There are a lot of people with substance abuse problems who have to go through to “get right” with the world and ourselves. Because of the work we put into recovery, we become good at dealing with stress and all those other uncomfortable feelings.
So, I want to share with everyone — addicts and non-addicts alike — how I’ve learned to deal with being overwhelmed, panicked, or just totally freaked out.
8 Skills Addicts In Recovery Can Teach Everyone Else About Being Happy
1. Take a breath, identify the feeling, and embrace it.
I use this little technique I learned from a cool cat named Kyle Cease. He taught me to name the feeling and say, “And I love it.”
For example, I’m up to my neck in this feeling of panic, and I love it. This felt a little weird at first, but after faking it until making it a few times, I began to see I did love it. I loved it because it let me feel my emotions, something I never could do on dope.
2. Change the thought behind the feeling.
Every feeling has a thought behind it you created, and since it’s your creation, you can change it whenever you want. For example, If I thought, “This mountain of work is way too big to overcome,” I could create a different thought to say, “If I just do one of these things today, I’ll feel a little better tomorrow.”
3. Do a brain dump.
Something magical happens when you unload things out of your head onto a piece of paper. Sit down and start writing everything you have to get done before you can get your head above water, and start thinking about those dreams you had of being a rock star. Keep writing until there’s nothing left. You’ll know when because a sense of calm will come over you. (At least until you go back and read it).
4. Choose what you prioritize.
Go back and review the brain dump you took and pick out the biggest one to jump out at you. If two or three seem equally important, you need a secondary technique. Look at them and ask, “If I can only do one of these, which would I choose?” Pick the first one to come up before your brain can filter it.
Gary Keller has a book called The One Thing. You can ask the one question the book is all about. What’s the one thing I can do today that by doing it will make everything else easier or unnecessary? Oh yeah, then do it!
Multi-tasking is a crock! The human brain can only focus on one thing at a time. If you’re doing more than one thing, you’re not focusing on something, and it may be the very thing you need to be, so stop trying to be superhuman and just be awesome.
5. Celebrate every success.
This is critical and most often ignored. When you break things down into small pieces, you can recognize progress. When you recognize it, you need to give yourself props. This creates gratitude and momentum.
Gratitude makes everything sweet. This might feel foreign to you (I know it did for me) because you spent so long beating yourself up for nothing, but it’s time to start realizing how amazing you are, and these little celebrations along the way will build into the self-confidence you’ll need as you start rockin’ your world.
Photo via Getty
6. Say ‘no’ anytime you need to.
I’m old enough to remember when the former first lady, Nancy Reagan, contributed the slogan to the failed war on drugs in the ’80s. It didn’t put any dent in the war she was fighting. It does work great when other people are trying to knock you off your spot by asking you to serve their agendas. It’s time to start being a little selfish, bro. It’s the old oxygen mask on the airplane comparison. You can’t be awesome for anyone else until you’re breathing on your own. If you don’t take control of your life, someone else gladly will.
7. Plan at night and act during the day.
This always works better for me. When you’re calm and more relaxed, it’s easier to think clearly and focus on the “one thing” for tomorrow. Turn off the TV, laptop, and whatever else is distracting you, and make your plan. This also creates excitement and pumps you to wake up the next day. Caution: sometimes it makes it hard to fall asleep, but whatever, you’re about to crush this thing.
8. Practice loving yourself.
This is the most important one. Developing daily habits of being kind and loving to yourself. Imagine you’re relating to your child or someone you love and treat yourself the same way. Again, this might be another “fake it til you make it” practice, but do it anyway. It won’t take long before it becomes a habit!
I remember the countless times when I’d get some clean time under my belt and start feeling pretty good about myself. I’d go through some 30-day treatment program or have a couple of months of 12-step meetings behind me, and the fog would begin to lift. All I could see were butterflies, unicorns, and rainbows in front of me.
In recovery, we called it “Pink Cloud Syndrome”.
As things would get a little clearer, and the pretty animals danced merrily off into the sunset, I’d find myself face to face with the big ugly beast. I’d have warrants hanging over my head, I’d have to get my kids back from “the system.” I’d need a car, a license to drive, a place to sleep, a job to pay for the place to sleep, and a phone, and I’d have to fix things with my partner. I’d have to fix my credit. I’d need to see a dentist about this toothache and get a physical since I’ve been riding this body pretty hard.
That was usually when I’d pull up my speed dial to get rid of this feeling. I’d be off and running until my butt was on fire again, and it was time to rinse and repeat the process of getting clean for the umpteenth time. This was my life for over 20 years of trying to get clean (some are sicker than others, as they say) until enough trial and error led me to develop this system.
Will they work for you? I don’t know. But it’s a lot cheaper and painless than going back out again or losing yourself to stress and panic, so maybe you’ll find it’s worth a shot. You are exactly where you’re supposed to be on your journey, so smile and enjoy the ride. What lies ahead might blow your mind. I know it did, mine, and continues to do so.
Greg Boudle is a recovery life coach, published author, and professional speaker.
This article was originally published at Life Beyond Clean. Reprinted with permission from the author.