Everywhere you go there are tips for a sober happy holiday, usually in the form of an article, a meme, or social media post. Today Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC and David Livingston, LMFT answer questions about the deeper principles of having a healthy and healing holiday, especially when dealing with issues of substance dependence, including expectations related to happiness.
Episode 14: Tips for a Healthy Holiday (NOT Your Typical Advice)
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Do you all remember that classic Christmas movie, A Christmas Story, where we get to see a little boy named Ralphie actively pursuing a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas? He’s grown up in the 1940s or possibly 50s. I didn’t research that part.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: The whole point is this. As I watched that movie this year, I found myself identifying with Ralph, the curmudgeonly old dad. Now, whatever that says about me. There’s this one scene where Ralph, his dad, emerges from the basement with black smoke billowing behind him as he has been accustomed to fussing and fighting with the furnace downstairs. We also get to see him proudly replace fuzes, quickly trying to quickly change the tire on the car. It’s a classic moment. And all of these things that go along with a person in the 1940s and 50s trying to make things work because even when they worked, they were kind of broken. When you compare them with some of the things today, even when the furnace worked, you were probably kind of colder than you are today. With the internal heating we have, I can adjust the heating on an app on my phone in my home and make it to the very much to the comfort level we would like to have. I’ll tell you in a second where that factors in for today’s show. Today we’re going to be talking about the holidays and more specifically, sobriety and treatment and maintaining health throughout the holidays.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Now we live in a list based culture that often lists these exact things and every website and every newspaper. And they like to post something about being mentally and psychologically healthy for the holidays. Because of that, we’re going a little bit deeper and trying to talk about some of the internal and underlying motivations and things that kind of help. The holidays is a very stressful time. And one of the stresses is the pressure to have joy, to enjoy and for everything to kind of be good all the time. So just like Ralph’s family and all the people back then, everything isn’t good all the time and it isn’t comfortable at the time, even when a lot of things are working and trying to have some kind of balance of that is really what we’re going to be talking about. So let’s join the conversation as we are beginning about what is going to be helpful this particular year. Claire, what do you think about this topic of the holidays? Where should we start out?
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Everybody talks about it every year. I think especially this year is a very critical time for many people.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: I think that’s a great point. And that’s what maybe we should start by getting into that of what is going on this year. I mean, everything bad has increased. Maybe not everything, but drug abuse, alcohol use, domestic violence, a lot of those things. And then also just the fear of withdrawals. There’s a lot of things that are kind of different this holiday, I think.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: The other years, you know, we talk about unrealistic expectations about the year to come find any financial difficulties, you know, due to the time of the year, loneliness, if there is an addiction issues and not being with, you know, the ones you love or the expectation of what’s going to be when I get together with the family, a lot of the stressors that the holiday season already brings, I think this year, especially 2020, you can multiply by 100 hundred because…
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: It’s amplified. Yeah.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: The unrealistic expectations really became no expectations. We have no idea what’s coming, you know.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Exactly. I have a neighbor who every year in the neighborhood and they ask everybody instead of doing like neighborhood gifts have dropped off of treats and things, they say, come, come, give us canned food. They do food, food, bank run every year. It’s their tradition. And then you just put a little thing up on your door that says, please don’t give me a gift, take this to the Sonsoles’ instead. And it’s a great tradition. One of the things that was up this year is there’s a 300 percent increase in need at food banks. They’re reporting. And these are only mean any food bank will tell you they’re only supplemental. Right. They are not able to feed all of the need that’s there. And so that right there, there’s a lot of desperation and fear that that will cause.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: And I think the biggest fear is not knowing when this is going to turn around, not having, you know, some perspective of what’s going to happen to all of us and what the new normal is going to be, so it’s I think is the unknown is what’s causing most people, you know, hopelessness and desperation. Hmm.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Yeah, and those drive at the same time, they both drive the need, the feel of the need for addiction and dependence. They fuel the use of the substances and make people, you know, go out and get them more and then there’s more risk and at the same time, less resources. And so when addiction will pull, I mean, traditionally people who get sober, it’s one of their big regrets a lot of times is I spent so much time and money procuring and making it happen so that I could be high so that I can be altered. I think this time, especially when the resources are already so low, that you see people react very odd ways to that.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Yeah, fortunately, I think that most people that are dealing with addiction, they do suffer from compulsive behaviors because they have unhealthy ways of coping. They have what’s distressed and they don’t have the mechanisms to deal with, you know, distressful or unwanted feelings. So being in the place we are right now and feeling the responsibility of being joyful in the holidays, it’s hard. It’s hard because, you know, you see the lights and you feel like you should be feeling one way and it makes you feel exactly the opposite. So it’s for those that used to have the holiday blues. I think now they have the holiday desperation, you know.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Yeah. Does that? There’s nothing that feels so bad that shame can’t make it feel even worse. Right?
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Correct.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: I’m ashamed that I don’t feel joy, you know, and I’m ashamed. I don’t I can’t get into the spirit of the season. And then that makes it feel even more obligatory and feel worse.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Yeah, and but I feel there is a lack of positive messages out there, I feel especially social media. The media has grown to be, you know, our source of hopelessness, our source of anger, our source of negativeness through our lives. And I think that has to change. We have so many ways to get to people and help, not change, but help how they are feeling. You know, as much as we can see everything dark because a lot of bad things has happened this year. And I think it has happened in a lot of ways.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: That is not just the virus itself. I think the virus aggravated people’s health, people’s mental health, physical health. You know, a lot of people passed for a number of different reasons. I think a lot of people suffered financial ruin. And with that hit, we made it! The ones they’re here right now and they’re listening to us – they made it. And more than ever, more than ever, being in control of your physical health and even your mental health, being able to have options to change that. It’s a gift that we have been given. We need to change the message. We need to stop with the anger, with feeling down, feeling victims, feeling powerless. I think we need to feel blessed and grateful in spite of a horrible year.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: It’s interesting how when we talk about how social media and the websites we go to write, there’s algorithms that will target what we look at and give us more of what it thinks we want. And everybody always talks about that in terms of a political point of view, that everyone’s in their bubble, left-wing, right-wing, whatever. And I don’t hear as many people talking about what if I’m, you know, not only concerned one way or the other, what if I’m scared? What if I’m sad and I’m reading things about how scared and how sad I should be? That’s going to feed me more of that. Right. And I think the flip side of that is we don’t think about kind of how to manipulate that the other way and say, if I can find things inspiring to me, it will the algorithms will try to feed me more of that, too. But, you know, we don’t think about it that way. We just usually talk about it politically.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: I think we don’t recognize that. But people are longing for it.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: As you put it, the kind of the how to deal with the holidays. People talk about that every year, but I think already we hit one that’s kind of always there, which is feel how you feel, give yourself permission to feel down. It’s OK however you feel is alright. And the other one is maybe more specific or even more important is try to watch what you’re feeding yourself, media-wise, what are you ingesting kind of fear and anger and staying more away from those things that are that can be right in our face. It sounds like those are two things that that would help.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: And I would ask David on that one, I think to, you know, be able to feel whatever you’re feeling is great. I think we all have the right to do so, but we have to be careful. And to the extent we’re going to allow us to feel sad, feel depressed, how productive is to stay in that mode instead of looking for other things to make you feel at least a little better for even a short amount of time during the day, if that is walking around the block in the sun and looking at the trees just to get out of that negative mode that is truly everywhere right now.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: I mean, just by looking at people’s masks all around you, that’s depressing enough is a reminder of how life has become, you know, how in constant danger we are. Again, we need to impose is the wrong word. We need to surround ourselves with some things that will uplift. And I think not just for our mental well-being, but this is taking such a toll physically on people. You know, more and more I keep reading studies of things that had happened to people that were healthy, people that did not have major medical issues and how they decline through this year if they survived it. All that stress is affecting people. Not just mentally, but their whole being is being affected.
David Livingston, LMFT: I’m somewhat hopeful, I think partly because at least thus far, it seems like there’s vaccines that are coming out that are going to, you know, in the next six months, maybe make a real difference. And so there’s a potential for a recovery that seems at this point to me real. And I feel hopeful about that. That said, I know it’s been incredibly hard on a lot of people and so many ways I’ve seen it. It’s really been a hard year on a lot of people. You know, one of the things that I don’t like about the media, and it’s a subtle message that I see, is that no matter which side of the aisle that you’re on or whatever, if there’s a constant message cause which is sort of like it shouldn’t be this way. I like the book that was written years ago by Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled. He starts it off by saying, life is hard. We should start by looking at that, not as a place to feel down, but as a place to square up to kind of the reality that life’s hard. It’s also joyful. But if we move from a place internally where this isn’t necessarily easy and actually gets easier, and I think the message that gets put out there constantly is that life shouldn’t be hard, but it always has been and it always will be. And I can tell you the feeling that somebody’s always got it better will destroy you quicker than anything. It’s probably the greatest thief of joy I know is this feeling of comparison and it’s just indicative and the messaging that’s out there. So I don’t like that. I think it’s good to sort of know that.
David Livingston, LMFT: And then you have to create a vision for yourself. You have to have some imagination, even if it’s just step-by-step, even if it’s just figuring out who you want to be, spend more time with, or if there’s a family member who makes you feel good or if there’s something you can do for someone else or whatever it is. Even if it’s just a vision, just even if it’s just starts small, that begins to sort of move you forward again. You know, I think incrementally it helps a lot just being able to have small things that you can identify that move things forward that are meaningful to you. Just that amount of imagination itself begins to help people, I think feel better.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: I greatly agree. And that’s what I was saying, is it’s truly finding tiny things to be grateful for, look forward to, even if it’s in very, very short amounts throughout the day. I think it’s incredibly important.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Along with that pressure that you mentioned, the pressure to be happy and super joyous. I think that that contributes to kind of an all or nothing thinking. And you know what we’re saying there, I I was like, you always point this out, David, that, you know, if we do something, it’s going to make us feel better than doing nothing. But it may not make us feel all the way better. But that’s not the criteria. The criteria is if I can find something to do and something that will impact it. But I think we get into that all or nothing, thinking I’m supposed to be happy, but I’m not happy. So therefore it’s done and I’m just not happy.
David Livingston, LMFT: Even though our feelings are valid, they’re not always true. Right. And the idea that happiness is a criteria, that’s the messaging that bothers me so much is that, you know, that’s what addiction is. In part, it’s a search for happiness. There is no such thing as happiness for anybody all the time ever. I don’t care if people are honest. It’s just a moving state. People are sad. They’re they’re frustrated. They’re they feel some joy. They feel they see something that makes them laugh. It’s just this moving process, this idea of achieving a state of happiness that will drive addiction. Right. Because there’s this feeling that you’re not somewhere you’re supposed to be right and that that comparison itself is a form of suffering. And so I think you have to start by realistic understanding of what it means to be a human being that everybody’s suffering. And comparing your suffering to others doesn’t really help anybody. And but within that, we can really create and imagine, you know, and I’m probably like a broken record here.
David Livingston, LMFT: But one of the things that I have seen over decades of treating addiction and other people that that are struggling in all kinds of ways has nothing to do with addiction, is that you will see people get better, is there, as they can imagine? I mean, I don’t mean like as a slight fantasy or something. I mean, truly have a vision of themselves in which they’re willing to work for when that vision and that ability and desire to work towards something starts to take hold. You will see things in people’s lives get better. Right. So Einstein said it right. If you want to see where people are headed, if you want, you know, look at their imagination. It’s what we see in our detox. People would begin to imagine their selves with a different life. They pick up the phone and call us and all of a sudden they’re sitting there. And I could tell you, the people who that imagination has taken hold, who are sitting in front of me and we’re doing a session, I can feel it. They don’t want to talk about the addiction so much as they want to talk about the way forward in their life.
David Livingston, LMFT: And I think it’s critical and it’s one of the most underestimated aspects of people getting better, whether it’s with addiction or otherwise.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Yeah, I love that idea of that vision. The to hold that in and it almost flips. It’s almost like you’re talking about in a way to stop the comparison. But flipping that in a way to also look and say that, that I’m doing a comparison with where I’d like to be with myself and believing that that vision can be met. Does that make sense?
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Yeah, well, we have to be careful to of the comparison nowadays, I think, you know, the new world with Internet, I think when the three of us grew up, the comparison and the expectations were quite more realistic than they are for this new generation, for the generation of our children, because they have an instant world to compare to where when we had, you know, our country, now they have the world, the things that we tried to achieve, we looked at our surroundings and now their surroundings have expanded. And I think a lot of people that we see that become, you know, they feel like failures is because, again, their expectations are based in on unrealistic views of what happiness is that, you know, the Internet and social media gives to them. And I keep bringing back the Internet and social media because that’s where they live most of the time.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: It is in many ways integrated with a lot of the things of our lives as well, depending on what we do and how we do it. It’s often right there.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Correct? Correct.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: What ideas, what ideas do we have about how people shift away from that, that adjustment of expectations or that, you know, trying to embrace a different point of view. What are some ways that work to do that?
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: If you’re asking me, I truly believe is having the right values. A lot of families lost the view of what life is, what family is, what being part of the productive society. And having your responsibility to add something to it is I think instead of feeling good, everybody wants to feel good all the time. You know, everybody is worried about, you know, your emotions and what they can do. And David just, you know, mentioned that about feeling good or feeling good enough.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: I wonder if there’s a better even term to use or better word to use when we talk about seeking happiness, because like you say, it’s not a fixed state. So when we say more like seeking health or seeking balance or, you know, some other kind of tweaking that goal a little to where it’s more realistic?
David Livingston, LMFT: How about how about the understanding sort of, you know, the things that lead to happiness? Ok, so I heard someone define this once and I thought it was pretty good. It was when there’s a cessation of pain, an increase in energy and when we serve each other, I thought that was a really good description of happiness. Imagine if that was a criteria because it has to do with self-care. It has to do with interactions in which we move from a place of wanting to give something to someone else and contribute. It reframes the whole idea that we’re waiting for this state of mind to be brought to us, that we’re just somehow being deprived of, which is a very, very it’s it’s not a healthy place, you know. And by the way, you don’t even have to worry about that. It’s innate that we want to feel good anyway. So it’s probably the most innate thing there is in our own feelings and distress will inform us. We don’t have to pursue it. We’ll know. But what we need to understand is the conditions that allow for people to thrive and that happiness comes and goes. But the ability to understand kind of what makes us feel better, that that matters. And so I, I just it’s more how I look at it.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: It’s more of a management ongoing. And I like when you touch on that with number one, there’s those expectations of what am I really searching for. It’s not a constant state. It’s a fluid state. But I like the a lot of the things you mentioned are things that also contribute to a deeper sense of satisfaction, like if I’m doing for people and I feel that I am attached to them and helping them. And that’s a form of happiness. Right. Is the satisfying feeling of like I’m doing the things that I can do.
David Livingston, LMFT: And look, if it’s a good relationship and look, you need to get something back in return, you’re not talking about just a situation which you’re only giving that’s not good for anyone either. But they are. But the idea. Right. And, you know, imagine if we had a world that was oriented towards taking care of each other. I mean, imagine that compared to an orange or a world-oriented towards, you know, figuring out how we can get what we need and add, but rather we were a little bit more oriented towards just figuring out how to help one another. And I think it exists more. You know, I think it exists I think it’s actually the fabric that holds our society together from families on down. But yeah, I think, you know, and I think what people orient themselves towards that. I mean, well, ultimately needs drive everything if you think about it needs drive the whole world. Right. So if you’re meeting people’s needs, you will your value will begin and your life will expand.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Hmm, I like that idea of the expansion that you’re talking about also because to me into my mind, that expansion includes all kinds of things. And I know I’m a big acceptance guy, so I was talking about feelings. But there’s also the idea of trying to accept and working towards acceptance of both feelings and events to say, hey, what happens in my life happens. And then when there’s that acceptance of what is whether or not I don’t have to like all of it and not all it needs to make me happy. In fact, it won’t. And embracing the idea that I can accept all things and then therefore they might be more tolerable or workable.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Today, we do need to finish with a positive message out there. David spoke about the vaccine. I think it is so important for us to realize that what has happened with this vaccine that started production as soon as the disease was found is incredible. I think that we have a solution is unheard of. You know, a lot of different societies had to survive through pandemics without ever finding a vaccine or a solution or a cure or anything that helped them. And they had to live through it again, looking at blessings or good things around us that we are lucky enough to have to be able to live through. And this is one of them, I think is a positive thing that we should hold on to. So I agree with David. I think in two, three, four months from now, we are going to be in the other side of this craziness and we have to be strong and positive to, you know, rebuild or restart or continue or wherever we are. We’re going to need to proceed. And the most important thing to look at is that we’re here, know we have the option. We have been given the opportunity to be here and do that. A lot of people have not.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: I like the focus that you mentioned because we’re really talking about a sense of hope and also a sense of even deeper than that, looking for the opportunities that we have, I think. Have you mentioned that if we’re here, then we have an opportunity, right? We can do something.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Correct.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: I think that sometimes being through and going through crises does present opportunities. It sometimes on a good day we see them and on a great day we pursue them on a bad day we just think everything’s terrible. And I one, once again, we have those moments. We have to have those terrible moments. But they lead hopefully to a moment of some hope for a resolution or even some resolution to say I’m making goals and making plans. Having gone through some of this period of the struggles of being at home and trying to mitigate withdrawals or dependence or talking to a doctor or picking up the phone or doing Zoom sessions with a counselor or even going to whatever it is, I think sometimes the crisis can drive a feeling of it’s time for me to go into some form of recovery. It’s time for me to go into some treatment. And hopefully we see that with people.
David Livingston, LMFT: You know, I think people are tough and resilient overall, and I think it’s important to remember that you’re tough and you’re resilient and that you’re going to approach life with that perspective. And and then and then if you need help, get help that people… I get asked at times, what’s the single most? What do I do, what I want to get if I want to get better and what do I do, what I do? And, you know, I go through the four basic things that I say keep people, all of us healthy, which is good sleep, exercise, good enough nutrition and good experiences with people. Those are the foremost regulating processes that there are. OK, so if you do those four things in your life, you will be right. So those are the critical aspects of life, right? Good sleep, exercise, nutrition and good experiences with people, OK. And then beyond that, beyond that, there’s got to be some, you know, vision of what’s meaningful to you and what you want in your life and, you know, and then you work towards it. So. So I feel hopeful. I think we could. I think that’s an achievable thing for for for all of us, you know. I mean, I know some people have poor health or this or that, so maybe I’m overstating it. But, you know, for the most part…
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Yeah, within the bounds of the reality that we have. Right. Is trying to do those things as much as we can. And that’s the idea, too, is that pressure isn’t to say let me nail all those things perfectly well. You know, if I have a chronic medical condition, how I fulfill those things is going to look different. But the fact that I can believe in myself, that I still can do something in those areas, I think those are great areas to focus on.
Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: I think believing in yourself, I think what David just spoke about, being resilient. People underestimate who they are and what they are capable of. I think we have to understand that life is full of challenges in a while. Sometimes we can’t avoid the issues that we are confronted with. We have to remain flexible and we have to be willing to adapt. We are very, very resilient, especially people that have suffered from addiction, often trauma and often challenges that maybe were not there or not expected. But they made it. Did they use the right coping skills? Probably not. Was what they were able to use or know at that moment to survive. This is just another challenge that we’re going to just do the best we can, you know, improve our lives on basic things that will give us the strength to reach a goal.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Thank you so much for joining us again. The Waismann Method podcast is, of course, a production of the Waismann Method® Center for Rapid Detoxification and of Popped Collar Productions, where we help you to set up your podcast.
Dwight Hurst, CMHC: You can learn more about the Waismann Method at opiates.com or you can call 1-800-423-2482. Our music for today’s episode, as always, is the song Medical by Clean Mind Sounds, as was expressed in the episode today we certainly hope your holidays will be full of health and happiness and an appropriate balance of all those different emotions, even if things are hard. I hope that you’ll join us again soon and you’ll do all the things you can to learn and to increase the health that you can have not only throughout this season and throughout this next year, but just in your life because you deserve it. The show is cohosted, of course, by myself, Clare Waismann and David Livingston. Until next time, make sure to continue to ask questions, because if you can find questions, you can find answers. And whenever you find answers, you can find hope. All the best. Bye for now.
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