How Can I have Fun without Drugs or Alcohol?

I’ve had many clients say to me , “It’s impossible for me to have fun without being high or drunk or being sober is so boring.”   At first yes it probably is boring to do things without being high, I mean if being high didn’t make you feel good, people wouldn’t do it.   There is  good news there are a number of strategies and resources at your disposal that can help you limit your substance use and get involved in substance-free activities where you can have a good time.   You don’t have to set out on this challenge alone– it’s okay to reach out to a supportive friend, relative, or a professional, who can help you stay on course.

As you begin to reduce your substance use, take some time to reflect on what makes you feel happy and fulfilled. Sharpening your awareness of your social, professional, and spiritual interests can go a long way towards finding activities that excite you and people who share your interests outside of substance use. Consider these suggestions to get you started: organizations that work toward a cause in which you strongly believe, athletic groups, political campaigns, reading circles, writing and theatrical clubs When you find what you’re into, you might also invite your current group of friends to join you in some fun without substances. Getting involved in these types of activities may also pave the way to new friendships that don’t revolve around on using substances. Here are more ideas you can enjoy  by yourself or with others.

  •  Work out at the gym, try a new group exercise class, or plan to go running or walking outside.
  •  Visit museums or take a trip to a zoo or aquarium (any of which may offer discounted admission for students or on certain days).
  •  Try being a tourist in your own city and find the hidden treasures  by exploring new neighborhoods.
  •  Try perusing websites like meetup.com to find other people in your area that share your interests. If you don’t find a group that you’re into, you can have like-minded individuals seeking you out by creating a special-interest group of your own.

It’s also understandable that you may want to still see your friends who still use.  If they were even your friends in the first place. Most of the time, you are useless to your addict friends if you quit..  It is possible to avoid the temptations of  alcohol or other substances.. By engaging in some pre-planning before a night out, you can think ahead about how much you want to consume (if at all) and how to politely decline offers of alcohol or anything else  that might come your way. Start by thinking about how you’d ideally like to handle a situation when someone offers or encourages you to have a drink or take a hit. Some responses could include: “Thanks, but I’m cutting back for a while,” or “No, I have a drug test tomorrow.” It may also help to let others know that you’ve set a personal limit for the night or have stopped using if you find that helps you stick to your plan.  There are also activities you can do that may help you check in with your internal state and strengthen your resolve to limit your substance use. Learning yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and other relaxation techniques have helped many on the same road to coping  with stress resulting from this change in lifestyle, as well as provide motivation for improving mind-body health.

Remember, reducing any degree of psychological or physical dependence on substances takes time, and can be achieved through measured reductions in use.   In addition to filling your time with other activities and interests, it’s a good idea to  consider speaking with a counselor or therapist.  A therapist or counselor can help you define specific goals regarding your use, including how much you’d like to cut back and at what pace, which may make for a transition.

Best of luck on the road to personal change

Finding a Therapist

Sometimes finding the right therapist for you can be a long process and sometimes you will find the right person right away.  It’s important to find someone you trust who makes you feel cared for and has the experience to help you make changes for the better in your life.
Talking about your thoughts and feelings with a supportive person makes you feel better. It can be very healing, in and of itself, to voice your worries or talk about something that’s weighing on your mind. And it feels good to be listened to—to know that someone else cares about you and wants to help.  It can be very helpful to talk about your problems to close friends and family members. But sometimes, we need help that the people around us aren’t able to provide. When you need extra support, an outside perspective, or some expert guidance, talking to a therapist  can help.

 

Myths about therapy

  • I don’t need a therapist. I’m smart enough to solve my own problems. We all have our blind spots. Intelligence has nothing to do with it. A good therapist doesn’t tell you what to do or how to live your life. He or she will give you an experienced outside perspective and help you gain insight into yourself so you can make better choices.
  • Therapy is for crazy people. Therapy is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they need a helping hand, and want to learn tools and techniques to become more self-confident and emotionally balanced.
  • All therapists want to talk about is my parents. While exploring family relationships can sometimes clarify thoughts and behaviors later in life, that is not the sole focus of therapy. The primary focus is what you need to change unhealthy patterns and symptoms in your life. Therapy is not about blaming your parents or dwelling on the past.
  • Therapy is self-indulgent. It’s for whiners and complainers. Therapy is hard work. Complaining won’t get you very far. Improvement in therapy comes from taking a hard look at yourself and your life, and taking responsibility for your own actions. Your therapist will help you, but ultimately you’re the one who must do the work.

Finding the right therapist for you

. The connection you have with your therapist is essential. You need someone who you can trust—someone you feel comfortable talking to about difficult subjects and intimate secrets, someone who will be a partner in your recovery.

  • Experience matters. One of the main reasons for seeing a therapist, rather than simply talking to a friend, is experience. Look for a therapist who is experienced in treating the problems that you have.  Experienced therapists have seen the problems you’re facing again and again, which broadens their view and gives them more insight.
  • Check licensing. Credentials aren’t everything, but if you’re paying for a licensed professional, make sure the therapist holds a current license and is in good standing with the state regulatory board. Regulatory boards vary by state and by profession. Also check for complaints against the therapist.
  • Trust your gut. Even if your therapist looks great on paper, if the connection doesn’t feel right—if you don’t trust the person or feel like they truly care—go with another choice. A good therapist will respect this choice and should never pressure you or make you feel guilty.

What’s most important in a therapist  is a sense of connection, safety, and support. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does it seem like the therapist truly cares about you and your problems?
  • Do you feel as if the therapist understands you?
  • Does the therapist accept you for who you are?
  • Would you feel comfortable revealing personal information to this individual?
  • Do you feel as if you can be honest and open with this therapist? That you don’t have to hide or pretend you’re someone that you’re not?
  • Is the therapist a good listener? Does he or she listen without interrupting, criticizing, or judging? Pick up on your feelings and what you’re really saying? Make you feel heard?

Types of  therapists

 

The following types of mental health professionals have advanced training in therapy and are licensed.

Common types of mental health professionals
Psychologist Psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) and are licensed in clinical psychology.
Social worker Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) have a Master’s degree in social work (MSW) along with additional clinical training.
Marriage and family therapist Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT) have a Master’s degree and clinical experience in marriage and family therapy.
Psychiatrist A psychiatrist is a physician (M.D. or D.O.) who specializes in mental health. Because they are medical doctors, psychiatrists can prescribe medication. Psychiatrist generally do not provide therapy but provide medication management and you will see a different therapist.

What to expect in therapy or counseling

Every therapist is different, but there are usually some similarities to how therapy is structured. Normally, sessions will last about an hour, and often be about once a week, although for more intensive therapy they maybe more often.

  • Expect a good fit between you and your therapist. Don’t settle for bad fit. You may need to see one or more therapists until you experience feeling understood and accepted.
  • Therapy is a partnership. Both you and your therapist contribute to the healing process. You’re not expected to do the work of recovery all by yourself, but your therapist can’t do it for you either. Therapy should feel like a collaboration.
  • Therapy will not always feel pleasant. Painful memories, frustrations or feelings might surface. This is a normal part of therapy and your therapist will guide you through this process. Be sure to communicate with your therapist about how you are feeling.
  • Therapy should be a safe place. While there will be times when you’ll feel challenged or when you’re facing unpleasant feelings, you should always feel safe. If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed or you’re dreading your therapy sessions, talk to your therapist.

Your first therapy sessions

The first session or two of therapy is a time for mutual connection, a time for the therapist to learn about you and your issues. The therapist may ask for a mental and physical health history.

It’s also a good idea to talk to the therapist about what you hope to achieve in therapy. Together, you can set goals and benchmarks that you can use to measure your progress along the way.

This is also an important time for you to be evaluating your connection with your therapist. Do you feel like your therapist cares about your situation, and is invested in your recovery? Do you feel comfortable asking questions and sharing sensitive information? Remember, your feelings as well as your thoughts are important, so if you are feeling uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to consider another therapist.

 

Making the most of therapy

To make the most of therapy, you need to put what you’re learning in your sessions into practice in your real life. 50 minutes in therapy each week isn’t going to fix you; it’s how you use what you’ve learned with the rest of your time. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your therapy:

  • Don’t expect the therapist to tell you what to do. You and your therapists are partners in your recovery. Your therapist can help guide you and make suggestions for treatment, but only you can make the changes you need to move forward.
  • Make a commitment to your treatment. Don’t skip sessions unless you absolutely have to. If your therapist gives you homework in between sessions, be sure to do it. If you find yourself skipping sessions or are reluctant to go, ask yourself why. Are you avoiding painful discussion? Did last session touch a nerve? Talk about your reluctance with your therapist.
  • Share what you are feeling. You will get the most out of therapy if you are open and honest with your therapist about your feelings. If you feel embarrassed or ashamed, or something is too painful to talk about, don’t be afraid to tell your therapist. Slowly, you can work together to get at the issues.

Remember your therapist is there to help you and it’s important to find the right person for you.

 

 

 

How increased mindfulness can decrease relapse risk

Do you sometimes hear an inner voice that tries to convince you to drink or use drugs during sobriety?  The voice might say,  “I can have just one drink,” or “I’ll never be able to stay clean, so I might as well use”?   This inner voice can make you have increased cravings and cause a relapse.

I’ve worked with clients   who are dealing with addictions as well as  co-occurring concerns such as depression  or anxiety.  Relapses are common within the process of recovery,  however, learning techniques that help  redirect thoughts and increase internal awareness can be  helpful in  minimizing  the possibility of future relapses.

How Does Mindfulness Help Prevent Relapse?

Mindfulness practice  helps to increase awareness of thoughts, sensations, and feelings from moment to moment by instructing you  to simply observe what occurs in each moment within the self without judgment.   This helps you to   learn to recognize triggers or cravings associated with certain emotions, thoughts, or sensations that may lead to drug or alcohol use. This increased awareness of what is occurring internally in a moment leads to an increased capacity to intervene during that day.

Increased mindfulness practice, helps you to  begin to detect thoughts, feelings, and triggers that may lead to relapse early enough to prevent yourself from acting on them. Mindfulness helps you to learn to detach from thoughts by first simply recognizing the thought, without judging it, and then redirecting attention to the present moment or to your breath.

Redirecting your thoughts to today, where you are sober, instead of spending time worrying about whether you will be able to remain sober or thinking about  regrets from when you were using drugs or drinking heavily, can help relieve the pressure of negative emotional experiences that may  put  your sobriety at risk.   Mindfulness can  also help you interrupt the thought processes that often leads to drug- or alcohol-seeking behavior.

Other benefits of mindfulness related to addiction and recovery include a reduction in negative thoughts and feelings associated with the past or future. For some, the mind going to the past or the future often  jeopardizes existing sobriety. With mindfulness practice, you can learn to increase the amount of time you spend being in the present moment, which reduces the amount of time you spend thinking about your past or future.   Increased mindfulness helps you to  learn to train yourself to pick up on important cues that might go unrecognized. When you become more mindful of your internal and external state, you will find it easier to recognize moment-to-moment happenings in your life.  Mindfulness  also celebrates with awareness each moment and day you have successfully abstained and helps you learn to reduce harsh self-judgments that do not serve you in your continued  recovery.

When your friend is using drugs

Finding out that your friend  is using drugs can be very troubling because you might feel unable to help them however there are ways you can be supportive and helpful and hopefully your friend will get the help they need to move onto the road to recovery.

Many times our friends won’t appreciate our advice  especially if they are using drugs however telling  the truth to help someone close to you is part of being a real friend, even when it’s hard to do.

  • Find out if your friend is experimenting with drugs, or if he may be addicted. If your friend is addicted they will need extra support.
  • Understand that addiction is a brain disease. Just like you wouldn’t expect someone with cancer to be able to heal herself without the help of a doctor, the right treatment, and support from family and friends, you can’t expect your friend to heal herself from addiction without support and help.
  • Know that it is never easy for anyone to admit that they have a drug problem. Try  to be patient and not give up easily.
  • Listen. If he talks to you, just be there for him. Admitting a problem and talking to someone about it  is very hard,  listen to what he has to say about his drug use without making judgments.
  • Encourage. If you and your friend are under 18, suggest that she talk to an adult she trusts – a coach or teacher, a school counselor, a relative, or a doctor.
  • Inform. When he’s ready to make a change and seek treatment, help him find a doctor, therapist, support group, or treatment program.
  • Support. Don’t give up on your friend, even if she isn’t ready to get help. Keep reaching out. Encourage them to get treatment, and support them along the way – that’s the best way to help someone you care about who is struggling with addiction.
  • It’s tough having a friend with addiction issues, it’s important to get support for yourself  if you need it.

When the people we care about make bad choices, it can be frustrating, confusing, and  depressing.  Remember  we should be there for our friends, and offer support as they journey onto recovery.