I have the privilege everyday to work with addicts and alcoholics. Most recently I am working on Celebrity Rehab 4 with Dr. Drew on VH1. This is my third season, and every year is uniquely different. One thing, however, I do notice with my clients is the lack of compassion they have for themselves. Often my clients, both in and out of rehab, are filled with shame; and this is what hinders them from forgiving themselves at times.
Anyone who is in recovery can look back on times in their life when others have deeply hurt them, and when they have deeply hurt others. But we cannot let those wounds fester forever, because they will cripple us. Learning to live in forgiveness and compassion are important and interrelated parts of the recovery process.
You need to begin appreciating the gifts of sobriety even if you’re still finding your way to your sober life, because embracing what is positive brings more positive change to you. But to appreciate what your life is offering you, you must first learn to forgive yourself for your mistakes and forgive others who have caused you pain. And to forgive, you must have compassion–for yourself and for others.
So you can’t have appreciation without forgiveness, and you can’t have forgiveness without compassion. But compassion is not always easy. And sometimes it runs right up against our notion of justice. How can we have compassion for those who have hurt us so deeply? How can we expect others to have compassion for us when we have hurt them? And how can we have compassion for ourselves when we have screwed up so badly?
Rabbi Jackie Tabick has an interesting take on that subject. She’s the first woman in Britain to be ordained as a rabbi, and you can watch her talk about what Judaism says about balancing compassion and justice here: http://www.ted.com/talks/jackie_tabick.html. She makes the point that if all we had in the world was compassion, we’d also have chaos; justice is what creates the boundaries that give us a sense of right and wrong. But a world with only justice and no compassion is a world without God. The problem is that justice is easy for us humans to dish out, but compassion is hard.
Rabbi Tabick said something in her talk that I think can make it easier for all of us to find compassion within us. She said, “This idea of compassion comes to us because we’re made in the image of God, who is, ultimately, the compassionate one. What does this compassion entail? It entails understanding the pain of the other. But even more than that, it means understanding one’s connection to the whole of creation. . . . I call that unity God. And that unity is something that connects all of creation.”
So the compassion we put out into the world comes back to us, because we are all connected. Our profound compassion for others is what leads others to forgive us. Ultimately, compassion for others is what enables us to forgive ourselves.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach specializing in addictions. She is the author of “The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery” and Psychotherapist on Celebrity Rehab. Sherry has a simple program of seven action steps that will transform anyone in recovery. By shifting focus from addiction (whatever the addiction is) to doable behaviors that align with sobriety, anyone can enjoy a purposeful and meaningful new life.
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.