What is Recovery Series: Part 2; 4 Steps to Regaining Your Social Health

If you say you are going to do something, do it. Be consistent. Don’t flip flop on your decisions. Inconsistency breeds mistrust. Don’t be that person anymore. Be honest.

Hello, welcome back. This is part 2 of the ‘What is Recovery Series’. I hope you found Part 1 insightful. Let’s get right into this one.

If you did read part 1, you would know that recovery is not only about achieving and maintaining Abstinence, it is all about making a better life for one’s self. I always tell my clients, ‘It is an opportunity to rebrand yourself. Do all the good things that you did not have the time to do before. Reinvent yourself into a far better you’.

One of the sure ways to become a better version of yourself is through proper conduct of yourself in social situations. In active addiction you may have spent all or most of your time doing not-very-credible things, hanging out with not-very-credible company, hanging out in not-very-credible places and just basically being a not-very-credible friend, parent, partner, employee, neighbour and citizen.

This is one of the major reasons why persons with substance use disorders are Stigmatized and discriminated against; the not-very-credible behaviour they exhibit.

So now that you are in abstinence and have taken care of your physical, emotional and spiritual health, let’s look at 4 ways in which you can begin healing your social life as well.

1. Stay off Roads and Connections that will Not Take you Where you Want to Go

There is this old saying ‘show me your friend and I will show you your character’. Another one says, ‘birds of a feather flock together’. Another one in the Bible says, ‘Do not be deceived, bad company ruins good habits.’ (I Corinthians 15:33).

I don’t think I need to say more. The point I am trying to make is, the best way to reinvent yourself is to do things differently than you used to. The company and connections you were used to keeping are not going the way you want to go now, unless maybe this journey is something you are taking as a group.

People who are not trying to leave drugs behind are not going to be able to inspire you to continue being abstinent, they will try to get you to remain in their company, continue to do things the old way. The question you should ask yourself is, why would you take a journey on a road going to Kumasi when you are trying to get to Cape Coast? It doesn’t make sense.

It will be hard because these old connections may have been in your life for such a long time, however these old connections could serve as triggers that if not properly handled, will lead to relapse.

Ask yourself this, ‘You have been on those roads for so long, have they taken you to any good place?

2. Build New Connections

Go ahead and make new friends.

Find people also on the recovery journey who can support you and guide you in this new endeavour. When undertaking any new venture, it is always easier to have a guide who can walk you through their own experiences, which could serve as an example to guide you, instead of bumping all around in the dark until you finally find out what works.

Also, try to meet new people not just in the area of your recovery but in any new direction you are trying to go. You may be interested in a new hobby; find people in those circles that you can share those things with. Or simply just find new people of good character, who can inspire you to achieve your goal of being the better you.

3. Mend Broken Bridges

Living the not-so-credible life means that you may have hurt some people over the years, these people may be very important to you.

At this point, the most honourable thing to do is to apologize to the people you have hurt. This is important! Don’t just move on and pretend as if everything is well and good now. Acknowledge your mistakes, own up to them and ask for forgiveness. This when done sincerely will show to the people around you that, you are being responsible and are more likely to give you another chance to prove to them that you really mean what you are saying.

This means that you are also going to have a lot more support for your recovery from all these people who are now back in your life.

 It may take more than one try to be totally forgiven by these people, don’t give up too easily.

4. Put on a New Garment

Don’t just plead and ask for forgiveness saying you are a new person and just leave it at that. Show everyone that you are truly a new person. Stop doing the not-so-credible things you were doing.

If you say you are going to do something, do it. Be consistent. Don’t flip flop on your decisions. Inconsistency breeds mistrust. Don’t be that person anymore. Be honest.

At this point, re-evaluate your values and see whether the principles you are running your life by are going to make you the better version of yourself that you are aspiring to be. If not, well, then you have some serious thinking and decisions to make.

Are you going to decide to run your life by values that make you into a better and credible person? Or are you just going to keep living by the same ‘old codes.’

The goal is to improve your life and become the very best version of yourself. Make the right choices, try these four steps, start your social healing journey, live your best life in the society!

Stay alert for Part 3, coming soon!

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..

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!

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!