Strengthen the resilience and self-efficacy of people facing addiction, mental health and aging-related challenges.
It’s estimated that 60% of people relapse before 3 months, but only 34% after a year. If a person stays in recovery for 5 years, the chance of relapse drops to 15%. The greatest indicator of success in recovery is length of time.
Research demonstrates that fitness and nutrition have significant influence over how the addicted mind and body heal, and normalize faster. Best outcomes require an understanding of the biopsychosocial nature of the problem. Our courseware and hands-on programs teach identification and remediation of unhealthy thought processes, attitudes and behaviors. We reinforce and maintain positive change by replacing maladjusted habits with a more structured approach that emphasizes personal aptitude and responsibility.
- Clinical organizations serving clients
- Corporations with employees at risk
- Public / Not-for-Profit such as schools, institutions and government agencies
- Turnkey courseware to supplement/replace existing clinical programs
- Didactic and experiential corporate/organizational program design and delivery
- Educational presentations/speaking engagements raise awareness/prevention
Each program is tailored to the needs of the organization. This may entail adding new course topics, restructuring content and delivery duration, and scheduling accommodations.
- More people in early recovery reach 1- and 5-year milestones
- Address and inhibit employee problems before they intensify
- Public and charitable institutions raise awareness in their constituents
Incorporated in Las Vegas in 2013; a 501(c) 3 public charity
Saturday evening was the first session in our eight week Sober Living Enrichment (Beta) Program.
We are working with the fantastic women residing in The Davis Recovery Houses. (link)Last night’s topic was part of our nutrition curriculum. We discussed the importance of healthy foods in recovery. Casey then led a practicum on efficient preparation, grocery-purchasing, and cooking techniques.
Perhaps most importantly, the women were provided instruction on how to make yummy, healthy foods that fit a budget. And can be stored to save time for those days they are simply too busy or don’t feel like cooking.
Wednesday evening, we start our exercise program! Yeah!
The Sober Living Enrichment Program TM cultivates the knowledge, skills, abilities, aptitude and self-efficacy critical to developing and sustaining a recovery-oriented lifestyle.
Another big success thanks to our neighbors, friends and associates. We received $4,139 worth of clothing and household goods during the formal April 16 – April 30 donation period. In addition, we have several additional donors who have pledged to make contributions between now and May 20th. We believe our final total will be well-north of $5,500!!!
In response to stated needs, we have already delivered goods to residents of the Davis Houses
We anticipate similar deliveries to several other Las Vegas-area sober living homes.
Additionally, as we did last Fall, we are supporting Westcare Foundation’s programs which serve substance abuse, mental health, women & children, domestic violence, runaway, homeless and others needing treatment, shelter and support.
I want to personally thank those who donated for their graciousness and generosity. We had many repeat-donors, and we welcomed quite a few new Living Free supporters as well!
“NATIONAL RECOVERY MONTH” IS PERFECT TIME TO BEGIN EXERCISE PROGRAM
Las Vegas-based Addiction-Recovery Author Offers Tips To Start and Stay in Shape
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Las Vegas, NV — September is National Recovery Month, and exercise is one of the best things recovering addicts can do to avoid relapse and build a healthy lifestyle, asserts author, addiction counselor and certified fitness trainer Rochelle “Shelley” Poerio.
“It’s not widely known, but recovering addicts reap greater benefits from exercise programs than the average person,” Poerio asserts. “They experience even more dramatic improvements in their lives. Exercise is a perfect way to help restore the physical health, and mental and emotional discipline, they need to become and remain productive members of society.”
Poerio, a former captain of the Stanford University women’s track team and the author of “Rebalancing the Addictive Mind: Beating Addiction with Exercise and Nutrition” (Amazon.com) offers these tips on the best ways to begin an exercise program you can stick with:
Start Safe. See your doctor to make sure you’re healthy enough to exercise. Learn to stretch, warm up and cool down before and after exercise. This may sound obvious, but so many people fail to do it, end up hurting themselves, and end their fitness plan as soon as it starts.
Do Anything. The best exercise is the one you want to do. It doesn’t matter what, as long as you pick something that interests you and do it. If you don’t like to exercise, try “stealth exercise” — things like ping-pong, air hockey, foosball or a simple game of catch. They get you up and moving, and that’s the point.
Set “SMART” Goals. Your exercise plan is useless if you don’t do it regularly. So make your goals “smart.”
—Specific and measurable. Make yourself accountable to precise days and times. For example, decide to walk for 20 minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
—Attainable. Exercise with a small “e.” Don’t try to run a mile if you can only run 50 yards. Instead, run 50 yards and build up from there.
—Relevant or reasonable. Don’t compare “out” to what others can do, or what you think you should be able to do. Instead compare in to your own abilities. Set a realistic schedule that you can keep, and goals that you can reach.
—Time-framed. This means “today.” Focus on what you’re doing today, and the progress you’re making — however small — today, and tomorrow will take care of itself.
Make it Social. Relapses often happen when you isolate yourself from others. So whatever exercise you choose — even an “individual” activity like running or hiking — do it with others. This not only provides company and support, but strengthens responsibility and commitment. You’ll be more likely to show up every time, because you won’t want to let your friends or team down.
Write It Down. Record how you felt before and after exercise. Track how much weight you lose, how much your blood pressure improves, how much less insulin you’re using. Digital bracelets and other new technology are great ways to measure how many steps you took or calories you burned. Write all this down in an exercise diary. It only takes a couple minutes, and it’s a great way to maintain your enthusiasm and motivation.
Be “Mindful.” Use exercise to take your mind off your problems, the future, even your goals. Let your swim, your basketball game, your gym workout be a way to stay “in the moment, ” and experience the beauty and value of simply being alive.
Poerio, herself in sobriety from alcoholism and drug addiction since 9/5/2001, likes to hike in the canyons and hills near her Las Vegas home. “Call it ‘mindfulness,’ ‘spirituality,’ ‘meditation,’ whatever, exercise is a perfect opportunity to regain the sense of perspective and humility that you lack when you’re addicted,” she says. “When I’m out in the desert, I realize how small I am compared to my surroundings. I appreciate that I no longer have the exaggerated sense of self-importance and disregard for others that I had when I drank/used. And I’m grateful for the healthy lifestyle I’ve achieved and continue to nurture.”
Shelley Poerio, LADC (licensed alcohol & drug counselor) has a master’s in professional counseling with a certificate in substance-abuse rehabilitation. She is also an International Sports Sciences (ISSA) certified fitness trainer. Shelley is the president and founder of Living Free Health & Fitness (www.livingfreehealth.org), a Nevada non-profit corporation dedicated to strengthening the resilience and self-efficacy of people facing addiction and other mental, physical and age-related challenges. The organization supports clinical, corporate and community organizations with various programs and services.
Ms. Poerio also maintains a private counseling practice in Las Vegas.
In group the other day, a young man was struggling with cravings and urges to use. So I asked him to go up to the whiteboard and draw a “T”. On the left side, he was to list the “pros” of using; on the right, the “cons”. Here’s what he came up with in just a few minutes’ time.
It’s important to note, the last entry he made was “temporary” under “pros” of using. He readily admitted the benefits of using really wouldn’t last longer than the immediate relief he would get from his current uncomfortable feelings. And while he couldn’t come up with more “benefits” to using, he told the group he could think of more negative consequences, but wasn’t going to write them down. “Why?”, I asked.
His urge to use, to leave treatment, had passed. “I never thought to look at relapse like this. It really helps.” He looked relieved. And much more relaxed.
An alternative exercise is to draw the same “T” but on the right, list the benefits of staying clean and sober. Of course, in early recovery, it’s pretty difficult to imagine the freedom, opportunity and lust for life abstinence offers. Which is why it’s important to try anyway. List your uncensored dreams, desires, aspirations. Be creative. Be uninhibited. And think outside the box of material things.
Recovery is about way more than not-using. Dare to dream of the fullest life imaginable! And don’t be surprised when you find yourself in the middle of it someday!
Strange that as soon as we get clean and sober, we think that the world around us has also embarked upon a wonderful transition. And magically people will understand our problems, believe in us, cast away doubt and suspicion, re-hire us, open doors for us, give us what we want or need. There may be a sense of entitlement. The reward is just around the corner. Unfortunately, reality proves to be rather different.
So many of us climb Mt. Pity Party. From our perch high above, we spend many of those first days, months, or years of our recovery being flustered, frustrated and downright pissed-off that the world is not conforming to our needs, demands, plans, desires or vision. Last time I checked, getting clean and sober did not convey superpowers or godliness. So why do we so often think and act as if it has?
The Big Book speaks to this on pages 60-61. About the actor wanting to run the whole show, knowing that if only people did just as he said, everything would work out right. This is the egocentric thinking of a child!
I write in my book about the relapse trap that our need to control really is. “Understanding that many things are beyond your control, no matter how you plan, or what you try to do, alleviates the struggle and fight for control of everything. After all, if we believe we have total control, don’t we then bear total responsibility?” And that’s the trap! Classic self-sabotage.
Remember, we have control over our actions, our responses, our emotions. That’s what we are responsible for. We do not have control over anything else. Certainly not outcomes.
So let go. It’s okay to be the actor. Remember, the director’s chair is reserved for someone or something greater than us all. Make sure you stay in the right role.
How many thousands of times have I read that line as part of How It Works (p58) in the Big Book? And I think about my relapses. All of them. Not just the “Went to treatment, white-knuckled it for a year and then ‘suddenly’ had a drink.” The relapses that I never considered to be relapses. Like the time I was challenged to not drink for 30 days. I did it. But I crossed each day off the calendar until I could drink again. Of course, I still used during that time. Couldn’t stop that for 30 days!
How many hundreds (thousands?) of times did I say to myself that night, or the next morning, “This has to end. Now.” But, of course, it didn’t. Or at the end of the work day, “Tonight, just tonight, I won’t stop by the grocery store for more booze.” Yet my car seemed to drive itself straight into the parking lot all by itself.
We often think we are at the “turning point”, but until we truly take full measures, rather than 1/2, or 3/4, or 1/3 -measures, we are bound to head back into the darkness that is addiction.
Was looking through my Spring hiking pictures and thought this series an appropriate metaphor regarding standing at the turning point – and what it really means when we stray from the light.
Stay in the light, or not? No. “I’ve got this!” Right? I’ll just go a few feet inside. Gotta see what it’s like.
Just a little farther. It will be ok. And who are “they” to tell me to stop, anyway!?
What are you going to do? How and where do you want to live? In the darkness and isolation? Or among the living?
We strive to develop positive coping skills in recovery because they help us deal with urges, cravings, and our triggers to use. Remember, coping skills can be healthy or unhealthy – and are the sum total of ways that we deal with stress, trauma, and other problems we face.
In our addictions, we got into habits of using negative coping skills to deal with life: in fact, drinking and drugging was our “go-to” coping mechanism. Conflict at work? Take a pill. Wife has custody of the kids this week? Get an 8-ball. Bills piling up? Head to the bar. Boyfriend won’t talk to me? Get trashed.
These negative coping skills became automatic. Other examples of negative coping skills: manipulation, lying, isolation, avoidance, aggressiveness/anger/violence. Maybe we became passive-aggressive, became people-pleasers, or acted out.
How then to unlearn and change? The first step is to recognize and call-out our old behaviors. This, as the Big Book states, requires “rigorous self-honesty.” Sorry, you may wish for this, but there is no “easier, softer way.” It takes hard work and practice to identify, replace and change our old ways of thinking. But isn’t that what you signed up for in recovery? Isn’t that what you really want? Because our old ways just don’t cut it any more. And haven’t for quite some time. Healthy coping skills are the foundation of a new way of life.
Take a look at the photo of a recent group we did. What would you add to the list? How many positive and negative coping skills can you identify with?
Ever find your mind racing down a path you don’t want to travel? Catastrophizing about the future? Engaging mental gymnastics inside your head to debate points or events now irrelevant? Why do we torment ourselves so?
My experience indicates the answer is this: automatic thinking. Sure, part of this emotional turmoil is related to post-acute withdrawal. But even for many of us with years of abstinence, this “debate society” in our heads won’t shut up.
In our addictions, we cultivated and grew a vast crop of distorted thinking patterns. Defense mechanisms that allowed us to deny, justify, rationalize, minimize and cast blame for our addictions and indefensible behaviors. Irrational thinking that was impulsive, made assumptions, jumped to conclusions – negative conclusions. And these patterns of thinking became automatic.
Just because we are suddenly clean and sober, doesn’t mean we aren’t still stuck in our own BS.
So how do we get unstuck? Becoming more self-aware. Practicing new ways of thinking.
One technique I use is “thought stopping.” I try to catch myself when my brain starts hurtling down the tracks of negativity. How do I know this is happening? For me, I find myself first starting to feel uncomfortable and irritable. My blood pressure goes up. I can feel my face flush and heart rate increase. My mind begins racing with thoughts of how I would have, could have, should have, must ____________ (fill in the blank). I’m either trying to rewrite history, or author the future.
When you feel this way, stop. Deconstruct what is going on. Usually, we are triggered by something. What was that activating event? Keep in mind that whatever this trigger was is objective. In and of itself, it does not cause your emotions. Your beliefs about the trigger are what result in your emotion and reaction.
So look at what your beliefs are about this event. My old ways of thinking would be conflicted, pessimistic, catastrophic.
That negative thinking results then in my feeling stressed, uncomfortable and increasingly agitated, irritated and angry. I don’t like feeling like this – but I know a way to not feel this. That’s right. Using. So the natural result is getting an urge or craving to use. Score one for your disease.
It takes work and practice to identify, dispute, and then change our old ways of thinking. I liken it to learning to shoot a basketball jump-shot when all you know is a two-handed-push shot from your chest. Your way old way worked for a while and you made some baskets. But it quickly lost its effectiveness. And certainly has no place in a game beyond grade school. Learning the new way takes willingness, open-mindedness, practice, attention, focus and…time. You’ll feel uncomfortable. You may miss more shots initially using your new method. But eventually, your game, self-confidence and effectiveness will take a leap forward. Score two for your sobriety.
So many principles of recovery….and life…cross my mind when I’m out hiking. Helps me maintain perspective. It’s not just about the exercise and the fresh air and sunshine. Patience, nurture, faith, acceptance, healing – rebirth. The tree reminds me that the scars from a life of addiction can be channeled into something beautiful and enduring. The petroglyphs remind me that others have come before me; and more will follow. When I’m out there, I can’t help but be “right-sized.” And the crystal clear pool, despite the fact it hasn’t rained in a month? A metaphor for “the promises.” It’s all there. We simply need to put one foot in front of the other. And keep an open mind.
The best exercise is the one you want to do!
While I want to encourage readers to get active in recovery, there are some important things to consider first, especially if you’ve recently stopped drugging and drinking.
- In early recovery we are more prone health and injury problems. This is because we been sedentary, malnourished, and (probably) smoking; and the drugs/alcohol caused damage to our cardiovascular, nervous, endocrine, digestive, musculoskeletal (and other) systems.
- Addiction has not been kind to our bodies (or minds). Even though you might be starting to look better on the outside, your insides may not be keeping up with that progress.
- We tend to want to over-do it. “Make up for lost time.” There’s a saying in AA, “Time takes time.” Believe it. As much as you might want to, you cannot change the laws of physics or biology. Slow down.
- Think in terms of “journey”, rather than “destination.”
- Keep an open-mind. I have more problems with former athletes than I do with those who were not particularly athletic prior to addiction. Why? Because the former athletes tend to go too hard, too fast. This can lead to disappointment because of unrealistic expectations, or injury, or quitting.
- Remember, anything you do now is more than you were doing before! Think in terms of progress, rather than what “people” “should” or “must” or “are expected” to do.
- Your goal for each day should be suiting up and showing up. Just like they say in 12-step meetings, “Don’t drink or use. Go to meetings.” Same principle here.
- Make sure you’re cleared by a medical professional prior to engaging in any program of activity or exercise.