Categories
Addiction Feelings Mental Health Mindfulness Recovery Self-Care Spirituality

Resiliance

Resilience: That’s something an addict/alcoholic discovers in their back pocket when they overcome a difficult situation. It’s the ability to bounce back after the multitude of knocks we’re sure to get just by being alive.

In the using days, problems often seemed unsurmountable, so the only way to “deal with it” was to drink or use. In sobriety, that’s no longer an option. Instead, we sometimes try to “deal with it” by shopping, gambling, sex, video games, food, exercise, you name it. In the end, those behaviors don’t really correct the problem.

Sobriety presents us with an opportunity to learn how to live without the crutches of drugs and alcohol. Instead of infusing ineffective “solutions” to mounting troubles, we now have a toolbox equipped with the 12 steps. One by one, step by step, viable solutions will unfold. Before we know it, the hard work pays off, and our proverbial tool box gets filled with a variety of options. Mine has, anyway.

When I come across an aversive situation, I now have choices. I start with the foundation: the 12 steps, remembering I can approach difficulty one breath at time if need be. Or I might  engage the tools of a meditation practice, asking myself, “Am I breathing?”  Try it. You might even discover that you’ve been holding your breath!  Other times, I might engage the tools garnered from my yoga practice, asking myself,  “Am I present?” The majority of the time, however, it’s a combination of all three, allowing me to season my responses/reactions accordingly.

Recovery teaches us to face adversity with an open heart and a present state of mind. It teaches us that our previous acts of avoidance merely created a diversion to feeling better. The wreckage of our past proves when we walk around the issue, the solution feels and often is unattainable.  Here, in sobriety, we learn to “uncover, discover, and discard,” rather than to “run, hide, and duck for cover.”  So, if/when you find yourself faced with adversity, ask yourself this: “Is my reaction helpful or harmful?” If nothing else, you’ve provided yourself with a break and an opportunity to do the right thing.

Related articles:

Kevin Griffin: A Buddhist Approach to Recovery: Step Four — Searching and Fearless (huffingtonpost.com)

Categories
Body Image Eating Disorders Mental Health Recovery Therapy

Starving at 8

image © sarit photography

I know an 8-year-old who’s been known to choose an outfit specifically because it makes her “look thin.” This same 8-year-old often doesn’t finish meals because she thinks she’s fat. She’s the same 8-year-old that has begun to develop food rituals, often leaving the table with a reorganized plate full of uneaten food. Simply put, she already has an irrational fear of getting fat.
It’s hard being a girl. It’s hard to find a way to look at your unique self without comparing it with images of Barbie or Bratz. It’s hard to accept that  the beauty standard set by Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty isn’t actually real. But children, whose minds are filled with wonderful imagination and fantasy, aren’t going to cognitively recognize images that are potentially harmful. Instead, many will attempt to achieve the pink, thin, fluffiness of a Disney princess, or the skinny sass of a Bratz doll. Often times, even when parents are encouraging a healthy body image, the education on the school yard has a dramatically different lesson plan than the one from home. I’ve overheard conversations on the school yard that have made me pause – -it’s clear that body-image issues are in abundance and the pressure to look thin and svelte is invasive and intense.

So what can parents do? Start with eliminating the shame game. This might mean letting your daughter dump that maple syrup on her pancakes or having a cupcake at a birthday party. It’s a treat, not a vehicle for punishment!  Encourage healthy eating, but can you do it with compassion rather than the mallet of criticism?  Eliminate “fat talk”: your kids don’t need to hear it and frankly, it’s not good for you either. Stop trying to control what those around you eat. It’s not your job!  I’ve seen dads controlling the food intake of their wives and daughters to the point of devastating eating disorders (my dad was one!); and I’ve seen moms spewing “fat talk” or signing up for any and every diet fad while their daughters learn to eat in secret or restrict because they’re terrified of the incendiary reaction of their parental food monitors. These behaviors certainly don’t encourage self-love. If anything, they sow the seeds of self-destruction.

If you’re worried that your son or daughter might be developing an eating disorder (note: boys are not immune to this!), look out for some of these signs.

(Please note, certain behaviors are warning signs, but in combination and over time, they can become quite serious):

Behaviors specific to anorexia:

  • Major weight loss (weighs 85% of normal weight for height or less)
  • Skips meals, always has an excuse for not eating (ill, just ate with a friend, stressed-out, not hungry).
  • Refuses to eat in front of others
  • Selects only low fat items with low nutrient levels, such as lettuce, tomatoes, and sprouts.
  • Reads food labels religiously; worried about calories and fat grams in foods.
  • Eats very small portions of foods
  • Becomes revolted by former favorite foods, such as desserts, red meats, potatoes
  • May help with meal shopping and preparation, but doesn’t eat with family
  • Eats in ritualistic ways, such as cutting food into small pieces or pushing food around plate
  • Lies about how much food was eaten
  • Has fears about weight gain and obesity, obsesses about clothing size. Complains about being fat, when in truth it is not so
  • Inspects image in mirror frequently, weighs self frequently
  • Exercises excessively and compulsively
  • May wear baggy clothing or many layers of clothing to hide weight loss and to stay warm
  • May become moody and irritable or have trouble concentrating. Denies that anything is wrong
  • May harm self with cutting or burning
  • Evidence of discarded packaging for diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics (water pills)
  • Stops menstruating
  • Has dry skin and hair, may have a growth of fine hair over body
  • May faint or feel dizzy frequently

Behaviors specific to bulimia

  • Preoccupation or anxiety about weight and shape
  • Disappearance of large quantities of food
  • Excuses self to go to the bathroom immediately after meals
  • Evidence of discarded packaging for laxatives, diuretics, enemas
  • May exercise compulsively
  • May skip meals at times
  • Teeth may develop cavities or enamel erosion
  • Broken blood vessels in the eyes from self-induced vomiting
  • Swollen salivary glands (swelling under the chin)
  • Calluses across the joints of the fingers from self-induced vomiting
  • May be evidence of alcohol or drug abuse, including steroid use
  • Possible self-harm behaviors, including cutting and burning

If you notice even one of these, it’s time to address it. Talk to your daughter or son, talk to your doctor. If necessary, elicit the help of a treatment facility. In other words: Get help. Showing our kids that we care and are willing to stop our own negative behaviors in order to help them is invaluable. It’s a family problem, not an individual one.

Some helpful links:

NEDA
WebMD
Voice in Recovery
Peggy Orenstein
maudsleyparents.org
Also, check out “Brave Girl Eating: A Family’s Struggle With Anorexia” By Harriet Brown

Categories
Addiction Alcoholism Recovery Self-Care

Love and Boundaries

What happens when someone you love relapses and decides not to get sober again?
Regardless of whether that person is a parent or a close friend, it’s a challenge, to say the least. In AA, we are told  “we simply do not stop drinking so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on a higher power¹” This statement alone verifies the need to allay one’s reliance upon the static nature of the sick, and instead turn the focus on paving a new path toward healing.

In 1951, Al-Anon began using the steps, giving those married to and reared by the alcoholic, tools with which they could live by. One thing is key: Al-Anon and Alateen don’t focus or talk about the alcoholic; they instead focus on themselves and learn how they can lead a happier, freer life. Here, the lesson is not to fix the person we love, but rather how to live life fully and independent of their disease. That’s tough, especially when  our expectations have taken hold: “If only they get sober, then everything will be okay.” or  “I’m not the one with the problem, they are.” But when we place our focus on fixing someone else’s problems, obsess over their emotional health, and base our lives around their well-being, that IS a problem.

Alateen is a wonderful support for kids struggling with alcoholic/addict parents or siblings. When chaos is the norm, then Alateen provides tools for weathering the storm. As kids living with alcoholics and addicts know, reaffirming reality in their day-to-day lives is the norm; the steps and fellowship: however, help provide a healthy, non-threatening way to do that. At some point, we find that part of supporting someone else’s sobriety means allowing them to walk their own path, no matter how rocky that path may be. We can’t walk it for them. If that means that their sobriety is tenuous at best, then we have to learn how to step aside. I call it loving someone with boundaries. In other words, we can love you when you’re in your disease, but we won’t hold you up.

¹ BB Page 98 (Note: “God” was replaced with “higher power” in the post.)