Don’t set such high expectations for yourself. You may not be able to reach all your goals at this time, and that’s okay. We have never gone through this before, so there truly is no “expected” or “normal” way to feel or act. So be kind to yourself and try not to compare your situation with someone else’s. These are different times and what you may have been able to complete last year is going to look different this year. The goals will look different and they will feel different. Move forward with them, but remember to also be gentle with yourself. Any amount of progress is progress. There is always hope.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracy Maestrone.
Tracy is a Certified Addiction Recovery Coach with over a decade of experience in the field of addiction. She is the Senior Recovery Coach at Mountainside treatment center and is integral in strengthening the quality of services provided to clients. Tracy is passionate about utilizing a client-centered approach to provide clients with personalized support.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Yes, I would love to. I am a person who is in long-term recovery from substance use disorder. I was in a residential treatment center for 30 days. When I was discharged home, I felt that I needed more support. I needed someone to help me work on transitioning back into life and navigating life’s terms without substances. At that time, there was no such role as a Recovery Coach; there were only Sober Companions, who provide support and accompany newly sober people to social events to help them navigate triggers. A Recovery Coach offers an added level of guidance to clients and helps a person with substance use disorder to set long-term goals, partnering with them to do what is going to work for them in their recovery process. The coach works with them to create wellness plans, assists them with reentering school or the workplace, and connects them with a wider network of mental health professionals and medical providers. I am passionate about my role and my work and wanted to give back to the community. I believe having a Recovery Coach can play an important role in the process of healing from substance use disorder. So here I am today doing the work that I love. It is truly my calling.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Candidly, other than surfing the web and reading articles on my laptop or phone, I have not been able to sit quietly and read for enjoyment in a very long time. My schedule can get quite busy. I will tell you though: I do have it on my “to-do” list.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- First, I would like to say: don’t set such high expectations for yourself. You may not be able to reach all your goals at this time, and that’s okay. We have never gone through this before, so there truly is no “expected” or “normal” way to feel or act. So be kind to yourself and try not to compare your situation with someone else’s. These are different times and what you may have been able to complete last year is going to look different this year. The goals will look different and they will feel different. Move forward with them, but remember to also be gentle with yourself. Any amount of progress is progress. There is always hope.
- What can also help is gratitude. During this pandemic, we have been encouraged to social distance. Twenty years ago, the idea of social distancing would have been more difficult for us to bear without the conveniences of modern technology. Today, social media and the internet has allowed us to receive various sources of support and connect on so many levels with people from all over the world. My personal favorite is video conferencing and the ability to be with friends who live in different places across the globe.
- Another reason to be hopeful is seeing the number of coronavirus casualties decrease in some areas and looking at the percentage of people who have recovered from it. In general, people are listening, respecting one another, and staying home. I am hopeful that this will continue and we will be back moving about and traveling. In the meantime, remember to set healthy boundaries for yourself. I know some people have news alerts on their phones or they have the news playing in the background more often than not. During these times, it is important for our mental health to disconnect ourselves from the daily stressors of the news, media, and conversations that are toxic for the soul. Remember, “Where attention goes, energy flows.” How we spend our time is going to have much influence on how we feel.
- Sometimes, the best way to find hope is to spread empathy by listening to others. Because we all are quarantining at this time, the first chance we get to be with other folks, we may have a tendency to not listen to others and just speak over everyone else. Being able to sit and listen to someone is a gift to that person.
- Staying focused can similarly help us feel secure. Have a routine, and do not stagger away from it. Don’t stop getting up early. Don’t stop making your bed. Continue to get ready for the day, even if you are not leaving your home. Continue to rise above. It will be those who are forward thinkers, maintaining and increasing their productivity during these difficult times, who can and will make it to the other side.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
The first thing is to meditate and encourage others to do the same. Meditation can be an excellent technique to help with stress. There are some great apps that you can download for free on your phone; my favorite is Intake Timer. The simple act of meditating a mere five minutes a day can be highly effective. The little changes can bring about big changes.
Make and maintain connections. Though we are encouraged to social distance, do FaceTime your family or friends. Keep the conversation light or not, but the best thing I have found is to not shove your feelings away and keep things bottled up inside because chances are, there is another person out there who feels the same as you. Getting mutual concerns out in the open is cathartic and can be very helpful.
Journal. This is another form of emotional release. Writing down what your feelings are and thinking about why you are feeling this way encourages awareness and growth. I highly recommend journaling, as it helps you become attuned to your feelings and can be a powerful ritual.
Reflect on your resilience and acknowledge how adaptive you really are. It’s been easy to get caught up in the overwhelming influences of the media — so much so that it’s been distracting us from the strength and resilience we have all gained from this difficult time. Life as we know it changed overnight and we all made the necessary changes to be where we are now. If you ever feel like you’re not doing enough, just remember how much you have already done — adapting to this “new norm,” as we are calling it, requires so much strength and energy and we cannot forget that.
Practice mindfulness by taking a moment to pause and appreciate where you are and your surroundings. This could involve spending time in nature and quietly reflecting on the positive aspects of life, or simply trying breathing exercises. Being aware and conscious of your breathing can help you to shift your focus away from an anxious thought process.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
Therapy can be very helpful. Talk to someone who can help you work through your anxiety and identify why you’re having anxiety.
Meditation apps and online workouts are also great wellness resources available right at our fingertips. As I mentioned before, meditation is a calming technique and can do wonders for stress release. Similarly, incorporate physical exercise into your routine. Being able to exercise and having that feel good chemical released is not only beneficial for your body, but good for your soul.
Finally, practice mantra or affirmation repetition. Find a mantra or affirmation that really resonates with you and your needs and repeat it as often as you’d like. This not only takes your focus away from an anxious thought process and helps alleviate anxiety, but also allows for an energy shift from feeling overwhelmed to feeling hopeful.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
My favorite life quote (though I have many) is, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can,” by the great Arthur Ashe. To this day it’s relevant in my life. It helps me to walk through many of life’s doors, allowing me to not set such high expectations of myself, but to be and feel confident with where I am and what I do to help and guide those in the recovery process.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
“End the Stigma for Addiction.”
Often, those with substance use disorders are afraid to take the first step to reach out because they worry about what others may think. Addiction should be viewed and addressed the same way a physical illness would: compassionately and without judgment. Through education and increased awareness that addiction is a disease, more people will feel included in their communities and safe reaching out for the support they need and deserve.
What is the best way for our readers to follow you online?
They can follow me on Instagram @addiction_recovery_coach, or on LinkedIn (Tracy Maestrone).
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!