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When we look in the mirror, who is looking back? Is it someone we like or someone we have grown to dislike? Is it someone weak and defective because of illness? Or is it someone good and decent in spite of it?

Ideally we see ourselves for who we are – with strengths and shortcomings, with abilities and limitations. Ideally, we see someone who has grown to accept and love him- or herself [illness and all].

When I look in the mirror today, who do I see looking back?

Thought for the Day

Accepting my limitations is a sign of health.

I’m grateful today that I am clean and sober. I am grateful that I have learned to take responsibility for my actions. I have learned to own my shortcomings. When I am resentful, I have learned that I need to look at my part. My actions are almost 100% of the time the reason why I am resentful. Learning to take responsibility for my part and learning to own it has helped me become a much happier person. There is no one else to blame. I am responsible for everything in my life. 

When all else fails, read the instructions.

–Agnes Alien

The instructions for recovery are in our Twelve Step program. Yet, there are times when we feel our program isn’t working. At these times, we need to read the instructions.

Have you followed the “instructions,” the wise words found in The Big Book, The Twelve and Twelve, and other recovery literature? When we do, we recover.

It’s hard at times and easy at others. Our problems go deeper than just staying sober. No matter what our problems, our program can help us start fixing them if we follow the instructions. Don’t use alcohol or other drugs. Go to meetings. Talk often with sponsors and program friends. Work the Steps. Think. Easy Does It. First Things First. Listen. Let Go and Let God. One Day at a Time.

Prayer for the Day

Higher Power, tell me which instructions to read today. If I’m headed for trouble, help me out.

Today’s Action

I’ll read the instructions today.

This is such a great reading for me today. Life is so much easier if I just follow instructions. Life is so much easier if I continue to work a program of recovery. When I stay clean and sober, follow the instructions of the Twelve Step Program, and stay connected to guys in the program, life is easy. Life is easy, more fulfilling, more fun, and I never have the desire to drink or do drugs. I love my life today and I don’t ever want to give it up. I know that continue to work a program of recovery and staying connected is the best way to stay clean and sober.

Self-pity in its early stages is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.

–Maya Angelou

Some days we grasp at self-pity like a blanket on a cold night, and we are momentarily comforted. However, extended periods of self-pity will undermine our primary purpose, which is to be at peace with ourselves and others so that we may know freedom from our addictions. Thus our self-pity prevents us from carrying a message of hope to fellow sufferers, that they too can find release from their suffering through the Twelve Steps.

Staying clean and sober are gifts available to all of us when we cultivate gratitude. We can be grateful for this program that has brought manageability and serenity to our life, and that leaves us little room for self-pity, anger, or impatience. Our mind will be willing and open to receive God’s guidance and support when we let go of our self-pity.

Today I will stay free of self-pity so I can receive God’s strength.

Great reading, this is just what I needed this morning. I am so full of gratitude for my life today. I am grateful to be sober, grateful that I am health and fit, grateful for my friends in recovery, and grateful that I have learned that I am powerless over not just alcohol, but also people, places, and things. Anytime I start feeling sorry for myself, I just need to open my eyes and look at other people and their life circumstances. I have plenty of money, clothes on my back, food to eat, and a nice place to live. My problems today are luxury problems. Being in gratitude contributes to my happiness, being present contributes to my happiness, being open and willing contributes to my happiness. Life is definitely not perfect for me. However, I am happier than I have ever been staying away from self-pity leads me to being happy, joyous, and free.

Second Session

Because the group will composed of recently clean and sober adults, it is going to take more than one full session for the level of trust and comfort to be at a place where productive group work will take place (Jacobs, Masson, Harvill, & Schimmel, 2011). During the first part of the second session, the beginning stage will come to an end as the trust and foundation of the group are still being formed. An activity designed for the members to get to know each other individually will be next. The group will break up into dyads, and select a new partner every 10 minutes. Questions asked of each member will include:

  • Why do you want to be clean and sober?
  • What do you expect to get out of the group counseling experience?
  • What is your biggest fear about the group counseling process?
  • What is your level of trust in the group? What is contributing to your trust or mistrust?

During this session, one of the members, John stated: “I am uncomfortable being with groups and I really do not want to be here.”

In response to this statement, this writer herein described as Group Leader stated: “John, tell me more about why you are uncomfortable being with a group?”

John: “I do not know the other members of this group. Why would I want to open up and share with complete strangers?”

Group Leader: “If you got to know the other members of the group, would you feel comfortable being in this group and would you want to be here?”

John: “I guess so.”

Group Leader: “Does anyone else have anything to say to John?”

Jackie: “You and I have had several conversations and I feel comfortable opening up to you. I have learned from you and I think that you are an important member of this group.”

Michelle: “I think that you are an important member of this group and I too am glad that you are here.”

Group Leader: “What do you think about that John?”

John: “Wow, I had no clue. Knowing that other members of the group like me makes me feel more comfortable already.”

It is important here to get John to open up and express how he is feeling and what he is thinking. This will promote group cohesion and trust will start to be established if the facilitator can get him to share (Corey, Corey, & Corey, 2010). Getting other members of the group involved in the discussion helps John see that he is an important part of the group and it makes him feel more comfortable.

Checking in with all of the group members closes the session.

Group Sessions and Phases

In this section of the paper, the writer will describe several group sessions. The first session is the beginning stage of the counseling group and includes an icebreaker exercise. The second session includes a dyad and moves into the working stage. The third and fourth sessions describe check-ins, problems that are uncovered during the check-ins, and rationale for how the problems were addressed. Finally, the transition to closure is described.

First Session

One of the goals of the initial meeting will be further screening of the members. Further screening of group members will include additional assessment of each member’s readiness for the group experience, confirmation that each member wants to stay clean and sober, confirmation that each member is not suicidal, homicidal, or full of rage, and to determine if each member a good “fit” in the group (Berg, Landreth, & Fall, 2013).

The first part of the initial session will be to establish the rules of the group. The rules of the group are as follows:

  1. Attend sessions regularly and be on time. There will be three 3-hour sessions per week. I will be respectful of their time and start and finish on time. My expectation is that the members reciprocate.
  2. Make a commitment to complete sixteen weeks with the group. Sixteen weeks gives the group sufficient time for the group to form cohesion and for trusting relationships to form (Corey, Corey, & Corey, 2010).
  3. Maintain confidentiality. Maintaining confidentiality is imperative to the development of the group. Each member must understand and be on board with the importance of keeping discussions of the group confidential. Discussing what happens in the sessions to other people outside of the sessions is discouraged and talking about group members to non-members is strictly prohibited. This gives members peace of mind and it builds trust amongst the group members (Berg, Landreth, & Fall, 2013).
  4. Listen attentively to other group members. Each member is expected to listen attentively while the focus is on other members of the group.
  5. Be open, honest, and clear when discussing issues. Each member of the group can only expect to get out of the group what he is willing to invest. The group is most likely to develop the strongest if the members of the group are willing to be open, honest, and clear when discussing issues (Berg, Landreth, & Fall, 2013).
  6. Set concrete goals for personal development. The members of the group will see a greater benefit from the group experience if they are actively seeking positive change. Putting goals down on paper dramatically increases the odds of obtaining the desired result (Berg, Landreth, & Fall, 2013).

The ice-breaker activity that will be used is called Two Truths and a Lie. Each member of the group will write down two truths and one lie about themselves. When it is each member’s turn, they will tell the group all three and the group has to guess which one is the lie. This is a fun way to break the ice and for the members of the group to get to know each other. This exercise gives the members the opportunity to start connecting and for trust to start being formed.

It is important for the group leader to understand how the members of the group are feeling at all times. This is the best way for to stay on the same page. Therefore, the members of the group will then be given an opportunity to express their fears and their expectations of the group. The fears and expectations will be addressed appropriately prior to closing the first session.

Selection and Deselection Criteria

The screening questions serve many purposes and are vital to forming an appropriate group. When it comes to the selection of members of a group, “Deselection criteria” is normally emphasized more than selection criteria (Delucia, 2006). The goal of the screening process is to identify group members whose needs and goals line up with the goals of the group (Corey, Corey, & Corey, 2010). Another goal of the screening process is to determine if a particular individual should be included in this particular group at this particular time with this particular group leader (Corey, Corey, & Corey, 2010).

With the goals of the screening process in mind, the writer developed sixteen questions. First, personal information is gathered. Second, the writer wants confirmation that the individual has admitted that he is a substance abuse addict along with his drug of choice(s). Next, the writer wants confirmation that the individual is planning to stay clean and sober. It is important that group members want recovery. If they do not want recovery, then this is not the right group for them at this moment in time. Additionally, does the individual have any mental health conditions? If they do have mental health conditions, which do they have? Mental health disorders are common amongst substance abuse addicts and it will be important for the group facilitator to know what he is dealing with. The group facilitator also needs to know if an individual is suicidal, homicidal, experiences episodes of rage, or has experienced recent trauma. If so, he is probably not a good fit for this group (Corey, Corey, & Corey, 2010). He needs a different level of care than can be provided at the group level. Next, is he in the midst of an extreme crisis? If he is in the midst of an extreme crisis, group counseling is probably not a good fit for him at this very moment in time (Corey, Corey, & Corey, 2010). Next, is he highly paranoid or have an extreme case of anxiety? A person with anxiety or extreme paranoia might not be a good fit for a group-counseling environment (Corey, Corey, & Corey, 2010). The group facilitator will want to know if an individual has been to treatment for his substance condition. If so, which treatment center? How long was he in treatment? And what was his discharge date? This information will tell more about the social class of the individual, what kind of treatment he was provided, and how severe his substance condition is. Is he in a transitional sober living environment or is he planning on moving into a sober living environment? This will tell if he is in a different environment than he was in when he was actively in his addiction. Depending upon which sober living home he is in, the other members of the household will be in recovery, there will be drug testing, and there will be rules and policies, which need to be followed. If a person is in a transitional sober living home, it usually means that he is more willing to go outside of his comfort zone to change his life. Living in a sober living home is an indication that he is taking the next step towards lifelong recovery. Is he willing to commit to sixteen weeks? The individual must commit to at least sixteen weeks with the group. Sixteen weeks is long enough for the members to build trust and for significant behavioral changes to take place (Corey, Corey, & Corey, 2010). The individual must be open, willing, and committed to doing homework when assigned. Work outside of the group is imperative to the group counseling process. Is a person willing to explore difficult issues in his life and is he willing to learn new techniques to handle these situations? This is a gauge of a person’s willingness. Is the individual willing to support other members of the group? This is a group and the members must be supportive of each other to achieve the best possible outcome.

The final step of the screening process will be a one-on-one interview with one of the group counselors. Actually having a conversation with each potential group member is the best way to dig deeper on some of the screening questions, connect, and determine whether or not he might be a good fit for the group.

Group Selection

The group approach to counseling with adults with a substance condition has been proven to be not only cost-effective, but also powerful and successful. The group approach gives members of the group an experience that cannot be replicated by individual counseling. One reason why group counseling is so effective is because of therapeutic forces, like the instillation of hope, altruism, universality, and group cohesiveness. Another reason why group modalities are effective is due to their success in treating conditions that are associated with addiction, like bipolar, depression, and anxiety. (Treatment, 2005

Population and Participant Number

The people considered as members for this group will include adults, male or female, with a substance condition. The only requirement for membership will be that the individuals are over the age of 18 and they have a substance condition. The type of individuals that will be attracted to this group will be of the middle to upper socioeconomic status, above average intelligence, and most will have at least some college education. For an ongoing group, eight members might be ideal. (Corey, Corey, & Corey, 2010). However, because it is an open group and members are welcome to join at anytime, the number of people in the group will range from six to ten at any given time.

Today’s thought from Hazelden is:

 

I feel good about myself since I started taking care of my body. It’s the home that goes with me each day of my life.

–Bill L. – Age 17

 

When we were using, we often neglected our bodies and personal hygiene. We may have also stopped getting regular medical and dental care. It seemed that the ups and downs of a user’s life left us with little energy for personal care.

 

Today we are surprised at how much joy we get out of smelling good and dressing with care. Many of us are developing our own personal style.

 

At first, we might need to force ourselves to call for regular checkups, but the feeling of wellness we get from being responsible for our bodies outweighs our old fears.

 

Today let me love myself enough to care about my physical health and appearance.

 

Notes on today’s thought from Hazelden:

 

I’m so grateful for my sobriety today. Prior to getting sober, I did not take the time to take care of myself. There were always things that were more important. Today, taking care of myself is a priority. I know that I have to love myself before I can love others. I exercise pretty much everyday, I eat healthy every day, I pray and meditate every day, and I get enough sleep pretty much every day. I’m definitely not perfect. However, when it comes down to it, I’m pretty good to myself. I go to the dentist every six months to have my teeth cleaned and to have a regular check-up. I go to the doctor once per year for an annual check up. Prior to getting sober, these regular check-ups weren’t important. Being good to myself allows me to be an example to others. It also gives me the time and energy to be of service to others. Staying physically fit, exercising, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep all contribute to my well-being. Loving myself also attracts other people into my life that love themselves. I’m grateful for my life in sobriety today.