How to Form Good Habits In Recovery And Beyond

Good Habits In Recovery | Transcend Texas

It does not matter what habits you form if they’re ultimately constructive rather than destructive. People encounter a lot of stress over the course of their lives – naturally, like any other being on planet Earth, we must deal with the unpredictability and inherent risks of living. That, and we each deal with our fair share of responsibilities. this is why forming good habits in recovery is especially important for hose recovering from addiction.

At some point, things just get too much. How we cope with the mountain of pressure depends from person to person. Some people drink – that is a maladaptive coping mechanism. Other people paint – that is an adaptive coping mechanism. Addiction itself can sometimes be the result of a bad habit – a maladaptive coping mechanism. We begin to rely on addiction to more easily ignore our problems rather than help solve them.

Drinking exacerbates your problems. It does not make them go away, it simply incapacitates you from finding a solution towards them. Painting is an effective way to build off stress, express your creativity and avoid letting emotions cloud your judgment – it allows you to take a moment away from the situation to better compose yourself and deal with your problems in the future.

Good habits in recovery are adaptive. They help you grow as a person to deal with your problems, rather than gloss over them with distractions. And they’re extremely important both during early recovery, and in general throughout life. Here are a few ways to build good habits in recovery to help in managing long-term sobriety.


Start The Day Right

The first thing you should do when you wake up is make your bed. It may seem rudimentary, but if you aren’t doing that already, then it will have a significant impact on your mental state. Chores are not just about keeping clean – they’re about discipline, consistency, and creating a mindset that involves caring about yourself and your environment.

The simple act of shaking out your sheets and making your bed takes all of thirty seconds, and leaves you with the feeling that you’ve already accomplished something. It encourages you to accomplish more things throughout the day. And, if you do end up having a miserable day, then you’ll have a made bed to look forward to.


Create A Schedule

Next, create a schedule – one you can stick to. Remain flexible here and there to account for instabilities and avoid putting you in the stressful situation where you end up running around to get everything on your schedule done with minimal delay.

Be sure to make a small list of the things that are most important to you daily, and a weekly basis, and create a schedule for an entire week that involves your at-home and working responsibilities, your recovery responsibilities, and the good habits in recovery that you plan to build.


Don’t Do It Alone

One of the most important pieces of advice is not to pursue creating good habits in recovery alone. Some people have the inherent willpower and discipline to work on themselves for months and years at a time, and develop new skins and healthy habits. Others falter with time, losing interest or becoming distracted.

If you’re doing this to help improve your drug recovery and transform into a more consistent (and consistently sober) person, then consider asking your friends to join you in keeping a few good habits together. Get a workout partner, join a book club, learn a language with your spouse. There are countless ways to improve yourself alongside others. A sober living community is also a great option to find a community of like minded individuals looking to form good habits in recovery as well.


Exercise Regularly

Even if exercise is not part of your list of good habits in recovery to form, it should be. Half an hour of intense exercise thrice a week is enough to keep you in a healthy condition, and gain all the benefits of exercising – including the benefits people in recovery get to look forward to.

Exercise flushes your body with endorphins, curbs the withdrawal effects of drug use, acts as an amazingly effective stress reliever, and it makes you feel a lot better about yourself.


Set Monthly Goals

Weekly goals will simply fatigue you. Annual goals are often too long-term, and it’s far too easy to lose motivation over the course of twelve months. However, setting monthly goals will give you the opportunity to have something to look forward to every four weeks, while keeping the drive to stay productive without pushing yourself into the boundaries of a burnout (and beyond).

If you enjoy lifting weights, ask around for appropriate and realistic goals within your stage of training (beginner, novice, intermediate etc.), and aim to reach those goals or even exceed them slightly. If you’re dedicated to a language, aim for a specific monthly quota of conversations with natives over the Internet, or if you’re just beginning, aim for a specific monthly quota of new additions to your vocabulary. If you’re reading, aim to finish a set number of books per month.

Monthly goals are not meant to be a lifelong habit. Instead, they’re a tried-and-true method towards developing good habits in recovery that later become a part of your daily or weekly routine. Learning a new instrument, tackling a new language or culture, or practicing for a specific sport (or even just training to condition yourself) – these are all endeavors that aim for self-improvement, require little investment aside from time, and deliver tremendous results over the course of months and years.

It’s okay to fail to meet your own expectations sometimes. Life can get in the way of our plans, and there will be months when we miss our goals. But it’s not about sacrificing everything to make sure you cram in those last few words or skim through the final pages of a book you could have otherwise enjoyed, a language you lose passion for because learning it becomes a chore.

The passion matters. The love for what you’re doing matters. Discipline is important, but it’s quite easy to take things too far and turn what you love into something you dread and shy away from. Find the balance, and you’ll live a much happier and more fulfilling life.


Why (Good & Bad) Habits Matter

Why (Good & Bad) Habits Matter | Transcend Texas

The question of why people get addicted in general has been explored quite often – but the mechanism behind addiction is important as well. The risk factors aside, there is a distinct reason why addiction develops the way it does, and it’s important for us to explore how the brain gets hooked on drugs – or more clearly, the behavior surrounding drug use and the descent into withdrawal and dependence.

The reasoning here is very simple. By understanding the mechanism of addiction, individuals who struggle with it have a better chance at gaining the upper hand needed to overcome their addiction and maintain healthy, long-term sobriety. This is because when an addiction occurs, it becomes an extension of that person – it becomes a part of them. Understanding the way an addiction developed helps patients understand themselves, and helps give them a sense of direction when it comes to seeking help and pursuing treatment for their problems.

It’s like identifying an eating disorder through all the signs that point towards it as part of a case of morbid obesity, and then further identifying the root of the eating disorder as childhood trauma. Treating that, is the key to eventually resolving and unraveling the rest of a person’s struggles, and reaching the point where they know what’s wrong, can identify what troubles them the most, and can take the steps in life to cope with excess stresses and the extraordinary challenges that they face in day-to-day living.

Is Addiction a Habit or a Choice?

The best analogy to understanding addiction is that of a rat in a lab test. If you feed a rat a pellet of sugar in response to a specific action, then it’s very likely going to continue to do that action to receive its reward and subsequently associate the work with sugar.

Yet if you turn it around and make the association negative too early, the rat will stop pulling the lever, even if the decision to stop isn’t immediate. This is true for most animals, including humans: while our brain is wired to like sugar because it’s indicative of a high-calorie food source (and thus high energy), we’re not wired to jump off a cliff to chase after an apple.

Imagine if the rat were to continue to pull the lever to get its fix despite the negative consequences of continuously ingesting sugar – symptoms of withdrawal, or rejection among peers. This isn’t a sign of addiction. It’s a habit.

Habits develop differently from goal-oriented thinking. Goal oriented thinking is pulling the lever with the expectation of sugar – you’re doing it for the sugar, because you need it. A habit is pulling the lever because that’s what you’ve been doing for weeks and months now, and it’s just become this thing you do, even though the effects are adverse rather than encouraging.

Reversing Bad Habits

Let’s put the rat aside, because its relevance ends here, and let’s move on to human habits. We do things that aren’t in our best interest because there was a time when they were associated with our best interests and they’ve developed into things we simply just do now. Imagine waking up every day at the exact same time to follow the exact same strenuous morning routine molded around your work day. That doesn’t just disappear the minute you retire.

Habits take a while to break, and addiction is one such habit. We associate the pleasure of a high with the substance in question, and even when it proceeds to destroy our lives piece by piece, our brains have been wired a certain way to accept that this certain habit is useful. Rewiring the brain to understand that it’s the opposite of helpful is possible, but takes time and practice. Specifically, you need to initiate a new kind of behavior to replace addiction, and then practice that behavior diligently to eliminate addiction.

This is the key to brain plasticity, and in a way, part of why humans have the capacity to learn languages and develop technology. We can learn and relearn, think and rethink, and we can think critically, apply concepts across different disciplines of thought, and come up with innovations in design and application of knowledge. Even when we develop a deeply-ingrained habit, we can break that habit by out-practicing it regularly enough. This same brain plasticity lets us adopt new patterns and quickly adapt to environments where unusual behavior is necessary for survival.

This is different from choice, but it’s also different from treating addiction as an uncontrollable disease. While it shares some characteristics of a chronic disease, it’s healthier to see addiction as a protocol of actions the brain has encoded into your behavior, and that this malicious protocol, while resistant, can be deleted through your own efforts and hard work.

It’s Not Just About Habit

However, not every case is as simple as taking a drug for the hell of it and then having trouble getting off it due to the habitual behavior it has become. While recovery in and of itself is necessary even for these cases, many who struggle with addiction first turned to it not to break a taboo or because of social circumstances, but to eliminate a certain negative emotion or feeling. Mood disorders, feelings of anxiety and a history of trauma or other mental conditions are common in those who struggle with addiction because addiction is an excellent coping mechanism when the only goal is to forget and stop feeling a specific way.

Overcoming the habit of addiction in cases like this requires having an alternative way to cope with these issues. You can’t endeavor to destroy and give up your addiction if you don’t have any other means of dealing with depressive thoughts and panic attacks. In cases like this, the priority lies in tackling the mental condition first before figuring out how best to take on the addiction it caused through self-medication.

Habit vs. Habitual

For the sake of clarity, it’s not entirely accurate to consider addiction to be nothing more than a habit. It’s a much stronger association – we may develop habits like typing on a QWERTY keyboard instead of AZERTY or any other combination of keys, but changing those habits is simpler than challenging an addiction. However, addiction is habitual, rather than being an on or off switch in your brain that determines whether you’re trapped in an endless cycle of relapses.

You can do something about your addiction, but it requires understanding the details of your specific case. Why are you addicted? How did you become attracted to the feeling of a high? What can you do in life to feel happy and fulfilled without the longing for another hit, another cigarette, another drink? Understand your relationship to your drug or drugs of choice, and you’ll have a clearer understanding of what you need to do.

Yoga-ing & Recovering

Yoga-ing & Recovering | Transcend Texas

Addiction recovery is a complicated road, made ever more twisted and convoluted by the many paths it can be composed of. Two people struggling with sobriety from the same drug addiction could go through entirely different programs and come out the other end fulfilled and determined to stay clean. Yet there are many who feel skeptical about alternative approaches to addiction recovery, particularly in the fields of mindfulness, meditation and yoga.

However, a little research and a lot of examples go to show that the physical and mental aspects of a yogic lifestyle – or even just the casual adoption of yoga as a regular exercise program – influence those struggling with sobriety, and people in general.

Scientifically, that influence has been under scrutiny, particularly as researchers consider the validity of fitness and mindfulness therapy – therapeutic exercises that challenge patients to focus on something, and forego distraction. The proposed benefit of such a therapy is increased self-control, improved self-esteem and a lower likelihood of episodes of depression and anxiety.

In its simplest context, mindfulness is the ability to better focus on what you feel is most important. So how does that translate into recovery from addiction?

Mindfulness & Addiction

Addiction is a disease of the brain, yet exactly what that means matters. Some scientists argue that there is evidence of addiction being a neurological affliction – it changes the way the brain works and looks, affects your state of mind, and becomes a chronic illness highlighted by a high relapse rate and the challenges of staying sober, even after detox and rehab.

Others assert that addiction is a learning and development disorder, because it’s mostly (but not entirely) rampant among youth, and is otherwise tied to mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Either way, addiction is a condition wherein a person is compelled to use drugs to cope with something, from a certain type of behavior to a feeling of shame, or a past trauma. Even among those who developed addiction due to unfortunate genetic circumstances or to fit into a social circle, long-term addiction will have a largely negative impact on your life, and can send you down a spiral of self-loathing and depression.

Even at the root of every cause of addiction, there lies a dysfunction. No one turns to an addictive substance without having a compelling reason to, not with the existing common education on the danger of drugs. Kids today don’t turn to drugs because they love the health benefits, but because there’s a need for them, perhaps as a social lubricant, as a ticket to a feeling of belonging, to bolster their self-esteem and reduce their anxious inhibitions.

Adults do the same thing, covering up what they don’t like about themselves and their lives with a drug. People in fields of immense success are under pressure day and night. In every life, we all carry around a little bit of unhappiness, and some of us carry around much more than others.

When it comes to addiction, rehab is typically the first step out of this hole. Residential treatment facilities offer detoxification and tips for early recovery to teach someone how to cope with what they’re going through. After the initial shock of detox and the passing of withdrawal symptoms, people dealing with addiction will often feel a wave of fear, depression, anxiety or pessimism overcoming them. All issues that might have been brought up over their time as addicts were previously suppressed, and sobriety forces them all out.

When such issues see the light of day and the initial coping mechanism is forbidden, people can turn bitter and angry. They begin to regret, to feel guilty. Overcoming those emotions – realizing that it’s okay not to have something, or to let go, or to make amends and move on – is key to long-term sobriety. These emotions can’t be drowned out by partying, drugs, friends or spirituality – they’ll always return in full force, ready to knock you off your feet. And so, they must be resolved.

Yoga for Recovery

That is where mindfulness & yoga come into play. It’s relatively easy to lose yourself in a maelstrom of negativity when dealing with the emotional consequences of an addiction. Mindfulness exercises teach you to focus on a simple, inconsequential concept or point of reference to avoid overthinking, worrying, and panic. Mindfulness is expressed by making a conscious choice to reject a negative thought, and instead focus on the positive possibility. It’s useless to make a fuss over things that haven’t happened yet – such as fearing that your family will reject you despite your recovery because of what you’ve said and done in the past – instead, mindfulness allows you to calm your mind and take away the power that pessimistic thought and depressive thinking holds over you.

This concept – the ability to control how you think, to deny a line of thinking and instead convince yourself to turn it all around – is directly related to the usefulness and meaning of yoga as a tool for addiction recovery.

Understanding Yoga

Yoga as a school of thought is ancient, and its teachings refer to eight limbs – concepts that describe what yoga is meant to do. Each of the eight limbs gives you an overall idea of what you should aim for in a meditative session, and they help you understand why yoga is an excellent choice to calm the mind and introduce better focus and stability in recovery:

  • Yama: the essential moral values of yoga, including non-violence, honesty and non-avarice, or the absence of senseless greed.
  • Niyama: the goals of the mind, or certain virtues that should be strived for, such as contentment, a clear mind, contemplation of spirituality, self-reflection and persistence in life.
  • Asana: the actual movement of yoga, described as a series of poses and posture meant to be “steady” and “pleasant”, eliminating the shaking of the body through focus.
  • Pranayama: the focus of breath, both continuous and in a series of suspended inhalation and complete inhalation.
  • Pratyahara: the process of slowly cutting out the outside world to focus entirely on the yoga itself, and your thoughts.
  • Dharana: this is the point in practice where you concentrate on a single concept, subject, or thought in your mind, returning to it when you drift, and remaining in focus.
  • Dhyana: once you have a point of focus, Dhyana is meant to be the contemplation of that focus – thinking about a subject or concept and exploring every imaginable perspective, point-of-view, description and personal conclusion.
  • Samadhi: this is the last step, a point in your practice wherein every aspect of yoga flows together to leave you completely entranced and focused only on whatever it is you decided to commit yourself to in that session.

More than a form of exercise, yoga is an expression of mindfulness – and one that can steel your mind and help you develop immense focus and self-contentment. There is a bit of spirituality in there – contemplating the self may also mean contemplating the universe, and practicing a bit of personal philosophy and soul-searching – yet there is no need to believe in a higher power to practice yoga.

All you need is a posture or position that might challenge you, and the time to make that position comfortable, while focusing entirely on a single, relevant thought. Returning to this thought repeatedly, or coming up with new points of focus, allows you to quickly quiet your mind and think of something more constructive when negativity and depression strikes, and the urge to use grows.

In Recovery, Family Involvement Matters

In Recovery, Family Involvement Matters | Transcend Texas

Drug recovery is a long dark road, and without a few lights along the way to help you keep the path illuminated, you’re bound to trip and fall on your face in a few very painful ways. However, you can’t just rely on yourself to bring those lights onto the path – it’s the people around you, who are supporting your efforts, that help you see forward and glimpse what might loom ahead in the far distance of your road.

It’s important for us to have the light of others in our life. We humans aren’t meant to survive long-term solitude – we can live and even thrive when left alone to some capacity, but beyond a specific amount of time, we simply begin to fall apart. That’s what it means to be lonely.

The People in Your Corner

Loneliness isn’t just a symptom of finding yourself stuck on an uncharted island after being the sole survivor of a horrifying plane crash – it’s far more mundane, and much, much more common. We can be lonely in our everyday life, even as we spend the entire day speaking to others and faking real connection. Much like beauty, loneliness is in the eye of the beholder – if you find yourself unable to connect with family, unable to form friendships, unable to find any joy or meaning in the relationships you’re in, then you’re bound to be lonely no matter how densely populated your area is.

That loneliness can lead to dark, negative thoughts. We begin to question ourselves – our mind, naturally, assumes that because we’re social outcasts, something is inherently wrong with us. We begin to feel trapped by thoughts that we can’t express or talk about with others, and we relate to depressive emotions, feelings of worthlessness. It becomes a downward spiral. With or without drugs, being lonely is one of the worst feelings to have.

Combatting that loneliness, and finding actual friendship in the process, is considered by some to be central to drug recovery as well. By finding and befriending people, we can relate to, and by becoming a part of a group – a family, even – we begin to realize important truths about ourselves. We begin to see a side of ourselves that might’ve been forgotten, or was never there. And in drug recovery, reconnecting and truthfully becoming a part of the family again is important in maintaining that feeling of self with which to strive for sobriety.

That’s what it means to have people in your corner – regardless of whether you choose to find professional treatment, a support system is vital during recovery to keep you on track, motivated, and remind you why you’re going through the pain of maintaining your sobriety.

Family Is More Than Blood

Most blog entries out there focus too much on family, without clarifying that family doesn’t have to be related to you. There are many people out there with complicated family histories, many of whom would rather not return to such a household. Whether it’s a case of verbal and physical abuse, domestic violence or psychological torment, there’s no abject need for you to reconnect with the people who have done you harm, just for the sake of reconnecting with them.

Instead, surround yourself with people who truly care about you. Best friends, close colleagues, old pals – make new friends or reconnect with those you lost along the way. It won’t be easy at first – it never is, opening to others and trusting them with your friendship and your true feelings – but the rewards of a real bond between people are immeasurable.

Part of learning to come to terms with yourself over the course of drug recovery is learning that you can afford to cut out the people in your life that do you nothing but harm. There’s no need to stick around friends or family members that abuse you, out of loyalty or any other reason. Instead, take the opportunity of recovery as a chance to make drastic changes in life, by purposefully avoiding the people and places that are bound to bring you back into negativity and self-loathing, and by surrounding yourself with people who motivate you, inspire you with their drive and progress, and remind you wordlessly to never give up, even in the worst of scenarios.

You Owe Them (and Yourself)

Given the consensus and agreeable literature, it’s virtually undisputable that responsibility and accountability play huge roles in the successful recovery of struggling drug addicts – but that doesn’t mean they are preventative measures for addiction. Instead, by purposefully making ourselves accountable to others – by taking on the responsibilities of a sibling, a parent, or a partner – we prove to ourselves that we’re capable of doing important things, and being important people to those who really matter to us.

Recovery is about more than just owing up to your mistakes or making up for the harm you may have caused in your days as an addict – it’s about making positive choices not out of punishment or because of repentance, but because you owe it to yourself to feel better about yourself, to feel good and enjoy life without having to mask the emotional weight of your worst moments with the numbing feeling of inebriation.

That’s the only responsibility someone has when struggling with sobriety and recovery – the responsibility to get better, for themselves, and for those around them. Utilizing that as motivation – the will to be someone you can be at peace with, someone who provides for their family, lifts the mood and inspires people to be a bit more confident and excited about living – can help you get through a few rough patches in life.

Of course, recovery is so much more than just wanting to get better – but without a fiery passion for a drug-free life, your recovery won’t get very far. The struggle of staying sober is amplified when our motivation is shot – make sure to have daily reminders of what it means to live in a family again, from making new friends at rehab to living in a friendly sober living community, to returning home and soaking in the love even in the most trying of times.

A Spiritual Journey To Sobriety

A Spiritual Journey To Sobriety | Transcend Texas

The ideological pillar supporting the movement of sobriety within circles like the 12-step program, is one of spiritual awakening and a surrender to God. Similarly, religion, spirituality and recovery have often been entwined, with the concept of a higher power being used as a compelling motivator for those who struggle with drugs.

Spirituality and religion aren’t one and the same – the latter is an extension of the former. Going to church or praying by your bedside is one expression of spirituality, if done in earnest. But simply painting to your heart’s content can be a spiritual practice. It’s about expression, and about achieving a specific kind of feeling.

Some people manage to defeat addiction alone, whether through an emotional severance or through strict and painful abstinence and slow recovery – but for many others, support is necessary. It takes months, sometimes years, and many who struggle with addiction say that for most the time, it doesn’t matter what you do – you won’t be able to end the chronic cycle until all the right conditions have been met.

And the right conditions include a combination of psychological and physical fitness – getting clean, then finding the emotional support and help needed to sever the tie between pleasure and addiction, and slowly relearn what it means to be legitimately happy without the interference of substance. It takes time, help, and peace. That last bit is, in most cases, essential – not to the initial abstinence, but to the long-term recovery process and the longevity of a person’s new sober life. And that is where spirituality often comes in.

What Is Spirituality?

Spirituality is an individual expression – unfortunately, there’s no quantifiable scientific way to describe it as anything other than what your own experiences make it out to be. We all develop spirituality as a complementary set of beliefs, emotions and explanations to every mystery and element of the unknown in our life. Spirituality can be expressed through religion, but it doesn’t have to be. Many secular individuals still indulge in their spirituality, whether through practices like meditation, or through art.

In a way, spirituality is a catch-all. We just aren’t sure yet what else to call it. Some people feel the same “transcendence” when in the groove of writing a long-form poem, as others do when they deeply engage in prayer.

The connection between spirituality and sobriety is that it fosters an inner peace of mind. Addiction is, in one way or another, connected to deep and suppressed suffering. Regardless of whether these emotions arose as part of the experience of addiction – the shame and guilt developed through realizing the severity of an addiction and one’s inability to end it – or if they were there before, keeping them locked away causes the mind to develop ticks and negative habits to act out and protect itself from the emotional scars it bears.

Beating an addiction means eliminating an extremely potent coping mechanism and often unleashing a slew of emotional and psychological repercussions. This is mixed with the euphoria and optimism of having finally overcome an addiction, only to bear the brunt of an emotional torrent afterwards.

Spirituality, in a way, captures the essence of what is needed to survive this. To be at peace with yourself and find a way to seek emotional sobriety, and then emotional health, without breaking down into boiling anger, overwhelming fear, or deep sadness. Now, the reason this is intentionally vague is because it’s not meant to be a limiting process defined solely through one perspective.

Every individual must find their own way to peace. The only constant is that everything must be resolved. You can’t defeat addiction if the guilt, the pain, and any other strong emotion from those days lingers. If you can’t forgive yourself, or come to terms with how things went down, then you’ll be stuck in a continuous cycle. How you decide to resolve your bottled-up emotions and experiences is up to you – and your own definition of spirituality.

Spirituality & Emotional Sobriety

Emotional sobriety is a point in recovery where you’re no longer caught up in a maelstrom of highs and lows, and psychological turmoil. It’s the ability to make decisions about how you feel and act based on a realistic, positive perspective, unmarred by the fears of anxiety and insecurity, and the deep, unfounded and self-destructive pessimism created by feelings of depression. It’s not that you’ll never feel those feelings again – they’re a natural part of life, in many occasions, and you absolutely need to be able to feel them – but it’s that you won’t let them affect your perspective on life, no matter how hard they hit.

It’s not about being joyous with every aspect of life. It’s not about forcefully radiating like a human sun. It’s about being healthy in the way you look at life, and about being hopeful. It’s about tolerating negative emotions and working through them with healthy coping mechanisms. It’s about tackling every problem with an attitude that looks for solutions, rather than crying about impossibilities. It’s about stepping up towards opportunities rather than shying away from them in fear of changing the way you live your life.

Some people believe that sobriety is the route to happiness, but it’s only really one aspect – and happiness isn’t a constant thing, anyway. You won’t find yourself in an emotional heaven after giving up an addiction – and believing that will only hurt you. Strive for emotional sobriety – for feeling sane. And it’s a tricky thing to achieve for most people, let alone those who have gone through the emotional turmoil of addiction and recovery. But it’s also one of the best ways to fortify yourself against the reoccurrence of an addiction.

Spirituality plays a role in this in that some people use it to bypass this part of the recovery process and instead speed towards a dogmatic, rigid path of some sort to distract from real, deep-seated emotions. Remember – a healthy recovery requires closure. It requires that you step up your emotional issues and end their hold on you. Spirituality isn’t meant to help you run away from problems, but instead face and dismantle them in a way addiction never could.

Spirituality and emotional sobriety go hand in hand, but they can also work in opposite interests. Regardless of what path you choose to stay sober, the important thing is finding a healthy way to deal with life and everything it makes you go through.

Depression Is Habitually Rooted In Addiction

Depression Is Habitually Rooted In Addiction | Transcend Texas

Addiction and depression may seem like two related yet separate conditions that cross paths often as a case of coincidence rather than as a part of high statistical likelihood. Yet in truth, depression and substance abuse are common comorbidities, bedside fellows in many cases of both depression and addiction. It can be a little challenging to determine which really came first – and it’s usually a matter of circumstance, different from individual to individual.

Regardless of whether the depression kicked in after or before the addiction, there are a few reasons why these two psychological disorders are, sadly, commonly linked. But before we go into the specifics, it’s important to know what a depression really is – because there are differences between depressive emotions, a cyclical depression, and a full-blown depressive disorder, and the effects and consequences each of these diagnoses have on substance abuse, as well as the significance of whether the addiction occurred before or after the onset of depression.

What Is Depression?

Depression, as a disorder, is more aptly known as major or severe depression, and consists of a set of depressive symptoms lasting a significant amount of time: usually a period of over two weeks or longer, depending on the exact timing of the symptoms and any possible surrounding triggers.

You see, it’s perfectly normal and even healthy to react to a tragic and traumatic event in life with depressive symptoms. A lack of appetite, a disinterest in old hobbies, problems concentrating on work, feelings of hopelessness and loneliness, nihilistic thoughts and even thoughts of self-loathing or guilt – these are common instances of depressive thinking, and they’re linked to loss, to grief, and to severe emotional trauma.

But usually, we snap out of this line of thinking. At some point, our minds rebound, they come to terms with the situation, and we regain our usual demeanor, or a more somber, yet still normal behavior. It’s when the symptoms last abnormally long, beyond any usual period of grief, that a person could be considered stuck in a depressive state, and put in a major depression. Getting out of a major depression requires a lot of inner strength, and often, professional treatment. Like addiction recovery, overcoming a depression starts with wanting to overcome it. When you get fed up with feeling the way you do, you start to seek ways to improve your demeanor, your outlook, and your take on life. Therapy, picking up exercising and old hobbies, updating your diet, going out with friends, trying even when you really don’t want to – these are all things that, with time, improve the symptoms of depression and eventually reduce a diagnosis from severe to mild, or even nonexistent.

A mild depression that comes and goes, is known as a cyclothymic disorder, and is often characterized by an onset of depressive feelings time and again without any known triggers or reasons. It may be caused by genetics, brain chemistry, environmental factors, or suppressed trauma. And treatment, again, relies on actively seeking ways to improve the mood, through exercise, through social activities, therapy, and more.

Where Does Addiction Come Into the Picture?

When in depression, addiction is often an easy way to snap out of the oppressive emotions surrounding the disorder. The bleak emptiness that many endure can be replaced by the chemical rush of positive emotions and pleasure triggered by many substances. Even depressive drugs like alcohol have a “positive” effect on those struggling with depression. But we all know why addiction is a problem – that rush only lasts so long, and when it’s gone, it replaces itself with a hunger. That hunger becomes a problem, an obsession that takes up your life, and when you’re already struggling with happiness through depression, then addiction can feel like the final nail in the coffin.

And to many, sadly, it is. Suicide is an all-too common end to those struggling with both depression and substance abuse, because the way out can seem almost impossible to see, obscured by darkness. Yet, the good news is that it isn’t. Both addiction and depression are curable – and there are many, many treatments designed to cure one or the other, or both in any order.

Addiction to those struggling with depression is often a coping mechanism, a way to fight the depression on a short-term basis, with long-term consequences. The only sure way to beat something like that, is by treating the cause – the depression – alongside the symptoms of addiction. While someone struggling with depression won’t magically stop being addicted after working to treat their depression, the similarities in depressive treatments and recovery can often mean that those who manage to negate their diagnosis also have a great chance of achieving long-term sobriety, if the treatment is done thoughtfully.

However, in the other way around, it’s more important to focus on the struggle of recovery rather than the depression first. Through helping someone recover from their addiction, they may in fact come out of treatment without any depressive symptoms left, especially after the initial post-rehab phase of emotional instability.

In the end, what links these two conditions together is how they feed off each other. Depression seeks addiction to cope. Addiction often leads to depression, because in between highs, there’s a distinct absence of joy, and the overwhelming sense of pleasure and satisfaction achieved by addiction robs you of the joys of life, ironically leading you a form of anhedonia, or an inability to feel pleasure. It’s especially dangerous in addictions where overdose is common, like in alcoholism, where the cycle of addiction and depression can result in poisoning, and an untimely end.

Beating one and the other requires moving past these negative emotions, and striving for happiness, and a life that feeds off living, off joy, off possibilities, and the motivation and inspiration to keep on discovering new things that bring you pleasure and a sense of achievement in a healthy, non-obsessive way. Some people struggle with these issues for years and years – but today especially, we’re well-equipped to tackle both the darkness of depression, and the falseness of addiction.

Living With An Attitude Of Gratitude In Recovery

Living With An Attitude Of Gratitude In Recovery | Transcend Texas

Emotional energy matters immensely, precisely in recovery. Being unnecessarily bitter will only hurt you, and hurt your chances of finding pleasure in life without the need to cling to old, dark habits. Addiction feeds on emotions – it feeds on your thoughts, on your insecurities and your anxieties. Addiction will corrupt your pleasure center in the brain and associate any emotional salvation with another hit, another shot, another drink. It’ll take away the joy in life and replace it with a dangerous and toxic relationship, one that destroys all other relationships and usurps your entire life.

Beating it requires more than going through a set of distinct treatment steps, or visiting a therapist for the sake of some quota, or making a non-commitment towards group therapy. You must take matters into your own hands, cultivate your emotional energy towards saying no to your addiction. At some point in your recovery, you must ask for help. Seek motivation. Find inspiration. Watch as others crush their goals and find it within yourself to wake up, stand up, and follow your recovery schedule every single day.

And through a path like that, a path where you reject the extremes of shame and hubris and replace them with humble gratitude, where you actively deny the way addiction has been controlling your life and decide instead to take control of your attitude and your perception, then you’ll achieve not just a state of sobriety, but a long-term emotional reason to be sober. A reason to reject addiction and decide that there simply is no need for that sort of manipulative pleasure.

Your emotional energy – your attitude – is up to you. Life, can throw a great many things at you, and often they won’t necessarily be your fault. Often, we get addicted to things not because we really want to, but because that’s the way things played out. But it’s up to us, our attitude, and the choices we make in recovery to overcome addiction and feel like things are where they should be.

How to Cultivate Gratitude

There are a great many ways to cultivate gratitude and create an atmosphere of happiness towards others and the progress you’ve achieved. Being grateful and being happy isn’t necessarily the same thing, but the two are very much linked. The first step to being positive about your path in recovery is to clear your mind and confront the issues that bother you most.

You can’t ignore the source of pain. You can ignore pain, work through it, and achieve things despite it, but it’s unwise and foolish to ignore its source. Whether because of addiction or as part of the factors creating your addiction in the first place, many people struggling with drug recovery have a long history of unresolved emotional tension and trauma. You should confront that, come to terms with it, seek help in finding how to be at peace with your past, and decide for yourself what you must do to be happy with you are despite what you might have done, or what might have happened to you.

It’s a hard step, but you can’t get very far without it. Once you’ve come to a point where you see your past for what it is – in the past, not to be changed, but only to be reflected upon – then it’s time for the next step.

Start with the simple things. Addiction often robs us of the ability to appreciate the pleasant things in life. It drives people towards nihilism, depression and self-absorption. Take a day to look at the sun setting. If that’s not your thing, then plan a lazy Sunday for yourself with a delicious breakfast and some time in bed. Then take note of current events and upcoming festivals that might interest you. Go to an animal shelter or a sanctuary and volunteer. Work at the soup kitchen. Help a friend move into their new place. Offer to help at local community efforts. Look for opportunities to repay the people who have struggled to stay alongside you all this time by doing little things for them, acts of kindness, and gratitude.

Happiness & Sobriety

The relationship between happiness and sobriety is that one is the key to the other, and it’s often difficult to tell in what order that concept works best. It depends on the context, more than anything – some of us want to achieve sobriety, and hit that point in our lives where we feel truly freed from the shackles and oppression of the addiction that surrounded us. Others feel that it’s important to be happy – to seek to be content, and fulfilled, and always strive towards loftier goals – to remain sober in the long-term.

Both ideas are valid. Both ideas are true. What determines which is more important to you is up to where you stand in time, and what you’re struggling with. But at the end of the day, being happy for yourself, for others, and taking in the massive journey and all you’ve learnt is important for you to be able to conclude that chapter in your life.

If you linger on shame, guilt, hate, anger, sorrow, and so many of the emotions that mold addiction and the cage it traps people in, then you stat teetering at the edge, looking towards the abyss, feeling yourself slip with every second into old, treacherous habits.

But if you don’t cling onto those emotions – if you have the strength to look past them, and watch your old struggles be a thing of the past – then you can confidently take on the rest of your life knowing that new challenges await, and they don’t have to be entangled with the ugliness of addiction.

Gratitude is key. Through gratitude for others, gratitude for your fortune, gratitude for all the times you made the right call and persevered through harsh times, you’ll be able to carry on without a heavy heart or reservations and lingering feelings. You can effectively end your recovery arc. While they say that recovery is a lifelong process, addiction can be nothing more than an echo of days long gone if you’re willing to put it all behind you.

Happiness Is A By-Product, Not A Goal

Happiness Is A By-Product, Not A Goal | Transcend Texas

It’s a pretty simple assumption that people suffering from addiction aren’t happy. To be happy, is to be content. It’s to be satisfied. Happiness is making peace with things, and having no regrets. It’s being able to look at your situation in life, to be able to look yourself in the mirror, and decide that this is just fine.

It’s not perfect, sure. But nothing is. It’s not ideal, but the fewest things are. It could be better, but it isn’t – and it doesn’t have to be. Finding that sort of bliss is rare, difficult, and something we all strive for. And even the happiest among us run into moments of sadness, anger, and even a few moments of desperation – because without them, happiness isn’t anything.

But when you’re struggling with an addiction, you don’t even possess the chance to be happy. Happiness exists outside addiction, in sobriety. Why? Because you’re not entirely oblivious. Most people will realize at some point or another in their addiction that they’re struggling to control themselves, and that the consequences of their illness are dire, and can be worse. With something like that hanging over your head, being content or satisfied isn’t in the cards. Happiness isn’t pleasure. Pleasure is part of happiness, but to be truly happy takes more than the high of a hit of heroin.

However, just because addiction makes happiness impossible, doesn’t mean that sobriety is the golden gate of joy itself. Sobriety can often begin as quite the opposite. It’s just a single step towards being happy.

Sobriety & Happiness

Being sober isn’t being happy, that much is clear to anyone who’s gone through withdrawal and come out the other end, struggling with recovery. Early sobriety is a rollercoaster of emotions, an unbottling of suppressed thoughts and the consequences of addiction. Once the initial bumpy ride subsides, what’s left isn’t some substantial insight into life – it’s just life itself, with all its struggles.

However, sobriety is a gateway to happiness – the first step to being content with who you are, in all honesty. It starts with simple sobriety, but to establish yourself in recovery, you need to set goals and meet them, take care of your responsibilities, and find a purpose.

If you can combine your career and your purpose, all the better – otherwise, make sure your career is a means to fulfilling your purpose.

Happiness Is a Unique Journey

Everyone’s definition of happiness – of being content, and having found a purpose – is different because we all have a different idea of where we see each other. Some of us dream of success; others dream of a loving family, and the perfect home. While sobriety is all about confronting life, real life isn’t without the ability to pursue your dreams. In fact, pursue them. Find what it is you’re supposed to be – whether it’s an athlete or a parent or a café owner – and reach for it.

But, know your limit. Some people never find happiness. They’re never content. They reach and reach, constantly pushing higher. While it’s never wrong to continue looking for new goals and new adventures, there’s a difference between exploring new challenges in life and being content. Some of us wish for a life we can’t achieve, one outside our control. If you can’t bring yourself write that book, then maybe that’s not what truly drives you. If you can’t build the business empire you wanted, then maybe what you’re after is something else. Understand that what you wish for now might not be best for you – that’s why you must keep looking for what your passion really is.

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, and pursuing your dreams is a big part of learning to enjoy life. But don’t fall to despair if you don’t get as far as you might’ve hoped – it’s a big world, and there are other possibilities. And if you’ve managed to fight your way out of the rock bottom of addiction and towards your bigger goals, then you know there’s always a way up, even if it’s to places you least expect.

Happiness Is Not Absolute

Happiness isn’t exactly a form of enlightenment – it’s not like you sit under a tree, let go of your material wants, and find some eternal form of being contented. No one is happy forever. We can go through momentary lapses of happiness, or we can hit major lows. Happiness is more like the equilibrium we strive to achieve – just like how the body works hard to constantly remain in chemical balance, when the only constant thing in biology is change.

Don’t think of happiness as an end goal. Think of it as your natural state. Think of your own form of happiness as something you should normally feel. It’s important to be go through your emotions, and react honestly – but emotions become a problem when we stray from happiness too long. When sadness becomes the new normal, you fall into a depression. When you’re constantly angry, you seize up and strain yourself, and develop a chronic stress problem.

The idea of working towards discovering the best, healthiest, and happiest version of yourself is very helpful for long-term sobriety. Being happy is a powerful deterrent against addiction. It’s most definitely a powerful deterrent against depression, as well. But again, it’s not a perfect defense – the loss of a loved one, a tragic injury, or any other significant trauma could potentially tip the scales and tear down our world – take all the order we’ve come to be content with, and descend it into chaos.

When moments like that come around, we can’t cling to our happiness – we must cling to our ability to keep seeking our happiness. That’s what matters – how much you’re willing to forgive, to work, to fight and to live to ultimately be happy again. If you’re struggling to find a reason to stay sober, then think of this: what is happiness worth to you? What is being content worth to you? Because without sobriety, you’ll never get that far.

Sobering Truth About Compulsive Optimism

Sobering Truth About Compulsive Optimism | Transcend Texas

Optimism is good. It’s debatable whether it’s completely better than pessimism, but it’s good. It really is – in all avenues of life, looking at the bright side of things will help you get further. You can avoid victimizing yourself for no good reason and avoid feeling sorry for yourself or pitying your situation, and instead, spend valuable time picking yourself up after every unfortunate incident and look ahead at the next opportunity for something better.

To be optimistic is to open yourself up to the possibilities of something better, again and again, even if you’ve been disappointed in the past. However, there is a downside to optimism – just like there is a downside to everything in life. And in the case of optimism, that downside is being dogmatic with it.

When you have to force yourself to be optimistic at all times, then you’re missing out on the opportunity to feel things that need to be felt. By focusing entirely on optimism, you remove the opportunity for regret, despair and anger to emerge and let loose – and you effectively hide how you really feel behind a false wall.

It’s definitely beneficial to be optimistic most of the time – especially when you’re dealing with addiction recovery, where positive thinking can help. But it isn’t a good idea to bottle up your negative emotions without ever giving them a little room to breathe and escape you.

Forcing, Faking Happiness Is Unhealthy

When you’re fresh out of an addiction and still coping with the early stages of post-rehab recovery, then hiding the way you feel in order to continue feeling great is already a red flag behavior. It’s no secret that the first few weeks out of an addiction after the initial withdrawal period is an emotional rollercoaster, with a lot of lows and a few highs. You have to go through that period – and reflect on your emotions as they come, and not try to force yourself to put on a happy face when you’re really itching to resolve some anger or cry it out.

It’s not about being completely at the mercy of your emotions, though. It’s about being open and honest with yourself and about the way you feel, thus putting that honesty at the forefront of your emotional well-being. To stop being sad, you have to first acknowledge that you’re sad, and figure out why. You don’t just ignore the fact that you’re feeling down by forcing yourself to pretend like everything is going great – that dishonesty will only pile up and cost you your recovery in the future.

Avoid the Pink Cloud

Often enough, when the initial shock of getting over an addiction subsides, the exact opposite begins to kick in – total joy. This feeling of freedom and defeat over the subjugation of addiction and the newfound opportunities of a life worth living is known as the pink cloud – and that’s a negative term.

Early on in your recovery, if you come to terms with the challenges of life and manage to look on the bright side of things, then you’ll be greeted with a multitude of emotional rewards, including hope. But there lies danger in so much joy – the crash. Early recovery isn’t just mired by depressive symptoms and negative thinking, but there is the possibility that you’ll go through a sort of manic depressive phase where you shift between extreme enthusiasm and a total lack of motivation. Without drugs, life can be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, and every emotional trigger can set off a chain reaction of negative or positive feelings.

When we advise you to avoid the pink cloud, that doesn’t mean not being happy – neither does it mean not putting your negative thoughts in check. It means being realistic. It’s good to hope – in fact, it’s important, and it’s extremely important to get your head out of the past and away from resentment. But it isn’t a good idea to look too far ahead into the future – or you’ll trip and stumble over what you can’t see right ahead of you, in the present.

In other words, look ahead, but not too far. Focus on what’s really relevant to you in the moment, and take things one step at a time. Don’t worry about being happy, or excited – but don’t let it consume you and take you places you might not actually go to.

Allow Yourself to Feel

At the end of the day, there is no way we would deny the effects of optimism and positive psychology for bouts of depressive symptoms, anxiety, and addiction itself. Positive thinking is fundamental to maintaining the motivation and inspiration to power through the early stages of recovery, and maintain the passion to keep struggling against addiction long afterwards.

But you have to allow yourself to feel the full range of your emotions. You have to sit down and reflect honestly on how you feel. You have to consider your true thoughts and what they mean, how they reflect the way you feel about yourself and your choices. You have to allow yourself to regret before you fight to stop regretting, you have to allow yourself to feel sad before you recover.

There’s nothing wrong with crying it out or getting angry – for a little while. It’s the dosage that makes the poison. Sometimes, feeling what we need to feel is ideal for stress relief, and can help you think more clearly and better tackle a situation. But when something like resentment or grief consumes you, it’s seriously time to snap out of it and fight against the urge to be negative.

Happiness and joy are temporary emotions, not a lifestyle or a permanent state of mind. Just like how you can’t always be calm, you can’t always be happy. You have to be in a healthy emotional flux, especially if you’re trying to recover from an addiction and return to a normal state of emotions.

Don’t force yourself into a specific emotionality due to spiritual belief or ideological dogma – feel what you have to feel, and think deeply about what troubles you, rather than running away from it under the false pretense of seeking happiness. At the end of the day, that will just become another maladaptive coping mechanism.

Escape Stress With Essential Oils

Escape Stress With Essential Oils | Transcend Texas

Calgon, take me away! If you were born before 1980, it’s very likely that you remember this phrase from an iconic commercial for bath products. The entire premise of the commercial was that Calgon’s finely-scented toiletries could help you escape the stress of everyday life, letting go of your cares and finally getting a chance to relax. All you had to do was add a bit to your bath and you’d be carefree and sane once again. Oh, if it were only that easy…

Calgon’s claims may have been overstated, but they were rooted in the use of essential oils via aromatherapy. Used for thousands of years in multiple cultures for healing and relaxation, essential oils may very well hold benefits for those experiencing stress and stress-related symptoms. When the right essential oil is used, it can invoke calmness, focused energy, or even sleepiness, all without the need for drugs or medication.

Want to give essential oils a try? Let’s break down the basics and learn which oils benefit recovery-related symptoms best.

One caveat: be sure to test your tolerance to them in advance; a drop on the inside of the wrist left on for 24 hours is best. If you develop any itching or sneezing, essential oils may not be right for you. If all goes well, you can move forward with their use safely.

Lavender Oil for Insomnia

Stroll down your local grocery store’s laundry aisle and you will probably notice one main thing: lavender-scented everything. This is especially true for infant detergents, and with good reason. Lavender oil seems to have a soothing and calming effect on the body, inducing relaxation and even sleepiness in some people. If you’ve been struggling with insomnia, it may be just the thing you need to soothe yourself to sleep without drugs.

To use lavender oil, start by buying an essential oil product that contains authentic lavandula angustifolia oil (synthetics often don’t carry the same benefits). Try placing a diffuser beside your bed; turn it on only at night, starting about an hour before you plan to sleep. Or, add a few drops of lavender essential oil to a dry washcloth and toss it into the dryer with your pajamas. The subtle, flowery scent will lull you into relaxation gently without leaving you groggy the next morning.

Vetiver Oil for Anxiety Attacks

Panic and anxiety are close bedfellows in addiction and recovery. Very often, sobriety increases these symptoms because addicts were self-medicating them away in the first place. Re-learning how to deal with these symptoms in a positive manner can be extremely challenging, especially if you’ve opted to tackle the problem without medication. Although it’s not by any means a cure for Panic Disorder (PD) or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), some patients have found benefit in smelling vetiver oil, sourced from the Chrysopogon zizanioides plant, when anxiety levels rise.

Vetiver oil carries an earthy, wholesome scent that can be very grounding and calming, much like patchouli, though it isn’t nearly as overwhelming and strong. It has an ever-so-slight citrusy finish that will also help you to focus if you’re experiencing dissociation or derealization, both of which are very common in anxiety.

To use vetiver oil, you can infuse it into the air or rub it onto your skin. If you choose the latter, you must dilute it as it can cause irritation when applied directly. The best way to do this is to add two or three drops of vetiver oil per tablespoon of cold-pressed organic coconut oil. Mix this together until combined and then massage a few drops into your hands.

Ylang-Ylang, Bergamot & Lavender for Stress

A study from 2006 points to the benefits a mixture of ylang-ylang, bergamot, and lavender may have on a stressed-out cardiovascular system. Hosted by the Geochang Provincial College, the study evaluated whether or not inhaling a mixture of these essential oils could effectively reduce hypertension in patients.

The results of the study were quite positive;  blood pressure, pulse, subjective stress, state anxiety, and serum cortisol levels all showed at least some improvement in patients who inhaled the mixture regularly over time.

You can make your own version of this formula right at home if you have the right essential oils. Start with 5 to 10 drops of each essential oil. Add them to 1/4-cup of cold-pressed organic coconut oil, melted at room temperature. Then, use an oil diffuser to distribute it throughout the air before heading out to work, after a long day, or whenever stress levels are high.

Alternatively, fill a small cosmetic tub with the mixture, chill it in the refrigerator, and use the cool, calming solution as a massage oil on your pulse points when you feel yourself becoming stressed.

Wintermint & Spearmint for Stress Fatigue

These two crisp, minty essential oils are used extensively by aromatherapists to reduce stress-related fatigue. Wintery and bright, both scents wake you up without having the edgy nervousness often associated with caffeine and other herbal stimulants, so there are effective no side effects (save maybe smelling like a candy cane now and again).

For stress-related fatigue, using a facial cream or wash infused with minty essential oil first thing in the morning can help. The gentle tingling sensation stimulates the senses, and may also brighten up tired eyes and reduce under-eye circles. Rubbing a bit of peppermint oil into your hands midway through your workday may also help you to stay focused and awake when under pressure, letting you get through your day more effectively.

Peppermint for Pain

If you are recovering from opiate addiction, or if you struggle with a chronic pain condition, you likely understand how pain can exacerbate your stress levels. In fact, pain is a significant contributor to relapse, especially for those whose drug of choice happened to be an opiate drug. It goes without saying, then, that reducing pain in natural ways will also help to reduce your stress levels over time. Applying peppermint to the skin may help.

What’s so special amount mint? The answer has to do with the fact that all three oils induce the same physiological response – it reduces signals sent to the brain by skin receptor TRPM8. This handy little guy is directly responsible for transmuting pain sensations along the nerves and into the brain, where they are then translated into “ouch.”

When triggered, either by cold water, ice, or mint essential oils, TRPM8 becomes quieter, and sends fewer signals along in the first place. That can translate into lower pain levels for many patients, especially during withdrawal or in conditions like headaches, migraines, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and diabetic neuropathy. Essentially, when you apply peppermint essential oil, you’re telling TRPM8 receptor to use its indoor voice instead of screaming.

Staying focused and on track in recovery means paying close attention to your stress levels. Having the right tools will help you to reduce stress and decrease the likelihood of relapse, slips, and bad decisions made in the heat of the moment. Whether it’s essential oils or weekly meetings with your therapist, what matters most is your dedication to staying sober and willingness to work towards a healthier life. Even if essential oils don’t help you in the ways outlined above, they can still benefit you just by smelling lovely in the first place.