I’ve found myself missing the daily act of driving to work in the morning. That sounds bonkers living on Long Island, so please let me explain. It is very, very true that our traffic volume can be a true test of one’s patience and aggression from fellow motorists can lead to moments of hair-pulling insanity. Yet this time alone in my car just prior to the start of the work day is incredibly valuable to my wellness and recovery. Although just nine weeks removed, it feels like a life-time ago.
As the quarantine progresses into May, differentiating between days of the week seems a more taxing process. The chilly, damp mornings of spring start to blend together. Prior routines start to fade from thought, replaced by a new groove. Taking the time to reflect on my previous patterns has brought fresh understandings on my needs for daily wellness.
The solitude spent in self-reflection, prayer and meditation while driving to and from work every day has been VITAL self-care. Transitioning this practice to this new temporary quarantine weirdness took some time. No, I didn’t start driving around the empty parkways and local roads, although that thought did cross my mind.
I have found that going on 45-minute morning and evening walks alone around my neighborhood to temporarily replace this practice. I still begin my day with prayer and meditation, but in place of where I would get in my car for my daily commute I allot that time to walking around the blocks near my home. This new routine has become just as important! Not only in providing the solitude and time for self-reflection but dedicating time to appreciate the natural beauty just outside my front door.
The last few weeks of morning/evening walks have been a series of mini-adventures. I now look forward to visiting the “husband and wife” pair of ducks that visit the neighbor’s side yard. As you can tell I’ve given them a full marriage backstory, where they happened to visit Babylon on their honeymoon and have found it a nice, quaint plot of land with the reduced car volume from quarantine. Later in the walk I put in my earbuds to cancel out any noise, just as my car acts as sound-reducing box. I walk in silence taking in the sights while mentally planning out my work day. Appreciating the flowers and blooming trees around my block can always bring me back to the moment when I want to focus on mindfulness.
This simple routine “replacement” has provided time to mentally prep for the day’s work ahead, while enjoying the outdoors. I return home from my walk and immediately start up my work. This work from home environment has reduced the barrier between personal and business. Incorporating a brief nature walk to bridge home and work helps some. It also aids in the post-work adjustment as well, relieving any tension I might have absorbed throughout and dedicating time to being outside when trips to a park might not fit the schedule.
So I urge you to be creative and open-minded in finding your self-care practices during quarantine. There is much the natural environment has to offer us!
Some days are just harder than others. A generalized statement, sure, but one I find personally true for life in recovery from substance use disorder with a mental health diagnosis. Days like today don’t often make sense from a third-party perspective. It is a Saturday morning with a vibrant sun radiating a comfortably warm mid-60*. There is a roof over my head, food in my fridge, job where much of my life’s passion can be shared, and a supportive collective of friends and family in my life. I wake up today in good physical health and without the desire for a drink or a drug. Fortunate, beyond fortunate in so many ways it could fill volumes of books.
All of these blessings, but it’s a struggle to get out of bed today. It is a fight to move the bed blankets, tucked tightly around my body, from covering my face. The sound of my housemates moving cheerfully throughout the house causes an almost involuntary reaction where I want to hide in this darkness of solitude. It is now after 9am, the noise from the world outside slowly increases in pitch. Cars and motorcycles pass by my window. I retreat further into my cocoon. My phone buzzes away on the nightstand with notifications of text messages and phone calls, it feels like a swarm of bees circling above the warm comforter.
And I know deep down what is happening to me internally… all the signs have been slowly pointing in this direction for a few days now. Avoiding responding to friends and family on a timely basis with anti-social feelings, this incredibly strong desire for isolation, and a “blah” feeling – not feeling happy or sad where I normally would – just “blah”. I’ve entered a period of depression.
So, on a day like today, when it feels like such an immense chore and labor to crawl out of bed I KNOW I need to fight. Fight to get in that shower. Fight to eat a decent breakfast. Fight to get in the car and head to the beach. Fight to sit at this picnic table and write these feelings down. Fight to sit in silence listening to the waves crest on the shoreline. Fight to slow my thinking down through breathing exercises as I sit under the warm sunrays. Fight to pick up that phone to call a peer, someone in my support network who I trust with my deepest of emotions.
The fight gets easier as morning gives way to afternoon. The longer I sit here soaking in the natural surroundings, over-time the underlying feeling of ‘going through the motions’ fades into slivers of peace. The metaphorical lead blanket weighing me down starts to slide off my shoulders. The ocean breeze now brings a welcoming aroma of salt water. I begin to appreciate the pesky seagulls flying overhead, bringing back fond memories of family beach days. The extended periods of meditation, while fellow beachgoers make noise around me, becomes easier to maintain. The sand between my toes grounds me to the moment. While not feeling like myself, I now find my anchor of comfort during the mental health storm. Here in nature.
What I have learned throughout the years, what this blog post is describing, is how my connection to the natural world is one of my most prized sources of light in moments of darkness. It is okay to not be okay. My truth is that some days are more difficult than others. The other side of the tunnel always exists, I get there feeling appreciative of the experience. While in the difficult days, increasing my time outdoors in nature can be a saving grace.
Working in the Human Services field I know of MANY resources and self-care techniques. However, this does not exclude me from experiencing a chemical imbalance nor a life-event triggering a depressive episode. The resources and techniques limit these episodes and ALWAYS pull me out of the abyss. It certainly can for you as well! Find your local park, walk around your neighborhood, and visit the shores of Long Island. Allow yourself the time to heal. Know that when and if you’re in a place to reach out for support, there are people like myself here. Those with lived experience. Recovery peers and peer-led support groups. The doors of THRIVE are open if you are in need of support.
Hi everyone!! I hope you’re all HEALTHY and HAPPY. I’m grateful to share that I am.
In my first blog post for www.thriveli.org, I detailed how during my RECOVERY from substance use disorder I’ve found that my health is deeply rooted to time spent in the great outdoors. During this adjustment to a temporary social environment of telecommuting and social distancing, my connection to the NATURAL WORLD has been of the upmost importance. So what practices have I implemented while being socially responsible to minimize proximity to my fellows? How nice of you to ask…
1) Solo Excursions To Local Parks: While attending nightly 12-step fellowship meetings online connects to me my fellows, time spent alone in the blooming foliage of the Spring season redirects my thoughts inward and provides self-love. Most days this takes the form of a planned 2-hour excursion to a Long Island park. While I have my favorite “go-to” parks, I enjoy the SNESORY EXPERIENCE of visiting new destinations.
2) Daily Hour-Long Disconnects: When traveling to a local park or nature preserve isn’t an option, I have been dedicating one hour each to my morning and evening routines to sit in the backyard in total stillness. UNPLUGGING from all distraction that often takes me out of the moment, which means literally turning off all my communications devices. Just existing in SILENCE for as long as my mind will allow, then using the SOUNDS and SMELLS of the natural environment to refocus on the moment. FEELING the touch of the grass on my legs and palms of my hands.
3) Indoor Meditation with Nature Sounds: On the days where going for a walk in the rain doesn’t seem to fit, I’ve increased my meditation while indoors. Dedicating time to sitting in a quiet space in the home to simply listen to the SILENCE or allowing the sounds of the wind on the exterior of the house to guide my meditation.
My next several blog posts will detail each of these practices, providing real life stories of how I incorporate nature into my recovery. Thanks for joining me with these blog posts, expect a new submission later this week!
We know these times are challenging and unforeseen for all. How have you been coping? What hobbies have you picked up or brought back during these last few weeks at home? Our Recovery Coach, Erin, has a few words to share with you on goal-setting and words of encouragement to get us through these days of uncertainty at home!
My name is Bradley Baer. I’m a Certified Recovery Peer Advocate working with FCA’s very important Sherpa program, and I am a person in long-term recovery. Like many people stuck at home during this time, there are many things that remain out of my control. I will, however, share with you all a few skills that I have been practicing in order to remain vigilant in my personal recovery. Working from home can become a challenge with many distractions. For me, continuing to stick to a structured routine helps maintain boundaries while working from home.
As a person who has struggled with depression in the past, I know that neglecting my daily routines will have me face a much unhealthier lifestyle. If I don’t remain vigilant, I believe that the end of my week will undoubtedly end with signs of low self-esteem, poor hygiene, and numerous neglected work duties. This would not only affect me, but the people I am meant to serve and support.
I begin each day as I would any other: after I wake up, I make my bed and start my morning bathroom routine – brush my teeth, shower, and get dressed for the day with clean clothes. From here, while working at home, I make sure to follow my scheduled workday as if I would go into the office. I have a separate space where I work in my home that psychologically separates “work” from “home” activities. This is essential for my well-being because I know that I would hardly get any actual work done otherwise. My dogs would be looking too cute and I would waste my time sitting with them on the couch. This boundary ensures that I remain productive and continue to be available for the population that my department serves.
The next tool I keep at my disposal is staying connected with my peers in recovery who are a part of my support network. On any regular day, I call 4-5 people to check in and see how they’re doing. During this time, that number has increased closer to 10 people. My support group has been able to adjust to our usual interactions using social media platforms and they hold a meeting via Zoom every night so that we ensure that we can help each other stay on a pathway toward recovery.
Maintaining boundaries and emphasizing my self-care are necessary for me to stay on the beam, living in gratitude instead of depression. These are simple, small steps that anyone can practice. I urge anyone struggling during this time of isolation and social distancing to keep to a routine, helping practice effective and healthy self-care. Thank you for reading!
Sherpa is one of many programs FCA offers to support addiction prevention, treatment and recovery. Please visit www.fcali.org to learn about all of our programs, and continue to visit www.thriveli.org for a continued updated calendar of groups and services.
Learn more about THRIVE Everywhere! Striving to THRIVE not just within our four walls.
If you have made it to this point of the quarantine and haven’t completely lost your mind, I am proud of you! Our efforts for self-care must absolutely be doubled and I know (as I previously mentioned) self-care isn’t a natural concept to me.
If you are fortunate enough to have a home gym, some sort of equipment or already doing some workouts from home, this blog isn’t for you! You’re already killing it in the game and could use your extensive knowledge to help us out!
Truth be told, determination alone is not enough for me to get off the couch and begin doing a work-out. I have always found it easier to get up and get the gym because it just seems I get more done there. With literally everything being shut down, attendance at the gym is not even optional.
After doing some research to find some interesting ways to stay on top of my personal exercise regime, I stumbled upon some websites that I found to be extremely helpful and I hope they are helpful for you as well.
Being that there are a ton of beginners (myself included; always a beginner) start slow! I am not a doctor nor medical professional and will not be giving out any advice on your body and how to take care of it. I am just someone who is navigating this new way of life just like yourself and a guiding hand is always supportive.
Some other ideas are to youtube some exercises. There is chair yoga all the way up to advanced yoga. Same with many other exercises. On rainy days when we can’t get out to the backyard, my mom has been googling senior aerobics and is loving it!
Please know that my intention is to only provide support. We are literally all in this together. As Governor Cuomo so elegantly states (and a little cheesy might I add) “we are socially distanced and spiritually connected.” My heart is with you all!
Mindfulness is a good technique for coping with stress. Please watch this short video to learn more about mindfulness practices and how they can help with sustaining your recovery. Visit www.thriveli.org to seen our virtual calendar of events and participate in a mindfulness group.
Let me start of my first saying, “I get it!” What ever difficulties you may be experiencing during these super intense times, I can identify. As someone who is in long term recovery from the disease of addiction, I am also in recovery from negative self-talk, poor impulse control, lack of motivation, overwhelming procrastination and debilitating anxiety. I made this blog for anyone who made need some support to help find their way through peace and serenity at any given moment.
For me, food has been both a source of comfort and a vice I struggled with to help me get through the rough times in my life. Growing up, I was always active in both sports and physical activities. Somewhere along my journey, food became more of a coping mechanism and exercise fell way down the list of important things to do. I became extremely unhealthy and it harmed my mental health almost as bad as my substance use disorder did.
I want to let you know that help is here! Let’s work together to find some healthy ways to cope with stress and still enjoy activities and good eating from the comfort of our own homes! 6 days ago, I opened my fridge with the expectation of having this delicious meal and I had very limited resources. I mean, I didn’t even have eggs!
I began investigating and I had no idea that you could google ingredients you had and include your desired diet after and click “search”. What comes up is a wealth of information and recipes that you can make with those ingredients you have.
Realistically speaking, and maybe not that realistic if you’re like me, you may have at least eggs, some leftovers from the last couple of nights before and some sort of oil, butter or pan spray. Voila! A meal!
Eggs are so versatile and cheap that if my substance use disorder was based on an egg addiction, I’d still be active today. Eggs can be sauces; they can complete a meal and can be a meal all by themselves. One of favorite things to make with eggs is a super simple frittata. If I fish through my cabinets, pantry and fridge long enough, I can come up with some pretty interesting ingredients to add to eggs. I made eggs with olives, different cheeses, tomatoes, broccoli, chopped up chicken breast, deli meats, even chocolate chips (that one was gross, and I wouldn’t suggest it to my worst enemy)!
Below I have included some websites that have some good, simple and easy recipes whether you’re on a budget, strapped for ingredients or limited on time.
Check out my next blog on some exercises and ways to get active or stay active! Happy Quarantining!
I remember sitting in a 12-step fellowship back in August of 2016 feeling very incredibly overwhelmed. In those early days of my recovery from substance use disorder I was TOTALLY confused and quite honestly, I was TERRIFIED. I couldn’t fathom how the person next to me could have 25 years without a substance. How they were all talking about an entirely unique conception of a higher power and how it seemingly worked for everyone else but felt so foreign to me. I was stuck in self, stuck in preconceived notions of what a higher power could mean to ME.
What really broke me out of that perception was the process of letting go of my ego. I started going out into the woods for some quiet from the noise of living with 30+ others in a long-term sober living environment. I would go on these long walks alone through the woods of Pilgrim State… yeeaaah, not the safest move. I was living on the property at the time, so going out the front door for a walk meant the grounds of a former psychiatric asylum. This, of all places, was where I started to deconstruct years of worldview and slowly found peace in simply “not knowing”.
While surrounded by this dense woods I started to feel this inner peace. I would listen to the sounds of the trees, the crackling and whooshing as the wind brushed them in all directions. The rustling of the leaves beneath my feet. The smells of the trees, of nearby foliage, of the fresh clean(er) air. The internal monologue that would RACE in other settings, drifted away during this time of being alone in the woods. All the expectations I placed on my life, on other people and institutions was fading away. All I was doing was walking around a bunch of TREES several times a week!?!
I had no idea at the time what was happening, but I was actually practicing a well-known wellness technique called “forest bathing”. Immersing oneself in nature and taking in the forest through all the senses. This technique can be a rejuvenating process. For me it was bridging the gap between Ryan and the natural world. It was through this process that I started to feel CONNECTED to something bigger than me, I felt this CALMING CONFIDENCE and SERENITY. I didn’t need to have all the answers, I simply just had to BE. Just like the beautiful forest surrounding me. I was practicing being PRESENT in the moment.
Today, I enjoy sharing this experience with others! To be out in nature, letting go and feeling FREEDOM FROM SELF. Through Thrive Recovery Center, I’m blessed to organize walks, hikes and forest bathing. This blog will detail some of these AMAZING ADVENTURES, as well as provide some tips and tools for incorporating WELLNESS THROUGH NATURE into your own lives and recovery.
Stay tuned for more!!
-Ryan Kiser – Person In Long-Term Recovery and Grateful THRIVER
FCA’s Peer-Led Sherpa program is still here for you! Watch this video to learn more about what Sherpa can do for you.
Family & Children’s Association (FCA) leads the operations and oversight of THRIVE Recovery Community and Outreach Center in partnership with the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD), Long Island Recovery Association (LIRA), and Families in Support of Treatment (F.I.S.T.). THRIVE is funded by the NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) and through private contributions.