“There’s nothing worse than an idle mind, especially during the holidays,” says Cortney, a patient treated for alcoholism at NCH in 2016 and 2017. Cortney has found success using ACCEPTS (Activities, Contributing, Counting Your Blessings, Emotion Opposite, Pushing Away, Thoughts Distractions and Sensations).
In general, how does ACCEPTS help?
There are a lot of wonderful techniques to help you steer bad thoughts into the right direction. We can change our attitudes at any point during the day.
Starting with ‘A’ in ACCEPTS, what are some of your favorite activities to do?
I love going to movies by myself, having dinner with other sober people, game night or any activity that puts you in a good, positive mood. Try to plan activities with other people, especially, when you don’t feel like it. Make commitments and stick to them, however small they may be.
Contributing: What ideas do you have?
I do a lot of service work for AA; chairing meetings, making coffee, handing out and picking up books, sponsorship. You can volunteer at a food bank or senior center, volunteer to wrap Christmas presents or offer to shovel your neighbor’s snow. No matter how small, whatever you can do for someone else will ultimately help you the most.
Counting your blessings: How do you go about doing this?
At night before I go to bed, I run through my day, thanking my higher power for every little good thing that happened. First and foremost, I’m alive and sober. Be grateful for things like seeing Christmas lights or hearing music. We can all be grateful for something at any moment in time.
Emotion opposite: What does this mean and how do you do it?
Generally, when I am feeling down or unmotivated, I put on some music that lifts my spirits and energizes me. If I’m feeling lonely, I call a friend or family member to see how they are doing. Planning things with friends is a great way to combat loneliness. If you’re sad, watch a funny movie or TV show. When I’m really stuck in the mud, I find something I can do for someone else. It always changes my perspective.
Pushing away: How does it help?
Alcoholics and addicts crave chaos at times. I have really started to learn that there are very few big deals in life. We can create chaos out of very little things. We try to predict the future and it’s always the worst possible outcome. Today, I am able push away the things that are not important. My time is much better spent on helping others and improving my own life. I just have to do the next right thing today. I will worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.
Thoughts distractions: What are some ways we can redirect our thoughts?
My number one go-to for re-directing my thoughts is music and gratitude. I am grateful that I am a recovering alcoholic and I remember that every time I have a negative thought.
Sensations: Can you give ideas of what you can do and how it helps?
Sight – Take a walk, take pictures, watch a movie you’ve always wanted to see or binge watch a new show.
Hearing – Put on any kind of music that can instantly cheer you up and dance like no one’s watching.
Taste – Treat yourself to your favorite meal, or particular sweet you like. Have suckers on hand. They’re one of my favorite things to distract me for a little while.
Touch – Wrap yourself in a cozy, soft blanket. Go to an animal shelter and play with the dogs. Take a hot bath with some bath salts.
Smell – I usually go to candles and pillow sprays that help me relax. You can always bake something you love the smell of, too. Sometimes just going for a walk and smelling the fresh air energizes me.