Categories
Adolescence Communication Recovery

Technology: It Will be There After Dinner

#yogitoes I love the #ODDFamily so much. They ...
© sarit z. rogers / sarit photography

Technology allows us to be more connected, more in touch with what’s going on in our communities, and it enables us to reach beyond our wildest dreams in terms of connections; there’s also a dark side. With this incredible connection comes an inevitable disconnection. This may sound ironic coming from me, the New Media Manager, but stick with this, I promise you, it’s relevant.

 

How many of us have a few hundred or a few thousand followers and connections across several social media platforms, whose lives we “know” and “touch” on a daily basis? Most of us do. In fact, if someone says they don’t have a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter account, we find ourselves at a loss for words. Let’s be honest, technology is a wonderful tool: it gets a message out there in a way that analog marketing couldn’t. One post can reach thousands of people at the press of a button. The fingers of the Internet and social media mavens are long and far-reaching. It’s phenomenal, to tell you the truth. The current technological age is monumental.

 

So what’s the catch?

 

As we have become more plugged in and more connected, we have subsequently become disconnected.  Text messaging has become the primary means of communication for many, because it’s fast, convenient, and it takes away the discomfort of confrontation. It’s much easier to dump someone via text, or tell someone off via text, or give someone bad news via text…isn’t it? In a sense, but it’s deeply impersonal and detached.  We have deluded ourselves into believing we are “safe” behind our smart phones and computers.  I have seen teens in coffee shops hanging out and texting to each other in lieu of having a real conversation: Eyes on the iPhone, rather than on each other. Conversations seem to happen technologically rather than face-to-face, which is, in this case, a disservice. Talking to each other is an invaluable way in which to connect, and making eye contact is part and parcel to that connection.

 

I realized I was doing some of this myself. I was disconnected to the people trying to talk to me in real time, because I was too busy staying “connected” in tech time. This is a problem. So I made a decision. I decided to unplug when I am sitting with people, and chose to engage with and be present for the people I’m with.  Texts and the like could wait. As a result, I find myself less stressed out, less anxious, and more connected with the present moment.

 

Where do we go from here?

 

First of all, technology is here to stay. It’s incredible. I couldn’t do my job without it. There are outlets like Skype and Google Chat, which allow us to stay connected with family, friends and co-workers that are not geographically close. Social media provides a global connection.  These tools are invaluable.

 

To me, the solution is to use these tools wisely and consciously. We can choose to unplug at:

  • Meals
  • With our family
  • With our friends
  • While we’re driving

We can pick up the phone to share pertinent information with those in our lives.  Yes, even the uncomfortable stuff. Confrontation is tough, but so is being on the receiving end of a terse or insensitive text message. I write all the time and am enamored with words, but it’s more authentic and heart based for me to directly communicate significant information. I recently received a text message in text lingo telling me a distant uncle had passed. I was more jarred by the transmission of the information than the loss. It was clear to me that using that form of communication for that type of information had desensitized my reaction.

 

I encourage you to unplug incrementally: be present at dinner, with your friends, and with your family. Technology isn’t going anywhere. It will await you in all of its magnificence when you return. That’s the beauty of it.

Categories
Mental Health Recovery

Cultivating Healthy, Healing Relationships in Recovery

Developing positive, healthy relationships are the one of the cornerstones in our recovery process.  One’s earnings or the size of one’s bank account doesn’t define success in recovery, though that doesn’t stop us from placing the expectations of monetary success upon ourselves. It’s not unusual to get sober and equate success in recovery with what we have, whom we date, where we live, what we drive, et cetera. In time, however, it is our cultivation of healthy relationships with those around us that are the true markers of success. Think about it this way: if the things we have define the quality of our lives, what happens if our accumulation of stuff is abated?  Are we left empty and bereft of joy? I think not. Instead, we must find a way to enjoy the skin we’re in, sans outside pleasures and impermanent pleasure

 

When we fixate on accumulating stuff rather than cultivating strong, supportive relationships with those around us, we may find we’re not as happy as we want to be. The more we ignore that which causes us pain, and the more we attempt to fill ourselves with stuff, the more uncomfortable we’re apt to become. We tend to place undo importance on what we have during our lives but speak primarily about the quality of relationships with family and friends at the end of our lives.  When we face our mortality, the issue of “stuff” isn’t high on the list of important topicsOne of the most important relationships we learn to cultivate early on in recovery is with a sponsor. The only guideline we have is to find someone who “has what we want.” That doesn’t refer to the kind of car they drive; it refers to the quality of their program, if they’ve worked the steps, and if they are spiritually sound. Unfortunately, we often times are influenced by someone’s outsides rather than what’s important for our insides. The moral of the story is this: cultivate your relationships with others the way you would nurture a burgeoning garden or pot of coffee. You know I know how important coffee is in recovery!

Categories
Adolescence Bullying Self-Care Sexuality

Starry-Eyed and Lovelorn in Adolescence

Remember when you were a teenager, falling in an out of love faster than your jeans could stay in style? Remember how devastating the subsequent heartbreak was when your current flight of fancy moved on? The drama and excitement of it all is exacerbated by adolescence. I can distinctly remember the all-or-nothing perspective I had when it came to love or what I thought was love as a teen. At times, it can be overwhelming and because there is sometimes a vacancy where parental trust should be, it can also be lonely.  Growing up is tough, and matters of the heart lend an element of pain to the already awkward, bungling nature of adolescence. And no, this isn’t a bash on being a teen. I was one once, and I will always remember the sense of untenable angst and confusion.

The truth is, relationships happen. All the time. They are an inevitable part of life unless you are a hermit, in which case, you may have some other issues to tend to. So, how do navigate that stormy sea? Let’s see:

  • Be yourself.  You are good enough just as you are. When we try to act like something or someone we’re not, we create expectations that may eventually lead to letdown. Ouch.
  • Mutual respect. You deserve to be being loved and respected for who you really are and not who someone wants you to be. Respect also means your partner will respect your boundaries without pushing you to accommodate their wants and needs.
  • Trust. It’s one of the most important ingredients in creating and maintaining relationships.  Are you overly jealous? Is your partner? Without trust, relationships tend to stand on rocky ground—this is true for friendships and romances.
  • Develop skillful communication: Ideally, you are in a relationship with someone who honors you and your feelings. If something is bothering you, talk about it. We hear this too often: “men and women speak different languages.” While this may be true at times, instead of shutting down, we can learn to ask for clarification when we don’t understand what’s being said.
  • Retain your autonomy. Sure, it can be fun to do absolutely everything with someone…for a while, but in doing so, have you made your boyfriend or girlfriend your “everything”?  Make time for those that were in your life before this relationship, and more than anything, make room for yourself. You should never have to give up things you like, or the friends you keep because your partner isn’t into them.

With the starry-eyed disposition of many adolescent relationships, it’s safe to say that many move with the tides, but sometimes things do go awry, presenting difficult challenges. Domestic violence can easily seep into teen relationships. The warning signs that this might be happening include:

  • Verbal abuse, including insults, unkind language, degradation.
  • Physical abuse, including slapping, shoving, of forcing sexual activity.
  • Control of who you spend time with and what activities you do: in other words, attempting to isolate you.

If you recognize any of these behaviors or recognize a friend or loved one who may be experiencing anything like this, get help. You deserve to be happy, not abused.

And remember: “Be who you are and say what you mean. Because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Seuss

Categories
Mental Health Parenting Recovery Self-Care Transparency

Father’s Day

(Image via Wikipedia)
We’re coming up on Father’s Day, and for some, this is a wonderful opportunity to recognize their first hero, their first confidante, or their primary example of “the good guy.” For others, it might mean having to face someone whose trust was lost because of addiction. And for others, it may mean reconciling with the repercussions of not having such an important figure their lives.
I have the pleasure of watching my son and his evolving relationships with his dad and step-dad. I am fortunate to bear witness to their triumphs and struggles, wins and losses, laughter and tears. I understand the inherent value of a healthy, positive father-son relationship, and do all I can do encourage it. 
I was intrigued by this interesting article posted by the Georgia Psychological Association, where Dr. Williams writes about the varying stages of father-son relationships. He says boys often idolize their dads as children, “experience a period of discord” in their teens, begin to evolve as young adults, move into acceptance in their 30s-40s, and eventually “become a legacy of their father’s influence for better and worse” when they reach their 50s and beyond. Seeing my son step onto the path to maturation, I am keenly aware of the need to develop positive habits, some of which need to learned from his father(s). In his case, I am hopeful for a virtuous legacy.
The dynamic between dads and daughters is compelling: Some say girls grow up to marry a version of their dads, while others might carry the nomenclature of “Daddy’s Little Girl” well into their adulthood. There are those, too, who take on the mother figure when mom is absent and dad is left to raise the family on his own. Lastly, there are those whose fathers bailed out, leaving their daughters bereft of a solid, male figurehead. Clearly, things can get complicated. How we manage the complications and find ways to make them palatable is where our recovery work comes in.  As a woman whose relationship with my father is tenuous at best, the tools of my recovery have become invaluable. Learning to let go, learning not to take things personally, learning to remove the ego from the pain of abandonment, and learning to accept that I am sufficient, have become essential. Without these factors, I risk drowning in emotion, a perilous position for any alcoholic/addict.
So, regardless of your relationship with your dad, be it adoring or nebulous, being in recovery gives us the opportunity to develop some kindness and compassion and teaches us how to put it all to good use. (This may actually mean setting a boundary and showing compassion to yourself in some cases!). As we work the steps, we are given the opportunity to change our unskillful behaviors through taking action. After inventories, which require inward reflections, we begin to change our viewpoint and begin taking the appropriate actions toward making positive changes in our relationships with others. It’s the beginning of a lifelong process that teaches us to lesson our expectations, which ultimately increases our ability to accept things as they are.
May this this Father’s Day bring some healing to your hearts and lives. And may you celebrate with an open heart and a compassionate mind,  one breath at a time.