Hearts & Minds - Information for ChangeSM
More than 20 practical steps to
recovery, better relationships and success in life
Please note: These steps are only
suggestions. Some different or additional steps may be necessary. For addictions or
psychological problems, it is strongly recommended that you see a highly-trained
professional therapist who is familiar with your personal issues to help you decide what
treatments are best for you.
Overcoming an addiction can be difficult, yet
tens of thousands of have succeeded. You can, too.
Most people try and fail a number of times
before they succeed. You do not want to use this as an excuse, but do not lose heart.
Admitting that there is a problem is a good
first step (and a very difficult one for many people).
Even if you are "sober" now,
realizing the potential problem is important. Your battle is often largely fought and won before your moments of weakness. There are many ways to
strengthen yourself and make life more fulfilling, reducing addiction's attractiveness.
You are invited to print out this article as a
"to do" list. I suggest re-reading it on a regular basis, to help you think of
new, constructive things to do.
The more positive steps you
take, the easier your success can be. Here are examples (some of which you may already be doing):
Attend support group
meetings. Do not struggle alone. Group members
provide encouragement, insight, accountability, and friendship. All this can be
help. You can meet people who offer emotional support during times of temptation and
When you first quit your addiction, you will at times feel weak. It may be
good to go to a support group daily - or even more often.
Let others help
There are many groups for specific addictions.
See our Self-Help and Support Group Links. These
organizations can probably suggest a whole series of meetings in your
local area. Set aside regular times for meetings. Keep a schedule of meetings handy
for when you need extra support.
Let friends know you are quitting so you can
develop a support network.
Stay in touch with people who matter to you. Work to improve your relationships. Many
addicts tend to isolate themselves, but addictions are often fed by feelings of
loneliness. (Additional suggestions on relationships are below.)
Increase your social
interaction. Many addicts have imperfect social
skills. Conversationally Speaking* by Alan Garner (McGraw Hill) suggests specific
ways to improve your social interactions.
If you have a serious addiction to alcohol
or drugs, it may be best to enroll
in a de-tox or recovery program. Also consider
moving temporarily into a treatment facility.
Check into other sources
of help. When you have a difficult challenge, it's
best to find many sources of advice.
Seek encouragement from Inspiring Quotes and Ideas
and other sources.
Read books on addiction and psychology. One you will probably find helpful is Willpower's Not Enough* by
Arnold M. Washton and Donna Boundy (Harper & Row, Publishers). There's important and
interesting information in the first parts of this book, but you can just start with Part
III, "Recovery." It's filled with practical steps and insights.
Books can't deliver all the benefits of
psychotherapy - but they can help.
Learn how thought
processes and situations trigger addictive behaviors so
you can defuse or avoid them. If you're a substance abuser, remove all traces of the
alcohol or drugs from your home.
A New Guide to Rational Living* by Albert Ellis and Robert Harper (Wilshire Book
Company) provides valuable insights on how our thinking affects our moods.
Therapy and peer
counseling can be very helpful for resolving
emotional problems that cause self-sabotaging behaviors. It is hard for any of us to
evaluate ourselves as well as a highly trained, experienced professional can. (See Do You Need Therapy? - How to Know ).
When Talk is Not Cheap, by Mandy Aftel and Robin T. Lakoff* (Warner Books), can
help you choose from many kinds of therapy and shows how to get more from it.
Get in touch with your
emotions. Emotions are powerful. They often
affect us more than we consciously realize. Long- standing, deep emotional pain often
drives addictions. There are ways to resolve this.
Addicts are often hurt by strong, pent-up emotions such as anger, depression, and feelings
of abandonment. (Our emotions are not negative. Theyre part of life, but we need to
find therapeutic, constructive ways to feel and express them.)
Learn to overcome
depression. Many addicts suffer bouts of serious
depression - especially after they stop their addictive activities. But you can overcome
If you are depressed, you will not be able to appreciate all the good things life has to
offer. And it does. As you work through what may be blocking
you, you will have many opportunities to share deeper, more fulfilling, supportive
relationships with others.
doctor-prescribed medication. I believe even pharmaceutical drugs should be used only when
necessary, but if you are seriously depressed, you might consider a prescription for
anti-depressant medicine. This can help you to think more clearly. Then you can work more
effectively to get to the roots of your depression and frustration.
Some people consider the herb St. John's wort to be a desirable alternative. (However many
herbal remedies have not had the rigorous, double-blind testing that supports the safety
and effectiveness of pharmaceutical drugs. If your situation is serious enough to consider
even herbal remedies, it is probably serious enough to seek professional help.)
Feel good about much good you do. Don't be too hard on yourself when you make
mistakes - even serious ones. Learn to relax more and "smell the flowers."
Savor the experiences of a clear mind in the "sober" life.
helpful checklists. See Specific
suggestions for your checklists. Refer to your lists regularly - particularly when
tempted to forget.
Cultivate hobbies and
interests as fulfilling alternatives to your
Join activities you find
interesting. It is a good way to meet new people
you already share an interest with. You may not meet someone special every time, but at
least you can enjoy the activity! Sharing an activity makes it easier to get to know new
people can bring new, emotionally supportive
A good example of uplifting fellowship is a Bible study/prayer group. "Organized
religion" may seem out-of-style, but you can find warm, caring people who will help
you grow in spiritual and practical ways. You can find great power in others praying with
and for you. Let friends know you are quitting so they can develop a support network.
You may want to visit several congregations before you find one that feels best for you.
Of course, beware of cults and fanatics that offer a quick and easy fix if you surrender
blindly to their leaders.
Get involved in volunteer
activities where your contributions are meaningful
and appreciated. Helping others is a good way to help ourselves. It
structure and an additional reason to be strong.
Volunteer work provides plenty of contact with others. (see Volunteering).
Avoid volunteering where there is close contact with temptations. For example, an
ex-alcoholic should avoid volunteering next door to where drinking buddies hang out.
In fact, be aware of "aids," (apparently irrelevant decisions), like an ex-alcoholic
driving by a bar he liked because that's a more scenic route or a sex-addict taking a
"short cut" through an area with prostitutes.
Many addicts find it necessary to end contact with addiction buddies.
Take care of
yourself. Eat better.
Exercise. Have appropriate concern for your appearance.
Just as fixing up run-down neighborhoods often brings lower crime rates, our own personal
surroundings can affect our behavior. You need not spend a lot to make your home more
beautiful and comfortable. If it is messy, clean it up.
If you believe, God can be a powerful
source of help. If you don't believe, try asking God for help, anyway. This can help
focus you on positive belief in change. And feel free to tell Him about your doubts and
God can do anything, the Bible assures us, but you have to ask - and be open to
Him and His solutions for you. Ask God for the wisdom to know what's right to do - and
ability and opportunity to succeed.
Meditation can be a source of relaxation.
If you find yourself giving in to your
addiction, remember that every moment is an opportunity to resume your recovery. Do not beat yourself up. This only leads
to more emotional pain and the temptation to give in again - a vicious cycle.
Congratulations on the steps you have already
taken to overcome your addiction. Reading this letter shows you want to change. Each step you take brings you closer to success.
Keep trying. Victory is
within your reach!
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article © 1997 by Bill Blackman.
online 1997, latest text changes March 31, 2006.
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