“You can teach what you know, but you will reproduce what you are”
— Christine Caine
When my daughter, Ellia, was in second grade, she was given the assignment to make an autobiographical cereal box. Totally normal. I wonder if teachers who are pressed for time come up with assignments based on what they see in their kitchen trashcans. But anytime I can use recyclables for homework purposes, I’m on board.
Ellia named her cereal Elli-O’s… because she’s clever.
She covered the box with her dislikes and likes, hobbies, favorite author and songs.
She wanted her box to be about who she is and how she lives, so, in addition to her favorite color and movie, she wrote on her box in gold Sharpie the three lies she doesn’t ever want to believe:
- I am what I do
- I am what I have
- I am what other people say about me
Yes, my kids are more mature than me.
In our family, we talk about the beliefs that can keep us from being who we really are—like identifying ourselves by mistakes or successes, the past or the future, and as a result, the three lies have floated in and out of our conversations. But there was something powerful about seeing these words written in 7 year-old handwriting.
I’ve realized I can talk a lot. And I talk about what I believe. But I don’t always talk about what I do.
When we enter into recovery, we’re often sponges. We take in new thoughts, new ways to act, and new sayings we’ve read in 12-step literature, heard from old timers or seen in framed pictures on AA room walls.
But once the newness fades, it can be a challenge to keep living the things we’ve learned.
There are times in my recovery journey where I catch myself living in a way that doesn’t reflect what I believe. It’s easy to talk the recovery talk without living the recovery life.
Sometimes, I talk about what’s right, but I don’t always talk about my actual choices.
I talk about practices I value, but they aren’t always practices I consistently live.
Sometimes, there is a significant gap between my action and my beliefs.
When I talk with others in the program or when I share in meetings, I will sometimes catch myself saying something I believe and yet am reticent to do.
I know transparency and surrender are the keys to maintaining connection with God and my sobriety, but sometimes I’d rather just say the words than practice these principles in all my affairs.
None of us are perfect in recovery. I’m not talking about unreasonable expectations or beating ourselves up when we fail. I’m talking about asking ourselves if we’re living out of our true selves or if we’re just repeating words.
In the stress and chaos of life, I’m tempted to forget the importance of being active in recovery instead of passively attending meetings. I sometimes fail to reach out for help. I sometimes give in to self-centeredness. Instead of always loving, I judge. Instead of giving, I would rather take.
I found Ellia’s rough draft of the three lies and I have it taped to my mirror.
It helps keep me grounded in what I know. Recovery is not about simply calling my sponsor or reading the literature- it’s about living out of my connection with God, others and the gift of sobriety.
The truth is, the things that bring us fullness of life require action.
Regardless of how we feel on any given day, we must keep moving forward.
My kids remind me not of what I want to say, but of who I want to be—not just what I want written about me, but what I want to be true about me.
We have to get honest. Don’t be afraid to be real. Reach out to others both in an effort to help and to receive help. Lean on a Higher Power who provides new beginnings and grace for our failures. And live what you know.
Chris Gibson, MDiv
Following the release of the movie Ghostbusters in the 1980s, Hi-C marketed the green-boxed orange-flavored drink, “Ecto-cooler.” I’m pretty sure that the drink was originally called the “Ecto-plasm-cooler,” but Google and I have agreed to disagree.
The drink-box was disgusting, yet for us in elementary school, it was the coveted food item in all of our metal lunch boxes. One day in first grade, I wasn’t feeling well, so, in an effort to calm my stomach, I had one of those huge, gas station pickles accompanied by the aforementioned Hi-C. Shocker: my stomachache got much worse. I was sent to the nurse, who was apparently only certified to discover lice among elementary-aged kids. I told her I needed to go home. She took my temperature to figure out whether or not my stomach actually hurt and sent me back to my class. I walked in the door and threw up Ecto-plasm Hi-C and pickle all over the boy on the front row.
This ended my relationship with Hi-C.
And my trust in school nurses.
It’s funny what we do in an attempt to feel better when we’re sick—sometimes we make it worse through what we eat, we push ourselves when we should rest, or we put our hope in the myth that Advil fixes everything.
It’s even worse when we’re soul sick. We often have horrible ideas on how to fix what’s broken. We hide the problem or look to others to validate our pain. We keep going as if nothing is wrong, or we use thermometers to prove our hearts aren’t injured. We want to walk it off or power through. We try to band-aid or medicate or numb ourselves till the feelings subside. But when we’re hurting, when we’re broken, these solutions just won’t work.
You can’t run when you’re nauseous. You can’t walk on a broken leg. No matter how much willpower you have, you can’t help but be weighed down by fatigue when you’re not well.
What, then, are we supposed to do? How do we fix soul injuries? What do we do when our hearts hurt and our spirits feel smashed?
What happens when acting healthy or trying with our own willpower doesn’t make us better?
Hiding, pretending or going solo to fix ourselves won’t work anymore than a Hi-C and a pickle will ease a sick stomach.
We can’t fight our broken spirits or broken hearts through mind-power. Sometimes we don’t always know what we need. Sometimes we don’t know what needs to be fixed or how to do it.
When it comes to being soul-sick, we can’t fix it on our own. This is the concept of powerlessness.
Being powerless can be a threatening concept—it means that I can’t always pull myself out of pain, and I can’t always make a check-list in order to get better.
But when we can admit that our soul needs healing, we are most open to real recovery—the kind that invites new life, freedom, love and grace.
This recovery asks that we trust in a God of our understanding.
When we try to fix ourselves, we’re operating with very limited resources. When we let our Higher Power come in and heal, we’re opening ourselves up to limitless power, love and possibilities.
Yes, surrender is hard. We want to believe we can get better through our own efforts. But we were made to heal through connection—through a Higher Power who loves us whether we’re sick and broken or healthy and thriving.
We weren’t made to heal our deep hurts by ourselves. We weren’t made to fight addiction alone in our closets. It’s not about being strong enough or determined enough—we need a better solution than our own willpower.
Recovery means admitting we need more than we can give ourselves. Instead, we have the opportunity to let a God of love bring us into deep healing.
Without healing, our sickness won’t just go away. That kind of pain has to come out. We may not projectile vomit, but keeping it in is a time bomb. We’ll collapse or erupt or shut down even if no one ever sees it.
Powerlessness is the gift freeing us from the impossible task of fixing ourselves. Instead, learn to rest. Stop pretending you’re not sick. Go home from school, no matter what the nurse tells you. Let yourself be loved. Open up to the infinite possibilities that come from faith, and let healing begin.
-Chris Gibson, MDiv
Before recovery, bad decision-making is a large part of how we operate. Part of the struggle of entering recovery is we often don’t know how to choose what’s best for us. We may not have the tools to make life-giving decisions. We don’t want to stay where we are, but we’re not sure how to leave.
For others of us, change is frightening. We want something more than what we’ve experienced, but we also don’t know what this “more” might entail.
When all we’ve known is destruction and pain, what will it look like to enter through the door of healing and health?
It’s a risk. It’s not easy to give up the familiar, even if the familiar behaviors and beliefs are killing us.
But at some point, we have to decide which door we go through—the door that leads to growth and life, or the door that suffocates us through addictive and compulsory behaviors.
The choice seems easy—if we stay stuck in the unhealthy, we only dig deeper into chaos and the isolation of self-loathing. If we embrace recovery and surrender to our powerlessness, life will be infinitely better.
However, if we’re honest, sometimes we ask ourselves,
“But what if it’s not better?”
Sometimes the door to recovery and the door that leads us further into our addiction look the same to us—both seem costly and tiring.
Through one door, we risk deep loss and increased mental, physical, spiritual and emotional strain.
Through the recovery door, we see glimpses of limitless opportunities of life and health.
But sometimes, the old, familiar door feels safer.
In the moments of choice, we come face to face with our deepest fears- what if I can’t get better? What if things get worse? What if I lose control?
But maybe we don’t have to get rid of these questions in order to make a move toward what can bring us life.
Maybe we don’t have to set aside all our fears and doubts around entering real and powerful recovery.
Recovery isn’t about answering all our questions, but it is about hope.
We take a step into recovery when we believe there is an alternative to the awful, soul-killing way we’ve been surviving.
With hope, seeing is something you do with your insides. Believing is something you do when you’re feeling around in the dark. We may have hope we can get better even if we don’t always see it.
But as much as entering recovery can include fumbling through unknowns, it’s also where the incredible takes place: those in bondage are set free. Dead people can live. Those in addiction receive life.
The doors we choose to walk through are not new doors. No matter how scary the journey of recovery can be, you’re not the first to walk down that path.
You’re not the first to face question after question and swim against the current of your past. You’re not the first to face the challenge of letting go.
Lots of desperate people have walked this way. And hurting hands have pushed open this door.
Recovery is about doing something new. Let others in. Take suggestions from those in recovery. Practice surrender no matter how uncomfortable it feels. Explore who you really are. Learn to sit with your own pain.
These are practices through which God brings freedom.
And this God doesn’t demand perfect belief before he will guide us through the door to healing. Instead, this God knows the difficulty of surrender, authenticity and choosing life and willingly offers patience, love and compassion.
The choice is still ours, but we don’t walk through the door alone.
There are people cheering for us, hands to hold us when we can’t walk on our own, and a Higher Power who loves and desires life for us.
And sometimes, that’s all we need to make the door to recovery a little less frightening.
-Chris Gibson, MDiv
The drug Naloxone is sometimes called a “save shot” or a “rescue shot” because of its ability to bring someone back from an overdose. Brand names for Naloxone are Narcan and Evzio. It has long been used in hospitals and by emergency medical technicians, but there is now a movement to expand access to it and get it into the hands of first responders as well as drug users and their family members.
How does it work?
Opioids are a class of drugs that include legal painkillers, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, as well as illicit drugs, such as heroin. Opioids work by attaching themselves to the body’s natural opioid receptors and numbing pain. They can also create a sense of euphoria in some people. However, at the same time, they can slow breathing.
When your body is in pain, neurotransmitters such as endorphins attach to the opioid receptors in the brain or other organs to numb the sense of pain. Opioid drugs mimic that reaction. However, with too much of an opioid, the body overdoses. Naloxone can literally kick the opioids off the receptors and bring someone back to breathing.
When someone overdoses, naloxone can be directly injected into the muscle or squirted into someone’s nose.
How effective is Naloxone?
Naloxone is extremely effective and can start working in minutes, depending on the dosage and potency of the drug taken. For more powerful opioids, such as fentanyl, it may take several doses. Naloxone is not addictive and has few side effects.
Harm reduction groups and needle exchanges have been distributing it since 1996. Since then, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 26,000 overdoses have been reversed.
The drug works on someone only if there are opioids in their system already. It cannot prevent an overdose and cannot work on any other type of drug overdose.
However, the effects of Naloxone can wear off in 20 to 90 minutes, so the idea is to rescue someone from an overdose and get them medical attention immediately.
Where can I find Naloxone?
Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have laws that allow medical professionals to prescribe or dispense Naloxone. Both CVS and Walgreens drugstores are also making Naloxone available without a prescription in at least 20 states across the country.
In February, the White House proposed $1.1 billion to fight the opioid overdose epidemic, including $500 million to help states expand prescription drug overdose prevention, increase treatment and expand access to naloxone.
-CNN April, 2016
Watch a video by Waco’s Channel 25 TV ABC affiliate station with our Clinical Director, Todd Dugas, LCSW:
The Holiday Blues
Feeling emotionally depleted in the wintertime is actually quite common. Signs and symptoms can range from a having difficulty concentrating on tasks at work, school and home to feeling excessively tired all the time to experiencing a complete lack of interest in things that originally were sources of joy. Rest assured that there are a number of very common reasons for the bout of the “holiday blues” you may be feeling. However, don’t discount or minimize your feelings if they begin to magnify. It’s important to note that anyone can swing from sadness to depression to desperation quickly — particularly if his or her personal history involves a family history of substance abuse, emotional trauma or violence.
Identifying the causes
Add the challenges of maintaining sobriety during a constant flood of invitations from family and friends to the mix of normal holiday sadness, and the chance of jeopardizing your recovery is magnified. All around us at the holidays are constant reminders of how wonderful we are expected to feel. The need for a trauma-informed approach – in regards both to others and to our own selves — is critical according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). Here are some common causes to keep in mind:
Lack of healthy exposure to sunlight
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is quite prevalent in the winter months, particularly in areas that are more northerly located. As the temperatures drop and the days grow shorter, the onset of deeper moodiness may be triggered. Symptoms may include overeating and excessive sleeping leading to uncharacteristic weight gain. Women may be two to three times more susceptible than men to SAD. Symptoms may progress to include anxiety and social withdrawal and may last all the way to spring unless addressed. Getting as much exposure as possible to natural light each day can help as can replacing your regular light bulbs temporarily with broad spectrum bulbs or purchasing a light therapy apparatus (although these can be pricey). Attending to a regular sleep schedule, getting exercise, and consulting a therapist if symptoms persist are also all very important.
Presence of holiday-based sensory stimuli
Certain smells, sounds and sights could be reminders of happy – or very sad — holiday gatherings from years past. Be aware that a certain amount of melancholy is perfectly normal at this time of year and sensory stimuli can magnify these feelings, lighting up memory centers in the brain. Sadness is a powerful emotion and deserves attention. Let yourself look at old photos if you have them available, cry if you need to do so, and make some phone calls if possible to reconnect with loved ones who are far away. Exchange stories about the happy times or journal about your feelings if the people you miss are no longer accessible, but try not to dwell too much on memories from the past.
Dangers of family and societal pressures
The pressure to accept every invitation or meet the expectations of others for gift giving or hosting an event can be very stressful. People in recovery who are either out of a traditional home environment or who find themselves in a transitional living situation, may not have a place of their own to decorate or in which to prepare favorite holiday foods. This fact may cause even more unhappiness and longing with so much seasonal attention on shopping for gifts. The shame and loss that results from a lack of financial abundance to do everything they way you’d like can be devastating.
Lack of good self-care
Not getting enough exercise during the holiday season, missing your regular sleep schedule and indulging in too many rich, sweet foods can take a toll on your physical and mental health. No one knows what your body needs to stay healthy better than you. Make sure to take the time each day meditation and reflection.
Keep in close contact with your sober friends and mentors; you are not alone and should feel comfortable asking for help if needed. Remember to take time each day for your mindfulness practice. Meditation, reflection, yoga, breathing techniques – or your version of mindfulness – all help us to pause, recenter and reconnect.
Please take the time to stay connected! Visit our Alumni page for more info.
Wishing you a peaceful holiday full of love.