Are you lonely?

By David Joel Miller.

Some tools to combat loneliness.

Loneliness

Loneliness.
Photo courtesy of Flickr (Richo.Fan)

This is a time of the year when loneliness walks among us and it can swallow up the unwary. There are more people than ever on the earth, the stores are packed and yet one place loneliness lurks is in the crowd.

Loneliness is a major cause of relapse, relapse to drug and alcohol use, relapse to depression, relapse on any part of your recovery.

Feeling lonely is not about the number of people in your world. It is about the connections you have with those people. As we get older it becomes harder to make new friends. Over the holiday’s everyone is so very busy. It is easy to become isolated – then depressed.

This time of year people are prone to start evaluating their relationships. Are they what you want? Some family dinners will be full of love, others will be full of recrimination and fault-finding. More that as few will be drunken brawls.

Your romantic relations may be under strain. You might look around and see presumably happy couples and we wonder if your relationship measures up. When we are lonely we can easily believe it is our partner or our families fault.

What are some ways to defeat loneliness if you find yourself feeling alone in your relationship or lonely in the crowd?

1. Get out of your routine.

It is easy to stay home and avoid situations where others will be around. We call that isolating. It is a symptom of depression. It can also be a cause of sadness and depression. Getting out and mingling is a good way to put yourself in contact with others if only for a while.

Try to do this with a hopeful attitude. Expect to talk to others and to make connections.

2. Reach out to someone else.

One really fast way to make new friends is to reach out to others. Put your hand out and introduce yourself. Say something kind or nice to someone around you.

Start a conversation with someone about where you are or what you are doing.

3. Spend time at a fellowship.

If you are a member of a religious group make it a priority to attend their functions this holiday. When there participate in something.

If you are in recovery attend a 12 step or other support group meeting. In many places, there are “Alchathons” or marathon meetings. These meetings occur every hour round the clock and provide a safe place for people in recovery to hang out over the holidays and not be alone in their own heads.

4. Reconnect with old friends.

Call someone you haven’t talked with in a while. Send out some emails. Do not let yourself dwell on the people who do not respond or who do not have time to talk. Focus on those people who stop and talk with you.

5. Reach out to someone else who may be feeling down and lonely.

In twelve steps groups, the advice is to call one other recovering person each day. That provides support for you in times of need. You may also find that other person needed the call even more than you did.

6. Do something nice for someone else.

Reaching out to others to help them – be of service – this can make you feel connected to others and far less lonely.

How will you defeat loneliness this holiday season? Do you have any other suggestions, not on my list?

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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What is a dry Drunk – putting down without really getting clean.

By David Joel Miller.

They quit drinking and using but nothing else changed.

Bottles of alcohol.

Alcoholic Beverages.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

They quit drinking, they put down the drugs. The family hopes. They have heard this before. “I am done,” this is the last time. The now former drinker starts talking a good game. They swear they are not doing drugs. Things will change now. The family wants to believe them. For a little while, there is hope.

Only nothing does change.

Despite the not drinking and the lack of drugs, the person behaves the same way they used to. They are miserable. Their relationships at home and work do not improve, not the way they think they should. The family and friends don’t like being around them anymore now than they did when the person was drinking and using. They are dry but they are not sober.

Suddenly without drugs and alcohol in their system, they feel feelings they have kept at bay for a long time.  Life does not miraculously become perfect. There are bills to pay, legal consequences to take care of and relationships to mend. Life becomes real with its ups and downs.

Dry drunks are easy to spot if you know what you are looking for. They turn up at meetings all across America. Some have been off the sauce for years, 5 years maybe. But they are miserable. And they make others miserable. They are full of anger, bitterness and hurt.

They may turn to a religion. The go to church and become more righteous than the preacher. They can see the flaws and failings in everyone they meet – just not in themselves.

Eventually, the stop going to meetings, that program doesn’t work they tell others. They went but they never really participated. They wanted a short cut to recovery. One that did not require them to do the painful work of changing.

They may leap from church to church; decrying people as hypocrites and saying people there were not true believers. They learn rules on how to worship but not the values of hope, caring and compassion.

Families tire of being around them. The dry drunk thinks they deserve credit for not drinking and using. The family doesn’t see what has changed. The alcoholic or drug addict is still self-centered and unhappy.

Sometimes the family will tell the dry person “liked you better when you were drinking, you were more fun then.” Or “at least when you were drinking we knew what to expect.”

Dry drunks can go on walking around miserable for years. Eventually most either relapse or turn up in counseling. They attribute their problems to something else, a bad relationship or a difficult work situation. Yes, of course, they have problems. Just putting down the drug or giving up the alcohol does not make all your problems magically disappear.

Some become so discouraged that they stop trying. Why give up the drink if life will never get any better? We see them in multiple drug and alcohol treatment programs.

Eventually what most recovering people find is that they never really had a drinking or drug problem – they have a living sober problem. The problem was not the drugs. Drugs and drinks were their solutions. A solution that temporarily hid their problems but did not solve them.

What they learn eventually, if they learn it at all, is that what they really have is a life problem.

How do you live a happy, fulfilled life without the drugs and alcohol?

Finding that better life requires more than just not drinking or putting down the drugs. It requires an active process of change. Going to meetings is not enough, you need to actually “work” the steps, do the work of change.

Counseling also involves a process of change. The recovery, from whatever your problem is, does not happen in the sixty minutes of each session. In that time we can chart a course, teach skills and help you discover pain you didn’t know you had. The real work of recovery happens in your daily life, in that other 167 hours per week when you need to practice new skills and new ways of being.

If you or someone you know is a dry drunk, has put down but not gotten clean and sober, don’t give up. Find someone you can work with that can help you really become clean and sober.

For more on recovery topics see:

Getting your tools dirty

Getting some recovery

Is relapse a part of recovery?

Running hard after recovery

Why giving up the drugs and alcohol did not make you happy

What is hitting bottom?

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

7 steps to prepare for a recovery crisis.

By David Joel Miller.

Recovery Emergency Plan.

We all know about the importance of preparing for a physical disaster, some of us make these disaster preparations. People in recovery are likely to experience recovery crises. Are you prepared for a recovery crisis?

Just because someone enters recovery does not guarantee a perfect life. This is a real life, sometimes good things happen; sometimes things are not so good. Having a recovery preparedness plan is not just for those in substance abuse recovery. If you are in recovery from mental health or another life problem you need to make these preparations also.

Here are ways to prepare for those not so good times.

1. Enlarge your support system

When things are going well a few people in your support system is fine, but when challenges arise those few people may not be enough. Get phone numbers you can call from more people. What if your first three people are not home or unavailable? Having as at least 20 phone numbers on your support system list is recommended.

A list of numbers for organizations and national support lines is helpful when traveling. Keep your doctor or counselor’s number handy. Many fellowships have websites and there are on-line meetings. Add these contacts to your phone support list.

Attend support groups other than your regular meeting. Having a number of places you can go means you will not be alone in the crisis.

2.  Recharge your mind.

Practice positive affirmations. Allow yourself to spend quiet recovery time every day. Continue with your prayer and meditation. Read positive books and listen to positive programs.  Exercising your happiness keeps your mind in top shape for those attacks of negative emotions.

3. Recharge your body.

Your body can’t carry you through tough times if you neglect it in the good times. Recovering people know that hunger, thirst, and lack of sleep are all relapse triggers. Eat regular meals. Drink plenty of water and avoid high sugar drinks. Allow plenty of time for sleep.

The body needs a balance of exercise and rest to function at its best.

4. Don’t let you mind overload the rest of you.

In early recovery, people want to make up for lost time. One week out of the hospital or treatment facility and they are looking for a job, signing up for school, in a program of aftercare and seeing a therapist.

Someone who has never cooked anything that does not go in a microwave may take up cooking healthy meals while joining the gym and embarking on a weight loss program.

Overloading yourself by trying to make too many huge changes too fast increases the risk of relapse. Take small steps. Working on goals a little each day over a long period produces results. Your goal should not be a sudden transformation; it should be to make changes in your lifestyle that you can maintain.

Trying to start out on massive change projects can be a way of setting yourself up for failure and sabotaging your recovery.

Do what you can today and a little more tomorrow.

5. Be kind to yourself – give yourself credit – reward yourself.

People who only hear about their mistakes lose confidence, learn to be helpless and may stop trying. Don’t be your own worst critic. Take credit for the things you are doing right. Say positive affirmations. Give yourself small positive rewards for your efforts.

Avoid negative rewards like drugs or alcohol. Have healthy little treats. Take time to go places you enjoy being. Spend time with positive friends. Spending time in meetings and with good friends is not an interruption to your recovery – it is a part of that recovery.

Recovery should be fun. Let yourself enjoy your new and improved life.

6. Keep a book handy.

Keep recovery materials handy. When adversity comes, remember to read uplifting materials. That one recovery book may be just the thing to keep your recovery on track when the problems come.

7. Practice your maintenance steps.

Whatever program you worked to get recovery, do not stop working it. If you worked a twelve-step program, keep in touch with that fellowship. If you have a spiritual connection stay connected. Read your recovery materials. Maintain and enlarge your support system. Continue to practice the skills your counselor taught you.

Putting it all together

What is your plan to keep your recovery strong? Every person in recovery needs an emergency plan to prevent relapse.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Preventing anxiety and depression relapses

By David Joel Miller.

10 Ways to avoid a relapse of anxiety or depression.

Anxiety and Depression are treatable, but like other conditions, it is possible to relapse into anxiety and depression. There are some understandable reasons to relapse on anxiety. But what steps can you take to prevent a mental health relapse?

1. Learn and learn again.

Just learning something once is not enough. To learn it thoroughly you need to continue studying even once you think you have it. We call this form of learning “overlearning.” Learn your relapse prevention skill beyond the point of being able to recite it. Learn your relaxation techniques and thought-stopping skills until those processes become automatic.

2. Don’t quit your lessons once you pass the first test.

For substance abuse clients we know that the longer they stay in treatment past the point of getting off the drugs the better their chances of avoiding a relapse. The same is true of anxiety and depression. Fears will return. Life stressors will get you down. Having stayed in treatment will build protection from an emotional relapse.

3. Face your problems as they come.

Using avoidance and distraction only make the challenge larger. Putting things off, using substances or not thinking about your challenges may seem like a way to avoid the fear in the beginning, but fear avoided grows. Seeking out pleasure as a way to avoid anxiety or depression works for a while but eventually, you will have to face your problems.

4. Practice and train for many possible triggers for a relapse.

If you are afraid of snakes practice looking at and talking about many kinds of snakes. If your fear is public speaking make as many small presentations as possible with as many different groups as possible. Practice speaking on several topics. The more potential cues for fear you practice on the better prepared you will be for an unexpected fear.

5. Practice your relapse prevention skills in multiple locations.

It is easier to manage your fear of snakes when looking at a picture book in the library than to avoid that fear in the woods. Practice in the yard, on walks in the neighborhood and as many other places as you can find to be outside and think I can handle seeing a snake if one should cross my path. Practice public speaking in more than one place.

6. Practice relapse prevention skills at times you are slightly uncomfortable.

You don’t develop skills if there is no challenge. Your anxiety relapse prevention exercises need to create a little anxiety. Training when you are very anxious is setting yourself up for failure. Gradually increase the challenges, keeping the anxiety at a manageable level.

7. Self-improvement programs work better with a little homework.

Set some homework projects for yourself. Ask your counselor or support system for suggestions. Don’t put homework off. You grow by repeated practice.

8.  Not all homework has to be done involving real danger.

Mental rehearsals for challenges can be helpful in increasing your ability to cope with an anxiety provoking situation. What should you do if the situation occurs? What do you wish you were able to do? Picture yourself doing the thing you most would like to be able to accomplish.

9. Use “I can” self-talk.

Telling yourself that you will be able to cope increases the likelihood you will be able to cope. People who repeatedly tell themselves they can’t find they are right. Use coping language and stories to help you picture being successful and competent.

10. Avoid emotional reasoning.

Just because something feels scary does not make it dangerous. Examine the connection between your fears, anxiety and sad thoughts and the things that cause them. You likely will find that it is the view of the situation that is causing the negative emotion.

There are 10 Ways to avoid a relapse of anxiety, depression or other negative emotion.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books