Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Are You Addicted to Technology?

Are you a “technoholic”? Ask yourself these questions:

Is your reliance on technology increasing?
Do you experience withdrawal when not using your phone or tablet?
Have you ever/never taken a break from your phone or social media?
Have you given up people or activities because your time is spent on a device/social media?
Have you ever lied about the extent of your Internet use?
Have you ever pretended you are working when you are actually using social media/Internet shopping etc?

Did any of those questions make you even the teeniest bit uncomfortable?

I understand. The Internet and social media, which started out as fun or convenience, have taken over our lives. Those of us who have other addictions may see a new additive pattern developing and may have additional concerns when it comes to our devices.

Those of us in recovery from drugs or alcohol or food may have tested ourselves years ago on the diagnostic Twenty Questions similar to those above and it began a process of puncturing our denial.

And now this. Yes, technology can affect us just like a substance: it masks feelings, interferes with relationships, and can even affect our physical health by disrupting sleep or keeping us from exercise.

Don’t you hate this? We gave up so much and have done so many recoveries, and now my phone and fun too? Well, yes…especially if it is preventing your happiness, peace or good health.

A great new book has been my guide to taking a closer look at “technoholism”. “The Power of Off” by Nancy Colier has inspired me to take a look at the place of technology and social media in my life.

What is especially helpful is that Colier does not suggest giving up social media or any devices rather her approach is about mindfulness while making choices about time and technology. The tagline for her book says, “The mindful way to stay sane in a virtual world.”

Most of us who are committed to recovery want a holistic recovery: substances, food, money and behaviors. Here is a gentle way to look at how we can approach technology in a very sober, recovered life.

Read more about all-emcompassing recovery in "Out of the Woods" published by Central Recovery Press. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Those Who Simply Help

An image kept coming to me this week and I didn’t know why. When I Goggled the incident  that I kept remembering it turned out that it was an anniversary.

Years ago I lived in Washington, DC. I was there on the cold January day in 1982 when the Air Florida flight crashed on take off from National Airport, not far from The White House, and clipped the bridge before it hit the water dragging cars from the bridge into the freezing Potomac River along with many passengers from the plane.

That terrible day many of us watched the local TV news footage over and over and over. The TV crews were right there as it happened and you could see cars on the bridge and in the water.  People all over the DC Metro Area were looking at the TV reports for hours and studying the film and trying to identify the color and make of their loved ones cars. It was rush hour and everyone was late getting home from work. Were they on the bridge? In the water? Hurt? There were no cell phones. The desperation was terrible.

But the other piece of TV news film I saw hundreds of times in that week was the “rescue” of Patricia Triado by Lenny Skutnick. I will always know their names. A police rescue plane was trying to get Triado out of the water—the Potomac River—but in the cold and hypothermia she could not hold onto the life ring the plane dangled over her and she kept slipping and slipping…as TV viewers we watched over and over as this frozen terrified woman try to hold on and then slipped away. 

What the film catches—almost in the background --is a man walking toward the crash...he one of the many bystanders. But this man is walking toward the riverbank and we can see him as he sees Patricia Triado slip again and again back into the freezing water. The incredible thing is that the man does not pause, there is no hesitation, no calculation. This man who is moving toward the river sees (the video is so good that we can see him seeing) and he begins to run to the water and jumps in and begins to swim to her. He gets her and is trying to pull her to shore…now he is quickly freezing and paralyzed too but he is able to get her in reach of other rescuers who have been on the shore the whole time.

Lenny Skutnik never hesitated. He saw her struggle and he moved into the water.

Later we learned that Patricia Triado lost her husband and baby in that plane crash. The survival must have been awful for her. Would she always wish she had fallen from the rescue ring and died with her family?

The image of Lenny Skutnick simply moving toward Patricia Triado without thought or calculation stays with me. This week, seeing a family near me struggle with grief, and trying to be of some help, also triggered the image of Lenny. I want to be someone who doesn’t say, “Looks like she needs help" but who simply moves forward, even if the water is too cold.

***More on service and how life changes in recovery in the book, "Out of the Woods" published by Central Recovery Press. 

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Prayer & Meditation, but How?

We get lots of advice on how to work the Eleventh Step. 

Those of us who grew up in a faith tradition had the preliminaries of prayer. Maybe we knew how to say grace at dinner, or a bedtime prayer from childhood, or if we had religious training we knew about the Christian prayer formula: ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. Something like, “I love you God, and I did some bad stuff, but I’m also grateful for a lot of stuff, and here’s what I need today.” Friends who grew up in Muslim or Jewish families learned lots of prayers as well.

But meditation? Not so much. We were told to be quiet in church or temple, and maybe we were shown icons or religious symbols to focus on, but did anyone actually teach meditation?

Then we join a Twelve Step program and doing meditation is strongly encouraged. So we try. We sit down and think about nothing. Ha! Most of us are off that chair or pillow in less than a minute. How, exactly how, is this medication thing supposed to work?

Yes you can get an ap for your phone. But still…it’s the being still that is the hard part.

But this week I read a new book that breaks down the entire why and how and when. The book is called “The Mind Illuminated” By Culadasa (also known as John Yates, PhD.) The unique aspect of this treatise on meditation is that it brings Buddhist meditation and neuroscience together—so its got the best of the ancient and the most modern thinking and concepts. 

This is a book to read from front-to-back if you are that kind of learner, or one to scan for the parts you need: where to meditate and what is a mantra? Etc.

If you want to have a very direct experience of these principles and this teacher, Dr Yates will be doing a workshop at the NYC Insight Meditation Center on January 20 to 22nd. 28 West 27th Street.  It’s a weekend workshop, so contact them to sign up. He will also be speaking/signing in Beacon, NY on Sunday January 29th 2:30 pm at BeBhakti Yoga, 89 DeWindt Street.

Monday, January 02, 2017

The Other Program

Here is another one of those changes that happens to us in long-term recovery: Many of us start to go to --or go back to –Alanon. Some times a sponsor makes the suggestion, or maybe we start to notice some women who have as many years in recovery as we do but it seems like they struggle less at home, or at work, or with themselves. When we ask them we found out that they were practicing an AA program and Alanon.
It’s a funny thing about recovery from addiction. In the early years we had to learn to be less selfish. We learned to consider the impact of our behavior on other people. 

We identified with the Big Book story about the man who comes out of the storm cellar, surveys all the damage and declares, “Look Ma, ain’t it grand the wind stopped blowing.” We laughed. Oh yeah, no one—especially those near and dear-- is applauding that we simply stopped drinking. 
So we learned to listen more, and to consider the needs of others, to concede, to compromise.
But then, if we keep at our recovery, we reach a point where we actually have to learn to be selfish again. You may hate that word and prefer “self-caring”, but really selfish can be a good thing. It’s almost like we have to go back over the old ground again and say, “So what do I want?” and, “What do I need—even if it makes someone else unhappy?” 
And now, with some sober time, we can learn to take care of ourselves and let other people be unhappy—or deal with their own feelings.  Yes, it’s another one of those paradoxes in the program. 
And when we find that it’s hard to know what we want, or to ask for what we want, someone near us—maybe sponsor or a friend in our home group notices. They see that we don’t take care of our needs and we are invited—or sent—to an Alanon meeting.
This is another reason why we want to keep going to meetings even after years and years of recovery—we want to keep growing in all the ways that—on the surface—have little to do with consuming alcohol, but which have everything to do with living a sober life.
And this too: After many years in AA most of us have friends and probably partners who are, yeah, alcoholics—they may be sober but still it’s our thinking as much as our drinking that keeps all of us coming back.
Rules for beginners in Alanon are the same as in other twelve-step programs: try six meetings, try different meetings, raise your hand, listen to the people with experience, read the literature and even do service. And try not to compare.
It’s hard to be a beginner again, but the big payoff is that there’s a real multiplier effect when we are working both programs.  It’s the best of both worlds: To be able to care for yourself and for others with honesty and peace. Detaching with love. Continuing to grow. One Day at a Time.