November 17, 2019
In a season of giving thanks, we take time to focus on the spiritual practice of gratitude and it’s ability to transform our minds, our lives, and our recovery. This message describes how gratitude can actually change our perspective in even the darkest situations and deepen our understanding of the spiritual principles of recovery: acceptance, hope, faith, surrender, humility, and others.
November 3, 2019
This week, our spiritual message takes a look at the practice of sabbath day, a day set aside for rest, in both the Jewish and Christian religions. We are asked to consider how holy, set aside time, to rest in both body and spirit, can benefit our recovery. We are shown how the practice of Sabbath can teach us about both the spiritual principles of humility and gratitude on our journal towards a spiritual awakening.
The Promise of Freedom, Part 3: Once we take the first step in recovery, admitting our powerlessness over our addiction and the unmanageability of our lives, we ask for help and become free from the substance. What remains are the deeper conditions of our disease: resentments, fears, shame, and character defects. This third message on freedom takes a look at how the process of recovery, notably in steps 4-7, we gain freedom from these deeper issues that keep us bound to addiction.
The AA Big Book promises a life in recovery that is “happy, joyous, and free,” but free from what? This message is the first in a series that explore the depth of freedom gained through the 12-step recovery process and spiritual awakening. This week’s message focused on freedom from substances, freedom from obsession, and freedom from the illusion of control.
When we’re battling addiction, it can feel as though we’ve lost sight of what truly matters in our lives. We become focused on seeking out substances, thereby missing the opportunity to grow in our personal and spiritual journey to wellness; in this downfall, we may lose aspects of ourselves that once meant so much to us – such as our health, relationships, career path, hobbies and more. Before we know it, we may find ourselves battling unhealthy emotions like guilt, isolation, anger and resentment – and if we continue spiraling down this path, we may go on to experience even more hardship and destruction in our lives.
Recovery is incredibly difficult for this exact reason – with so much to overcome, we must push ourselves harder than ever before to find the light amidst the darkness. By adopting crucial positive emotions while healing – gratitude, acceptance and faith – we are much more likely to carry out recovery in beautiful ways we never thought were possible.
Why Perception is So Important
A few years ago, Forbes Magazine likened perception to a mathematical equation that becomes complex;
“This infinite mathematical equation continues throughout our lives and it is too awesome for the human mind to calculate. Exponentially it builds a calculation that is way beyond our capabilities to imagine. No wonder our perceptions are unique to only us.”
As human beings, it’s completely natural for us to focus more on what’s going wrong rather than what’s going right. If you’ve ever taken an inventory of how your day went before you went to bed, it’s suddenly easier to remember the small moments of disappointment or frustration rather than to recall the singing birds outside the window, the gentle rain that was so relaxing or the kind word that was said by a friend or loved one. Why is this?
The Huffington Post explains that used to be an effective mode for survival – if we were able to perceive problems, we were more likely to survive – but nowadays, it only perpetuates mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. So how can we combat this natural tendency to look at everything negatively?
Use These Tools
There are several small steps we can take each day to increase positive thoughts and emotions; we just have to make the time to do them:
Relish in the moments that bring us joy – When something happens that makes us smile, we can tune into all of our senses to really enjoy the present moment. By basking in this beautiful instance, we’re appreciating the good that’s just come into our lives – which ultimately leaves us in a happier state of mind.
Maintain a gratitude journal – It may sound silly but writing down the things we’re grateful for each day can help us remain satisfied in our daily lives. Sometimes we forget the small, precious moments that have added beauty to our day – and a gratitude journal will ensure that we don’t forget them.
Take a break from the news – journalists often report gore and tragic events because that’s what draws attention; but for many people, the news only adds negativity. Take a break from watching the news, and instead fuel up with some positive things – such as uplifting music.
Use critical thinking with your judgments – the next time you find yourself judging a situation negatively, utilize your critical thinking and assess – is that completely accurate? Could there have been another meaning that could be derived from the situation? By challenging yourself, you’re helping change those habits in the mind that perpetuate a state of pessimism.
Using 12-Step Programs to Foster Mental, Physical and Spiritual Wellness
There are many beautiful areas of recovery that also foster this type of growth. Mindfulness and meditation, for example, are evidence-based, holistic practices that teach individuals how to focus more on the present moment. In doing this, the chaotic thought processes that typically occur are gently guided to more positive, simplistic ways of being – and this is the start of a beautiful journey to recovery for many.
12-Step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), also encourage positive thinking by helping individuals work through what has previously held them back. No matter what we’ve gone through in the past, we can’t fully heal until we’ve worked diligently in recovery – and 12-Step programs provide a safe space for people to do this alongside others in similar situations. In fact, the following are what you can find amongst the 12-Steps:
It is through these steps that many people find a more enriching life, with healthy connections to others and tools to help them navigate challenging situations. Rather than feeling lost and abandoned, those in recovery can share and learn from others in a setting that promotes healing and growth. Sponsors further support individuals by guiding them through some of life’s greatest challenges, and perceptions become shaped more towards a life of healing as time goes on.
Begin Your Journey Today
Even if it feels scary to take the leap forward, recovery is a positive change that can enhance a person’s life in ways they never thought imaginable. Don’t wait and allow those negative thoughts to take over your life any longer – make a pact to start the journey to increased happiness, gratitude and faith today by speaking with a professional from Cumberland Heights today.
Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of two 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers, and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first. For more information, call 1-800-646-9998 today.
Your personal recovery journey is like a fingerprint. While many of them look and feel the same, unique experiences make our stories one of a kind. They can inspire, heal, create hope or even push someone to take that first step in their own journey.
That’s what Cumberland Heights’ new podcast “Recovery Live” is all about. Liz Stanislawski, Marketing and Public Relations Manager and former WSMV journalist will be interviewing alumni, staff, family members, counselors – really anyone who has been touched by addiction. The podcast is co-produced by Jaime Gibbons, Alumni Relations & Volunteer Coordinator. She is the very first guest, talking about what 16 years of sobriety looks like.
Cumberland Heights also welcomed Travis Meadows on the show. The successful singer/songwriter is known for penning hits for several country music stars including Wynonna Judd, Jake Owen, Eric Church, Brothers Osborne and Hank Williams Jr. He also has several albums of his own like “Killing Uncle Buzzy” which was inspired by journal entries he wrote while he was in treatment at Cumberland Heights.
Future guests include a meth addict whose story was broadcast to millions on the A&E reality show, “Intervention”, a teen who grew up in the recovery world and ended up becoming addicted himself and a woman who as a young teen had to take care of her siblings when her mom disappeared for days.
These stories don’t sugarcoat. They are real, raw and honest. From teenagers with just a couple years of sobriety, to those who haven’t picked up a drink or drug in 30 plus years.
We are so excited to share this new project with you and hope you’ll gain as much from listening as we have putting it together.
We’re all guilty of it. Whether it’s jumping to conclusions, making generalizations or responding with emotion rather that sound evidence, unhealthy ways of thinking can creep up on us especially during stressful times. We’re not perfect so it’s okay as long as we can be mindful of when we’re doing this and take steps to change our thought process next time.
Below are the ten most common unhelpful thinking styles according to Adam Sicinski. Sicinski is an Australian life coach that uses mind maps and visual thinking principles. What are mind maps you ask? It’s an easy way to brainstorm thoughts organically without worrying about order and structure. It allows you to visually structure your ideas to help with analysis and recall. To the right you’ll see an example of a mind map.
Sicinski calls his unique mind maps IQMatrix. You can learn more by clicking here, but for the purpose of this article, we are just going to dive right into those 10 unhelpful thinking styles that when used too often can harm relationships and keep you from success.
Here you tend to filter things in and out of your conscious awareness. This is a form of “tunnel vision” where you only tend to focus on a part of something and you ignore the rest. You might for instance only filter out all the negatives of a particular situation. You therefore only see the negatives and fail to recognize and acknowledge the positives. Your vision of reality is therefore based on your flawed perspective of the negativity you see in each particular situation.
Jumping to Conclusions
Here you tend to jump to unjustified conclusions. You make quick assumptions about how things are and what they’re going to be like in the future (predictive thinking), or you will assume that you know what someone else is thinking (mind reading). These conclusions and assumptions are not based on fact or evidence but rather based on your feelings and personal opinions. As such, they can often lead you astray down the wrong path.
Here you tend to blame yourself for your problems and for everything that goes wrong in your life. You might for instance continuously blame yourself for your misfortunes and bad luck. This will be true whether or not you are responsible or partly responsible for the problem or misfortune. Taking responsibility for things is admirable, however, it can end up being a very burdensome habit-of-mind that leads to very strong feelings of guilt and regret.
Black and White Thinking
Here you tend to only see the extremes of a situation. You either see one extreme or another and this is why it’s called black and white thinking. You will for instance either see the good or bad, the right or wrong, the sad or happy, the left or right, etc. And because of your extreme way of viewing things, there is never a middle-ground. As such you are unlikely to view things in an unbiased and neutral way.
Here you tend to completely blow things out of proportion and make them out to be a lot worse than they should be. The reality of the situation might be quite insignificant and small. However, because you’re in the habit of catastrophizing, you always tend to make your problems larger than life — thereby making your problems even more difficult to overcome.
Here you tend to reference your past in order to make assumptions about the present. You might, for example, take one instance from the past and use that as a “predictor” or barometer for a current or future situation. Whenever you use the words “He always… She always… Everyone… You never… People never… I never…” you are at that moment overgeneralizing.
Shoulding and Musting
Here you tend to put unreasonable demands and pressure on yourself and on other people to do certain things. You tend to say, “I must… I should… You must… You should…”. These statements provide insight into the standards you tend to uphold and the things you expect of yourself and others. These standards can of course at times be helpful, however at other times “shoulding” and “musting” can create unrealistic expectations that you or others will struggle to live up to.
Here you tend to label yourself or other people in certain ways based on behavior in very specific situations. These labels you make form your belief systems. Therefore the more times you use these labels the stronger your beliefs become. This can be a good thing, however, it’s unhelpful when you tend to label things a certain way despite the facts and evidence that are inconsistent with the labels you are making.
Magnification and Minimization
Here you tend to magnify the positives attributes of another person, while at the same time minimizing your own positive attributes. You are essentially devaluing yourself — bringing yourself down — while raising the stature of other people. In this scenario, you tend to explain-away everything you have going for yourself including your positive traits, characteristics, and achievements as though they don’t matter.
Here you tend to base your view of a particular situation in accordance with how you’re feeling. Therefore your feelings dictate how you perceive a situation despite evidence to the contrary. As such you might choose to feel bad about something that is going to happen just because you are feeling miserable in the moment. You are therefore using your current emotional state as a barometer that directs how you will view your life and circumstances.
Again, if you find yourself using these unhelpful thinking styles, it’s okay. The harm comes when we repeat this way of thinking and do nothing to try and change it. If we take note of, and work to change our thinking styles, we will find our work relationships, personal relationships and oveall happiness will improve greatly.
Your body is dangling, your heart racing, your stomach drops and then it hits – euphoria. You just plunged 30 plus feet, literally hanging by a thread – well actually a rope, but you get the idea.
More than two dozen Cumberland Heights employees took part in The Big Swing Event April 15 and sure, it was an amusing way to kick off the week, but we did it for much more than the thrill. It was a lesson in trust, peer support and letting go.
“It’s your decision and yours alone,” said Recreation Therapist Jimmy Hudgens.
He was talking about the cable you pull when you’re ready to take the plunge. But for those familiar with AA, we’re thinking, “This sounds a lot like Step 3.” Wait a second! This whole exercise mirrors recovery” (or for others, simply letting go of control).
I was the second person in our afternoon swing group to go. The counselor who went before me did it effortlessly. She even looked relaxed, as if she were swinging back and forth on a hammock. I’m thinking to myself, “Oh, this is easy. I have nothing to be afraid of.” And then my friends on the ground started pulling me up. If you’re not familiar with The Big Swing, it’s kind of like those hoisting you up are playing tug of war – everyone is in a line stepping backwards, yanking on a rope to pull you to the top. So, I see them on the ground getting further and further away and all of a sudden, I’m looking down on acres upon acres of rolling hills as if I’m the camera lens on a drone. In my head I’m thinking “Oh gosh this is high.” It wasn’t until I heard people on the ground say “It’s going to be okay” that I realized I was speaking out loud. And then I had made it all the way to the top.
I nervously scream below, “So I just pull this thing?”
I hear a resounding “Yes!”
And I didn’t think. I just did it. I pulled it. And I screamed. I screamed really, really loudly. And I didn’t stop screaming for several seconds. And it was super scary. But it felt amazing. It was a rush like I haven’t felt before. And as you swing back and forth coming down, you just get to bask in the afterglow. All of my friends were happy for me, and then, even better, I got to be a part of their experience when they took the plunge!
Every person there had a job – to spot someone on the ladder, to hoist someone up, to stop pulling the rope when the swinger didn’t want to go any higher. We had to support one another and we had to trust each other.
Others who had done the swing before took it a step further. They put a blindfold on before they dropped. Josh K. was one of them.
“It was a totally different experience because being up there, being that high you can’t see down so you’re just trusting everything is set up right. Here we go. Blind jump. It’s wild,” said Josh.
“Walking by faith and not by sight may be easier than we expect,” said Jimmy.
April R. who organized the event took part in it as a patient at Cumberland Heights a little over three years ago.
“It’s more just fun now since I’m really not afraid of heights, but at the time it was very therapeutic, very special. It was me saying ‘I surrender.’ I just let go and it was emotional and moving,” said April.
She wasn’t alone in her experience. Jimmy says this exercise means more to the patients than we may ever know.
“I had one guy come to an alumni reunion and I recall that patient being very quiet when he was in treatment, but when he came to the reunion he said the swing was his first spiritual experience. It was about giving up control for him. It was his spiritual awakening he said. And you would never know because he never said anything until years later,” said Jimmy.
Recreational therapy is a staple here at Cumberland Heights and I’ve always appreciated it, but I never fully understood it until that day. In treatment you can do everything by the book and go through the steps as you’re told, but it’s usually moments like these when people really find their center, higher power or willingness to let go. Others may find those things in group therapy or in the art room. Everyone responds differently to certain therapies in treatment and Cumberland Heights works really hard to honor that. That’s just one of the things that makes this place so special.
12-Step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) can not only provide structure and support to a person’s treatment program, but they can also strengthen a person’s sense of spirituality.
This has a direct effect on a person’s sense of self-worth, their purpose in life, how they connect to others and so much more.
A 2015 study published in the journal Religion & Addiction explained that 12-Step programs help build upon six different facets of spirituality:
Release – for many people in addiction recovery, there’s an intense need to control the thoughts and emotions that we’re experiencing when everything seems out of place. We lean towards substances because we believe that is the only way we can drown out the pain – 12-Step programs emphasize the fact that we have to leave everything up to a Higher Power, because we’re simply not strong enough to hold the weight of the world.
Gratitude – when we’re caught in a cycle of pain, we lose everything that we’ve gained. Through 12-Step programs, we’re reminded that there are so many forces working for us – we just have to embrace and recognize them.
Humility – one person shared their story of humility through the 12-Step program via a UK-based website. He stated,
“I started to make real friends and started to gain a belief in myself that I had never felt before. I started to understand that I couldn’t do this alone and realized that as long as I was humble enough to ask for help…I could actually do this.”
Tolerance – because we’re human, we’re always going to come across painful emotions. 12-Step programs reiterate the importance of learning to tolerate these moments of discomfortability by relying on social support and a Higher Power to guide us through.
Forgiveness – with the 12-Step program, those in recovery not only ask for forgiveness from others, but work towards forgiving themselves, too.
Sense of Being at Home – one of the most foundational components of spirituality is feeling a sense of being at home – of fitting in with this world and having a sense of purpose. 12-Step programs help others rediscover themselves through community and faith.
Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.
“Minds are like flowers. They only open when the time is right.” This quote by Stephen Richards resonates not only with people in recovery, but anyone who has been through a journey of growth. Just like the earth and atmosphere go through seasons of change, so do our minds and our spirits.
Whether you found sobriety in winter, fall, summer or spring you felt a new season within yourself. Maybe it was November on the calendar when you got clean, but spring in your soul.There are many parallels between springtime and recovery. Think about the transformation you made when you got sober. You, like spring, experienced blossoming, renewal and probably began to physically look a little brighter too.
Recovery Blogger “Magz” wrote this about springtime being an inspiration for recovery: “I love the significance of spring combined with Easter as the time of rebirth and renewal. When I see the little flower buds opening up on the trees and I think about the significance of Easter, I think about the huge transformation that sobriety has made in my life. In a sense when I quit drinking I died, and then I was reborn again in recovery. My life is nothing like what it was when I was drinking, and I am often overwhelmed by this truly unbelievable transformation.”
But the outside didn’t always look this way did it? Before there were birds chirping, flowers blooming and streams flowing there was lot of dormant grass, frozen creeks and not a flower in sight. In the dead of winter, it’s hard to picture life and vibrancy again, just like when we are in the throes of addiction. But as Mother Nature proves over and over again, no matter how cold, dark and lifeless it may seem, rebirth is on the horizon.
If you or a loved one would like to speak directly with one of our licensed admissions staff, please call us now at (800) 646-9998 or submit the following information. If outside business hours, we will get back to you the following day.
Why is it so meaningful to give to Cumberland Heights?
Your gift to Cumberland Heights through our annual and capital initiates gives immediate support to patients and their families. To make a longer term impact a gift to the endowment fund will provide patient assistance funding for years to come.