Join Clare Waismann, M-RAS/SUDCC II, along with seasoned therapists, David Livingston, LMFT, and Dwight Hurst, LPC, as they discuss the importance of creating a healthy and supportive environment for addiction recovery. The podcasting trio explores the concept of environment, both external (physical surroundings) and internal (emotional and psychological factors), and how they can influence a person’s journey toward sobriety.
The hosts emphasize the need for a balanced and positive environment that supports the recovery process. They highlight the significance of negotiation and connection in creating a healthy environment. By listening to others’ needs and engaging in open communication, individuals can establish supportive relationships and foster a sense of belonging.
The show’s hosts also stress the importance of self-care and self-nurturing activities, such as reading, engaging in mindfulness practices, or participating in relaxing hobbies, to promote emotional well-being.
The discussion extends to major life changes and their impact on addiction recovery. While caution is advised when making significant life changes in the early stages of recovery, such as changing jobs or ending toxic relationships, the podcast panel acknowledges that some changes may be necessary for a safe and supportive environment.
They encourage individuals to focus on maximizing the positive aspects of their environment, seeking therapy or professional support, and staying curious about new experiences that promote growth and well-being. Ultimately, the hosts underline the role of enthusiasm in the recovery process, as it can fuel motivation and help individuals overcome challenges along the way.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: Welcome back to Addiction, Recovery and Mental Health, a podcast by Waismann Method Opioid Treatment Specialists. I’m your co-host, Dwight Hearst, joined today by Claire Wiseman and David Livingston. Hello, guys. We’re back together again. All right. So our topic today that we’re going to be discussing is creating a recovery environment. So it’s about how your surroundings can support or affect your journey into becoming healthier, into sobriety, all the things we usually talk about. But today, our focus is going to be on how can we create and craft a more healthy environment that is conducive to, well, you know, to success, I guess. And we’ll I think one of the first things we’ll get into is kind of defining some of these terms. First of all, what is our environment? There are probably a couple of different ways we can approach defining that term. What are some thoughts about that?
David Livingston, LMFT: Well, I mean, just in the most, I guess, basic way, it’s our inside and our outside and all that that encompasses. So, you know, and they certainly affect each other. But you know, our environment is where we live, who we’re around and you know externally what we do day to day, the activities we do, how we take care of ourselves. And then there’s the internal environment, how we’re feeling, how we’re relating to that, how others are relating to our internal life, to our feelings, our needs, our desires, the pacing of whatever those needs may be. Something like that. Maybe that’s a place to start.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: Yeah. As you were saying that, I was kind of thinking about one aspect of environment is kind of it’s kind of like a nouns when, when I learned what nouns were in school, people, places and things. But then there’s also that internal kind of that the emotional or the spiritual or the anything that’s inside of us is connected to that too, as you put it. I thought that was really interesting. You mentioned the inside of us as part of our environment.
David Livingston, LMFT: Oh, for sure. I think in some ways it’s the thing that people are most, whether they’re aware of it or not, it’s the thing that’s probably the most important driving force. I think one of the goals is to ultimately not have to think about our internal environment too much. So when things are going well, there’s less self-consciousness. Certainly, anxiety creates self-consciousness because it’s kind of a painful state. Depression, you know, any sort of internal turmoil or dysregulation creates a type of self-consciousness. And so a lot of what people want is to be out of that. And, you know, and in a sense, just kind of out of the arena. So if you think of being in the arena, what is I think I’ve said this before, I think it’s the Greek word. Agon means to be in the arena, but it’s also the root word for agony, right? So what people seek and I think ultimately is to be able to kind of forget about themselves, you know, and then just kind of participate in their environment and with other people and things and then have their internal world really fall to the background. So I think working towards that is how I look at part of recovery, right? And so it’s more complicated, but that’s a part of it.
Clare Waismann, M-RAS/SUDCC II: And I think there is also a combination, you know, of the outside of the inside, you know, feeling comfortable in your environment, feeling safe or feeling connected. I think those are feelings. That is a mixture of your emotional environment and your interior environment.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: I don’t think I’ve mentioned this on this podcast before. I mentioned this somewhere just the other day. So I guess stop me if you heard this one listeners out there somehow you can get through the phone lines are lighting up now. But I have noticed this weird speaking of how our internal process can affect the external environment, the physical environment, I have noticed that there is almost there’s almost nothing in my life that happens as quickly as when I will switch allegiance from being a driver in a parking lot and thinking that all the pedestrians are really obnoxious to once I park and get out. It is immediate that I am now a pedestrian and I now hate all the drivers, right? Because they suck. Right? And the internal consistency there I guess is that it’s my own self-interest. But when you talk about being unaware, not thinking about it, I realize that for that particular little quirk, I went from not noticing it and just always assuming that everybody in the parking lot was out to get me and then realizing that I was switching and now not thinking about it other than just kind of chuckling, if I catch myself right to where it’s gone back to unaware now, pretty much because it’s more processed, adjusted, whatever you want to call it, but there’s the unhealthy lack of awareness and then the eventual healthy like I don’t think about it anymore. I just try to do the healthy option. Does that make any sense?
Clare Waismann, M-RAS/SUDCC II: Yeah, actually.
David Livingston, LMFT: Yeah. Yeah, it does. Right? Right. Yes. And I can relate to it all.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: It’s so that is, you know, the internal processes and emotional parts of us. They do interact with how our environment feels. And I think that, you know, you bring that up as a point that has a lot of implications for I can laugh about my parking lot quirk, but when it comes to like, Oh, but I’ve learned that this member of my family never has my back and that’s what I come to expect. So when they drop, you know, when they don’t have my back, it confirms it. And when they do, I don’t notice it. Right? And so there’s something in my environment that I might be affecting and not even realizing I’m affecting it.
David Livingston, LMFT: Can you say more? I’m not sure I understand that exactly.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: Well, just how the. Yeah, I think what I’m going for is just how, the internal state of being and my own expectations interact with that physical environment that’s around me. So if I think, if I think that so-and-so hates me, I’m probably going to act differently around them and treat them differently, which will then mean I won’t have them, I’m very unlikely to have that person as a supporter, even if they would kind of like to be, because I have that perception. So. So my environment’s changed on the outside by my interpretation of it inside that work any better that that pass on it?
Clare Waismann, M-RAS/SUDCC II: Yes, it did. Yeah. Other than it is the cause and effect you’re causing them to react differently to you because you are acting differently to them.
David Livingston, LMFT: Right. When you’re you’re in the parking lot trying to park your car, you want to get your car parked and the pedestrian is in your way to get parked. But once you’re parked and you’re out of the car, the car is in the way for you to get into the store where you’re headed and. Right. But how we respond, right? If somebody puts their hand up and says, yeah, go ahead. You know, I always feel appreciative of that. Just the gesture, just the kind of the fact that there are two people negotiating something, you know, and I’ll do the same thing with people. And frankly, just the connection of that negotiation, the simplest of like who’s going to go first or whatever actually feels good. And it’s actually.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: In that little one for. Yeah. Right.
David Livingston, LMFT: 20 minutes. Exactly. But actually, at least there’s a beginning of a negotiation, right? So when you talk about creating an environment, really it’s, it’s the process of beginning negotiating. What do you need What do I…
Clare Waismann, M-RAS/SUDCC II: Is it negotiating, David? Or is a connection?
David Livingston, LMFT: Well, I think all good connections are negotiations. I want to have Mexican food. Oh, really? I had that last night. Could we go here and do that? Okay, great. Let’s do that. But can we wait a half hour? Because I just, you know. You know what I’m saying? That’s like, yeah, So that’s all connecting. But it’s mean and sometimes there’s not much negotiation, but in essence, you’re, you’re beginning a dialog of multiple needs getting worked out.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: One of the powerful and tremendously impacting versions of that is people who need to repair relationships, healthy relationships. And this directly contributes to our environment. So if I’m coming out of a period of opioid dependence where I’ve been using and usually that has had a tremendous impact on relationships and we’ve talked specifically about relationships. But, you know, as far as my environment, if I go towards those in my life who are healthy, like let’s say that I’ve had issues with a family member, maybe my parents or someone, I’ll just pick parents for this, but and I go there and say, Can you help me out? I’m getting my life back together, or I’d like to be part of the family events or I’d like to. And if they’re like, Well, you’ve fill in the blank to us before whatever you can say stolen or brought weird people around or, you know, things that have happened or stole or medication or some stuff that is really damaging. Then I’m thinking about what you said, David, of here’s the opportunity for negotiation in our communication to say what would help you feel safer. Do I just or do I walk away and say, Oh, “I don’t care”, or, you know, “Forget them” and or do I engage with them and kind of say, is there anything I can do that would help you feel safer having me around, or is there an amount of time that you want me to put in or what are we going to do with that? And then on the other side, right? Negotiating, too. And that’s the beginning of a that’s a cool word to apply to this as negotiation. And then that gives us an opportunity to impact the environment. Now, I’ve got an environment where I maybe have some more access to safe people who are and we’re trying to rebuild something and that’s going to tremendously impact the environment, right?
David Livingston, LMFT: Yeah, that’s all right. The basic idea of self and other I matter and you matter. Okay, So now how do we how do we figure things out and circumstances and history all plays into that. And I think to listen to each other often when I’m working with someone or and then I’ll do a, you know, we’ll include, you know, husband or wife or other family members or something in a conference call. And I’ll and I’m asked all the time, well, what should we do to support this person and so forth. And I always say, well, the first thing you do is you just listen to them. They’ll tell you what they’re needing as long as it seems healthy and it makes sense to you, then think about doing it, you know? And that doesn’t last forever. It isn’t. The idea is self and other isn’t that the other person is the only one who’s going to matter forever. But it’s a starting point. So for the negotiation, right. And in the beginning, I think particularly right after detox, people need to feel like they can kind of have a softer landing. There’s more patience, more of a capacity to be kind of move at their own pace. And that’s really useful.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: So there’s that’s a big important part is other people in those connections and as you put it the yeah I kind of the excitement there or the excitement is not always the right word but the rejuvenation of saying I’m doing something, I’m starting out the energy that sometimes comes with the beginning of a new project or feeling healthy and sometimes that can be helpful. One of the things I’m thinking of is I wonder what are some components of a location? And sometimes people change a lot about their location, sometimes they don’t Do I go back to my house? Is my house a supportive environment? Is it a safe environment? What places do I spend my time? Do I have to think about the kind of relationships I have with people like at my job or, you know, something like that? How do we approach that? How do you see people kind of trying to evaluate, particularly in the, you know, in the treatment program, that you guys see people for a short amount of time while they adjust and then they go to Domus, perhaps do a little more time there. But they must be thinking about what’s my environment when I get home, right? Does that make sense?
David Livingston, LMFT: Yeah…
Clare Waismann, M-RAS/SUDCC II: I think it makes a tremendous amount of sense. But that, you know, as everything else is person to person and I think too many plans before you reach sobriety, it’s can be overwhelming. So unless the environment is truly, truly tainted, I think taking things easy and just be happy with every achievement, it’s important. I mean, from just decluttering space you live in, you know, your car, your room, and I’m talking more about the younger ones, the good beginning, clean space where you feel, you know, in peace.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: That’s such a huge thing is just the ability to have peace. My daughter just got back from a camping thing that she went on that was a big camp. She was out with some other girls and things and she talked about how just being out, just even though it was a bunch of teenage girls and they were having fun and laughing and all that carrying on kind of stuff was there. It was so different from her day to day, going to high school, doing all the stuff that, you know, going, doing her job, going to work, all that stuff. And just the amount of pressure that kind of adds up on our shoulders. Having some outlet for peace to just be like, Oh, there’s nothing that needs to be done right now. Or I’m in an environment and making sure that we’re in those environments that create peace whenever we can be right is something we don’t think about it very often, to be honest. Even when we’re not dealing with addiction, just anybody. We don’t think about it as much as we probably should for our health.
David Livingston, LMFT: You mean how peaceful your environment is?
Dwight Hurst, LPC: Yeah. And am I spending time in places that are peaceful or with people that are peaceful? Because you kind of have to do that somewhat on purpose because some of the day-to-day of normal life will just get hectic all by itself, right?
David Livingston, LMFT: Uh, yeah. We should all be thinking about that. I certainly think about that all the time, to be frank, I do. I do. Uh, from how much news I watch, which isn’t much to what I spend my time doing and to what’s going to help me feel better, stay healthier. You know, we have a limited amount of time often, and to know yourself and kind of have routines and habits that, you know, move you towards what you enjoy and what you want most is, you know, talk about environment that should get established that that is part of what I think people we all need to establish for the most part. I mean, it’s never perfect or there are all kinds of people and things and factors we can’t control. But for the most part, yeah, that’s what it is to have a good home inside and outside, right? To develop a home that you come in and you’re like, Oh, I like it here and inside as well.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: So what do we feel like are some ways to do that? What’s some, I don’t know, practical ways that people do create that kind of home or that kind of environment?
Clare Waismann, M-RAS/SUDCC II: For promoting some, you know, activities that promote relaxation. I don’t know from reading a book, or taking a bath. Moments that you can have some self-nurturing not just physically, but also emotionally. And I think David is right. Without the news, without the social media, just something you enjoy doing, or if it’s 30 minutes a day, but you know, that’s your time.
David Livingston, LMFT: All that. I mean, for starters, for me, I learned to let my wife decorate my house instead of me. So that’s helped a lot. I also have an exercise routine, and I’ve discovered from listening to some interesting podcasts of some doctors that swimming in cold water will reset my parasympathetic nervous system. So I do it for like ten, 15 minutes in cool water as many times as I can. And it relaxes me. I mean, I think people always thought surfers were so relaxed and so forth because of surfing. I think it’s because they’re in cold water all the time. And I think I think it’s actually now, you know, so so staying curious, I mean, this is kind of like a new thing to me. And it’s been great. And I know a bunch of people who are doing it now. And so any rate, it’s kind of staying curious, figuring things out. There’s so much information out there right now about how to take care of ourselves. It’s kind of remarkable.
Clare Waismann, M-RAS/SUDCC II: “Staying curious”, I think is great. It’s actually you know.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: I was just picturing how I was thinking about this environment we’re talking about is chilling out. And Dave took it to the next level of chilling out literally with cold…
Clare Waismann, M-RAS/SUDCC II: Water…
David Livingston, LMFT: Literally, literally, literally in 3 to 6 minutes. And cool water will reset your parasympathetic nervous system about as quickly as anything you could possibly do.
Clare Waismann, M-RAS/SUDCC II: Plus, it is an anti-inflammatory.
David Livingston, LMFT: It’s an anti-inflammatory. If somebody’s interested in losing weight, given that calories are calculated by heat, there’s nothing that burns weight or burns calories faster than cool water. Plus exercising in it. You get all these I mean, there’s so many health benefits to it. It’s unbelievable. Plus, you get out and you feel great. So I’m a big fan of it. But like we’re saying, it’s so part of it is just discovering like just discovering what is it for me individually, I’m sure there’s other people listening or who would be like, I’m not doing that or, you know, so which is which, right?
Dwight Hurst, LPC: So you know what? I’m going to report back in a future episode. I’m going to I got to try this. Yeah. And it is interesting how individualized these things are. Like, like all things finding these things for ourselves and also finding it involving other people is important, too. And one of the things that can happen along with isolation is that isolating behaviors and also shutting down our own interests and things often goes along with active periods of addiction because I have to put a lot of effort into figuring out how to safely as I can procure whatever drugs I’m using or if I’m being a little shady at the pharmacy. I got to be careful there and avoid detection. And I definitely don’t want to tell anyone or have anyone figure it out because they’re going to try to make me stop. And there’s a lot, you know, that goes into balancing out an active addiction. There’s a lot of work, frankly, that goes into it, and we neglect a lot of the other parts of ourselves. Plus, obviously, the chemical elements and you know, those things also distract. And so getting back in touch with ourselves is part of impacting that environment because, you know, what do I do when I’m not relying upon opiates to dictate how I’m going to feel today or what I’m going to do today? Right. And you might think people if people out there, you know, you might hear that and think, yeah, it’s such a monkey off my back, so to speak. Right? It’s such a great relief. And it’s like, well, yeah, but there’s the now putting the work into the other, which is what do I do when, when I’m not spending so much of my waking energy trying to safely get high or avoid withdrawals or avoid fentanyl poisoning. That’s if that’s not part of my day to day anymore. I got to do something or else I’m going to fall back into it.
David Livingston, LMFT: Right. That the dopamine system and I’ve talked about this before, it is an anticipatory system, right? So we get our dopamine hits in anticipation of whatever it is we’re doing. So. Even if I’m going to go swimming in cold water, which I now love, I’m getting dopamine hits, getting ready to do it, and on the way there and so forth. And once you get once you start doing it, you’re getting more dopamine hits. One of the first questions I ask people when they’re kind of going through or some people when they’re going through a detox is, what do you want? What are you looking for? If you can’t answer that question. So Clare, you said, yeah, like curiosity is a huge thing because if we’re not learning something new and, you know, I would never have thought of myself as someone who would be swimming in cold water. But my son started doing it. He loved it. He shamed me into getting in there with him. And it’s been fantastic. So I kept an open mind enough, I did it. And now it’s like, Oh, this is fantastic. This is something entirely new to me. So that’s just one example of it. But.
Clare Waismann, M-RAS/SUDCC II: How cold is cold?
Dwight Hurst, LPC: Bags of ice in the tub?
David Livingston, LMFT: No, no, no, no, no. I’m thinking my pool is about 54 degrees, right? It’s not, you know, it’s not heated.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: Yeah, okay. But that’s pretty cold.
David Livingston, LMFT: Yeah, right. You’re swimming. That’s right. There you go. Go to a.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: Hotel and get in that pool. I’m like, you know, I’m going to consider talking to the front desk.
David Livingston, LMFT: It’s not an ice bath. But whatever it is, whatever you discover, keep exploring. We’re I think as people were built, I mean, a lot of addiction, if you really talk to people about it is they’re anticipating whatever drug it is. They’re getting all the dopamine hits in anticipation that whatever their process is and their rituals are more dopamine hits in anticipation. And what you have to do is you have to substitute that. So if you’re talking about external environment and internal environment, coordinating through anticipatory something from the outside and then getting all the dopamine hits through the anticipation of it, you know, internally, and then you just have to create a varied life. So there’s you’re doing it in ways that are healthy.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: What have you seen with people who make major environment changes? Let’s say people who oh, I don’t know, you know, as part of their getting clean, do they, you know, the change a job or have a major relationship change? Sometimes that’s by choice and sometimes it’s by circumstance. I know. But when people are facing that, do you know just what are some thoughts there as you’ve seen people that are making those big changes at the same time they’re trying to get sober? I know that sometimes in general in the recovery community, there’s advice to say don’t if you can stay away from a major life change within the first little while of you know, because treatment is a major life change already and so be careful. But if someone’s like, Yeah, but I live over here and I got to move in with my brother because the place I do live is, is conducive to using rather than being sober, then, you know, obviously I got to do something or if I’m in a toxic relationship and part of being healthy quickly emerges that that’s not working out and have to revamp the relationship anyway. What are some thoughts about major life? A major environment? Life changes.
Clare Waismann, M-RAS/SUDCC II: Yeah, we talked about that in the beginning, I think. You know, if it’s about safety, I mean, if it’s, you know, again, a tainted environment where there’s a toxic relationship or toxic habits, then there’s no way out. It doesn’t make it any easier because, again, there’s another, um, level of change. And there is so many changes after you go through detox. Emotionally, and physically, you have to adapt to so much. You have to change even the way you think and process, you know, your thoughts and your decisions. So now with the physical environment changing as well, it’s a bit harder.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: Yeah, absolutely. I think the way that you structure those kinds of changes too, if I’m taking away something that was a big part of my life or changing something that’s a big part of my life, I probably need to try to counterbalance that with making sure that I, if I have safe people in my life, maybe I want to call them or text them or drop by and have dinner with them if you a little more often if I’m losing also a big piece of, you know, my job or my relationship or something, or if I have therapy and if that’s helpful, maybe I want to make sure that make sure I’m not skipping a lot of my sessions or something or, you know, make sure that I’m going. Sometimes going more is the answer, sometimes not. But that I’m attending to the things that are good in my environment. I think I think everybody this is this is as close as I’ll come, you know, to saying almost everybody. I think it’s if it’s not universal, it’s pretty, pretty normal for people going through this process to have to say, I’m a maximize the healthy aspects of my environment because I’ve lost something. At the very least, I’ve lost one of my major coping skill, which is drug use and what else have I given up in my environment? I got to try to counterbalance that by accentuating the positive, right?
Clare Waismann, M-RAS/SUDCC II: Isn’t that how you’re seeing it as a loss instead of a gain? Sometimes not having the toxic relationship or environment makes your life much easier, and it’s just a relief instead of something you lost.
David Livingston, LMFT: It can be “either”, “or” or all the above. Right. It just. Just depends. And it helps to be in therapy, I think, to have a different perspective and have to be able to just talk out loud and have somebody hear it who you have some confidence in and their, you know, their ability to sort of help you think about multiple sides of what’s being said and you begin to sort of see things more and more clearly. Um, so, you know, a lot of times there’s a lot of solitude when people are involved in drug use. There’s a, there’s a lot of it is happening internally in their own singular process and rituals and perspective. And I help. I think it helps to get out of that in some way. You know, certainly, there are different avenues to do that and different people enjoy and benefit from different types of support. But I think it helps.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: You know, as we talk about the way people self-medicate and we’ve talked a lot on this podcast about in other episodes how people are treating oftentimes underlying problems, social, emotional, psychological problems, how substance use can be a self-medication for that. And when we get off the drugs, then we got to now go from self-medicating to I’m going to say this in a general sense, medicating appropriately, not just with medicine, but does my environment support recovery from not just drug use, but recovery from the underlying problem that maybe triggered my vulnerability to drug use right in my is my environment conducive to solving whatever some of the even maybe the preexisting problems were? Or am I just putting myself right back into the environment that maybe fostered the loneliness or the lack of treatment or the exacerbation of my health, all those things, you know, trying to actually stabilize? And the environment plays a big role, you know, And sometimes it has to do with just that communication or negotiation with those around me to say, I’m going to be doing some things that are healthy. It’s a change. And maybe it’ll even be annoying to people. If I have to add, maybe I’m putting a swim into it or going jogging or spending a little time with some friends or, you know, some physical activity. It might be different. I won’t be I might not even be as available as I was when I was using because I was just sitting at home and trying to actually say, do I have people and places and things around me that facilitate that rather than trying to prevent it, whether on purpose or not?
David Livingston, LMFT: Well, I would say one of the things that when I’m talking to someone after detoxing and so forth that I have found to be a strong indicator of how well they’re going to do, at least in the short run, is the amount of enthusiasm they have towards getting detoxed and moving forward. Um, nothing great is accomplished without enough enthusiasm. Because life is hard and there are going to be challenges. And no matter what you want to do. Look, it’s hard. There’s this liminal state between standing there on dry land and being in the middle of the air, diving into a cold pool. And in that liminal state, you’re going to change consciousness about three times and then you’re going to hit the cold water. And we’re built to want to have multiple changes. And you can’t do things, anything, even going for a swim in a cold pool without some enthusiasm, you just won’t do it. I think we talk about it and maybe in different terms, like staying positive and other things. I like the word enthusiasm because I really think that when I see individuals and I see the things in my life that have gone well, it’s been the enthusiasm I’ve brought to it that has made the difference. So figure out what that is for you and then build around it and be patient enough with yourself so you don’t expect it all immediately.
Dwight Hurst, LPC: And we’re going to close it there with some great advice there at the end about enthusiasm. After we finished recording, we touched on the idea that, you know, enthusiasm is a great thing to talk about as well. We want to make sure to bring that up in the future. Hey, speaking of the future and of questions that we bring up here on the program, we want to hear from you, the listeners. Let us know what things you would like to hear us discuss or what questions or information you’d like to hear about opiate dependence, mental health treatment and just general recovery from less health to more health. Email us at [email protected]. Go to opiates.com to read more about the Waismann Method or hit us up on any social media. It’s all at opiates on Instagram and Twitter. You will find us there. This show is made by Waismann Method opioid treatment specialists and produced by pop collar productions. Our music is the song Medical by Clean Mind Sounds. We’re hosted by Clare Waismann, David Livingston and by me, Dwight Hearst. Just want to remind you all out there to keep asking questions because if you ask questions, you’re going to find answers. And if you find answers, you can find hope. Thanks again. We’ll be here for your listening again soon.