Do you Have to become a Pastor?

I am not trying to be controversial here, neither do I have anything against Pastors, I just want to talk about something I have observed.

I have been privileged to work with people in recovery from Substance use Disorders for a number of years and still counting. I noticed a trend right from the outset of my career which seems to be dying down a little but has not quite died off yet; not that I want it to die. I just think it puts a lot of unnecessary pressure and stress on people in recovery who may feel obligated to go on this path probably because that is what their treatment programme of choice requires or simply because that is what everyone else is doing.

What I am talking about is the trend of people all of a sudden being called to become men of God, to Preach the gospel after leaving treatment.

Maybe you are thinking about going that same way, but before you do, here are a few questions to help you do a little introspection before you get on with it.

Why do you want to do it?

Is it because that is what you have always wanted to do? Or it is just because you feel becoming a Pastor will encourage you to live a moral life full of righteousness and thus help you overcome your temptations to take up the drug again?

What you should understand if that is your mind-set is that, substance use disorders have a lot more to do with ‘works’ than wishes. Becoming someone who admonishes and encourages other people to stay away from temptations does not give you automatic immunity from your own. You need to learn about the nature of your sickness and work hard at dealing with it.

Do you know what you are doing?

Does it give you joy to do what you do? Or are you are just doing it because your treatment program says so? This happened to someone I know.

After treatment from that particular facility, he was made to believe that, becoming a Pastor was the only way to ‘freedom’ from his disease. He went along with it for a few months, preaching to all of us about the immorality of our ways and the sure fact that we were all headed to hell. He however did not understand how to take care of himself because he was not taught how to do that at the facility. Not long after, he could not handle the stress and pressure of being the leader of a new congregation struggling to grow, he burned out and relapsed. He has not been seen in a while.
I am not saying this will happen to everyone, but do you understand what you are getting into?

Are you ready for the role?

Being a Pastor comes with a whole lot of expectations. You have to help other people deal with all sorts of problems; financial, marriage, health. You have to be prepared to be there and present for everyone at all times and at all occasions.

You may not be ready to get into all that stress and take up all that responsibility just yet. Assess your stage of recovery and be sure that you are ready to take up all that work.

Take Away

All I am trying to make you think about is: are you sure that becoming a Pastor is the next step for you? Maybe you feel there is a ‘calling’ for you to do that, or maybe you are just very passionate about sharing the gospel. If those are your reasons, go right ahead, prepare yourself by getting the necessary training that is needed to fulfil your purpose. However, if you are doing it just because you feel it is a good avenue to hide from your temptations, then think again; Jesus was tempted by the devil, He prevailed because he had ‘eaten’ the word of God and was ready to do the work.

Are you ready?

15 Inspirational Songs for Your Recovery Playlist

Music has always been an avenue for relaxation for most people. Some have a favourite genre of music that they listen to. Some do not have any favourites per se, they just enjoy the composition, others prefer lyrics that speak to them; which is my personal preference.

I always encourage my clients to listen to music to help them deal with their cravings and keep a clear head. I also remind them to be mindful of the lyrics in the music, since any music full of drug fuelled language could become a trigger and in effect, cause exactly what we set out to prevent: cravings which could lead to a relapse.

I have come up with a list of songs that I think are inspirational enough to help deal with cravings, relax the mind and inspire hope for recovery.

Here they are!

1. Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin

2. What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong

3. Happy by Pharrell Williams

4. Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justine Timberlake

5. Try Everything by Sharika

6. Hall of Fame by The Script

7. Never Say Never by Justin Bieber and Jayden Smith

8. Firework by Katie Perry

9. When You Believe by Whitney Houston ft. Mariah Carey

10. You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban (Westlife Cover)

11. One Day at a Time by Cristy Lane

12. Jesus Take the Wheel by Carrie Underwood

13. Adom by Diana Hamilton

14. I can see clearly now by Johnny Nash

15. Amazing Grace by John Newton

Enjoy them and let me know if you found them useful.

12 Daily Affirmations to Enhance Motivation in Recovery

A few years ago, I was part of a training group in which we had to do a lot of role plays. In one of those role plays, the exercise was to practice affirming each other. After the exercise, the instructor asked everyone how it felt to receive those affirmations. Each one of us reported to have felt very good and appreciated; these feelings stayed with most of us for at least the rest of the day.

What if you could do that for yourself everyday. What if you reminded yourself everyday about how amazing you are and about all the things you have been through and come out alive, and about all the more wonderful things you can go on to do with each day and the rest of your life.
The practice of using affirmations daily to boost motivation for success in any endeavour has become very popular in our time.

What are Affirmations?

Affirmations are positive statements that can be said to oneself to acknowledge a goal which has been achieved and also to encourage the achievement of future goals. When these statements are repeated daily and visualized in the mind, can eventually propel the achievement of those goals. If you are a spiritual person, you will call it FAITH.

It does not however mean that, any random affirmation will work to boost your motivation to remain in abstinence. Whatever you are saying to yourself has to be true to you and your situation.

Here are a few examples that could be useful.

1. I am alive and in charge, not my cravings
2. I can be confident all by myself, I don’t need drugs
3. I am sober and loving it
4. I can make it through today without drugs
5. I am strong enough, I can do without drugs
6. I went through yesterday without drugs, I can do it again today
7. Kings and Queens don’t do drugs, they rule. I am going to rule the day!
8. I am a champion, I won the battle!
9. I am too strong to let stigma get me down
10. I am a survivor, I will keep going strong
11. I am these number of days sober, hurray!
12. I will celebrate today with a, ‘Oh my, I am alright’.

Are you already practicing affirmations, let me know about them in the comments.

5 Ways to Become Your Cure Pill

‘Madam, if you say Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is a disease, can’t you give me a pill to take away all these cravings and make me better so that I can be cured from it?’
Many people I have encountered in my practice in Ghana have asked this question.
This is a very genuine question because if there is medication for treating and curing other diseases, why can we not provide same for those suffering from SUDs.
In other countries like the United States, Europe and some African countries, there are pills for treating Substance Use Disorders. These pills are given to reduce or stop cravings so that patients can go to work and perform their daily functions. This is referred to as Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT). They are mostly combined with Psychotherapy (counselling) for better treatment outcomes.
This therapy is mostly used for Opioid, Alcohol and Nicotine use disorder. However, medication is available for Cocaine Use disorders as well in some places.
In Ghana, we do not have these medications for treatment (except for alcohol and Nicotine in some health facilities). However, most treatment facilities do have psychotherapy available for clients to help manage cravings and live normal lives as well.
The difference here though is that, some clients find having to go through therapy without medication a very daunting task, especially at facilities that do not provide access to detoxification.
The point which must be emphasized here is that, medication does not guarantee that a client will not relapse; SUD is a very complicated disease which is surely going to be properly managed if the client is not able to follow coping skills that will help him/her work out his own recovery. Medication without, ‘working out’ one’s own recovery almost certainly leads to relapse.
So, what can you do to work out your own recovery in the absence of pills and do for yourself what the pill could have done for you?

1. Find a good Treatment Program

The first step to becoming the pill is to pick out a treatment program that can get you started in the right direction. This should be a program with highly trained staff who can help you understand the disease you are suffering from. What a pill does is to treat a particular disease for which it was made. Knowing your disease, how it came about, what is happening in your brain and body will make you aware of what to do and what not to do so as to have the best treatment outcomes. This will also help you understand some of the reasons why certain rules that are put in place at the treatment program are necessary.
Contact me for a list of good programs available in Ghana if you need one.

2. Commit to the Treatment Program

The pill does a job. To become the pill, you have a job to do. You have to be consistent in meeting with your counsellor, speaking truthfully about your drug use history, which will allow for a proper assessment to be done so as to help write up a good treatment plan for you.
Then the next job is to follow the treatment plan to the letter; nothing should be ignored or seen as irrelevant. The counselor cannot do for you what you are told to do. Doing it yourself is how you work it out; look at it as ‘swallowing the bitter pill’, that is how you get results.

3. See the Rules of Recovery as a New Way of Life

Some of the rules you will hear in treatment are; avoid triggers (people, places and things that may directly or indirectly lead to using drugs again), practice coping skills to deal with cravings and other unhealthy emotions, share your experiences, learn from others in recovery.
These so-called rules are not just noise, they actually work and should be practiced all the days of your life if you want to remain abstinent. Take charge of your life and improve your general wellbeing.

4. Join a Community of People in Recovery

One of the usefulness of the pill is to help maintain retention in treatment. The aim of the recovery community is to find support and growth from a group of people going through the same disease. This community of people will not only serve as your support in treatment but also throughout your whole journey of recovery.

5. Read, Read, Read

This is very important! Your counsellor will definitely not know everything there is to know about Substance Use Disorders. New information is coming out everyday that you can learn about. New ways of coping with cravings are coming up every day. Read books, articles like this one, journals and research on SUDs. Knowledge is not just power; it is incredible power. Look for it, empower yourself, improve your life.
Do you not go looking for relationship tips in books and online to improve your love life? Do the same for all other aspects of your life!

Online Addiction Recovery Programs Can Help You Achieve Sobriety

Recently, during the COVID-19 partial lockdown in Ghana, I gained a lot of weight. So much so that I am in the process of getting new clothes tailored. Unlike most people, I wasn’t working virtually because I couldn’t meet with my clients at the rehabs for consults. All the work had to be handled by the staff in those institutions.
It took just a few weeks of isolation and inactivity from the last week of March to mid-June to start losing a body I had been so proud of. It was freely given to me by God, but I lost it in just a few weeks because I took what I put in it for granted and it messed me up.
After the lockdown, I was a little nervous to go back to work because I knew everyone would notice my weight gain. It happened exactly as I had anticipated. Everyone kept talking about it, I felt very ashamed in my skimpy old clothes. I had to hold my tummy in because it had protruded. In addition to the nose mask I was wearing, l felt very uncomfortable and out of breath. I spent the whole day of our new normal lives beating myself down because I had failed at something I thought I had a hold on.
After work that day, I decided that I had to do something about it. Going to the gym was out of the question; COVID-19 restrictions and honestly, I would not be comfortable working out in public.
I knew I had to find a program that would help me easily commit to a routine that I could follow, which had to be affordable as well. It was time for me to practice what I kept preaching to my clients and just about anyone who asked about recovery from drug use: Do something about it!
So in these normally strange times, I looked online and a found an app with a perfect thirty day challenge for me. It is filled with a lot of exercises that I can do daily; 20 minutes for one workout including tips for doing other things that could help maximize results. Most importantly, there was a soothing voice of encouragement throughout the workout which always congratulated me after each workout. I think it is pretty amazing!
I am 18 days into the 30 day weight loss challenge basic level work out, I feel better already. I have not quite seen any visible weight loss but I have hope because I still have a long way to go. After the basic level, I will graduate to the intermediate and advanced levels.
You will be thinking, what has weight loss got to do with drug addiction and recovery?

As a matter of fact, it has a lot to do with it. Making a decision to loose weight has a lot to do with making a decision to quit using drugs. It is both about making a decision to try new ways of handling one’s self in terms of the things we put in the body, learning new ways of doing things to keep it healthier and in better shape so as to live healthier and free of self-consciousness. Both have to do with deciding to do new things that will result in a healthier body and mind.
The conditions under which we live now in the midst of a deadly pandemic and restrictions are forcing us to live in isolation thus making life much harder. This could result in dire consequences for drug users because of probable job losses which could lead to hunger and even homlessness, as well as the likelihood of contracting the disease while going out into the streets to look for, prepare and use drugs. Fatalities may also occur in instances where an individual who lives alone overdoses in these times of isolation and social distancing, where there may be no one available to offer any assistance.
Unfortunately, it is also getting harder now to get into treatment due to Covid-19 restrictions which has prompted most drug treatment centres to also go into lockdown to prevent new clients who may have the virus from coming in to infect those who are already in the facilities. But in the midst of all this gloom, a helper remains and is offering a lot of assistance to many of us in various ways.
Like I found my weight loss app on the internet, you can also find treatment online for your drug use. Yes, you can.
You can check out the ‘SMART Recovery Program’ which is fully online. The ‘Celebrate Recovery’ program which has an app and can also be found online will be a good fit for you if you are a Christian. Or you can simply type in ‘Addiction Recovery Online’ and a lot of good options will pop up. You can also type in ‘Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous Online’ and you will find a couple of Zoom meetings to join.

Search for ‘Certified Addiction Counsellors’ in your area and you would be surprised at what you can find. You get to talk to a professional who would help you through the process.
Apart from all these, there are also a couple of Apps that you can find in the google play store that can be very helpful. Just type in ‘Addiction Recovery app’.
Take a leap of faith, take the step and do the search. You will be surprised about how helpful it can be for you.
Most of the time we try on our own and fail to make major changes in our lives because we often do not have any structured approach to it. This is the reason why we seek the help of professionals since they enroll us onto recovery programs with structured exercises and new routines that are likely to achieve better results.
Keep in mind that, it will take longer than you expect to be able to see positive results in the process to recovery, so please be patient, follow instructions of the recovery program you choose and it will work out for your good. Make up your mind that giving up is not an option!
When you fail and lapse, do not just get stuck there, just continue following the recovery program, gradually you will move through the stages and eventually get to the ‘advanced level’ where you will be able to maintain your sobriety and sustain your recovery.
Let’s go, the time is just right!