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Archives for Recovery


Finding My Line in the Sand

Last week I had a very enlightening experience.

The short story is that I was offered a writing job that I turned down.

The long story is that what the company was asking me to do didn't jive well with what I call my "internal moral code."

Basically, it all started when I saw a job posting for a freelance writer who specializes in academic papers.

While I do not specialize in this type of writing, I felt like all the "A's" I still remember receiving for high school and college essay assignments indicated I might still have the chops to pull it off.

Plus the pay was pretty good.

So I applied for it and got the job.

After I got the job, I started the training process and quickly began to question what I was really doing.

After taking a closer look at the company's website (something I absolutely admit I should have done before applying!), I realized my job was basically to write academic papers for high school, college and graduate students - including med school students - to use in their academic studies.

Ooooooo. Or, I should say, ewwwwwwww.

So I talked to my dad about it. I described the job and watched his expression change. His expression mirrored the changes going on in my stomach as I processed the idea of helping students cheat their way through their classes.

Then I did some research online to see how companies like this one (and there are many around the world, I discovered) can legally do what they are doing.

Their defense is a good one - they say they are just providing the papers to help the students (who are ordering and paying for them) generate creative ideas and do some advance research.

But the extensive testimonials from student-customers crowing over the A's these papers have earned them beg to differ.

At last I realized that, however legal (or not) the service may be, it simply didn't sit right with me. It just didn't. I wiggled and squirmed and squished myself up in all manner of ways, and I still couldn't see myself writing one. single. paper. for this company.


At that point I extricated myself as politely and expeditiously as I could.

But this whole experience has led me to question how our individual and respective "lines in the sand" get drawn.

What if, for example, I had been raised in a culture that actually embraces "getting away with something" or skirting "the system?"

What if my folks had valued the grey areas of life above the white (good) and black (bad) and encouraged me to dive into the grey and go exploring?

What if my mentors had actively modeled methods for doing the least work possible and getting the most results? 
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Why I’m Not So Sure I Want to Look “Ageless”

I'm turning 45 this year.

That means I have been on this planet for 45 years (or almost 46 if you count the initial 9 months).


I will be honest - I don't feel 45.

I don't feel any age, really. If I had to pick an age, I would say it would be one that is much younger than the one I actually am, although I'm not exactly sure which age that would be.

I just feel like, with every year that goes by, more and more layers of "applied persona" - various masks and camo outfits and disguises I felt the need to adopt during different earlier stages of my life - peel back to reveal the essence of who I really am.

Like emerging from a particularly transformative shower, turning 45 feels like a reward for all the intense time and scrubbing it took to get me this clean.

So imagine my reaction to a recent short post by Susanna Schrobsdorff (editor of Real Simple and 51 year-old mom to two) where she shared:

I've already seen "Sexy at 70" headlines. Will everyone be expected to go to their graves looking hot?

Oh goodness. I certainly hope not!

I was actually quite looking forward to the days when, like my 70-ish parents, I could pause with genuine shock after reading an editorial and say, "Women are getting what done to which part of their anatomy? But WHY?!"

Why, indeed.

Why would women (and increasing numbers of men) go into debt to get various portions of their physical being frozen, snipped, clipped, trimmed, suctioned away or otherwise re-routed...especially when, as Schrobsdorff states:

It's all so exhausting. 
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How Trauma Has Mentored Me

Out of all the experiences I have had in my 44+ years to date, "trauma" is not one of my favorites.

For example, I did not enjoy the two decades I spent trying to heal from an eating disorder.

I didn't like my subsequent lengthy battle with anxiety and then depression.

I didn't enjoy losing my friend David, both of my best friend's parents, my first cockatiel, Jacob, and our family's dachshund, JP Morgan.

I also didn't enjoy my tumor...
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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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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 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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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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The Real Story Behind Whiplash


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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