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..

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.

6 Benefits of Exercising for Recovery

The nature of human life suggest that the body was made for Exercise. Years ago, an individual needed to move in order to gather food, hunt for food, cultivate food, draw water, go from one place to another. These activities kept the human figure upright and in shape. These days, getting things done has become very easy because of technology and that, has reduced the activity levels of people. This has necessitated the need for exercise to be added to the daily routine in order to help keep the body upright and in shape.

According to research, Exercising does not only help keep the body in shape, it also has a whole lot of other benefits, which has been proven to be helpful in early recovery from Substance Use Disorders. Let us discuss a few.

1. To Help with Cravings

Cravings are a normal ‘side effect’ of early recovery, which when not properly understood and handled, causes many people to relapse. It is important to remember that, cravings do not last as long as they may seem. At any given time, a craving may last between 15 – 20 minutes; a simple Exercise could help serve as a way to take your mind off the craving and prevent you from giving in to your urges.
Going for a walk, is a form of Exercise that can be adopted to deal with cravings.

2. To Help Reduce Stress

Another potential trigger for relapse in early recovery is stress. There are a whole lot of expectations and demands that may be placed on you at work, by family and the community in which you may find yourself. These expectations coupled with dealing with triggers and cravings could become overwhelming and cause a lot of stress. If you do not find healthy ways to step away from all that stress, you may be tempted to go back to your old unhealthy ways of coping.
Taking an Aerobics class with a group of others or doing it by yourself at home will be a good way to wind down, relax and get all that pressure off your shoulders.

3. To Help Improve Physical Fitness

You may have experienced some loss of muscle mass or just may be feeling physically unfit after a long period of drug use. Taking up some physical Exercise to boost your muscle growth and make you feel generally strong and fit is a good way to go.
Some examples of Exercises you can take up to achieve this goal are; Hiking, jogging and weight lifting.

4. To Reduce Depression

Depending on the kind of drug you were using, some of the withdrawal symptoms may linger on for a while. If you were dependent on stimulants, some of these withdrawal symptoms will include Depression.
Along with medication, counselling, and time, dancing is a good exercise which can be helpful.

5. To Clear the Mind

A lot of things may just be going on in your mind at the same time. It may be personal relationship issues or new responsibilities that you are facing now that you are sober. Whatever it may be, you need to clear your mind of all the clutter so as to be able to think clearly to solve the problems you may be faced with.
Yoga, swimming, cycling, boxing may be helpful to you.

6. To Boost Confidence

Your confidence levels will be enhanced when your body is fit, your stress levels are reduced, you are dealing with your cravings well, and are also able to fit into society and interact freely with other people.
Playing a team sport like Football, basketball, volleyball is a good way to ‘get fit’ physically, mentally and socially.

What I want you to take away is that, Exercising regularly will improve your physical fitness, help bring your stress levels down, help your mental health to improve; which will help you keep your life ordered and that, is what will give you the confidence to keep going and knowing that, you can and will continue to be abstinent if you keep working at it.
All this Exercising is only a complement to taking your medication and talking to your Substance Use Counselor regularly and truthfully!

2 Ways to Make It About Love

A while ago, I was having a conversation with someone who was referred to me by his mother. She said he was smoking too much Marijuana and was worried about his health so she wanted me to try and see if I could help him to start thinking about quitting.
It took a lot of tossing and evasive maneuvers from him but he eventually agreed to the meeting.

I tried to explain his mother’s concerns to him; how she was worried and why it will be helpful for him to start thinking about quitting. His response to me was, ‘It is true that I smoke a lot of Marijuana but I do not do it to commit any crimes. I only smoke it because it is something I like. I am not a bad guy’.

I did not know what perceptions or feelings his mother and others may have expressed to him about people who use marijuana but I could deduce from his response that, it was all negative.

This position taken by others towards him probably made him feel like, he had to continue using the drug to prove to them that, he could smoke and still not become a criminal. So I tried to help him see another reason why his mother was concerned about his drug use by looking at two dangerous consequences of continuous Marijuana use.

1. Do you know that continuous Marijuana use can lead to severe health consequences?
‘Extensive research has shown that Marijuana use can cause damage to the heart, lungs and mental health. It can also cause accidents on the road while you are driving by slowing your reaction time, impairing your coordination and distorting your perception’.

‘Since you use and drive, your Marijuana use does not concern only you but all other road users. You could hurt other people even when you do not intend to’.

2. Do you know that Marijuana use is illegal in Ghana?
‘According to the laws of Ghana, anytime you buy, possess or use any Marijuana product, you are breaking the law. So in the process of gaining access to, preparing and using the drug even once, you would have broken the law several times, which could land you in jail for at least ten years’.

‘You just told me that you do not engage in any criminal activity when you use the drug, but criminal activity is not limited to violent crimes like murder or armed robbery, it is any act which is against the laws of our country’, I said.

I continued to help him understand that, his mother is not interested in making him feel like a bad guy, she just loves him so much, she does not want to loose him to ill health or the criminal justice system. She just wants him to live a healthy and full life without any health or legal obstacles.

If you know anyone struggling with drug use, approach them from a place of love instead of condemnation. That is more likely to yield better results.

By the way, the guy agreed to go into treatment, and is taking it a day at a time.

Renew Your Mind About Your Drug of Choice: 4 Points to Remember

All decisions take place in the mind before manifesting in action. To eat or not to eat, to drink or not to drink, to bathe or not to bathe and the rest.
Many people go in and out of toxic relationships because they tend to forget the real reasons why they had to leave. They remember the good times when they are lonely, which eventually becomes a big trigger for their return into the bad relationship.
I always tell my clients to treat their ‘drug of choice’ like a toxic Ex, who hurt them, manipulated them, wasted all their money and totally destroyed their self esteem.
Here are four points to remember when you are lonely and contemplating about going back to the ‘toxic ex’.

1. Stop Romanticizing that Relationship

Stop thinking about the relationship you had with that drug as if it was the best thing that happened to you. If it was, you would not have ended up in jail, in the rehab, lost your friends, job, and health.
If something is good for you, it will make you better, not worse. Those brief moments of euphoria, cannot be compared to a lifetime of health and wholeness that is guaranteed outside of that relationship.

If it was not good for you yesterday, it will not be good for you tomorrow.

2. Remember the Bad Times

Never forget any of the bad experiences you had because of that drug. I do not know about them, no one can tell them to you, only you know them.
Remember the hangovers, the near death experience due to an overdose, remember that time when you had to sleep in the drug den because you lost your house, remember the Cirrhosis or Hypertension you have to deal with now for the rest of your life.
Anytime you feel like going back to that drug, think about those bad times.

3. Remember all the Money Wasted

No good partner will make you spend everything you have and even make you borrow more money to support them. This is what drugs do. If you have survived such a relationship, even though you may be feeling strong and confident now, going back in will not end up better for you because you have ‘experience’. Things will only get worse.
Take some time to calculate all the money you have ever spent on drugs, you will be surprise at the amount you will come to. Think about what you can do with all that money if you begin to save it instead.

4. Remember the Manipulation

A bad partner will make you think that, without them, you can do nothing! We both know that is a lie; before them, you were.
This happens with drugs too. You remember the withdrawal symptoms; how bad you felt when you began to quit, and it felt like the only way to feel better was to go back to it?

Withdrawal symptoms are temporary, like dealing with a bad breakup, and you will be fine eventually. You just need to be patient.


Your thoughts and feelings about your drug of choice are what will determine what actions you will take in relation to it: to go back to it or not to go back to it. To be certain that you succeed in not returning to it, stop romanticizing about the drug, remember all the money you spent trying to keep the habit going, remember how you were manipulated into thinking that the drug is the solution to all your problems and never forget all the bad times you had because of that drug.

Stay strong, everything will be fine.

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 Techniques for coping with Cravings

Cravings, what does it mean?
It is a strong psychological urge to return to the drug of choice.


Facts About Craving

  1. They are a normal part of early recovery
  2. They start, rise, peak and fall
  3. The whole process lasts for about 15– 20 minutes
  4. Craving does not mean you are relapsing, it is part of the process
  5. After about 2 years of not giving in, it will disappear.

Coping with Cravings

  1. The Rubber Band Snap Technique
    Put a normal rubber band on your wrist and snap it anytime you have a craving and recite encouraging words to yourself. This can be practiced anywhere.
  1. The Journaling Technique
    This technique requires a notepad and a pen, which will be used to record your thoughts and feelings during cravings.
    This is a good way to step back and think about what is going on in the mind and body.
    In the absence of a notepad, a phone or laptop can be used.
  1. The Gratitude Listing Technique
    This is about listing all the things in your life that you are grateful for. Forget about any negative feelings and events happening in the moment.
    This is a powerful way to appreciate all the good things you have, despite your cravings.
  1. The Meditation Technique
    Listen to meditation tapes to help you relax and get through the ‘ride’. The ‘Abide Christian Meditation App’ is highly recommended.
  1. The Imagery Technique
    Imagine yourself in a place where there are no drugs, no cravings; your happy place and go there in your mind.