give yourself a break I used to cringe whenever anyone told me to “give myself a break”. In early recovery my head was always racing between regrets and future tripping. I couldn’t make sense of all the emotions that were creating anxiety so whenever anyone told me to give myself a break all I felt was shame as if it was my fault that I was feeling this inner turmoil. The funny thing is that hearing these words   hit my “pause” switch causing my attention to turn to something else and I would feel a little better. This saying is like a communal Band-Aid recovering addicts share with one another. We pass it around blindly without instruction or explanation. Our brains have been wired to function according to whatever substance we have been using. When we get clean it has to readjust to functioning without drugs. This is what I call the “landing back in our bodies” phase. It’s like the GPS in the car. If you program a location and then take a different route what happens? The   GPS starts freaking out “Reconfigure! Reconfigure!” Well, that’s what our brain is doing in early recovery. While we can turn off a GPS to get some peace and quiet, it’s harder to turn off our thinking.   Human Beings experience internal monologues. The reason it’s important for addicts in recovery to have tools to cope with this inner chatter is because usually it’s the source of our anxiety. If we feel bad enough long enough getting high or having a drink will present itself as the logical remedy for our discomfort. We spend more time trying to think our way into thinking less yet we can give ourselves a break at any time by turning our attention to something beautiful in nature to calm our spirit. This could be the color of the sky or the clouds you see from your window, a tree or a flower – whatever is close at hand.  You can spare a couple minutes to flip your switch. Pay close attention to your breathing. Again, this can be done anywhere. Mouth closed, feel the air moving in and out of your nostrils. Notice if it feels colder going in and warmer going out. Maybe you’ll become aware of your heartbeat. When we put the attention on our body and come into the moment, our awareness grows. This isn’t to say that you’re head’s not going to resist at first. “You don’t have the time. You should phone ____.  Finish what you’re doing. You can do the mindfulness shit later. Looking out the window isn’t going to change anything”. The disease-mind will always try to resist yet this is exactly the dialogue you’re giving yourself a break from. We can’t think our way into living in the moment.  It’s unfortunate that our response to reality is to find ways to escape it.  Giving yourself a break means not allow yourself to be a prisoner of your mind. This spinning out of control negative self-talk has got to go. Peace of mind is possible.


Patty is a nationally recognized certified recovery coach and writer. She lives in New York City.

1 comment

Catherine Kubiak-Greco   Reply  

I found your post very insightful and comforting. On my blog I am doing a section on the benefits of being gentle with ourselves. Today;s topic was giving ourselves a break and I was looking for a quote to give an explanation. I found your article and what you said – “Giving yourself a break means not allowing yourself to be a prisoner of your mind.” It seemed so appropriate that I posted it on the day’s blog – fully crediting you of course with the link to your site. Thank you! = Catherine –

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