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Causing my suffering with habits of the mind... 


The title of this post echoes through the halls of my experience. It was also the focus of our first Recover Strong class. This morning for example marked our first official week of Recover Strong programming at Granite Mountain Behavioral Health Care. We have redesigned our program and the Recover Strong model is one of the amazing pieces that contributes to our treatment model. 

I started developing this model two years ago and as I coached more and more classes of people in recovery and witnessed more and more of their incredible transformations I became completely convinced that no matter what it would take or ask of me I had to see this thing all the way through, whenever that would be I had no clue really, but I was positive that my inner compass would lead the way.

Well, it lead me to this morning. I have had a couple thousand hours with clients as I developed this model and I have witnessed the power of this process and it's efficacy and yet this morning a long standing maladaptive habit of my mind showed up. As I prepared the gym for the arrival of this new group of clients my mind began it's habit of trying to convince me that I would fail. Mindful chatter spouting things off like, " They are going to hate it" and " Nobody will want to participate and all this effort will be for nothing" and lastly, " Your truth about this program is lie". That last one was painful I must admit. I really don't like this part of myself, this mindful habit of mine if you will, this inner critic, the dream stealer, the self-esteem vampire that lurks in the moments between ambition and materialization. As this voice began it's assault I could feel my body tense, and my emotions shift from excitement and hope to dread and frustration. Literally, shifting in the time it took to walk across the gym floor. This powerful habit has the capacity to cast the dark shadow of doubt and falsehood over countless hours of experience that states otherwise. How does a person address the habits of their mind?


If we are going to fight and kill the vampire we must first recognize he exists. Recognizing the vampire's existence and preparing to do battle with him is one of them many benefits of the Recover Strong program. If you participate in a CBT therapy session you might see the vampire appear as you complete a thought log or in a discussion with your therapist about cognitive distortions and maladaptive thought patterns. If you work with a 12-step sponsor you might see the vampire appear as "stinking thinking" or he may appear as a cloak of shame. 

When you participate in the Recover Strong program you will definitely get familiar with the vampire and his lexicon. The biggest difference is that this battle takes place with both the mind and the body simultaneously during movement and physical exertion. We capitalize on the chemical cocktail produced during physical activity as well as a host of neurotropic factors to support the clients as they identify and process long standing patterns of low self-esteem, low self-worth and feelings of shame. This biological process becomes a structure of support and a foundation upon which clients can be supported as they face difficult and challenging emotions. They act like a protective barrier and a coping skill to protect clients from decompensation. They have the potential to provide a client with the willingness and ability to address issues they may feel they previously did not have the capacity to face by elevating endorphins, and regulating the neurotransmitters targeted by antidepressants. This process also has a positive impact on self-esteem and motivation which serves to support a client who is attempting to kill the vampire. There are several variations contained within the Recover Strong program that seem to improve the benefits of evidenced-based practices such as cognitive behavior therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, dialectical behavior therapy and mindfulness.  

For example, during a conventional CBT exercise a client is asked to create an alternative thought that is healthier and more positive than the original distortion. (I am in no way taking shots at CBT. I am a huge fan of this as both a therapist and a client). In fact, I chose to use this modality because of my previous experience with its efficacy along with it's synergistic value with the Recover Strong model. During a RS class a client may hear the vampire say things like, " You can't get through this", "You let yourself go and your weak", " Everyone else is stronger than you and this is too difficult", "You're fat and weak and they are judging you" and "you always quit, you're a quitter". Most people who suffer from addiction are familiar with these self-defeating statements. The group reinforces the client's alternative thought through peer support and accountability. The voice of the group shouts back at the vampire, " You got this", "We believe in you", and " You are stronger than you think". The client's challenge to the vampires statement is not written in a column on a piece of paper it is written in the pathways of the primitive brain along with the prefrontal cortex. It is written in the cells of the body as the client attempts the very thing the vampire said could not be done with the support of others. The vampire is brought out of the shadows and into the light and the battle is fought out in the open of the gym floor. The client does their part by getting outside their comfort zone. Finally, there is no need for an alternate thought that the client must convince themselves is viable. The final analysis reveals that the vampires whispers are bullshit. The clients physical demonstration and completion of a task that only moments ago was considered impossible is the new reality. The mind and body work together to reveal the resilience and capability for the client. The neurotransmitters-chemical process enhances the assimilation of the new information. The client experiences themselves in a new and empowering way. This is just one of the many ways we prepare to battle the habits of our mind and free ourselves from unnecessary suffering at Recover Strong. 

In spiritual warfare, truth is the sword which slices through the enemy shield of falsehood and deception. Truth is the sharp edge of reality, cutting away what is unreal, misleading and fraudulent.
— Schnaar, 2000, p.23

It is here in Recover Strong, that we sharpen the sword of Truth with which we use to strike down the vampire. It is how we Recover Strong (er).