I would say this is the one of happiest and most productive times in my life, but at the same time, one of the most stressful times. As I have mentioned, while my book, “The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery” is coming out, I am working on Celebrity Rehab, publicizing my book on various media outlets (like today appearing on E! News), finishing up endorsements for my book, seeing clients in my practice and a Malibu Rehab, writing several blog posts a week, and trying to find time for my family, friends, and for myself. Although as we say in the program, these are “quality problems”, if I don’t stay abreast of my emotions, I will certainly become overwhelmed and un-balanced. I have often seen with my clients, whether they are celebrities or not, that unless they do a daily check on their emotions, the stress keeps building and ultimately they enter into self-destructive behaviors.
Emotional sobriety is about keeping your emotions balanced so that you can handle life’s ups and downs in a grounded, joyful, and productive way. Emotions have an effect on our thinking rather than the other way around which is thinking impacts our emotions. When your emotions are un-regulated, your thinking gets off track. That is why you often here in the 12-step program alcoholics and addicts have “Stinking Thinking.” Having your emotions off balance will effect every area of your life including your work, your relationships, your health and well-being, and everything that is important to you. You won’t be “in your game” because you are allowing your emotions to determine how you live your life and handle life’s ups and downs.
When your emotions are aligned and you feel centered, you don’t shut down or withdraw. You tend to have more resilience and can handle stress more effectively. You can tolerate whatever comes your way, because you are in since and not on overload. Your body will feel more expansive and fluid versus feeling in-flexible and tight.
Bill Wilson wrote a very insightful letter to a friend who was suffering from depression. This letter was written in 1956 and published in the AA Grapevine in 1958. This is one of the most important pieces that Bill wrote because it discusses the next step in recovery – our emotional sobriety. Recently I have read a new book that discusses the insights in Bill’s letter and relates them to the works of many of the pioneers in psychotherapy and family therapy. I highly recommend this book for any of you that want to learn how to better hold on to yourself in relationships. It’s written by Dr. Allen Berger author of the Hazelden Classic 12 Stupid Things that Mess Up Recovery. His new book is titled 12 Smart Things to do When the Booze and Drugs are Gone.
Here are some tips for staying emotionally fit:
1. Avoid numbing out behaviors.
2. Stay abreast with how you are feeling internally (your body).
3. Stay active, exercise, walk, and move.
4. Nurture your relationships.
5. Live a purposeful and meaningful life.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach and author of “The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery.”
I couldn’t decide what approach to take on my blog about the recent Mel Gibson news and his recent recordings of verbal and implied physical abuse against his girlfriend Oksana Grigoriea. Do I discuss the link between domestic violence and alcohol abuse? Do I blog about his despicable rage against the gay community, or when he was observed by a police officer saying profanities about Jews, or his insults of racial slurs to Oksana in a taping of a phone conversation to her?
I decided to shed some light on the fact that two thirds of victims of partner violence report alcohol is involved in the incident. Mel Gibson’s history certainly points to issues with alcoholism
I would be curious to know whether or not he was in a drunken rage when these recordings were made, however, clearly there are signs and symptoms of mental illness or possibly organic brain damage possibly from years of heavy drinking.
All this is speculation, but as you can see, Mel is an un-treated alcoholic whether he is sober or not. This is someone who lacks emotional sobriety. He professes to be a religious man, although, his behavior speaks otherwise.
Although his publicists state he is in therapy and going to 12 step meetings, he obviously has no program. He is un-deniably full of EGO. As we say in the program, he is certainly “Edging Got Out” as the acronym goes.
There is nothing spiritual or religious about the way Mel Gibson lives his life. Another quality we learn in recovery is humility. Need, I say more….
Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach specializing in all addictions and recovery. She is the author of “Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery” and Life Coach and Psychotherapist on Celebrity Rehab on VH1. Sherry has developed a seven step program of recovery for living a purposeful life.
Often as alcoholics and addicts, we have what is known as black and white thinking which I shared in my last blog. This is a cognitive or (thinking) distortion. Part of that distortion comes from our perfectionist thinking. For example, as I also mentioned, I have been beating myself up over my appearance on CNN’s Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell. If you haven’t read about it already, I truly believed I could have done such a better job. I believe I looked too serious and didn’t smile enough; therefore, my cognitive distortion is “I must have done a bad job.” This also comes from black and white thinking and my perfectionist personality. Being perfectionist usually comes from a feeling of not ever feeling “good enough.”
Perfectionism is a painful drive toward a never-ending journey for flawlessness; it does not allow for mistakes, personal limitations, or imperfections. It causes you to feel anxious, fearful, and full of second guessing yourself. It can keep you frozen, discourage creativity, reduce confidence, and cause you to never take the leap or to ever take chances. In recovery, you could have perfectionist thinking such as, “If I don’t go to a 12 step meeting every day, I might relapse,” or “If I relapse, then why even bother getting sober again,” or “My sponsor doesn’t want to work with me, so I won’t bother getting a new one.”
All of these types of thoughts will only sabotage your recovery. It keeps you in a never ending cycle of always feeling that if you don’t do something just right, then why bother.
Ask yourself if you are a perfectionist by answering the following questions:
I never do anything halfway; it is all or nothing for me?
I believe there is a certain way to do things and they should always be done that way?
I hate to make mistakes. I get angry or defensive when I make them?
I feel humiliated when things are not perfect?
If I can’t do something perfectly, I won’t do it?
People say I am too hard on myself or them? (That’s how I was this week when I did my appearance on CNN).
Even when I do something great or accomplish a goal, I feel empty inside and feel it “should “have been better?
After you have answered these questions, let me know how you are a perfectionist? How is it sabotaging your recovery? Is it sabotaging other areas of your life such as your career, relationships, or well-being? I look forward to hearing some of your responses. I did get over my beating myself up over the television appearance by some positive self-talk, and reminded myself that although I might have done a better job, I showed up, did the best I could under last minute circumstances, and that I can always improve next time. In addition, I reminded myself that at this point I was powerless, the newscast was over, and I needed to let the obsession go. Not always easy for people in recovery to do…..but when you finally surrender, you usually feel a whole lot better.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach and author of “The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery.” She is the go-to expert on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab and has developed a seven step action program of recovery for living a purposeful life.
Cognitive distortions are distorted, exaggerated, negative ways of thinking. For example, your boss tells you that your presentation was not as good as she had expected, and you take that to mean your boss hates everything you do and thinks you’re terrible at your job. This kind of distortion is called overgeneralization: You take one isolated instance and assume it applies to everything in your life. I am having one of those moments now. I appeared on “Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell” on CNN Headline News and really really did not like how I looked. I liked what I had to say, but my cognitive distortion is I really was un-happy with my appearance. Everyone is telling me this is not true but my cognitive distortion says otherwise.
Most people think in distorted ways from time to time, but addicts are especially prone to many types of cognitive distortions. They tend to filter all information through a negative lens. This kind of thinking is really dangerous, because it leads to hopelessness, inaction, feelings of worthlessness, and a belief that change is not possible.
When your thinking is so distorted, you no longer see the world as it really is. You’re living in your head, rather than living in the real world.
The first step in clearing out this kind of distorted thinking is to recognize it. When you know what to look for, you can catch yourself thinking in distorted ways, re-examine an event and understand it for what it really is. In the example I just gave about the boss and the presentation, you might realize your boss was being critical of only one thing that you did. And the fact that she expected better work from you means she generally thinks your work is good.
Psychologists recognize the following 10 cognitive distortions as being the most common. See if any of them seem familiar.
1. All-or-nothing thinking: You see things as black and white–total success or total failure.
2. Overgeneralization: You see a single event as evidence of an endless pattern.
3. Mental filter: You pick out a single negative detail and focus exclusively on that, so that you never see the good in anything.
4. Disqualifying the positive: You reject positive experiences as being irrelevant; somehow, they “don’t count.”
5. Jumping to conclusions: You interpret things negatively and assume everything will turn out badly. You might assume everyone dislikes you without even asking them, or assume things will turnout badly without even trying them.
6. Magnification or minimization: You exaggerate the importance of bad things in your life and minimize the importance of good things.
7. Emotional reasoning: You assume your negative emotions reflect the way things really are.
8. Should statements: You try to motivate yourself and others by saying “you should do this,” or you “shouldn’t do that,” as if you and everyone else must be punished and made to feel guilty before you will actually do anything.
9. Labeling and mislabeling: You negatively label yourself or others based on a single event. So, for example, you forget to say “thank you” once and you conclude, “I’m a rude person.”
10. Personalization: You see yourself as the cause of external events that you really had nothing to do with.
This list of cognitive distortions comes from work done by David D. Burns, MD (you can read about it in his book The Feeling Good Handbook, William Morrow and Company, 1989). Also, check out http://depression.about.com/cs/psychotherapy/a/cognitive.htm–a web site that explains these cognitive distortions really well.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach and author of “The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery” and the go-to expert for life-coaching matters on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab. Sherry has developed a 7 step program on how uniting the concepts of the Law of Attraction with one’s authentic self can create a powerful recovery.