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If you have ever wanted to give up a bad habit (smoking cigarettes, drinking too much alcohol, coffee, Dr. Pepper, eating ice cream, watching T.V., having sex with strangers) you know stopping can be more difficult than first anticipated. Not only are we driven my our habits, routines created over several years of doing the same activity, but our physical habits, thought patterns, and even our homes can lead us back to using, and abusing, a substance or activity. For this, we must be diligent about changing our mental, emotional, and environmental landscape.
A friend of mine who uses Feng Shui in her interior designing explained how the layout of a home is indicative of the layout of the mind. If one is going to effectively change a habit or behavior they must also change their environment. This made total sense to me and often where I see clients struggle.
Take for instance giving up a habit such as drinking coffee in the morning. If I am going to give up drinking coffee, I need to change the layout in my kitchen. I need to remove the coffee maker and replace it with a tea kettle, as well as give away the coffee beans I have in the pantry and replace them with tea. In an extreme attempt to interrupt the bed-to-coffee-maker pattern, I could place my yoga mat on the kitchen floors as way to prompt me to stretch to awaken my body instead of relying on caffeine. This alone isn’t going to keep me from drinking coffee, but the change in my environment supports my goal and makes it more likely to continue without coffee.
Another example, which I am working on currently, is getting back into a daily formal meditation routine by dedicating myself to 40 continuous days of practice. Many of you might be thinking, “Changing the habit of not meditating isn’t life or death like alcoholism or anorexia…”. On the contrary, meditation is how I discovered how to sit with uncomfortable feelings instead of numb them with food, alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana. To ensure my meditation success I didn’t just ‘hope’ to be able to complete the 40 days. No. I bought a calendar to put in the kitchen, marking down each day in the succession, which changed the environment, as well as placing meditation cushion and chairs in the living room for easy access and no room for excuses. I also enlisted my partner to be an accountability buddy, reminding one another each evening of the goal. And finally, created a plan to sit for 10 minutes for the first 10 days, 15 minutes for days 10-20, 20 minutes for days 20-30, and 30 minutes for days 30-40.
Both of these examples include a change of environment, crucial to the success of the desired habit change. Without these it would become too easy fall back into the unwanted habit or justify quitting the new and desired routine. If you are serious about changing your patterns, habits, and/ or addictive tendencies, you need to get serious by making changes in your environment. You can also ask for help from co-workers, friends, partners/spouses, or contact your local Feng Shui interior designer 🙂
For those incredibly brave, serious folks who are ready to tackle their habits which are getting in the way of living a healthy, fulfilling life, check out my resource Creating a Bad Habit Busting Recovery Wellness Plan, attached below.
Mindfulness is defined as paying attention, on purpose, with kindness. When we take time to develop and practice mindfulness by watching our thoughts, feelings and
sensations rather than react to them, we create space between the two stimuli. This gives us the power to choose how we respond and can help save our lives.
Imagine one is driving, they hear the “ping” of the phone nearby (not terribly hard to imagine, right?). The first response might be to reach for it. Rather than acting, this practiced person senses the urge to take a peek, but instead takes a breath and stays driving. They might do a body scan, feeling the sensations of the back’s contact with the seat, feel the air on their skin, notice the rise and fall of the sensation. Fully attentive while driving, one can respond to the happenings surrounding themselves, staying in the moment and safe.
If one tends to participate in self-harming rituals (possibilities include, over/under eating, cutting, taking drugs or alcohol, nicotine, sex, video games or technology) this practice is greatly beneficial at times of craving or while breaking habits. A triggering event might take place: An interaction, a sensation in the body, stress or worry. In that moment, one finds themself craving the object which makes the situation feel more in control.
When this happens, we use mindfulness.
We can watch the craving thought, feel the craving sensations in the body, notice our emotions at the time, and choose how to respond. To do this we must be willing to pause, to sit, to feel these sensations. It takes a dedicated, not time-consuming, mindfulness practice. You can be mindful doing anything and everything! Walk the dog, converse, sit formally, all with the intention of paying attention on purpose, with kindness.
Another, even more serious, version of self-harming is suicide. When suicidal thoughts occur, which they do at times, one can develop the space to recognize the thought as just that, a thought. Or maybe it comes in the form of a sensation, pausing and feeling into this sensation. Over and over again, we practice this. We feel sensation without responding to them, we watch our thoughts and let them go. Doing this, we create the opportunity to choose our actions. We create space and time to reach out, connecting with someone, or list out our values.
Using mindfulness, we can deactivate the amygdala stimulation (fight, flight, freeze) and are more able to activate the prefrontal cortex where reasoning takes place. This allows us to respond rather than react and is calming to the nervous system.
There are several ways of developing our capacity to recognize thoughts, feel strong sensations without reacting to them, and labeling our moment to moment experiences.
To end the cycle of poverty and addiction we need to first have a working definition of both terms. Poverty is defined as the state of one who lacks material resources. This might be characterized by cramped housing, living on the streets or in a shelter, and a lack of transportation. People who experience poverty are less likely to go to school, receive adequate health care, and have less access to sanitary living conditions. It’s important to remember poverty can be experienced intermittently, for weeks, months, or years, and over generations. The longer one experiences poverty, the greater the affects and risks of developing unhealthy relationships with substances.
Addiction is defined as a physical, as well as, psychological dependence. It is possible for people to become psychologically dependent without having a physical addiction. The psychological aspect involves craving, an intense desire to keep on using the substance/object of one’s addiction even when it’s obviously leading to problems. I’m sure you’ve experienced this sensation at various times in your life, whether with a substance like alcohol, chocolate cake, or television. Just the thought of going without the substance can fill one with dread and anxiety. With this as a side effect, it can be difficult to imagine life without the substance/ object.
The human body is amazing and can adapt to substances ingested, whether healthy or not. A side effect of this phenomenon is the physical dependency which can develop. This can lead one to experience withdrawal symptoms when the level of the substance in the bloodstream fall to low. These symptoms are highly unpleasant and can be fatal. Another outcome could be needing more of the substance to get the same effect.
The underlying reasons for beginning the substance/ object dependency should be noted, observed and dealt with if one is to fully recover. Identifying the causes to seek out a substance give one more tools for dealing with the thoughts, emotions, and feelings as which arise, causing the craving for a substance.
Research suggests a strong association between poverty, social exclusion, problematic drug use. This manifests itself as under or unemployment, insecure housing, and leaving school before graduating. This association coupled with other dispositions accumulate to mean some people are more at risk of addiction, although there does not seem to be any one single factor which determines whether someone will form an addiction. It is a mixture of genetic and environmental factors which play a role in forming addictive behaviors.
I specialize in recovery-based life coaching for people seeking all aspects of well being: balance, clarity, focus, fulfillment, serenity, health and success. This means supporting clients recovering from the disease of addiction by guiding them through important decision-making processes with heart-centered purpose. Drawing out my client’s own inner wisdom and truth to transform challenges into meaningful change with an emphasis on wellness and mindfulness practices.
Part of recovery and avoiding relapse involves gaining new life skills and having a new vision for your life. One way to work through specific issues and continue learning and growing is by working in conjunction with a certified Recovery Coach. Recovery coaches focus on the present and future in helping clients make lifestyle changes, move forward to meet their goals and increase their life satisfaction. When working with a recovery coach you can ensure all client/coach communications are strictly confidential. Recovery Coaching is recognized as a key element of the new integrated treatment industry standard, Recovery-Oriented Systems Of Care.
What is a Recovery Coach?
Recovery coaching is the collaborative work done between a professional Recovery Coach and their client to take the client from where they are now to where they want to be. Clients who hire a recovery coach usually are seeking relief from their addictions, or are seeking to enter into recovery, or want to enhance their recovery, always looking for a safer, more balanced, happier life. Coaches help clients sustain positive life changes.