(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
When we ease our way out of the mental fog that is created in active addiction we may find ourselves with a bit of a mental block. Some people theorize that whatever age you are when you start excessively using substances is the age that you will remain mentally until you detox and break away from the substances. Then once you have cleaned up, you begin a slow process of redeveloping the mind to try and catch up with your age. While it makes sense that the brains growth is stunted by the use of drugs, we can admit some of it may not have to do with our capacity to cultivate our intellect, and more to do with the fact many of us shrug off intellectual pursuits while actively using drugs or alcohol.
We may find we have to put in more work to build mental muscle in recovery. Clearing our minds of years’ worth of chemical conditioning can take some time, but we can exercise our minds to help make ourselves smarter.
Here are 3 ways to build mental muscle in recovery.
Challenge yourself in different ways
One way to step up your smarts is to go out of your way to engage in tasks that are diverse and challenging. If you are used to reading and writing a lot, try stepping out of that familiar space and working on something that stimulates the mind and body in a different way.
Other hobbies or chores can be challenging either mentally or physically. Some people will chose to exercise or play team sports, evoking a different form of concentration. Others will tackle a list of household projects which might not be intellectually stimulating, but require discipline.
“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
-Thomas A. Edison
In recovery you will find a lot of opportunities to experience different modes of thinking. One suggestion I will pass on is to practice meditation. Slowing down and finding quiet and reflective moments can help the mind sort through some of the busier information. For a lot of us just sitting still is extremely challenging.
Find ways to push your mind to grow in different directions once in a while.
Learn to use social thinking
The fact is that intelligence has never been limited to what goes on in our own mind. A more inclusive definition of “thinking” includes external sources that supply us with a variety of perspectives. Makes sense, since basically everything you can “know” comes from experiencing the outside world and digesting the information on the inside.
Social dynamics and social remembering play a big part in committing information to memory. When we interact with each other and take on new data, we can attach emotions to it based on the social setting. These subtle anchors help us to store the information.
“Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.”
In recovery you have countless opportunities every day to interact with others in recovery. You get to sit and discuss strategies for sobriety, philosophical ideas and share deep emotional experience. Through the experience, strength and hope of others we build mental muscle in recovery. This is part of why sharing and 12 Step meetings are so effective. They provide us with a new format to learn as we grow.
Do things with passion
Another way to build mental muscle in recovery is to find passion in what you are doing. Wisdom comes from information and experience, and a lot of times our understanding is magnified when we can connect on a deeper level with it.
Sometimes it is difficult to be passionate about things that you wouldn’t be easily interested in. Some of us find we have to research things for school or work that aren’t what we naturally are attracted to intellectually. However, by seeking an aspect of every assignment that we can internalize and make it our own we can optimize our ability to retain the information. Our emotions are stronger for our minds than we think.
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
So, to build more mental muscle in recovery using your passion, you can look for the element of each obstacle that makes it matter to you on a personal level. Sometimes therapy or 12 Step work will seem tedious and irrelevant, but if you find a way to be passionate about it, even if it’s just to get it done, you have a better chance of holding onto the information.
In fact, finding a passion for your sobriety is probably a huge way of building your mental muscles in recovery. Getting smarter isn’t just about staring into a book and recording the words. Intelligence doesn’t just mean collecting data. It also means knowing why the data matters at all.
In life you don’t necessarily need to be the most book smart person to succeed. In all honesty, everyone has their own measure of what success even means. Building mental muscle in recovery might give you a new definition of what success means. Either way, to open your mind and grow in knowledge and awareness has the ability to change your life.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Overall, it is important for us to pay attention to our mind and bodies. As we change our lives, it is important to grow. Only by building mental muscle in recovery can we reach our potential for freedom and fulfillment. In recovery, it is important to recognize what drives you, and expand your awareness and understanding.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free:
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Mental and emotional strength and stability are not always easy to develop, although many would say it is easier to fake. While some people do legitimately have a stronger sense of self naturally, others will live off a pattern of protecting themselves mentally and emotionally through acting tough. Acting tough may meet your needs as far as a quick fix, boosting the ego as a defense mechanism. Still, the tough act is not a strategy that is sustainable.
Mental strength is not to say you are stronger or smarter than anyone. Lacking in mental strength does not mean you don’t have the same capacity for thought and understanding, it just means when the pressure is potently applied there is more of a chance that you will suffer. Some people think that the tough act will help them improve their mental strength. However acting tough just fakes strength while not allowing people to grow.
Here are some differences between mental strength and putting on a tough act.
The tough act typically has that element of outward ego that proclaims the individual as the best thing breathing. The person will have an overcompensating confidence that insists upon itself. However the truth behind it is the person is overrun with their insecurities. They refuse to expose any weakness, which hinders connection with others.
People with mental strength will actually admit to their faults and invest energy and time into self-improvement. These people realize that while they may fall, they are still able to grow.
When it comes to falling down, the person using the tough act will insist that failure is not an option. They will never surrender or accept defeat, which means they cannot learn from their losses. The irony is that this attitude rarely prevents people from losing. Meanwhile it blocks them off from trying something new later because the ego fears the loss.
People who have mental strength understand that every failure is just a stepping stone to greatness. Mentally strong individuals view every shortcoming as an opportunity to learn what doesn’t work and build off their new perspective. These people know they fall so they can learn how to get back up.
- Denying the Self
The tough act has a pretty recognizable symptom in most cases- the individual only expresses their emotions when it comes to anger. This person will deny their pain, sadness, fear and even excitement. When it comes to pain they would rather grit and bear it then let anyone see them sweat. This again prevents them from growing through their pain and even from setting boundaries.
Mental strength will show itself for what it is. When this person feels fear or sadness they will be honest with others and with themselves. But just because they express these feelings doesn’t mean they let them dictate their lives. Their ability to be self-aware and expressive lets them monitor how their emotions impact their behaviors and their relationships.
This is probably one of the most common traits of people who try to act tough as oppose to actually having mental strength. The tough act will have someone trying to appear as if they are in control, having power over others and dominion over any situation. They try to force their will onto people and circumstances to make sure things go their way because it creates an illusion of strength and superiority.
However, true mental strength comes from having self-control, not controlling others. This individual wants to understand and manage their emotions by directing their own thoughts and perspective because they understand that they are only responsible for their own reaction to any given situation. They know their strength comes from their ability to adapt, not from trying to force life to go their way.
For people who rely on the tough act, it is not to say you have no mental strength, it just means you could build on it holistically to determine where you rely on a misguided ego instead of developing your mental and emotional muscles. The more practice you actually put into exercising mental strength the more you will let go of the act. By changing your strategy and adopting a new attitude toward these feelings you actually better prepare yourself for the journey ahead. When the tough gets going, the tough act doesn’t cut it without the mind to follow through.
In recovery from drugs and alcohol, mental strength is something we have to learn in order to grow and flourish. It is not always easy to break these habits, but if we can separate from the substance and get the foundation we need we have a great shot at becoming stronger than we ever thought possible. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Visualizing a drug free life is not merely picturing what it would look like to live without the use of drugs and alcohol once in a blue moon. Visualizing a drug free life is a consistent and persistent practice which can lead to the ability to achieve a life without the use of drugs and alcohol.
Visualizing a drug free life, can be related to daydreaming in a sense. You know how you sat in class when you were in high school and pictured all the fun things you were going to do on the weekend? It would make you feel good to visualize those things as your teacher droned about next week’s math quiz. Visualizing a drug free life is as simple and yet as important as that.
When you begin visualizing a drug free life for yourself, as an addict and alcoholic, your future all of a sudden becomes more defined. The more clearly you can visualize a drug free life the better. Picture yourself 6 months from now without the use of drugs and alcohol. Visualize a drug free life which consists of being happy, having a healthy relationship with your family-being able to be a mother, father, daughter, sister, brother, or son. Imagine the holidays, sitting around with your family sober and able to communicate, no fights just laughter. Visualize a drug free life where you are walking into college again which had been a lost dream, you have a career, a healthy relationship, you’re doing all those things you only have ever talked about, you’re free, you travel the world and go to your favorite spots and your life quite simply is beyond your wildest dreams. Visualizing a drug free life in great detail like this causes the brain to believe that attaining all of this is possible. The best part is that it is.
Visualizing a drug free life as you can see from the above paragraph doesn’t just consist of conjuring a still picture of you sober with your one year medallion in your mind. Visualizing a drug free life consists of picturing a movie where you are sober and happy. When you visualize, try to capture how you would feel, what you would pay attention to, how you have more pep in your step. Make your visualization as extraordinary as you can.
Visualizing a drug free life or visualizing any goals you want to attain just every now and then can be effective but not as effective as sitting down for a few minutes every day and practicing this technique. The more often you visualize achieving positive things for yourself the more effective it will be. If you want to make visualizing a drug free life even more effective during your times of daydream, then put some music on to amp it up! Music, that really gets you excited and energized. If you listen to music you can really feel while visualizing a drug free life, all of a sudden your vision gets much more powerful. See your drug free life clearly, loudly, and so vividly that you can smell it, taste it, and see the vibrancy in the color of your visualization.
Visualizing a drug free life is something that can literally create new patterns in the brain and this is essential to alcoholics and addicts who have been struggling with staying sober. If you wonder about the power of visualizing a drug free life, just take a few minutes each day for about a week or so to visualize and make sure you put yourself in the starring role of your movie. If you do this, you are bound to feel some kind of effect.
Source: Redemption from Addiction by Jerry Egan.
If you or someone you love is in need of drug or alcohol rehab please give us a call at 800-951-6135.