Category Archives: Self-Help

Is it me?

This guest blog post was provided by Toby LeBlanc, LPC.

self-reflectionIn my last blog I brought up the idea that empathy can give us greater responsibility over the management of our internal world. This might seem a little crazy, but I think giving away some responsibility for our internal world could be helpful, too. I promise I’ll make sense here in a minute.

There’s a lot of judgment of addicts out there. Though science and media have tried to humanize this disorder, there are many people who still think we are flawed and weak when we can’t “just stop.” The judgment doesn’t stop there. Hearing those things for long enough can make us take on this perspective and begin judging ourselves (by the way, this often leads to some level of depression). I have never seen an addict get clean using judgment. But then again, maybe we are judging the wrong thing.

I have heard several clients talk about how “the addict” in them wants them to do unhealthy things. By calling out the addict as something separate from themselves they are allowed to heal. It seems as if these clients often side step the self-judgment of believing they are broken in some way and put it on the “addict.” I don’t know about you, but trying to fix something which is broken in us seems harder than acknowledging, nurturing, and encouraging something which is healthy. I find it tends to feel better, too. The separation from the “addict” also allows a person to see when it is starting to rear its ugly head. Instead of having an unhealthy urge forcing one to judge one as flawed, we can disagree with the “addict” in us and turn toward the parts we know are healthy.

There are two things which I need to acknowledge. This first is how much this may seem like a cop-out. Even reading my own words it looks like I am suggesting we do not hold addicts accountable for themselves, but instead we should blame this imaginary “addict.” We can’t get angry at the big bad “addict” boogey man. We can’t be cautious about the “addict” vampire. No. Addicts still need to be held accountable for their actions. It’s essential to recovery. The anger we feel toward them and the guilt they feel afterwards shows an addict the guidelines for healthiness. This brings up the second point. This concept operates under the assumption we know what healthy parts of ourselves look like and feel like. It also assumes we want to listen to these parts of us. If you are early in recovery, you may want to hold off on trying to disagree with your “addict.” Without the knowledge of what is truly healthy for you, and the ability to accept responsibility for your actions regardless of if it was your healthy self or your “addict,” it may come off as “The devil made me do it.”

With that in mind, I’d like to challenge you find your healthy self and disagree with your “addict.” Consider these questions for self-reflection:

What part of me wants that? Is it my healthy self or my “addict?”

Which voice am I hearing in my head right now? The self I want to be or the self I’m trying not to be?

Do I want to listen to what I hear in my head?

It’s Better to Understand Than to be Understood

This guest blog post was provided by  Toby LeBlanc, LPC.

The title of this entry was a “concept” at the Phoenix House of Austin where I worked for 3 years. We would try to teach drug dependent adolescents the purpose and power of empathy. Even though I am a huge proponent of empathy (I am a therapist after all), it took me a while to get why “understanding” is so important for a recovering person to experience.

Addiction is selfish disease. When we’re using our only focus is on ourselves and how we feel. As the cycle of drug use sucks us in, we become more and more distant from the needs and feelings of those we love. Distance produces hurt, resentment, and fear in the people invested in our lives. Empathy is a glue which can reconnect us emotionally to our loved ones and heal broken bonds. The feeling of understanding can be a blissful new beginning for a recovering addict and his/her relationships.

Empathy also gives addicts something instantly which could otherwise be very difficult to develop: perspective. With selfish addiction blinders we often can’t see our life falling apart around us even when those we love are screaming at us to stop. Once an addict tries on the perspective of another we can get an honest look in the mirror without the harshness of confrontation. An added benefit is a possible new way to see ourselves, our world, and maybe even our worth. If your view on things seems broken, trying on another’s could be an easy solution.

I’ve come to realize these are not even the biggest benefits of empathy in recovery. Empathy can give us great power over ourselves. Consider your answers to these questions:

How many times have you waited for someone to “get” what you’re trying to tell them before you calmed down?

How many times have you become angry when someone would not fulfill a need you have, especially when it is something you could be doing for yourself?

How much of your life do you spend angry at the world for not understanding you, but then it becomes an excuse to do something unhealthy?

Empathy is the tool that allows you to circumnavigate these traps without getting stuck in powerlessness. When you attempt understanding with someone you immediately remove your selfish perspective.  You are allowed to see what other factors could be coming to play in a dispute. From here you can see boundaries you did not know were there. The boundaries show who has responsibility for meeting the need in dispute. Needs often vary from physical (i.e. things or actions), mental (i.e. ideas or thoughts), and emotional (i.e. love and comfort). In my own empathy I often realize I have more responsibility than I thought for taking care of my own needs. I also often find out what pain I’ve caused while being so angry and not being mindful of others’ needs. Understanding the pain I’ve caused helps me further see what I’m responsible for. Our understanding makes us responsible for what is understood. Responsibility means you have control. By using empathy to gain perspective and understand your responsibility in a situation, you gain the ability to control your actions and your emotions. Isn’t controlling our internal world what made us use in the first place?

Recovery Love Connection

This guest blog post was provided by  Toby LeBlanc, LPC.


What was that rule again? Was I supposed to wait a year? Or was I supposed to have a plant and a cat first? Let’s face it. The rules for romantic relationships are complicated without adding the wild card of recovery to the deck.

Leaving one’s drug behind is like breaking up. Just like when we end our human relationships, we feel lonely and confused. Replacing old loves with new ones is an old trick. Addicts often don’t realize this is what they’re doing when they jump in a relationship right after getting sober. Often addicts wonder why everyone is making such a big deal. After all, they’re clean.


The feelings of love resemble a high. In fact, I’ve heard many a recovering addict tell me how they’ve never felt this way for anyone before. I’m inclined to believe them since their addiction-altered brain last felt this way about a chemical rather than a person. The lover provides a beautiful distraction the addict believes they can depend on. The feeling is so wonderfully intense it’s hard to believe they ever lived without it, or might have to live without it ever again. The end effect of the new lover is often the same as a drug, too. As the weeks or months pass the love can wear off and/or crash. Now the recovering addict has to take a sober, realistic look at what has become of their life while they were otherwise preoccupied.

I feel the need to say this does not mean all romantic relationships are bad idea for someone in early recovery. However, I do think all individuals in recovery have enough to manage in themselves before they go splitting their attention and energy with someone else. The right time for starting a relationship is personal. Go by the rules if they work for you. But if you decide to step outside of them, do so with the guidance and support of people you already know and trust.

Surrendering to a Higher Power Who Wants Good

This blog post was provided by, an alcohol & drug recovery blog.

Hey Hickory Wind Ranch blog readers! What do you think of this prayer?

God, I offer myself to Thee to teach me lessons, to punish me for not doing a better job at managing my own life, and to keep me arms length from anything truly amazing. Take
away aspects of my difficulties, leaving the incredibly tough and
confusing stuff for me to handle so that I may struggle with life
indefinitely, and so that I may complain about these struggles to my
fellows over coffee. Provide me with mediocrity, at best, and keep me far
from any kind of success or mastery, so I don’t intimidate anyone or get a
big head. May I do Your will always; assuming Your will is for me to limit
myself in all possible ways, and then blame that on You. Amen.

No good?

I agree! And, that’s a good sign of sanity, my friend! You see, I did some soul searching around my previous hesitation to surrender my will and life to the will of my Higher Power. In being as honest as possible I saw that I had a deeply buried, fundamental, and totally unworkable idea that the will of this Higher Power I was being expected to surrender to may just suck for me.

I know, today, that the idea of a cruel and uncaring Higher Power was something I had made up. But, when I dug deep into the cause of my reservations, thats the belief that was there! So, you can imagine my hesitation. The offer to surrender looked a lot like this: Okay, here are your choices!: You can have Your Will, which will be stressful, full of
uncertainty, and messy decisions… Or you can surrender to the Will of your Higher Power where you won’t get anything you want, and you’ll have to pretend to be happy with something that royally sucks, so that you don’t look like a jerk.

Talk about a tough choice!

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Thankfully, it was pointed out to me that I had it all wrong.  In
the 12 steps, step two is about coming to believe that this Higher Power can
restore me to sanity. Sanity is a good thing. I think sanity is great,
myself. And, in my opinion, any sane person would want good things for
themselves and for the people they love. So that was some evidence that
this Higher Power may want good for me, after all.

Next, in step three, it would only make sense to turn my will and life
over to the care of that Higher Power– the one I’m choosing to believe is
going to restore me to sanity, that is. You could even say it would be a
little crazy for me to turn my will and life over to some vengeful,
spiteful, angry God. And what a contradiction it would be to believe that
the Higher Power who would restore me to sanity would do so only to make
me suffer. Right?

So, once that was cleared up, I was told that I actually had a particular
perspective (or belief) in the matter of this Higher Power. That belief,
as I mentioned, was that the will of this Higher Power was not in my favor
and was bad news altogether. I was also told that it was my choice to
shift that perspective, and to believe something that supported me.

Because I had a ton of evidence (reasons) to support my dis-empowering
belief, I was given an assignment. The assignment was to go about
gathering new evidence for a God, or a Higher Power, who was caring and
kind. One way I did that was to look back over my life, at some of the
horrible things that had happened, to see if I could find any value in
those situations– lessons learned, contributions to my character, etc.
The other way I did that was I began to look for that same flavor of
potential goodness in my current situations and circumstances.

So, I offer that up to you in your own adventures with surrendering!

Rest assured that all of this wealth of wisdom and experience, handed down
by those who came before us, is being used as we continue working on the
Recovery Revolution #1 project: Recovery Revolutionaries Delivering What
Matters! We’re surrendering the project to the will of a Higher Power who
wants GOOD for us, and for our fellows! If you want to know more about the
Recovery Revolution #1 project, you can check it out on our site– just
click on the paper bag Recovery Revolution icon in the sidebar. Until next
time– don’t drink, drug, or try to off yourself!


Recovery Worth Recovering For

Fear vs. Intuition

This guest post is brought to you by BagheadSponsor.


Most of you know about the Recovery Revolution project, but if you don’t you should go check it out! We’re rolling right along with it! Something that has come to my attention, in this process, is that I’ve gotten fairly skilled at distinguishing Self-Centered Fear from an Intuitive Nudge! Now, let me be clear – I love straight-up fear.  For instance, I have a healthy fear of alcohol and drugs that has helped to keep me clean and sober for 19 years. And I take precautions when I walk down a dark alley in a bad neighborhood (in a big city, or in my mind.) It’s really the destructive, self-centered fear that causes problems in my life.  So I’d love to share with you what I believe are some fundamental differences between the two.


Feels urgent and panicked, like I must take an immediate action to push, fix or forward something. It’s ego driven. It either diminishes my talent, skills, or personality in some way or it’s aiming for a result where my ego will be stroked. There are a lot of reasons or rationalizations around it formed as thoughts, so it’s very heady and complex. There’s almost always a big, complex, or chaotic emotion attached to it.

More like straightforward information, unattached to emotion or reasons. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense but feels accurate. For the most part, it has nothing to do with me but more to do with peace, service, and workability. Calm and certain – a solid, quiet certainty underneath all the chaos. It’s in my gut, not in my head.

Learning to distinguish between the two has been a journey for me. By working the steps, I am able to clear away all the clutter of my mind and soul, to get to some fundamental truths about myself. Then, with regular prayer and meditation, I’ve been able to call my authentic self forward, so I am better able to recognize what is really aligned with who I am and who God would have me be.

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