Quieting the Mind: Some Quick Tips for Time Alone with your Head

I do a lot of thinking about – and teaching my clients about – the ways our minds can cause problems. There is no question that your negative thoughts, “inner bullies,” or simply the endless chatter in your own mind can send you to dark places. Those dark places can then send you running straight into the claws of your addiction.

I once had a client explain to me, “I can’t be alone with my own head! Within five minutes I can get depressed. I could be sitting on a beach in the sun, cool breeze on my skin, loved ones all around me, but if I get inside my head I will imagine everything going horribly wrong in my life, or start thinking about a million things I can’t control. I can end up in tears or so anxious I can hardly stand it!”

But as busy and hectic as your life may be, there is no doubt that there will be times when you are left alone with your own mind (laying down in bed at night is one of those times – as any insomniac can tell you). You must find a way to quiet your mind – especially when it is up to no good. Mindfulness and meditation are helpful here. When you catch yourself daydreaming or letting your thoughts run wild try these simple solutions:

–          Pause, breathe, and ground yourself in the present moment.

–          See each thought as if it is appearing in a cartoon bubble, floating gently away like a cloud one at a time.

–          Recall that your thoughts are just thoughts: you do not need to act on them or even attend to them.

–          Bring your full attention to your breath; feel how your breathing becomes slower and more even. Soon your mind will begin to slow as well.

Of course, these are just beginning suggestions. (There are many books available, including ours, which include exercise for mindfulness and meditation). Meditation takes practice, like any skill. But you may find some rapid and wonderful results by trying the techniques above and before you know it, you will be embracing those quiet moments alone with your own mind!

– Julie Kraft

Are You Being Bullied by Your Mind?


Your Inner Bully

by Julie Kraft, LMFT

You may think you are too old to get picked on, but chances are there is a genuine bully in your life. I am referring to that voice that says you’re worthless. You’re pathetic. You will never be loved. That voice is the bully inside of your mind. You may have tried to drown it with alcohol, tranquilize it with drugs, or hide from it in any number of ways, but it doesn’t work. In recovery, you have to find ways to handle your Inner Bully. So what can you do?

Step 1: Catch your Bully in the act! Chances are your own Inner Bully has often been flying under the radar: making you feel sad or stressed, pushing you to do your addictive behavior, and lowering your self-esteem all without getting caught. Your first task is to notice when your Inner Bully is talking to you. Bring awareness and attention to what your mind is up to.

Step 2: Know you are not alone. The Inner Bully picks on everyone, no matter how seemingly strong, attractive, or successful they may be. In working with addicts and alcoholics, I know their bullies can be the biggest, meanest buggers in the bunch. Hang in there and know you are not the only one with thoughts like these!

Step 3: Handle your Bully. Just like a regular bully, the Inner Bully can be handled in many ways. You may pick one or a combination of the options below.

       Option A: Tell a Teacher. This is another way of saying get some help. You don’t need to address your Bully all by yourself! Tell a friend, your sponsor, or a family member what your mind is getting up to today. Share about it at a 12-step meeting. Better yet, tell a counselor or a therapist. Take the power away from your Bully by getting some support!

       Option B: Fight Back. Stand up to your Inner Bully! Tell it: leave me alone, back off, stop that. Tell your Inner Bully you have no interest in what it has to say. Pipe down, I’m busy. Better yet, give it all the reasons it is wrong. This is an excellent exercise to do in your journal: write down whatever your Bully is taunting you with at the top of the page, then use the rest of the page (or many pages) to explain why it is wrong. You may agree with some of what your Inner Bully is saying to you, but for this exercise only write about the ways you disagree. Use examples to back up your argument. It is time to chime in against that big bully once and for all!

       Option C: Walk Away (with Love). This does not mean trying to ignore your Inner Bully while it goes on tormenting you. Think of Option C as “C is for Compassion.” When you notice your Bully getting louder, pause, take a deep breath, and offer some compassion to the situation. Wow, you sure are angry today. That must be exhausting. Chances are your Bully is responding to some kind of fear. And as cheesy as it sounds, fear fades in the face of love. Bring your focused attention back to love and compassion for yourself in that moment. You may be amazed by how quickly your Inner Bully calms down!

No matter what you choose to do about your Inner Bully, remember that recovery is a journey. Sometimes your Bully may be loud and cruel, other times quiet, but no matter what he is up to you can continue moving forward, one step at a time.

The Addiction Train: When Will You Get Off?

Imagine yourself on a moving train. When you first got on the train, you were excited and full of life. Maybe there was a certain energy to the train, the thrill of an adventure. Or maybe you found something soothing about being on the train, the motion of the journey or feeling like you could escape. Early on, the train stops in nice places. The view outside your window is pleasant. You like the ride. But slowly, the scenery begins to change. You don’t often see nice things outside of your window anymore. Each time the train stops you are in an even more dangerous neighborhood. It just keeps getting worse. You are spending time in places you had no intention of visiting. This isn’t what you expected when you got on this train, and you are starting to realize that it is not turning back. When do you decide to get off the train for good? When do you find your way to the other side of the tracks, as scary as it may seem, and try a different train headed in a new direction?

Addiction is just like that train. As it moves forward it makes certain stops, fun and easy at the beginning, then more and more troublesome. For an alcoholic or a drug addict, the familiar stops along the route include DUIs, other arrests, lost jobs, angry family members, divorce. For a food addict they may include weight gain, depression, fear, low self-esteem, and diabetes or other health problems. For a gambling addict, they may include calls from the creditors, frightened and angry spouses, stealing from friends and family, and suicidal thoughts. The route your train takes may include any or all of those stops. The truth is, if you stay on this train, you are likely to hit worse and worse stations along the way. For most addicts, the end of the line is death.

If you knew that, really knew that for sure, would you let that train keep carrying you in that same direction? No! You would run from that train and hop straight on the one heading back to a safe and healthy place.

Take some time today to think about the train you are currently riding, or had been riding until you got into recovery. What does the route look like for your particular addiction? What stops did you make along the way, and what could you see coming up ahead? It would help to write about this in your journal or even to draw a picture to map your train’s route. Your addiction loves to romanticize itself (that’s a nice way of saying that it lies). For you to make a real decision about how you want to live, it will be important to see through the lies and know what’s really going on. Then you can decide if this is the train you want to be riding!