Healing Hobbies That Reduce Anxiety

Healing Hobbies That Reduce Anxiety | Transcend Recovery Community

Anxiety – it’s the recovering addict’s nemesis, and frequently a significant player in the many factors that lead to addiction in the first place. Dual diagnoses between addictions and anxiety are exceptionally common, with many of us self-medicating anxiety, panic attacks, and obsessive-compulsive thoughts with substances like alcohol and drugs for years. Unfortunately, substances only serve to mask anxiety rather than truly alleviating it. Once your drug of choice (DOC) wears off, you’re right back to where you started.

Fortunately, the news isn’t all bad; if you’re committed to your sobriety, you’ll learn valuable skills that help you to cope with stress and anxiety in a healthy manner along the way. Although breathing exercises, medication, meditation, and counseling is a big piece of the puzzle, you shouldn’t forget that downtime and self-enjoyment now and again are also good for the soul.

Developing an interest in particularly soothing hobbies that allow you to relax without the use of substances – hobbies just like the ones listed below – can help you to remain on the right path while still having fun.

Crocheting & Knitting

Crocheting, knitting, and other hooking crafts (no, not THAT kind) enjoy a robust and dedicated following. In a world that’s increasingly oversaturated by technology, there’s just something soothing about using a crochet hook to delicately stitch together neat little lines of soft yarn, especially if it’s in your favorite color.

Because hooking crafts require the mind’s attention so dearly, forcing it to focus on each stitch, many hobbyists find it incredibly soothing. The constant, well-organized laying down of stitches can lend a feeling of order and control to you when you may feel like you’re losing control of your emotions.

CNN reports that crafting, particularly crocheting and knitting, can improve self-efficiency, boost mood, and even make it easier for you to handle stress and problem-solve down the road.

Gardening & Growing Plants

Got a green thumb? If not, you can cultivate one quite easily, and the benefits of doing so just might be quite vast. Whether you fill a garden in the backyard or just have a single spider plant growing in your bedroom, interacting with plants can be a soothing and relaxing experience. The simple act of caring for another living thing can be immensely soothing, as can surrounding yourself with elements of nature. It brings us back to our center, reminding us of what matters most – that we, too, belong to this world, and can influence it positively when we put forth the effort.

There’s even at least some evidence that making regular contact with dirt (getting your hands dirty) may stimulate the production of serotonin, a brain chemical responsible for feelings of well-being and happiness. The real cause, of course, isn’t the dirt if so; it’s a little bacterium called M. vaccae that’s found within the dirt instead. Absorbed into the body, either through the skin or any other method, M. vaccae seems to trigger a rise in serotonin in the brain – one that’s much steadier and lower in spikes than medication alone.

Though the research is still in progress, if it’s true, M. vaccae could help people with anxiety to worry less, handle stress better, and feel more positive about their lives.

ASMR (or Ambient Music)

What do the sound of crinkling candy wrappers, bubble wrap, fizzy hair mousse, and someone tapping long nails have in common? They all fall under a strange and fascinating new hobby called ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response).

Though the name’s a mouthful, it simply refers to a strange and tingly feeling felt in the back of the scalp or the spine in response to stimuli – often music or video. People who suggest that they experience ASMR while listening to certain sounds or watching certain videos claim that doing so is intensely relaxing, sometimes to the point at which it lulls them to sleep.

The practice hails back for decades in the form of nature sound recordings, rain recordings, and even ambient music, and falls under the same sort of self-stimulating/self-soothing behavior that often benefits those who struggle with Autism Spectrum Disorders or ADHD. In fact, both ASD and anxiety disorders share a common symptom: sensory overload that triggers meltdowns, often in the form of anxiety attacks.

So how does it work? The answer is “simple.” ASMR media often contains simplified sounds and images isolated and recorded with extreme clarity. Movements and noises are slow, drawn-out, and may mimic ocean waves, breathing, or a heartbeat pace. This allows the brain to focus on the simplified sounds rather than the potentially overwhelming sensory input all around you.

ASMR videos are generally safe, enjoyable, and accessible to just about everyone in recovery. But there is one small caveat: everyone’s triggers are different. One person can be utterly horrified by mouth sounds (misophonia), while another finds them enchanting. Others find tapping more of an annoyance rather than a treasure, or can’t stand the sound of smoothing the hands over paper. Your ASMR triggers can also change over time depending on your mood.

Curious, but not sure where to start? Videos like WhispersRed’s “21 Triggers” contain a variety of popular options, like hair brushing and plastic crinkling, to help you explore whether ASMR is right for you. Put the video on and relax in your favorite chair while you listen.

Coloring (No Matter Your Age)

Yes, that’s right – we’re telling you not only is it okay to break out the crayons and coloring books and plop yourself down for a coloring session; it’s recommended, too. Coloring seems to have almost meditative effects on the brain, and scientists have been able to demonstrate why through studies. The “why” is answered by brain scans that show both the brain’s primary logic and creativity areas lighting up at the same time.

At its most basic, it engages so much of the brain that it distracts us from our worries and calms down the amygdala, which is often responsible for anxiety attacks and heightened emotional response in the first place.

Coloring with our favorite colors or happy, calming shades like baby blue, grass green, and bright orange may even have a secondary beneficial effect on mood. This is the very basis for Color Psychology.

Getting started is as easy as grabbing the closest pack of crayons and a blank sheet of paper. Or, print your own coloring pages online and create a notebook you can take with you wherever you go.

Writing (Journaling, Poems, or Stories)

A great many people who enter recovery end up taking up writing in one way or another. Some journal, keeping track of their thoughts, goals, and dreams, while others, like Bert Pluymen, go on to write books like “The Thinking Person’s Guide to Sobriety” that help people in recovery to find their own footing.

Whichever you choose, getting your thoughts and ideas out on paper can be an extremely beneficial therapeutic activity, especially for anxious thoughts.

Writing falls under the classification of “expressive therapy,” meaning its benefit stems completely from the ability to release pent-up worries, thoughts, and feelings in a safe and healthy manner. In the case of PTSD and other traumatic events (including anxiety attacks), studies like this one show that people who wrote about it in a journal had “significantly better physical and psychological outcomes” than those in the control group who didn’t write at all.

But the best thing about writing therapy is that it remains entirely up to you if you share it with the world, your therapist, your recovery group, or just the diary itself. For many people, that means having a quiet, safe space to let go of negative feelings without feeling the need to explain yourself at the same time.

When you feel an anxiety attack coming on, or you’re overwhelmed with generalized anxiety, try writing down how you feel. Don’t correct things like spelling, grammar; they don’t matter. Just allow yourself 15 to 30 minutes to offload everything that’s been bothering you onto paper. It can help you to look at the situation from a more rational and measured perspective.

Recovery is hard work – particularly hard if you happen to struggle with anxiety or an anxiety disorder, too. It’s all too easy to slip into old, harmful self-soothing patterns if we don’t check ourselves and dedicate ourselves to good self-care. Cultivating enjoyable and therapeutic hobbies like the ones listed above is just the start; don’t forget that counseling, staying hydrated, eating well, and getting enough rest is important, too.

The Anxiety and Depression That Can Accompany Denial

Denial is one of the classic symptoms of addiction. If you’re using substances or drinking alcohol you’re likely hiding, minimizing, or rationalizing your substance use to yourself and those around you. You’re telling yourself, “This isn’t a problem.”  And you’re justifying your behavior by telling others, “After Mary died, this is what keeps me sane.” Denial seems to keep everything in order in your head, even though somewhere inside you might know something is wrong.

And that distant part of you, the part of you that you keep pushing away in order to stay in denial and keep using is precisely what contributes to other symptoms. It’s common for those who experience addiction to also struggle with anxiety and depression. There’s a tendency to high levels of stress, feelings of unease, worry, and angst with addiction. You might be worried that it’s all going to fall apart. Since many people attempt to keep their lives together through the use of alcohol and drugs, there is little foundation to stand upon. If the drug use comes to an end, then addicts will have to face what they’ve been pushing away and that alone can create anxiety and fear.

At the same time, amidst the anxiety, there might be feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and loss, which is may be driving substance use in the first place. And it’s these feelings, especially when they’re being pushed away through alcohol and drugs, that can contribute to depression.

Furthermore, anxiety and depression tend to go hand in hand. One seems to exacerbate the other, especially when both are not being tended to in a healthy way. Although it might appear that you’re feeling better through drinking or drug use, instead, the substance use keeps those inner experiences at bay. Symptoms of anxiety and depression can continue to persist and even get stronger as an addiction develops. It’s as though the inner world continues to become more and more toxic.

If you’re noticing these symptoms in yourself, there are some steps you can take to help change your experience.

  1. Talk to someone. If you’re not quite ready to seek out professional help, at least talk to someone you trust. Let them know how you’re really feeling. Just talking it all out can be therapeutic.
  2. Educate yourself on addiction and the presence of other mental illnesses. It’s very common to have both an addiction and anxiety or depression. About 80% of those who struggle with addiction also have a mental illness. Learning more about the presence of these two together might shed more light on how you can support yourself in getting better.
  3. When you’re ready, call for professional help. If you’re using substances as well as feeling anxious and depressed, at some point, there’s a good chance that you’ll need professional support. Some people avoid calling a therapist or psychologist because of the stigma that tends to come with seeking out therapy. If this is the case for you, you might forget about the stigma once you realize that therapy is actually helping you change your life.

These are a few suggestions for finding peace amidst the chaos of addiction, anxiety, and depression.


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Managing Panic Disorder and Sobriety at the Same Time

Managing Panic Disorder and Sobriety at the Same Time | Transcend Recovery Community

One of the most challenging experiences of panic disorder is the fear of a panic attack coming on randomly. Anxiety continues to grow knowing that a panic attack can happen anytime.

Panic disorder includes the consistent experience of attacks as well as a persistent concern about having additional attacks. Typically, those with this disorder are extremely anxious and fearful, primarily because of the inability to predict when the next attack will occur. Attacks are often accompanied by a feeling of being out of control and include uncomfortable physical sensations, such as a pounding heart, sweating, weakness, dizziness, and numbness. An intense worry about the next attack is a common symptom that makes panic disorder difficult to manage.

Panic attacks might seem unbearable for those who are also recovering addicts. In fact, for many people who once struggled with an addiction, there’s a strong possibility that drugs and alcohol were used as a means to cope with the illness. However, anyone facing both recovery and mental illness should know that panic disorder is manageable with enough support.

In fact, it might seem incredibly unbearable right in the middle of having an attack. However, even here, with enough practice, experiencing panic can be managed right in the moment. Another challenging experience of panic disorder is the period leading up to an attack. Again, this is actually an opportunistic time of using specific coping tools in order to prevent a full attack from coming on.  The two primary ways of managing panic disorder include:

  1. Have a toolbox of coping tools. The best coping tools for panic disorder, or any anxiety disorder, are relaxation techniques. These include meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and changing thoughts. When someone feels an attack coming on, he or she can begin to take long, slow, and deep breaths. Inhale and exhale to the count of four seconds. This extended breathing does two things. It relaxes the body and it directs your attention on your body and instead of the thoughts in your mind that will likely only exacerbate the attack. Meditation and yoga can be used as ongoing practices so that a state of relaxation is consistent and familiar. Lastly, use a prayer, mantra, or even the alphabet to manage an attack when you feel it coming on. The point here is that you want to change your thinking. Commonly, it is a thought or a thinking pattern that began the attack in the first place.
  1. Get to know the circumstances in which the panic attacks develop. Although it might be challenging, someone might be able to identify signs indicating when an attack is imminent. Therapists, friends, and family can assist with this process. Someone with panic attacks could become familiar with the thoughts, circumstances, and events that are taking place when an attack feels imminent. Knowing this can prepare them so that they can begin to use coping tools to make the attack less severe, or even prevent it from coming on. Often, it is something in the surroundings that may be causing an anxiety attack, such as a person, a noise, or a place. Eliminate the anxiety trigger as best you can. You can do this between attacks by trying to identify what your triggers are.

These are meant to be helpful suggestions for anyone with a panic disorder. Instead of drinking or using drugs, you might consider the above tips when faced with such anxiety.


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Applying Exposure Therapy to Addiction Treatment

Applying Exposure Therapy to Addiction Treatment | Transcend Recovery Community

Exposure therapy isn’t generally thought of as a form of treatment that could work with healing from addiction. In general, exposure therapy is used with healing from phobias and anxiety. It involves the exposing a client to whatever he or she is afraid of. The point is to lower their level of fear by being in the presence of the object long enough to learn that it doesn’t have to induce fear after all. If the client can see that there is no danger, he or she might be able to overcome the anxiety or fear.

This same technique could be applied to healing addiction as well, according to Dr. A. Tom Horvath, the founder and president of Practical Recovery in San Diego, CA, as well as the president of SMART Recovery, an international nonprofit offering free, self-empowering, science-based, mutual-help groups for addiction recovery. In an article he wrote on The Fix, he explains exactly how this form of therapy could be used in addiction treatment.

On the whole, addiction treatment is learning how to handle high risk situations. Frequently, the development of an addiction happens begins of poor coping skills in situations that are difficult to face. This can continue in recovery when individuals become fearful of bars or seeing people that they know are still getting high. They are afraid that being faced with those people or places might make them vulnerable to using. Of course, recovering addicts are already vulnerable to relapse and the dangers old and familiar people and places might lead to drug use or drinking. Some recovering addicts become so fearful of these situations that it creates anxiety which only makes the situation worse.

Dr. Horvath suggests finding a way to actually face that situation head on. In exposure therapy, a therapist would accompany a client to the top of a building who might be afraid of heights. Once that client recognizes that he or she is in fact safe in that situation, then perhaps the level of fear might go down. However, Dr. Horvath points out that exposure therapy only works if the client is able to stay with their fear long enough to see through it. For instance, if someone who is afraid of heights can’t stay in a building long enough to get up to a high floor then the therapy isn’t going to take place.

The same is true when applying exposure therapy to addiction treatment. For instance, if an individual is afraid of driving down a particular street because there are many bars and clubs in that location, then the therapy might be to actually visit that street. Of course, that person is accompanied by a therapist or trusted friend so that relapse doesn’t actually occur. Instead, if he or she can stay long enough without drinking then a new connection might be formed in the brain. In this case, a client might be able to see that he or she is safe at a bar and that he or she has the power to not drink.

This can be incredibly empowering. When a client recognizes that being at a bar doesn’t have the same power over them, then he or she has more freedom than before. And if it can happen at a bar, then maybe a client can attend a party and not feel powerless to drinking there.

Dr. Horvath also points out that exposure therapy isn’t as simple as it might at first sound. During the first few weeks, a therapist would need to establish some points of safety to protect against any overwhelming feelings or the giving in to a strong craving. Certainly, exposure therapy gone wrong is a client’s relapse.

However, with the right precautions and a strong therapeutic relationship, exposure therapy could be just the right antidote for recovering addicts to feeling fearful of certain places and people. As Dr. Horvath states in his article, with a few experiences of making it through strong cravings, one’s level of confidence in their ability to stay sober can soar. In fact, Dr. Horvath states the following:

I am confident that if rehabs adopted the practice of exposure therapy for appropriate clients, these people would be much better prepared to return to the real world.

Learn more about Dr. Horvath and exposure therapy in addiction treatment.


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Finding Balance in Order to Stay Sober & Healthy

Finding Balance in Order to Stay Sober & Healthy | Transcend Recovery Community

Often, the quickest way to relapse is through stress. When you can manage your stress and stay balanced, you find the space inside of you to resist the temptations you know are unhealthy. When you find the calm path inside, you can stay inwardly balanced and avoid choices that are not to your benefit. On the other hand, if you begin to lose your sense of balance in your life, you might notice the following tendencies, which could lead to relapse:

Risk Taking – Adults, who are emotionally and psychologically healthy, are able to judge risky behavior and factor into decision-making the consequences of their choices. Taking drugs releases dopamine in the brain and fulfills the need for highs that risky behavior brings. To avoid this, you can channel your energy towards achieving goals or participating in sports that could replace the high of taking drugs.

Anxiety – When you’re under stress and if you do not have the coping skills to manage that stress, it’s easy to turn to drugs. It’s easy to have a drink as a way to calm the nerves. At the same time, you might already have anxiety due to a mental illness. Yet, staying balanced includes knowing what to do to keep your anxiety in check.

Depression – Sometimes, alcohol use, abuse, and depression goes hand in hand. You might feel so uncomfortable with who you are, how your life is functioning, and how it hurts inside. Although depression is a psychological disorder, it can be painful emotionally and physically. The dissatisfaction with one’s life, the inability to feel anything, the lack of connection with oneself and others might stimulate the desire to drink. In fact, it might drive an entire addiction. It might be obvious that in order to create a life of sobriety, in order to finally get clean, the psychological disorder of depression needs to heal. Addiction typically has underlying issues that need to be treated. One can make the choice to get sober, create a network of support, and even create a new life. However, if those underlying issues are not addressed, and in this case, those that led to depression, there is likely going to be relapse.

Social Alienation – This can be a pattern for many adults who experience depression, or who have struggled with addiction in the past. Or you might have had to face bullying when you were a child, and perhaps you don’t have the coping skills to manage the emotions that result from social interaction. You might be very sensitive and yet you have developed the pattern of hiding their emotions. If you’ve experienced trauma in your life, it’s common to be sensitive to the thoughts and expression of others. It’s common to feel shameful, and as a result feel the need to hide and withdraw. Yet, in that aloneness and in inability to deal with emotions, drugs can become a coping mechanism of choice.

Emotional AvoidanceEmotional awareness is the skill of knowing what you are feeling, why you’re feeling it, and what physical sensations you are having as a result. This is a skill that can be cultivated over time, which allows you to identify and express what you are feeling moment by moment. It’s is also the ability to understand the relationship between what you are feeling and how you choose to behave. However, if you are unable to manage your emotions, you might be vulnerable to addiction. Alcohol or drugs can turn into a way to avoid distress and challenging emotions, especially those that are difficult to express, such as anger and shame. Not having the skills to cope with difficult feelings as well as not wanting to feel them can easily lead a teen to drugs as an avoidance mechanism.

Staying balanced can help prevent the above situation. Stay balanced can provide the right state of mind to be able to manage your depression or anxiety. Inner balance can give the frame of mind to make healthy choices and protect you from taking risks. If you’re unsure what you need to stay balanced, you might consider deep breathing every day, a practice of meditation, a practice of yoga, or having an hour of alone time each day.

Staying balanced can support your ability to stay sober, healthy, and happy.


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Dangers of the Inner Critic

Dangers of the Inner Critic | Transcend Recovery Community

Some men, women, and even teens have a strong inner critic. They can be very self-judging, which leads to challenging feelings. And in turn, those feelings of low self-worth, shame, and self-rejection are difficult to bear and can lead to making choices to help remove oneself from those feelings, such as choosing to use drugs or drink.

For some, these difficult feelings are so strong and the sense of relaxation in the mind that drinking and drug use can offer can be the impetus for an entire addiction. Feeling better about oneself while drinking can be the power behind a lifetime of addiction.

Yet, addiction can be incredibly harmful to oneself and to others, as well as create great destruction in one’s life. Someone who is drinking on a regular basis might lose his or her job, end up divorced, and lose their children.

The inner critic is a part of their mind that tends to be critical and even negative. Sadly, many people who suffer from anxiety and depression experience a strong inner critic, a part of themselves that might make worse the psychological symptoms they experience. This is particularly true with depression. Often, depression is a way of being cut off from who you are, which is frequently a result of having had a destructive life. For instance, the difficult experiences of an abusive childhood, a life of addiction, growing up among strong criticism, living with intense guilt, and/or experiencing abandonment early in life can be situations that destroy the spark of life within. These situations and others can create thought patterns and beliefs like “I’m at fault”, “I’m not loveable”, “I’m not worth being loved”, or “My life isn’t worth anything”.

These kinds of thoughts, and worse, when these thoughts turn into beliefs, life can be very challenging, making drinking and drug use a viable option, regardless of the circumstances. The inner critic is sometimes referred to as having an oppressive ego structure. Yet, whatever you call it, there is a part of the self that is frequently judgmental, critical, and negative,

Interestingly, marijuana seems to be a drug of choice for those who tend to experience a strong inner critic. It seems to soften this part of the self, making it easier to be who one is. However, the transformation is actually illusory and instead might create a dependence on marijuana for feeling at ease with oneself. Of course, this kind of dependence is true for any drug that one uses on a regular basis.

Fortunately, instead of drug use and the possibility of addiction and self-harm, there are proven ways to ease the inner critic and make living a bit softer. The following are ways to quiet the inner critic, or at least challenge some of his or her beliefs.

  1. Examine Your Thoughts – The way one responds in their mind to the circumstances in life can have an influence on mood and feelings and thoughts. The thinking that goes on inside is the cognition domain and refers to all that happens inwardly, such as thoughts, images, memories, dreams, beliefs, attitudes, and where attention goes. All of these can contribute to negative thinking. And these can eventually lead to making choices that are destructive. Whether it’s with a therapist or by yourself, watch the thoughts you’re having and whether or not they are harmful.
  2. Evaluate Your Judgments – When you experience a judgment of yourself or others, take a close look at it. Is it true? Does your judgment have substance? Or is it simply a part of the negative thinking patterns that tend to follow the inner critic? If you can refute it, then it might be easier to let it go and not give it any more power.
  3. Challenge Yourself with Kindness – When you’ve seen that you’re judging yourself or when you notice that the inner critic is alive in your mind, do something kind for yourself. Perhaps go spend time near the ocean or prepare yourself a nurturing meal. Challenge that inner critic with kindness rather than believing in it and doing something later that you might regret.

Don’t let the inner critic ruin your life by propelling the start and growth of an addiction. Turn the volume down on that inner critic by no longer believing in it.


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Co-Occurring Disorders – Here are Questions to Ask Your Psychiatrist

For Those with Co-Occurring Disorders, Here are Key Questions to Ask Your Psychiatrist | Transcend Recovery Community

Co-occurring disorders (COD) are those that include both an addiction and a mental illness. For instance, you might suffer from depression as well as an alcohol addiction. Or you might have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and have developed an addiction to benzodiazepine tranquilizers, which are commonly prescribed for anxiety.

Co-occurring disorders are very common.  You can imagine that an individual experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety or the mood swings of Bipolar Disorder might want to quell those uncomfortable feelings with drugs or alcohol. This is one common reason that causes an individual to have a co-occurring disorder, also known as having a dual diagnosis.

If you experience a mental illness in addition to having an addiction, there are some important questions you might want to ask your psychiatrist.  The following are a list of those questions. They are meant to help you find a doctor that is supportive and looking out for your best interest.

Is it difficult to get an appointment with you?

If you are experiencing acute symptoms of depression, anxiety, or mania, you’ll want to have your doctor available. He or she can adjust medication, admit you to a hospital, if needed, or have a therapeutic session. However, the availability of that doctor is crucial especially during times of crisis.

Can I contact you during a crisis?

Mental health professionals, like doctors, typically have a method for handling crises when their patients are in need – especially when a crisis happens during holidays, evenings, or weekends. Some therapists will have an after-hours answering service or they will provide you with the number of a clinic to go to during emergencies or they might provide a recorded message with instructions on what to do during a crisis.

What is my diagnosis and how did you obtain it?

Some psychiatrists might prescribe medication, especially during a crisis, even without having a diagnosis. They do this in order to stabilize your mood while they rule out diagnostic possibilities. They might have a working diagnosis, for example. However, asking about a diagnosis is the right of every patient along with knowing the possible diagnoses he or she is considering.

What is the treatment plan?

It is typical for the treatment of most psychiatric illnesses to include both medication and psychotherapy – a dual diagnosis. Often, there will be a psychiatrist to manage medication and a therapist who will facilitate therapy. Both of medication and therapy have been proven to be an effective form of treatment. However, a treatment plan might also include psycho-education, family therapy, support groups, lifestyle changes, and/or instructions on what to do when symptoms become acute.

When can I expect to feel better?

Different medications will take various lengths of time to feel their effects. It could take two weeks, one month, or longer. This is a good question to ask of a psychiatrist or whoever is managing the medication regime.

How will I know that I am getting better?

Having a co-occurring disorder is tricky because feeling better might mean slipping into a period of depression or intense anxiety while you are withdrawing from alcohol or drugs, or if you are waiting for your medication to kick in. However, when depression begins to lift, you might also be able to experience other symptoms such as better sleep, more energy, more socialization, crying less, and fewer thoughts of suicide. A mental health professional will also be able to answer this in more detail.

What if I begin to feel worse?

Some medications will have effects that just aren’t working, particularly if a combination of drugs are being used. The best course of action is to communicate all the side effects and symptoms you are experiencing to your doctor. Some medications may not work at all and instead have an adverse effect.

What side effects should I expect?

This is an important question to ask before you begin to take any medication. Most psychiatrists will be aware of any serious side effects of medication before making a prescription. You should ask questions about side effects, effectiveness, risks, and options before deciding on a medication treatment.

Will you work with my other providers?

A psychiatrist will often coordinate treatment with your therapist, drug counselor, addiction treatment team, and anyone else supporting your health. Doing so can facilitate the effectiveness of a treatment plan as well as provide significant support.

In addition to these questions, it’s important to communicate the severity of your addiction and how your addiction might affect your ability to follow your treatment plan. Although these questions are optional, they can empower you and facilitate having a close connection to your doctor. In this way, you can voice your opinion, make adjustments, and ensure that you are receiving the best care possible.


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Learning How to Manage Your Social Anxiety in Healthy Ways

Learning How to Manage Your Social Anxiety in Healthy Ways | Transcend Recovery Community

Everyone has felt anxious in social gatherings. It’s practically a universal human predicament. Depending on your psychological and emotional strengths, the level of anxiety you might experience in public settings can vary. During the holiday season where there are frequent social gatherings and distant relatives returning to town for family events, understanding and managing your level of social anxiety can be important.

It can be particularly important if your anxiety in the past led to drinking or drug use. For some, social anxiety can be strong. And for others, it’s so strong that they have what’s known as Social Anxiety Disorder (or Social Phobia). It’s a psychological illness in which the fear of social situations, specifically fearing judgment and embarrassment in those situations, is excessive. You might be excessively worried about how he or she looks or will behave and might even avoid those situations to escape the anxiety, rather than enjoying that experience. Social phobia tends to also come within an extreme feeling of self-consciousness and a fear of humiliating oneself.

Although not all people have social anxiety to the degree that it is debilitating or considered a mental illness, it’s common to either smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol as a way to manage social anxiety in public settings. Although the rate of cigarette smoking has significantly decreased in the last 10-15 years, smoking remains to be an unhealthy pattern for those who experience mental illness and/or addiction.

One way to facilitate better managing social anxiety is to learn how to relax. Breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, and meditation can facilitate a sense of ease when fear and panic feel like they are going to take over. For instance, feeling fear is usually accompanied by shallow breathing. If you were to become conscious of your breathing right in the middle of feeling afraid, making the breath long and deep, this could shift your physiological state. This could be the tool you use instead of pulling out a cigarette, accepting the offer of a joint, or drinking alcohol. When you’re at a party this holiday season, deep breathing is a much healthier coping mechanism than smoking or getting high.

In fact, other ways to relax include:

  • Exercise. This releases endorphins and promotes emotional well-being.
  • Step outside. Enjoy the sun and fresh air. You might try to find a beautiful view or landscape.
  • Practice yoga. Yoga is a practice, a form of exercise, which invites an integrated experience of body and mind. Its effects can be experienced immediately as well as over time.
  • Play with your dog or cat. Pets can creating a feeling of being loved and needed. When we spend time with them we can easily feel their love for us and this alone can help us relax.
  • Listen to music. Soft and relaxing music can influence mood. If you’re feeling stressed, listen to music that is slow and calming.
  • Light a scented candle. You can do more than just light a candle. You can create an ambiance in a room to feel more at ease by also lighting incense, playing music, lowering the shades, and making your favorite tea.
  • Use scents to relax you. Breathe in the scent of fresh flowers or coffee beans, or savor a scent that reminds you of a favorite memory. Use your sense of smell to create a more relaxed inner experience. For instance, smelling the scent of sunscreen might remind you of being on vacation or being at the beach.
  • Make yourself a steaming cup of tea. Teas like chamomile or peppermint can help relax the body.

Although not all of the above suggestions can be utilized during a social event, a regular practice of relaxation can support you in managing your anxiety in healthy ways when you need it.


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Exploring the Connections Between Addiction & Creativity

Exploring the Connections Between Addiction & Creativity | Transcend Recovery Community

After the tragic death of Robin Williams, there have been many Internet articles exploring the relationships between creativity and mental illness, such as addiction. It’s a common belief that addiction is a close companion to creative genius, innovation, and expressions of originality. There’s no question that Robin Williams was a genius in the way that he used words and images to bring laughter to the American public.

Yet, throughout his life, he suffered from addiction and other forms of mental illness, such as depression. He was depressed for many years of his life and diagnosed with Major Depression and had a long battle with drugs. Throughout the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Williams was addicted to cocaine, heroin, and alcohol. According to People Magazine, Williams quit cocaine and alcohol entirely in 1982 when his first wife was pregnant with their son Zachary. The approaching role of fatherhood as well as the recent death of his close friend John Belushi prompted him to find long-term sober living.

As a result, Williams was in and out of drug detox, sober living treatment centers, and hospitals to address his drug abuse and mental illness. In an interview with The Guardian, Williams described the way his first drink exploded into alcoholism:

I just thought, hey, maybe drinking will help. Because I felt alone and afraid. It was that thing of working so much, and going…’maybe that will help.’ And it was the worst thing in the world.” 

It’s common for those who use substances to also have mental illness. The two are close companions, and both substance abuse and mental illness seem to accompany creative genius. There are certain mental illnesses that frequently co-exist with substance use, such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety, Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When there is a co-existing condition, such as addiction and mental illness, sober livingtreatment must involve tending to both illnesses, or relapse is likely to occur.

However, for Williams, according to news reports, it was his depression that required treatment in his later life, more so than his addiction. Despite the fact that Robin Williams struggled with both throughout his life, some experts point out that his creativity was the result of neither his addiction nor his depression. Instead, as one writer put it:

Williams’ comedic genius was a result of many factors, including his compassion, playfulness, divergent thinking, imagination, intelligence, affective repertoire, and unique life experiences.

It seems that those who are addicted to alcohol or drugs frequently have a huge appetite for life. They are sensitive, passionate, imaginative, creative, and in many ways, wild inside and out. They have an intense relationship with existence, which seems to spill over into everything they do. This might be an apt description for Williams as well.

This intensity, this volcano inside, seems to be forever erupting, and without knowing what to do with it, perhaps it’s the cause of the compulsive lifestyle that is characteristic of addiction. Learning how to manage that fire inside is part of the journey of finding sobriety. Although in the beginning, many might attempt to quell the fire inside through the use of drugs and alcohol. Long-term sober living for some is learning how to manage the full expression of life without the use of substances.

Yet, this can get confusing when there’s also mental illness, such as depression, which was the case for Williams. His suicide was clearly the result of his depression and not his wild creativity nor his addiction. Research shows that depression is the leading cause of suicide. Debilitating thoughts that frequent a depressed mind slowly eat away at a sense of self, making the option of taking one’s life viable.

Certainly, the relationship between creativity, mental illness, and addiction runs deep. Yet, the genius of one’s creativity doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is prone to addiction or that the creativity is the result of mental illness. Yet, coincidentally, when an individual aims to acquire sober living, creativity and self-expression are often powerful tools for healing.


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Sober Living: Exploring the Meaning & Deeper Message

Sober Living: Exploring the Meaning & Deeper Message | Transcend Recovery Community

A sober living facility is a home that provides a safe and nurturing environment. They are sometimes also referred to as a halfway house, transitional sober living home, a structured living facility, or a place to receive post-care services. Yet, regardless of the name, they exist to assist individuals in recovery to take the steps they need to begin a new life.

Often, they are for those who making a transition from an inpatient treatment center for drug and alcohol abuse. There, a recovering individual might participate in drug counseling to address substance abuse, therapy to treat mental illnesses, and other forms of therapeutic treatment to address behavioral issues that often contribute to addiction. For instance, some inpatient treatment centers are beginning to employ behavioral health therapists to ensure that behavioral concerns are well addressed. The level of services are intense and often available 24 hours a day.

When that intensive treatment comes to an end, most recovering individuals are not yet ready to move back home. While the inpatient treatment program facilitated the withdrawal from the addiction, there is still plenty to heal. There continues to be the many internal patterns, poor decision making, and old wounds to restore to health. Furthermore, if there are co-occurring disorders (such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and PTSD), a sober living home can be a safe place to get the treatment that’s needed. Although some sober living facilities won’t be able to provide all the psychiatric or psychological services you need, they can serve as central point to help you coordinate those services so that all your needs are met.

Each sober living facility can provide a variety of services to assist in the transition from inpatient drug and alcohol treatment to transitional living. The aim of these facilities is to assist individuals during this precarious stage and help them become re-integrated into day-to-day life.

However, there is a deeper message of sober living facilities. They serve as a haven and a bridge. In order to meet the demands of your life, as it was before you left, you’re going to need a kind of inner strength that didn’t exist before. Let’s face it, if you had the strength to meet the emotional, psychological, and daily responsibilities of your life, you probably wouldn’t have reached for the drugs or alcohol.

So, it’s not just a matter of getting off the drugs or stopping the drinking; recovery is also finding a new you. Recovery is putting the pieces together again so that you are stronger than you were before. Recovery is finding the inner resources that were buried while you were in the cycle of addiction, and it is uncovering the wounds that the addiction was trying to mask.

Recovery is a full and rich process of self-discovery and incredible transformation, if you’re ready for it. There’s a joke in the mental health field that goes like this:

How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb?
The answer?  Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change.

And it’s true. And for this reason, a sober living home is more than a place to transition from a drinking life to a non-drinking life; it’s a place to finally come home to yourself.


If you are reading this on any blog other than Transcend Recovery Community or via
my RSS Feed, it is stolen content without credit.
You can find me on Twitter via @RecoveryRobert
Come and visit our blog at http://TranscendRecoveryCommunity.com/blog