How I Got Off Antidepressants Using Al-Anon Slogans

Self-discipline is something I've never had trouble with. I've got a nasty case of low self-esteem. Auto-flagellation and rigid control is my modus operandi. Hence my 7-year antidepressant habit. But I found that anti anxiety and depression meds made life worse for me. So I quit. But I still had the low self esteem and OCD to cope with. I need self-control, but not the harsh pre-antidepressant kind I used to use. Here's a simple self-help plan I created, based on Al-Anon principles, to modify behavior and change habits.

* Easy does it. I've earned merit badges in obsessive-compulsive self-control. And I've got the furrowed brow, clenched jaw and muscles aches to prove it. Self-discipline doesn't mean wearing a hair shirt, however. It should heal, not hurt. As I change habits, I'm learning to give myself the same patience and encouragement I give others.

* Progress not perfection. Under my old regime, I was ruthless and autocratic with others sometimes and always with myself. I demanded perfection in every area. Setting unattainable goals is self-destructive. I nearly killed myself and did long-term damage to my psyche. Now I look for areas of improvement. I focus on success, not failure.

* Narrow it down. Instead of blindly trying to change my entire self, I've listed 10 habits to build or break. Some are: lose weight; exercise more; improve productivity; cut spending; drink less wine; control temper; get to bed earlier; get up earlier. (Six goals is probably more realistic).

* Identify measurable goals. I found that my listed goals were too vague. To change habits, I wrote clearer objectives: lose eight pounds this month; exercise 30 minutes daily; drink 2 glasses of wine daily; go to bed at 11 p.m. and get up at 7 a.m.

* Use positive, action verbs. Clarify what you want to do not what you don't want to do. Instead of "don't get angry," I listed ways to avoid flare-ups. Journal; walk; bike (hits two goals); dialogue.

* Assess progress. I made a rubric and rate success in each area before bed. My rating system is: 1--blew it, 2--meh, 3--pretty good, 4--nailed it, mama. More than 50 percent overall, I count a good day. Less means I need to try harder tomorrow. No self-flogging. Then I give thanks to my higher power for the day.

This gentle slow-and-steady system helps me make self-tweaks where needed. I've lost weight, exercise more and am sleeping better and feeling better about myself.

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