A Poem by Natalie Hope Mosqueda
Age 1 – The world is my oyster and I am here to eat it.
3 – I want to be a pumpkin cleaner, but only the insides, because the outsides are gross.
6 – I have all the art I made that year and I am so proud. I am an artist. But it is raining and mommy doesn’t come to pick me up. By the time I make it home to find her passed out on the couch, my art is ruined. And I am nothing.
7 – The car broke down before we even made it out of Oregon. Even the car knows leaving is a bad idea.
8 – The teachers tell me I am special. But, the other kids tell me it’s not the special I think it means. I twirl my ABC’s in a plate of sugar. It is so sweet. Yet, I am in the 3rd grade and still get lost by the time I make it to the letter E.
10 – I feel sad. And not the kind of sad where your best friend doesn’t text you back. I am the kind of sad where getting out of bed feels like you are jumping out of plane knowing you do not have your parachute.
12 – I get a suitcase. This suitcase is not for happy family vacations. This suitcase is to lug my life from one side of the planet to another. But in reality, we are going five minutes down the road. I love you mom, I will see you next week.
13 – The drugs are not working, the alcohols not working, nothing is working. I will see you next time you come to visit me in these sterile white walls.
15 – They say a closet drinker is someone who drinks alone, but I am literally drinking in a closet.
16 – I am greeted by an empty room. Where is my bed? Where are my clothes? Where is my life going? The bathtub fills with blood. And instead of seeing the face of God, I see the back seat of a cop car.
16 – I have a breakdown in front of the school. I will see you next time you come to visit me in these sterile white walls.
16 – I begin to pick up pieces of my life from the rubble and put them together like a jigsaw puzzle.
16 – I want to be a pumpkin cleaner. But only the insides, because the outsides can be primped and pressed and the inside is where the real work happens.
My story doesn’t end at 16. At 16 I was broken, alone, and afraid. And my parents were also broken, alone, and afraid. I was shipped off to rehab for 4 months, and when I came home it became a game of what will Natalie do next. I was going to 12-step meetings with people double my age, and couldn’t relate. Everyone was getting married, and I was just trying to finish high school. A girl told me about Rise Recovery, so I went and checked it out. The first thing I noticed was kids my age full of hope, full of love, and full of recovery. I took this program and ran with it. I quickly became a volunteer, a college student, and a productive member of society. Thanks to Rise Recovery, I am 21 years old and celebrating 5 years of sobriety.
By Evita Morin
Rise Recovery joined Mayor Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Wolff at the first meeting of Bexar County/San Antonio’s Opioid Task Force. The task force brings together public health experts, medical and pharmaceutical professionals, first responders, policymakers, educators and social service agencies. Texas is currently in the top 5 states for the total number of opioid related deaths. Texas has the 2nd highest opioid abuse related health care costs totally over $1.9 billion. Opioid-related overdose deaths in Bexar County exceed the national average. Texas heroin use is 2 to 4 times the national rate in teens. Texas has seen a 60% increase over 5 years of newborns dependent on opioids experiencing withdrawal symptoms. 1/3 of Texas newborns suffering from opioid withdrawal are in Bexar County. As a member of the task force, Rise Recovery is committed to helping develop strategic actions that address the national rise in opioid overdose and newborns dependent on opioids locally.
By Michelli Ramon
Self-care is a good thing, there’s no arguing that. But like many good things, the spirit of its intent is sometimes warped by unrealistic expectations and our tendencies to perfect and compare. In my own life, self-care began to feel like one more thing I couldn’t get to and anytime anyone asked me about my self-care regiment I would shrink from fear of judgment. Recently, a new perspective has occurred to me – a way of thinking about self-care that is radically different from the way I’d been thinking about it. The truth for me has become this – self-care is not something I must do every day, it’s something I can believe in. It is a state of mind and faith in a Higher Power that is set up to support me whether I have time for it or now. I offer you these 10 tips for deepening your everyday self-care frame of mind.
10. Stop beating yourself up about not doing self-care.
9. Think of self-care as a mindset, rather than something you have to do.
8. Make a decision to believe in a Universe that is set up to support you.
7. Accept small moments as self-care gifts from your Higher Power.
6. Smile at a stranger.
5. Take a longer than normal shower.
4. Get a car wash.
3. Have dessert.
2. Ask someone to pray for you.
1. Rock out to your favorite song in the car.
The holiday season is full of celebrations – and in many cases indulgences of food and alcohol – especially on New Year’s Eve. But, for many people in early recovery, those occasions present temptations that can derail progress.
While avoiding parties with alcohol and drugs is a smart choice for those in early recovery, it is not good for them to spend the evening alone. The holiday season brings on depression for many people and staying home alone on New Year’s Eve can make it even worse or lead to a relapse.
If you want to help those in recovery, reach out to provide support and companionship during the holiday week. Many teen girls and young women would enjoy going out to a coffee shop where you could talk about what they are grateful for and their hopes and dreams for the future. Young men might prefer doing something active like going on a hike or to a skate board park.
For families in recovery, set aside some time to talk about creating new substance-free traditions and come up with a plan to do something fun on New Year’s Eve and meaningful on New Year’s Day like a service work. Many charities need volunteers on the holidays. Homeless people need to eat, dog kennels need to be cleaned and babies need to be rocked so you can take this on as a new tradition. Doing so will help everyone gain a stronger sense of purpose.
If you are the one in recovery and are alone, don’t wait for someone to invite you somewhere. Do some research and develop a plan for how you are going to spend the evening substance free.
Whether you are in recovery or want to support your loved ones, here are four substance-free ideas for all ages to make New Year’s celebrations positive and encouraging.
- Host a substance-free event for those in recovery or just for your family. Talk with your family about what would make it a fun evening. Some may like playing games. Others might prefer to watch a movie with popcorn and their favorite candy. Top the evening off by toasting with non-alcoholic beverages such as grape juice and ginger ale or Cranberry Sprite.
- Attend a fireworks show. Amusement parks such as Seaworld and Fiesta Texas host fireworks shows to bring in the new year.
- Go to a midnight mass or prayer vigil. For those who are serious about starting the year out on a good foot, attending a church service can be very grounding and meaningful.
- Last and probably the most fun in our opinion, hang out at your local recovery center. Many recovery centers offer daily meetings and a special party on New Year’s Eve. The Rise Recovery New Year’s Eve Hoopla is open to the entire family and guarantees lots of laughter without the hangover.
We hope these ideas help you and your loved ones start the new year with no regret and a victorious high that lasts all year long.
By George Block
Every coach who wants to build a winning culture knows that getting life lessons right is the foundation for getting the next thing in practice right. In sports – and in business, science, politics, you name it – culture eats strategy for lunch. Some of the best coaching tools for building team culture and teaching life lessons are the 12 Steps of Recovery.
The life lessons coaches teach go far beyond these steps, but the wisdom in these steps are wonderful tools that every young person should have in their life’s tool box. They may also be especially applicable to adolescence. A coach’s interpretation might look like this.
Step 1: I admitted that I am powerless and my life has become unmanageable. This is the situation when many adolescents come in to your office or ask to talk after practice. They feel out of control. They are overwhelmed by the multiple demands and pressures put on them.
Simply admitting that is both painful and powerful for a young person. They are so busy fighting for power and independence that admitting they are powerless and out of control names the problem and frees them to look at it dispassionately.
Step 2: I came to believe that a Power greater than me could restore me to sanity. Every coach plays Copernicus at some point. Copernicus challenged the theory that the universe revolved around the earth and showed that the earth (and her sister planets) revolved around the sun.
One of the definitions of adolescence is that their entire world revolves around them. It falls upon coaches to disabuse them of this notion. We point out that the universe does not in fact revolve around them.
Step 3: I made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God, as I understood Him. Teens can be incredibly willful – much like 2-year olds. It is a part of their drive to control what can’t be controlled. The 12 Steps ask its adherents to turn their lives over to God, but before a young person can do that, they may have to experience giving up control in small parts of their lives.
Surrender is a scary and powerful experience. It is the foundational risk of falling in love. It is also the foundational risk of real mastery in any discipline – sports, music, the arts, the martial arts, dance, the sciences, spirituality. We must surrender ourselves to a trusted master. We must give that master control over that part of our lives. Once a child learns the daring free-fall of surrender to mastery, the adult can experience the much greater surrenders of real love and spirituality.
Step 4: I made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself. There is a saying among swimming coaches that the swimmer swims the way they live. When their young lives are a mess, their training and competitions are a mess. When their lives are well ordered, so is their training and competition.
The great Olympic coach, Mark Schubert, once told me that he never coached an Olympic Gold Medalist who didn’t have a great training partner. Even the ultimate individual sport requires a great teammate and you can’t have a great teammate without being one.
Step 5: I admitted to God, myself and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. These were some of the most powerful, draining and often surprising days in my coaching career. An athlete would come in to my office, shut the door and “unburden” him or herself.
I was never ready for this “confessional” role, but I realized the strength and courage that athlete was demonstrating and the incredible trust that was being placed in me. I was that other human being.
Often kids think that they have to be perfect in order to be good. As coaches, our role is to explain the power of “Oops, I’m sorry,” because none of us is perfect or even close. The best we can hope for is to become excellent apologizers.
Steps 6 & 7: I was ready to have God remove these defects of character and I humbly asked Him to remove these shortcomings. Humility is one of the greatest gifts a young person can receive. It transforms that person in to a magnet for those around him or her and allows that young person to become a leader.
The flaws we see when we look deeply in to ourselves are just as important as the talents (gifts) that the young athlete is nurturing. Our gifts can make us great, but our flaws can keep us humble and there can be no greatness without humility.
Coaches teach young athletes that they have the tools they need to nurture their (God-given) garden, constantly pruning the weeds and fertilizing their gifts. Both have to be done constantly. Strengths and humility have to be cultivated side-by-side.
Steps 8 & 9: I made a list of all the people I had harmed and made direct amends to them all, if possible. Fortunately, at this age the damages done can also be undone relatively simply. One of the most common forms of adolescent damage is gossip – “badmouthing” my swimmers used to call it.
Gossip – locker room talk – is one of the most damaging things that can take place inside ANY organization: a business, a family, or a team. Gossip can kill a team.
Since the gossip was usually done in a group, the amends must be made in a group. All the teammates who heard the gossip must hear both the truth and the apology. I can’t remember a time when a teammate publicly apologized for “badmouthing” that another teammate didn’t join him or her in an additional, unsolicited, apology. Confession – and forgiveness – became contagious.
Teammates learned that it is a good thing to talk TO people, just never ABOUT them.
Step 10: I developed the discipline of continual personal inventory and when I was wrong, I quickly apologized. This was perhaps the most interesting and difficult step for most adolescents. Where they (and I) were most frequently “wrong” was when our teammates were trying to redirect us to the better path.
Learning to say “Thank you” when being redirected was difficult. Defensiveness and confrontation were often the first instincts. Our egos needed protection. We had to learn to say “I’m sorry,” before we could learn to say “Thank you.”
Step 11: I sought through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God, as I understood Him, praying only for understanding and the strength to act on that understanding. The faith traditions of the kids I coached mirrored San Antonio: nearly every Christian denomination, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics and atheists. What they all seemed to have in common was a belief in some creative power. They shared a sense of “createdness.”
This allowed them to see their athletic, academic and artistic talents as gifts that they had an obligation to nurture. They weren’t given great intellects just to sit in front of a TV. They weren’t given physical gifts to waste them with skipped practices or minimal efforts. They all sensed a sacred obligation to maximize their gifts. That was often a difficult burden. They frequently wished they hadn’t been so “blessed.”
Step 12: Having had this awakening as a result of these steps, I tried to carry this message to my teammates and to use these principles in everything I do. Leadership. Isn’t that what we are all trying to teach our kids? No team (or business, or nation) can be better than its leaders. Our teams live and die on locker room leadership. Step 12 is taking leadership and turning it in to culture.
As soon as your team leaders take their leadership outside the pool, field or court, in to their daily lives, your team culture is being built and strengthened. Every independent action that team members take, outside the athletic environment, builds culture.
The 12 Step process is the most demanding and successful addiction recovery process in history, but it could be so much more. It’s time to free the 12 Steps from the confines of addiction recovery and teach kids how to use these powerful principles in their daily lives.
By Trish Frye
Seems these days I hear a lot about stress. Given that recovery is always a stressful time, it is important to pay special attention to stress levels and be mindful of the way we are managing them. Dr. Kevin McCauley states that “the primary cause of addiction is chronic and severe stress that changes the mid-brain. This sort of stress becomes a threat and the brain searches for relief by seeking out pleasure.” Dr. Robert Dupont points out that “the most profound effect of dependence producing drugs is pleasure. Any substance that produces pleasure can produce dependency.” Stress is our body’s way of responding to demands. It can be caused by both good and bad situations and not all stress is bad. When we feel stress, our bodies produce a combination of cortisol and adrenalin. These stress hormones help to give us more energy and strength, which helps if we are in danger or need to feel better. However, if we are in emotional stress and have no way of releasing it, this energy can become bothersome and cause other issues i.e., lowered immunity system, high blood pressure, cancer, poor memory, headaches, anxiety, behavioral issues and substance abuse to name a few. Essentially if not dealt with, stress will cause stress…and left unattended can trigger relapse or a transgression into old behaviors and survival skills. A recent study conducted by Rajita Sinha, director of the Yale Stress Center in New Haven, CT. found that the odds of relapse increase two-and-a-half times in people who had elevated levels of stress hormones.
So how do we cope with stress in recovery? STOP! This is an acronym I created as a reminder of some very important life and stress management tools:
S—STEPS : In the 12 Step program the first Step asks me to identify my limits… essentially to recognize what I can and cannot change. Often just recognizing the situation for what it is and knowing we are powerless helps to bring relief; accepting powerlessness is not shirking responsibility. Accepting powerlessness allows us to respond to our circumstances rather than react, and in response, we are able to take action while letting go of the results. The Steps can be applied to any situation as a way to cope. They are not exclusive to addiction. In PDAP the program titles their modified 12 Steps as “The 12 Steps to Life Love and Happiness”. The first Step of admitting powerlessness opens the door to accessing solution.
T—TODAY: This concept is about doing the next right thing, right now and not worrying about the future. Doing the best we can today with what we have rather than becoming overwhelmed with what HAS to get done or “WHAT IF.” Staying in the now helps us to not pile on anxiety in an already stressful circumstance. “Just for right now I can do the next right thing.”
O—OPPOSITE: Generally when stressed out, if we can stop and scan ourselves we will find that we are running on an “internal autobahn.” Our thinking is rushed and overwhelmed, our bodies are tense and we are holding our breath to a degree (shallow breathing). I do the opposite. I STOP and take a breath. Allow my mind to pause. Roll my shoulders and neck. Loosen my grip and then breathe. Take three deep cleansing breaths; am mindful and purposeful in these breaths. I slowly breathe in through my nose and blow out my mouth. If my brain does not think it is getting enough oxygen, stress hormone is released. It is amazing what happens when blood oxygen levels go up! Heart rates slow down and our minds begin to clear. I repeat my stress-releasing exercises again, if necessary. After all, if anything is going to get better “breathing is required.”
P—PRACTICE and PATIENCE: In any circumstance change is almost always uncomfortable. Habitually we will want to fall back and rely on the same old coping skills (which probably don’t work anymore). Creating new habits of working the steps, living in the now and being in our bodies rather than in our problems will take time. In the program we say “progress not perfection,” so I don’t get stressed out if this new way of stress free living doesn’t come quickly. In active addiction, we live a life that is about “feel good now” but in recovery we exchange short-term pain for long-term happiness. Stress and anxiety are inevitable parts of life; it is possible, however, to avoid relapse and enhance life utilizing the tools of recovery. Anyone can quit using drugs (or sex or gambling or control etc.) for a period of time. It is learning to live that way – life on life’s terms, that matters. In recovery we can do just that, while experiencing a reasonable level of happiness, joy and freedom…without consequences.