works best for them as well as encouraging people to learn from others and develop their own support through THRIVE’s wide array of recovery groups. While MAT wasn’t as widely accepted by the community, advocacy has changed the way treatment providers look at harm reduction rather than abstinence only care. Now, many treatment providers have been offering MAT solutions to their participants or have a resource available that is capable of doing so.
Finally, the Federal Government has acknowledged the necessity of making MAT services accessible to as many people as possible. Effective October 1, 2020, the Support Act of 2018 amended the Social Security Act to mandate Medicare and Medicaid coverage of Medication Assisted Treatments and drugs, breaking down another barrier to individuals who are in search of their own pathway toward recovery.
My time spent in the field as a Certified Recovery Peer Advocate has shown me that the recovery population in my area has a voice that is heard. We do recover and we will do all that we can to make all pathways of recovery available to as many people who want it, giving them an opportunity to live their life to their utmost potential.
How do you maintain your recovery during the holiday season? If I ask myself this question, I can look back at the years in which I struggled with Substance Use Disorder and honestly say that, while active, it really didn’t matter if it was a holiday or not. Each day was the same. Holiday, or not, I was putting myself into situations in which I was surrounding myself with PEOPLE, PLACES, and THINGS that were unhealthy and encouraged my disease to progress. So, the same applies to my recovery today: I surround myself with PEOPLE, PLACES, and THINGS that support and encourage me to progress in my recovery. During the holiday season, I continue to do what I do every day to maintain my recovery: I stay connected to my Recovery Community, Support Group, and my Higher Power.
There are many people in long-term recovery out there who are part of a greater Recovery Community. Finding my own support network has been crucial for me to maintain my sobriety. There are many avenues one can seek for support: 12-Step Programs, Smart Recovery, Refuge Recovery, Spiritual Centers, and, of course, the various programs, groups, and support available through the THRIVE Recovery Community. From the positive connections I have made in my recovery, I gain support, seek guidance, and apply suggestions from people who have been able to maintain long-term recovery. The more I apply what is suggested to me, the more I have been able to maintain my recovery…and the more I maintain my recovery through several holidays, the more I have come to enjoy the holiday season. So how do I enjoy, and not just endure, the holiday season?
First, I need to check my motives for going into a holiday event or situation that may be stressful and/or a place where people will be drinking. I need to ask myself if I have a legitimate reason for being there. A legitimate reason is one in which I am NOT seeking to “take” from a situation. This I did for many years while active. Am I going to an event to “prove” something to myself or others, or for some other selfish/self-seeking motive? Or, am I going because I am grateful for my sobriety, my loved ones, and the opportunity to be placed in a position to be helpful to others? It is important to check my motives, and I oftentimes do this by speaking to members of my Support Group.
After I check my motives with myself and others, I can go to an event or stay away, whichever seems best. I don’t have to place myself in a position to jeopardize my recovery. The article, 12 Tips for Staying Clean and Sober During the Holidays, stresses this as well, stating that one must “make sobriety your top priority. If you think about it, all holiday parties are optional. If you don’t think the activity is going to be good for your recovery, it’s okay not to go. You can politely decline the party invite...” If I decide not to go to an event, I reach out to other people in recovery, spend the holidays with them, and start to get on a more solid “spiritual ground.” In the article, 37 Ideas to Help You Stay Sober During the Holidays, they suggest to “Plan your own celebrations. If you aren’t going traveling for the holidays, plan to celebrate with local AA or NA friends. If you haven’t been invited, do the inviting yourself. Follow old family traditions or start some of your own.”
If I decide to go into an event or situation, I think of what I can bring to the event. I focus on what I can give, rather than take. If I am spending Thanksgiving or Christmas with my family, I help cook/serve the food, help clean up, wash the dishes, and hang out with the kids. All these activities help me to get out of my own head. The article, 12 Tips for Staying Clean and Sober During the Holidays, echoes this suggestion by stating that, “regardless of your faith or spiritual beliefs, the holidays are really about two things: giving and gratitude. When we focus on these, the other things such as resentment, disappointment, anger, worry, self-loathing show up far less often and cannot find a foothold in our hearts.”
There are many other practical suggestions I apply as well to avoid negativity and foster positivity in my recovery. While we can’t always avoid certain PEOPLE, PLACES, and THINGS, many helpful suggestions can be found online that have worked for myself and others. Below is a list of some of the suggestions that I have found to be useful in maintaining my recovery through the holiday season that appear online:
From 12 Tips for Staying Clean and Sober During the Holidays, by Crossroads Centre Antigua:
In the article, 37 Ideas to Help You Stay Sober During the Holidays, from the Recovery Book, they suggest:
In the article, How to stay sober during the Holidays: 9 Tips from People in Recovery, the following is suggested:
An excerpt from Alcoholics Anonymous states, “While you were drinking, you were withdrawing from life little by little. Now you are getting back into the social life of this world.” (Pg. 102) THRIVE is here as a supportive space for Recovery during this holiday season. Those of us in Recovery do not have to withdraw and isolate during the holiday season. In fact, the opposite is true. It is crucial that I stay connected to positive PEOPLE, PLACES, and THINGS to maintain my recovery. Today, I can spend the holiday season with people who are on this journey with me to live a healthier lifestyle, one day at a time. It takes time, practice, vigilance, and perseverance to always keep my recovery as my top priority. But with humility, gratitude and a positive support system in place, I have learned to enjoy life and the holiday season, and I wish the same for you…Happy Holidays!
When I first entered the rooms of AA I struggled with all the ‘suggestions’ on the practices I could add to my daily routine to help maintain my sobriety. It felt overwhelming and in some instances pointless. You want me to pray every day? Not happening. Meditate? My ADD won’t allow it. A daily inventory before I go to bed? I don’t even know what that means. A gratitude list? Ha! That’s a short list.
I was feeling somewhat deflated, here I was finally surrendering to my addiction in a church basement with a bunch of strangers and now what was being told to me felt like joining a cult. I wondered if a blood oath would be required.
Now to be clear, I have nothing against those practices and the people that are able to incorporate them into their lives. Kudos to them, but I’m just not there yet, will I ever be? Maybe. Will my recovery suffer if I never get on my knees and prayer in the morning? Probably not, but the key is progress not perfection, right? I needed to find something that would work for me, a time during the day when I could just be alone with my thoughts. Sitting on my floor in the Lotus Position wasn’t an option so I decided to change the way I ran.
I have always enjoyed running, that release of joy I feel when my whole body is in sync is a high that elevates my mood. And the ‘runner’s high’ is legit, don’t take my word for it, even science says so. The difference now is how and when I run. Morning runs never happened when I was drinking, rarely was I up before 9am because I was sleeping off a hangover. I was mostly a night time runner on a treadmill at a gym with my headphones on. I would often get a quick run in before I went out for the night and drank myself into oblivion. At the time, this was my definition of a ‘healthy’ lifestyle.
Now in my recovery I’m up around 7am every morning, I lace up my sneakers and head out to Caumsett State park. Just the act of being outside at that time is a revelation for me, mornings and I never really got along. By being outdoors I’ve eliminated the distractions of a gym and my phone. I can just focus on the running. I am able to enjoy the way my body feels when I run, to focus on my breathing, to be present in the moment. For me, this is when I pray, it doesn’t have to be anything profound, it usually isn’t, and just a simple “thank you for this moment” is enough. As with meditation, breathing is everything when you are running. I can’t run long distances unless I focus on my breathing, and when my mind wanders, like it does when I attempt to meditate I have to bring my mind back to the breathing. So instead of blaring a playlist through my iPhone I listen to my feet hit the ground, the wind blowing through the trees, the sounds of birds, squirrels and the occasional startled deer. This is when I assess how I’m feeling, what is bothering me, if I have any resentments and if I’m lucky, maybe even some things I’m grateful for. It’s my way of meditating, of clearing my head and enjoying some time to myself.
The beauty of recovery is it can be as personal as you make it. You own it, you shape it, and you build it from the ground up so it can support you in the best possible way. And over time our recovery will evolve into places we probably never even considered. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be on my knees praying or writing an extensive gratitude list. But for right now, my recovery needs me on that trail running.
By: Greg S., Recovery Coach
Hello! My name is Erin. I am a Recovery Coach at THRIVE Recovery Center. I started working at THRIVE in the very beginning of March (a week before the pandemic happened). I want to share some of my experience on the power of positivity and how it has changed my life even especially over the last seven months of uncertainty.
I have learned that I can get through anything with faith and positivity. When starting the job, I obviously didn’t expect a global pandemic to put a pause on the world. Early on, I realized this would have an impact on people’s wellbeing and society as we knew it. There have been days that I have just wanted to pull the covers over my head and not do anything. There were times when I felt anxious, partially due to the uncertainty of not knowing what will happen. This feeling of uncertainty comes and goes but we must realize that every day is a new day.
We have the ability to start our day over at any time. I can choose to let people, places, and things affect my state of mind or I can look within myself and focus on being okay with me. In the past, I would use substances to get out of myself and to avoid my feelings. In order for me to be content with my life today, I focus on spending my time doing things that are good for me, whether I like it at the time or not.
When I focus on the negative, I will only attract negative. Exercising awareness and acceptance allows me to move forward from the negative so that I do not take things on that are not aligned with my spiritual journey. During the pandemic, I began looking at life differently. I can choose to stay fearful of the alarming concerns of the world or focus on being with myself in the present.
Before the pandemic and world being put on pause, I would get so wrapped up in comparing myself to others, what I was or was not doing. I would set expectations for myself that I could not achieve. When I would achieve certain goals, I would put myself down by always wanting to do better. I can be my own worst critic. It is not a good feeling to have when you’re alone in thought. The pandemic gave me the chance to stop, think, and act on what I really want to spend my time doing. I began doing things that I always wanted to do but didn’t make time for, such as meditating, positive affirmations, starting a YouTube channel, AnRa energy healing, working out, gardening, traveling, hiking, and more! These are all things I had been wanting to do but would not do them because I was so wrapped up in everyday life events.
Activities that I have found therapeutic to me have helped me stay happy and to live in the present. Gardening was something I always loved to do. My mom and I began growing fruits and vegetables. We would try reusing the fruits and vegetables that we would get at the store by putting the roots in water. I am now growing a pineapple! Who would have thought that could be done in New York?
Meditation has been another key tool for me. I found a YouTuber that does guided meditations and yoga on her channel called Boho Beautiful. I also use the app insight timer, which has millions of different mediations. These two resources have aided in my meditation experience. There were daily morning meditations that gave me a sense of serenity and comfort despite everything going on. I began running a daily morning meditation which was something I had been wanting to do to get people together and sharing our spiritual experiences.
Spreading love and positivity is a peaceful way to live. Living in fear and full of concerns will make us feel miserable and depressed. For myself, I have learned that life consists of choices. For example, I can choose to stay up late and watch TV or I can go to bed early. If I choose to go to bed early even when I don't want to, I wake up feeling refreshed because I took care of myself. If I choose to stay up late and watch TV, I will most likely be tired the next day and feel off. What we do in this very moment may in a sense have a ripple effect on what is to come next.
It is easy to go on with our lives the way we have been living for so long. But we are the ones who can choose the way we want to live our journey. We may feel uncomfortable doing the things we know we will benefit from. I was told that when we are uncomfortable, it means we are growing and this makes perfect sense. I might dread the discomfort in the moment but if it is doing something positive for me which I will ultimately grow from, why not give it a shot?
I’ve found myself missing the daily act of driving to work in the morning. That sounds bonkers living on Long Island, so please let me explain. It is very, very true that our traffic volume can be a true test of one’s patience and aggression from fellow motorists can lead to moments of hair-pulling insanity. Yet this time alone in my car just prior to the start of the work day is incredibly valuable to my wellness and recovery. Although just nine weeks removed, it feels like a life-time ago.
As the quarantine progresses into May, differentiating between days of the week seems a more taxing process. The chilly, damp mornings of spring start to blend together. Prior routines start to fade from thought, replaced by a new groove. Taking the time to reflect on my previous patterns has brought fresh understandings on my needs for daily wellness.
The solitude spent in self-reflection, prayer and meditation while driving to and from work every day has been VITAL self-care. Transitioning this practice to this new temporary quarantine weirdness took some time. No, I didn’t start driving around the empty parkways and local roads, although that thought did cross my mind.
I have found that going on 45-minute morning and evening walks alone around my neighborhood to temporarily replace this practice. I still begin my day with prayer and meditation, but in place of where I would get in my car for my daily commute I allot that time to walking around the blocks near my home. This new routine has become just as important! Not only in providing the solitude and time for self-reflection but dedicating time to appreciate the natural beauty just outside my front door.
The last few weeks of morning/evening walks have been a series of mini-adventures. I now look forward to visiting the “husband and wife” pair of ducks that visit the neighbor’s side yard. As you can tell I’ve given them a full marriage backstory, where they happened to visit Babylon on their honeymoon and have found it a nice, quaint plot of land with the reduced car volume from quarantine. Later in the walk I put in my earbuds to cancel out any noise, just as my car acts as sound-reducing box. I walk in silence taking in the sights while mentally planning out my work day. Appreciating the flowers and blooming trees around my block can always bring me back to the moment when I want to focus on mindfulness.
This simple routine “replacement” has provided time to mentally prep for the day’s work ahead, while enjoying the outdoors. I return home from my walk and immediately start up my work. This work from home environment has reduced the barrier between personal and business. Incorporating a brief nature walk to bridge home and work helps some. It also aids in the post-work adjustment as well, relieving any tension I might have absorbed throughout and dedicating time to being outside when trips to a park might not fit the schedule.
So I urge you to be creative and open-minded in finding your self-care practices during quarantine. There is much the natural environment has to offer us!
Some days are just harder than others. A generalized statement, sure, but one I find personally true for life in recovery from substance use disorder with a mental health diagnosis. Days like today don’t often make sense from a third-party perspective. It is a Saturday morning with a vibrant sun radiating a comfortably warm mid-60*. There is a roof over my head, food in my fridge, job where much of my life’s passion can be shared, and a supportive collective of friends and family in my life. I wake up today in good physical health and without the desire for a drink or a drug. Fortunate, beyond fortunate in so many ways it could fill volumes of books.
All of these blessings, but it’s a struggle to get out of bed today. It is a fight to move the bed blankets, tucked tightly around my body, from covering my face. The sound of my housemates moving cheerfully throughout the house causes an almost involuntary reaction where I want to hide in this darkness of solitude. It is now after 9am, the noise from the world outside slowly increases in pitch. Cars and motorcycles pass by my window. I retreat further into my cocoon. My phone buzzes away on the nightstand with notifications of text messages and phone calls, it feels like a swarm of bees circling above the warm comforter.
And I know deep down what is happening to me internally… all the signs have been slowly pointing in this direction for a few days now. Avoiding responding to friends and family on a timely basis with anti-social feelings, this incredibly strong desire for isolation, and a “blah” feeling – not feeling happy or sad where I normally would – just “blah”. I’ve entered a period of depression.
So, on a day like today, when it feels like such an immense chore and labor to crawl out of bed I KNOW I need to fight. Fight to get in that shower. Fight to eat a decent breakfast. Fight to get in the car and head to the beach. Fight to sit at this picnic table and write these feelings down. Fight to sit in silence listening to the waves crest on the shoreline. Fight to slow my thinking down through breathing exercises as I sit under the warm sunrays. Fight to pick up that phone to call a peer, someone in my support network who I trust with my deepest of emotions.
The fight gets easier as morning gives way to afternoon. The longer I sit here soaking in the natural surroundings, over-time the underlying feeling of ‘going through the motions’ fades into slivers of peace. The metaphorical lead blanket weighing me down starts to slide off my shoulders. The ocean breeze now brings a welcoming aroma of salt water. I begin to appreciate the pesky seagulls flying overhead, bringing back fond memories of family beach days. The extended periods of meditation, while fellow beachgoers make noise around me, becomes easier to maintain. The sand between my toes grounds me to the moment. While not feeling like myself, I now find my anchor of comfort during the mental health storm. Here in nature.
What I have learned throughout the years, what this blog post is describing, is how my connection to the natural world is one of my most prized sources of light in moments of darkness. It is okay to not be okay. My truth is that some days are more difficult than others. The other side of the tunnel always exists, I get there feeling appreciative of the experience. While in the difficult days, increasing my time outdoors in nature can be a saving grace.
Working in the Human Services field I know of MANY resources and self-care techniques. However, this does not exclude me from experiencing a chemical imbalance nor a life-event triggering a depressive episode. The resources and techniques limit these episodes and ALWAYS pull me out of the abyss. It certainly can for you as well! Find your local park, walk around your neighborhood, and visit the shores of Long Island. Allow yourself the time to heal. Know that when and if you’re in a place to reach out for support, there are people like myself here. Those with lived experience. Recovery peers and peer-led support groups. The doors of THRIVE are open if you are in need of support.
Hi everyone!! I hope you’re all HEALTHY and HAPPY. I’m grateful to share that I am.
In my first blog post for www.thriveli.org, I detailed how during my RECOVERY from substance use disorder I’ve found that my health is deeply rooted to time spent in the great outdoors. During this adjustment to a temporary social environment of telecommuting and social distancing, my connection to the NATURAL WORLD has been of the upmost importance. So what practices have I implemented while being socially responsible to minimize proximity to my fellows? How nice of you to ask…
1) Solo Excursions To Local Parks: While attending nightly 12-step fellowship meetings online connects to me my fellows, time spent alone in the blooming foliage of the Spring season redirects my thoughts inward and provides self-love. Most days this takes the form of a planned 2-hour excursion to a Long Island park. While I have my favorite “go-to” parks, I enjoy the SNESORY EXPERIENCE of visiting new destinations.
2) Daily Hour-Long Disconnects: When traveling to a local park or nature preserve isn’t an option, I have been dedicating one hour each to my morning and evening routines to sit in the backyard in total stillness. UNPLUGGING from all distraction that often takes me out of the moment, which means literally turning off all my communications devices. Just existing in SILENCE for as long as my mind will allow, then using the SOUNDS and SMELLS of the natural environment to refocus on the moment. FEELING the touch of the grass on my legs and palms of my hands.
3) Indoor Meditation with Nature Sounds: On the days where going for a walk in the rain doesn’t seem to fit, I’ve increased my meditation while indoors. Dedicating time to sitting in a quiet space in the home to simply listen to the SILENCE or allowing the sounds of the wind on the exterior of the house to guide my meditation.
My next several blog posts will detail each of these practices, providing real life stories of how I incorporate nature into my recovery. Thanks for joining me with these blog posts, expect a new submission later this week!
We know these times are challenging and unforeseen for all. How have you been coping? What hobbies have you picked up or brought back during these last few weeks at home? Our Recovery Coach, Erin, has a few words to share with you on goal-setting and words of encouragement to get us through these days of uncertainty at home!
My name is Bradley Baer. I’m a Certified Recovery Peer Advocate working with FCA’s very important Sherpa program, and I am a person in long-term recovery. Like many people stuck at home during this time, there are many things that remain out of my control. I will, however, share with you all a few skills that I have been practicing in order to remain vigilant in my personal recovery. Working from home can become a challenge with many distractions. For me, continuing to stick to a structured routine helps maintain boundaries while working from home.
As a person who has struggled with depression in the past, I know that neglecting my daily routines will have me face a much unhealthier lifestyle. If I don’t remain vigilant, I believe that the end of my week will undoubtedly end with signs of low self-esteem, poor hygiene, and numerous neglected work duties. This would not only affect me, but the people I am meant to serve and support.
I begin each day as I would any other: after I wake up, I make my bed and start my morning bathroom routine – brush my teeth, shower, and get dressed for the day with clean clothes. From here, while working at home, I make sure to follow my scheduled workday as if I would go into the office. I have a separate space where I work in my home that psychologically separates “work” from “home” activities. This is essential for my well-being because I know that I would hardly get any actual work done otherwise. My dogs would be looking too cute and I would waste my time sitting with them on the couch. This boundary ensures that I remain productive and continue to be available for the population that my department serves.
The next tool I keep at my disposal is staying connected with my peers in recovery who are a part of my support network. On any regular day, I call 4-5 people to check in and see how they’re doing. During this time, that number has increased closer to 10 people. My support group has been able to adjust to our usual interactions using social media platforms and they hold a meeting via Zoom every night so that we ensure that we can help each other stay on a pathway toward recovery.
Maintaining boundaries and emphasizing my self-care are necessary for me to stay on the beam, living in gratitude instead of depression. These are simple, small steps that anyone can practice. I urge anyone struggling during this time of isolation and social distancing to keep to a routine, helping practice effective and healthy self-care. Thank you for reading!
Sherpa is one of many programs FCA offers to support addiction prevention, treatment and recovery. Please visit www.fcali.org to learn about all of our programs, and continue to visit www.thriveli.org for a continued updated calendar of groups and services.
Learn more about THRIVE Everywhere! Striving to THRIVE not just within our four walls.
If you have made it to this point of the quarantine and haven’t completely lost your mind, I am proud of you! Our efforts for self-care must absolutely be doubled and I know (as I previously mentioned) self-care isn’t a natural concept to me.
If you are fortunate enough to have a home gym, some sort of equipment or already doing some workouts from home, this blog isn’t for you! You’re already killing it in the game and could use your extensive knowledge to help us out!
Truth be told, determination alone is not enough for me to get off the couch and begin doing a work-out. I have always found it easier to get up and get the gym because it just seems I get more done there. With literally everything being shut down, attendance at the gym is not even optional.
After doing some research to find some interesting ways to stay on top of my personal exercise regime, I stumbled upon some websites that I found to be extremely helpful and I hope they are helpful for you as well.
Being that there are a ton of beginners (myself included; always a beginner) start slow! I am not a doctor nor medical professional and will not be giving out any advice on your body and how to take care of it. I am just someone who is navigating this new way of life just like yourself and a guiding hand is always supportive.
Some other ideas are to youtube some exercises. There is chair yoga all the way up to advanced yoga. Same with many other exercises. On rainy days when we can’t get out to the backyard, my mom has been googling senior aerobics and is loving it!
Please know that my intention is to only provide support. We are literally all in this together. As Governor Cuomo so elegantly states (and a little cheesy might I add) “we are socially distanced and spiritually connected.” My heart is with you all!
Mindfulness is a good technique for coping with stress. Please watch this short video to learn more about mindfulness practices and how they can help with sustaining your recovery. Visit www.thriveli.org to seen our virtual calendar of events and participate in a mindfulness group.
Let me start of my first saying, “I get it!” What ever difficulties you may be experiencing during these super intense times, I can identify. As someone who is in long term recovery from the disease of addiction, I am also in recovery from negative self-talk, poor impulse control, lack of motivation, overwhelming procrastination and debilitating anxiety. I made this blog for anyone who made need some support to help find their way through peace and serenity at any given moment.
For me, food has been both a source of comfort and a vice I struggled with to help me get through the rough times in my life. Growing up, I was always active in both sports and physical activities. Somewhere along my journey, food became more of a coping mechanism and exercise fell way down the list of important things to do. I became extremely unhealthy and it harmed my mental health almost as bad as my substance use disorder did.
I want to let you know that help is here! Let’s work together to find some healthy ways to cope with stress and still enjoy activities and good eating from the comfort of our own homes! 6 days ago, I opened my fridge with the expectation of having this delicious meal and I had very limited resources. I mean, I didn’t even have eggs!
I began investigating and I had no idea that you could google ingredients you had and include your desired diet after and click “search”. What comes up is a wealth of information and recipes that you can make with those ingredients you have.
Realistically speaking, and maybe not that realistic if you’re like me, you may have at least eggs, some leftovers from the last couple of nights before and some sort of oil, butter or pan spray. Voila! A meal!
Eggs are so versatile and cheap that if my substance use disorder was based on an egg addiction, I’d still be active today. Eggs can be sauces; they can complete a meal and can be a meal all by themselves. One of favorite things to make with eggs is a super simple frittata. If I fish through my cabinets, pantry and fridge long enough, I can come up with some pretty interesting ingredients to add to eggs. I made eggs with olives, different cheeses, tomatoes, broccoli, chopped up chicken breast, deli meats, even chocolate chips (that one was gross, and I wouldn’t suggest it to my worst enemy)!
Below I have included some websites that have some good, simple and easy recipes whether you’re on a budget, strapped for ingredients or limited on time.
Check out my next blog on some exercises and ways to get active or stay active! Happy Quarantining!
I remember sitting in a 12-step fellowship back in August of 2016 feeling very incredibly overwhelmed. In those early days of my recovery from substance use disorder I was TOTALLY confused and quite honestly, I was TERRIFIED. I couldn’t fathom how the person next to me could have 25 years without a substance. How they were all talking about an entirely unique conception of a higher power and how it seemingly worked for everyone else but felt so foreign to me. I was stuck in self, stuck in preconceived notions of what a higher power could mean to ME.
What really broke me out of that perception was the process of letting go of my ego. I started going out into the woods for some quiet from the noise of living with 30+ others in a long-term sober living environment. I would go on these long walks alone through the woods of Pilgrim State… yeeaaah, not the safest move. I was living on the property at the time, so going out the front door for a walk meant the grounds of a former psychiatric asylum. This, of all places, was where I started to deconstruct years of worldview and slowly found peace in simply “not knowing”.
While surrounded by this dense woods I started to feel this inner peace. I would listen to the sounds of the trees, the crackling and whooshing as the wind brushed them in all directions. The rustling of the leaves beneath my feet. The smells of the trees, of nearby foliage, of the fresh clean(er) air. The internal monologue that would RACE in other settings, drifted away during this time of being alone in the woods. All the expectations I placed on my life, on other people and institutions was fading away. All I was doing was walking around a bunch of TREES several times a week!?!
I had no idea at the time what was happening, but I was actually practicing a well-known wellness technique called “forest bathing”. Immersing oneself in nature and taking in the forest through all the senses. This technique can be a rejuvenating process. For me it was bridging the gap between Ryan and the natural world. It was through this process that I started to feel CONNECTED to something bigger than me, I felt this CALMING CONFIDENCE and SERENITY. I didn’t need to have all the answers, I simply just had to BE. Just like the beautiful forest surrounding me. I was practicing being PRESENT in the moment.
Today, I enjoy sharing this experience with others! To be out in nature, letting go and feeling FREEDOM FROM SELF. Through Thrive Recovery Center, I’m blessed to organize walks, hikes and forest bathing. This blog will detail some of these AMAZING ADVENTURES, as well as provide some tips and tools for incorporating WELLNESS THROUGH NATURE into your own lives and recovery.
Stay tuned for more!!
-Ryan Kiser – Person In Long-Term Recovery and Grateful THRIVER
FCA’s Peer-Led Sherpa program is still here for you! Watch this video to learn more about what Sherpa can do for you.
Family & Children’s Association (FCA) leads the operations and oversight of THRIVE Recovery Community and Outreach Center in partnership with the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD), Long Island Recovery Association (LIRA), and Families in Support of Treatment (F.I.S.T.). THRIVE is funded by the NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) and through private contributions.