Category Archives: Focus

My word for today is “persistent”

PERSISTENT: Refusing to relent; continuing in the face of opposition, interference, etc.; stubborn, persevering.

This word has powerful ramifications for my life today. I am persistent in doing what I know is best for me. As I continue to live in the “present” moment – even though the “what if’s” cloud my mind about the past or the future. Flashbacks from past negative events and mistaken beliefs about myself are part of the opposition we face in our recovery.

I am persistent in writing in my journal about present victories, my strengths in overcoming and limiting all those negative thoughts that my internal mental critic keeps throwing at me. What persists positively is my ability to deal with the “red flags,” alerting my mind to thoughts or feelings which will immobilize me and keep me focused on the negative.

Persisting in coming to Depressed Anonymous meetings, reading the DA literature, having daily prayer and meditation time, I also persist in contacting other members of Depressed Anonymous online or by phone.

Doing some positive activity every day can become a habit, and the habit becomes an integral part of my life and behavior. Good recovery activities persist and provide hope!

Know that in our Depressed Anonymous program of recovery, it’s promised that “We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us -sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always arise if we work for them.” (Depressed Anonymous. Page.109).

I will continue to be persistent in taking care of myself today.

Hugh, for the fellowship

I can’t be held responsible for my first thought

Big news flash everyone – I have depression. Given that fact I can’t be held responsible for my first thought. My first thought more often than not is dark, depressive, critical, judgmental and self-serving. I’ve had to accept that my brain is broken and this is its default. I forgive myself for my first thought. Learn to forgive yourself for your first thought because your brain could be broken too.

Instead focus on your second thought and your first action. What am I choosing to focus on? Am I embracing an attitude of gratitude or am I stuck in a mentality of lack? You can choose what you focus on. That first thought – you are powerless over that. Let the judgment go. Am I focusing on the spiritual aspects of the program? Am I seeking a connection, a communion, with the God of my understanding? Am I choosing to be humble, or am I stuck in false pride?

Regarding my first action – am I taking one step closer to my goal of being a happy and serene person? (pardon the pun there) Or am I taking another step closer to the deep pit of depression? Am I choosing to be self-serving, or am I choosing to act in service of others? Service can be as simple as holding the door open for someone. A great way of doing service is listening to another with compassion and without judgment.

As a depressive and an addict I can’t be held responsible for my first thought. Being in recovery though means I am responsible for my second thought and my first action.

I urge you to forgive yourself for your first thought. Put focus and intention on your second thought and your first action. It will work, if you work it!

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Unhelpful Comparisons vs. Helpful Comparisons

We’ve all fallen into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. This is a losing game if there ever was one. You don’t know the struggles that the other person has gone through to get where they are now. Comparing yourself to others in an attempt to boost your own self-esteem degrades the other person’s worth. These are unhelpful forms of comparison. These forms of comparison create suffering in yourself and others.

Don’t compare your insides to somebody else’s outsides.
Slogan heard at a recovery meeting

What then is a helpful comparison (lessen the suffering in yourself and others)? The best way is to compare your current self and situation to an earlier incarnation of yourself. Have you improved or have you gotten worse over time? This is a comparison that provides you valuable information about yourself. This type comparison can show you how you have improved over time, that you are not stuck and stagnated in your present state. You do change, even if that change is slight.

To overcome the challenge of managing your depression stop comparing yourself to others and begin comparing yourself to your past self.

For further information on this please watch Dean Furness’s TED Talk To overcome challenges, stop comparing yourself to others on YouTube. https://youtu.be/IOrmS8vJDQw

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Keeping my Higher Power Highest

Throughout my life, different things have been my Higher Power.  A certain job that I loved and prioritized above all else, or the person I was dating.  When I was in active addiction, different substances were a higher power.  Before recovery, the looming black cloud of deep depression was a higher power.  

Once I got into recovery and the steps, I was encouraged to find a true Higher Power, or God of my understanding – a Power greater than myself that could restore me to sanity.  In other words, Step 2.  I can honestly say that after many months of praying and working the steps, this Power relieved me of the obsession to drink and helped me to recover from the hopeless dark pit of deep depression. 

My challenge today, now that I am not in that deep dark hole of depression, is to keep my Higher Power the highest priority in my life.  For example, I recently started a short term job in a field that I am very passionate about.  It has been very demanding and time consuming, and I’m finding that this position is consuming my thoughts, actions, and life.  When I talked to my sponsor about this, she asked “So, has this job has become your Higher Power?”  I realized she was right!  Where was God in my life?  In my thoughts?  How can I be working Step 3 if I am not cognizant of my Higher Power and turning my will and my life over to His care?  I realized this job had become my priority in life, instead of my Higher Power and my recovery.  I am grateful for this reminder, so that I can get back on track.  I know that when I don’t place my Higher Power and my recovery first in my life, I start to slip back into old thinking patterns and old behaviors, which for me will lead me back into depression. 

Thank you, God, that You are always there for me, ready and willing to help me, no matter how many times I stray.

The voice of hope

STEP ONE OF DEPRESSED ANONYMOUS
“We admitted that we were powerless over depression and that our lives had become unmanageable.”

“Let’s listen now to the long-denied part of us that speaks out in favor of a change – that voice of hope that says we will feel cheerful one day. The small part of us says that we should risk going to this meeting and admit that: “Yes, I am depressed, and yes, I am going to find my way out of this prison by taking stock of my strengths and by beginning to want to hope.” You do have a choice. You can begin to let go of your fears of what life will be like without the constant gnawing feeling inside of you that produces that awful jitteriness. You will find lots of acceptance from the group as you listen to the many ways others like yourself have surrendered their problems to their Higher Power and begun to find a sense of peace and sanity that they never thought existed. The old issues in your head will whisper that there is no hope for you that no one is as badly off as you are and that nobody will want to help you as you don’t deserve anything anyway. Often these old tapes have been with us since childhood and many of our adult depressions have their roots in our childhood. Many people do not remember much of their childhood, but repressing memories does not mean that the emotions belonging to these experiences in childhood disappear.”

Depressed Anonymous, THIRD EDITION. (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, Kentucky. PP.33-34.

Keep your stick on the ice!

If you are a hockey player you know how important it is to keep your hockey stick on the ice. In fact this is one of the first lessons I learned when I started playing hockey. The reason was so that when a flying puck bounces around in the court and heads your way, you want to be ready. It might mean making a goal or losing a critical opportunity to score.
In Baseball we were told to “keep your eye on the ball.” Good advice. And in basketball the ball handler knows when he has a “good look” and needs to shoot the ball.
In our Twelve Step group of Depressed Anonymous, we have many short sayings like the ones mentioned that help keep us focused on our game. They are simple, direct and easy to understand. Not only do they help me continue to keep my life on track, but they also serve as “guardrails” reminding me of the various ways I can use them in my recovery. These short and pithy sayings are like my daily vitamins, providing some healthy immunity for fighting off all the negative thoughts that might be floating about in my head. What I am accomplishing by doing this simple activity is replacing a negative feeling with a pleasant one. I am replacing sunspots with darkness.
Here are some of my favorite slogans:

  • Keep It Simple
  • Take It Easy
  • One Day At A Time
  • Think
  • Easy Does It
  • Stick To The Plan
  • Let Go And Let God
  • Have A Nice Day Unless You Have Made Other Plans
  • God Is My Friend
  • All I Have Is These 24 Hours
  • This Too Shall Pass.

My advice to you is to keep your stick on the ice, get a good look, and keep your eye on the ball. You will score every time!
Have a great day!
Hugh S.

Awesome article on PsychologyToday.com

A friend of mine in recovery posted a link to an article on depression that should be read by all those who have depression, or have a loved one with depression.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shouldstorm/202012/we-ve-got-depression-all-wrong-it-s-trying-save-us

In it the author, Alison Escalante M.D. discusses how there is current research around depression that posits depression is not a disease per se, but rather a biological adaptive response to adversity and trauma. I will post the first three paragraphs here, but I highly recommend that you read the full article.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

For generations, we have seen depression as an illness, an unnecessary deviation from normal functioning. It’s an idea that makes sense because depression causes suffering and even death. But what if we’ve got it all wrong? What if depression is not an aberration at all, but an important part of our biological defense system?

More and more researchers across specialties are questioning our current definitions of depression. Biological anthropologists have argued that depression is an adaptive response to adversity and not a mental disorder. In October, the British Psychological Society published a new report on depression, stating that “depression is best thought of as an experience, or set of experiences, rather than as a disease.” And neuroscientists are focusing on the role of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) in depression. According to the Polyvagal Theory of the ANS, depression is part of a biological defense strategy meant to help us survive.

The common wisdom is that depression starts in the mind with distorted thinking. That leads to “psychosomatic” symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, or fatigue. Now, models like the Polyvagal Theory suggest that we’ve got it backward. It’s the body that detects danger and initiates a defense strategy meant to help us survive. That biological strategy is called immobilization, and it manifests in the mind and the body with a set of symptoms we call depression.

Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shouldstorm/202012/we-ve-got-depression-all-wrong-it-s-trying-save-us
Author: Alison Escalante M.D.

Slow down! Road work ahead!

How often do we see these orange warning signs along our highways? Sometimes it seems that everywhere we go, construction is going on. According to Murphy’s law, they only show up when we are in a hurry to get somewhere else.

In our recovery it is a necessity to read the signs that tell us to slow down. There is road work ahead. As we know or will soon find out recovery is about work, using those tools that are provided for our own healing and serenity.

We slow down, stop and reflect on our lives, examining how certain “triggers” not only slow us down but can “shut us down.” We discover how ruminating on the same negative feelings, produce a mood that continues to stifle us and prevents us from seeing it for what it is, namely a warning for us to make some changes in our behaviors. If we let these moods deepen there is a strong possibility that these negative ruminations can push us deeper into symptoms of depression. Before that happens, starting to use our tools can save us from relapsing or experiencing a recurrence of symptoms and get us back on the road again.

There are many things that can keep us motivated to stay involved in our program of recovery. You can read these for yourself here on our website (depressedanon.com) under the menu, TOOLS FOR RECOVERY. They are welcome tools not only providing help but hope.

You can also reflect on the “slogans” used by those of us in the 12 Step fellowships. I am going to list some of them and hope that you will use these as “mantra’s” or “slogans” for your own recovery and “road work.”

KEEP IT SIMPLE. Don’t complicate your life by over-analyzing or by placing judgments on others thinking or behavior. Don’t double yourself up with doing a hundred different things all at once.

DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING Telling yourself I’ll do it when I feel better never gets it. If you are recovering then go to meetings when you don’t want to or an appointment when you don’t feel like it. If you need to go to work go to work. That is the next right thing. Always be there for yourself and your healing. If you are doing Step work with a sponsor, then do the Step work. Do the next right thing. Put that on your bathroom mirror.

PROGRESS – NOT PERFECTION. Do what you can do and then don’t worry about it. The main thing is not that something you do is perfect –but that you are doing what you can do and doing it to the best of your ability.

CONTROL THE EFFORT-NOT THE OUTCOME. Take responsibility for you all that you do and again do your best. Make the effort. Give it your best shot. “To thine own self first be true.”

BE. HERE. NOW. Be in the present. Yesterday is gone forever. Tomorrow is not here yet. All we have is today. Enjoy the moment. Mindful that there is a God-and it isn’t me!

ONE DAY AT A TIME. We are only given one 24 hour period at a time. Use it well. Keep a journal and list three things that you are grateful for today.

Thank you for doing a little road work for yourself today. I hope that some of what I have written may have motivated you to look deeper into how you can “accept the things that you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

If you would like to read more about depression please go to The Depressed Anonymous Publications Bookstore.

(c) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, KY.
(c) The Depressed Anonymous Workbook. (2002) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, KY

Hugh

At a loss of words to describe emotion?

Sometimes I’m so out of touch with my emotions I can’t even come up with a word to describe it. I found this resource online that helps me to put my emotions into words. It’s not a perfect tool but it can help me to better describe what I’m going through.

If you can’t describe your emotion use this tool to try out different words. Sometimes putting a word to an emotions lessens it to some small degree. By using a word we can create a small gap between who we are and the emotion that we are feeling. I tend to run from my emotions and stuff them by acting out in some fashion. I’m still working on not using food to soothe my emotions, but I’m a work in progress.

I hope you find this tool useful. Give it a try and see if it works. If it works, great – you’ve found a tool that works for you. If it doesn’t work for you, great – you now know this tool is not right for you.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

emotion_word_wheel

Three Circles

OK we know that depression is a disease, and we can also look at it as an addiction. In my opinion it’s helpful to look at other programs of recovery for understanding, inspiration, and tips on how to best manage your recovery from that addiction.

One topic of recovery is to have a relapse prevention plan. If you go through life unaware and on auto-pilot chances are real good that you will relapse in your depression. You want to avoid that if humanly possible. The trick is to be aware of your behaviors and where those behaviors lead you. There are things that you can do that make you feel useful and whole. There are things that you can do that lead you towards that bottom line addictive behavior. And finally the thing you are trying to avoid: having a relapse of active depression.

The three circles is one way to come up with a relapse prevention plan. The three circles are concentric (see diagram below).

The Outer Circle contains those things that you can do that make you feel good and build your inner resolve. In some circles (pardon the pun) the Outer Circle is sometimes referred to as Top Line behaviors. I’ve put into the diagram some examples of top line behaviors but that is not a comprehensive list. You decide what things fill you up and make you whole. Some other examples include: prayer; hugging loved ones; playing with your pet; talking with friends; doing service; donating time/money to your favorite charity.

The Middle Circle contains those behaviors that lead you closer to a full blown relapse of your depression. Sometimes the Middle Circle is called Mid Line Behaviors. In some recovery groups they are called “People, Places, and Things” – anything that brings you closer to your bottom. As before you decide what belongs in the Middle Circle. What triggers you toward your depression may be a common trigger, or may be unique to you.

The Inner Circle contains those behaviors that you are really trying to avoid and if you do them you are active in your depression. Again, you define what goes into the Inner Circle. I’ve diagrammed some examples, but come up with your own if those don’t ring true for you.

three-circles

I encourage you to come up with your own Three Circles diagram. Become aware of your behaviors and if you find yourself in the Middle Circle take action with your Outer Circle behaviors. If you find yourself in the Inner Circle take massive action in the Outer Circle. Seek help you are worth it.

Good luck with this task. It only works if you work it. Diagram it and put it into action.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

If you’d like to read more here is a link to a Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_circles