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Facing Bipolar Disorder the Ayurveda Way

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Q & A with Vasavi Kumar, Ayurvedic Healer and Personally Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder

In conversation with Vasavi Kumar:

If there is one word to describe Vasavi it is “vivacious”. Right through this interaction there wasn’t a moment where we couldn’t positively resonate with her thoughts and be touched by her view of life. She talks about “Facing up to Bipolar Disorder the Ayurveda way” from a first person’s perspective having experienced and attuned her outlook towards the ailment and life in general. Here are gems from our discussion to enable people suffering and people supporting, to realize, accept, and deal with Bipolar Disorder the natural humane way:

Q. Why is bipolar disorder considered a “disorder”? Does society look at it as a mental illness?

People who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder are often misunderstood because of the stigma that is attached to the label.
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depression is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels and the ability to carry out daily tasks. Does society look at it as a mental illness? Absolutely. The way that it is talked about in our society is rooted in the belief that there is something “wrong” with an individual if they have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. People who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder are often misunderstood because of the stigma that is attached to the label. It is not just bipolar disorder that is misunderstood, it is all mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
There is a wide gap between people’s perception and understanding of bipolar disorder and the nature of the “illness” from a spiritual and Ayurvedic point of view. Western medicine’s approach to helping people who have been diagnosed as bipolar is one of suppressing emotion, rather than going to the root of the issue. Because of this one-sided and narrow approach to healing, it is no wonder that society deems those who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder as “crazy” and “insane.”

From an Ayurvedic perspective, bipolar disorder is an excess in Vata in the mind
From an Ayurvedic perspective, bipolar disorder is an excess in Vata in the mind, mimicking many of the manic symptoms (talkativeness, hyper-sexuality, excessive spending, racing thoughts) and an excess in Kapha, mimicking symptoms of depression (sadness, lethargy, lack of sexual energy) If one suppresses their emotions long enough there is a much higher probability of exploding and on the flip side experiencing periods of deep depression. That which is forced to be “contained” will eventually find an outlet to express itself. It is because of the lack of awareness of bipolar disorder and how it is diagnosed, the etiology, pathology, and treatment of a person who has this label that society continues to view this as an “illness.”
Q. Are the causes/triggers and frequency of episodes more physiological or psychological?

The key here is to examine ALL the areas of your life and see which areas feel out of balance.
The causes/triggers are both physiological and psychological. But it doesn’t stop there. You have to be willing to look at nutrition, environment, the type of media that is being consumed, the people that you are surrounding yourself with, exercise, spirituality, and vocation. Another factor that definitely needs to be considered are cultural differences. Having been raised in a strict Indian immigrant household there were a lot of “rules” which often times felt like a prison. Many people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder often experienced and witnessed the extreme highs and lows in their own families growing up. These extreme highs and lows can and will have an effect on how the individual deals with life and stressful events.
The problem with traditional Western medicine is that the “solution” is often to prescribe antipsychotic and/or mood stabilizers to a patient and call it a day. Of course there is encouragement to see a psychotherapist which definitely helps the person who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder to heal from any past pain and hurt. But often times what happens is that a newly diagnosed patient will be confronted with this label and then not know how to treat themselves on a holistic level, rather, simply take a pill as prescribed by their doctor. Taking a pill alone is not the answer. The key here is to examine ALL the areas of your life and see which areas feel out of balance. As humans we are naturally inclined to seek balance. Know that if you are one day feeling extremely “high” your mind and body will do whatever it takes to feel its counter opposite.

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Q. What works more? Medical intervention, spirituality, counseling or the social support system?

There are so many methods of healing if you have been diagnosed with a mental illness. There isn’t ONE specific route to your path of feeling well. Medication to begin with may feel like the only option when you are first diagnosed. And for some, taking these medications to suppress your highs and lows may help in reducing certain symptoms. However, the goal here is to be willing to explore your options.

I began practicing yoga, signed up for a women’s boot camp and really started to pay attention to what else I needed to feel better every day.
Having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2002, I initially began my healing process by taking a cocktail of prescription medication. I gained about 45 pounds and felt extremely lethargic and tired all the time. In 2005, I started to become curious about what more I could be doing to feel better. The truth was, the medication alone just was’t helping me. I started reading books on clean eating and delving into different ways to heal myself through food. From there, I began practicing yoga, signed up for a women’s boot camp and really started to pay attention to what else I needed to feel better every day. In addition to learning more about healing through food, I also continued to see my therapist on a weekly basis just so I had someone to vent to.
You don’t have to go through this alone.
When you get diagnosed with a mental illness, it is very easy to feel alone and different, like you don’t belong anywhere. That is why cultivating a tight support system is essential to treating yourself. You don’t have to go through this alone. If you do not have friends or family that live close by then finding a support group would be the next best step, as well as developing a spiritual practice. This is often overlooked, but the most intimate relationship you can have is with yourself and whatever you consider a “higher power.”
Q. Are there natural (alternative) remedies for bipolar disorder? Is there a permanent cure?

One “remedy” that I cannot emphasize enough is having a strict routine and structure to your daily life.
Personally, I have not found a “cure.” What I have found are practices and routines that help with the highs and lows. One “remedy” that I cannot emphasize enough is having a strict routine and structure to your daily life. This will help to balance an excess in Vata. There are many alternative remedies and Ayurveda is a great resource for those who have been newly diagnosed or wanting to find other methods to managing their moods. At the end of the day, we all have highs and lows. Those who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder just experience it on a extreme level.
One of the best Ayurveda practices that I have incorporated into my daily morning routine is Abhyangha (oil massage) using warm sesame oil. Oil has the guna (quality) of heaviness and of course oiliness which in turn has a very grounding and calming effect for my mind. I cannot recommend this enough to people who may have an aggravated Vata, especially during the Fall season(and year-round). I also make sure to have free time to spend with myself in nature, as well as creating a routine day to day so that I have both freedom and structure. Also, eating according to your dosha and season is critical if you are working towards a more balanced mental and emotional state. If you do not already know your dosha I have created a free “What’s Your Dosha” quiz which you can take here, along with an accompanying guidebook which you can buy here.

Q. Having experienced this first hand yourself, has the healing process made you what you are today spiritually?

For me personally, had I not been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I would have never embarked on the path of understanding myself on every level.
I wouldn’t be who I am today emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually had I not been given my bipolar label almost 13 years ago. I am who I am today because of my journey—from being diagnosed with what the doctors said would be “lifelong” and that I would need to be on medication for the rest of my life—to learning how to truly care for myself, and listen to and understand my mind, body and spirit. I also respect and honor whatever it has taken me to get here—even the myriad of prescription medication I was given when I was newly diagnosed.
Back then I didn’t appreciate or even fully grasp why I had to go through whatever I was going through. And often times, when we are deep into our healing process, we are blind to the gift that is actually being given to us. For me personally, had I not been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I would have never embarked on the path of understanding myself on every level. I wouldn’t have the compassion and understanding that I do today for anyone going through any sort of adversity or painful situation. I wouldn’t have the perspective on life that I have today. I wouldn’t be relentless in pursuit of my dreams and helping others do the same. I wouldn’t have made myself a priority. I would have taken my life and the lives of those around me for granted. I wouldn’t be a risk-taker. I wouldn’t have been as confident as I am today. I wouldn’t have learned to speak up and take charge of my life. So yes, the entire process has made me who I am today. And I invite any one reading this to start viewing their diagnosis or pain in their life as the greatest gift ever. Trust and believe that it is no mistake that whatever you are going through right now has a divine purpose.

Q. What advice would you give to the “support” system around people with bipolar disorder?

For the people who serve as “support” around your loved ones who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (or any mental illness)–get support yourself.
For the people who serve as “support” around your loved ones who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (or any mental illness)–get support yourself. Your role is exhausting and you need to make sure that you yourself are taken care of. That is the first step. You cannot fully support someone if you yourself are operating and functioning on “empty.” Fill your tank. Be sure to set up a schedule so that you can step away and just focus on yourself. Your role is a big one, and so in order to do what you need to do, you must put yourself as top priority even if it looks like spending the first 10 minutes of your morning enjoying a cup of coffee or tea, alone and in silence.
Second, ask more questions, judge less. You will never ever know what it is like to be in the shoes of the person you are supporting. If you are going to take on the role as a member of a support system then start to get curious and ask more questions. Often times, people in the support role think that they know what’s best. But they don’t. You have to still work hard to maintain, honor, and respect the dignity of the person that you are supporting. Just because your loved one may be diagnosed doesn’t mean that he/she loses all autonomy. At the end of the day, don’t you want your son/daughter/wife/husband, whoever has been diagnosed to be independent? Yes. I know you do. Therefore, it is imperative that you do not treat the person you are supporting as if they are incapable.

Third, get educated about bipolar disorder. Did you know that some of the most creative people of our time were diagnosed with a mental illness? Don’t just listen to what a psychiatrist tells you. Understand and learn about alternative healing methods. There are so many ways to heal. Why not understand more about them so you can be well versed and offer a more holistic option to the person you are supporting?

Lastly, never make the person you are supporting feel like they have something to be ashamed of. I will never forget what my mother said to me when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. We were standing on the corner of 57th and Lexington Avenue in New York City outside of the psychiatrist’s office. She said, “Never tell anyone about your illness.” In that moment I just remembered how ashamed I felt. For me, I was relieved that I finally had an answer to what felt like a lifelong “problem.” But for my mother she was more concerned with the opinions and perceptions of the Indian society. She had every right to be.

The fact of the matter is, there is still a stigma associated with mental illness. And as a mother she was simply protecting me. But, what I wish to impart to those who are in the support role– there is nothing to be ashamed of. We are all given “obstacles” to challenge us. Whether it may be in the form of an addiction, or a diagnosis, or a fear, everything that has been placed in our lives is there for a reason. The more we shame ourselves, the more our illness stays alive.

Thanks Vasavi for this mindful perspective on life. These insights will empower our readers to face and challenge obstacles in their lives and reconnect with their own SELF. Thank you once again !!

http://www.curejoy.com/content/facing-bipolar-disorder-ayurveda-way-qna-vasavi-kumar/

How to Scare Your Nightmares

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“When I was in rehab I was cursed with using dreams. I went to one of my conselours and told her how it effect me; I felt helpless, I felt guilty and worst of all, I felt scared. She began to explain to me the working of lucid dreaming.

“Lucidity means ‘moment of clarity.’ When paired with ‘dream,’ it defines how one is aware that they are sleeping thereby realizing that they are not experiencing physical reality. This alters the dynamics of dreaming by enhancing the perception of control. Once they are conscious within this state they will be able to change outcomes, people, places, things and heighten senses.

“With practice, I have been able to dream lucidly. I can get out of nightmares by flying away or manifesting someone to help. I can even request to be on a beach in Goa or see an old friend before I fall asleep and immediately have that desire fulfilled. Grant it, sometimes I am not so lucky, I may get there or see them and things go array but the beauty of knowing that it isn’t real allows me to at least attempt a quick fix. I do warn you that the excitement of the awareness may cause you to wake up— sometimes within the dream itself. Thats when things get confusing.

“I am also guilty of requesting types of using dreams in hopes that I will remember whats its like. The first attempt at this scared me so much because it all seemed too real. Where I experienced this high was in my own home, it all was so vivid that I literally could not tell that I was dreaming. That dream frightened me so much that before I go to bed I pray that I do not feel that ever again.” – I hope you find this useful. Please give it a try, you will be amazed at what you can do! Love, Robyn

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Benefits of Lucid Dreaming to People in Recovery from Addiction

Those individuals who manage to break away from addiction face many challenges in recovery. If they fail to overcome these obstacles it will prevent them from finding real happiness; it will also increase their risk of relapse. Any technique that can help strengthen their sobriety is always going to be welcome. Lucid dreaming may be able to do this in a number of ways including:

  • It gives them a safe environment where they can face their inner demons. If people become lucid in the middle of a nightmare they can make a decision to confront their fear. Those dreamers who do this usually report that their nightmare turns into a far more pleasant experience afterwards. When they wake up they will tend to feel like some inner conflict had been resolved. Such a cathartic effect is highly beneficial to people in recovery.
  • People in the first few years of recovery can feel uncertain about the future; they may have no real idea about what to do with their life. Lucid dreaming allows them to come in contact with their unconscious desires and hidden aspirations. The individual can use this information to chart a new course in life.
  • It makes it possible for the individual to use their sleep time productively. They can practice using their new coping strategies or other recovery skills.

Lucid Dream Dangers for Addicts

Lucid dreaming can be highly beneficial but there are potential dangers such as:

  • Some people may be tempted to indulge in fantasies of using drugs or alcohol again. This is dangerous because it will weaken their resolve to stay sober. Relapse in a dream can lead to relapse in reality.
  • It will be harmful if the individual becomes too obsessed with their dreams. They may use it as a means to escape reality; much in the same way that they once used substance abuse.

There is some concern that dealing with the unconscious mind can be potentially dangerous. The worry is that the individual will come across something that they are not yet ready to face. This concern tends to be overstated as most people only report positive outcomes from such contact with the unconscious mind in the lucid dream.

How to Dream Lucidly

Some people will achieve lucidity in dreams without ever making any special effort; they may not have even realized that it was possible to achieve lucidity beforehand. If the individual is trying to induce lucidity it can be difficult; at least in the beginning. Here are some of the techniques that have been show to be beneficial for promoting lucid dreams:

  • One of the most popular techniques for inducing lucid dreams are reality checks. This method requires that people regularly check to see if they are dreaming throughout the day. There are many differences between the real world and the dreaming world, and the purpose of reality checks is to notice these differences. If the individual becomes accustomed to doing reality checks in the waking world they will automatically begin to do them when they are dreaming too.
  • Wake-Induced Lucid Dreaming (WILD) is a far more involved technique. The goal of this method is for the body to fall asleep without the mind losing awareness. One way of achieving this involves setting an alarm so that the individual wakes up 6 hours after falling asleep. They then get up for about an hour. When the individual goes back to bed they will put all their focus on staying aware as they fall back asleep. This method is also known as the wake back to bedtechnique.
  • Mnemonic induced lucid dreaming (MILD) also involves interrupting sleep. The aim here is to wake up during a dream; the person sets their alarm so that it goes off during the middle of REM sleep. Once they are woken up by the alarm the individual will try to recall their dream in as much detail as possible. They will then imagine themselves becoming lucid in this dream. As they fall back to sleep the person will focus their mind on achieving lucidity.
  • There are a number of devices that are believed to help people become lucid in dreams. One gadget involves wearing a special type of cover over the eyes. This monitors for rapid eye movement, and when these occur the device directs flashing lights towards the eyelid. These lights can notify the dreamer that they are asleep. Binaural beats are also believed to help some people achieve lucidity in their dreams.

Crazy by Gnarls Barkley

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I certainly remember when I lost my mind. Everything Gnarls Barkley/Cee Lo Green sings about in this song is exactly how I felt in that place. I was crazy. Maybe we’re all crazy? The idea certainly makes the world a smaller place.

Lyrics:

I remember when,
I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that place
Even your emotions have an echo in so much space

And when you’re out there without care
Yeah, I was out of touch
But it wasn’t because I didn’t know enough
I just knew too much

Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Possibly

And I hope that you are
Having the time of your life
But think twice
That’s my only advice

Come on now, who do you
Who do you, who do you, who do you think you are?
Ha ha ha, bless your soul
You really think you’re in control?

Well, I think you’re crazy
I think you’re crazy
I think you’re crazy
Just like me

My heroes had the heart
To live their lives out on a limb
And all I remember
Is thinking, I want to be like them

Ever since I was little
Ever since I was little
It looked like fun
And it’s no coincidence I’ve come
And I can die when I’m done

But maybe I’m crazy
Maybe you’re crazy
Maybe we’re crazy
Probably

Take Twelve

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This is about the time we begin to ask if she is still alive…

And she is!

And now we ask if she is still sober..

She is!

But is she still sane?

It appears so…

What a happy day! She spent three hours in total driving to and from the unbearably busy mall to get her computer fixed and while it does turn on, there are fuzzy technicoloured lines that remind her of tripping… no matter.

She has spent the past few weeks unpacking, painting and decorating her rooms in her new house. Her mom was kind enough to give her two little rooms to use as a massage room and a bedroom. She’s had fun placing all her nick-hacks and art work on her walls. But thats boring stuff! We don’t care about the day to day, we are curious about her head.

Smoking

She woke up— everyday seemed to be the same. Time was dragging on. It seemed like it was taking forever to get things done. Would she ever find a sense of normalcy again? She felt guilty for not going to the gym, for eating poorly and waking up only minutes from noon. She grabbed a bottle of water and went out on the back porch and find her mom rocking in a wicker chair with a cigarette hanging from her mouth. She sat down next to her and lit one up for herself.

“It’s like we’re here decorating someone else’s house and we’re going to go home when its all over,” her mom spoke softly.

“Yeah.”

“Theres just so much to do. The trip down here was so hard. So stressful. Everything is… so stressful.” A tear fell down her face.

“I know. Its a lot. I’m struggling too. I’ve tried not to let it out.” Her mom looked up at her as she said this, cocking her head to side suggesting to tell her more. “Its unpacking all my things… It all comes rushing back. I left it all behind when I came down here earlier to stay with Grandma and Grandpa. Living out of a bag for a month, it was like an escape.. But now its all back. Every little thing reminds me where I’ve been. What I’ve done. How I’ve hurt everyone…” She hesitated and continued, “I found a letter that Daddy wrote to me and hid in one of my travel documents before I left for India. He had so much faith… but so much fear. I could tell. It broke my heart.” She burst into tears. Together they sat crying.

“You know we love you. No matter what, we will always be here for you.”

Her throat knots as she writes this and recollects this moment of weakness. It’s always in the back of her mind but every second of every day she pushes it out. She has learnt to recognize when she is about to slip and quickly resists those feelings. She doesn’t want to break down. She does’t want to fall into depression and get lost in the past. But she remembers it all. The letters she opened on the plane to France from her parents, her sister. They left so much love in those few pages. So much hope for her future. She let them all down.koorg

She ventured into the depths of the messages that were sent from her parents while she was in India.

Tears are rolling down her face now. She could tell when she was going crazier and crazier. She can see the dates. The times. Those words. Those lies.

I have been catching up with time, got lost in koorg for those few days hanging out with my friend pooja —3/22, 10:52am (11:22pm India-time)

‘Getting lost in Koorg.’ Koorg was where it began. The unraveling of her mind. She remembers the trip that set it off. Physical and mental.

Right now its too hard to write about. Maybe later, she thinks as she tries to shove it off. She’ll probably post it, password protected, on her blog soon. Stay tunes I guess. 

 

Stages of Relapse

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“Relapse is something that is not in my recovery program. It has been before but I decided that this time around, it’s just not a good idea. Everyday I try and take inventory of my feelings, trying to recognize if I am falling. I’ve learnt all the signs to look out for when preventing relapse and found that keeping them in mind keeps me focused in my ultimate goal: to stay clean, just for today. When I hear a friend of mine has relapsed, I like to ask them if they could tell it was coming. Some of them mention missing meetings, developing old habits and knowingly going into triggering situations without an escape plan. Others, however, say it was random, spontaneous, unavoidable. But there is something that goes through your head during these opportunities; you begin to slip, your fighting with yourself, you know better but you don’t… These are the stages of relapse. The emotional, mental and physical signs to be aware of.” -Robyn

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Relapse is a process, it’s not an event. In order to understand relapse prevention you have to understand the stages of relapse. Relapse starts weeks or even months before the event of physical relapse. In this page you will learn how to use specific relapse prevention techniques for each stage of relapse. There are three stages of relapse.

  • Emotional relapse
  • Mental relapse
  • Physical relapse

Emotional Relapse

In emotional relapse, you’re not thinking about using. But your emotions and behaviors are setting you up for a possible relapse in the future.

The signs of emotional relapse are:

  • Anxiety
  • Intolerance
  • Anger
  • Defensiveness
  • Mood swings
  • Isolation
  • Not asking for help
  • Not going to meetings
  • Poor eating habits
  • Poor sleep habits

The signs of emotional relapse are also the symptoms of post-acute withdrawal. If you understand post-acute withdrawal it’s easier to avoid relapse, because the early stage of relapse is easiest to pull back from. In the later stages the pull of relapse gets stronger and the sequence of events moves faster.

Early Relapse Prevention

Relapse prevention at this stage means recognizing that you’re in emotional relapse and changing your behavior. Recognize that you’re isolating and remind yourself to ask for help. Recognize that you’re anxious and practice relaxation techniques. Recognize that your sleep and eating habits are slipping and practice self-care.

If you don’t change your behavior at this stage and you live too long in the stage of emotional relapse you’ll become exhausted, and when you’re exhausted you will want to escape, which will move you into mental relapse.

Practice self-care. The most important thing you can do to prevent relapse at this stage is take better care of yourself. Think about why you use. You use drugs or alcohol to escape, relax, or reward yourself. Therefore you relapse when you don’t take care of yourself and create situations that are mentally and emotionally draining that make you want to escape.

For example, if you don’t take care of yourself and eat poorly or have poor sleep habits, you’ll feel exhausted and want to escape. If you don’t let go of your resentments and fears through some form of relaxation, they will build to the point where you’ll feel uncomfortable in your own skin. If you don’t ask for help, you’ll feel isolated. If any of those situations continues for too long, you will begin to think about using. But if you practice self-care, you can avoid those feelings from growing and avoid relapse. (Reference: http://www.AddictionsAndRecovery.org)

Mental Relapse

In mental relapse there’s a war going on in your mind. Part of you wants to use, but part of you doesn’t. In the early phase of mental relapse you’re just idly thinking about using. But in the later phase you’re definitely thinking about using.

The signs of mental relapse are:

  • Thinking about people, places, and things you used with
  • Glamorizing your past use
  • Lying
  • Hanging out with old using friends
  • Fantasizing about using
  • Thinking about relapsing
  • Planning your relapse around other people’s schedules
  • It gets harder to make the right choices as the pull of addiction gets stronger.

Techniques for Dealing with Mental Urges

Play the tape through. When you think about using, the fantasy is that you’ll be able to control your use this time. You’ll just have one drink. But play the tape through. One drink usually leads to more drinks. You’ll wake up the next day feeling disappointed in yourself. You may not be able to stop the next day, and you’ll get caught in the same vicious cycle. When you play that tape through to its logical conclusion, using doesn’t seem so appealing.

A common mental urge is that you can get away with using, because no one will know if you relapse. Perhaps your spouse is away for the weekend, or you’re away on a trip. That’s when your addiction will try to convince you that you don’t have a big problem, and that you’re really doing your recovery to please your spouse or your work. Play the tape through. Remind yourself of the negative consequences you’ve already suffered, and the potential consequences that lie around the corner if you relapse again. If you could control your use, you would have done it by now.

Tell someone that you’re having urges to use. Call a friend, a support, or someone in recovery. Share with them what you’re going through. The magic of sharing is that the minute you start to talk about what you’re thinking and feeling, your urges begin to disappear. They don’t seem quite as big and you don’t feel as alone.

Distract yourself. When you think about using, do something to occupy yourself. Call a friend. Go to a meeting. Get up and go for a walk. If you just sit there with your urge and don’t do anything, you’re giving your mental relapse room to grow.

Wait for 30 minutes. Most urges usually last for less than 15 to 30 minutes. When you’re in an urge, it feels like an eternity. But if you can keep yourself busy and do the things you’re supposed to do, it’ll quickly be gone.

Do your recovery one day at a time. Don’t think about whether you can stay abstinent forever. That’s a paralyzing thought. It’s overwhelming even for people who’ve been in recovery for a long time.

One day at a time, means you should match your goals to your emotional strength. When you feel strong and you’re motivated to not use, then tell yourself that you won’t use for the next week or the next month. But when you’re struggling and having lots of urges, and those times will happen often, tell yourself that you won’t use for today or for the next 30 minutes. Do your recovery in bite-sized chunks and don’t sabotage yourself by thinking too far ahead.

Make relaxation part of your recovery. Relaxation is an important part of relapse prevention, because when you’re tense you tend to do what’s familiar and wrong, instead of what’s new and right. When you’re tense you tend to repeat the same mistakes you made before. When you’re relaxed you are more open to change. (Reference: http://www.AddictionsAndRecovery.org)

Physical Relapse

Once you start thinking about relapse, if you don’t use some of the techniques mentioned above, it doesn’t take long to go from there to physical relapse. Driving to the liquor store. Driving to your dealer.

It’s hard to stop the process of relapse at that point. That’s not where you should focus your efforts in recovery. That’s achieving abstinence through brute force. But it is not recovery. If you recognize the early warning signs of relapse, and understand the symptoms of post-acute withdrawal, you’ll be able to catch yourself before it’s too late.

 

Gotta Cheer Up by Cotton Jones

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We know that we create our reality and can chose to be happy within every moment of our lives. Of course, that can be an incredibly hard emotion to maintain but if we can just think to “cheer up now” in the times we feel ourselves getting down, maybe we can create a more positive outlook for the rest of our day!

Lyrics:

All the colors of your heart
All the whistle in the park
Children swimming through the spark
I was hooding around, in a sea of sound

All the trumpets play whoa whoa

I got to cheer up now
Gotta cheer up now (repeats)
All night I want morning light (repeats)

How to Change Your Playground

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“Everyone in the recovery rooms suggest that you don’t make any major life decisions/changes within the first year of recovery however, they do tell you to also change your playground. That means; people, places and things. These guidelines are made for a good reason but I found in order to do one thing, I had to discount the other. I moved to Florida for a fresh start. I changed everything. Here, I know only family members that support my recovery and other than that, this place is like a foreign land. I have found that, despite the major change, changing my playground has been the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. It keeps me on track; no distractions, no temptations. Here are some tips of how you can make the change without going miles away!” -Love, Robyn

playground

One of the most crucial components of a successful addiction recovery is changing your lifestyle. This most often includes distancing yourself from old drinking friends and haunts, such as a favorite bar. Addiction recovery usually entails making new friends. This may seem like a daunting task, but it’s something we all do throughout our lives. Healthy friends are important to our emotional and physical well-being, and they can impact someone’s recovery by decreasing the risk of relapse.

Here are some tips from PsychCentral.com on how to find new friends while in addiction recovery:

  1. Making friends is not just for the young. Most friendships don’t span a lifetime, so many people are continually looking to replenish their group of friends. Remember that looking for friends at any age is normal.
  2. Pursue your passions to find friends who share similar interests. If you’re just starting to realize your passions during your new life in recovery, pick a hobby or try out a few. Look for local and online communities that are involved in the same activities.
  3. Put yourself in situations where you see the same people routinely. For example, the gym, a class, club, political group or volunteer organization. It’s often casual acquaintances that set the ground for new friendships. Start conversations and follow-up with people. Show you’re interested in others’ lives.
  4. Don’t shy away from online communities or websites, such as www.girlfriencircles.com orwww.meetup.com. Athletics, book clubs, films, gardening, or pets. Find people who are interested in the same things you are and there is potential for developing a new friendship. Enjoy friendships online and/or offline. Join neighborhood or apartment building listservs to try and meet those around you.
  5. Be prepared that not every person you try to befriend will turn into a friendship. This is a healthy and expected part of life.

Be patient. Friendships don’t just happen over night. Give it time and don’t give up if at first it feels awkward or intimidating. There are many rewards to growing new friendships while building your new life in addiction recovery.

Diet in Recovery

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“According to Medline Plus, an addicts diet prior to recovery not only effects ones overall health but can lead to many diseases and disorders of the body and mind.”

The impact of different drugs on nutrition is described below.

OPIATES

Opiates (including codeine, oxycontin, heroin, and morphine) affect the gastrointestinal system. Constipation is a very common symptom of abuse. Symptoms that are common during withdrawal include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

These symptoms may lead to a lack of enough nutrients and an imbalance of electrolytes (such as sodium, potassium, and chloride).

Eating balanced meals may make these symptoms less severe (however, eating can be difficult due to nausea). A high-fiber diet with plenty of complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains, vegetables, peas, and beans) is recommended.

ALCOHOL

Alcoholism is one of the major causes of nutritional deficiency in the United States. The most common deficiencies are of pyridoxine (vitamin B6), thiamine, and folic acid. A lack of these nutrients causes anemia and nervous system (neurologic) problems. Korsakoff’s syndrome (“wet brain”) occurs when heavy alcohol use causes a lack of enough thiamine.

Alcohol intoxication also damages two major organs involved in metabolism and nutrition: the liver and the pancreas. The liver removes toxins from harmful substances. The pancreas regulates blood sugar and the absorption of fat. Damage to these two organs results in an imbalance of fluids, calories, protein, and electrolytes.

Other complications include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Permanent liver damage (or cirrhosis)
  • Seizures
  • Severe malnutrition
  • Shortened life expectancy

Laboratory tests for protein, iron, and electrolytes may be needed to determine if there is liver disease in addition to the alcohol problem. Women who drink heavily are at high risk of osteoporosisand need to take calcium supplements.

STIMULANTS

Stimulant use (such as crack, cocaine, and methamphetamine) reduces appetite, and leads to weight loss and poor nutrition. Abusers of these drugs may stay up for days at a time. They may be dehydrated and have electrolyte imbalances during these episodes. Returning to a normal diet can be hard if a person has lost a lot of weight.

Memory problems, which may be permanent, are a complication of long-term stimulant use.

MARIJUANA

Marijuana can increase appetite. Some long-term users may be overweight and need to cut back on fat, sugar, and total calories.

Nutrition and psychological aspects of substance abuse

When people feel better, they are less likely to start using alcohol and drugs again. Because balanced nutrition helps improve mood and health, it is important to encourage a healthy diet in people recovering from alcohol and other drug problems.

However, people who have just given up an important source of pleasure may not be ready to make other drastic lifestyle changes. It is more important that people avoid returning to substance abuse than that they stick to a strict diet.

“We can take back our health and our life by following some simple guidelines…”

  • Stick to regular mealtimes
  • Eat a low-fat diet
  • Get more protein, complex carbohydrates, and dietary fiber
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements may be helpful during recovery (this may include B-complex, zinc, and vitamins A and C)

People with substance abuse are more likely to relapse when they have poor eating habits. This is why regular meals are so important. People who are addicted to drugs and alcohol often forget what it’s like to be hungry and instead think of this feeling as a drug craving. They should be encouraged to consider that they may be hungry when cravings become strong.

During recovery from substance abuse, dehydration is common. It is important to get enough fluids during and in between meals. Appetite usually returns during recovery. People in recovery are often more likely to overeat, particularly if they were taking stimulants. Eat healthy meals and snacks and avoid high-calorie foods with low nutrition (such as sweets), if possible.

The following tips can help improve the odds of a lasting and healthy recovery:

  • Eat nutritious meals and snacks.
  • Get physical activity and enough rest.
  • Reduce caffeine and stop smoking, if possible.
  • Seek help from counselors or support groups on a regular basis.
  • Take vitamin and mineral supplements.