Monday, December 29, 2014

The Right Book at the Right Time

It has been true across the years of my recovery, and maybe in yours too? When I am in need of growth and change, or it’s time to address a persistent issue, the right book will come to me.

Yes, books. My first step into recovery was through the intervention of a book. “Women Who Love Too Much” by Robin Norwood saved my life and jump-started my recovery. I was dying of disordered eating, body dysmorphia, and alcoholism. But it was all very secret and hidden. The alcoholism was hidden even from me because of my low quantities, and my preference for sweet drinks and pretty glasses gave me nothing to compare to what I believed an “alcoholic” looked like.

But what was painfully obvious to me, and to people around me, was my inability to be present in a relationship. Consequently I tore through them like pages of an old-fashioned movie calendar. I hurt people and I got hurt. People who loved me were hurt to see it happening over and over. And so I was given books, multiple copies of Robin Norwood’s “relationship” book.

Except that “Women Who Love Too Much” really isn’t just a “relationship” book. It’s also about the addictions practiced by women who grew up in abusive and addicted homes. Ding! And the kinds of partners those of us who are ACOA or were abused will inevitably be drawn to, and will re-create. Ding! And Norwood famously says, “If you have these kinds of relationship issues it’s most likely that you have a problem with food, alcohol or drugs.” Ding! Ding! Ding!

My recovery began as I –in a moment of absolute grace—called OA and AA and Alanon and ACOA twelve-step programs.

Later, after years of recovery had made miraculous changes in my life and feelings and my relationships, I struggled again. The belief in my incompetence and the ever-present belief that I was damaged felt impossible to shake. 

I went back to therapy hoping to mine a few more seams of the old family business, but instead I landed in the competent hands of a Cognitive therapist and was handed yet another book, “Reinventing Your Life” by Jeffrey Young, Ph.D. and Janet Klosko, Ph.D. and I began to learn about “schemas” or patterns of thought that actually created the feelings I was having.

The big breakthrough here was understanding that it is my thoughts that create my feelings, not the other way around. And that there was a way to catch and change the thoughts. It’s hard work—no joke --and somewhat uncomfortable, but so worth it in experiencing yet another layer of deep change. And of course, it goes on and on and on. We’re human after all.

Now, this year, a new book has come to me from a colleague. Talking about work and workplace issues (always a bedevilment) and this woman that I knew for maybe a month tells me about a great book about work. Again, maybe a moment of grace, I hear her and borrow the book. In two days I knew I needed my own copy of “Leadership and Self-Deception” by The Arbinger Institute. 

Arbinger Institute is a corporate consulting firm that brings the principles of Alanon to facilitate team building, conflict resolution and personal growth for managers. I felt those same “Ding’s” as I read, wrestled with and tried to surrender to these recovery principles in the workplace.

We say, in our Twelve-step programs, that God works through other people, and I think it is also true that God works through books, and when we are open and ready we may get the right book at the right time.

2 comments:

Meg T. said...

I'm more open to the life lessons in Anna Karenina than self help, but as a fellow book lover (ok, yes, addict), I'm right with you: when the student is ready, the book will appear.

I heard an interesting twist on our old addage while at Kripalu a few weeks ago: "When the student is ready, the teacher will disappear." Nice, huh?

Diane said...

Oh Meg--I really like that new yoga twist:)