21 Brain Hacks for Sustained Recovery
September is National Recovery Month. As a way to mark the occasion, this week’s episode of “Addiction Talk” focused on tools and tips successful people use to rewire their brains for long-term recovery.
Host Joy Sutton kicked off the discussion by posing the question: “Why do some people seem like they are white-knuckling through recovery and holding on for dear life, while others find freedom and hope—what makes the difference?”
In response, panelists Fausto Castellanos, Erica Speigelman, and Lane Kennedy—who are all in varying stages of recovery themselves—agreed that getting sober is just the start of the journey.
And ultimately, it’s about shifting your mindset, self-preservation, and giving yourself some grace.
Here are some of the episode’s key takeaways.
Mindset is everything.
This comes down to the thoughts inside our heads and how they shape our daily lives. Beware of cognitive distortions—the irrational and often untrue things we tell ourselves that can fuel anxiety and other negative emotions.
A healthy mindset allows us to reframe the narrative:
- “I choose not to drink.” vs. “I don’t get to drink.”
- “I am the victor, not the victim.”
- “I am free.” Instead of, “I am restricted.”
- “I’m gaining my health, my life, and my career back.” Rather than, “I’m losing out on something.”
“Our mentality creates our reality,” Castellanos said. “If I’m not happy in life, it’s not because life is unfair. It’s because I’m making it unfair. You have the power to change your reality.”
And your mindset will evolve, as you progress.
“You can’t stay small,” Kennedy added. “A lot of people get stuck in sobriety, at 5 years, 10 years. But you can’t stay the same. You have to explore different perspectives and embrace the beautiful curiosity of who you really are when you put the substance down.”
You don’t have to believe it to say it. Just keep saying it until you feel it.
“Learning how to affirm positive language in your head is super important,” Speigelman explained. “No matter what we’re going through in life, it’s really important to have this relationship with yourself. You’re your own cheerleader. You’re your biggest champion.”
But speaking kindly and compassionately to ourselves can be hard and takes a lot of practice, especially for those battling addiction.
“There’s a lot of negative self-talk that the addict has, and so we have to go up against that every day 24/7,” Kennedy said.
Put the alcohol and drugs to death.
If you don’t end the relationship, the struggle will continue.
“Bury it, mourn it, say goodbye forever. Then you can wake up and have your health,” Speigelman said. “My clients that struggle the most are the ones that can’t do that.”
All three panelists agreed that humility is a common trait among people who find long-term recovery.
“The people I see who are unsuccessful in recovery are often self-centered,” Kennedy explained. “They can’t get past themselves.”
“Life is not about you anymore. It’s about others,” Castellanos added. “You should be thinking, ‘Who’s life can I change?’”
Look for purpose in your pain.
“Unavoidable pain with service becomes undeniable service,” Castellanos said. “Go help someone else out with your story, because then all that pain you went through will have purpose.”
Meditation can serve as a means of what the panelists called “healthy solitude” and a restoration of the mind, body, soul, and spirit connection.
“Meditation is a gift that you’re giving to yourself,” Kennedy said. “How often do people really take care of themselves? I’m talking about really loving on themselves.”
“A lot of time depression stems from trying to be somebody else for the world,” Castellanos cautioned. “So, take that time and be alone with yourself, so you can make decisions based on who you truly are, not who you think you are.”
Meditation can be a daily practice and done in many ways, such as going for a walk.
“Walking is spiritual,” Speigelman said. “I do it every day and go over what I’m grateful for.”
Meditation can also be powerful in a group setting.
Kennedy explained that “it’s good to do it in a community with others because there is a magic that happens, a heart coherence.”
And speaking of community …
Find a community.
All three panelists spoke about the significance of finding a community of like-minded people who you can relate to.
“Being with friends is something that’s often overlooked,” Kennedy said.
“Be around people who have what you want, listen to their stories, and share your story,” Castellanos advised. “Find a community, so people can say ‘me too.’”
Be patient with yourself.
“Time takes time,” Kennedy said. “I didn’t get 26 years [of sobriety] overnight. It’s taken me 20 years to find that ‘soft’ voice within myself. And then it took a pandemic to make me even softer.”
“A lot of times you haven’t found your community because you haven’t been able to be open and honest because you’ve been hurt. But a real community will love you where you are at,” Castellanos concluded. “And that’s what it’s about: Loving where you’re at—right now.”
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