It’s highly likely that you have a connection to someone who is, or has, struggled with problematic substance use. We are surrounded by drugs and alcohol. Whether it’s binge drinking weekend after weekend, a dependency on opioids, or regularly smoking weed, substances are a large part of our culture. When a person’s use becomes problematic, they may decide it’s crucial to abstain.
Giving up drug or alcohol use is a big life change that comes with many challenges. Creating new thought and behavior patterns, learning new ways to cope with stress, and developing new relationships may all be part of a person’s process when stopping drug or alcohol use. These types of life altering steps take a great detail of effort to establish and maintain. When someone you love is going through this process, it’s likely you too will experience a range of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that take effort to understand.
Here are some concepts that may be helpful to remember if someone in your life is in the process of recovery from drug or alcohol use:
-Everyone’s feelings are equally valid - When a loved one’s drug or alcohol use becomes problematic it can create chaos. Feeling angry, hurt, disappointed, and scared are common reactions when someone you love is engaging in risky behaviors. Once that person is working to stop using, you may still resent them for all of the challenging times in the past. That person is experiencing their own difficult feelings, as they work to stop their use. No one’s emotions take priority, each are equally important.
-It’s ok to ask for things you need in relationships - Individuals in recovery are likely making big life changes, but that doesn’t mean you need to walk on eggshells around them. It’s ok to communicate what you want, or need from them.
- Acknowledging successes helps everyone - Big life changes are often made up of small, sometimes not so noticeable, small changes. Paying attention to progress, and validating any positive change, can provide hope to both you and your loved one.
- Asking questions can be a sign of support - It’s not uncommon to make assumptions when you don’t understand, or don’t know, what someone else is experiencing. Approaching with curiosity, rather than assuming, can be a sign you are invested in that person’s individual experience.
- Showing your love is important - If you loved this person before, you probably still do. Love is complicated and human beings are imperfect. Loving someone through challenging times looks different for everyone.
- You are responsible for your own anxiety - You will likely worry about this person on their journey. Asking your loved one to reassure you they won’t relapse, or that they aren’t depressed, or any other concern you may have, puts undue burden on them. Just as they are working to manage their own feelings, you will need to work on managing yours.
-Having your own therapist during this process can be invaluable - You deserve just as much support as your loved one during this time. We at Bailey & Associates have a great deal of experience caring for people just like you and your loved one. We would be more then happy to help you through any part of this journey, please feel free to reach out using the form on our Contact page.
Have you ever noticed that you end up finding romantic partners that seem to share common personality traits? Or maybe you run into the same issues in each of these romantic relationships, even if the partner has changed? The relationship patterns you find yourself following are not always problematic. If you look closely at yourself you will notice, positive or negative, you tend to have a pattern when it comes to relationships. This is likely happening because your brain has already determined what it expects will happen. These unconscious expectations are also referred to as one’s attachment style.
You may have heard about “attachment.” It’s a term that gets used when talking about parenting. Attachment relates to babies and mothers, but it also relates to how adults bond with, or connect to, their partners. It may be surprising to hear that the way we attached to our own mothers as babies lays the groundwork for how we attach to our partners later in life.
When scientists began studying adult attachment they outlined four basic patterns. They categorized these types: Secure attachment, dismissive or avoidant attachment, anxious attachment, and fearful or disorganized attachment. Although the labels make research much easier, they don’t account for how complex human beings are. People’s attachment patterns might seem similar to the types outlined in the research, but each person is unique in the way they individually experience relationships.
As babies our brains start laying down the guidelines for how we connect to other people in our lives. We develop expectations about how we treat others, how we should be treated, and what will unfold in our relationships. We continue following these expectations throughout our lives without even necessarily realizing it.
These expectations become more ingrained with age and experience. Over time we may start to realize we are taking a familiar path. If this ingrained patterning means we are repeating choices, or behaviors, that cause us stress, we may want to consider making changes. Increasing self-awareness is an insightful place to start altering lifelong ineffective patterns. Individual therapy has proven to be helpful in changing adult attachment patterns. With a supportive therapist you can lay the groundwork to forge a new path. Gaining insight, and having new experiences, can be rewarding.
If you are noticing relationship issues or problematic attachment patterns you would like to change, we’d be happy to help.
"We cannot change anything until we accept it.
Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses."
- Carl Jung
Do you ever find you feel irritated with yourself for feeling irritated? Or maybe your bad mood makes you feel angry that you are in a bad mood? This might lead to further negative internal dialogue - “Stop feeling this way! Stop being so grouchy with everyone! You are doing this to yourself!” Which, of course, only makes things worse. The thoughts and feelings don’t go away, but rather, become stronger. Maybe we then add more self-blame and judgemental thoughts because we want to stop the feelings. Using self criticism to try and change our negative thoughts and emotions actually just intensifies them. Hence, the spiral of negative thinking continues onward. No matter how hard we try to change our thinking, it just doesn’t work.
If changing these thoughts isn’t possible, we may try to suppress them. Ignoring our thoughts and feelings isn’t an easy task. The more we try to avoid sadness, the sadder we become. When we are actively trying to not appear anxious in a high pressure situation, the more anxious we become. What would happen if we tried to accept these thoughts and feelings instead of working to change or ignore them?
There are going to be days when we don’t feel 100%. We will feel anxiety, anger, confusion, and sadness. No matter what we do, there will be times of emotional distress in our lives. Being human means we are able to experience a wide range of emotions in our day to day lives. If a friend or loved one were having a bad day, we would likely be kind, compassionate, and reassuring. Could we treat ourselves the same?
Rather than let our negative thoughts and feelings spiral, we can try acceptance. We can say to ourselves: “It’s ok that I am feeling sad right now.” “I’m transitioning; this feeling won’t last forever.” “Of course I’m angry right now, who wouldn’t be?” “This feeling is serving a purpose, and I wonder what that is?” Let’s try to give ourselves permission to feel whatever emotions are coming up. Acceptance empowers us to look at the present moment, embrace our emotions, and consider what to do next.
If you are looking for additional assistance in changing negative thoughts and feelings, individual therapy is something to consider. Therapy is a great place to get help in practicing acceptance. Take a look at our services page for more information on how we approach this process.
Tips For Safe Summer Drinking
With summer in full swing, we at Bailey & Associates hope you are fully enjoying yourselves. Maybe you’re spending time enjoying a meal on a restaurant patio, relaxing at the beach, or at cookouts with friends and family. We understand that often these activities involve drinking alcohol. Enjoying a glass of rose, a summer cocktail, or a cold beer can be a big part of socializing.
Sometimes being safe and smart about alcohol consumption isn’t on the forefront of our minds. Here are some tips and tricks for safe drinking during summertime activities:
-Stay hydrated! - The sun is hot and alcohol makes us dehydrated. If you are drinking outdoors be sure to drink water periodically. One glass of water for each alcoholic beverage is a good idea.
-Maybe stick to one drink per hour? It’s a good rule of thumb. Your body processes about one alcoholic beverage per hour. If you don’t drink too much, too fast, you won’t get drunk as quickly.
-Be sure to eat a meal. If you are drinking at a cookout or at the beach, don’t skip the food. Our bodies need that nourishment.
-Stay mindful of your body and your surroundings. We don’t want any unfortunate, alcohol-related accidents.
-Look out for your friends. If someone is slurring their words, their eyes seem out of focus, or they are having trouble walking, keep an eye on them. If their heart rate is slowing too much they may need medical care.
-Be very careful about taking other drugs if you are already intoxicated. It’s especially risky to take benzos or opiates once you have been drinking alcohol.
-Make a plan to get home safely. Don’t drive! Bicycling can seem tempting, but it’s not safe either. Rely on public transit, walking, a cab, or a Lyft. Communicate with friends once you are safe at home, and have them do the same. Looking out for each other is key.
-If you are in recovery, remember your relapse prevention skills. Reach out to sober friends or attend a meeting if that is helpful.
Enjoy your time! But don’t forget to stay mindful of safety.
If you think you may have a problem with alcohol, review our addiction and harm reduction pages for more information about ways we can help.
Bailey & Associates, Counseling and Psychotherapy, LLC is a group of psychotherapists, counselors, and art therapists working in the Wicker Park/ Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago