Friday, December 19, 2014

Pause when agitated

These three words are a common saying in 12-Step programs. They refer primarily to those occasions where we tend to do something we'll regret later: a nasty remark, a slammed door, an unkind email. It's a variation on "think before you speak" or "take a deep breath first."

I'd always assumed that it had to do with being angry, that that's what the "agitated" meant. And as I'm not someone who gets angry very often, it didn't seem to apply to me. But as I delve deeper into the writing of my book on sugar and food addiction, I see how this can apply. For agitation can be any negative emotion: restlessness, boredom, grief, irritability, discontent. And I quite often experience these, sometimes several in a day.

And if I could learn to pause when agitated, might I then not get up and go to the kitchen and find something to eat? Something to consider.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A lesson from Mr. Sam

While four cats is a lot and I'm reluctant to get a fourth again, my household of cat personalities was better balanced when Nellie was here. With the four, I had a social companion (Nellie), a doofus (Sammy), a feral spooker (Evie), and a fraidy cat (Frannie). With the loss of the soothing old soul that Nellie was, I'm less grounded, less comforted and there's an overabundance of timidity in the house.

So I'm looking to Sammy for lessons in how to be. In the weeks since Nellie died, Frannie has stepped fully into alpha position in the pride and has been tooting her own weight around. I've nicknamed her Prison Mama. She walks by the other two very closely, sniffs them while they eat, pushes them out of the way at times. Evie freaks and runs, but Sammy just looks at her and goes on doing his own thing. He's friendly, predictable, and dependable. Loves to be petted, including belly rubs, happy indoors or out, not finicky about food. Doesn't sulk, doesn't whine. Whatever's going on, he's good with it.

I could learn a lot from this boy.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Wanting others to get unstuck

It's hard being a fixer. I've been doing it for nearly 60 years. I started with my mom, trying to fix her, to make her happy whenever she wasn't. Then I worked on my sisters for a while, then my school friends, my college classmates, my roommates, my boyfriends, my coworkers, my students, my clients. It's not that I think there was something wrong with them (well, okay, with my mom, yes) but they seemed unhappy or they talked about being unhappy and I couldn't stand it. So I'd want to fix them.

Maybe it's being a sensitive, maybe it's a little too much empathy in my make-up. Maybe it's my do-something-about-it nature but when my friends are stuck, I want them to get unstuck even though I have been stuck for years in some of my own stuff. And I know that we stay stuck as long as we need to and that sometimes that's a long time.

I've been realizing that my strong desire for the ones I love to be unstuck makes me a poor listener for them. Instead of really hearing what's going on with them, I'm off in fix-it land coming up with ways they can change. Not helpful for either of us. So I'm committing to taking off my fixer hat and to keep taking it off. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Managing our wants

At the end of the Money Program in October, we had a final webinar of last words and suggestions and one of them has really stuck with me. In order to have a real handle on our money, on our time, on our lives, we have to learn to manage our wants instead of having our wants manage us.

Those of us who suffer from substance addictions know full well what it's like to be managed by our wants. Alcohol and drugs managed us. Sex and relationships managed us. Food manages us. All because our wants were/are in charge: our want to be soothed, to be numb, to be loved and cared for.

I've been watching this in myself lately. My wants seem to be in charge at the grocery store and on amazon, and while my wants aren't quite living beyond my means, they sure could be. Another great reason to pay attention. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Coincidental encounters with the past

In October, I had two interesting coincidences that involved the two most important romantic relationships in my past. The first was odd enough. The second coming a week later made me curious about what's in my astrology chart!

In the first experience, my good friend Sharon was over from Bend for a few days and we had a lovely dinner at Nostrana. Towards the end of the evening, she wanted to ask me a question that concerned a friend of hers from high school whom she had reconnected with in Bend. Usually these types of questions concern a problem with alcohol, but instead her friend wanted to know if I was the Jill Kelly who had been involved with a man named Robert Spott. The question took me so much by surprise that I could only nod. No one has spoken that name to me in decades. Rob and I were partnered for six years in the early 70s and had a most unpleasant end to our relationship, which I've written about in my memoir, Sober Truths.Turned out Sharon's friend had been married to him for a lot of years, had a son with him, and has been divorced from him for a long time. It was the oddest feeling. I told Sharon I'd be happy to talk with her but the woman hasn't followed up on it.

Two weeks later in North Carolina where I was giving a weekend workshop, I sat at a table at the final meal with some of the participants. I talked a little about living in central Virginia in the 80s and one of the women had gone to college then in the town I lived in and had had classes from Dan, my partner of 11 years, and was friends with the student he married after we broke up. She had read my memoir and now put 2 and 2 together. Another coincidental encounter with my past.

Not so many degrees of separation in our world.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Recovery film #2

The Anonymous People is a recently released documentary from an organization called Friends and Voices of Recovery. It argues that anonymity observed by those in long-term recovery from drugs and alcohol does not serve the suffering alcoholic and addict, but rather that anonymity keeps the cultural  stigma of addiction going. It is a very interesting premise based on the fact that we need social services to step up and support those with this disease, not just through treatment centers but through ongoing support. I was particularly fascinated to learn that there are recovery high schools, college programs, and of course, prison programs. Worth watching.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Two recovery films: #1 Thanks for Sharing

Thanks for Sharing is a recent Hollywood film (Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Gwyneth Paltrow) about recovering sex addicts. The men's recovery is based in the 12 step tradition although nothing overt is said about the SAA program. I found the movie fascinating. First, the sex addiction as it plays out in the film is just the same as all other addictions: compulsion, abstinence and relapse. Sex addiction is not one of mine and I had little knowledge of the difficulty these people suffer from.

Second, the film beautifully handles all the family issues, the relationship issues, the pressures, the problems. It's serious, kind, informative. I recommend it. (I found it on Netflix streaming).