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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:
Author: Justin Mckibben
Is it a muse to self-medicate? Do artists, musicians and other innovative thinkers have a defective piece of the personality puzzle that makes us more vulnerable to drinking and drugs? Creativity is an art of the imagination that some believe may be both an amazing gift and a self-destructing curse, due to the fact that so many suspect creative types may be more susceptible to developing addictions. Scientists and psychology researchers have pondered for years the link between creativity and mood disorders and mental illness such as depression and bipolar disorder. And in the same light there has been much speculation as to the roll of addiction and alcoholism in the lives of great artists, writers, actors and other inspired minds.
Addiction is very frequently considered to be a mental illness in many respects. Most experts say mental illness does not necessarily cause creativity, nor does creativity necessarily contribute to any specific mental illness, but a certain deliberating personality type may contribute to mental health issues, behavioral disorders, addiction and art.
The Creative Genetics
Part of the body’s internal rewards system is regulated and stimulated by neurotransmitters that experience activity through dopamine, a pleasure chemical released into the brain through certain activities. It has been suggested that both creativity and addiction are both created by diminished dopamine functioning.
According to neuroscientist David Linden of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine there are several factors that weigh in on both addiction and creativity, but this is in no way a sure fire formula for addiction. So as far as Lindens theories are concerned there is no direct link, however he states there is a noticeable connection between addiction and things which are typically perceived as a prerequisite for creativity.
Very specific genetic variants make for the low-functioning dopamine system, specifically the brains D2 receptors. If you carry these variants, you are more likely to exhibit behaviors like:
- Tendency to act impulsively
- Tendency to value nonconformity
- A need for regular stimulation or excitement
- Being prone to attention seeking
- Enjoyment of taking risks
None of the above listed characteristics are exclusively credited to creative thinkers, but they are attributes that are symptoms of creativity and addiction. Luckily there is the upside to these traits that come from having low dopamine function, because they can contribute to people having great success in the world out of a thirst for fulfillment through actively creating and striving.
Genetics is not 100 percent of the source of creativity, or addiction. In fact genetics maybe contributes to about 40 percent of the equation in any respect. It’s possible to carry the variants and not be an addict, and it is possible be an addict without these variants. The individual’s environment always factors in. So in a matter of science thus far there is no evidence that addiction is a product of creativity, although chemically they have very similar designs.
There are a lot of indications that creative types on average have a great possibility to develop substance abuse issues, but to say it is the reason for addiction is not true. Sadly this pattern is a self-fulfilling prophecy because many artists and creators believe that they are more inspired when intoxicated, and so they spend more time drinking and using drugs because they feel they need it in order to produce quality work.
Many artists fear giving up their addictions based on the belief that their imagination and muse comes from their substance abuse, and that once they sober up they will lose their creative character. Historically this is typically the opposite. Whenever there has been an artist who spent a great deal of time creating while in active addiction and then they gave it up, their work actually got exponentially better. When author Stephen King gave up his alcoholic life, he wrote his best work to date. Painter Jackson Pollock shaped his most famous pieces during a 2 year period of sobriety.
Ultimately there is not enough concrete evidence to support the idea that creativity enforces addiction, but there is most likely a connection in the creative types and the personality types that statistically become addicts considering the links between mental illness and creativity, and the generic parallels between addiction and creativity. Like being creative is actually the most beautiful form of mental illness.
Creative Passion in Recovery
Creative passion and that mode of out-of-the-box thinking is commonly credited to individuals who are said to be more thoughtful and original. Their ability to create and express themselves in many ways that give the rest of the world new music, art, poetry or even science is very much a product of their ability to perceive the world in a unique way, and develop new ideas based off the appreciation they show to the things others often miss.
Essentially, because addiction is also a disease of perception it is easy to see how people would relate the causes and the effects of addiction closely to creativity. Both blaming creativity for addiction, while persisting that creativity is a bi-product of substance abuse. That second thought is most definitely NOT the case. Drugs and alcohol actually damage the minds capabilities to generate new and unique concepts.
In order to maintain creative passion in sobriety, there is plenty of work you can try to use to stimulate those senses you may have told yourself you have lost.
- Meditation– even just some quiet time alone is healthy for the mind to wonder and try new ideas with itself
- Exercise– going on walks, jogging, etc. can help to stimulate the mind and body by activating your energy and taking in the world around you
- Journalism– not just to give your mind a back-up for reminding you of your new ideas, but to get the creative mind working on itself by starting with those ideas and expanding on them, taking notes on thoughts and letting them evolve
All in all it is understandable why people would assume to relate addiction so closely to creativity. With so many celebrities and artists in the world notorious for substance abuse, and with countless tragic deaths of talented men and women over the years from drugs and alcohol it is natural that people would wonder if the individual with an active imagination is more prone to become addicted to drugs and alcohol. With the stigma that substance abuse also inspires creativity this also makes sense, but at the end of the day there is only a slight indication that it really matters at all. Addiction, mental illness, and creativity are all about perception, and how our perspective influences us to live our lives.
Personally I used believe I was doomed to addiction because I was creative. My passion for art and music must have meant I was destined to be an alcoholic and drug addict, but once I found recovery I realized that this was just another cop-out I gave myself to not stop drinking and using. If that were true, I should have started up an ‘Artists Anonymous’ group. Then when I got sober I was terrified I had lost the inspiration needed to do those things, but I actually rediscovered a new-found respect and passion for the arts and music I loved so much that are such a big part of who I am as an individual. So in theory it may be that artists statistically are prone to depression, and depressive people are more prone to addiction. However I know that these conditions can exist all on their own, and I can exist on my own now without drugs or alcohol, and I see life through an artist perspective more than ever.
Having an inventive or artistic muse is not a requirement or a result of addiction. While it may be true that a noticeable amount of people experiencing addiction are creative and talented individuals, there is still a vast majority of creatives who are not addicts or alcoholics. Either way, whether a creative type or not, an addict or alcoholic is in the grips of a disease that diminishes the mind, body and spirit and deconstructs the most unique parts of our perspective and personality that make us who we are. By taking action to get help you are taking the steps needed to save not just who you are, but your life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
A lie is something that you make yourself believe in order to make life a little easier and to avoid some level of pain. Lying to ourselves is something we do in order to protect our fragile egos. But, lying to yourself will destroy you, inside and out.
The difference between a lie and the truth can be very subtle and, a lot of the time, your brain will try to “logically” trick you into believing the lie. You are lying to yourself because you want to be comfortable. Everyone has that fear of the unknown that can keep us in our comfort zone. But, when you realize the price you pay for selling yourself out to comfort, you’ll probably want to change.
Here are 13 signs you’re lying to yourself:
#1. You try really hard to fit in but it feels awkward/wrong
That’s because you’re not being true to yourself. Plain and simple.
#2. You rely too much on your logic and not enough on your gut
There’s such a thing as the mind-body-spirit connection, even western doctors agree. When you rely too much on your head and don’t listen to your heart, you’re lying to yourself and could be headed for trouble.
#3. You consider yourself to be an anxious person
You’re only anxious all the time because you’re not living your truth. You’re trying to be something/someone you’re not and in doing so, are denying your true self. Of course you’re going to feel awkward and anxious.
#4. You stay in your comfort zone
They say our world gets smaller in active addiction. So, if you find that your world is just as small in sobriety that means you’re unwilling to go outside of your comfort zone. The problem with that is you can’t grow when you’re confined to such a small box. This is a sign that you’re lying to yourself in that you’re telling yourself it’s unsafe to go “out there” and that “no one will like me if I let people in.” These are complete lies.
#5. You don’t explore your passions
There’s so much more to life now that you’re clean and sober. If you’re not discovering or re-discovering what you love, your passions, then you’re not living. You’re simply surviving. Sobriety is all about thriving.
#6. You tell yourself you’re in this alone
We’re all in this together. A lot of people make the mistake of believing they are terminally unique and that no one will understand them. Open your mouth and share, you’ll see just how many people can identify with you.
#7. You put others’ needs way before your own
You are lying to yourself when you neglect to take care of yourself because you are basically telling yourself that everyone else is more important, more worthy of love and care, than you are. Bullsh*t.
#8. You allow yourself to get distracted
Sometimes called “acting out” or even “cross addiction,” you allow other things to take place of your drug of choice. Maybe it’s relationships, or sex, or work, or working out, or online gaming. You do this to get away from the real stuff — the hard problems, such as working on character defects. You look for ways of distracting yourself so that you don’t have to actually work on a solution (i.e. your program).
#9. You settle All. The. Time
You tell yourself all those self-limiting beliefs like, “I don’t deserve this,” “I’m not worthy,” “I’m not good enough.” You know, all those nasty things that you probably wouldn’t even say to someone you don’t like. We all have them. And they are all LIES!
#10. You worry about what others think
And you let their opinions define you: the way you view yourself and your actions.
#11. You seek popularity and what’s going to benefit you in some way
Instead of seeking authenticity – you know, people and pursuits that you truly enjoy, you follow the in-crowd and the almighty dollar.
#12. You make rash decisions
You call the shots from a stressed out state of mind and have knee-jerk reactions instead of giving yourself a moment to compose your thoughts and check in with your gut. You tell yourself that this is the best way to make decisions.
#13. You believe that you’re a procrastinator and that’ll never change
You think your best work is done when it comes down to the wire. Really what’s happening is you’re selling out to comfort and lazy. You’re complacent; resting on your laurels. Procrastination leaves little time except for the bare minimum.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
The gifts of sobriety are incredible. All people are born with potential to find something they truly love to do and pursue that with passion. The genuine love for the things we do and the emotional connection to achieving new goals, or simply being present in the moments of our favorite routines, is something that is freeing and fulfilling to each of us. When abusing drugs or drinking begins to be more important to us than anything else, we lose our passion for the things we love to do because it is redirected to our addictions.
I took the time to speak with a few people I know in recovery about the things they are passionate about and how they have found new passion for these things in sobriety.
Passion For Custom Creativity
Recently I spoke with a young woman, who creates custom pieces for clients seeking quality decorative work,
“Having done artwork mainly for business purposes, sitting alone to paint was often difficult- isolation is NEVER a good friend of mine. When first getting sober, I could paint about an hour before depression or angst would set in. Then I would have to pick up the phone, go to a meeting, and get active in my recovery. As the ‘promises’ of recovery continue to show up in my life, artwork is becoming more art and less work. As I discovered a God of my understanding, I became grateful for the gifts I am given. I am able to sit and paint because, if I am spiritually healthy, I am NEVER alone.”
For The Love of The Game
I also spoke with Nick, a very close friend of mine who has recently hit new heights in his passions.
“I have played baseball all my life and it has always been my passion in life, what I was born to do is be on the field on that mound. As my addiction grew stronger and progressed more and more baseball took a backseat to my drugs and alcohol as did everything else. I thought my career was over to be honest and though I’d never set foot on a field again. I had given up hope”
“Getting sober has given me so many gifts and opportunities; baseball is just one of them. If I wasn’t sober I wouldn’t have the drive or means to get into shape to play, or have the mental focus to do what is needed of me on the field- but when I step on that field or up to that plate a million things could be going wrong, I could be so stressed out and fearful, but for those 3 hours I’m at peace. Ease and comfort like nothing else“
“My daily reprieve huh, I would love to give you a 12 step cookie cutter answer and say that it is God and the fellowship and all that program stuff. That is a part of it, but there’s just something special that happens to me when I’m in baseball mode. It’s what I love to do and I found it again in sobriety, I walked on, tried out, and now have a chance to play professional baseball. I wouldn’t have that opportunity if I wasn’t sober and I’m so grateful for that. And for the people who I love that have supported me the whole way,”
Guitar and Tattoo Guru
Lastly I spoke with a friend who had a big influence on me as an artist at local tattoo studio who is an active member of the recovery community as well as a musician. I had a few one on one sessions with him to get some tattoo work done, and he shared with me some experience. I reached out to him for a few words.
“For me it was a big fear in early recovery that my creativity and my life would not be the same if I was sober. I thought I would have a boring life without drugs and alcohol. In active addiction I was not able to critically think, and I was unable let go of the fear of making a mistake. The best thing I learned is that if I get out of my way and let my higher power work in my life in all these things I did not need to critically think, I get this peace when that fear is removed, and I get to experience an expression of God,”
“What I have come to find is that I wasn’t doing much of writing, painting, or music when I wasn’t sober. But in sobriety I got prayer and meditation, and through that I was able to enrich those things in my life, and that enabled me to let go of a lot of the fear and false beliefs. The belief that I needed some kind of substance to be creative was a lie.”
“In the beginning of my sobriety all I needed was some kind of faith, and through sobriety that faith matured and I gained discipline in spiritual practices that I was able to apply to my creative practices. I read a book that opened my eyes to that idea that I am able to do these things to be closer to God, and it talks about how spirituality plays into art, music, and our passions.”
These amazing individuals make several very strong points! They are all just a few examples of how addicts and alcoholics are such talented and passionate people, and how once we have found ourselves willing to work on changing our lives, our lives take on new meaning through the things we love the most. Writing is something I was always passionate about, and in active addiction my writing was lacking in emotion or meaning, if I was even writing at all. Now the writing I am blessed enough to do every day gives me freedom, happiness and feels full of purpose, because I get to write with passion!
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135