What is Recovery Series Part 4: Clean your surroundings, Feel Good

‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’. This is not me trying to be overly religious because this is not a bible verse, you can find out. This expression is simply trying to say that if we want to be the best part of ourselves, keeping ourselves clean is just next to that.

Welcome Back! I’m glad you are here. Today we are continuing our series on Recovery. In this episode, we will focus on cleaning our self and surroundings.

There is a common saying which states that, ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’. This is not me trying to be overly religious because this is not a bible verse, you can find out. This expression is simply trying to say that if we want to be the best part of ourselves, keeping ourselves clean is just next to that.

Why is it so important to keep ourselves and our environment clean?

1. Improves Mental Health

Research shows that, keeping a clean self and environment does not only keep the body healthy but the mind as well.

Remember that, substance use disorder is a mental health disorder, which takes time and a lot of work to recover from. Keeping a clean environment helps to relieve stress, discomfort, makes the air fresh and clean, reduces anxiety and thus improving general mental wellbeing.

I experienced this first hand when somewhere this year my house got flooded and everything was messed up with mud and dirt. It took about a month to clean everything out of the house, throw out the spoiled and damaged property and rebuild the broken parts. During that time, I was frustrated, anxious and depressed. I only started feeling better when everything was finally cleaned and the house began to look normal again.

2. Improves Physical Health

When the environment and self is clean, there is a better chance of avoiding diseases and infections borne from germs, bacteria and viruses. This ensures a healthy physical body which will enable you have the energy that you need to support the mental exercises and activities that are required for attaining your recovery goals.

A healthy physical body means less frequent visits to the hospital which will eventually save you money and time to engage in activity that will be beneficial and profitable for you.

3. Boosts Confidence

A clean body and environment make you confident around others and makes it easier for you to make new friends as you reintegrate into the community. A clean body and environment also improve people’s opinions about you and goes a long way to determine whether you will get that job, apartment, business opportunity and any other new venture you may be trying to get into.

4. Build and Maintain a Positive Character

Living healthy is a positive character trait which you can cultivate and develop from here onwards. When you clean yourself and your environment, you inspire other people to do same and as a result you become a good example for other people to emulate. When that happens, you will be motivated to maintain that character trait that you are admired for; you would not want to ‘lower or drop the standard’. That is what will help you maintain the positive character you have initiated.

What areas should you particularly focus on cleaning?

Wash, Wash, Wash

Wash everything! Wash your clothes, underwear, sleeping sheets, towels. Towels should be washed after at most, every 3 days; you cannot imagine the number and types of germs hiding in there. Other clothes and sleeping sheets can be gathered and washed weekly.

Wash your body, mouth and hair. Change your underwear daily and shave your armpits regularly.

Wash your cups and bowls and kitchen equipment right after using them to avoid breeding bacteria in there.

Wash and scrub the bathrooms and showers, germs hide there too, especially the toilet, wash it every day.

Sweep, Dust, Mop, Weed

Sweep the room and surrounding areas. Dust surfaces to avoid dirt from getting on yourself and to avoid inhaling dust which could cause respiratory irritations and flaring up allergies in the nose and eyes.

Mop the floors at least once a week with disinfectants to prevent germs from hiding there and also to leave it looking clean and fresh.

Weed any bushes that may be growing around to prevent mosquitoes and other dangerous insects and/or reptiles like snakes from infesting your environment and putting your life at risk of getting stung or bitten, which could become a matter of life and death.

Straighten, Press, Tuck In

Lay your bed, tuck the sides into the bed frame if you have that kind of bed, press your clothes, arrange your room properly. Keep yourself and house organized, it relieves a whole lot of stress and makes it easier to find things and get other things done.

Always wear your clothes ironed, it gives you an enlightened look.

Cut, Trim, Comb

Cut your hair if you are not wearing an afro or braids or dreadlocks. If you do have locks or are keeping any style of hairdo, keep it clean. Trim your beard if applicable, and your nails too.

Try these and experience good mental and physical health, see your confidence jump to new heights and experience a stress-free new life. Let me know what you think in the comments.

What is Recovery Series Part 3 : Economic and Financial Recovery

After all the skills sharpening, new training and education and putting out your best work, do not spend everything you earn. Invest some of the money for a ‘rainy day’.

Most of the time, the storm of substance use for many years results in deep economic recession in your life as well as that of your family.

I remember a quote, which is also a fact that I heard for the first time in primary school, class 6 in a science lesson; ‘we eat to live, we don’t live to eat’! I did not understand it back then, so it sounded a bit odd to me. I was thinking that the statement should be reversed, because I thought, ‘If you are not alive, how can you eat?’

But how wrong I was. The big questions are; how long can you live without food? Can you get any food without money? Can you make any living without financial resources?

Maybe you can live on charity from your family, friends and neighbours for a while, but how sustainable can that be? How long will that last? To make a good and decent living (to eat well, have a good place to call your home, good clothes to wear) for yourself and dependents, you need to take matters into your own hands. You must do it yourself.

Let’s look at 3 basic ways to start recovering financially.

Get a Job that can Earn you an Income

Nowadays the best way to get a job is to be referred by someone who knows you. Start asking your friends, family members and neighbours to tell you about any job that they may hear about which matches your job and skills.

Some of these people may be in a position to offer you a job, why don’t you go ahead and ask. Do not be afraid of rejection because of your substance use history. You will never receive help if you do not ask for it. So just ask and see how it goes.

Your drug treatment programme may even be able to assist you in getting a job, find out from them whether any of those services are available or whether they can refer you to any recruitment firm which may be able to match your skills and experience to a job which may be available.

If you already have a job, this is the opportunity to ‘resume with renewed energy and good attitude.’ This is your opportunity to do your best job, to show everyone that you are a new person, living a new life. Your hard work will eventually lead to a promotion and raise in salary, as well as other opportunities that will make your life better.

Some jobs even come with packages like health insurance for you and your dependents, paid vacations, vehicle maintenance allowance and rent allowance, imagine if you were to get one of those…..

Get Your Skills Updated/Get Yourself Trained

You may have been out of commission for a long time and thus may not be abreast with current trends in your industry. Take the opportunity to learn about what is new, sharpen your skills so that you can put out good work which would eventually bring you good fruits.

Look to trusted colleagues and supervisors for help. Nowadays, so many free training can be found online, use that avenue if necessary.

If you do not already have a job or career to rebuild or sharpen, then get yourself trained in something that you believe you will be good at. You have skills or passions that may not have been developed; get yourself enrolled in some formal education or a vocational trade; whichever you prefer is fine.

Do something with yourself, give back to the community. If along the way you encounter any challenges; maybe financial, look for help in the community in the form of community free training opportunities, scholarship opportunities, entrepreneurship and other mentorship opportunities around you. You will not find them if you do not seek them. So please seek for these opportunities, they are out there.

Invest

After all the skills sharpening, new training and education and putting out your best work, do not spend everything you earn. Invest some of the money for a ‘rainy day’.

Beware of suspicious investment schemes who try to double your money in a few weeks or months, those are never reliable and always end up being fraudulent.

The hallmark of any good investment scheme is that, you get returns on your investment gradually and at ‘reasonable’ rates. Do your research, look for a reputable financial institution, let them tell you about what options are available and suitable for you.

Investing in insurance policies especially health insurance, will serve as a cushion for you in times of health emergencies such that, you wouldn’t have to liquidate your investment account to take care of that. There are other insurance policies that you can explore, talk to a reputable insurance company for advise.

This is the end of part three, I hope you are enjoying our time together as I am. I will see you soon with part 4. Until then, stay safe, work hard, make money, eat well, live well.

What is Recovery Series: Part 1 – Healing

What is Recovery?

In a real sense of the word, it means regaining everything you have lost.
I am currently enrolled in a course specifically designed to teach Evidence based approaches to giving specialized care for women with Substance Use Disorders. There was a question about an example of what recovery is. Most of the options were talking about someone who had stopped using drugs but could not hold down a job or could not maintain a healthy relationship with other. The correct option was the one describing someone who had stopped using drugs, had a job and could pay for her apartment and was in good terms with her neighbours and was also a volunteer at her local Community Centre.

To paint a clearer picture about recovery, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defined it as , ‘a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life and strive to reach their fullest potential.’
The example and definition suggest therefore that, for someone to attain full recovery from Substance Use Disorders, a lot more than abstinence is required.

In the next few weeks, we are going to look at this topic in great detail. This will be a five part series. Let us get right into part one which I have titled, ‘Healing’.

The beginning of recovery is starting to gain your health back. Substance Use Disorder does not only negatively affect the physical and mental but also spiritual health. Now that you are in abstinence, the first order of next business is to pay to your health.

Physical Healing

You need to have a general physical health check up to find out whether everything is working at optimal levels. Take medications that may be prescribed properly.
Maintain a healthy eating habit. Make time to prepare your own meals with healthy ingredients to avoid acquiring other diseases which could arise from unhealthy food choices.
Maintain a good sleeping habit, drink a lot of water.
Do not forget to get some physical activity. Move the body, do not sit around all day. Go for walks, get some chores done and maybe do some gardening.

Mental Healing

Substance Use Disorders can induce some mental disorders like anxiety or depression, which usually resolves when substance use is stopped. Anxiety or depression can also be a sign that your body is in withdrawal from the drugs that have been taken. This situation is also likely to resolve by itself after withdrawals have ended.
However, in some cases, these may not be resolved without treatment, probably because the mental health disorder may have already been an issue independent of the drug use which was not diagnosed earlier. It could also have come about as a result of a long period of exposure to drugs.
Whatever your situation may be, you need to make an appointment with a mental health care professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Other mental health disorders like bipolar disorder and personality disorders can also affect the quality of your life. See a specialist for assessment and treatment so as to start your new journey with a sound mind.

Spiritual Healing

Just like you neglected your physical and mental health during active drug use, you neglected your spiritual health.
Your spiritual health is the sum of self-care, treatment of others, what values you have and how you treat the environment.
If you treat yourself well by eating well, washing your body well and regularly, think good thoughts about yourself, you treat all others with respect and dignity, you live your life with good values that make you walk in integrity, and take time to care for your environment, then you have quite a decent spiritual life. Love of self and others is the key!
Living a good spiritual life guarantees peace, love and freedom of mind.

Your Take Away

If you want to realize the full benefits of abstinence and enjoy your life in recovery, start by taking care of any medical conditions, mental disorders and pursue a good spiritual life. These will ensure a sound body, mind and spirit, which will help you to achieve the other aspects of recovery.
This is just the beginning, stay tuned for more..

World Drug Day 2022

Today is International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, 2022, also known as World Drug Day.

26 June has been set aside by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), to create awareness about the world drug problem. It is also meant to advocate for strengthening of action and cooperation in the creation of a world free of drug abuse.

Every year, a theme, which usually is centered around current world happenings is chosen by the UNODC, which becomes the focal point for which campaigns, rallies, advocacy programs among others are built.
This year’s theme is ‘Addressing drug challenges in health and humanitarian crises’.

In the mist of a pandemic and other diseases, severe flooding, a war which is affecting the world economy, the massive exodus happening across South America into North America, the perilous journeys from the Sahara Desert through Libya and Morocco into Europe; which dangerous criminal organizations who traffic people are heavily exploiting, no better theme would do.

These world crises are some of the factors which can cause trauma and in turn lead to the initiation of drug use or the escalation of an existing drug use problem.

People who use drugs want to get help. They will receive help when it is offered them. Most of the time however, most people think that people who use drugs and have developed Substance Use Disorder prefer to remain in their present condition, and thus most of the time, they are not included in many relief programs.

This reminds me of a scene from a news item which was aired during the Covid-19 lock down period in Ghana; March, 2020. During that period, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection had taken up to distribute ‘hot’ meals to homeless women working as porters in the Central Business District in Accra (they are popularly called Kayayei).

In the news interview, some of the women were furious that some of them were not getting the food because whenever they queued up to receive the food, ‘the drug users’ will also join the queue and take part of it. She said it in Twi, it sounded as if the people she was referring to were not human and so did not deserve to eat.

It is really unfortunate that most people behave this way because they do not know better. On a day like this, let us take time to explain to them that persons who use drugs are also human, they deserve to eat, get treatment for their disorder, get employment, and also enjoy all the privileges that the rest of us in society are due.

Do it today with your voice, your face, your influence and any resource you can spare.

#CareinCrises #WorldDrugDay2022

Happy Fathers’ Day

For you in recovery, this is an opportunity to ‘mend fences, build broken bridges and strengthen wobbly ladders’ with your fathers. This is the time to get closer to such figures who are capable of being there for you physically, emotionally, financially as well as spiritually.

Father’s Day. Yeeeiiiii!

Today, I saw a lot of social media posts of pictures of fathers, pastors, husbands, brothers and father figures in general. The first thought that crept into my mind is this, ‘‘most of these people are posting pictures of father’s they probably have not spoken to or been good to in weeks or months, just to keep up appearances’’.

I am not saying you are one of those people. I was just wondering whether we have taken time to actually reflect on what this day is supposed to be about.

I personally think this is a day to be grateful to the fathers in our lives for their love, care and guidance.

For you in recovery, this is an opportunity to ‘mend fences, build broken bridges and strengthen wobbly ladders’ with your fathers. This is the time to get closer to such figures who are capable of being there for you physically, emotionally, financially as well as spiritually.

If you do not know how to go about that, here are a few suggestions.

Say Thank You

It is important to express how grateful you are to your father or father figure for what they have done for you. Be specific in what you are thanking him for. There may be a lot of things you can say but listing them specifically will have a greater impact than just saying, ”Thank you daddy for everything’’. How do you think something like, ‘‘thank you daddy for paying my hospital bills last month’’, will make him feel? Even if he has done nothing for you according to your expectations, you can still thank him for giving you life (that is if he is your biological father).

Saying ‘Thank You’ attracts more of everything. You will get more of whatever you appreciate, so thank him more often.

Say Sorry

If you have offended your father in any way, apologize to him, not just today but today can be the beginning of a better relationship between the two of you. 

If he is the one who has offended you, you can forgive him and try to start a healthy relationship with him again. 

Humility, forgiveness and letting go of bad blood between close relatives and associates is the beginning of a healing process which will eventually help in your general recovery.

This does not however mean that you should hold on to relationships that are toxic, abusive or drug fueled which could eventually set you back in your recovery.

Forgive, let go, but only hold on to fruitful and nourishing relationships; father or whoever.

Make Amends

This applies in situations where you can make up for a loss you have caused. Let us say, during the time when you were actively using drugs, you took some money from your father without his permission. This will be a good time to return it, that is, if you can afford to.

Try it, it could be a wonderful surprise, but if by your assessment you think this gesture will cause any form of trouble, it is better to just move forward and forget about the past.

Now Do the Social Media and Other Things

Post pictures and beautiful poetry about your father. I am sure this will make his day when he sees it.

You can also organize him a small party, buy him a gift or take him to a nice restaurant to treat him to a wonderful dining experience. 

All these will go a long way to let him know how much you appreciate him and also help you develop a deeper bond which in turn will be beneficial for you as a source of unconditional support.

Let me know how it goes!

Mind Your Own Life: 5 Strategies to Help you Focus

There can be a lot of pressure to conform to living the life that everyone else is living and measure success according to certain common standards. Nowadays, most people measure success by looking at what house one has, what car one drives, whether someone of a certain age is married with children, where they go out to eat, where they go on vacation, what clothes they wear and a whole lot of superficial things.

This ‘eye service’ style of living has brought a lot of people up to their neck in debt yet they still continue borrowing just to keep up appearances. These same people accuse others who do not want to go down this path as being frugal or stingy.

It is not a bad thing to live a luxurious life if you can afford it, however, for someone in recovery, massing up huge debts just to live to impress other people may serve as a source of stress and potential trigger for relapse.

By all good means and with patience, strive to achieve success which should be measured by your own goals and where you envision yourself in a few years from now, then work towards those goals: your own goals, not those of your friends and neighbours.

Lets look at a few strategies that can be used to live a satisfying life while striving to achieve your goals without getting into unnecessary debt.

1. Live Within Your Means

This should be very basic knowledge for everyone but somehow, it is very difficult for many to follow. In an age where loans are being shoved in our faces here and there, it is very difficult to resist the temptation of taking advantage of these credit facilities.
It is however easier to manage whatever you have, to live within your own means, accruing as little debt as possible so as not to add the stress of servicing huge debts to the other stresses of life.

Make it a rule: Borrow only when it is an emergency.

2. Be Grateful for Where You Are

As you may have heard before, ‘we are all walking different paths in the same world’. Some of the people you started life with may seem to be miles ahead of you. The truth is, how do you know that is true? You may just be where you are meant to be and they may also be just where they are meant to be.
Be grateful that you are on the recovery road right now. There is hope that every other thing in your life will eventually fall in place soon.

3. Have a Clear Picture in your Mind’s Eye about where you are Going

To be motivated and driven to achieve anything in life, you need to have it very well drawn in your mind. Then you need to express that picture in your mind on paper, add up projected timelines with which you wish to achieve these goals, then start working towards them.
Focus hard on these goals, avoid any distractions and diversions and with determination and hard work, you will definitely reach where you want to be.

4. Believe in Yourself, Not What Others Say or Think about You

Most of the time, those people who do not conform to living the life that everyone else is living are tagged as odd or strange. The people in your inner most circle may even call you slow, boring or even stingy. They will tell you that life is short, so spend your money. They will not tell you to save. Yet ask them for assistance in times of crisis and you will most of the time be very disappointed.
Remember, no one will take care of you better that you can. Only you know why you have decided to live your life this way. Believe in your cause and no one can derail you from your path no matter what they say or think about you.

5. Have a little more Faith, it is already done, You just can’t see it Yet

Someone once said that, without faith, we would not be able to do anything, not even something as mundane as sitting on a chair. You sit down on the chair because you believe it is strong enough to hold you up.
If you live life based on the principle of the chair, it would be much easier for you to achieve anything you put your mind to. You would be very confident, questioning the possibility of nothing, because you are sure that whatever enterprise you engage in will succeed.

Your Takeaway

It is true that sometimes you may feel left behind but do not be deceived, a life may look pretty and glamourous but may also be full of debt and stress; just keeping up appearances. Do not get caught up in debt trying to follow that crowd, you do not even know where they are going. You know where you want to be, focus on your goals, and do not give up or allow yourself to be distracted for any reason. Slow and steady always wins the race, just ask the tortoise.

This Human Condition

We are always preoccupied with eating, drinking, sleeping and exercise.
We are so high maintenance.
Failure to do any of these maintenance activities results in deprivation which prevents the human body from functioning properly.
Overindulgence in these activities floods the system with unnecessary junk and also causes the human body to malfunction.
The human body will function at optimal capacity only when a good balance is found between indulgence and deprivation.
There can never be perfect balance of course, but a careful balance at both ends is essential.
I know you have heard all this before, but sometimes I think about it a lot, and realize how so basic this life is, how it can easily be destroyed if not properly cared for.
Take care of yourself, like you would care for your little child.
If you would not over feed or over exert your child, do not do the same to yourself.
Recovery from Substance Use Disorder is not only about Abstinence, it also has everything to do with Self Care.


Take good care of Yourself.

5 Tools for Your Recovery Toolbox

In any recovery endeavour, be it medical, psychological, physical, electrical or mechanical, there is always a specific set of tools that will be required to execute the job.
This principle also applies in Recovery from Substance Use Disorder. Let us consider five essential tools that are essential for this process.

1. Books/Educational Materials

To fully recover from or be in recovery for any chronic disease requires following certain dos and don’ts. There is a lot of literature on various pathways to recovery from Substance Use Disorder. You can learn about triggers, coping skills, relapse prevention, finding a recovery community or treatment centre. You can also read about very compelling stories about people in recovery to help encourage you to start, continue and sustain your recovery.
If you are reading this material then you are already on the right path, stay on it. Well done! Apart from this blog, I personally recommend ‘The Recovery Book’, it has a lot of useful information.

2. Relapse Prevention Plan

Everyone in recovery needs to have a relapse prevention plan. It is very important to anticipate your triggers and plan ahead with strategies and coping techniques to deal with the cravings which may arise from getting triggered.
If you do not know your triggers or have a relapse prevention plan, you may just be traveling the road of recovery blind. Sit with a trained professional and get yourself a relapse prevention plan now. The sooner you do it, the better it will be.

3. Eating Plan

Many people in early recovery are tempted to eat whenever they start having cravings. Some people end up getting addicted to sweets and fizzy drinks. It is therefore very essential to have a good eating plan which will ensure you have a good three balanced meals a day to help your body and brain get the best nutrients to aid in the recovery process.
Avoid eating late at night, from experience and research, I will recommend not eating after 6pm and also avoid snacking. This will help you avoid accumulating excessive body fat and thus maintain a healthy body and brain. Check out Dr. Eric Berg on YouTube, he is an expert on healthy eating and also has a wide range of topics to help maintain a healthy body and mind.

4. Exercise Plan

Some of the devastation that drugs do to the body include premature aging. Exercise helps to strengthen the muscles, get rid of old cells and improve the general outlook of the physical body. I have learned from research that it is important to engage in 30 minutes of intense exercise (any activity that gets the heart pumping like jogging, brisk walking, or working out on the treadmill), for at least five times a week.
If that is too much, I have also learned about the 2 minute rule which says that, if you cannot work out 30 minutes a day, do at least 2 minutes of physical activity every morning. It could include stretches, squats, planks, press ups, yoga, anything to get the body moving. It will also help to keep the body in shape and from aging prematurely.

5. Sleep Plan

Sleep for at least 8 hours a day; lack of proper sleep leads to stress, which could be a trigger for relapse. That’s exactly what we want to avoid. Also try to sleep and wake at about the same time every day, this helps the body maintain a good balance, which enhances a better sense of wellbeing.

Bonus: Discipline

Remember, anything can be achieved with discipline. There is bound to be times when you will not feel like doing any of it but remember, that is just human nature. To become a better version of yourself, you need to keep working hard despite inconveniences or discomfort.

Try these out and let me know how it goes. Enjoy the new you!