There’s no pretty way to say it, Tia kicked my butt in yoga last week. She’s the owner of the studio I’ve belonged to for a long time, and I try to get to several classes a week. Hers is a core class, and she’s got a reputation for teaching beautifully choreographed classes that can be challenging.

So while I was holding a Bird Dog pose (look it up), I had ample opportunity to observe my thoughts while simultaneously practicing deep ujjayi breathing. (Again, look it up).

“I’m too old for this.”
“Has she even tried to do this herself?”
“Does she have any idea how hard this is?”
“This can’t actually be good for a person.”


And as these thoughts inevitably and invariably flowed in and out of my head, I continued to strengthen my core and completed the class.

ACT and CBT for Recovery

The following day as I listened to Dr. Tim PychyI interviewing Dr. Frederick Dionne about research into procrastination, I couldn’t help but draw parallels with people’s devotion to their work outs and people’s devotion to their recovery.

Dr. Pychyl is an expert in the field of procrastination (not saying he is an expert at procrastinating, but at researching it ☺). Dr. Dionne is a psychologist who uses Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) with clients. ACT teaches clients to move forward with committed action in the service of what they value, despite the suffering thoughts or feelings that may be hitching a ride during the journey.

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ACT is similar to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), but one of the interesting ways in which the two differ is that ACT encourages people to experience and acknowledge the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings they are having, while CBT teaches people to develop strategies for lessening the impact of difficult thoughts or feelings. This is a subtle yet powerful distinction.

Recognizing and Reducing Urging Thoughts

This means if a person committed to his recovery has some ACT strategies under his belt, experiences an urge to use or drink, he learns to recognize when he is fusing with his thoughts. Then it is a matter of creating distance from the thought (or defusing), which can be as simple as moving from:

“I have to get high!” to “I am having the thought, ‘I have to get high!’”

In this small space of separating the man from his mind, the freedom to choose is revealed.

Whereas with CBT, the focus might be on reducing discomfort and tension, attempting to diminish or control the intensity and frequency of thoughts with breathing or some kind of cognitive restructuring.

While ACT wouldn’t label that approach as necessarily bad, it might suggest that it is a form of experiential avoidance. Because the truth is, uncomfortable urges and thoughts are simply never going to go completely away.

Now, granted, cultivating the ability to notice a difficult thought or sensation, allowing it, then moving forward with committed action toward your values is a practice. The brain shackled by the effects of addictive drugs is going to need to have the drug removed from its system before any success with these strategies is possible.

A Comfortable Outpatient Detox Program

This is how the Coleman Institute for Addiction Medicine can play a large part in a successful recovery. For over 25 years, we have specialized in Accelerated Detox programs, helping people safely and comfortably get off opioids such as hydrocodone, Vicodin, Vicoprofen oxycodone, Percocet, Roxicet, Dilaudid, fentanyl, heroin, methadone and buprenorphine products. We also help people stop drinking alcohol and using benzodiazepines.

If you or a friend or family member would like to put a little space between “I can’t stop using these drugs” and “I’m having the thought, ‘I can’t stop using these drugs,’” let us help create a new reality for you.

Joan R. Shepherd, FNP

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