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Todays Date:
Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Friday, August 17, 2012

Jump On In

By Dr. Dina Evan

There is so much talk these days, especially in the self-help and personal growth movement about creating your own reality. I own it. I teach it. However, there is something else we don’t talk about that is critical to that process — the courage to take risks.

Right now, life is filled with uncertainty and there are pivotal points along our path that afford us with opportunities in which one decisive moment could forever change our life. Those of us who did not have an easy childhood often hesitate to take these opportunity-filled steps because “the worst” has happened in our lives and we are afraid that the worst will come again. It seldom, if ever does, and operating from the pain or fear of the past holds us hostage in our lives with regard to creating the happiness and success we deserve and want.

We forget that never again will we be three feet high, or that gawky teenager, standing without a tool bag or life experiences, or the cognitive ability, or support system or height to tackle life head-on.  Still, we shrink back in fear unable to commit fully to our own lives.

Stephen Mills, a web columnist, says,”The willingness to take risks and the skill to make intelligent decisions between risk and irresponsibility will to a large degree determine the level of achievement that you will attain. Your biggest risk is not the possibility of failing — it is in not trying. Burn this
thought into your brain: The one sure way to guarantee failure to achieve your dream, is to play it safe.”


Some simple things to remember about risk taking:
  1. In reality, we encounter very few life threatening risks, while creating our best life.
  2. In reality, there are very few decisions that cannot be changed if necessary.
  3. If you are protecting yourself from being wrong, remember that standing in your ego leaves you  nowhere, except trapped in the status quo.
  4. Successful people do not equate failure with their own worth. They equate failure with success and the courage it takes to continue the trial and error process toward success. They consider failure a key to progress and learning. They are not afraid to fall.
  5. Neither do they stay down after a fall. They get back up and begin again.
  6. The fastest route to success is often right through the middle of what does not work, or the fear, to get to what does work.
  7. Being different is not a bad thing. Being different often denotes leadership, courage and character. You have to be different to be successful in life.
  8. Fear is often the flip side of excitement and doesn’t mean you should stop or not go forward. Listen to your gut and determine whether the fear is realistic or perhaps it’s just that something needs to be changed. Fear can also be simply because you are in unfamiliar territory. The unfamiliar is the exciting cutting edge to positive change.
  9. You will seldom lose anything of value that is not replaceable — your shirt, your income, your place of residence, your relationship. The only thing you can lose that is not replaceable is your integrity, your character and your quality of life.
  10. Look behind you at all the challenges that you have already overcome in life and remember that you have accumulated a world of tools and knowledge that will help you boldly create whatever you choose.
The question is very often not “Should I,” but rather, “How can I?”

Success energy is accumulative. Like a snowball rolling down a mountain, it builds on itself. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in life in which you stop to look fear in the face.” That is a profound truth. With every risk you take, with every success and failure that teaches you something, you grow stronger and more enthusiastic about
your path. Enthusiasm is contagious.

Most of what happens in life are things we cannot control. However, we can control our response to life and everything that happens in it and that response creates either success or apathy.

Make sure your response to life
is a resounding, “bring it on!”

Love and War

By Barbara Nicholson-Brown

Like many of us who are now clean and sober, my experiences with alcohol and drugs started out as a way for me to be part of the “cool crowd.” Back then I was so far from cool, (I don’t know if I am now either), but what a way for me be accepted, so my young mind thought.

Would it hurt? Someone said no, “you’ll feel good, that’s all!” That sounded quite appealing to me. It was during those awkward years when you’re still a kid, but a teen and you want to be all grown up. “This might be my chance at happiness,”—so I joined in.

Did it hurt? Yes! My first time drinking found me passed out and blacked out under some kid’s parent’s pool table in a dank dark basement. I was nauseous and scared to go home and face my parents. Would they know? Was I going to get grounded for life or shipped away? I did get in trouble and made my first promise never to do it again. Maybe that was my first alcoholic lie. I was delusional enough to think I was in some kind of love affair, as all sorts of alcohol and drugs found their way into my system.

I tried to fight the battle on my own periodically — but the war had started years ago in my body, brain and spirit. When I ingested anything, bad things happened. Every time I thought I would abstain for a while, the power of my addiction won. I was constantly fighting good and evil. I loved being numb, hated the aftermath, loved the way I felt when I was high, hated what I was becoming. I couldn’t keep the lies straight. I couldn’t stop.

Little did I know the madness would not stop until I hit bottom on June 17, 1990.

The power of the disease of my addiction told me I didn’t have it, nothing was wrong. It seduced me and I was oftentimes momentarily ‘enchanted, prettier and desirable’. What I didn’t see was the wreckage it was creating. All the cover-up in the world couldn’t erase the shadows under my eyes, and the sadness that emanated from every pore of me. This isn’t a picture of what love looks like.

I have learned over the past 22 years this is an incurable but treatable disease. I have learned to fight my war with sober friends, and for the most part ...listening to their wisdom. I learned it really is OK to ask for help, ok to share my experiences, war stories and joys with others.

What I have learned most of all is through a power greater than myself I get a daily reprieve if I follow direction, do the best I can each day and live in gratitude — for the good and the bad that comes with life.

Everything that happens is meant to, learning can be painful, but I’ve been told that’s where the growth is.

On this journey of recovery, we must help each other along when the trenches are deep and extend a hand to get our footing.

I know for myself I could not have gotten to this point in my sobriety alone. We are in this together, and I see this as gift of love.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Facing the Truth Behind the Mask

By Dr. Jon G. Caldwell, D.O

Over 2,500 years ago, in Athens Greece, playwrights like Sophocles introduced a form of theatrical art known as the tragedy. Greek tragedies typically dealt with weighty themes such as betrayal, loss, pride, jealousy, rage, love, courage, honor, life and death. Often these dance-dramas also explored man’s relationship with God and the existential challenges that are part of the human condition. Actors wore elaborate masks with exaggerated facial expressions so that their character’s role, emotional state, and intentions might be accessible to the audience. Commonly, one actor played several characters during the course of the theatrical performance, changing masks for each character and sometimes for each scene.
       
Our Scripts
Fast-forward to our lives today and the Greek tragedy might be used as a metaphor for some of the key aspects of recovery from trauma and addiction. Like an actor in a play, often we are reacting to life’s existential challenges according to a script. This script can influence how we move about on the stage of life; it can spell out our roles in relation to others, how we think and feel, and how we act in various situations. From the first moments of conception and throughout development, by way of ongoing interactions between ourselves, others, and the environment, this narrative is written into our psychobiology — it becomes an implicit script in the mindbody system.



Moreover, similar to actors in Greek tragedies, our implicit scripts encourage the use of certain masks or personas. In many ways, this is completely natural and necessary for a life in which we play many different roles. For most of us, the scenes on life’s stage are constantly changing; we may transition from a family mask to a work mask, then to a friend mask, and back to a family mask, all within
the course of one day. However, unlike the actors in a Greek tragedy, for us these personas are not distinct, separate people — they are aspects of a single being, linked together by the person behind the masks. For some of us, our own life resembles a Greek tragedy, with painful experiences of betrayal, loss, abandonment, and trauma. These experiences are written into the mind-body
script that tacitly flavors our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Some of these life events can be so traumatic that we don’t even want to look at the script — we would rather not face the reality of our situation, it’s just too painful. Yet, our bodies and minds still play the part, even when we don’t pay attention to the script; something happens on the stage of life and we just react according to our past
experiences, maybe without even being aware of the script.

Also, when there are painful and traumatic aspects to our life scripts, wearing a mask can become an adaptive way to hide our vulnerabilities from ourselves and others. The various personas create a sense of security and a safe distance from the troubling realities deep behind the masks. While this strategy is protective, over time it can further obscure the truth of our scripts and disconnect us from
what drives our thoughts, feelings, and actions. In fact, under these circumstances, we risk
becoming over-identified with the personas, forgetting who is actually looking through the masks. We become disconnected from the truth of who we really are and we cannot see the truth of others around us.

The Rawness of Our Reality
Moreover, sometimes these protective measures fall short and the truth of our scripts threatens to come bubbling up into awareness. In those moments, the pain, fear and shame can seem overwhelming, leading to desperate attempts to push it all back out of awareness. Compulsive behaviors with drugs, sex, relationships, and food will facilitate temporary relief from the vulnerability and pain of our tragedy scripts. While addiction can force the rawness of our reality out of awareness for a while, it comes with a whole host of complicating problems. In time, addictions only add painful prose to the narrative of our mindbody scripts and further disconnect us from
our truth and from people that we love. For several decades, Pia Mellody has been encouraging people to remember and rediscover the truth behind the masks and to face reality without addiction. For her, what started as a journey to understand the dis-ease of codependence, so that she could better help her clients, turned into an elegant, comprehensive model for addiction recovery. This model continues to be used at The Meadows of Wickenburg, a world-renowned treatment center, and has been a source of healing for many patients and practitioners.

Codependence and Addiction
You might ask, “How is codependence related to addiction?” Pia Mellody kept asking herself this same question when she repeatedly encountered the coexistence of these two conditions in her clients. What she and her colleagues came to understand is that codependence and addiction are frequently linked together by a history of childhood abuse and neglect. These traumatic experiences
can be overt (i.e., big “T”), as in the case of physical or sexual abuse, or covert (i.e., little “t”), as in the case of emotional abuse, abandonment, enmeshment, and loss/death. Relational trauma of this kind often results in deep wounds, painful paragraphs in our mindbody scripts, which can lead to developmental immaturity and negative consequences for adult functioning.

More specifically, Pia Mellody found that people usually entered recovery treatment because of addiction, mental/emotional symptoms, resentment/anger, negative control of others,  intimacy/relationship problems, and impoverished spirituality. However, usually these issues only become “problems” because other people tell the person in treatment that they are indeed problematic! Yet, given an opportunity to step back from the tornado of unmanageability created by these issues, most people in treatment are able to admit that help is necessary.

Pia Mellody came to understand that these presenting problems were only “secondary symptoms” of deeper, core developmental issues that are frequently related to childhood trauma. She surmised that relational trauma causes an individual to become polarized along five core dimensions of development:
1) self esteem (less than versus better than),
2) boundaries (too vulnerable versus invulnerable),
3) reality issues (bad/rebellious versus good/perfect),
4) dependency (too dependent versus needless/wantless), and
5) moderation (too little versus too much self-control).
Furthermore, she discovered that when people are able to address their childhood wounds and identify their core issues of developmental immaturity, they discover a measure of reprieve from the secondary symptoms of addiction and relationship turmoil.

Pia Mellody has consistently taught that the recovery process requires that we honestly and courageously face the truth of our past, both what has been done to us and what we have done to others. It is no coincidence that she titled her now-classic book “Facing Codependence.” As suggested by Pia Mellody, “The recovery process is about living more in truth than lies.” Yet, paradoxically, the painful truth of our mind-body scripts is what drove us to hide behind the masks and disconnect through addictive processes. The prospect of facing the reality of our condition doesn’t appeal to many people — that is why the bottom can be so low.

So, how do we go about facing the truth of our scripts and reacquaint ourselves with the person behind the masks? Here are a few suggestions:
  • Develop a willingness to surrender. In the recovery process, a willing heart can take us a long way. The path of recovery has many twists and turns and very often we don’t know what is around the next
    bend. Remembering the powerless and unmanageability of our past can invite the willingness we need to surrender to the recovery process.
     
  • Be willing to accept help. Recovery isn’t a solitary affair. Often we need the help of a director or producer when facing the truth of our tragedy scripts. Guidance and support can be found in friends and family, recovery communities, professional treatment, and something or someone wiser and vaster than us (i.e., nature, spirit, higher power, etc).
     
  • Cultivate self-compassion and patience. Under the gentle, soft stage-lights of self-directed compassion and patience, we can begin to peer into the darkness behind the masks and face the perilous paragraphs of our mind-body scripts. Rugged honesty isn’t the same as selfdefeating
    judgment and blame. Let us be kind to ourselves.
  • Some discomfort is inevitable. As we learn to accept and be with the uncomfortable
    sensations, emotions, and thoughts associated with our implicit scripts, we find that these mind-body states are generally transitory, like storm clouds moving across a desert landscape.
    Gradually, our recovery can become imbued with a quiet confidence that we can weather life’s storms.
     
  • Recovery is about growing up. If trauma leads to developmental immaturity, as suggested by Pia Mellody, then recovery must be a maturational process. Don’t fight it – let go of old ways and exercise a willingness to embrace new, more mature ways of living.
  • Recovery involves grieving. As we more fully inhabit and live from our truth, we can expect to grieve what we didn’t ever receive, what we lost along the way, and the gradual disillusion of the fantasies that we created about ourselves and others.
  • It’s a process, not a destination. It is tempting to think of recovery as a goal or a to-do item to be checked off. But, in recovery, no one ever truly arrives… each step on the path brings fresh challenges and opportunities. “Life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved.” ~
    Søren Kierkegaard.
Perspectives and practices like these support a recovery process where we begin to live more in truth than in lies. The traumatic narratives of our tragedy scripts are not necessarily erased, but they can be rewritten and reinterpreted on the stage of life. Gradually, we become less invested in, and identified
with, our various masks – we are able to more comfortably embody the person looking through the masks.

In many ways, the recovery process is about becoming more conscious – more connected with the truth of ourselves and others. Within this field of heightened consciousness there begins to be enough space and security for the emergence of an authentic self. Generally, this kind of conscious presence brings us into contact with our own humanity, our foibles, short-comings, character defects, and
our deepest wounds. However, at the same time we are able to make intimate contact with our own immutable and unconditional worth.

In that authentic space of conscious awareness we come back home to ourselves and, if only for a moment, we experience our wholeness. When we are at home with ourselves, we are better able to make meaningful connections with other humans, all creatures, nature, and a higher power. This is the essence of spiritual practice; ultimately, this is the spiritual path. May we all find and inhabit this
path of recovery by facing the truth behind our masks.

Tech to Connect

By Rob Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S

Tech to Connect
Th ese days, virtually everyone owns a computer, smart-phone, or mobile device. Digital interaction is an integral part of our everyday routine. We check emails and texts, update our Facebook page, fire off a tweet or two, and then finish our morning coffee. Digital interconnectivity provides endless new opportunities that support our very human needs for community and social interaction. Innovations like Facebook, with over 500 million users, and Twitter, with over 300 million
users, now allow real-time interactions with an increasingly wider and more diverse group of people. Best of all, friends and family who may have been too distant for regular contact
just a few years ago can now be intimately folded into our lives. We make friends, we share our experiences, we celebrate, and we commiserate — one world, a growing interactive community.

Th e digital world has also done a great deal toward educating the general public about topics  formerly considered too personal or embarrassing to discuss with friends and family or even a  professional. anks to the Internet, nonjudgmental clinical information regarding mental illness,  spousal abuse, sexuality, relationship intimacy, and drug and alcohol abuse, just to name a few, is  now available online 24/7. is availability of much needed information has helped to de-stigmatize formerly shameful topics and facilitate useful connections with like-minded individuals. For partners,  pouses, and families separated for long periods of time by work or military service, the  tech-connect boom is a godsend. Couples are now able to bond longdistance in real time, sharing a  growing child’s latest milestone and even engaging in visual intimacy via the webcams now routinely  ncorporated into computers and smart-phones. ose not yet in a committed relationship can  put technology to good use when home or traveling via e-dating, establishing and growing budding  relationships with less of a focus on who lives where.

Tech to Disconnect
Our increasing online connectivity has also brought with it access to an unending collection of highly  rousing sexual content (pornography) and increasingly unfettered connections to willing  exual partners. While these activities are a source of highly pleasurable amusement and distraction  or  he vast majority of healthy people who choose to engage in them, those individuals predisposed to addictive and impulsive behavior patterns can find themselves lost in an escalating, obsessive quest  or sexual and/or romantic intensity. Ultimately they begin abusing online sexual experiences — more  s a means of escape than pleasure. For such people, viewing online porn and creating quick Internet  exual hook-ups can lead over time to an addictive relationship with online sexuality. is in turn  roduces profoundly negative relationship, personal, health, career, and even legal consequences —  hich are often ignored in order to continue cybersex activities.

The Curse is Worse Than the Pain

Prescription pain medication abuse is reaching epidemic proportions, especially among adolescents. Dr. Mel Pohl, medical director of the Las Vegas Recovery Center, and one of the nation’s leaders in studying prescription abuse, discusses the dangers of painkillers. He shares successful approaches he has used with patients and for his own chronic pain. He makes a compelling case for rethinking how we treat pain.