Are you Addicted to Technology?

addiction to technologyMeet Janice. She was really looking forward to going away on vacation. Her car was packed with fun stuff to do at the beach, her food was ready in a cooler, and she couldn’t wait until she got to her destination to take a break from her busy life. Her intention was to relax, but three days into her vacation she noticed that her stress level was still high. When she looked back at her first three days of vacation, she realized something very interesting: although she was on the beach and she did well food-wise, she stayed fully connected to technology, checking phone messages, sending text messages, searching the Internet, and replying to emails even more than before.

Did I mention that Janice is a food addict? Well, she is. As food addicts, we have a higher risk of developing other addictions. We often hear that people replace alcohol addiction with food addiction, or that their shopping addiction became very active as they recovered from a different addiction.

So what was going on with Janice? Is she addicted to technology? She developed a Technology Addiction as well as FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

What is Technology Addiction?

Technology addiction is not yet listed in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but David Greenfield, PhD, a psychologist and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction in Hartford, Conn., says that there are three typical forms of technology addiction:

Internet addiction, sexual content addiction, and social media addiction.

Although there aren’t yet formal characteristics for the disorder, Greenfield says that a diagnosis is possible if you have one or more of these symptoms: loss of time due to technology, withdrawal from people, negative consequences at work or in your relationships, and a higher tolerance for technology — like one game is no longer enough.

Any of the addiction types listed above can affect your health. Too much time on the Internet or playing long hours of online games overload the brain with dopamine. Over time, the dopamine receptors in the brain decrease their activity and the dopamine stops creating pleasurable effects. Just like with food, we feel “high” for a short term, followed by a much longer “low” period.

What is FOMO?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines FOMO (acronym for Fear Of Missing Out) as “Not wanting to miss an opportunity, often characterized by attending many social events in a one-time period, not leaving a party until the end, not wanting to decline any invitation or social opportunity due to potential fun or potential important event taking place at said opportunity”.

My impression is that in today’s world, where we are all instantly aware of things happening around us because of how advanced technology has become, more people in more situations experience FOMO. In other words, with so much connectivity through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the like, we are instantly aware of the stuff we are missing out on. I recently moved to NY where people walk everywhere, and whether you are on the train, in the street, or walking in the park, everybody around you is busy watching, listening to, or using their phones. In fact, according to Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’s annual Internet Trends Report, people check their phones 150 times a day. What is this doing to us?

The Benefits of Technology

Just like food, technology can add real value to our lives, if used appropriately. Things are more convenient and accessible with the miracles of technology. I recently had a conversation with Kay about the important role technology has in helping food addicts recover. You can sit in the comfort of your own home and join one of our programs by phone or listen to recordings and access materials 24/7. The Kay Sheppard’s Conversation CD’s take advantage of technology and allow people to be in a conversation with Kay at any time. It is all a question of balance and the amount we use technology. I often find myself including technology in my Gratitude List because it allows me to stay connected with family members who are far away and be in service to more people.

Do you suffer from FOMO and are you Addicted to Technology?

Read the following questions and answer them yes or no:

  1. Are you constantly checking your phone?
  2. Are you constantly checking your emails?
  3. Are you often checking Facebook?
  4. Are you often searching other people’s walls on Facebook?
  5. Are you talking on your phone or texting when using the restroom?
  6. Is your phone present on your table during meals?
  7. Do you take your phone to bed with you?
  8. Do you frequently send message and pictures to other people?
  9. Do you find yourself “plugged in” to screens most of the day, every day?
  10. Do you have notifications and alerts set on your phone and computer?
  11. Do you often check social media while being focused on work because you get distracted?
  12. Do you ever have a day where you disconnect from technology for hours?
  13. Do you often find yourself distracted by playing games or searching the Internet?

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, chances are that you suffer from technology addiction and FOMO. If you have a history of addiction (any addiction) in your family, it makes those chances even greater.

Recovery starts with awareness. Get honest with yourself, answer these questions, and evaluate your situation.

The minute you realize that you suffer from technology addiction and FOMO you are starting your road to recovery.

 

 

The Art and Science of Gratitude – 8 Fun Ways to Practice Gratitude

8 fun ways to practice gratitude “An honest regret for harms done, a genuine gratitude for blessings received, and a willingness to try for better things tomorrow will be the permanent assets we shall seek.”

12&12 Step Ten, p.95

Gratitude is one of the most valuable recovery tools. Expressing thanks may be one of the simplest ways to feel better. We often hear that adopting an attitude of gratitude helps us change from feeling resentment to feeling love.

The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings.

The dictionary defines gratitude as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

When living a 12-steps way of life, we rely on a power greater than ourselves. One of the benefits of gratitude is that it helps people connect to something larger than themselves. When you pay attention to the goodness in your life, it takes your focus away from the negative and it creates a higher emotional vibration.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people strengthen their immune system, improve their health, relieve stress, and feel more positive about themselves as well as the world around them.

Research on gratitude

In a research study on gratitude, two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, asked all participants to write a few sentences each week which focused on particular topics.

One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, the studied showed that those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. They also exercised more and made less trips to the doctor than those who focused on sources of aggravation.

Another leading researcher in this field, Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of various positive psychology interventions on 411 people, each compared with a control assignment of writing about early memories. One week’s assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness. This group immediately exhibited an increase in happiness scores that was greater than that from any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a month.

Other research studied the impact of gratitude on relationships. One study of couples found that those who expressed gratitude for their partner felt more positive toward the other person which led to them feeling more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.

Gratitude also has its place in the workforce. Researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania randomly divided university fund-raisers into two groups. One group made phone calls to solicit alumni donations in the same way they always had. The second group was told by their manager that she was grateful for their efforts. During the following week, the university employees who heard the message of gratitude made 50% more fund-raising calls than those who did not.

Other studies have shown that keeping gratitude journals and writing thank-you notes to people who have made a difference in their lives didn’t necessarily improve their own well-being but made the other person, the recipient, happier. This finding suggests that gratitude is an attainment linked with emotional maturity.

How to create a gratitude practice

It is clear that creating an attitude of gratitude can be very beneficial to recovery and to life in general. At the same time, there are different recovery tools that we want to use consistently because managing recovery and life often becomes overwhelming. How can you bring more gratitude to life without making it “hard work,” something that requires a lot of effort? The key is to make it fun and simple. There are many ways you can practice gratitude, and there are no right or wrong ways. Approaching someone with a smile or writing a thankful note might work for one person while keeping a gratitude journal might be better for another. My experience with gratitude is that people get excitement from different practices, so it is important to have a “what’s fun for me” approach rather than a “one size fits all” approach. Below you will find a list of different practices that I’ve received good feedback from people whom I’ve suggested this practice to. Many (if not all) of these practices I use myself and find them to be very effective, positive, and uplifting.

Start small. Choose your favorite practices from the list below and start practicing them daily. Make it a priority by adding it to your daily schedule. Some of these practices take only 5 minutes. The key is to make it fun and make it simple!

8 fun ways to practice gratitude

The “A-Z Gratitude List”

I recently heard an interview with one of my favorite speakers, Bernard Siegel. Bernie is an American writer and retired pediatric surgeon who writes about the relationship between the patient and the healing process. He is known for his best-selling book Love, Medicine, and Miracles. In this interview, Bernie shares this cool gratitude practice:

Beginning on the first day of the month, in the morning, say what you’re grateful for by picking 3 things that begin with a letter of the alphabet. For the first 26 days of the month, start with the letter A on the first day, B on the second day, C on the third day and go on through all the letters. At the end of the month you have a few days off. The following month start over and come up with new words, not using words you’ve used before. It gets more difficult as you go on. You might be walking your dog and find yourself thinking for 20 minutes about your current letter, trying to find words you have not used before. It’s a good exercise for the brain and a fun way to focus on gratitude.

The “Top 3 Things” practice

Bruce D. Schneider, Ph.D., founder of the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC), shares in one of his coaching programs this following practice. Within one hour of waking up, list in your gratitude journal the 3 best things that happened to you so far today. At any time during the day if something “makes the list,” place it in its proper place (either 1,2, or 3) and remove the last item. Continue throughout the day looking for things to make the list.

The “What Went Well” practice – (no pen and notebook needed!)

If journaling or writing down your gratitude list are not for you, adopt this simple practice. Every night when you get into bed, play the “what went well” game. Ask yourself: “what went well today?” Start adding things to your list, only focusing on what went well that day. Keep going until you fall asleep.

Read a gratitude meditation

In his book The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace, Jack Kornfield shares a beautiful gratitude meditation. Kornfield is one of the leading Buddhist teachers in America, a practitioner for over 40 years, an author, and a speaker. “Expressing gratitude to our benefactors is a natural form of love,” says Kornfield. “In fact, some people find lovingkindness for themselves so hard, they begin their practice with a benefactor. This too is fine. The rule in lovingkindness practice is to follow the way that most easily opens your heart.”

Read Kornfield’s Gratitude Meditation daily and make it part of your Gratitude Practice.

Watch a stunning gratitude video

In his 9-minute TED film, American director, producer, and cinematographer, Louie Schwartzberg, shares his interpretation of gratitude, reflected by nature’s. His stunning time-lapse photography, accompanied by powerful words from Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, serves as a meditation on being grateful for every day. Watch it on a big computer screen if you can and immerse yourself in gratitude.

https://www.ted.com/talks/louie_schwartzberg_nature_beauty_gratitude?language=en

Here are some additional practices even simpler than the ones above:

Write a thank-you note

Expressing your appreciation will nurture any relationship. Write a note and email it, text it, or even better, mail it. From time to time, call someone and read them your thank-you note.

Choose words of appreciation

Watch your language! Words have power, and when you consciously choose to use positive and thankful words it helps create a positive attitude. Starting conversations (even hard ones) with appreciation sets the tone for a positive conversation.

Feel it!

Whenever you read, write, or express appreciation and gratitude, pay attention to your feelings. Don’t just say it. Open your heart and feel it.

Author Melody Beattie says:

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and
more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to
clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a
stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace
for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

Thank you for reading this article. I am truly grateful that you took the time and were curious to learn how to bring more gratitude to your life. I would love to hear your comments in the comments area. Feel free to share your own personal ways of expressing gratitude.

I appreciate you!
References:

Emmons RA, et al. “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology(Feb. 2003): Vol. 84, No. 2, pp. 377–89.

Grant AM, et al. “A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way: Explaining Why Gratitude Expressions Motivate Prosocial Behavior,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (June 2010): Vol. 98, No. 6, pp. 946–55.

Lambert NM, et al. “Expressing Gratitude to a Partner Leads to More Relationship Maintenance Behavior,” Emotion (Feb. 2011): Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 52–60.

Sansone RA, et al. “Gratitude and Well Being: The Benefits of Appreciation,” Psychiatry (Nov. 2010): Vol. 7, No. 11, pp. 18–22.

Seligman MEP, et al. “Empirical Validation of Interventions,” American Psychologist (July–Aug. 2005): Vol. 60, No. 1, pp. 410–21.

How to manage the “unmanageability of life”

unmanageability of lifeMeet Anna. She’s in recovery, she works full-time, her children and her friends are important to her, and she tries to exercise and take care of herself. Juggling between all these roles is hard, and she feels overwhelmed and stressed regularly. She knows that something needs to change, but she doesn’t know where to start.

Anna is not alone. I often meet people who cannot maintain long-term abstinence because life feels crazy to them. They experience what the Big Book calls: “The unmanageability of life”.

There many tips and techniques that I can share with you to help you turn chaos into balance. We can talk about scheduling, time management, planning ahead, batch cooking, changing your thinking, and many other ways to take charge of your life. But you might end up feeling more overwhelmed if I wrote a long list of ideas. That’s why I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to share 2 specific ways to help you better manage your life.

When you feel overwhelmed and you don’t know where to start, go back to the basics. Focus on only two things:

  1. Getting enough hours of good sleep.
  2. Creating a morning routine to help you start your day on a positive note.

Let me elaborate on these ideas a little bit. Having enough sleep is important because your body needs to be well-rested enough to deal with the demands of life. Arrange your schedule in a way that allows you to peacefully transition into a good night’s sleep. Read this article to get more ideas on improving your sleep.

Now let’s talk about creating a morning routine. It might be the opposite of what makes sense for you. You wake up in the morning knowing that your day is full: you want to get to work on time, so how are you going to add something to your already busy morning?

It might sound like a paradox, but it’s not. If you take just 15 minutes every morning to “switch gears” and gradually transition into your day, it can change the way you feel all day long.

Remember Anna? She was rushing to start her day, and by the time she got to her office her stress level was already at 8 (on a scale of 1-10). Anna was willing to try something new for 2 weeks. She went to bed earlier and she woke up 20 minutes earlier than normal. She spent 15 minutes every morning listening to a guided meditation, praying, and planning her day. In order to make this happen, she created new habits that helped make her mornings more relaxed. For example, she packed her lunch and made basic preparations for breakfast the night before. She also chose what to wear the night before. Getting organized in the evening allowed her to be calmer in the morning.

Creating a morning ritual not only helps you start your day more at peace, it actually helps you feel centered and grounded, and as a result you operate less from a reactionary mode throughout your day and you remember to pause and access recovery tools as challenges arise.

As Louise Hay says: “How you start your day is how you live your day.”

Spend some time reflecting on your current morning and evening habits and make small changes, one change at a time, to create more supportive routines. Why small changes? Because when you start small you can build your success based on your small successes. When you start big, you might get overwhelmed.

If you want to bring some sanity into the insanity of life and you don’t know where to start, go back to the basics. Make changes so you can sleep better at night and create a morning routine to help you start your day with balance.

Remember that just like the sun rises fresh every morning, you too can start fresh and set the tone for a positive, balanced day.

If you have any questions contact us at info@kaysheppard.com

 

 

Mindfulness and Recovery – how to start being mindful right now

Mindfulness is a hot topic these days. It’s being blogged about, talked about, and practiced in many areas of life, not just in recovery. It sounds like a pretty blissful state to be in, doesn’t it? If you don’t understand it, you might be asking yourself: what exactly is it and why is it important for me, as part of my recovery?

Webster’s Dictionary defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis”.

In other words, mindfulness simply means paying attention to your current experience without judging it.

Our experience as human beings is full, rich, and ever-changing. We have five active senses plus a mind that is super active, sometimes over-active. There is a lot going on in each moment and if we’re not mindful, we may end up being unaware and missing out on much of what’s happening inside ourselves amid the activity. That’s a sure-fire way to derail your recovery path.

Have you ever found yourself in the kitchen, completely forgetting what prompted you to walk from your bedroom to the kitchen and why?

Do you ever get in the car, pull out of the parking lot, and then suddenly find yourself somewhere else; not remembering what got you there?

Before I found recovery, I ate all the time (and I mean all the time!), but if you asked me what I ate, I would not be able to tell you because I was completely not present while eating.

Balancing DOING with BEING is essential for recovery. One thing I know for sure is that overdoing is part of my addiction. And I am totally addicted to adrenaline. Part of my recovery has been keeping a daily meditation practice. I find meditation to be the best practice for becoming mindful, and it helps me deal with this part of my addiction.

Creating ameditation practice allows you to extend the same kind of mindfulness to the rest of your life. This expansion process will happen naturally once you develop a meditation practice.

I’m often asked, what’s a good way to start when you have no experience with mindfulness or meditation?

I recommend starting small. It is better to be successful with being mindful for 5 minutes every day than to start with 30 minutes once a week. When being mindful for 5 minutes every day becomes a habit for you, you can add 5 more minutes. And then when you’ve mastered that, add another 5. This is how you develop a consistent practice. When you get to 15 minutes of mindfulness daily, you are in a good place. 15 minutes is all you need. Creating your practice in the morning is best because you start your day on a positive note, or like Louise Hay, the queen of positive thinking says: “How you start your day is how you live your day.”

If you are a beginner, listening to a guided meditation or focusing on your breath or a noise (air conditioner, clock, traffic) is a good place to start.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, the founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment — non-judgmentally.”  He explains that the focus should be on noticing the moment rather than trying to feel differently. Many people think that they are supposed to feel a certain way when they meditate. This is a false perception about meditation. Meditation is simply about being where you are and knowing it. Remember: being non-judgmental is part of the deal. You want to release expectations that you need to feel a certain way and simply to allow yourself to BE.

There are other ways to bring mindfulness to your life in addition to meditation. Throughout your day you can add fun, short Mindfulness Pauses such as: focusing on the taste, smell, and sensations when you brush your teeth, paying attention to the smell, taste, and texture of the cup when you sip tea, or spending 5 minutes in your backyard observing nature and paying attention to every small detail, using all your senses.

To get started building mindfulness into your life today, choose one idea shared in this article and start now. Stop right now and think, how can I be more mindful right at this moment?

Every moment you spend being mindful will allow you to become more aware in the moment, aware of your thoughts, and aware of what you are eating. Mindfulness will allow you to enjoy the present, and truly live your life to the fullest.

 

 

 

Change your Attitude with Flash affirmations

flash affirmations practiceManaging our emotions is key in staying strong in our recovery. While other people might be okay taking the risk of living in negativity, we who suffer from food addiction, might risk our recovery if we allow our emotions to control us.

We manage our emotions by challenging and changing our thoughts. Awareness is the first step, and then we use different tools to create thoughts and attitudes that are supportive for our recovery. We pray, we meditate and we ask God to help us change our attitude. We can also use affirmations.

Out habitual thoughts influence the quality of our lives. We are actually making affirmations all day long because everything we think and say to ourselves is an affirmation. We want to pay close attention to what we are affirming. Our thoughts have power, and they influence our environment and the people around us. And more than anything, they affect our attitude.

One of the wonderful practices I learned from Kay is using Flash Affirmations. I often play with flash affirmations with myself where I come up with new words to the phrase: “I choose…” I simply keep making up new, positive, uplifting words that make me feel better. I do it in the shower or while waiting in line. I also do it when I’m tired and feel negative in any way.

A few days ago I posted a question on our Breaking Free from Food Addiction Facebook page. The question was:

“Happy New Year! So if you were to have a recovery “theme” for 2015, what would your word for 2015 be?”

I got so excited by the words that were posted that I used all the words to create the flash affirmations below.

I choose HONESTY

I choose PEACE

I choose ENERGY

I choose ABSTINENCE

I choose WILLINGNESS

I choose POSSIBILITIES

I choose HAPPINESS

I choose SELF-LOVE

I choose HONESTY

I choose LOVE

I choose Higher Power

I choose SANITY

I choose ABSTINENCE

I choose CLARITY

I choose RESEARCH

I choose PURPOSE

I choose THRIVE

I choose ACCEPTANCE

I choose SERENITY

I choose SURRENDER

I choose COMMITMENT

I choose HOPE

I choose REBIRTH

I choose NEW

I choose MINDFULNESS

I choose LIFE

I choose GRATITUDE

I choose TRANQUILITY

I choose JOYOUS

I choose FREE

I choose RECOMMITTING

I choose BLESSED

I choose FELLOWSHIP

I choose FREEDOM

I choose SERVICE

I choose VIGILANCE

I choose GRATEFUL

I choose COMPLIANCE

Want a fun and easy way to change your attitude? Write the flash affirmations above on an index card or on your smart phone and read one (or more) daily. I hope they help you keep a positive attitude, or change your attitude if you’re having a tough day. Enjoy!

My Story of Surrender

my story of surrenderRecovery starts with surrender to the fact that binge food will always have control over us. We are ready to surrender when we accept that we have no power over our eating and recovery is the only alternative we have.

I remember the moment that I was finally willing to surrender. It was more than 9 years ago. I was 90 pounds heavier than I am today and totally desperate. We had a weekend planned in Las Vegas, and I got Kay’s book “From the first Bite” on the day we left for the vacation. I took the book with me, and on my way to the airport I called the woman I chose to sponsor me and asked her if she would work with me. She asked me to read the book and to call her when I’m done and am ready to start. I spent the weekend eating like crazy (there was an unlimited amount of sugar, flour, and wheat products offered on the buffet-style meals we had) and I felt sick to my stomach. I had a big dessert on Sunday night and then felt terrible both physically and emotionally. I finished reading the book on Sunday night, after eating all that junk, and I knew that my only solution was to surrender to the program. It was in that moment that I realized that I cannot feel worth the way I was feeling at that moment, and I was willing to do whatever it takes to truly live. I called my sponsor (to be) on Monday morning. I got abstinent and we started working together.

My recovery began on that Sunday in Las Vegas when I was willing to surrender and accept help.

My definition of surrender has emerged through the years. When I was new to recovery, I used to see Surrender as giving up. My image of Surrender was very passive, like carrying a white flag cresting a hill or peeking around a corner in hopes of not being shot. I used to think that if I turn things over to a power greater than myself, I am ok to sit quietly and wait and the rest would take care of itself.

Reality made me change my definition of surrender. I know now that it is an active process that requires action.

The AA 12 & 12 (page 24) says:

“few people will sincerely try to practice the A.A. program unless they have hit bottom. For practicing A.A.’s remaining eleven steps means the adoption of ATTITUDES and ACTIONS that almost no alcoholic who is still drinking can dream of taking.”

I love those words – “attitudes and actions”.

Once we make the third-step decision, we actively work steps four to twelve.

Today, surrender means for me that I say “YES” to life by turning things over to God, as I understand God, and I’m following directions for taking actions. Working the steps, attending meetings, planning my day, cooking my food, and other activities which are related to recovery are all the active part of surrender.

Surrender is the foundation and platform for successful recovery. But it only works if you work it!

Holiday Practice – 3 Focus Words

Food addiction Holiday Practice As addicts, we have some tendencies that make life hard. We tend to be perfectionists. We tend to overdo and be over the top. Some of us try to please others and we’re always working to improve and get better.

How many times have you decided to make this Holiday Season the best ever?

How often do you set unrealistic expectations and find yourself disappointed with the results?

It’s O.K. to want to be a better you as long as you don’t set unrealistic expectations and set yourself up for failure.

Here’s a fun way to remember what’s important for you: choose 3 words that best describe your focus and intention and allow these words to remind you of what’s important for you this holidays. Words have power.  What I’ve learned from putting this ritual into practice is that Intention — even in the form of a single word — is unfathomably powerful.

So how do you go about picking a word?

  1. Sit quietly with yourself, mediate and visualize yourself happy and relaxed this Holiday Season. Ask your Higher Power to help you see what to focus on.
  2. Read the following list of Spiritual Principles associated with the 12 Steps and add your own principles, based on your recovery experience and working with the steps.

    Spiritual Principles:
    Surrender, Hope, Commitment, Honesty, Acceptance, Truth, Willingness, Humility, Amendment, Vigilance, Faith, Service, and Courage & Love.

  3. Once you’ve inspired yourself by adding additional words to the list of principles, think if there are any other recovery-related words you want to add and add them.
  4. Ask yourself: what do I want to focus on this Holiday Season so I can enjoy the celebration while making recovery first? Choose your top 3 words for the season.
  5. Write your words and hang the list in different places and stay connected with the words every day. Ask yourself every morning when you wake up: how can I practice these words today?

A few days ago I posted on our “Breaking Free from Food Addiction” FB page a post describing this practice and I asked people to share their words. Here are few examples of what people shared:

Alex: Abstinence, Thanks, Wonderous

Karen: Abstinence, Peace, Serenity

Joyce: Abstinence, God’s, Grace

Elizabeth: Acceptance, Joyful, Gratitude

Sally: Sanity, Peace, Joy

Have fun, be creative and enjoy the process.

Share your words in the comments area and inspire others. Thank you for your service!

Compulsive Shopping and Spending Survival Guide

Compulsive Shopping and Spending Survival GuideAs food addicts, we tend to adopt different compulsive behaviors, one of them is overspending and too much shopping during the holidays. Not only do we spend a lot of money and clutter our house with items we don’t need, we risk out recovery by inviting insanity, madness and stress into our life.

Part of our addiction is to “get high” from excitement and high-energy activities. We create long shopping lists. We become obsessed with making a perfect holiday. We think mistakenly that what makes a successful celebration are the amount and type and gifts we’ll give to others.

You might think to yourself: “That’s not true! I love the gift exchange and it’s a tradition I want to keep”.

Think about the consequences. How do you feel the day after the party when all the guests are gone and you stay with an endless amount of decorations, gift wrap and depressing credit-card statements?

Traditions are important but they can be evaluated and changed. Showing love and appreciation to your loved one is an important practice but that can be done in many different ways.

The question you want to ask yourself is: “How can I refresh the traditions to helps me stay sane this holiday season?”

Here are some ideas. Take what you like and forget about the rest.

  1. Pray.
  2. Invite your Higher Power into the process. Include a specific prayer in your morning routine: “God, I help me make recovery more important than spending and shopping. Please direct my thinking.” Remember to take your Higher Power with you when you visit the stores.

  3. Write.
  4. Take some time to write and reflect on the following concept: What do we want to teach our children about giving? Do we really want to teach them that giving is all about buying? Do we want to teach them that what holds families together is spending money? What do we really want to model and to teach others? How can we model giving and service without spending too much?

  5. Create.
  6. Use your creative thinking and bring fun into the process. Think creatively about how to change traditions and make them more fun and sane. Make gifts, such as crafts or construction type gifts. Bake an abstinent dish and bring it as a gift.

  7. Serve.
  8. Give the gift of your service — wash cars, give a massage, babysit, clean a house, mow lawns, etc. Ask your family members to join you on a charity event instead of exchanging gifts.

  9. Communicate.
  10. Talk to your family members or send them an email and get them excited about your intention to spend less and create new traditions. Ask them what they think. Challenge them to get creative.

  11. Accept.
  12. You’re not trying to change the world. Your intention is to stay sane. Your family members might not like your ideas. Accept it. Don’t give away your power. If they like it – great! If not – at least you started a conversation and you can at least change how you spend your time (and money) during the holidays. They might not understand but you will lead by example.

  13. Pause.

    Make sue you take extra time every day to give yourself the best gift you can: the gift of free time. Pause. Detach from the craziness. We all lack quiet, open, free time. Give yourself 10 minutes of doing nothing every day and sit – no matter how uncomfortable it is. Add this free time to your regular time of prayer and meditation and make it your “hitting the pause button to keep me sane this holiday season” time.

What is your favorite tip form this article? What are you willing to try?

Guidelines for choosing a sponsor

Guidelines for choosing a sponsorWhen you are new to recovery, one of the first questions you will be asked is: “Do you have a sponsor?”  Kay Sheppard, in her book From the First Bite, defines a sponsor as “a trusted partner in recovery who will share their experience, strength and hope.”

A sponsor is a recovering food addict who is willing to be of service and help the newcomer. Sponsors don’t replace a therapist or a professional consultant, but rather they serve as the “go-to” person that stays connected with the people they work with.

Joining a program of recovery is a big step. Many of us have tried to do it alone and found out it doesn’t work. Working with a sponsor is essential to recovery, and when it comes to food addiction it is important to have a food sponsor and a step sponsor, or preferably one person who can take both roles.

Most people choose a sponsor in an informal way. They meet someone in a face-to-face or a phone meeting, or they find their sponsor through word of mouth.

When choosing a sponsor, it is important to interview different people until you find the one that fits your needs and style. My recommendation is to prepare a list of questions and to ask different people the same questions. After hearing the answers, pray and turn it over, asking for guidance on who is the best person for you to work with.

List your “non-negotiables”

Based on my experience sponsoring people and being sponsored for many years, I created my personal list of “non-negotiables” for choosing a sponsor:

  • They should follow the same exact food plan as I do.
  • They should work the steps.
  • They must be available and accessible.

What are your “non-negotiables”? They might be different than mine. Get clear and make a list.

Interviewing potential sponsors

Choose your favorite questions from the list below and use them to interview potential sponsors:

  1. What is your personal experience with food addiction and recovery?
  2. You want a sponsor who has what you want and who lives their life in the solution rather than in the problem.

  3. How long are you in recovery and how long are you abstinent?
  4. Choose a sponsor who has been abstinent longer than you have. The longer the recovery time the more experience, strength, and hope the person can share. Some people recommend working with a sponsor with at least one year of consistent recovery. Trust your intuition.  If your intuition tells you you’ve found the right person and they have less than a year of abstinence, make sure they have enough experience with recovery to be of service to you.

  5. How important is it to work the steps?
  6. We know from our experience that people who try to follow the food plan without living a 12-step way of life do not experience long-term success. In order to recover, the food plan must be supported by a spiritual program. Having a conversation with your potential sponsor about spirituality and working the steps will help you evaluate if the person is “walking the talk”. There are different recommendations as to how long a sponsor has been working the steps before taking other people through the steps. My personal opinion is that a sponsor should be consistent with working the steps and be past step 4 when starting to work with others. It is definitely important that your sponsor has worked more steps than you have.

  7. What are your expectations and requirements in sponsoring?
  8. A few days ago I had a conversation with a new sponsee and she shared that she feels like a burden and that she is bothering me when she calls to ask questions. I quickly reminded her that it is not only a request but it is a requirement that she call me when in doubt, especially when she is new to recovery. Asking your potential sponsor for their expectations is extremely important. Ask clarifying questions if you are not clear after discussing it with them.

  9. What is your availability for phone calls and meetings? (either face-to-face or virtual)
  10. Communication is the most important aspect of the relationships. Get clear about how often and in what ways you are going to communicate.

  11. What are your strengths as a sponsor?
  12. This question will help you get a sense of the personality, gifts, and attributes of the person.

  13. What are your weaknesses as a sponsor?
  14. Being honest is important in recovery, and you want to work with someone who is aware of their character defects and willing to share.

People have different personalities, backgrounds, stories, and needs. Interviewing a few people will help you find a good match.

If you are available to sponsor, please email Michal at info@kaysheppard.com and we will add your name to our list of potential sponsors.

Thank you for your service!

5 ways to stay on track when life takes over

5 ways to stay on track when life takes overYou can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.
― Jon Kabat-Zinn

You get clean and you’re excited about being in recovery. You feel motivated and things are going well. But life is life, and like the ocean, it often produces some pretty big waves. Those waves can easily throw you off course.

When we ask people what is their biggest challenge in recovery, they often say: “staying on track or staying committed to the program”.

A few years after I became abstinent I had a big crisis in my life. I remember thinking to myself: “this is too much for me to handle the crisis and the food too.” Even my sponsor felt sorry for me and got caught up in my story. One day in a meeting I heard somebody sharing about a big loss they had in life and how they chose recovery NO MATTER WHAT. Those words – recovery first, no matter what – changed my perspective. I changed sponsors, and my new sponsor encouraged me to see how the situation could be worse if in addition to the crisis I was also into the food. I’m abstinent since 2005. Though there have been many times when life offered “waves” and challenges, I’ve learned to remember my priorities and to take action in times of need to help me continue to recover from my fatal disease.

When life takes over, you can’t control it, but you CAN still control your reaction.

Here are 5 ways to stay on track when life takes over:

  1. Don’t wait for a crisis – pray and meditate every day.
  2. I pray and meditate every day. When life is running on an even keel, I start my day with 15 minutes of prayer and meditation. When something out of the ordinary is going on, I might change the length of my meditation, but I always do it, even for 5 minutes. Prayer has become part of my life in such a way that I can’t live without it. If you don’t have a daily routine of prayer and meditation, start now. Prayer and meditation keep you present in the moment. A regular practice helps you deal better with life.

  3. Be realistic and anticipate.
  4. It will be unrealistic to think that there are going to be no bumps in the road. Of course there will! That’s life. Accepting the obstacles will help you have a positive attitude when stuff happens. After all, you’re human and life is life.

  5. Be aware of your thinking and change it.
  6. Let’s say that a family member is sick, or your boss asks you to work overtime. Your initial thoughts might be negative (fear, frustration, anger). Feelings follow thoughts. Pause and identify the thought that led to the feeling. Challenge the thought and change it. Think how you can turn the challenge into an opportunity. Remember that it is in your hands to choose your reaction.

  7. Look for the lessons and learn from them.
  8. Learn from experience. When you get off track, ask yourself what triggered the setback and look for the lesson. For example, one of my sponsees realized that she picks up addictive food every time she has guests because the preparations cause stress. She started to ask her family members to help her prepare, and she changed her thinking from “It needs to be perfect” to “good enough is good enough.” She learned from her experience and made necessary changes.

  9. Collect more positive and less negative evidence of success.
  10. It is much easier to look at what you haven’t done or what you could have done better than to see your progress and accomplishments. Remember that recovery is about progress rather than perfection. Make a decision to stop collecting evidence that shows that you can do better. When taking your daily inventory, pay attention to and recognize your progress and success and discuss it with your sponsor rather than just paying attention to your faults and challenges.
    Life will throw us waves, challenges, and curveballs. With practice, we can learn to ride them out and hit them out of the park. Take a minute and evaluate your level of commitment to recovery right now. Adopt these principles to help you stay on track.