Writing for Therapy

Over the years, whilst working with addicts and their families I have often promoted and advocated the value of being able to help offload mindless thoughts that have plagued people’s minds, especially when their thoughts have started to cloud their judgments.

Writing is recognised as being an integral part of therapy, we would encourage the use of thought record sheets and mood or activity diaries. These are particularly good for helping people to self-identify triggers that might be causing negative behaviours that they were looking to change.

In addiction ‘getting our thoughts onto paper and out of our head’ can allow us to be able to see things from another perspective, but it doesn’t just help with Addiction, it can serve to help anyone regardless of their personal circumstances.

Also, writing doesn’t have to be about just negative stuff either, some people find it helpful, (myself included) when they’re feeling well, when they are in a good place and able to cope with daily life, to write a letter to themselves sharing and capturing any personal achievements. And as well as being positively affirming, the same notes can also be used to refer back to when you are not feeling so good or are struggling to cope.

It is like the stable and strong you, writes a letter to the more vulnerable you and reminding you that you are stronger than what you think.

Writing can also help when dealing with others who might be causing you distress, it might be to those who are no longer here or those who are. Writing a letter to then can allow you to voice your true feelings and tell them how they really made you feel, especially if you feel unable to tell that same person face to face.

Some people find it helpful to burn the letter, watching the smoke rise up, particularly if the person has died or just imagine the letter arriving at its destination to the person in questions and seeing the reaction you want them to have or maybe it’s enough just to have written it.

You don’t have to keep a daily journal either, you can do more spontaneous writing, or a ‘Mind Dump’ as I prefer to call it, just writing down whatever comes into your heads, perhaps for a certain period of time – 10 minutes or half an hour. It may read like nonsense, and that’s okay. That’s how our minds work.

By just writing down all the random, feelings or thoughts even if it seems apparently nonsensical just write anything that comes to mind. Once finished you might find that there is something that’s worth spending more time thinking about, or you might decide that it’s okay to just leave it there, on the paper.

Again, you can choose what you then do with the paper – you can either keep or destroy it, I chose to save it, on my computer of course and at the last count my personal journal contained over 114,850 words!

How you write isn’t important either, your use of grammar doesn’t matter, I can attest to this after being expelled on numerous occasions from school, being in the bottom class for every lesson, I would sometimes re-read back what I had written and scorn myself for poor spelling or for talking utter shit. In fact, had I not had the help and guidance from a close friend who was more academically inclined than me, who helped edit my uni assignments I wouldn’t now be the proud owner of a degree.

Over the years, I have started to care less about ‘how’ I write, focusing more on ‘what’ I’m writing. So much so I decided to bite the bullet and go public, to create my own space, my own blog a platform where my writing, my thoughts, feelings, and opinions could be heard and thanks to the help of spell checking and apps such as Grammarly, I can tend to string a sentence together without the grammar police turning up to arrest me.

I started journaling again two years ago I turned one of the kid’s old bedrooms into a makeshift writing space, which gives me some respite from the external world and everyday struggles. I have been known to occasionally refuse the offer of going somewhere preferring to spend time alone writing. At first some people, the ones closest to me thought the act of sitting alone writing was antisocial and questioned how could writing possibly help me?

Which brings me to this fucking book.

During dad’s active addiction, I turned to writing, there was many a night I found myself unable to sleep, being kept awake worrying and stressing if he’d be dead by the following morning. I found that the only way I could find sleep was if I offloaded everything I was thinking and feeling and ‘mind dumping’ it onto paper. When dad died, I no longer felt the need to write, my sleep returned life slipped back to normal, whatever the fuck normal means!

Over the past two years in addition to the journal and after taking some advice from friends who are ‘accomplished writers’ I started to chronicle my life story, starting with my earliest memories. I had managed to write over 18 chapters, containing over 40,435 words.

I have always felt the urge to write a book, especially about my own personal journey of addiction, but also the journey I took with my dad and his alcoholism. Unfortunately for dad he pushed his addiction to the furthest any addict could result in him developing end-stage alcoholism, which basically means there is a 0% chance of him ever fully recovering or reversing from the physical damage caused to his body.

After fifteen years since dad passed and I have piles of A4 notes containing the ramblings of a mad women. and since restarting journaling I have taken a giant leap and enlisted the help of a local author and writing coach, ‘I might be successful in many areas of my life but pulling together a book isn’t in my repertoire or skill set’.

Writing for oneself is one thing but I am found writing for others quite challenging. One of the main obstacles has been overcoming the personal barriers of self-doubt and fear are something quite different and this is turning out to be a labor of love and hate at times.

People have often asked me ‘doesn’t it get you down reflecting on the past?’ but my answer is always the same ‘no’ because I actually find it all very therapeutic and if I can translate my personal experience and help even just one person then this labor of love will all be worth it.

Its early days and with the help of my coach I have finally found a structure for the book, a way of telling ‘my’ story, I have found a way to share dad’s story and the horrors he and those around him endured as a result of his alcoholism.

If you are feeling in a dark place and want to explore ways to help yourself, then I would highly recommend taking pen to paper.

I would recommend the following sites as a starting point and if you do start to write I would be interested in how it has or hasn’t helped you, Ps thanks for listening.

Love Fordy

Writing as therapy

Compassionate kit bag

Try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to subscribe to more posts, please go to https://www.shithappens.me.uk/contact/ and sign up, If you liked the post please share, if you don’t then do nothing and that’s ok too 

 

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

We have all heard about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), well I wanted to talk about something called Post Traumatic Growth (PTG).

Please note I am no psychologist and have no desire to be one. But I am fascinated about personal development so when I came across this term Post Traumatic Growth, I read a little more, I found that there were many parallels and similarities with my own recovery journey, and I wanted to share this with you.

So, what’s the difference between Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) refers to individuals who find no benefit from their trauma only pain and anxiety.

Post-traumatic growth (PTG) refers to the positive life changes that may come about from trauma or traumatic event. PTG is about being able to maintain a sense of hope that not only can a person who has experienced trauma survive but they can also experience positive life changes as a result.

Addiction can be a result of a traumatic event and/or Addiction can cause a traumatic event.

I am a firm believer that for some people the addiction in itself can be a traumatic experience. Now I am not for one-minute excusing the addictive actions and behaviours of addicts. But I do believe that at the core and one of the more often-overlooked consequences of addiction (albeit) self-inflicted is the emotional abuse/trauma on the addict as a result of the lengths they have gone to feed their habits. For example, living on the streets, living in constant fight or flight mode, losing children, being involved in violent relationships, sexual exploitation, Christ the list goes on an on…

What I am trying to say is that sometimes recovering from addiction can be as traumatic as the event that might have triggered the addiction in the first place.

There is a saying “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” well I don’t know about any of you, but I am personally grateful for all the shit/trauma I have been through because I truly believe that I am a better person for it. And I know for certain had it not been for some of the personal trauma that drove my addiction, I wouldn’t have found the hidden abilities and strengths that existed within me, for me this is Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) in action.

And I am not alone, over the past 20+ years I have supported, worked alongside, and had the privilege to witness others who have successfully been able to walk away from highly addictive substances. I have seen broken men/women morph, from caterpillar, chrysalis, to then transform into a butterfly with colourful exquisite wings that allow them to fly.

Did you know that in order to be able to become a butterfly, the caterpillar has to fall apart completely, decompose down to its very essence, devoid of any shape or consciousness. It literally dies. There is nothing left of it. And from this liquid essence, the butterfly starts to put itself together, from scratch? Now that’s recovery.

 Below are some of the  benefits reported from Post Traumatic Growth;

Feeling stronger and finding hidden abilities and strengths; this changes the person’s self-concept and gives them the confidence to face new challenges “If I can survive this, I can survive anything”

Relationships are strengthened, which is reflected in how people often speak of “finding out who their true friends are” after they have experienced a trauma

Peoples priorities have shifted, and philosophies concerning the present day and other people are altered, e.g. “living for the moment and prioritising yourself and your loved ones

For those of you in recovery reading this, does this sound familiar?

There is a misconception out that people’s recovery journeys start when they stop abusing substances. But in fact, people’s recovery journey’s start when they start doing some self-exploration, when they start to learn about themselves.

Post-traumatic growth it doesn’t mean that there is an absence of distress quite the contrary, sometimes our recovery can feel as risky as some of the risks we took when using. There had been many a time I felt like throwing in the towel and saying, “Fuck it!”. Trust me exposing ourselves to our own truths can be one of the most daunting and scary experiences we will ever go through

Recovery is hard and can be a very traumatic experience for most involved, but it is worth it and with support, recovery can offer us the opportunity not just to resist taking substance, but it can give us opportunities to grow and be a the very best version of ourselves.

Just like the Butterfly, be proud of your recovery transformation and fly

Love Fordy

 

Try not to be afraid of who you truly are, be proud of your recovery and remember, if you would like to subscribe to more posts, please go to https://www.shithappens.me.uk/contact/ and sign up, If you liked the post please share, if you don’t then do nothing and that’s ok too 

 

Boundaries aren’t just an enforcement tactic but a form of self care

I don’t ever recall the word boundary being mentioned much growing up, my interpretation of a boundary looked like rules. Rules that had consequences if tested or broken – and trust me I broke many. 

People misunderstand the purpose of boundaries; more often than not they are perceived as being a tactic or an enforcement tool in an attempt to manage another person’s behaviour or actions. And whilst setting and enforcing boundaries can do that to a certain extent, boundaries are only ever effective as the person enforcing them.

‘Why are boundaries are always seen or used as the last resort in an attempt to manage difficult behaviour or actions?’

I would advocate or even argue that we need to start looking at boundaries differently, in the first instance let us start referring to boundaries as an act of self-care. Using boundaries to help us build and restore our physical or emotional wellbeing. Especially, before we even attempt to apply them to others especially if you are using them to change someone else’s behaviour or actions.

I see this it all the time, particularly around families of addicts. Often the family’s attempts at establishing, enforcing, and maintaining boundaries almost always fail at the first hurdle, mainly because they are trying to enforce and manage boundaries at their weakest point.

“Life is hard enough being the person who has to think about, or even consider boundaries especially when it’s not your behaviour that’s the problem, let alone enforce them.”

Often addicts on the receiving of boundaries will go to great lengths and will do anything and everything they can to resist your efforts; they will argue, blame, ignore, manipulate, threaten, or physically hurt us.

“Trust me there is nothing worse than an addict who doesn’t get their way.”

Below is just a selection of some of the most common characteristics of addicts that families are up against

  • Frequent lies
  • Ignoring your boundaries
  • Manipulating you to get what they want
  • They don’t consider other people’s feelings or needs
  • Feelings of entitlement
  • They rarely apologize and if they do, it’s shallow, coerced, or worse – fake
  • They will blame others and don’t take responsibility for their actions
  • They will overreact
  • Make unreasonable demands
  • Have temper tantrums or fits of rage when they don’t get what they want

In a nutshell, their actions can create so much stress, anxiety, pain, which can affect your health, your ability to work, and your overall general wellbeing.

People often find themselves becoming co-dependent focusing more on how someone else can meet our needs rather than focusing on how to take care of ourselves.

And this is dangerous territory, its dangerous because quite often many family members or loved ones of addicts don’t seem to recognise just how bad their lives have been affected until it’s too late. They have been so consumed with fixing the addict and putting the needs of the addict first, that many are left feeling disorientated, disillusioned, and frustrated, with little or no energy left.

By establishing boundaries for ourselves we have a better fighting chance to start enforcing those boundaries that involve other people. This is particularly important when you are dealing with some of the above characteristics previously mentioned.

3 Points to consider 

  1. The starting point for anyone living or dealing with an addicted loved one is first learning to accept that sometimes “nothing we do or say can or will prevent people from acting a certain way.” This can often be the hardest pill to swallow especially when someone has been stuck in rescue mode for a long time.
  2. The second point is learned to accept that what we can do is learn to set clear boundaries for ourselves, to take care of ourselves, protect ourselves, at least that way at we can and give ourselves a fighting chance to feel stronger and more empowered to take on anything that is thrown at us.
  3. Thirdly, when setting boundaries, it is vital to recognise your feelings and learn to differentiate yourself from the other person.

Benefits of personal boundaries 

  • When we set boundaries, we’re less angry and resentful because our needs are getting met
  • Boundaries help us make our expectations clear, so others know what to expect from us and how we want to be treated.
  • Boundaries are the foundation of happy, healthy relationships with others
  • More importantly, boundaries are the foundation of a happy and healthy relationship with our selves.

Remember the purpose of setting your own personal boundaries is to let someone know you are not okay with their behaviour and the person who is one the other end of your boundary may still react. I know this all too well from personal experience.

When you are setting healthy boundaries, you are coming from a place of self-care and you find yourself in a better position to be able to acknowledge the other person’s reaction as opposed to trying to fix it.

I have come across this great No BS Guide to Protecting Your Emotional Space as a starting point to help start you off.

And my final WORD remember this is about YOU not them

I was recently asked to go on BBC Radio Sheffield to advise a lady called Louise whose life had been affected by her husband’s addiction to opiates you can click here to listen in (be warned its 20 mins long)