Recovery Strategies: Self-Reliance

  • "Can I get this pot?" I asked the counselor who had driven the residents to the supermarket for our weekly grocery shopping.  I waved a 2 qt saucepan wildly in the air.


    "Isn't that illegal?" he joked.


    "I was able to buy everything else.  I have five dollars left."


    "Okay," he smiled.


    We were glad the order totaled exactly $70 dollars: the limit each resident had for one week's purchases.  I carted off my bags to the passenger van with the words Holland House exclaiming our status to the outside world.


    My only friend from the residence and I decided we might have to wear dark sunglasses when we rode in the van.  We protested the sudden appearance of the name on the van.  The counselor claimed that all the vans had to be labeled in order to get Medicaid funding.

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    The next week: I asked my roommate to buy a chocolate bar if we had any money left over when it was her turn to shop.  I listed on my side of the grocery list that I wanted two boxes of wheat bran cereal among other staples.


    The woman came back with the chocolate bar and no cereal.  I protested to our counselor who wasn't the guy that joked with me the week before.


    She told me: "Well, maybe Diane placed everything on the conveyor belt and the cereal was the last thing she put on it so she didn't have money for anything else.  She most likely placed the chocolate bar on top first."


    I was livid at the time that my roommate didn't know the basics of how to prioritize the order of importance of the groceries.  I certainly wouldn't have placed the cereal last and the chocolate bar first.


    This memory stayed with me all these years.


    I didn't have the gumption to tell our counselor that the staff should help clients develop these kinds of life skills.  Luckily, I had my own money stashed away and could go out and buy the cereal on my own.  Otherwise: no breakfast.


    I devote this SharePost to self-reliance because if you can't take care of yourself in your recovery you might not like the options you're presented with in terms of living arrangements.


    How can each of us get the skills to take care of ourselves so that we don't have to rely on others to tell us how to live our lives?


    I will suggest strategies to incorporate in your life if you don't want to be left wrangling over a pot or a chocolate bar.


    Cook, clean, and do laundry while you live at home with your parents until you move into your own apartment.  Go shopping every week with your mother or father to see how much things cost.  Share in cooking from recipes as often as you can.


    See if an apartment can be made in your parents' basement where you can live semi-privately.  I lived at home while I attended graduate school and used the back room in the basement as a bedroom.


    Plan day trips in your neighborhood or your city.  Go on the Internet to research your local bus and train routes.  Try using HopStop to get directions via multiple options.  Get a half-fare card to ride public transportation if your local Transit Authority allows individuals with SSI checks to ride at a reduced fare.


    Go out to a local coffee shop to read the newspaper and people watch.  Go to public places where you can unobtrusively people watch to observe how people interact with each other.


    Libraries are a perfect home-away-from-home.  You can read the daily paper there and check out books and CDs and DVDs and magazines.  You can use the computers for free and will often only pay a fee for printing out pages.  The library will offer all kinds of free programs and workshops on topics like health and finances.  Your neighborhood branch might host a monthly book club.


    You might have a bookstore in your neighborhood too that holds a monthly book club or Socrates Cafe or other kind of forum.  Also: I will again recommend joining a MeetUp for an activity you're passionate about.

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    Keep on top of your recovery by attending the NAMI Peer-to-Peer education course when you're newly diagnosed or farther down the road, whenever it would help you.  Dial (800) 950-NAMI (6264) to get the name and phone number of the local affiliate in your town or city that offers this training.


    In the course: you will create a relapse prevention plan and a psychiatric advance directive.  An advance directive for your mental healthcare will designate another person you trust to advocate for you if you're not doing well on your own or relapse or have an episode and can't tell the staff on your own how you want to be treated.


    A psychiatric advance directive prioritizes the order of treatments such as a shot, restraint or medication to calm you down; the names of the drugs you will and will not consent to take; and other things, such as who will be allowed to visit you when you're in the hospital.


    I specified I'm NOT to be given Zyprexa or Risperdal or any other weight-gaining drug.  I stated that no person under the age of 18 will be allowed to visit me.  I also made my wishes known as regards my choice if I get pregnant and have to decide what to do.


    To be able to take care of yourself, I also recommend doing the things I talked about in Recovery Strategies: Getting Credentials.  Engaging in goal-directed behavior is imperative when you live your life in recovery.  Set goals you know you can achieve just starting out and then set goals slightly beyond your reach.  A goal is a dream with a deadline and I would encourage everyone to dare to dream of doing something wonderful in his or her lifetime.


    As you move along in your recovery, I suggest travel as a way to gain life skills.  You can read my earliest SharePost on Tips for Traveling.  Travel with a friend or family member the first time you go if you're hesitant about traveling alone.  Get a passport.


    Use a tour group as an alternative if you can't find someone to go with you.  This kind of package deal will have the itinerary pre-planned with the added benefit of a tour guide to manage the trip.  Tip the bus driver and the tour guide generously at the end of your time with them.


    I'll end here with a surprising tip for taking care of yourself: along with getting out in the world either in your neighborhood or far away: I recommend spending time at home to rest and recharge your batteries if intense social interaction drains your energy.


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    The extroverts among us can party hard.  Those of us who are introverts and a lot of us in recovery (even if we're not introverts) would do well to get to know what makes us tick.  What makes you tick or tock?  Find out.  One of the famous French philosophers is quoted: If you are lonely when you are alone, you are in bad company.


    The goal is to enjoy your own company.


    So read a book.  Surf the Internet.  Cook yourself a meal.  Paint a picture.


    Self-reliance: That's the ticket.

Published On: March 26, 2013