Archives for Recovery

Animal Mentors

A Choice Between Safety and Survival


Last night I started watching a new BBC series called "Hidden Kingdoms."

In this series, little wild beings like mice and beetles get their 15 minutes of fame as the camera takes a look at what it is like to be tiny and totally on your own in the wild world.

For instance, if you are a sengi, or elephant shrew, and you are not even as big as one toenail on the giant creature you are named after, how do you cope when that same giant creature lumbers by and obliterates the trail-based safety system you worked on all morning (and your whole life, really)?

If you are a sengi, you rebuild the trails, of course.

But then what if lightening strikes in the African desert right near your trail system and you have to run for your life?

What then?

The answer is surprisingly unpleasant...for both the sengi and BBC's viewers. 
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Mentoring

How to Join the Peace AND Prosperity Club

When you read today's post title, you probably thought to yourself, "That sounds great - sign me up for that club!"

And I agree - I'd like to join too!

But here's the thing - at least in my own journey to date.

I can remember back to when I had plenty of prosperity (like in my first white collar job).

But at that time, I had no peace.

So I couldn't join the club.

Now, I can say I have more peace than I ever expected to have - in fact, I have so much peace now that even on true anxiety-producing days, I can usually find my way through it and back to the peace.

But the prosperity....where is it?

So I still can't join the club.

So now my new goal is to acquire plenty of both so they will finally let me in.
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Good News

The Secret to Sustaining Happiness


Many years ago, I was sitting on the floor of an ashram, wearing what looked (to the westernized me at least) a lot like pajamas.

Our lesson that day was about happiness - how to find it, how to hold onto it.

Our teacher explained, "People will fight so hard to get rid of pain, suffering. But when it comes to joy, they think it should just come to them and stay all by itself."

Since that day, I have never taken my own happiness for granted. 
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Animal Mentors

The Birds of Pandemonium


Granted, now that Pandemonium Aviaries is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Michele has lots of volunteer help. But no one knows better than a fellow nonprofit founder (aka moie) that the pressure to do more, and do better, never ever stops.

Not to mention that - especially in the early years - she faced a rather staunch brotherhood of exotic bird breeders who overall hadn't much use for a gal with a soft heart for the injured, abandoned, neglected, misunderstood, and otherwise traumatized cast-aways in the exotic bird world.

But none of that stopped her. 
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Celebrity Mentors

A Different Mind, A Beautiful Mind

In a recent post, I wrote about how one of my most influential mentors, Dr. John Nash, recently (and very unexpectedly) passed.

He will continue to mentor me posthumously, as will his wife, Alicia, who passed with him.

I first learned about Dr. Nash's life and recovery story through the movie Ron Howard made about his life.

Called "A Beautiful Mind," it was actually the title that drew me in.

I had never before thought of any mind - let alone my mind - as beautiful.

But I loved the idea. That a mind could be beautiful - that MY mind might one day be a beautiful place to visit....or live...was compelling.

At that time in my life (in 2001), my mind often felt more like a disaster zone - on a scale with Haiti or Japan.

It was a terrifying place - unpredictable, chaotic, rebellious and stubborn. It rarely made much sense.

Yet, just a few short years later (in 2004), by invitation I began sharing my recovery story. That is how powerful the "John Nash" effect was on me.

Recently a friend shared a powerful post called "Why the World Needs the Mentally Different" by Momastery blogger Glennon Doyle Melton.

While reading, I felt like her post might have been written by Nash himself, as she describes the addict's existential dilemma - come out of their interior world to re-engage with a daily life that feels neither satisfying nor okay - or stay put.

Melton describes needing a reason or a mission to come out of the protective interior boundaries that addictive thoughts/behaviors can create.

She is right. I needed a reason too.

In his memoir by the same name (written by Sylvia Nasar), Nash describes his difficulty with setting aside the extraordinary mental life his schizophrenia could create for him...in favor of a life where he felt ordinary, average, like everybody else.

It was only when his schizophrenia interfered with his ability to perform his beloved calculations to the point where he became non-functional that reality became a more powerful catalyst than continued fantasy.

For me, the most powerful part of the book was when Nash likened his recovery from paranoid schizophrenia to "putting his mind on a diet" - refusing to permit it to indulge in thoughts that had in the past proven to be illogical, unproductive, or simply impossible - no matter how wonderful, exhilarating, or freeing those same thoughts might have felt.

I, too, had to put my mind on a diet to recover from anorexia and bulimia.

I had to put it on another diet to recover from anxiety and panic.

And - full disclosure here - I finally had to medicate it - a different kind of diet - to manage my ongoing tendency towards depression.

In this way, I have my own continuing recovery system - as Dr. Nash did right up until the moment he passed - for ensuring I can find sufficient nourishment, stimulation, support, and meaning through "normal" (aka "non addicting") channels.

But it took some doing to convince me to make the attempt. 
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Mentoring

What Type of Perfectionist are You?

Just when I thought being (or, rather, trying not to be) a perfectionist was already hard enough.....did you know there are now 3 sub-types of perfectionists?

Oh yes.

A new study published by the Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment reports in on the evolution of perfectionism, revealing in greater detail what perfectionism looks like when turned on one's actions, one's self, and others.

3 Sub-Types:

Self-perfectionists. You set high standards for yourself.
Socially oriented perfectionists. You think others set high standards for you
Other-oriented perfectionists. You set high standards for others.

The first type tends to be the healthiest - if you can use the word "healthy" and the word "perfectionist" in the same sentence. These folks are best able to maintain a healthy balance between self-focus on focus on others, and their sense of humor reflects that.

The second type tends towards self-deprecation, anxiety and depression. These folks do struggle to see others as three-dimensional beings in the midst of their concerns about self.

The third type is the one with the dark side, where perfectionistic standards are turned on others, often in ways the researchers term "the Dark Triad" (narcissism, Machiavellian motives, psychosis). Any interest they may display towards others has a purely self-serving focus.

The researchers are careful to point out that "people can be high on all three subtypes or they can be high on two or just one.”

I don't find that statement quite so reassuring as I suspect they think it is.
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Mentoring

The Real Story Behind Whiplash

Yup.

Former career-minded musician that I used to be, I finally watched the movie "Whiplash."

I had been told to watch it because I might be able to relate from my own years of intense musical practice.

In this, my best friend in particular warned it might have a "few scenes" I might find disturbing.

After about five minutes, I assumed she was referring to all the scenes.

I loathed this film from the start.

I hated everything about it - from the inaccurate portrayals of drumming and musicianship, to the seeming decision by screenwriters and producers alike to skip over meaningless steps like fact-checking jazz history, to the gratuitous displays of vile meanness that are already so prevalent in society today. However, in the midst of all this, one important actual fact did stand out.

In the opening scene, we meet the main protagonist, first-year aspiring jazz drummer Andrew Neyman.

Neyman desperately wants to rise above the mediocrity he sees in his family and those around him. To achieve this, he practices until his hands literally bleed.

His drive attracts the attention of the story's main antagonist, Shaffer Music Conservatory conductor and bandleader Terence Fletcher.

As a teacher and mentor, Terence Fletcher is as vicious and abusive as it gets. He quickly singles out Neyman for special attention.

At first, young Andrew seems to fold under the pressure. But then he surprises us (or at least me) by coming back for more....and more....and more.

Somewhat late in the development of Andrew's story, a minor character named "Sean Casey" is introduced.

We don't ever actually meet Casey...this is because he is dead by the time we first hear his name. 
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Mentoring

Seeing the Light in Dark News

A few days ago, I got a pile of news all at once.

Some of the news was awesome.

Some, not so much.

But all jumbled up together, it felt challenging to organize which was which all on my own.

At times like these, I crave conversation with a certain type of person - that rare confidante who can look into the jumble of seemingly conflicting information and reliably pull out the light. What I learned from sharing this last jumble with various confidantes is that this is a rare gift....or perhaps a skill...or both.

In other words, not everyone has it - and those who do have it tend to be rarer than those who don't.

I have also learned that often parents don't have it - at least when it comes to their own spouses, parents, kids, pets, and grandkids.

In other words, just as my worry setting seems permanently stuck on "high" when it comes to Pearl, my parrot, and Malti, my baby tortoise, my own parents exhibit the same for me.

So if I share some good news and some bad news with my folks - for example's sake, let's say it is an unexpected sudden reduction in my freelance income - my mom, as self-appointed SpokesParent for them both, will translate that in her head to mean, "My daughter is going to be a homeless bag lady by tomorrow morning!!"

Then she will begin peppering me with questions and ideas (until, frankly, being homeless and living out of a bag begins sound both peaceful and freeing).

What is particularly ironic is that I DO have this gift for reliably finding the light in the jumble - or, in my case, I have this as a skill which I have consciously and deliberately developed for myself through much prayer, meditation, and daily self-effort.

I have taught myself to take in any news, and then instantly look for the bright spot in that news, no matter how hard it may be to locate.

For instance, let's say I am looking at the aforementioned unexpected reduction in freelance income. Instead of automatically heading towards "OMG - I'm a homeless bag lady!," I will say to myself, "How exciting! I wonder what kind of work I will be doing next! I'll bet it will be something even better than what I was doing until now!"

If - as such news sometimes does - it comes with compliments to myself included - I will read and re-read those compliments and allow them to soak in.

If there are no compliments I will compliment myself (after all, somebody has to do it.) 
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Mentoring

As the Pendulum Swings to the “Binge” Setting

I logged into my Amazon.com account today, and what did I see?

One word: "BINGE."

Each letter was decorated with television characters. First of all, as a Business/Marketing major, I must give kudos to Amazon for what is most likely already a very effective marketing strategy (I say this because before I saw it on Amazon, I saw the same strategy being used on Hulu to advertise their "Hulu Plus" TV streaming service).

But now what I thought (hoped) was going to be a very limited, localized ad campaign is spreading.

We - all of us - are being encouraged to "binge" on a variety of things besides substances and so-called "junk" or "bad" food.

Television, exercise, health foods and supplements (aka "orthorexia"), life hacks, anything is fair game for bingeing these days.

Sadly.

While clearly this doesn't apply in certain situations (heroin abuse, for example), in most cases a big facet of my ongoing recovery work is to replace words like "binge" with a phrase my mom has always used:

Everything in moderation.

Unfortunately for those of us on the moderation bandwagon, moderation doesn't sell.

This is because moderation doesn't have "star appeal."

It isn't glitzy or glamorous or extreme.

It won't make news headlines.

It won't sell anything to anybody (unless perhaps it comes attractively - if deceptively - packaged as "life balance"). 
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Emotions

Steering Clear of Needy Greedy “Love”


At times, I ask the wrong people for advice about the wrong things.

When I do this, I tend to get, well, bad advice.

As my mentor has often reminded me, the key to getting good advice is to ask the right people about the right things.

Here are three examples:

If I need advice about a recovery issue, I want to ask someone who is a few steps ahead of me on the recovery journey and/or has professional expertise in recovery matters.
If I need advice of a romantic nature, I want to ask someone who is now/has been in the past in the kind of healthy romantic partnership I aspire to also be in.
If I need advice about my career, I want to ask someone who has expertise in my line of work or a similar profession.

You probably get the idea right away. But often I still don't.

Recently I ill-advisedly shared news-in-progress about some possible choices my significant other and I were talking over with someone who (frankly) didn't meet the criteria to offer advice in this area.

Yet I got advice anyway....and the advice was along the lines of "but what if you don't get everything you want and need by making this or that choice?" 
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