The Daily Recovery Ritual of Tracking Your Sobriety One Day at a Time

The Daily Recovery Ritual of Tracking Your Sobriety One Day at a Time

A strong recovery process requires daily routines and rituals, which is one of the reasons why tracking your sobriety, one day at a time is at the heart of a clear recovery plan.

Why should I track my sobriety?

It might seem like a small and overly simple daily exercise, but it holds more significance and meaning as time goes on. Counting your sobriety days, each and every day has benefits at all stages of a recovery journey. Keeping tabs on your sobriety helps you to measure your performance as you work towards your recovery goals. These goals then become milestone days to celebrate, which is one of recovery’s simple and unexpected joys.

Every small intentional daily routine and ritual in recovery matters.

As you achieve goals and milestones it helps to build new skills and confidence in yourself to succeed. With time, consistent sobriety propels you further away from a destructive addictive cycle which is filled with perpetual failed attempts and recommitments to stop.

How long should I track my sobriety?

In early recovery and right through the first twelve months, it is a basic recovery skill to keep tracking your sobriety days. Common goals and milestones to reach are 30 days, 60 days, 90 days and beyond. If you are working with an addiction therapist, together you will be discussing your ongoing goals and progress. It is not unusual for people to track their sobriety right up to the 1000 day mark! What once started out as a sobriety goal and target becomes a milestone achievement to celebrate.

Addiction recovery is generally monitored attentively for the first three years, and many will choose to continue counting successful long-term abstinence. It is a strong personal and sometimes spiritual motivation to stay focused on recovery especially on the challenging days.

How do I track my sobriety?

Firstly, make a decision to actively acknowledge every day of your sobriety. A simple mindful recovery exercise is to write your sobriety day number i.e. 89 on the palm of your hand or on a post-it and stick it on a mirror or maybe in your recovery journal. Somewhere that you can see it throughout the day. This will act as a visual reminder of your progress and helps keep you focused and grounded.  You can also use recovery apps and sobriety calculators and counters which help you to monitor your sobriety from the date you started in-case you loose track.

If you want to take this daily mindfulness ritual to another level, then you can practice intentionally noticing your sobriety day number in your surroundings. For example, on a house door, a bus stop or even a car registration number. Every small intentional daily routine and ritual in recovery matters.

Podcast Spotlight – The Problem Gambling Podcast Season 2 Now Available

Podcast Spotlight – The Problem Gambling Podcast Season 2 Now Available

Season 2 of The Problem Gambling Podcast hosted by Barry Grant and Tony O’Reilly founders of www.problemgambling.ie is now available to listen to on SPOTIFY or your favourite podcast player.

The Problem Gambling Podcast is an excellent Irish podcast which explores the various and often complex aspects of problematic gambling behaviour, the recovery process, the gambling and gaming industry and pretty much everything you need to know about this often hidden and wide spread problem. Co-hosts Barry and Tony interview special guests and leading experts on their experience of gambling addiction and recovery.

This podcast touches on a wide variety of content throughout season one and will be of particular interest to anyone who wants to learn more about gambling and gambling problems, especially those who may be concerned about their own gambling habits. Episodes share genuine personal stories of out of control gambling problems and expert guests with information and advice for anyone who needs help and support. For anyone thinking of getting help for a gambling problem, you could start by listening to the podcast from the start of episode one right through to the end of season one. You can listen to Episode One here via the Problem Gambling Ireland website.

In season one, Barry and Tony share insights into the signs of problem gambling, recovery and what to expect, self-exemption, self-regulation, conditioning, the challenges of recovery and strategies for how to stop the addiction cycle of gambling.  They talk regularly about the importance of personal individual therapy as a part of successful recovery and particularly being part of a group self help support such as Gambling Anonymous.

Tony and Barry openly discuss problem gambling from two very different perspectives and their professional insights will be of great interest to any health professionals working in individuals and couples.

The Problem Gambling Ireland website offers information, podcasts, resources, support, blogs and self-help information for any one seeking help with gambling problems.

If you would like professional help and support to deal with a gambling problem you can book an appointment with me online at www.orlaghgahan.ie or book directly and securely online HERE. I work with individuals and couples impacted by gambling problems and addictions.

Here are some resources  and links for gambling related problems:

Problem Gambling Ireland

Gambling Anonymous

Gamble Aware

Gam-Anon – Support for partners and family affected by Gamblingwww.gamblersanonymous.ie

Gam-Anon.ORG – Support for partners and family

Addiction Counsellors of Ireland

The Irish Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists

Addiction Recovery Support Meetings in Ireland & Online

Addiction Recovery Support Meetings in Ireland & Online

No one should struggle to understand or recover from an addiction alone. There are many trained therapists, organisations and nationwide support meetings for addiction recovery here in Ireland. Now with so many therapists working online using telemedicine software and self help support group meetings also being hosted online using sites like Zoom and by phone conferencing, getting support is more convenient and accessible. 

When you realise that you can no longer manage or fight your addiction alone it can be difficult to know what to do next, who to turn to, or how to find out about recovery options. Finding support is the first step followed by growing your support network. It is through this support that you will learn all about recovery and sobriety and how to move forward. Getting the help of a professional Addiction Counsellor or Psychotherapist who is experienced in addiction and recovery or couples recovery will also help provide you with the information you need to move forward.

Most people who are seeking help for the first time and are new to the recovery process are not aware that there is in-fact a wide variety of self help support groups available here in Ireland. These organisations have websites with advice, information, self-assessment questions, leaflets, helplines and group meetings around Ireland daily and weekly. Once you know where to look, you will realise that you are not alone in your recovery and that there is hope for the future and a path forward.

Recovery Group Support Meetings Hosted Online and by Phone

Since the COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines came into place in March most of these group meetings are now being hosted online using Zoom and by phoning into a meeting. Being able to call or log-in and join a group support meetings means you can attend meetings regularly day or night and around your schedule from home. Sadly, many regional drop-in meetings are currently suspended at present.  There are many benefits to attending group support and they are an integral part of long term successful recovery. To find out more about joining a face to face meeting in your region or joining an online meeting contact the helpline for the organisation. Many of these meetings are by region or may be nationwide.

What Type of Addiction Support Groups are Available in Ireland?

There are organisations that provide support groups in Ireland specifically for food addiction, alcohol problems addiction, drug addiction such as Cocaine, Marijuana and Narcotics, gambling problems and sex addiction. Many of these groups are based on the 12 Step principals while other organisations such as  Lifering and SMART recovery offer a research based recovery approach.

There are also support groups for partners and family effected by a loved one’s addiction. It is always a good idea to get the support of peers or professionals when effected by a spouses addiction even if they are not yet in recovery themselves. You can identify the organisations for partners and family members by the Anon reference such as Al-anon, S-Anon and Gam-Anon. The Rise Foundation provide excellent support to partners and families effected by a loved ones addiction.

Once you know where to look, you will realise that you are not alone in your recovery and that there is hope for the future and a path forward.

Support group meetings are available throughout Ireland daily and are on a donation basis making them affordable for everyone. Group support is a crucial part of early recovery and successful long term recovery.

Some organisations provide 24/7 chat room group support and have developed apps to promote recovery and sobriety which you can find on iPhone or Samsung play store or check out their websites for more information.

Podcasts are now also a great way of learning more about addiction and recovery support. The latest podcast launched here in Ireland recently relating to recovery is called The Problem Gambling Podcast with Barry Grant and Tony O’Reilly which you can find on all podcasting platforms.

To find a professional registered Psychotherapist visit www.iacp.ie and www.addictioncounsellors.ie or to book an online appointment with me for addiction and recovery support click here or visit www.orlaghgahan.ie

Here is a list of addiction recovery support groups in Ireland who currently provide support meetings online. 

Alcoholics Anonymous – www.alcoholicsanonymous.ie

Al-Anon,  Support for families of alcoholics – www.al-anon-ireland.org

Cocaine Anonymous Ireland – www.caireland.info

Marijuana Anonymous – www.marijuana-anonymous.help

Narcotics Anonymous (Drugs) – www.na-ireland.org

Co-dependents Anonymous Ireland – www.codaireland.com

Food Addicts Anonymous – www.foodaddictsanonymous.org

Gamblers Anonymous Ireland – www.gamblersanonymous.ie

Gam-Anon UK & Ireland – www.gamanon.org.uk

Problem Gambling Ireland – Information, support, resources & podcast – www.problemgambling.ie

LifeRing – Sobriety from alcohol & substances – www.lifering.ie

Overeaters Anonymous, Food addictions – www.overeatersanonymous.ie

Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous (Sex Addictions) – www.slaaireland.org

Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) (Sex addictions) – www.saireland.com

S-Anon, Support for partners of Sexaholics – www.sanon.org

Smart Recovery Ireland, Science recovery based support group – www.smartrecovery.ie

The Rise Foundation – Support for partners and loved ones – www.therisefoundation.ie

If you have a recovery support group you would like added to this list please email info@orlaghgahan.ie

Sexual Recovery | 365 Days in Recovery From Online Pornography Addiction

Sexual Recovery | 365 Days in Recovery From Online Pornography Addiction
How does it feel to be 365 days, one full year free from online pornography when you have been a habitual user for over 10 years? This month one of my regular clients celebrated being 1 year in full recovery from his pornography addiction. He offered to share his experience in the hope that it will encourage others to get help just like him, because one person’s recovery also positively impacts partners, peers and family.

For anyone going through a recovery process, getting through the first year of abstinence is a full-time commitment. Challenging, testing and rewarding and just cause for celebrating personal achievements. The first year of sobriety from any addiction helps to pave the way for a brighter more fulfilling future for everyone effected. The challenge with online pornography addiction and recovery is that nobody is openly talking about it. This is the third part in a series of articles about Overcoming Pornography for individuals and couples.

The most common questions that clients who come for therapy ask me about pornography addiction is how do other people give up porn? What are their results? What can I expect? Where do I start? In the media we read about the negative consequences of pornography but rarely hear about personal accounts of sexual recovery and giving up pornography.

Michael who is 28, has kindly shared his experience of recovery and answers some of these commonly asked questions. His story of problematic pornography use is not uncommon. In fact many of my clients who come for addiction counselling have been accessing pornography for as long as the internet has been available, that’s over two decades.  For other’s, smartphones have escalated the habit into a problem. In many instances the partner would not be aware that there is a problem and rarely has it been discussed openly in the relationship.

Here is Michael experience of his first 365 days of sexual recovery and personal development.

How was online pornography effecting your life before you realised you had a problem?

Porn has affected my life on a daily basis since I was just 14 year old. For me that was over 13 years of habitual use that I had to start unraveling. The last 4 years have been the worst, as my problem showed me how much of a hold it had on me. It took almost losing my family and job to realise how deep I was in this problem and addiction.

I had to change the small things first to get big results.

During this period of time, I never believed or realised that I had a problem. I always thought to myself that all men use pornography and I couldn’t see an issue with it. It started off occasionally and gradually became more of a routine from weekly to daily. At my worst it was a couple of times per day.

I had a routine and I was blindsided to the fact that I was no longer in control. Once the thoughts entered my head, I felt I had to act on the impulse and go online viewing porn.

The path that I was on was a downward spiral. At this point porn was my life, I had lost my close friends and almost my partner and kids. I distanced myself from everything that didn’t involve porn. I had no enthusiasm for life or my own family life. Porn was the biggest part of my daily life, in the morning, throughout work and I’d even sneak off at night while my partner slept. I thought everything I was doing was normal, unknown to the fact that porn had rewired my thoughts and mindset.

What are the things that you did to overcome your online pornography addiction that other people might be able to also try?

The first step in my recovery was realizing and accepting that I had a problem with porn. I was simply unable to stop alone. My biggest downfall was believing that I could overcome my issue with pornography myself. From that day on I realized I needed professional help.

I recommend reaching out and talking about what you going through. I did a search online for therapists who provide porn addiction counselling and made my first appointment with Orlagh Gahan. During my first session, I found it extremely hard and uncomfortable to go through but afterwards the relief I felt was unbelievable. I had so much that I needed to talk about and get off my chest in those early sessions.

Orlagh suggested several things to start with, some self-help books and the Fortify Fight The New Drug website and app which was brilliant. It was relatable and opened my eyes to what porn had and can do. (Check out a practical guide to giving up online pornography here.) My partner also came to some therapy sessions with me and we read The Partners Perspective by Paula Hall together.

I soon found out what my triggers were and how to avoid them. I now fill my life with structure and new hobbies. I gave up my phone with internet connection soon into therapy. This was the big turning point for me. I had to change the small things first to get big results.

How has your life changed since giving up pornography?

My life has dramatically changed since being free from online pornography. I can actually say I have a life now. I can feel and experience emotions, whereas before I kept everything suppressed. I have meaningful connections with people. I can honestly say for the first I am happy and content with my life. Words can’t describe how much my life has been changed positively since I began this journey.

I had so much that I needed to talk about and get off my chest in those early sessions.

With the support I received from Orlagh, my partner and my family I don’t feel trapped by porn anymore. I can now openly talk about it with all of them and I no longer feel shame or embarrassment.

Do you have any advice for anyone who thinks they might have a problem with pornography?

My advice to anyone who feels that they are struggling with porn is to stop trying to deal with it alone. Reach out to family, friends, your partner, a therapist or doctor etc. It’s the best thing I ever done, so much as changed for me in just one year. Get the help you need. Take it day by day. Figure what your triggers are and set goals, find new hobbies and talk about it, it will get easier.

Finding A Therapist – How To Find The Right Psychotherapist For You

Finding A Therapist – How To Find The Right Psychotherapist For You

Deciding to go to therapy might be one of the best things you ever do for yourself. Personal therapy is not just for individuals in crisis or who are suffering mental health problems. On the contrary, in my experience as a Psychotherapist many people come because they want to change something in their life, improve their relationships, get motivated to do something challenging, overcome fears or to feel inspired and empowered.

Therapy can be the perfect space for personal development with the support of a professional who can help you achieve your goals, only faster. When finding a therapist, people often make the mistake of attending the wrong therapist in the right location or the right therapist in the wrong location and find themselves feeling that ‘therapy did not work the last time’, a saying I hear regularly from new clients.

Finding the right Psychotherapist can feel mind boggling when you are not exactly sure what you are looking for. A therapist who provides general counselling might be just what you need if you want help with general everyday life stress or work life balance.

Here are some straightforward things to consider to help you narrow down your search and find the right Psychotherapist for you.

Be Specific.

There are thousands of accredited Counsellors, Psychotherapists and mental health professionals across Ireland each trained in various psychotherapy models and specialist fields from depression and trauma to individuals, couples and family therapy. Save yourself a lot of time in the long run by finding a therapist who specialises in the specific problem or area you feel you need help with.

For example, if you want to talk about a sexual problem then seek out a therapist who works specifically in sexual problems and sex therapy. If you want help to overcome an addiction and start a recovery process, then find a therapist who specialises in addictions. Maybe you and your partner want to improve your relationship or separate amicably then find an excellent relationship psychotherapist to guide you through the process.  There are many areas of expertise in psychotherapy which means a recommendation from your GP or a friend is not always a good way to find your therapist.

To narrow down your search, first identify what you want to achieve from your therapy sessions.

Most Psychotherapists who specialise in various fields also provide general counselling but many therapists who provide general counselling do not specialise in specific fields. Now with the internet you can find and profile many experienced therapists and websites to find the right professional. The benefits of online counselling also mean you could potentially access a therapist who may be practicing in another country but that you feel have the experience you are looking for. Expect to pay more for Psychotherapists who specialise as you are paying for their experience, expertise and training. It could save you money and time in the long term.

Accessibility.

When choosing a therapist consider that you may be spending weeks, months or maybe year’s working with your therapist. Many people find being in therapy so valuable that they choose to continue on an ongoing basis dipping in and out of therapy over time.  Convenient access to your chosen therapist is an important factor and should be up there on your priority list so that you can attend regularly.

Ideally you want to make getting to appointments as stress free as possible, arriving stressed is counterproductive. Even consider allocating time after your session so that you can get a coffee or have a short walk to process your thoughts and feelings on your own.

Traveling an hour to a therapist may seem fine in the early stages but longer term it becomes inconvenient and unrealistic. You may find yourself having to start all over again with a new therapist which is frustrating and time consuming. Many therapists provide online therapy which means that accessibility and location no longer restrict people accessing the right therapist in the comfort of their own home.

Trust Your Gut.

Therapists are people too with different personalities, traits and life experience. Just like in the real world sometimes we just don’t feel a connection with someone for no particular reason or maybe for a very specific reason. Possibly you saw a therapist already but did not feel at ease with that person or their practice on that day. If that happened, that’s OK, it’s natural, find another one. Don’t just give up there. Therapists are trained to be professional, ethical and approachable but even so it is human nature that your personalities or experience may just be incompatible for you to be able to really open up in the therapy room.

It is important that the therapist you are working with feels relatable to you as a person.

The client therapist therapeutic relationship takes time to develop, weeks at a minimum, psychotherapy is a therapeutic process after all. If, however your intuition and gut reaction is strong and tells you this therapist is not a good fit for you after two or three sessions then find another therapist. This time being even more specific in your search. Trust your gut but also give the relationship time to develop. Just as the therapist is learning about you, you are learning about them and how they work.

Finding the right therapist can save you a lot of time and money and really help you achieve your desired goals in a shorter space of time. Some other things to take into consideration when finding a therapist are if you would prefer a male or female therapist, affordability, agreeing to cancellation policies, age gaps and level of expertise. If you are attending therapy through your private health insurance provider, you may have no choice who you are referred to. You may need to balance up working with that therapist in the short term at no cost or choosing to see a therapist you find privately instead.

Finding the right therapist ultimately depends on your individual circumstances and what you want to achieve out of therapy. Just like relationships, it takes time to develop the connection so be open to opening up.

 

Recovery & Sobriety – Setting Short Term Goals in Early Recovery

Recovery & Sobriety – Setting Short Term Goals in Early Recovery
Recovery is about a return to good health and in order to return to good health you may benefit from setting goals to help you get there. I talk to lots of clients early in their recovery about the importance of goal setting to help them achieve what they really want out of life, which is often ultimately to achieve sobriety, repair relationships and get some control back in their lives.

Sobriety requires much more than just sheer willpower which can be the reason people fail trying to do it alone with no direction. It requires motivation, goals, support, time, practice, routine, focus, patience and positive reinforcement.

‘Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.’    -Tony Robbins

If you are starting to understand setting goals for your recovery then focus on sorting them into short, medium and long term goals. Short term goals are from day one to day ninety. Medium term goals are from three months to twelve months. While long term goals are from twelve months and into the future. Its important to set goals which are realistic, achievable and motivating. Working towards your goals then starts to become part of a new routine in the longer term. As you reach your goals you will experience positive reinforcement that you have completed something you set out to achieve along with the feel good factor. They helps to build your confidence and self-esteem and most importantly your belief in yourself. Good strong routines in turn are a great relapse preventative measure in the long term.

Firstly you need to make a very clear decision on what your basic ultimate goal is in terms of your recovery. For example, do you want to be alcohol free, drug free, stop using pornography or give up gambling for good? What ever your ultimate goal is, that is your finish line. Right now in early recovery your only thinking about running a race. Every single goal you set out will help to support and reinforce your ultimate goal.

What should your short term goals be in early recovery?

Short term goals are really about helping the individual find some kind of balance and routine in their lives. These goals are focused on the present and should be quite simple and achievable. Set both daily and weekly goals, one week at a time. I think limiting them to no more than ten goals can help prevent feelings of being overwhelmed. It is much better to do two or three really well then ten half hardheartedly. Short term goals are about helping the client stabilise physically, mentally and emotionally.

Here are some common short term goals my clients often set out in the first 90 days.

  • Committing to one personal therapy session every week in the first 90 days.
  • Going to a support group two to three times a week in the first 90 days.
  • Learning about recovery and reading a book every night about recovery and self-development can help you to focus and gain some personal insight or, reading one book a week.
  • Keeping a journal and once a day spending some time writing down your thoughts and feelings.
  • Keeping a diary each day and writing in it each morning the things that will help you to focus on your recovery and sobriety that day. One day at a time.
  • Choosing an exercise like running or swimming, something you know you enjoy which will help you to burn off stress, anxiety, tension, frustration and all the emotions your may start to feel as you change your habits and behaviors. Exercise clears your head, helps you to focus and improves your sleep. Try to commit to your exercise every second day or so.
  • Start thinking about housekeeping. Housekeeping means that you start to get rid of any triggers, paraphernalia or products which may lead you to acting out. This may be deleting email addresses and accounts, clearing the house of alcohol or cigarettes or removing traces of anything which may lead you to consider a relapse.
  • Setting some goals around relationship healing is often on most peoples list. This may be something simple like asking your partner to sit down with and start talking to them about what your goals and plans for sobriety. It might also mean sitting down with your partner and listening to their needs and feelings. It might mean inviting them to a therapy session or talking about going to relationship counselling together.
  • Listen to a podcast or audio book about recovery, motivation or personal development.
  • Start writing lists which you can bring to therapy or work through yourself. List of goals, lists of motivations, lists of regrets, lists of thoughts and insights, lists of relapses, lists of people to connect with, lists of triggers, lists of music to listen to that will inspire you, lists of emotions, lists of hurt, lists of pain, lists of plans for the future. Writing down your thoughts can help you put context onto what you have be going through and is a way of letting go and releasing emotional pain.
  • Finding ways to learn to relax maybe by going to a yoga class or having a massage therapy session once a week.
  • Write out some thoughts on medium and long terms goals for recovery and your personal life.
  • Short term goals may simply be doing the things you have been avoiding for a long time like going to the GP, dentist or getting health checkups.
  • Personal hygiene and self-care is often a good short term goal. It may be simply getting up earlier every day, taking a hot shower and getting dressed.
  • Write an activity list of things that you can do to help you work through urges. This is a kind of activity list you can practice when you are feeling triggered. It may include things like meditation, go for a walk, do press-ups, phone a friend, breathing exercises, stretching etc.
  • Find an app that you can use every day to help monitor and motivate your recovery.
  • Do some research online of support groups, resources, workshops or blogs that might help promote your recovery.
  • Do something different at the weekend from your regular weekends. This might mean not socialising in the same way or meeting with different friends or family or planing activities for early in the morning instead of later at night.

So you can now start to see that short term goals are about helping you to focus on all the things which will promote your sobriety one day at a time from week to week. As you reach your goals, set new ones, this is how you grow and change. Recovery really is a learning process that times time and persistence. The more time you give it, the more you will gain from the work you put into yourself.

I believe that support and connection with people is a major part of what gets people through the early days of recovery.  Addiction counselling helps you to work through all the challenges you come up against so that you can learn how to recover. Recovery is about returning to health and finding your true happy fulfilled self. Keep it simple. Achieve your short term goals. Sooth yourself in positive ways. Give yourself praise and positive recognition every single day. Stay strong one day at a time. Reward yourself for goals achieved.

The biggest mistake is that people try to do it alone. You alone can do it, but, you can not do it alone. Remember, keep up your therapy sessions and support groups in your early days no matter how good or bad you are doing.

 

Starting Therapy – What to Expect From Your First Psychotherapy Session

Starting Therapy – What to Expect From Your First Psychotherapy Session

I wanted to write a short blog article to help potential clients feel reassured about what to expect in their first counselling & psychotherapy appointment for face to face and online therapy. Most new clients tell me that they have thought about coming to therapy for a long time, in many cases years, so I hope that this will help to demystify the concept of coming to therapy for the first time. Personally speaking I want clients to have a positive experience from their first session so that it helps normalise the idea of being in-therapy. If you have been thinking of starting therapy, don’t waste any more time, just go for it.

Many people consider therapy for between six months to two years before they make an appointment with me. The lead up to your first session can feel a bit daunting and nerve racking, the fear of the unknown and not really knowing what to expect but don’t worry too much. How do I start, what do I say, what will they think are common thoughts people can have first time around. Remember, every single therapist had first session nerves just like you! It’s really reassuring to know that your therapist will guide and lead you though your sessions every time, particularly your first session.

I like to break my sessions down into three parts which are an opening, middle and closing section. We know how difficult the first steps can be and meet new clients every day so an important part of our role as a therapist is to make you feel at ease and comfortable during each and every session.

What Should I Expect From My First Therapy Session

Most therapists will follow a similar process in the first session so this article outlines the process that I like to follow myself. The first session is very much an informal relaxed session of getting to know each other and a discussion around how we can both work together therapeutically with your particular presenting issue. What you can definitely expect to get from your first session is a safe supportive space to start talking about what ever it is you are going through. Below is a road-map of how I like to work through the first sessions.

Consultation Form. You will be asked to provide basic information such as medical conditions, GP details and contact details of a next of kin in the event of an emergency.

Introductions. I will introduce myself and my practice and what to expect from the first session to help put you at ease. Personally I take notes during sessions which I use as as a visual tool in therapy with my clients.

Explaining The Therapist Client Confidentiality Agreement. I will explain to you information about the our confidentially agreement and also the limitations of confidentiality and answer any questions you may have.

Sharing. This first session is really a safe space for you to talk about everything that brings you to therapy. I like to call it a session to just offload all your problems and worries. It can take some time to get used to taking about yourself but you will be amazed how quickly you can adjust and have plenty to talk about.

Identifying Problems. By the end of the session we will discuss some areas to focus on in therapy over the coming sessions and also discuss how many sessions to start off with. You may be asked to complete an assessment during the first session which will also help us narrow down some areas to focus on.

Closing The Session. I will spend five to ten minutes closing the first session and checking in with you to see how you are feeling or any thoughts and questions you might have. Many people are feeling much more relaxed as we come to the end of the first session and most report feeling relieved, happy, motivated that it is over after thinking about it for some time.

It is important to be realistic and not to expect to much from your first session. I think that many people expect to have life changing experiences in therapy and that they will walk out the door feeling fixed or better after just one hour. The reality is that most of the changes happen for the patient between sessions as they learn to practice what has been discussed in therapy and start to focus and reflect more on themselves. I regularly hear clients say ‘I tried therapy before and it did not work‘ and when we explore this more early in therapy, they may have attended just a handful of sessions, sometimes just one and had unrealistic expectations of the outcome. Therapy is where you come to talk about change, the next part is to actively learn how to change outside of sessions.

I can reassure you that your second session will feel easier to attend, as you know where you are going and what to expect. Ongoing sessions will feel like they have a nice natural comfortable flow as we get to know each other more and develop a relationship overtime. Therapy is a process of change, healing and personal insight. It is also learning to be vulnerable and open with another human being and using that connection with your therapist to help you to accept yourself, change and grow. All of which takes time.

 

Promoting Wellness – Positive Coping Techniques for Everyday Stress

Promoting Wellness – Positive Coping Techniques for Everyday Stress

Wellness is defined as feeling comfortable, happy and healthy. A state of being which most of us would like to achieve in our everyday life without having to think to much about it. But everyday life can be hectic and often we don’t get a moment to stop and take stock until the weekend or a break away. Burnout can happen as a result of long-term physical, mental or emotional stress which is not managed well.

The healthier you feel in your mind and body the better you are able to cope with all the symptoms of stress and a busy lifestyle.

In fact, the more positive you feel, the more motivated you will be to focus on your health and improving your overall quality of life. It is important to be proactive and be able to identify and manage stress in a healthy way that’s best for you.

Here are some simple positive coping techniques for everyday wellness which can also help anyone who is recovering from stress, anxiety and burnout or feeling overwhelmed.

  • Practice 2 minute grounding exercise during times of stress by focusing on your breathing and senses, what you can feel, hear, smell and touch.
  • Practice mindfulness by focusing on the present day and what you can control.
  • Embrace self-care by resting, relaxing, looking after your self, having fun and laughing.
  • Love your body and enjoy taking care of yourself.
  • Exercise regularly to feel good, release endorphins and burn off adrenaline.
  • Stop catastrophic thinking and ruminating about worst case scenarios.
  • Identify your negative though processes and focus on shifting to positive thoughts.
  • Stop being critical of yourself and others and focus on strengths.
  • Get plenty of undisturbed sleep approx. 6 to 8 hours to help the body heal.
  • Avoid negative influences which are unnecessary such as news, dramatic TV shows etc.
  • Practice positive self-talk and affirmations.
  • Find ways to feel inspired and empowered through reading, audio-books, groups, talks, music, workshops, hobbies, events.
  • Short breathing exercises through the day during times of stress can help improve mental clarity, oxygenate the body and relax muscles through the body.
  • Learn to say ‘NO‘ to others or ‘Can I come back to you on that?‘ when you have had time to think and start putting yourself first.
  • Ask for support and help from others and learn to accept help when offered.
  • Talk to your partner, family and friends about the things that bother you.
  • Surround yourself with positive loving people.
  • Let go of trying to control others or wasting energy on what they may be thinking or feeling.
  • Treat yourself from time to time, you are worth it.
  • Use commuting as an opportunity to rest, listening to audio-book, podcasts you enjoy or reading a book.
  • Leave work at work and stick to clear working hours.
  • Turn off work related phones, emails and devices early in the evening so it does not infringe on home life and valuable relationships.
  • Write lists of things that are on your mind or that you need to get done.
  • Let yourself feel what ever you are feeling rather than trying to suppress emotions, uncomfortable feelings will pass.
  • Most importantly find ways to cope which work for you.

 

FORTIFY – An Online Platform for Overcoming Pornography

FORTIFY – An Online Platform for Overcoming Pornography

The FORTIFY program was developed by an American organisation called Fight The New Drug. Their goal was to create a movement which would help to educate young people about the negative impact that pornography can have on health, relationships, sex and society and to encourage people to make more conscious choices about pornography usage. The movement has gained rapid momentum and so has their science based recovery resources, supports and research available to anyone who wants to overcome pornography problems. They are not a religious organisation and their strong message is that #PornKillsLove 

The FORTIFY program provides an online platform which helps support individuals who wish to recover from pornography addiction. They have thousands of online users in over 155 countries around the world. The FORTIFY program is also available to purchase as a book called ‘The Fighter’s Guide’ and a new App is now available to download on the Apple Store and Google Play. New users can trial the FORTIFY recovery program for free or pay a subscription of approx. $10 a month.

Here are some useful links if you would like to find out more about FORTIFY.

Fight The New Drug website

The FORTIFY Program – Link to their online support platform for overcoming pornography

FORTIFY Book – The Fighter’s Guide to Overcoming Pornography Addiction 

We Need to Talk About Pornography Video on YOUTUBE by Fight the New Drug.org 

Get help face to face or online via SKYPE visit www.orlaghgahan.ie

 

20 Early Recovery Insights from an Addiction Counsellor

20 Early Recovery Insights from an Addiction Counsellor

Last week I saw a picture online trying to portray how complicated the process of recovery from an addiction can feel in the early days for someone who had no clue about recovery. It looked like a giant blackboard packed full of mathematical equations which equal (=) ‘Recovery’. Now for someone who could never get the hang of basic long division and also as a therapist who sits across from men, women and family who desperately want to understand the recovery process in order to get a feeling for what to expect, I can wholeheartedly empathize with how confusing that analogy depicting the recovery process must feel. Abstinence and recovery is not a straight road.  The various roles of an addiction counsellor are to support, listen, empathize, encourage and educate clients. But often in the early days, the individual is so clouded with emotion, stress, pain, dependence or chaos that they are unable to hear simple messages that anyone, including their therapist are trying to get across.

Early recovery should be about focusing daily on practical abstinence and harm reduction goals, support and positive habit forming behaviours. However, understanding recovery really comes from being in a recovery process and the personal experience gained from recovery and sobriety. Here are some of these insights and strategies which I hope will help to motivate and encourage individuals early in recovery to stick with the process through the good and bad.

  1. Make a clear conscious decision that some things in your life need to change. Make a long list of those specific things and how you might change them.
  2. Remind yourself you will have good days and bad days, it won’t be easy, but, it will be worth it.
  3. If you are blaming everyone else for all your problems, you are still in denial about your problem. Stop blaming others for the things only you can control.
  4. It really is ok not to be ok and to reach out to someone or a professional who can help you understand what might be happening.
  5. The first steps to getting help can feel like the hardest, you are not alone, there are people who will understand and help you, you just have not met them yet.
  6. You don’t always have to go to rehab to recover from dependence or addiction, you can try support groups and addiction counselling first.
  7. Start talking yourself ‘out of acting out’ instead of ‘into acting out’.
  8. Motivation to recover does not come naturally in the early days, sometimes sobriety and feeling better in yourself motivates recovery.
  9. Willpower alone is never enough to change. Willpower is all in your head BUT practice makes perfect.
  10. You will have cravings, physical, mental, emotional and psychological cravings, but they too will pass.
  11. You won’t really understand how addicted you are to a substance or behaviour until you stop feeding your addiction, focus on abstinence and actively try to stop for a period of 7, 10, 30 days etc.
  12. Recovery is a process of change, challenge, learning, abstinence, re-discovery and time.
  13. Expect mood swings, difficulty sleeping, frustration, aggravation, withdrawals, anger, sweat and tears but not forever!
  14. Do not expect your partner and family to understand what you are going through until you can learn to share with them what you are going through.
  15. Time – Focus on your recovery every day in everything that you do until you realize you don’t need to think about recovery and what you do anymore.
  16. Be realistic about your expectations of yourself and others once you achieve sobriety because real change and healing takes time.
  17. Learn and connect with healthy balanced people how to be healthy balanced and connected.
  18. Our addiction tells us everyone else is doing ‘it’, but that’s just the world you see around you, its not reality. When you are in recovery you will realise that in general most people are relatively healthy, functioning, non-users and enjoying life.
  19. You can recover, you are not your addiction, your addiction does not define the beautiful human being that you really are.
  20. Believe that you can change, trust in others to help you, tell yourself you are worth it, share your story and focus on getting mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually better.

Sobriety and meaningful recovery takes willpower, motivation, practice  support, self-love, connection and time. The goal should also be gently focused on finding meaning and connection in life. Ultimately, recovery from illness and addiction is a path of personal development, self-love and healing.

Read about Setting Short Term Goals in Early Recovery.

 

Sex & Pornography Addiction Recovery Resources

It is difficult to know where to start when you are seeking help for yourself or a loved one for a sexual addiction or pornography addiction. The good news is the more you start to research the subject, the more support and resources you will find are available. It is important however that you get help as early as possible and continue with various therapeutic interventions until you feel completely free from any problematic behaviour or addiction. Recovery often means engaging in both personal therapy and relationship counselling until the end of the process or on an ongoing basis. The level of professional support required will depend on the severity of the addiction and various other factors. Individuals may also have mental health problems, past trauma or abuse which also requires addressing. Partners are also encouraged to attend counselling, as addiction impacts spouses and family members on many levels.

You alone can do it, but you cannot do it alone.’

Below are some suggestions regarding sexual addiction recovery;

  1. Private counselling with a professional Psychotherapist, Psychosexual Counsellor or Addiction Counsellor.
  2. Attending a treatment recovery centre or Intensive 6 Day Recovery Course.
  3. Attending group therapy or group support regularly such as SLAA or SA.
  4. Speaking to your GP for a referral to a Psychologist or Psychiatrist.
  5. Attending an Addiction and Recovery (Life) Coach.
  6. Reading various books on sex addiction, pornography addiction and relationship recovery.
  7. Completing online courses for pornography addiction.
  8. Various Apps for your phone which can aid and encourage recovery.
  9. Using online resources and websites which educate and promote recovery.

Below are some Irish & UK resources which you may find helpful;

Support Groups in Ireland
Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) – www.slaaireland.org
Sexaholics Anonymous (SA Ireland) – www.saireland.com
S-Anon – Support for partners of Sex Addicts – www.sanon.org/meetings/meetingsireland.html

Professional Counselling Associations & Professionals
Addiction Counsellors of Ireland – www.addictioncounsellors.ie
Irish Association of Counsellors & Psychotherapists – www.iacp.ie
Psychosexual & Relationship Counsellors of Ireland & UK – www.cosrt.org.uk
Eoin Stephens Psychotherapist – www.eoinstephens.com
Addictive Behaviours & Sex Addiction Private Counselling – www.addictivebehaviours.ie

Addiction Recovery Centers 
The Rutland Centre – www.rutlandcentre.ie
Aiseiri – www.aiseiri.ie
Cuan Mhuire – www.cuanmhuire.ie
Smarmore Castle Private Rehabilitation Clinic – www.smarmore-rehab-clinic.com
6 Day UK Intensive Sex Addiction Recovery Course –  www.paulahall.co.uk

Online Resources
The Kickstart Recovery Guide -21 Page Recovery Workbook –  www.sexaddictionhelp.co.uk
The Fortify Programme – Online Pornography Recovery course – www.fortifyprogram.org/
Fight The New Drug – Pornography Awareness & Education- www.fightthenewdrug.org
8 week online course for Porn Addiction – www.paulahall.co.uk/services/addiction-recovery/
Sex Addiction Education & Information – www.paulahall.co.uk
The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity – www.atsac.co.uk

Recommended Reading List of Sexual Addiction Recovery & Self Help Books for Addicts & Partners

One day….or day one, you decide.

Addiction & Twelve Step Support Groups in Ireland

Addiction & Twelve Step Support Groups in Ireland
Everyday in Ireland there are support groups and Twelve Step Anonymous support groups for individuals and family members effected or impacted by addiction and problematic behaviours. These are often open or closed meetings and can be attended daily. Unlike many mental health services in Ireland, there is no waiting list or requirements to attend these daily meetings, simply a desire to seek out support from others who understand what you or your loved ones are going through.
Resources & Support Groups in Ireland

Addiction Counsellors of Ireland | www.addictioncounsellors.ie
Alcohol Action Ireland | www.alcoholireland.ie
Alcohol Help | www.drinkhelp.ie
Alcoholics Anonymous | www.alcoholicsanonymous.ie
Al-Anon & Alateen Ireland | Support for families of alcoholics | www.al-anon-ireland.org/
Anon & Alateen Ireland | Support for families and friends of alcoholics | www.al-anon-ireland.org
Cocaine Anonymous Ireland | www.caireland.info
Co-dependents Anonymous Ireland | www.codaireland.com
Drink Aware | www.drinkaware.ie
Drugs | Drug & Alcohol Information & Support | www.drugs.ie
Food Addicts Anonymous | www.foodaddictsanonymous.org
Gamble Aware | www.gambleaware.ie
Gamblers Anonymous Ireland | www.gamblersanonymous.ie
Gam-Anon UK & Ireland | www.gamanon.org.uk/
Irish Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy | www.iacp.ie
LifeRing – Sobriety from Alcohol & Substances | www.dublinlifering.com
Narcotics Anonymous | www.na-ireland.org
Overeaters Anonymous | www.overeatersanonymous.ie
The Centre for Sexual Addictions | www.centresexualaddictions.com
Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous | www.slaaireland.org
Sexaholics Anonymous | SA Ireland | www.saireland.com
S-Anon | Support for partners of Sexaholics | www.sanon.org/meetings/meetingsireland.html

Residential Addiction Treatments Centres in Ireland

The Rutland Centre | www.rutlandcentre.ie
Aiseiri | www.aiseiri.ie
Cuan Mhuire | www.cuanmhuire.ie
Smarmore Castle Private Rehabilitation Clinic | www.smarmore-rehab-clinic.com

Find out more about private one to one addiction counselling in Kildare at www.orlaghgahan.ie

Sex & Pornography Addiction | Free UK Self Help Recovery Resource

The Kick Start Recovery Programme has been created by Paula Hall in the UK to offer the many thousands of people who struggle with sex addiction and pornography addiction with a reliable and tested self help solution. For some it will be a useful information resource and source of education and self assessment regarding sexual addiction while for others hopefully it will kick start a personal journey of long term recovery which may include ongoing support such as personal counselling or therapy and 12 step support groups. To download this valuable and highly recommended free 21 page Kick Start Recovery Resource visit www.sexaddictionhelp.co.uk

To get professional Counselling for Sexual Addiction and Pornography addiction in Kildare or online via SKYPE you can book online or visit www.orlaghgahan.ie

How to Start Changing Problematic and Unhealthy Behaviours

When it comes to changing problematic and unhealthy behaviours it can be difficult to know exactly where to begin. Maybe you’ve tried many times before but find yourself defaulting back to where you began only a little wiser and feeling somewhat defeated.

A good place to start is by simply learning to listen to yourself. Is your gut instinct trying to tell you something? Listen to your intuition, that gut feeling that is telling you subtly and consistently that something feels wrong or right. Many clients when they attend counselling say I’ve been thinking about getting help for years or I’ve felt for a long time that something isn’t right. 

The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.‘  Socrates

Write a list of all those reoccurring or conflicting thoughts you have had over the past year. Often expressing and writing thoughts on to paper allows your to be more objective rather than subjective, helping you to identify visually what is taking up your valuable head space. This simple task is often the first step to taking control of a situation. You have begun to really listen to yourself.

Make simple, clear and achievable goals followed by plans and actions. While time is a great healer its also important to set clear timelines. If you keep moving the goal posts, it might be a good idea to redefine your goals or start afresh with more realistic goals but remember to challenge yourself at the same time. Often pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone empowers your to reach further and think bigger while also building confidence in yourself and your ability to succeed.
Take a pen and paper and a few minutes solitude and focus on the problematic behaviour you are struggling with. It may be food, smoking, alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography, masturbation etc.
Listening to yourself and identify with the below. Here is a short simple example of how you can start addressing a problematic behaviour using a common addiction in Ireland today which is Smoking & Tobacco Addiction. 
Intuition Something about smoking makes me feel uncomfortable or uneasy these days.
ThoughtI really want to stop smoking. I’m always saying I will quit some day. Some day I will give them up. I don’t want to smoke anymore.
Feeling I feel like my smoking is effecting my health. I feel bad when I smoke. I feel nervous about smoking all the time. I feel like this is effecting me long-term.
Conflicting Thoughts I enjoy smoking but I know its bad for my health. I want to quit smoking but I don’t think I can. I need cigarettes every day but I can’t really afford to keep smoking.
Reoccurring Thoughts I need to stop smoking. Everyone is giving up smoking. I can’t seem to stop smoking. Smoking is not good for my health. Everyone around me is smoking so it’s OK.
FearI’m afraid I won’t be able to quit. I’m afraid I will fail. I’m worried I don’t have the commitment it will take. I’m afraid I can’t do it. I don’t think I can leave without smoking.
Motivations I will feel healthier.  I will feel free from this addiction. I will have more money in my pocket. My skin and health will improve. I will feel better about myself. My family are supporting me.   
GoalI will focus on quitting smoking completely and becoming healthier.
PlansI will reduce how much I smoke every day. I will talk to my GP about quitting smoking. I will buy a book or read online how to quit smoking. I will talk to my friends about quitting. I will book an appointment with an addiction counsellor and learn more about my own smoking addiction. I will talk to my pharmacist. I will think positively about my efforts.
TimelineI want to stop smoking completely in i.e 7 days, 6 weeks or 3 months.
 
Changing behaviour is a process which takes time. You are changing through this course of time how you think, feel, act and how your relate to your environment and those around you. Mostly you are shifting how you associate with that particular problematic behaviour and are learning to re-associate with the behaviour in a new healthier way.
Changing behaviour is not an easy task, it can be mentally, physically and emotionally challenging at the best of times but it is also rewarding. If you have proved to yourself time and time again that sheer willpower, mental commitments or promises alone are not enough to change and you find yourself stuck in the same behavioural patterns with the same problems then your experiences strongly suggests that that’s unlikely to change.
Its time to do something different, try something new and feel inspired and motivated to change and grow.
You deserve it and you can do it.
 

15 Ways to Get Help for Sex & Pornography Addiction

15 Ways to Get Help for Sex & Pornography Addiction
There are a number of ways in which you can get help and support for problematic sexual behaviour and potential sexual addiction or indeed any type of addiction. Don’t put off reaching out to someone and feeling isolated any longer. It may feel daunting and confusing or you might be in the middle of a crisis and don’t know where to turn, so here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction.

Consider this simple thought, each moment that passes is an opportunity that you can take control and make a small or possibly huge change in your life. It’s never to late to pause, take stock and bring about positive and healthy changes to your lifestyle. Here are 15 simple straight forward suggestions to help you take the right steps forward. In the words of Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous, you are not alone.

  1. Start Today | Take control, make conscious decisions and follow through with actions to get the help you need. Write a list of the bad habits and behaviours that are taking over your life , the effect they are having on you or your family and finally what you have tried to do to stop.
  2. Talk | Try talking to your partner, family or close friends about your feelings, emotions and concerns. It’s possible they are concerned about you already and want to help you.
  3. Counselling | Contact a qualified Counsellor or Psychotherapist in your area and speak to someone in confidence. You can visit www.iacp.ie to easily find a therapist in your area or visit www.addictivebehaviours.ie for more information on sexual addiction in Ireland. A 60 minute counselling appointment can help you find direction and deal with emotional distress.
  4. Visit your GP | Speak to your GP about any problems you may be experiencing. Your GP may refer you on to a mental health professional such as a psychologist or psychotherapist or an addiction recovery center.  While this may be an uncomfortable conversation for you in the short term it will be very beneficial long term.
  5. Educate Yourself | Find out more about the causes, symptoms and the behaviour you are struggling to manage and what possible interventions and support might work.
  6. Read | There are endless websites online dedicated to mental health issues, behavioural addictions, sexual addiction, emotional health and lifestyle advice. We have included a list of resources and reading material on our Resources page at www.centresexualaddictions.com which you might find useful for sexual recovery.
  7. Healthcare Providers |Speak to your private health care provider to find out if your policy covers you for personal counselling or any treatment support centres around Ireland.
  8. Employee Assistance Programmes | Many companies and organisations in Ireland provide an EAP service to their staff in which employees can avail of short term counselling, find out from your HR department if this is available. Your EAP will provide you with an assessment and refer you onto a local counsellor.
  9. Group Support | There are a number of regional 12 Step Support  Groups similar to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) around Ireland daily providing group support for people who have experienced what you are going through. Before you rule these out, give them a chance and try them out. Contact Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous or Sexaholics Anonymous who both provide daily group support meeting all around Ireland.
  10. Addiction Treatment Center | Contact your local addiction recovery center and find out if they provide any support services which may be relevant to you. Many provide treatment for gambling, food addiction, behavioural addiction, sex, substance and alcohol dependencies. They may offer residential treatment recovery programs or out-patient treatment support programs.  You can find more information about services in your area by visiting www.hse.ie
  11. Local Support Groups | Many community centres and local organisations provide a free or low cost counselling service. Sometimes you may need to register to go on a waiting list. Go on line and found out what’s available in your local community or visit your local community center or town hall.
  12. Religious Organisations |If you are part of a religious congregation, very often there is a local priest, pastor, spiritual advisor or counsellor available to provide a comforting ear and support during your times of need. Many people can find support within their congregation and through their faith.
  13. Stay Committed | Try, try and keep on trying! Remember you are working towards a happier and healthier lifestyle. By staying focused on changing your overall perspective on life, you are committing to what you can control, not on what you have to give up. If you have been consistently unable to give up a behaviour on your own then stop trying alone and seek professional help.
  14. Reconnect | Many sex  and pornography addicts isolate themselves over time and often shame and secrecy become a primary concern. Reconnecting with friends, partners and loved ones can help addicts to reconnect with themselves through the support, friendship and presence of others.
  15. Get Off Line | Re-engage with the real world by disconnecting from platforms that may lead you to act out sexually. For many addicts this process begins online in the search for sexually explicit material used to fuel sexual fantasy and arousal such as the viewing of pornography, escort sites, social media or adult websites. Sex and porn addicts often suggest in therapy that sex is everywhere but this is not true. It is however instantly widely available on the internet and it is the internet that is now everywhere.

 

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