Because Community is the Cure for Addiction, Facebook Groups Help Join Us Together

“Traumatic events destroy the sustaining bonds between individual and  community. Those who have survived learn that their sense of self, of worth, of humanity, depends upon a feeling of connection with others. The solidarity of a group provides the strongest protection against terror and despair, and the strongest antidote to traumatic experience. Trauma isolates; the group re-creates a sense of belonging. Trauma shames and stigmatizes; the group bears witness and affirms. Trauma degrades the victim; the group exalts her. Trauma dehumanizes the victim; the group restores her humanity.

Repeatedly in the testimony of survivors there comes a moment when a sense of connection is restored by another person’s unaffected display of generosity. Something in herself that the victim believes to be irretrievably destroyed—faith, decency, courage—is reawakened by an example of common altruism. Mirrored in the actions of others, the survivor recognizes and reclaims a lost part of herself. At that moment, the survivor begins to rejoin the human commonality…”    Judith Lewis Herman

Finding my recovery tribe has been hard. Having belonged to several different 12 step recovery groups, I have not found a place where I can talk about my dual diagnosis–alcoholism and depression. Yet 50% of those in the rooms have both–addiction and mental illness. I believe most of what is labeled “relapse” is really untreated mental illness. Sad, but true. Mental illness is a taboo topic at addiction recovery meetings. How can we recover if we can’t be honest?

Recovery is an individual journey. 24,000,000 of us are on this journey. Most of us (90%) are not in a 12 step group. We may use the 12 steps as a guide for our lives but being committed to just one addiction has not been the path many of us has followed. For those of us who are on a dual recovery journey, I believe we need several different support groups at the same time.

Addiction recovery education for the 89% of addicts who don’t receive treatment is easy to provide. By using Facebook groups, anyone can create and maintain online education support peer groups.

I love groups because I believe all mental health to be transitory. So at any given time someone in a group is well. It is like a football we pass around. Sometimes we are “it” and sometimes we’re in a crazy zone.

In the self-discovery model of group healing, everyone in the group is a student. The sharing of power in relationships defines the health of the relationship.

Facebook groups are easy to set up but need to have good organization and maintenance to be effective. I am starting a Facebook Group Center here on this blog to help others set up individual Facebook groups.

I will be posting about topics and ideas for Facebook recovery groups on this page on Fridays. There will also be a Facebook group I created to help those interested in setting up such groups. That page will be announced on 12/14/2017.

Information from Facebook about setting up a Facebook group:

Groups provide a space to communicate about shared interests with certain people. You can create a group for anything — your family reunion, your after-work sports team, your book club — and customize the group’s privacy settings depending on who you want to be able to join and see the group. Learn how to create a group or join a groupyou’re interested in.

Before you begin creating a group, choose your group name very carefully. Keep notes as you go to remember your choices. Ash someone to be a group member before you start group as you will need one member other than you to start the group.

  • To create a group:
  1. Click in the top right of Facebook and select Create Group.
  2. Enter your group name, add group members and then choose the privacy setting for your group.
  3. Click Create.

Once you create your group, you personalize it by uploading a cover photo and adding a description.

  • Group Admin Basics  Group admins are able to edit their group’s name, privacy, description and other settings.

Choose group admins because they help you daily with the order and direction of the group. You may choose to wait awhile for this step so you choose the members who are the most interested in the good, orderly direction of the group. Admins can make or break a group. They should be more interested in helping the group rather than having power over anyone or any ideas. Power is not about love.

The difference between group admins and moderators

You may also choose to choose group moderators. Be sure the duties for each are clear to those chosen.

Good overview: Facebook Groups 101: Everything You need to Know

“Imagine being able to have complete control over your social media audience and the people interacting with your brand or product. With Facebook Groups, you have this. You can build a group and keep it closed, meaning that members will need to request to join. You are also able to remove people from the group if needed. With a closed group, you can build your brand’s perfect community, and cater to the needs of this audience.

As the admin of the group, you can also approve posts. If you have a particularly outspoken brand ambassador, for example, you can approve or reject posts that they are attempting to share. To do this, Facebook provides the following instructions:

  1. Click “…” in the top-right corner of your group and select Edit Group Settings
  2. Click to check the box next to Post Approval
  3. Click Save at the bottom

You’ll get notified when there are pending posts for you to approve. Once there’s a pending post for you to approve:

  1. Click the check mark to approve the post
  2. Click the ‘x’  to delete the post
  3. Click the do-not-enter symbol  to delete the post and block the member

Keep in mind that any group admin can approve a post.”

Slogan from Pinterest.

Why Are so Many of Us Resistant to Learning How to Quiet Our Mind?

1135112859_45dc222725_zIn 1976 when I began my addiction recovery journey, one of my first teachings was about discovering my observer mind. This discovery changed my life more than any other self-discovery tool. Before I learned how to use my mind to keep a check on my thoughts, I thought that my mind was running the show. It was because I was allowing it to be in charge. My mind was a jumbled and hectic place. In mindfulness teaching, this is called the “monkey mind”. I have since 1977 used my mind to keep a watchful eye on random thoughts. It takes four positive thoughts to root out one negative thought. So the best use of mental energy is to notice if negativity is there and to stop it instead of feeding it. Negativity has to fed by our fears in order to continue.

Wikipedia identifies mindfulness as “the practice whereby a person is intentionally aware of his or her thoughts and actions in the present moment, non-judgmentally”.

In 1976, when I began implementing breathing exercise with meditation practices, I immediately knew that finding my center and focusing on my breath in and breath out enabled calm and peace to flow through my body. Being human, I learned in a moment what has taken a lifetime to implement. Transcendental meditation has been found to decrease heart rate and blood pressure because the mind-body connection prospers when one experiences peace and calm.

From Federation University in Australia: Mindfulness PDF:

“Have you ever started eating a snack bar, taken a couple of bites, then noticed all you had left was an empty packet in your hand? Or been driving somewhere and arrived at your destination only to realise you remember nothing about your journey?”

“Most people have! These are common examples of “mindlessness,” or “going on automatic pilot.” In our modern, busy lives, we constantly multi task. It is easy to lose awareness of the present moment as when we become lost in our efforts to juggle work, home, finances, and other conflicting demands.”

“As humans we are often “not present” in our own lives. We often fail to notice the good things about our lives, fail to hear what our bodies are telling us, or poison ourselves with toxic self criticism. Human minds are easily distracted, habitually examining past events and trying to anticipate the future. Becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings and sensations may not sound like an obviously helpful thing to do, however learning to do this in a way that suspends judgement and self-criticism can have an incredibly positive impact on our lives.”

“Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to, and seeing clearly whatever is happening in our lives. It will not eliminate life’s pressures, but it can help us respond to them in a calmer manner that benefits our heart, head, and body. It helps us recognise and step away from habitual, often unconscious emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events. It provides us with a scientifically researched approach to cultivating clarity, insight, and understanding. Practicing mindfulness allows us to be fully present in our life and work, and improve our quality of life.”

The following websites can help someone to experience mindfulness, mediation and peace:

1.  From ThoughtBrick: “Soothing the “Monkey Mind”: A personal journey“:

“It started as an urgent need to change my life.  I was troubled by stress-related health problems, hopelessness and feelings of despair encircled me on a daily basis, and  I had virtually lost any semblance of perspective.

  • Starting a mindfulness meditation course

“Four weeks later, following a synchronistic conversation with a friend, I started on my 8 week Mindfulness Meditation Course at Evolution in Brighton.  It was as if I had just been handed a mental and emotional roadmap, a framework for recovery.  I grabbed the opportunity enthusiastically but with a little trepidation.”

“I felt ready to embark on this process, following years of psychotherapy.  I had exhausted trying to work things out through the prism of the egoic mind and had also come to the conclusion that the process of analysing things in this way has a tendency to become circular and unfulfilling.  I was already searching for a way to approach  things from a more spiritual perspective, a position of  non-self judgement and observation.  Mindfulness meditation enabled me to do this.”

  • Observing what’s going on

“As the course progressed,  one thing became startlingly clear. I realised how difficult it is to do what seems like the simplest of things, just sitting with oneself and observing whatever is happening outside, in one’s body, and on the inside. At the beginning of the process, having the normal distractions removed, my mind went into overdrive and started to create them, from mental ’list-making to physical restlessness.”

“When focusing on stillness and not actively thinking, just ‘being‘ with oneself and allowing whatever came up with detached observance,  my head was suddenly filled with the squawking of the hungry ‘Monkey Mind, desperate for attention.”

  • Being a passive observer

“As the weeks went on, however, I learnt to become more of the passive observer, and it became easier to separate oneself from the dramas and stories  of the ego self.  Acknowledging that resistance to the process is an intrinsic part of it, allowed me to be kinder to myself during it, and not give up.”

“The most important discovery I made, however, was that I could break the vicious cycle of thoughts, stressful feelings, and then physical symptoms. When before these had operated in a circular loop, the process of observing all physical sensations in the body, the ‘body scan’ as it is called, allowed me to separate out emotion from physical sensation.”

  • Learning not to judge

“I learnt not to judge what was arising as ‘good’ or bad’, simply as a sensation in the body, not to create a fearful ‘story’ around it. And I was able to have some freedom from the the problems that my mind had been creating, and some inner peace, for the first time in a long while.”

“Through this meditation , I have learnt to become more mindful in my everyday life too. I have realised what I only understood on an intellectual level before starting this journey. That  is, that when one is truly in the present moment, there is no space for unhappiness or fear.”        (Written by Jeremy Brown)

2.  From Sonima: “What to Do With Your Mind During Meditation“:  (Written by Lodro Rinzler, Meditation Advisor)

“One of the common mistakes people make when beginning a meditation practice is believing that it is simply a way to turn off your mind. Your mind is a radiant, brilliant, amazing thing and there is no off switch. Meditation is not about zoning out and becoming a vegetable. You can befriend yourself in meditation, use it to transcend your usual experience, even have a powerful realization depending on what technique you are doing, but let’s be clear that your mind will remain “on.””

“Another common misconception is that thoughts are bad and we should rid ourselves of thoughts. Our mind cannot stop producing thoughts. It’s simply what it does. Often when people discover that there is no off switch in their mind and thoughts continue to come they get discouraged and think they are the worst meditator of all time. There have been thousands of years of meditators and I promise you, you are not the worst. Not by a long shot.”

“Many types of meditation are not about getting rid of thoughts but about establishing a healthier relationship to what is going on in the mind. One of my favorite words for meditation is the Tibetan term “gom,” which can be translated as “become familiar with.” In other words, meditation is a way to become more familiar with what is going on in your mind and more familiar with the types of thoughts that come up throughout your day.”

“If you engage in shamatha, peaceful-abiding meditation, the instruction is to return your attention to your breathing, over and over again. A big thought will pop up and distract you from the breath. It’s your job to gently return your focus once more to feeling the simple flow of the breath as it enters and leaves your body. If it is helpful you could even silently say “thinking” to yourself.”

“The process of labeling your thoughts as “thinking” is not to dismiss them or chase them away like you might swat away a fly: “Shoo! Don’t bother me!” The point is to acknowledge the thought. You notice that it came up, inwardly nod at it by saying “thinking” to yourself and, as if it were someone you saw passing by in the street, having acknowledged them you continue on your way, in this case by returning your attention to the breath.”

“By being extremely gentle with yourself and returning your attention, continuously, to your breathing, you prevent that hummingbird mindset I mentioned earlier. You are, perhaps for the first time all day, focusing on just one thing: the breath. Thoughts about life, fantasies, strong emotions, discursive and subtle emotions will come up. In all these cases we look at the thought, acknowledge it, and come back to the breath.”

Photo credit.