At the end of this summer on August 15th I was hospitalized for pancreatitis. This illness was caused by alcoholism, an addiction that I suffered with for 3 years without seeking help. That was the last day I had a drink and then I visited Rams in Recovery, where I became a member, and was recommended this class. This semester is the first that I’ve taken more than 1 class in ages, and I was nervous. My dealings with addiction started long ago in my teens, and in the past couple of years I have developed anxiety, where there were times when it was crippling. I didn’t take this class expecting anything, but of all the topics we covered these past couple of months… I learned so much and have really put it into practice in my life. I really liked that at the start of this class we were given the opportunity to learn about ourselves; to learn about our own thought processes and recognize our individual strengths. When I took the VIA Strengths survey before, my top strengths were honesty and leadership, while today my test reflects my top two strengths as bravery and forgiveness. This was interesting to me… and I wondered if it had anything to do with the changes I’ve made since I quit alcohol, joined Rams in Recovery, and started taking this class.
I really started to realize this when we were in about week 7 and were discussing mindfulness and meditation… and learning how to disconnect. I began to practice mindfulness, completing mindfulness activities for our assignments, but realized how calmed I became after taking a step back to be in the present. I continued mindfulness activities about twice a week, and i’m still going strong with it today. It helps me. The most important things I learned, the most impactful realizations I’ve had over these months have been small things that I would never have thought would be so significant. An example is: simply breathing. As part of my meditation activities the instructions to breathe reminded ME that before, I rarely took a moment to just take a deep breath. After practicing mindfulness frequently, I’ve gotten better at it, such as one would with anything they spend time practicing. By that I mean that it is easier for me to become present and remained focus during those periods of meditation. Mindfulness and meditation are now a big part of my life and I am grateful for learning those useful tools.
This semester I learned how important it was to take time to disconnect from distracting tech devices and be present in the moment. When we did the activity in class I did alright, but outside of class, in the beginning, I found it quite difficult to step away from my smartphone. When I didn’t have it, I realized how much I relied on it… and not just to communicate, but, to be happy. Considering Fredrick’s Broaden and Build Theory, relying on social media likes was never going to really make me happy. It was never going to go anywhere. The dopamine rush would be fleeting, and wouldn’t lead to happiness in the long run. I like Fredrick’s theory, because sometimes I feel it is as simple as just thinking of something that brings you joy, no matter what it is, and to put that emotion in to everything else you do. I practiced this frequently and found that it helped me to stay relaxed and calm in times when I was frustrated, such as dealing with a spat between friends.
As to relationships, the tools I have been given in this class have allowed me to assess the value of my relationships, with my friends and my family. There were some friends lost… but those few were lost over a lack of communication that we both were self aware of and decided not to attempt to rectify it. That to me showed how much we really cared about being in each other’s lives, and taught me to prioritize with the people that have an interest in both my everyday life as well as my recovery. My recovery has consisted of some ups and downs, but mostly ups. I haven’t had much trouble with cravings, but have felt the need to replace it and had to fight those urges. Being a psychology major in psychology classes and classes such as SOH have allowed me to actively be in the front seat, at the wheel of my brain, so to speak. I feel that when I am actively assessing my feelings and emotions that I am able to change them, by performing activities I know will boost my mood and affect my brain chemicals.
The most important activity to help my anxiety besides meditation is definitely exercise. I worked with a personal trainer in the gym once a week for the past 9 months and have improved a lot. I am proud of my improvement, where I have lost half the weight I gained from drinking and gained a large amount of muscle. My favorite part about working out is of course the endorphins, the “runner’s high”, I feel great when I am running or lifting and have learned that exercise, even something as simple as a half mile walk to get some fresh air can greatly reduce my feelings of stress and anxiety. I feel that i have learned an abundance of useful tools to address my anxiety, stress, and aid my recovery.
My recovery is ongoing of course, and through all of my experience with it I feel that the things I have learned in this class have perhaps been even more helpful than AA/NA programs I have been apart of over the years. Its imperative that people in recovery receive concrete solutions to the tragedy that is living with an addiction to a substance. I have been quite pleased with the way most of the people in my life have aided me in my recovery, and am thankful for them. The changes I have made in my social network since I quit drinking have allowed me to achieve positive change by not being brought down by others who do not want to better themselves. I am aware how much impact close friendships have on the people in them, and will continue to vet the people that come into my life as I am going through a sensitive time and really, need all the help I can get right now.
Overall, this semester, the weekly activities we were assigned and completed were of a great help, as these topics were not only introduced, but we were all able to put them to practice in our own individual lives. This was great because some of these activities such as mindfulness/meditation, and disconnecting from devices, is not something that they would do unprompted. Being introduced to these things was great because we were able to choose whether we wanted to continue applying these tips and tricks to our lives. Many suffer with mental illnesses, anxiety, depression, and addiction. This class has taught me that the individual has the power to change their own lives and make themselves happy through actively making changes. Positive psychology is meant to be the study of how people can live the happiest and most fulfilling lives possible, and so far these psychologists have done great work. I think the best thing I can say besides how thankful I am for those tools, is that this class really gave me a motivation kick, something I desperately needed. I will definitely continue to use everything I learned in this class in my life going forward, and I am going to miss it. :’)