Tag Archives: mental health

Hitting the Toggle Switch: Tools for Triggers

Eckhart Tolle Quote

 

Friends of the Blog, I cannot stress to you enough the vital, powerful, and user-friendly importance of the following exercises, shared with us and created by our San Francisco Convenors. Please have a good look see at it, put yourself in place of where it says “I”, and by all means, tell us what you’ve found out here in the comments, as will I!

🙂 Bobbi C.

For Every Trigger There is a Toggle

Most of us have experienced a Trigger—something that generates an immediate and overwhelming desire to have a drink or take a drug. Usually it’s some kind of sensory experience, like the smell of limes, or hearing a sad song, or talking with a specific person. Sometimes it’s a place. These Triggers are echoes of the past—your Addict Self trying to get back some control.

How can I get around such a powerful force? It begins with my Sober Self being fully aware of my personal Triggers. If I know them, I can anticipate and prepare my response. If I can’t avoid them, I can plan for them. That’s where Toggles come in—they can be a counterbalancing force to the Trigger.

Begin with Self Knowledge: Know My Triggers

  • What is the trigger? A smell, a sound, a person, a place?
  • What feelings does it create?
  • How long will it last?

For example, a trigger might be smelling lime juice because I used to drink vodka-limes. The smell causes a deep, immediate desire to drink, and lasts for a short anticipated time.

Create My Toggles

  • Imagine a sober opposite that will temporarily disable the Trigger.
  • Imagine a sober feeling and attach it to the Toggle.
  • Practice the Toggle until the Trigger disappears.

In our example, I might imagine a lime tree that reminds me of my garden, and think about the peace and happiness I feel while enjoying the garden until the craving passes (and I know it will pass eventually—a powerful understanding by itself).

Anticipate and Practice

  • What Triggers could be coming up this week?
  • Imagine them happening and practice the Toggles
  • Create a list of Triggers and their opposing Toggles
  • Notice the transition as Triggers become Toggles

With practice and repetition, my Toggles will override and become a natural and healthy, habitual, unconscious reaction to the Triggers, something I am fully aware of and don’t even have to think about.

Tell us about your experience

Do you have Toggles that work for you (maybe by a different name)? If so, please share!

— Prepared by San Francisco Conveners

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Links For a Week!

Hi friends. I’ll be heading off to Colorado to try my hand, for the fourth time, at skiing (yipes) and thus will not be around to post anything for a while, so! I thought I would leave you with a weeks’ worth of delightful links to chew on.

And a-waaaaa-ay we go!

 

*Do you live in Northern Ireland? Are you looking for support there, including in a face-to-face meeting? Look no further – LifeRing Northern Ireland is there! For more information, please visit their website and/or Facebook pages:

www.liferingni.com/

www.facebook.com/LiferingNi

*This article’s been all over the web for a coupla weeks now (link to follow), but I still feel compelled to offer my two cents on it. Therefore, please enjoy the following mini rant from me:
  • I find this article overly simplistic in it’s “discovery” of the “real reason” for addiction, A). because yes, while finding a better “room” in which to spend one’s time helps immensely, 2). Some scientist isn’t in charge of controlling your drug habit or changing your environment – you are. And, let’s face it – I’m sure rats have some choices to make in their lives, but given the choice between rooms, how many of them would or do voluntarily go to another one to begin with?
  • I also find it interesting that so many posting in the comments boiled the article down to being the reason why AA is the perfect example of finding a better room, whereas I see ANY recovery group being able to provide the same supportive experience. LifeRing certainly did for me.

Anyhoo, any thoughts on this one?

www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-real-cause-of-addiction

*Today marks the one year anniversary of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s tragic death from a drug overdose. The  performances he would’ve given will be missed for years to come, but here’s an excellent, spot on synopsis of each of the roles he played throughout his career:

thedissolve.com/features/career-view/890-the-epic-uncool-of-philip-seymour-hoffman/

*Mini-rant, part deux:

An in depth, well-researched and well-written article about the state of heroin addiction treatment in America. In many ways, this article reiterates what I’ve believed for a long time about addiction, which is that if it is a disease (and of course for many that’s entirely debatable), then why is it not being treated medically, as all other diseases are? For example, can you imagine treating mental illness, diabetes, or even cancer with, in large part, a spiritual solution? I know I can’t, and I also know that works well for some, but not for all. I think this article accurately demonstrates why:

projects.huffingtonpost.com/dying-to-be-free-heroin-treatment

*With that, the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has changed its definition of recovery, and SAMHSA (the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Adminstration) has redefined recovery, as well – all of which bodes well for secular and other recovery treatment resources:

www.rehabs.com/pro-talk-articles/the-addiction-therapists-guide-to-change-in-the-21st-century/

*Finally, eine kleine recovery humor – I would highly recommend the South Park clip at the top of the first page:

recoveryhumor.com/

Have a good one! 🙂

~~

 

Of Possible Interest: Headspace

So, last week I visited my Shrinky Dink (i.e. psychiatrist) and told her of my intention to spend the next year learning how to think in new, better, and more positive ways, chiefly through the aids of meditation and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). She was extremely encouraging, and made the suggestion that sometimes meditation can be overwhelming to some people (i.e. like me), so it might be wise to dip one’s toe in the meditation pool and then immerse themselves from there.

One tool she thought might be helpful is a website called Headspace, which helps one ease into the practice of learning how to observe one’s mind and gently focus oneself as a means of taking a break not only from the hubbub of general brain activity but also the hecticness of daily life. I decided to give it a try – and thought perhaps some of you might be interested in it as well.

You can either head directly to the website and sign up there or you can download their app on the device of your choice you prefer. The introductory tools and sessions are free – a very good and preferable price!

I downloaded the app on my phone and am now on Day 6 of their introductory “training course”, which consists of taking 10 minutes out of the day to settle down and listen to Andy the narrator-slash-meditation and mindfulness expert walk you through each day in his delightful and calming voice, complete with British accent, and so far so good. 

Hope your New Year is coming along nicely, and wishing you a Happy Tuesday the 13th! 🙂

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Sobriety, dual diagnosis, and personal OTC self-help

First, I want to make clear that this is just about my personal experiences, since Lifering is about personalized, individualized, self-empowerment, or self-help.

That said, let’s jump into what’s on my mind.

A fair percentage of people who eventually have addictive problems to drugs or alcohol are “dual diagnosis.” That is, they have some mental health issue connected with their addiction. Often it’s depression. Often it’s anxiety. Sometimes it’s bipolar disorder, occasionally schizophrenia.

For people that have “simple” depression or anxiety, and have been to a doctor before, for lower-level depression or anxiety, it’s tempting to self-medicate with over-the-counter items. For example, it’s a “commonplace” that Benadryl can help mild anxiety. Many people use St. John’s wort for mild depression. Beyond that, over-the-counter versions of lithium compounds, somewhat similar to, but not the same as, the prescription versions, are available. And more.

But, even over-the-counter medications aren’t risk free.

For example, prescription lithium has a narrow range of dosages. The non-prescription versions are presumably similar.

With St. John’s wort, there are studies indicating it can help with some cases of mild-moderate depression. There’s no “magic secret” as to why, though. The active ingredient is an MAO inhibitor, just like the first class of anti-depressant medications. Given that prescription MAO inhibitors come with certain warnings, like not combining them with aged cheeses, something similar might apply to St. John’s worth.

And, there’s the placebo effect. A lot of people swear by GABA, a natural neurotransmitter, to help with anxiety. However, GABA does not cross what’s known as the blood-brain barrier, therefore people are presumably just talking about a placebo effect.

Also, just as a prescription anti-depressant that works for one person might not work well for another, the same is true of these OTC self-helps.

A Lifering friend mentioned his doctor suggested he take a new OTC medication, which is GABA chemically linked to niacin, the B vitamin. He said it helped totally kill alcohol cravings, as well as some anxiety.

I decided to order it myself; it’s readily available online.

Well, my “sample size date” is only 10 days so far, but, I may discontinue it after another week.

While it’s not quite making me MORE anxious, I have had trouble falling asleep since then. I’ve had a couple of issues in my mind, but, this may be a contributing factor.

For me, the one time I went to a doctor with even more serious anxiety, it was anti-depressants that helped.

There’s nothing wrong with a prescription from a doctor, and there’s nothing magical about over-the-counter items. It never hurts to get professional advice.

Mental health affects substance abuse

It is probably of little surprise to those who battle depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD or other issues, that substance abuse problems and mental health struggles are connected. The evidence seems clear, anecdotally.

And, it’s more than just anecdotal. The National Institute on Drug Abuse confirms it, with research data. The study doesn’t cover “everyday” depression, but it’s still of value.

In the current study, 9,142 people diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or bipolar disorder with psychotic features, and 10,195 controls matched to participants according to geographic region, were selected using the Genomic Psychiatry Cohort program. Mental disorder diagnoses were confirmed using the Diagnostic Interview for Psychosis and Affective Disorder (DI-PAD), and controls were screened to verify the absence of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder in themselves or close family members. The DI-PAD was also used for all participants to determine substance use rates.

Compared to controls, people with severe mental illness were about 4 times more likely to be heavy alcohol users (four or more drinks per day); 3.5 times more likely to use marijuana regularly (21 times per year); and 4.6 times more likely to use other drugs at least 10 times in their lives. The greatest increases were seen with tobacco, with patients with severe mental illness 5.1 times more likely to be daily smokers. This is of concern because smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

One more thing to watch, if you will.

If you are interested in how Lifering may be able to help you in this area, note that we have a “dual diagnosis” email group.