Larger Pieces of the Puzzle – It’s Not Just Therapy
by Stephen Sbanotto on Thursday, November 5th, 2015
For those of us who’ve been in recovery for addiction for any period of time, it’s not too hard to remember our first phone call to a therapist, not to mention the first time we sat in his or her office. We remember what a HUGE step that was – actually admitting we needed help and finally starting to do the hard work of recovery. And don’t get me wrong, that’s hard work right there. For those reading this blog who have yet to make that phone call, you certainly know this feeling!
From the point after the initial meeting with the therapist, it’s easy and, often the case, that we settle into a routine of going to therapy, doing the homework outside of the session, and hoping that things will get better. We are proud of ourselves for finally taking such a big step. And we should be! After all, isn’t talking to a therapist, opening up about our struggles, and doing our homework supposed to be what recovery is?
The truth is, that’s only part of the journey.
These first steps are pieces of the larger puzzle, all of which combine together a life in recovery. The following ideas below are some suggested examples of puzzle pieces that can be added to our recovery journey as we learn to live life without our addictions. They are only suggestions and certainly not required for everyone to find sobriety and recovery. Everyone’s journey will look different. But I hope these will get you thinking about pieces you could be missing from your recovery puzzle.
- Exercise. This is a proven method to increasing endorphins – those feel-good brain chemicals we are often seeking when we reach for our sexual behaviors. Exercise and getting the blood pumping also helps to combat and reduce the symptoms of depression that often lead to our wanting to escape, which leads to fantasy and acting out. This one’s practically indispensable. But, I won’t push.
- Scheduling phone calls and hangout time with friends who support you in your recovery. Men and women in therapy groups are often familiar with this idea as it’s a requirement set by many therapists. However, it’s often overlooked. Connection, a sense of being known, loved, and feeling cared for, all get at the heart of what we’re looking for when we step into recovery. It’s important that we make time for others to be in our life, even if it’s just for a cup of coffee or a beer. If possible, a phone call or hang out should be scheduled weekly. Maybe you could go exercise together!
- Actively attending a 12-Step program. This may seem redundant to therapy. Many times, individuals often use 12-Step programs as their only form of recovery work. While this may work for some, it is often not enough, especially early on. That being said, we highly encourage those who are currently in therapy to supplement their treatment with a 12-step support group. These support groups offer connection and accountability with other men and women, which serves to remind us that we are not alone in this journey. This can also be a great way to start working on suggestion #2 above.
- Reading books on recovery, addiction, trauma, grief, forgiveness, guilt and shame. There are tons of books out there (not all of which are for everyone) that can keep our minds engaged in our recovery work, and they can also help us brainstorm new ways of thinking and feeling about our particular processes in recovery. Fellow 12-step group members can be a great resource for suggestions – hint, hint.
- Reading books for fun. Reading just for fun can be a wonderful form of release and escape all on it’s own. When added to our regimen in a healthy way (it is possible to let reading become an unhealthy coping mechanism), reading can help us take our minds off our daily stresses and help soothe and calm our spirits. Sometimes adding some healthy fantasy can be a balm to all the unhealthy fantasy to which are minds are prone to wander. I like Harry Potter. Just sayin’.
- Going on weekend retreats. These can be individual retreats for recovering addicts or couples retreats, whether specifically focused on addiction, or even just overall connection and communication. There are any number of one-day and weekend get-a-way conferences, seminars, and retreats on a host of topics. Much like reading recovery literature, these weekends, though not intended to solve or fix the issues, can be a tremendous aid along the journey. Timing, however, is everything! Too many individuals and couples have either gone too early in their recovery, or too late into their addiction and found such retreats to miss the mark. Keep in mind, it’s not often the retreat’s fault, but poor timing and hoping for a magic bullet in the midst of our crisis. I don’t have anything witty to say at the end of this one. Sorry.
- _______________________ (fill in the blank). I leave you with this last one as a reminder to be creative and think of other, likely outside-the-box ideas that you need in order to work your recovery. Are there hobbies you enjoy? Activities you could resume that you used to love? What would be a positive activity you could use to help you in your recovery journey?
For those I spoke of earlier that have yet to make that phone call to a therapist, please know you are not alone. There are people who understand what you’re going through and struggling with and want to help. Calling a therapist is a brave first step in your recovery journey. Once you have accomplished this step, take a look at other areas of your life where you could aid your recovery journey. We are holistic humans and recovery must include every aspect of our lives.
About Stephen Sbanotto
Stephen Sbanotto joined Restorations Therapy Center as the doors opened to help those walking through the tough but worthwhile journey of trauma recovery and couples therapy. He follows a holistic approach to recovery and restoration from sexual addiction for his clients. Having worked through abuse from his childhood and the sudden death of his brother during graduate school, Stephen brings a genuine and passionate zeal for helping others in their healing process.
Stephen received a Masters of Science in Community Counseling and Marriage & Family Therapy from John Brown University. His work experience includes private-practice and pubic mental health, focusing on adult depression, anxiety, grief and loss, and relationship issues.
Contact Stephen via email at Stephen@RestorationsTherapy.com or telephone at (720) 319-7384.