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Archive for February, 2010

 I’m sure that you are aware that sobriety is a lot more than quitting alcohol or drugs.  Newly sober, it seems our human nature wants to make everything right as quickly as possible.  From my experience and from observing many others, I don’t believe that it is humanly possible to fast track recovery.  I tried to carry that out with all the strength I could muster and, in hindsight, I might have been better off by going down to the beach to try to stop a few waves from breaking.  This takes time!  And for me, it also took a village!

 And of course, as someone who is prone to addiction, it is completely foreign to seek help or to allow others to step in and row the oars for a bit.  But taking “contrary action” is critical.

 I have had good and bad experiences with therapy.  While chemically dependent, my experiences were mostly ineffective – go figure!  As I gained strength in sobriety, through time and effort, my experiences with therapy became more rewarding.

Here is what I learned.  Your therapist is critical.  I would focus less on one that has addiction counseling experience and focus more on finding one that has a good understanding of their own self.  Of course, if they have both, then you’re probably in good hands.  The best way that I know how to describe what I am referring to is to direct you to the website of Alice Miller, a wonderful psychologist and author.  The website address is www.alice-miller.com

I have found Alice Miller an incredible source.  Enter a search on her home page for “enlightened witness”.   That description would be my recommendation of how to find the right counselor.  Her book “The Drama of the Gifted Child” has changed my life.

 If you’re newly sober, my one caution would be that getting too deep into this material (with so much going on already in early sobriety) would be putting the cart WAY, WAY before the horse!    It has been my experience that tackling the subject that Alice Miller addresses is something that is better received when you have had some sobriety under your belt.  I was well into my third year of sobriety before I was able to fully absorb her material.  Before that, I was just too broken and too mentally weak. 

Strength in sobriety comes the old-fashioned way – by putting in the time.  And sometimes that’s just being sober and letting time heal you.

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What Can Happen to Abused Children When They Grow Up –           
 
If No One Notices, Listens or Helps?

  For purposes of this document, abuse and trauma are defined as: interpersonal violence in the form of sexual abuse, physical abuse, severe neglect, loss, and /or the witnessing of violence. 

Prepared by The Office of Trauma Services,Maine Department of Behavioral and Developmental Service’s State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333 Phone: 207 287-4250, TTY 207 287-2000, fax 207 287-757  January, 2001

 If no one notices, listens or helps, childhood abuse can lead in adult years to:

 SERIOUS MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS

The mental health system is filled with survivors of prolonged, repeated childhood trauma:

·50 to 70% of all women and a substantial number of men treated in psychiatric settings have histories of sexual or physical abuse, or both.  (Carmen et al, 1984; Bryer et al., 1987; Craine et al., 1988)

 ·As high as 81% of men and women in psychiatric hospitals with a variety of   major mental illness diagnoses have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse. 67% of these men and women were abused as children (Jacobson & Richardson, 1987)

 ·74% of Maine’s Augusta Mental Health Institute patients, interviewed as class  members, report histories of sexual and physical abuse. (Maine BDS, 1998)

 ·The majority of adults diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (81%) or  Dissociative Identity Disorder (90%) were sexually and/or physically abused as children.  (Herman et al, 1989; Ross et al, 1990)

 ·Women molested as children are four times more at risk for Major Depression as those with no such history. They are significantly more likely to develop bulimia and chronic PTSD. (Stein et al, 1988; Root & Fallon, 1988; Sloane, 1986; Craine, 1990)

 ·Childhood abuse can result in adult experience of shame, flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug use, feelings of humiliation and unworthiness, ugliness and profound terror. (Harris, 1997; Rieker&Carmen, 1986; Herman, 1992; Janoff-Bulman & Frieze, 1983; van der Kolk, 1987; Brown & Finkelhor, 1986; Rimsza, 1988)

 ·Adults abused during childhood are:- more than twice as likely to have at least one lifetime psychiatric diagnosis- almost three times as likely to have an affective disorder- almost three times as likely to have an anxiety disorder- almost 2 ½ times as likely to have phobias- over ten times as likely to have a panic disorder- almost four times as likely to have an antisocial personality disorder  (Stein et al, 1988)

 ·97% of mentally ill homeless women have experienced severe physical and/or sexual abuse. 87% experienced this abuse both as children and as adults.(Goodman, Johnson, Dutton & Harris. (1997) (more…)

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“Look mummy, there’s an airplane up in the sky”

Pink Floyd, The Wall

 Have you ever listened to the lyrics of this song and wondered what they meant.  The melody is so soothing but the lyrics are anything but that.  The confliction reminds me of my childhood in a lot of ways.

 For most of my adult life I suppressed all notion of having anything but a happy childhood.  When certain unpleasant childhood memories did breakthrough the phalanx of my suppression, I played my own little game of “trump that”.  I just reached into my memory bank of abuse stories that I had collected, all ranked as being worse than any abuse that I suffered and I sought solace in knowing that others suffered worse abuse.  Like the woman who told me that eleven broken bones as a child is her badge of courage.  Or the man who told me how he, as a child, endured blows from a ball-peen hammer when he failed to memorize math formulas that his father had given him as an exercise.  In my mind, those were all worse cases of abuse.

 Today, I know that no rating scale for abuse exists.  If your soul was pierced as a child, you most likely have a deep wound that, unless addressed at some point in your life, will never properly heal.  A soul sickness will remain.  That has been my experience. (more…)

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I experience internal conflict when I state that quitting alcohol was the easy part.  There is nothing easy about putting down the bottle and getting sober.  It is the journey that awaits you that is also very difficult; in fact, I found it a lot more difficult.  I believe it is that way because we are now going forward in life sober and not numbed out to the world around us!  I wish someone would have given me a heads up about this because it was a rude awakening that I did not find inviting when I started to make this connection. (more…)

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1,096 days, 42 minutes and 94694685 heart beats, so says the sobriety calculator.  I say that it’s good to be alive and celebrating 3 years of being alcohol free – today!

Graced!  That is how I feel today.  I don’t think of myself as being any sort of deeply religious person, but no better word describes how I feel.  I now realize that taking alcohol out of my body placed me at the starting line of life.  Not a new life, but one that has given me the opportunity to learn who I am.  It has given me the opportunity to put my “false self” behind me and to bring my true and authentic self to the forefront.  At three years into this journey, I am overwhelmed with elation and I look forward to every day in front of me.

Reflecting back three years, for a moment, I have found this journey to be the most difficult thing that I have ever met in my life.  At year one, I was “happy” for the most part.  I was on a ski trip with my daughter for that anniversary and I knew that our trip would not have been if I was still drinking.  What I didn’t realize at the first year mark was that I was still in an unconscious state!  The full impact of the guilt, shame and remorse for the lives that I had affected, while drinking, had yet to wash over me.

 On my second anniversary I was completely paralyzed with fear.  I was definitely conscious and I was hurting.  My critical thinking skills had returned to me and I was seriously questioning the ideology of AA.  I wanted to move in another direction but found myself conflicted with the AA slogan that “this (AA) is the last house on the block.  Only jail, institutions or death await you if you leave AA” brainwashing!  Above all else, I didn’t want to run my life into the ground again.

Full of fear, I struck out on this journey of “self discovery”.  With the help of a great counselor and the love and closeness of my family and friends, I made that journey out of darkness.  I learned to forgive myself (that was tough) and I have found a wonderful life that makes me want to stay sober each and everyday.  I also discovered that all that fear I felt in my second year – it was really courage!  So that was an added bonus.  I now know that courage does not mean that you are walking forward without fear.

If this post apply’s to you in any way, it my sincere wish that you will be able to find your place as a sober person and that you will be able to, or are already taking, an amazing journey of your own!

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All text is © Anita Roy 2004. All rights remain with the author.

Alice Miller’s book The Drama of the Gifted Child is such an affirmation of my belief that what we are modeled to as children – and what we model to our children – is the key to future happiness. When Alice Miller says “gifted” she doesn’t mean academically gifted, but rather the natural gift that we have as children to survive, to find a way to survive when we are confronted with pain, humiliation, anger and sorrow that we cannot express, because we are not safe in doing so. As children, we are neglected and abused in varying degrees, despite the best intentions of our parents. We have nowhere to escape to and so have no choice but to consider our situation a normal life. It becomes our reality as adults unless we become conscious of the process.

As children, we need our parents to survive physically, for food and shelter, and when they cause us pain and suffering, we cannot express ourselves honestly lest we lose those who can meet these most basic of needs. We grow to love our parents because we have not known any other reality, and the ties, the connections, are profound. We are bonded to them and the reality they present us, even if that reality is painful.

We survive by taking the happy times and suppressing feelings about the bad times. We focus on the good times and sometimes, glorify them. The bad feelings don’t go away however, they go underground, and later surface as compulsive behaviors and grandiosity. My father vacillated between delusions of grandeur and depressed alcoholism. These were the recurring themes in a man who was otherwise intelligent, generous and charismatic. He had not had an easy childhood. Being the oldest son of an East Indian family, he had alternately been doted on and pressured into inappropriate responsibilities.

We suffered as children because we were walking on eggs not knowing how he might be mood-wise at any given time. There was a tacit understanding that we had to keep up the illusion of being a successful family. My mother, the enabler, would be equally unpredictable. She was the steadfast backbone of the household, but sometimes, regularly, she would fall apart, emotionally, and lose herself in despair and grief. Loving though she was, she didn’t give the love we *needed*, but only the love she knew how to give, which was to be affectionate and to care for us. She did not see our pain, as no one had seen hers when she was a child. She was looking in all the wrong places for the love she never got from her parents. She was hoping for unconditional love from her husband, but he didn’t know how. The one place where she got close to that kind of love was her babies, but babies aren’t supposed to give their parents the love they never had. Babies have their own needs.

When I realized all this in my personal work I spent a lot of time being pretty angry at them. Furious actually. Both my parents were victims in their own right. It was an edifying time in my life when I realized that my parents were just people who happened to have made babies, and not perfect humans who understood everything. Nevertheless, I had been wounded and I needed to take care of myself.

Paraphrasing Miller, if we don’t become *mindful” of our pain and what happened, then we are condemned to repeat the pattern and make our kids suffer. This is not an easy path, it is fraught with pain and sorrow, but that is the only way to become conscious of which we are. It is “lonely work” and we have to deal with some pretty scary demons. Alternatively, we may look for parent figures in an authoritarian church, political party, domineering husband, Alcoholics Anonymous, or corporate career, so we can exchange personal power for protection just like when we were babies. That protection may be valuable, for a while, until we are stronger: a holding pattern to build courage. But in my experience, at some point, we can no longer stay away from seeking our true selves.

 Quoting Anais Nin:

“And the day came when the risk (it took),to remain tight in the bud was more painful, than the risk it took to blossom”.

All text is © Anita Roy 2004. All rights remain with the author.

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1,084 days, 6 hours and 42 minutes and…93,667,839 heartbeats!  I have a sober anniversary fast approaching and decided to plug my sobriety date into one of those online sobriety calculators. 

So what does 1,084 days feel like and what does it mean to me?  I am suddenly flooded with clichés related to time.  Such as “time heals all wounds”, “time marches on”, “hindsight is 20/20” and “time takes time” etc.

What does it feel like?  It feels incredibly great.  And by “great” I definitely do not mean all good.  But great in the sense that I now have an awareness, an understanding and acceptance that life is an on-going series of “good” things and “bad” things.  Events that will bring you great joy and happiness and events that will bring you much disappointment and sorrow.  That, I believe is called the Balance of Life!  Knowing and accepting this balance has been gut wrenching at times, confusing, curious and joyful.   Overall, it has been 3 years of real maturing development for me.

One of the best messages that I could pass along to someone who is just joining the ranks of the “ex-drinker” is that Time Takes Time!  That’s a bit redundant and easy to remember.  From my experience, the first thing that I wanted to do newly sober, was fix things as quickly as possible and put back all the time that I thought I had lost.  No doubt there was a ton of wreckage behind me.  I needed to mend relationships, get a job, lose 40 lbs, get my brown lawn looking green again and go out and proclaim what good fortune had come upon me.  In hindsight, I would have been better off going down to the ocean and trying to stop the waves from breaking.  That’s a good visual of what I was trying to do with my life.

If it feels like you are trying to swim against the rapids, chances are good that is exactly what you are doing!  With hindsight and the passage of time, my advice to anyone today would be to recognize what you “want to do post-haste”, put it aside and focus squarely on taking care of yourself.  There is no need for proclamation either.  People are happy that you are showing a want to bring yourself out of a nose dive and they will be supportive of you.  Keep the proclamations in your support circle as a constant need for that and that is the proper place. 

Surround yourself with others who have been there before you and heed their advice.  Learn how to a sober person – that takes time!  Take walks instead of runs.  It took a long time to put on those extra 40 lbs. and it will take time for them to come off.  Water your lawn which will slow you down.  The lawn will eventually turn green again but it will not be over night.  And it will not be restored by flooding it once or twice.  It will come back to life through nurturing and daily care.  Your life will come back to you in this same way.  Turning your face into the sunlight will help too!

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