Archives for December, 2010
For this post, I invited Sarah Ikenberry from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to share more about their fabulous "Recovery Month" programming. Did you know that each September is "National Recovery Month"? I didn't until Sarah contacted me. I think it is so very important to recognize ourselves and others for the important work we are doing by choosing to recover, to heal, to uplift ourselves, and to support others in doing the same. As we share our stories and our involvement in recovery-oriented activities and events, we serve as mentors to others who aspire to do the same.
I am delighted to announce that "Mentoring and Recovery" will now be a featured blog on Hive Health Media in addition to its primary home here. I so appreciate PsychCentral.com's support of the topic of mentoring and recovery - there isn't another blog out there like this one, and it is great to know that Hive Health Media is also interested in featuring the "Mentoring and Recovery" feed to share more about mentoring and recovery with their readers. My colleague Ashley Solomon, PsyD. introduced me to Hive Health Media via her wonderful Nourishing the Soul blog. We share an interest in body image, eating disorders, and the nurturing power of relationships to facilitate the recovery process.
The MentorCONNECT community knows how grateful I am to my mentor, Lynn, for gifting me with the book "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz, because I talk about the book a lot in our interactions each week. But I didn't always feel that way. Have you ever had an experience where someone recommended a book to you, and even while you were graciously nodding your head and thanking them for the suggestion, inside your head you were thinking, "Not another self help book to read. Surely it can't have much new to add to the pile I've read already." Yup. That was me the first time Lynn recommended that I read "The Four Agreements." And also the second time. And the third time, for that matter. Then a copy showed up in my birthday gift bag...from Lynn of course. I read it - dutifully - but the book thoroughly intimidated me during that first read, so I put it away and blissfully put it out of my memory. But then several months ago I encountered it again. I was going through my bookshelves, paring down my library, and there it was, winking at me, saying "pick me up! you want to read me!" So I read it again.....and promptly fell in love with the Third Agreement - "don't take things personally."
Recently I was asked "what is the difference between having a sponsor and having a mentor?" Wow. Good question. Puzzling question too. A sponsor in the Twelve Step tradition, as we discussed in a previous blog post, originally was intended as a point of contact for a family who was faced with having to deal with serious illness or death of a family member due to alcoholism. Over time, a sponsor became someone who had worked through all Twelve Steps with their own sponsor, and as an act of completing their own twelfth step then turned around and began sponsoring someone else through the twelve steps. Today, sponsorship is a commonly used and readily understood term. Even those who have no personal first or secondhand experience with the Twelve Step communities often understand what is meant by a "sponsor". In fact, now that I think about it, not once in all the years I have worked in and around the recovery community has anyone (whether they knew of my work or not) ever asked me, "What is a sponsor?" That is actually pretty cool.
So yesterday Mentoring & Recovery's author turned 40. That would be me. Yup. The big 4-0. This, of course, means that all year long I have been listening to others' input, advice, suggestions, cautions, recollections, affirmations, condolences, and more about the onset of a human being's 40th year. I have heard everything from "wow I would have never guessed you are 40" to "well you don't have that many wrinkles yet" (hmmm). But the one common theme throughout has been that people have been eager to share their experiences about their own 40th year. Which is par for the course, because the older I get, the more I view life and this world as one big mentoring merry-go-round.
I was out walking the other day. It was a gorgeous, sunshine-y day. The pavement was nice and dry. The pathway was clear, just me and....wait a minute. Nope, I wasn't alone. There were two of us. Me and the little scrunchy, bunchy, wildly unattractive butterfly-to-be. I knelt down, peered closer. Where is it? Are we sure - just positive - that it's in there? The caterpillar was sure. It just kept scrunching and bunching its way along the path, happy in the not-too-scorching fall sunlight, steadily progressing toward safety and, at some point, transformation. Now I know that caterpillar-to-butterfly stories are way overdone in recovery communities, and I also am all-too-aware that if I were reading this particular post rather than writing it, I might be yawning and stirring my mouse clicker right about now. But have you ever stopped to look - I mean really LOOK - at one of those many-legged, aerodynamically-shaped yet unbelievably slow creatures as they scrunch along, making their way towards....somewhere? I hadn't.
I have had a series of roommates through the years, none of whom have shared my eating disordered history. Which meant that they may have differed widely in other areas, but all were fairly uniformly mystified by my frequent bouts of "refrigerator paralysis." By this I mean, I would walk into the kitchen because it was time to eat, and I would stand in front of the refrigerator "letting all the cold air out" as my mom used to say... And absolutely paralyzed by my choices. Too many choices. We live in a world which gives us too many choices. We have so many choices that our minds get spoiled, and it is a bad deal indeed when our mind can't make up its mind about what we are having for dinner that night.
For many years of my life, I felt conspicuously out of place. I was just sure that everybody around me was totally fixated on the outfit I had chosen, how I had styled my hair, that noticeable blemish on my forehead, my black socks and blue shoes....you name it, I was sure everyone else was noticing it. Which you and I both know they weren't. Those other folks - the ones I was so convinced were following my every move - they didn't have time to keep up with me. They were too busy fixating on their own every move to have time to take note of mine as well. People are people. We all fixate. None of us blend. We all fit in - or none of us do. We are all "normal"....or none of us are. Or, like my bluegrass-loving dad used to tell us when we'd make a mistake on stage, "just do it twice - the audience will think you meant to play it like that." I wish it hadn't taken so many years of my life to realize that Dad was right.
I am just going to take my opportunity to state the obvious here. Life is going to throw us some surprises. We are going to feel disappointed, confused, hurt, clueless, hopeless, furious. And sometimes when we are feeling any or all of those things, no one else will be around to talk to about it. Over the years, I have watched myself struggle through these times, and later on I watched my mentees struggle as well. I will never forget the night that one of my mentees, in the middle of just such a time as this, spent her precious sleep hours calling my fax line over and over and over again, hoping I would pick up. This is not the goal of mentoring.
On MentorCONNECT, the eating disorders mentoring community I run, we have a special group called "Creatures of Comfort." This group is a place where our members can post pictures of and talk about the animal companions who are such a source of strength, support, and comfort during the difficult recovery journey. Knowing about my love for my own feathered buddies, a friend recently recommended the most wonderful book to me. Hearing the title, "Wesley the Owl" I instantly wanted to read it. For years, I have had dreams of owls. Mostly, the dreams have not been pleasant, happy, princess-wakes-to-gorgeous-rich-prince type dreams, but more scullery-maid-survives-dreadful-brush-with-death-to-learn-valuable-life-lesson type dreams. And when I have these dreams, sometimes the owls are there.