Living Intentionally, Living Haphazardly

Most people spend their entire lives living thoughtlessly and without aim. Your emotional and mental health problems may have caused you to be discouraged and feeling hopeless. Perhaps you have had difficulty starting tasks or following through. Dreams and aspirations fall by the wayside. Time spent planning and pursuing life…

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Developing Hope and Emotional Healing

Chronic emotional problems and the need for treatment can often leave one discouraged. Difficult situations, failures, and past disappointments can be emotionally overwhelming and often become the reason to seek help. Challenges from the recent past often affect the present moment, and previous hospitalization or counseling and returning symptoms can…

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Overcoming Learned Helplessness

People struggling with substance use disorders, anxiety, and depression frequently complain about feelings of helplessness. They can point to a series of past life circumstances they had no control over. These experiences often include job loss, marital conflict, death of a loved one, infidelity, divorce, a serious accident, illness, or…

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The Five R’s of Changed Thinking

Negative thoughts influence your feelings and actions and can drive your addiction. Automatic negative thoughts (ANTs for short) are those deeply-held, and often repeated, pessimistic thoughts that lead to intense emotions and wayward actions. Therefore, it is necessary to reflect on which thoughts are distorted and which are accurate. Negative…

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The Family Hurt by Addiction

Someone else’s substance use disorder does not exist in isolation. Their addiction affects friends, family, and the community. Here is a list I use to help people think through the effects and consequences of another person’s addiction.   How has the addiction affected you and your relationship? Consider the following list…

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Magnifying the Negative

Wow. That’s Huge!   If you hold a magnifying glass over an object, the item appears bigger. Obviously, the object isn’t any larger, it merely appears that way. If you hold a magnifying glass over a defect, the flaw looks larger. But you and I know, it’s not. Too often, people…

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Developing Realistic Expectations

Setting realistic expectations means I am willing to accept responsibility for my own character, disposition, and actions. I am willing to be accountable to others. And as I move forward, I am willing to work toward a desirable recovery and a better life. Here are five suggestions to setting reasonable…

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Positively Changing Your Life

Negative thoughts influence our feelings and actions. If left unchecked, negative thoughts often become an agonizingly repeated script that drives discouragement and defeat. Negative thoughts can easily derail your positive mood. It is therefore necessary to determine which of our thoughts are accurate and which ones are distorted, exaggerated, and…

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The True View of You

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt  People in recovery often have a distorted view of themselves. They may see themselves as inadequate and unacceptable. Some of this thinking comes from a cold and steady drizzle of negativity dripped onto you by the harsh…

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Understanding Relapse Complexities Part 2

Yesterday, in part 1, I began our discussion of several important external factors that make seeking treatment harder. It’s helpful to understand the various challenges people face when combating a substance use disorder. Here are five more issues that must be overcome.  6. A Toxic Family System-Returning to an unsupportive…

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Understanding Relapse Complexities Part 1

There are internal and external variables that make seeking treatment for substance use disorders difficult. Some internal or personal factors might include lifestyle choices, will power, motivation levels, and personality factors. In addition to the internal issues, there are a host of external factors that block, limit, or make seeking…

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Exercising Good Judgment

Substance Use Disorders Impair Judgment  Alcohol and drugs impair judgment. In the throes of addiction, people often do things under the influence of a substance that they would never do if they were sober. They may make poor financial choices, take foolish risks, say inappropriate things, and make short-term decisions…

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Breakthrough Recovery Moments

Every journey, I suppose, has its starts and stops and ups and downs. Even the most successful recovery is not completely linear. There are some setbacks and delays along the way. Yet, there also seems to be occasional breakthroughs, like a jump to light speed, that propel you far ahead…

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Worry Will Ruin Your Life

Mental Agony  Many people carry heavy loads of worry, fear, and anxiety. These issues interfere with emotional stability and can create other serious concerns. Anxiety can cause increased problems with sleep, added depression, relational conflict, occupational difficulties, financial strain, social withdrawal, and alcohol and drug dependency. It is important to…

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A Change in Perspective

Skewed Perceptions  “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” is an oft quoted statement. It implies that where we are and what we have does not look as satisfying as what lies just over the fence in someone else’s yard. Common in early recovery, we…

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Feeling Complacent

When Symptoms Return  Treatment for co-occurring disorders focuses on substance use and mental health issues. Relapse can mean a return of mental health symptoms or a return to using substances again. Because the issues are so interwoven, a return of symptoms in one category may initiate the return of problems…

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Successful Recovery Requires Honesty

The Beast  Substance use and mental health issues often combine into a rapidly intensifying and destructive disorder. The illness is mean-spirited, intense, and appears intent on first capturing its victims and then killing its captives. Although the client is capable of reasoning, the co-occurring disorder stubbornly refuses to be reasoned…

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The Lie Behind All Negative Thinking

What is Negative Thinking?  Thoughts bombard us all day long like the steady stream of uninteresting commercial messages on AM radio. Almost all radio spots are just noise, irrelevant and unimportant. The same is true with our own thoughts. A few of these thoughts are prompts for action, interesting points…

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Designing Successful Recovery

I am involved in several intensive outpatient programs (IOP) that provide treatment and support for those with serious or critical mental health and substance abuse issues. These programs help our clients regain stability and develop skills to better navigate the journey in life that lies ahead. Those who are in…

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Fundamentally Prepared

Having committed yourself to recovery, you’re becoming increasingly dedicated to making it happen. Be willing to prepare yourself for long term success. Roger Maris, a famous New York Yankees baseball player from the 1950’s and 60’s, stated “You hit home runs not by chance but by preparation.” In recovery from…

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Planning Ahead

Anticipating enticing and tempting situations and carefully managing them is an essential skill in a successful recovery program. Some circumstances and situations should simply be avoided. Don’t put yourself in harms way unnecessarily when it could be sidestepped. Other events can be managed with some planning. Consider the following refusal…

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Getting Stronger

Refusing an offer to drink or use takes courage, inner strength, and self-confidence. The ability to refuse can be expanded by developing the related skills listed below.  Assertiveness — Developing assertiveness skills will allow you to stand up for yourself, stick to your own opinions, protect yourself, and communicate honestly…

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Stick to the Plan

"Never, never, never give up!" – Winston Churchill  Plan your course of action and stick with it. My talk today is not about taking vitamins, I promise. However, I do take vitamins every morning and have done so for the past 10 years. I never miss, yet every now and…

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Half-Time Strategies

“Don't give up at half time. Concentrate on winning the second half.” – Paul Bryant  In the sport of football, each game has four quarters with a 12-minute break between the two halves. This break has the not-so-clever, intuitively obvious name of half-time. This mid-game break serves several purposes, including…

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Feeling Confident

I Can’t Decide  When making decisions you might notice you are more unsure, insecure, and hesitant than you want to be. Being filled with doubt can make life much more difficult. You might struggle with making decisions about social relationships, making purchases, choosing schools, selecting a career, finding a partner,…

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Tolerating Typical Frustrations

Life is like hockey—you are going to get bumped. Someone on your own team will blindly run into with little concern and no apology. Don’t be shocked or upset if someone pushes you, is inconsiderate, or your move is perceived as a careless action.  “Why not be offended and upset?” the…

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Happy 4th of July!

From all of us here at Journey to Recovery & NorthStar Regional, have a happy & safe 4th of July!

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The Value of a $100 Bill

I run mental health therapy and psychoeducation groups at a residential treatment center for men. From time to time I’ll take a $100 dollar bill out of my wallet (no, I don’t always have one) and show it to the men. I ask, how much is this crisp bill worth.…

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Happy Memorial Day!

To all the honorable military personnel, we thank you for your service.  Have a safe & happy Memorial day, everyone!

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Living in the Present Moment

It’s easy to be distracted and lose sight of what’s important. When that happens, it is common to rationalize and excuse the missteps of inattention. “This is really important. Anyone would worry about this.” Don’t rationalize your worries. Don’t defend your distractions. Don’t mentally wander aimlessly into someone else’s backyard.…

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Being Emotionally Flooded

Permit me to start with an automobile analogy. In the old days before fuel injection systems, when cars had carburetors, engine flooding would occur if too much gasoline flowed into the carburetor which would prevent the car from starting. This was most common under cold conditions or if the accelerator…

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Using Difficulties To Become The Kind Of Person You Want To Be

Troubles come in every shape and size. Depending on how you define it, trouble may visit uninvited, stay too long, and then stubbornly refuse to leave. If that’s the way it is–if trouble, difficulties, and hardships are commonplace in life then our challenge becomes learning what we can. Is it…

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Fostering Independence

Resisting Over-Protection  Today, I want to examine several ways to repair relationships damaged by mental health or substance use disorders. At first glance, being ready to help at a moment’s notice might be perceived as a positive quality. However, becoming overprotective can be perceived as possessive, overly helpful, shielding, and…

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Understanding Assertive Behavior
Conquer your fear of disapproval

Understanding Assertive Behavior

Assertive traits include being confident, straightforward, and honest. Assertive people express their ideas, feelings and desires without second guessing or apology. They speak firmly in a way that respects the rights of others. Being assertive is a difficult skill to master, yet with practice can transform your communication and increase…

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Living Above My Circumstances Part 2

Yesterday I began discussing strategies to live above trying and difficult circumstances. Although difficulties and turmoil cannot always be prevented, I still can control my mood, attitude, and disposition. Rising above circumstances is a skill that can be developed. Here are three more tactics to help.  3. My story isn’t…

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Living Above Your Circumstances Part 1

Do you ever have difficult weeks where every walk seems uphill, every stroke of the paddle is upstream, and every ride is against the wind? I’m not much for complaining; it’s sort of embarrassing for me. I’m more likely to keep it to myself and quietly move forward. For me,…

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A Better Understanding of Codependent Behaviors

A New Twist on Codependency  Family members of people with substance use disorders are often referred to as co-dependent. They are warned of rescuing and enabling addiction habits and lifestyles. Master’s level clinician and educator, Robert Weiss Ph.D.,MSW, has a helpful twist on understanding the interactions of families caught up…

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Making a Change

“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” – Peter Senge  Making Changes  I have spent my 30+ year career helping people change. Unfortunately, without some guidance or intervention, most people are not changers – they’re justifiers. They often experience repeated and painful consequences yet continue to make similar mistakes.…

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Affirmations From The One Who Won’t Give Them

Looking for Approval  Everyone needs encouragement and affirmation. Many people with co-occurring disorders desperately need encouragement on their recovery journey. For the downcast and dejected person, hearing something positive can be like a cup of cool water in a hot, parched desert. All too often, people are thirsty for affirmation,…

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The Road to Recovery Success

A Robust Recovery  To keep your recovery strong, there are numerous things you should not continue to do. There would be places and people to avoid and habits to change. But there are numerous things you can do to build a robust recovery and prevent relapse from occurring. To the…

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Feeling Normal Again

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Commonly Attributed to Winston Churchill  When the decision to enter recovery is made, the addiction is often out of control. Something must change, or nothing will change. Life has become unmanageable and there are problems that affect numerous areas of living. There…

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Glancing Back But Moving Forward

Looking back over past behavior has some value, I suppose. The consequences of past behavior tell me I need to change, and hope tells me I can change. Both are important. Reviewing the damage that was done in the past can provide conviction that you are destroying the very thing…

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Acquiring a Can-Do Attitude

Living in a negative world can sometimes take its toll, but you do not have to be at the mercy of a negative environment. There are practical ways to have a more positive state of mind. Like gravity pulling you down to earth, it is easy to be pulled down…

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Psychiatric Access is Important

Psychiatric Access is Important  Medications for co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders often provide substantial symptom relief and can be an effective part of treatment. Especially in the beginning of treatment, medications help clients focus more clearly and gain more from other therapies. Later, these medications may be used…

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What Are You Bringing?

When people enter a relationship, it is common to ask “What is in it for me?” or “What will I get out of it?” Potential employees perhaps are considering how the job may affect personal or family life. Employers have their own set of questions that are also variations on…

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