Monday, July 30, 2012

Relationship Issues in The Olympics

Women in the Olympics have relationship issues too. Here’s one story:

Marta was an ice-skater who fell in love with Bob, a speed skater. He was very romantic but  he always came too quickly and their relationship ended fast. Next she dated Bill who was a snow boarder but he always came home drunk, and refused to dress up. Then she started seeing Jason who was the ski mogul champ but the relationship was bumpy from the very start. Nothing with him was easy, nothing ever smooth.

Then Marta met Tubor who was the luge champion. She really liked him but she couldn’t tell if he liked her too. He preferred to be alone and he always seemed to be speeding away from her. She finally started hanging out with Jerry and John, the bobsled team. But they were always together and if she dated one of them the other one was always pushing her or egging her on.

One night she went to an Olympic party alone and she watched the crowd. She saw Derk, who was also a skater, twirling around with other girls. She has always assumed he was gay because of the sparkles and the sequins. But here he was in jeans. He was relaxed and flirting and laughing. Even the snowboarders couldn’t upset him. Then she saw a man enter the party with a gun. Everyone looked nervous till they realized it was Jeff from the biathlon who sometimes liked to stop and take a shot—even if he was just shopping or walking down the street.

Marta began to wonder if she should date a summer Olympian—maybe a marathoner would be the kind of man who could go the distance in a relationship. Or maybe a hurdler who would be willing to get over the obstacles that show up in any relationship. Or maybe a swimmer? No, she thought, the one she’d dated years before was all wet.

Finally Marta realized that she needed to find a mate who had all these qualities; a man who was strong and flexible and fast and strategic. She wanted a man who knew that relationships take practice and who would push through disappointment and hardship  and keep a commitment no matter how he felt. That was it: A gold Medal man—she might have to wait four years but that was Marta’s goal.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Olympics of Survival

Last week, following the Penn State stories in the news I was saddened and frustrated that so little was said about the boys and men who were victims. Yes, there were the platitudes and the requisite, "Keep them in our prayers", but I know that it takes a lot more than prayer to recover from childhood abuse. I've been there. My 12 step recovery is a key to my growth and recovery but it also took a lot of outside help.

The "healing a wound" metaphor kind of falls down when we are talking about sexual abuse recovery. It's not at all like a cut or break that has to mesh and mend to seal over and heal. It's not a top down healing.  Recovery from sexual abuse is much more like the recovery of a burn victim where the skin has to be re-scrapped regularly, continually  removing the layers as the healing occurs, layer after layer after layer, painfully scrapped away so the deadness does not impede the very deep layers that have to heal first.

Out of my concern for those young boys who were trapped at Penn State and who wanted to be athletes I wrote the piece linked below for the Albany Times Union. Plese take a look and please share with others whose recovery may include childhood abuse.

Thanks. Diane

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Luxury Problems

I’ve been stressed out recently. Well, more stressed let’s say. I’m in a constant state of semi-stress and most of it is my choice.

That’s another awareness and consequence of a long recovery: I know when something is outside of me and when it’s self-imposed. Much of my stress is the later kind and it exists because there is so much that I want in my life. That, however, is a related consequence: Recovery has given me dreams and desires and hopes and ambitions. There are so many things I want to learn, try, do and be. I forget—over and over—that I can’t have it all at the same time. (But even as I type this I think to myself, “But if I got really, really organized…)

Hence I am reminding myself each day this week that most of my problems are luxury problems. I just got back from a great mini-vacation and there is a lot to catch up on at work. I have dance class and meditation class, and I’ve been asked to give a talk for a local church and a workshop for a local school. It’s all stuff that I love. But I’m tense and stressed.

So in my car each morning I’m taking a minute to reframe all of this. Yes—I have a great big demanding job with a terrific organization, and I’m writing—which is my lifelong dream, and I’m asked to speak on recovery and caregiving—topics I’m passionate about. I also have great self-care habits—hence the dance and meditation. And meetings. And sponsorship. And…

So I say out loud in the car, “Yes, I’m stressed because I have a big job and work I love and a column to write and classes to take and papers to write and friends to see. When I start to think it’s hard to keep in touch with my friends and that this is a problem I have to remind myself: Luxury problem! I have friends! I also have an income so I can pay for my therapy and workshops and the girly things I love.

When I catch myself grumbling, “How can I do all of this?” I switch it around to say, “Look at all of this that I do!” I have to say it out loud though; I need to hear from myself how good my life is. If I listened to my head or my worrisome tummy I’d think these are real problems.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Who Has What You Want?

In early recovery I heard this advice over and over: “Look for someone who has what you want, and ask them how they got it.” That was, I was told, also how to pick a sponsor. It’s funny looking back. I mean how does a really new newcomer know what someone has? Yes, you can hear a sense of humor or see who bathes regularly. But when I look around the rooms today it’s not always the shiny stars or fine talkers of AA who have what I want.

I’ve been thinking about this because this week I was trying to explain to a sponsee why she should do more step work. “I don’t drink and I don’t want to drink, and I’m really happy about that,” she told me. And I get that, but I tried to tell her that I want so much more than that from AA, and from of my life.

I want so much more than abstinence from alcohol. And I even want so much more than no more “jackpots”. I want the whole enchilada that I believe is possible: peace, serenity and joy (not daily happiness but real joy.) I also want great relationships: with husband, friends and colleagues. And a great relationship with my Higher Power and with myself.

But here’s where it gets tricky. Some of that good, changed life comes with longevity—more time in recovery equals more exposure to new ideas, concepts and layer upon layer of the Steps. But not for everybody. I still have to look around the rooms and ask myself, “Who has what I want?”

It’s possible to have 35 years of sobriety and be obese, angry, gambling, smoking or using some behavior or  “legal” substance and still be miserable. I see it and hear it. We share the rooms with folks who have been around a very long time and are miserable in marriage or on the job. That’s not the recovery I want for myself.

In some ways the pool gets smaller the further we go if we are committed to going all the way. What do you think about this? If you have been around a while what kind of recovery are you still working toward? I want deep change as much --or more --than I want long years. In a sense that is where my deep joy comes from—knowing there is some crazy character defect I didn’t even know I had two years ago, that I recognized in myself one year ago, and that I see gradually changing this summer. I’m in awe of that, and I can only want more.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Take Your Recovery on Vacation

Below is the link to a fabulous New York Times article about how not to be crazy on vacation. It wasn't written specifically for recovering people but you'll see yourself in his examples: the over preparation, the worry before and during, the subtle and not-so-subtle compulsive behaviors, the "am I relaxed yet" non-relaxation, and the if I am happy can I get just a tad more thinking.

What I love about this piece is his scientific and psychological back up and excellent tips on how to change behavior and thinking. I'm saving this piece to re-read before my next vacation.

Of course we are never on vacation from recovery so also remember to do what you did years ago when you were much newer: get the meeting list for the city and country you'll visit and find a couple of meetings. We have, perhaps, one of the best bonus benefits as members of 12 step programs...we can easily meet locals in any town and find the best places to eat, and get info on the best non-tourist sights and sounds. I count that as one of my AA blessings.

Here's the article:

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

It's About Freedom

This 4th of July is about an extra summer day and writing time and swimming in the pool and indulging in some local-sourced Vitamin D--the real thing from the sky--so forbidden. The 4th of July is also about freedom--our country, constitution, and choices.

Folks in recovery understand freedom. We know what it tastes like. After many years of living free of compulsion and addiction we may forget how very changed our inner and outer lives are. Hence we say "keep it green".

I love finding new recovery writers and I want to introduce Dawn who blogs at RecoveringDawn and SheRecovers. Here's her link:

Monday, July 02, 2012

Interview with the Drug Czar

I think this is worth reading. Though AA has no opinion on outside issues, those of us in recovery have lots of opinions. :) Check it out.

Interview with the Drug Czar | The Fix

Sunday, July 01, 2012

How Much Together? How Much Apart?

I was talking to a friend this week about marriage. In recovery many of us have the opportunity to do relationships and marriage differently. We also know that many of us do different marriages—some more than once—or twice.  For this reason many of us in long-term recovery also read about relationships and we try counseling and workshops and “couples work.”

I was saying to my friend that I wished for more time alone at home. My husband is a teacher and he is off in the summer so I miss my mornings alone in the house. My friend’s husband travels for work and so she has lots of alone time but she misses those daily dinners they shared when his previous job brought him home every night.

It is true that the grass is always greener, but its also true that we each have a preference for how much autonomy and how much dependency we like. It’s almost as if we each have a set point. That’s also why many of us couldn’t be married to someone else’s spouse.

I remember in early recovery a therapist explaining to me that the hardest work a couple has to do is learn their preferences and negotiate the middle. I know that I was a “distancer”—always pushing away, making space and when I was in the midst of addiction I was the one who left. But I also learned that being a distancer gets challenged when I meet another person who likes a lot of space too. What I learned over time was that my distancing simply hid my own need for dependence. When a new guy stayed away, or walked away first, then I got to feel that yucky, dependent, needy, caring feeling.

That’s part of what we get when we are sober a long time. We learn about ourselves and what is underneath our first or presumed reactions. I was a distancer until a man took more distance, then I would I tip toe back toward coupledom and closeness. It’s similar for my sober friend who says she likes to be very close and have lots of time together. When her husband was laid off for eight months and was waiting at the door each night she took longer and longer to get home from work each day.

We contain all of it.

I have come to believe that when we say of any other person’s behavior, “Can you imagine!” that in fact we actually can. And that’s what upsets us. We all have it in us to be dependent and to run away. Psychologists talk about “reaction formation” where we do the very opposite of what we want or fear. My fear of being dependent, or having someone dependent on me, is very likely some of the fuel in my “independence” and distancing.

The gift of long recovery is all this learning about ourselves. And then, if we have the courage to face what we learn, we can create or re-create great relationships with our partners.