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Todays Date:
Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Saturday, June 8, 2013

TogetherAZ Blog: Was That You, Bill?

TogetherAZ Blog: Was That You, Bill?: As many of you know, a little over three years ago I lost the love of my life, Bill to cancer. While he was seriously ill for over four year...

Friday, June 7, 2013

Grief Can Transform Us

By Dan Stone, MSW, LCSW, LISAC, CT

In a recent New Yorker magazine (March 11, 2013) written by Alec Wilkinson, the noted jazz pianist, Jason Moran, described his experience with the death of his mother. I found this part of the article interesting and relevant to many of us who have lost loved ones.
“Moran grew his beard in 2005, when his mother died of cancer. He says it is a veil he wears in mourning. When she died, he lost interest in his appearance. ‘I didn’t know what to do anymore, “he said. ‘I felt like, the music doesn’t care what the musician looks like, and now I had pain.” He spent the last night she was conscious at her bedside. ‘I was very ambivalent about watching the process,’ he went on. ‘Spending that last night with her evoked almost a kind of terror. I don’t recommend it. It’s too much to watch. With someone you love, you keep that part at the end with you almost as much as you keep how you grew up and remember them. I have to make my mind remember her as healthy, or I can’t move.”

The article continues with Moran discussing how his mother would take notes when she attended his piano lessons, encouraging him to work on his tone and fingering. He later wrote a composition titled “Cradle Song” to memorialize her.

I appreciate Moran’s remarks about remembering the time before the death. Early in the mourning process, it’s easy to focus on the tragedy of the final months, weeks, days and moments. Many of us have recurring images that are painful and in some situations, traumatic. When my mother was dying she lived one week after having a stroke. My sister and I were at her bedside daily.  During the last moments of her life, I was able to speak to her in a tender manner, encouraging her to let go and be at peace. She was not conscious; however, I was comforted at being there to support her.

Over a period of time, I was able to see her for the total person that she was. I have often remembered some of the special times were had together. Sometimes, I remember some unpleasant events, but I am able to recall her in a way that encompasses her humanity and totality.
When my father died I did not have the blessing of being at his side. I have often regretted that but that was a long time ago. My life and my understanding of grief have changed significantly since then. I can identify with Moran’s composition that is dedicated to his mother. With the guidance of a wise friend I found a way to honor my Dad. I was encouraged to think of a positive quality of his and replicate it in my own life.
After some thought, I remembered on many occasions when he would leave our home, my mother would ask him where he was going. He usually replied saying he was paying a condolence call to one of his friends, neighbors and fellow congregants to provide support. I decided to support those in my world who were suffering with loss. Eventually after becoming a therapist, I was drawn to grief counseling and therapy. Since 1997,  I have developed a focus on bereavement that includes complicated and traumatic grief. I often think of my father and I believe that if he could possibly know, he would approve.
Today, in my work with the bereaved, I respect the diversity of grieving styles be they religious, cultural or personally developed. I believe that the telling of the story of our losses and our relationship with the deceased is important and I find it interesting how our meaning of the grieving experience changes over time.

With many of my clients, I have observed the process of what has been called post traumatic growth which can be apparent in the way people discover a new purpose and often a more spiritual approach to their existence.

Several years ago, I read about a study that was done with eight mothers of children who died as a result of birth defects. These children died from about six months of life to about 37 years old. They were in a bereavement group.  About two years from the commencement of the group they were administered questionnaires that would assess where they were in the grieving process. Seven of the eight women reported that they had no regrets. They felt that they wouldn’t want to give up the experience of having the child in their lives. They reported that they were no longer “sweating the small stuff”. In fact, the experience had infused their lives with new meaning. These women had grown spiritually and were interested in being of service to others.

I find this analogous to the experience of recovery. Many of us who have been addicted to substances have suffered various consequences and losses. In working a program of recovery, we find that life takes on new meaning and that we become people who are able to be of service to others. Like the seven mothers, we experience a change in our world view as we change our perception of the meaning of life.


Dan Stone, MSW, LCSW, LISAC, CT is a social worker and counselor who specializes in addictions and grief. Dan has been a counselor at Cottonwood Tucson since 1995. He has worked with adults and adolescent females providing substance abuse assessments, relapse prevention workshops, individual and group grief sessions for patients and family members. He has also been a primary counselor on the adult unit. Dan has had a private practice in Tucson since 1999.

We'll ALL Get There

I live on a country road that gets so skinny at some points that only one car can pass. When two cars meet, one of them must back up or pull to the side of the road to make way for the other. While the process is inconvenient, it calls for cooperation and saying hi to neighbors. It’s refreshing.
The other day I was on my way to an important meeting I did not want to be late for. At one of the thin junctures I encountered my neighbor Dean approaching in his truck. The moment came when we had to decide which vehicle would yield. While normally I wouldn’t have minded backing up, that day I wished I didn’t have to. Dean seemed to read my mind and he congenially backed his truck up quite a way to let me pass. When I passed him I rolled down my window to say thanks. “No problem,” he smiled. “We’ll all get where we need to get when we need to get there.”
Now there’s an affirmation worthy of posting on a wall. Many of us spend a great deal of our life rushing to get places. In the process we do clumsy things, get embroiled in impatience and irritation, and sometimes cause accidents. In our haste to get somewhere, we miss being somewhere, and never seem to get anywhere.

The Greek bible, the first translation from the original Aramaic, contains two different words for “time.” One is chronos, which is similar to the way we think of time, dividing the progression of life into seconds, minutes, hours, days, and so on. The other word, kairos, is harder to translate because in our culture we don’t have one word for it. The closest translation would be, “when the time is right,” or “in the fullness of the season,” or “in God’s timing.” Kairos recognizes that there is a right timing for everything, and when that timing comes, things happen naturally. Kairos does not depend on time. It depends on timing.
Those of us who tend to live by chronos could use a good dose of kairos. We would relax more and everything would get done. My friend Harriet was on her way to see her psychotherapist when she got stuck behind a slow driver in a no passing zone. At that rate Harriet would be late for her appointment, and she became more and more frustrated. She tried and tried to find a way to pass the slowpoke, but couldn’t.

Finally an opening came and she sped past her nemesis. When she turned to look at the slow driver, she saw that it was her therapist. No matter how slowly the slow driver drove, Harriet would have been right on time.
Gandhi said, “There must be more to life than increasing its speed.” We are addicted to fastness. Yet is the world a better place because we move faster every day? At a certain point speed does not enhance the quality of life, but distracts us from it. People who live in “primitive” cultures know how to just sit. They hang with their families, look at the stars, laugh over their version of a beer, and capture the magic of moments that elude more advanced nations. Ultimately whoever is closer to peace is more advanced.
“To everything there is a season,” Ecclesiastes tells us. Powerful as we believe we are, we cannot make things happen outside their appointed time. If you pick a fruit before it is ripe, it is hard and tasteless. If you wait until after it is ripe, it is spoiled. Pick it at the ripe moment, and it is tasty and nutritious. So it is with events in our life.

Marriage, stepping into a job, changing residence, spiritual maturity, and all important moves have a timing.
Stay in the flow and the right things happen precisely when they are supposed to. Let everything come when it wants to come, and go when it wants to go, and you will be a master of the Tao.

Patience does not mean regretfully putting off something you want to happen now. It means discovering the beauty, wonder, and richness of what is happening now so you don’t need to wait for something better to happen. A spiritually mature person is neither patient nor impatient. When you live in the here and now, there is no waiting.

When you don’t need to get there, you can be here. Here contains everything you are trying to get there for. It’s a paradox. The more you need, the less you have. The more you have, the less you need. The more time you need, the less you have. Decide you have enough time, and you will not need any.
We’ll all get where we need to get when we need to get there. This nugget of country wisdom goes a long way. Even with the short delay on my country road, I got to my appointment at exactly the right moment. Real appointments are made in heaven, and heaven always keeps them.


Alan Cohen is the author of many popular inspirational books, including the newly-released Enough Already: The Power of Radical Contentment. Alan’s celebrated Life Coach Training course begins September 1. For more information about this program, Alan’s other books, free daily inspirational quotes, and his weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com, email info@alancohen.com, or phone (800) 568-3079 or (808) 572-0001.

Just One Person

Earnest Holmes once said, “Find me one person who can get his own littleness out of the way and he shall reveal to me the immeasurable magnitude of the Universe in which I live.”
This is the challenge of our lives today, to step aside out of our own littleness and step into the greatness of who truly are. However, this can seem a bigger challenge than it is due to the fact that much of the time we are dealing with a physical issue as much as an emotional one.

How?

There are millions of neurons in our brains. Each time we repeat and action or a thought, the energy of that thought or action is sent from one neuron to the next both chemically and electromagnetically. Each repetitively thought or action literally creates a track in our brain that changes the typography. This is why scientists today, can examine the brain of deceased people and tell whether they have had addictions, abuse, stress or chemical exposures. They can tell if a person’s chemistry was out of balance and even whether they felt excessive long-lasting sadness and depression.  Our brains tell a story of fight, flight, freeze or succumb, they tell the story of our lives.

Depending upon the amount of energy in a belief or action, these tracks can be so deep that it can feel nearly impossible to change old habits and patterns, not unlike like an old truck going down a dirt road with deep grooves in it from all the trips back and forth. However, we must jump the track, so how do we do it?
First we need a great deal of compassion for ourselves and the awareness that even if you have a flash of enlightenment and a new understanding of an old issue that is self-defeating or unloving, you may still experience a resistance to changing it. Until you have practiced the new belief or action and it has at least fifty-one percent of the energy the old action or belief has, it won’t feel easy. We have to be committed to building up the energy until it grabs hold. Just as when you are dieting, the first few days feel awful, but then after several days when you get on the scale and are able to see the weight you have lost, you gain more momentum to continue.

Secondly, you will want to practice being in the moment to become aware of your self-defeating beliefs about change. For instance, you might feel, if I speak up, people will think I am stupid. It’s important to examine those fears and determine whether they are true, if they come from your past and if they are valid today. If they are from the past, there is no need to drag them into your life today. Instead make a conscious effort to recognize the fear, give it a voice, thank it for trying to keep you from being embarrassed or looking stupid and let it know that it no longer needs to protect you. As one of my favorite teachers, Ram Dass says, “Invite your fear in for tea.” The minute you begin to explore it, you instantly become bigger than it is. It loses it’s control on you.

Once you have diminished the fear, you will feel more able to go forward. If you are still in doubt just put a toe into the water and test doing something different in a small way until you can build on the energy. Don’t find fault with yourself or shame yourself for having these feelings. Everyone has them about something, whether they admit is or not.
Finally, make a decision to live from your path and purpose, not your pathology and pain. What you came here to do is be your best self. When you do that, and I know there are times when you have, don’t you feel empowered and stronger? When we are caught in the smallness of our lives and act little, we feel ashamed, diminished and powerless. We begin to believe that is all we are and that is a lie. What we came here to do is share our special gifts and energy and that may be what scares us the most. Trust me, you’ll have many people to play with. They may not be the people you play with now who are into remaining little, but the Universe will bring people to you that support your greatness. I promise.

Dr. Evan is a life/soul coach in Arizona working with individuals, couples and corporations. For more information 602-997-1200, email drdbe@attglobal.net or visit www.DrDinaEvan.com.


Flirting with Fate


Most gamblers lose. So why do people bet their hard-earned money?  One of the reasons for gambling is that it’s human nature to feel excited when taking risks and the positive feeling gained from gambling is no different. “Will my numbers come up?” “Will my team win?”
The sense of anticipation creates a natural high, an adrenalin rush, a feeling that many of us seek when looking for fun and entertainment. A feeling that some people believe they cannot live without.
Excitement may underlie the disorder to gamble, with winning representing a fantastic triumph. A desire for success may be driven by a strong need to impress others. Another similar possible reason for gambling is related to control; the concept of omnipotent provocation, or flirting with fate. This behavior may involve engaging in high-risk activities and placing extraordinary high wagers. Strong sensations may be desired that compensate for feelings of emptiness and depression.

Competitiveness

Growing up feeling unappreciated or neglected may prompt a need to excel, with gambling being the one activity a person beleives they are good at.

Rebelliousness

 Some individuals gamble to break conventional norms, and an aggressive tendency may underlie this type of gambling. Winning may be associated with fantasies of getting back at others; by purchasing expensive cars or clothes and flaunting them. Some individuals have a strong desire to win independence; they believe a big win will allow them to quit working, get a divorce, or gain independence.

Social acceptance 

It can be easy to be impressed by the perks in tangible (free hotel rooms or meals) or intangible forms (staff remembering their names, or sitting next to a famous person at a blackjack table). The self-medication hypothesis is another potential reason: For individuals who are lonely and depressed, gambling may relieve isolation and depression.
According to psychoanalytic theory, once a person better understands the reasons for gambling, defenses can be confronted.

Denial

 Denial has been described as a disavowal of external reality, that selected perceptions are rejected to avoid the pain associated with them. It is a psychological defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality
Inherent in denial may be the use of fantasy. While gambling, some people’s fantasies may relate to a sense of vulnerability or specialness. In regard to addictions, denial can be extended to mean the common failure to admit a problem with a behavior. Because denial can be considered a defense against pain, psychodynamic therapy may focus on teaching the patient to accept feelings of guilt, shame, and ambivalence about gambling within the context of therapy.

Chasing

The act of continued betting in hopes of winning lost money is considered a crucial aspect of pathological gambling. It has been suggested that chasing is related to narcissistic entitlement rather than the financial reasons many gamblers verbalize. Some believe winning is owed to them. Competitive gamblers in particular may feel winning may make up for the early deprivation and unfairness they have experienced in life. Others, however, may keep chasing because of feelings of guilt and shame. These types of gamblers may be trying desperately to hide their gambling, the extent of financial losses, and embarrassment associated with their gambling problem. They may gamble to conceal what they consider to be their own intolerable weaknesses. If family members of these gamblers do find out about the gambling and are supportive of treatment, they can experience relief.
Making an active change in one’s lifestyle can be one step toward overcoming gambling problems. Often however, gamblers insist they can stop on their own and do not need the advice of others, including GA members, their family, or a therapist. For example, some gamblers may feel that they can continue watching sports on television, buying gas at the station where they have purchased lottery tickets, or maintaining control over their finances. Therapy suggests that exploring gambler reactions to and rejections of various ideas, including the underlying resistance to options, may help the gambler in treatment.
If gambling has become a problem, it’s essential that you or your loved one receive professional addiction treatment, but self-exclusion is another major step to recovery. Most casinos offer self-exclusion lists to patrons who have lost control over gambling and can simply tell the casino you would like to be banned from the facility, and the facility records names to follow suit. Banned gamblers are sometimes able to sneak back in, of course, but they won’t be paid if they hit a large jackpot — large payouts require paperwork that reveals these patrons shouldn’t be there. And without the possibility of a big score, many compulsive gamblers find it easier to stay away from the casino.

Psychodrama - A Powerful Approach to Healing


By Marlo J. Archer, Ph.D.

I was in a family feud over money and needed some advice. I invited my dad to have a talk with me about it on a picnic table near Lake Michigan at the Summerfest grounds, under the Hoan Bridge on a bright, sunny day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He told me I didn’t need to worry about what my aunt and uncle thought, and he knew I’d make the right decision. We spoke of other things as well. We laughed and cried as I caught him up on everything that had happened in my life since he had died. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that my dad is gone?
In fact, it was his estate and another estate that got us all into feud to begin with. However, through the power of psychodrama, I did, in fact, have a conversation with him and get all the advice I needed to move forward with my dilemma. Oddly enough, he was played by an Australian woman I had never met before, and she was perfect for the part.

What am I talking about? 

The power of psychodrama. It is an excellent form of therapy that simply has an unfortunate name. It was created and named by a psychiatrist from Vienna long before people thought about the marketing implications of choosing a name for a technique.
To move away from the name, “Psychodrama,” which can conjure up images of teenaged girls with runny mascara raccoon eyes, some people also refer to it as “Experiential Therapy” or “Action Methods.” Psychodrama involves actions that look a lot like what people might call “role-playing,” but it is far more complex and therapeutic than the dippy sorts of role plays some employers try to get us to do when they have consultants come in to do the sexual harassment or cultural sensitivity trainings.

Why would you want to try it? 

Psychodrama offers the opportunity to experience things that are not possible in real life, but they would have been really helpful to experience. How about that cop that pulled you over for speeding and you were nothing but polite and he was a total jerk? Don’t you have a few things you’d still like to say to him? Or, the guy that broke your heart in high-school — wouldn’t it be interesting to invite him to your home with your husband and show him the happy family that you have now, no thanks to him? Psychodrama can grant you these opportunities — and so much more.
How about the time your grandmother was sick and you flew home to see her, only to arrive an hour after she had already passed? Are there things you wish you could have said to her while she was still here? What about your 3rd grade teacher, you don’t even remember her name, but you came to school without a lunch, she gave you half her sandwich and now you realize she was one of the very few people who even noticed you when you were that age. Wouldn’t it be great to tell her how much she meant to you? Psychodrama gives you those chances as well.

Psychodrama and Trauma

Psychodrama can also help resolve complex trauma and injuries sustained as a child.
Maybe you had a drunken step-father and a passive mother and you endured decades of abuse at his hands while she did nothing. I bet you’re still a little messed up about that. Psychodrama can help you sort that out as well. You can go back to your childhood home as an adult, armed with angels, a dragon, three friends, a dog, a bear, the police, Jerry Springer, or whatever else you might need to face your demons and send them packing. You can do today what you could not do then and even though it seems like just creating it would seem fake, it really isn’t when you are doing the work. It feels real and the release of emotions you’ve been carrying for years helps heal the deep wounds.

How does it work? 

Whenever we have an urge to do something (that’s called an act hunger), that urge, that energy, stays in our body until it is released in a healthy way. So, if mom whacked you with a wooden spoon when you were five and told you to quit crying or she’d give you something to cry about — you probably stuffed away a lot of tears that still need to be cried. Psychodrama helps you release those tears in a safe and respectful setting so they can be released and stop giving you migraines or high blood pressure.
When our boss at work humiliates us in front of our team, we want to cry or break something. If we do either, we’ll be fired. We clench our jaws, purse our lips, and agree to whatever is being asked of us. Then we either we hold the tension in our body or we discharge it later inappropriately on our children when we get home. Psychodrama allows us to safely discharge stored tensions by allowing us to complete actions we had a strong urge to do, but were prevented at the time.

So far it sounds like a bunch of crying and yelling. Sign me up, right? 

Well, there can be some crying and yelling, but what takes up most of the time in a psychodrama group is connecting. People connecting to each other, people connecting to themselves, people connecting their past to their present, to their future, connecting emotions to behaviors, connecting values to actions.
The wounds we experience starting the moment we’re born, are primarily perpetrated by human beings and each injury serves to break connections. We feel less connected to the stressed-out mother who didn’t have time for us because she had two other children. We feel less connected to our father who sleeps all day on his day off. We feel less connected to kids that bully us. We feel less connected to our own spirit when someone told us to choose a more reasonable career than the one for which we believe we were truly born. We can even feel less connected to the Divine when we get injured by humans.
The good news is that since we are primarily wounded in relationships with people, we can be healed by relationships and interactions with other people. Psychodrama gives us a chance to connect to people safely in ways we really need in order to heal from old insults and injuries. When we go back through difficult scenes from our lives and replay them the way we wished they would have been, we have different experiences and we take those experiences forward into our day-to-day life.

Try this simple exercise 

Think of someone who did something nice for you, but for whatever reason, you never got to tell them, “Thank you.” Place an empty chair across from you and imagine them in the chair. Really envision them. Think about how they look, how old they are, what they’d be wearing, how they smell, how they sit. Then, look at them directly and speak out loud to them. It’s important to speak out loud, not just say the words in your head. Say the words of gratitude you never had to chance to say. Speak for as long as is needed. When you have finished, move into the empty chair and become that person.
Sit as that person, imagine you are them. They may be a different gender or age than you are. Really get into what it feels like to be that age or gender, or height or weight. Put yourself fully into their shoes. Imagine what their life has been like. Then, as that person, hear those words of gratitude from yourself and make a spontaneous response, as the other person. You can’t get it wrong. Just say whatever comes to mind. Let the words flow. When you have finished, take your own chair again and hear the response. You might be surprised at how profound a very simple use of one psychodramatic technique can be. With the skill of a trained psychodrama director and a group of others, very elaborate scenes can be enacted that feel absolutely real.
A psychodrama session consists of three parts, a warm-up, the action, and then sharing. The purpose of the warm-up is to help everyone present feel safe and comfortable with each other, with the leader, and with the sorts of things that might happen.
Light ice-breaker types of activities help people get used to moving around, speaking up, and tapping into their creativity and spontaneity. As the group members warm up to each other and to their issues, some topics usually emerge that get the groups’ attention. As the group moves from more frivolous topics to more serious ones, it generally becomes clear that there are a couple of people who would really benefit from having the focus of the group. One of those people is chosen to be what is called the protagonist, and it is their story that is put into action with the help of the group, under the guidance of the director. People in the group play roles in the protagonists’ story and feed back to the protagonist the dialog they’ve been trained to say.
The protagonist gets to have a full-bodied experience of the scene and get fully in touch with suppressed emotions and can get a chance to see the scene from a different perspective than when they were originally in it. They can change aspects and see what it would have been like if it had gone a different way and when they put new endings into action, they get a real felt sense of it that stays in the body and actually works to re-wire neural pathways in the brain.
There is absolutely no way to explain on paper, the power of this method. To fully understand, you must experience it. It’s like trying to write an article about tres leches cake or a first kiss. You can put as many words on the page as you want, you’ll never be able to fully capture the experience. People sometimes refer to psychodrama as “doing psychological surgery” and I have seen a single psychodrama session provide insights that might have taken a year or more in individual talk therapy.
It can be difficult to convince people to join a group in which psychodrama methods are used, but if you look at the extreme savings of time and money, I can’t imagine why more people don’t want to use this fast, effective method. Probably because it can be pretty intense and that can be scary. It is the director’s job to keep the activities safe. If you trust your director, things should turn out fine, and anything that doesn’t seem like it’s turning out fine can be adjusted and fixed, using these very methods.



There are several resources in Arizona  to experience Psychodrama. Dr. Marlo Archer, Deb Wingo Gion, and Grayce Gusmano founded Arizona Psychodrama Institute (API), a psychodrama therapy and training collaborative without walls that can be reached at 602-456-1889. www.AzPsychodrama.com has more information about psychodrama. API Adjunct Faculty member Adena Bank Lees can be reached at 520-404-8466. We can provide half-day or full-day workshops anywhere in Arizona where an interested group of participants will gather.

Dr. Marlo Archer is the founder of Down to Earth Enterprises. Psychological Services for Children, Teens, and Their Families, Married and Parenting Couples, and Individual Adults. Visit www. drmarlo.com.


Was That You, Bill?

As many of you know, a little over three years ago I lost the love of my life, Bill to cancer. While he was seriously ill for over four years, we both denied the fact his life was coming to an end. It was too painful to acknowledge the reality and gravity of the situation we faced; and since he always seemed to bounce back by some miracle — why wouldn’t he this time?

My grieving process has been “a deep, dark, yet spiritual journey.” (A very wise man told me grief is on kairos, not chronos time.) What has haunted me though, was not having the chance to say good-bye to him in the way I needed.

At the InnerPath Retreat I wrote about last month, part of the program included psychodrama exercises. When the therapist asked who wanted to try it first, I waved my arms and jumped up. I had never done this kind of work before but something, (Was that you, Bill?) pushed me out of my chair. I looked about the room thinking, “What the hell am I doing?”  Yet I knew I couldn’t be in a safer place, and was eager to heal.

Through my psychodrama experience I was able to release emotions I did not know existed. Sure, I let out anger and feelings of being abandoned; and I cried from so deep within my core I thought I’d burst. Gradually, a release of darkened energy and sensations of relief and comfort emerged from deep inside. I was able to tell Bill all the things I needed to; from my love and gratitude for our time together, to all the scary parts of my life without him. We laughed, joked, shed lots of tears and hugged tight. I saw his twinkling eyes.

I don’t know how long the exercise lasted. I was in the moment— completely present. And, when I asked why he had to leave without me being there, he gently said, “Dying was something I had to do alone. Just know I’m always with you.” For the first time since he is gone, it made sense.

 I will never forget that Tuesday afternoon in Tucson at Cottonwood. Thank you, thank you... Dr. Kathy Norgard, Rokelle Lerner, the group of amazing women who were my support beams, and the special lady who played the role of Bill.

A very special thanks to Dr. Marlo Archer who accepted the task of writing about Psychodrama for this issue.

This note is dedicated to all who help us heal on our road to recovery.