We drink a lot. We, meaning people in the 21st century, people during pandemics (this is being written during the COVID-19 pandemic), people in distress, people hanging out with their pals, people everywhere. As a therapist who has worked in the mental health world for decades, I have had a front seat to observing this tremendous growth in addiction issues, especially women. Oh my.
I don’t usually write blog posts around a book, but the book pictured above, called, Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker is by far the VERY BEST BOOK I HAVE EVER READ ON SUBSTANCE ABUSE RECOVERY. I have read TONS of books, led hundreds upon hundreds of art therapy groups in rehab places over the years, and met with people in all different stages of recovery. There are a ton of great ideas out there, but this book is different. It includes loads of disturbing facts about the alcohol industry, loads of information about how alcohol negatively impacts a woman’s body, why AA isn’t always the best choice for women, and loads of information that can help you be an informed individual as you navigate our super complicated world.
Please consider buying this book for yourself, a friend, or a family member. Please consider having that uncomfy conversation with a loved one if you think they have a problem. Please consider having the uncomfy conversation with yourself if you think you have a problem. Sobriety is a beautiful thing, and trending.
We all have baggage. Depending on our age and life experiences, some of us have more baggage than others. Our baggage might come from of some type of trauma, bad adults from our childhood, or even a recent bad work experience. Resilience is a buzz word getting thrown around these days, but the essence of being a resilient person boils down to how we categorize ourselves in relation to our baggage. Are you a survivor or a victim of these things that happened to you? We cannot change these things. We really can’t even change the people who did them to us or are doing them to us….We can only change ourselves and our attitude.
Please find some paper and draw or write about an experience in which you feel like you were victimized. This art exercise has the potential to be powerful and downright scary if you are exploring some serious trauma. If this is the case, please find someone you trust or feel safe with to explore these experiences with or even bring your art to a mental health professional. The simple explanation of the power of art making with brain science is that trauma is stored as images in the right hemisphere of our brains. When we try to explain our trauma to someone, this proves to be a challenge, because we are attempting to couple language (a left brian activity) with these images. By drawing the image onto paper, even in metaphor, we are suddenly giving ourselves something with which to have that dialogue. Art therapy has proven to be a very powerful tool for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and has been a powerful tool for alleviating symptoms connected to PTSD. In very simple terms, by taking the images out of this right hemisphere and onto paper, we can take time to analyze it and re-file the memory into our brain in a safer region, one that stores memories, making the experiences more distant and less sensory oriented.
If you are a victim, the road to becoming a survivor might involve a tremendous amount of work on your part, but is well worth the effort. If this post strikes a chord with you, please seek help from a trusted person to guide you through this process. Another way to approach this exercise is to ask yourself if you control your feelings or if they control you?
Yesterday’s Art Exercise:
Were you able to assign a person to each negative voice in your head? Sadly many of them might belong to teachers or adults from your past. Were you able to trace the roots of the voice owners’ own negativity? Realizing that these voices are not really in your head, but real people form your past or present is a great way to separate yourself from them and replace them with positive thoughts and voices of your own.
Got a secret? Sometimes carrying one around for too long can be stressful, painful or even debilitating to your physical and emotional health. Art making can be a powerful vehicle to let secrets out without the viewer of the art even realizing that they are looking at your deepest darkest secret. Please find some paper or something more elaborate if you are feeling crafty. Please write or draw your secret now. You might actually write out the real secret or you might reveal it in a more cryptic fashion such as in a code or symbol. Can you share this secret with someone you trust? Chances are high that you might not feel comfortable doing this yet. Now rip up your paper with this secret, but do not discard the scraps. What can you do with the scraps to aid in the cathartic activity of revealing your secret? “The truth will set you free” is an annoying cliché heard over and over for generations, but in connection with mental health, this is truly the case.
Yesterday’s Project: How did you honor your extra day this year which came in the form of a leap year? Do you carve out enough time for yourself? Do you feel guilty when you do something idle or frivolous with your time? This exercise was meant to think about your relationship to time.
Too busy for a sick day? This seems to be the growing trend in our world, and this form of thinking seems to have even infected elementary school aged kids. There is no longer time for a sick day, because the amount of work required to make up for the missed day can be more debilitating than the initial one needed. Today’s art project will explore this phenomenon and help discover your relationship to a good old-fashioned “sick day.” Please find some paper. Draw a line down the middle. On one side draw images or write a list of reasons to stay home if you are feeling sick. On the other side, write the reasons you feel pressured to not take a sick day, including the consequences by your employer/school etc. Most likely, your paper might parallel the lopsided view our society has on our physical health. Just because it is the new norm, it does not make it all right. We are often sent mixed message by employers to stay home if we are sick, but then are made to feel very bad if we choose this route of catering to own needs. Sound familiar?
Yesterday’s Project: Did you find any patterns in your two images? Do you tend to be a leader or a follower in your cohort? Are you happy with your social status? Are there things you would like to do to change your pattern or break out of old habits? An honest assessment of our past can be a great place to start to assess these patterns we often carry along and repeat in new relationships. Assertiveness is often the key element needed for change.