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Dec 27

Recall from last week’s column that our linebacker enjoys cuddling and having infrequent sex, while his wife, our librarian, is not happy because she wants regular and lustful sex. When they finally come to me for therapy, they are both hurt and angry and refuse to initiate any physical closeness with one another. They are no longer nurturing each other with warm, positive everyday comments because of their alienation; effectively punishing each other for having different levels of desire for sex. The problem that started in the bedroom now fills the house and over time, could be a recipe for detachment, affairs and possibly, divorce. 

 

How does a couple with two very different sex drives find marital happiness? 

 

Five things need to happen: 


• Stop the Bleeding. 

The first thing this couple needs to do (or any couple dealing with this issue) is immediately stop the on-going battle of words that is causing deep wounds to develop. One thing that might help is taking time out for an official “date” to do something mutually rewarding where you don't discuss your anger and frustrations. 

 

The decision to go to therapy together (as opposed to continuing the wounding) helped this couple staunch the bleeding.

 

• Replace Anger and Hurt with Empathy.  

For the linebacker and the librarian, empathy needed to replace anger and hurt. This took place in therapy as we explored childhood issues and their sexual histories. By doing this in front of each other, they were able to view their partner through a more accurate and forgiving lens. 

 

As the youngest of five children, the librarian received little attention in her family. Her father was a workaholic and her mother was overwhelmed by the demands of parenting. By the time the librarian came along, there “wasn’t much love left,” she said in a therapy session. She was a depressed teen until she discovered that flirting and having sex with boys got her a lot of attention and made her feel loved. As an adult, she (like her parents) became a worker bee. In addition to a 50-hour a week job, she volunteered for nonprofit organizations on weekends, kept a spotless house and tended a garden which required daily upkeep. 

 

Sex, which had saved her from loneliness as a teen, was her only respite from her non-stop work life. 

 

Like his wife, the linebacker was a workaholic. As a kid he was the boy who “got things done,” since his father often disappointed his mother by “promising everything and delivering nothing.” If there was a job to be done, he did it before his father could let his mother down. By making his mother’s life easier, he was rewarded with her affection and attention. 

 

He vowed to be different than his father, and he was. 

 

Through this process of uncovering their pasts, this couple could see how well they fit together, in spite of their different sexual appetites. Both gained their identity through self-reliance and hard work. The difference was the linebacker got significant attention and love within the family, while the librarian got attention and love outside the family through her sexual trysts with boys. 

 

• Courage. 

Insight doesn’t always fix things. Even though the couple understood the history of their differences, things still did not go well when they bumped up against their differing desires. That’s when the courage had to come into play. 

 

The librarian has to have the courage to initiate sex even at the risk of being turned down. The linebacker has to have the courage to initiate tender physical closeness and to say, "No," even at the risk of upsetting her. 

 

• Self-Care.  

Since both the librarian and the linebacker are “Do-ers,” they’re not good at just “Being.” The librarian has to learn other ways to relax such as exercise, walking and taking long baths. The linebacker needs to stop using food for comfort (since he’d gained 50 pounds which was making him feel decidedly un-sexy) and learn to chill without guilt. 

 

• Sex Night. (It’s Business Time)  

To help the couple with the tricky business of initiating sex, I asked them to establish a "Sex Night." (From experience, I can tell you no one likes this idea.) 

 

“What about spontaneous sex?” the couple asked. 

 

“By all means, have spontaneous sex as often as you want,” I said. “But choose a night that is your “Sex Night” and honor it. You can always be spontaneous on that night.” For busy couples or those who are avoiding sex, “Sex Night” forces you to deal with one another. 

 

As typically happens, the linebacker and the librarian had some bad “Sex Nights” before they fell into a pattern that worked for them. On those nights, they each took individual responsibility to be rested and relaxed which allowed both of them to cope with the disappointment of the other’s approach to their intimate life. 

 

Each of them learned to reduce their stress, particularly on “Sex Night.” Both became less into getting things done and more focused on taking care of their bodies, their health and just “being.” 

 

With their sex life in better shape, the marital bond re-emerged. The librarian was able to remember how much she appreciated the fact that her husband got so much done and was such a responsible partner. The linebacker was able to remember and admit how much he loved how comfortable his wife was sexually and how impressed he was that she valued that part of their relationship. 

 

The last I time I saw the librarian and the linebacker they said they were very good about honoring Saturday night as their official “Sex Night” but still had very little spontaneous sex. Both began preparing for their sexual encounter throughout the day. They would quit working earlier than before and sometimes take a nap or go for a walk—whatever they needed to do to help them shift from "doing" to "being." Both noticed they would flirt more throughout the day knowing they were going to be having sex later. This shift allowed the linebacker to find and show his sexual desire and the librarian to enjoy physical attention and deal with her frustration when the sexual experience wasn't exactly what she wanted. The result? A deeper marital bond. 

 

This is a case of two people who had a sexual desire discrepancy who were actually gifted lovers. At no point did either of them complain much about the other’s technique once they were having sex. This is not always the case as many times technique is at least part of the problem. 

 

Please watch this video and see if you can identify ways each of the lovers is contributing to sexual problems. 

 

HOMEWORK: After watching the video, brainstorm and list all the ways in which each lover in this video might contribute, or at least eventually contribute to the other’s lack of desire for sex.

 


Gerald Drose is an Atlanta-based couples’ sex therapist.  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. Visit Dr. Drose at Powers Ferry Psychological Associates, LLC.  


More Gerald Drose articles, click here.



© ShareWiK Media Group, LLC 2009

Oct 10

Attention fellow “children of chaos!” Here’s how to do what does NOT come naturally: create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Each week I’ll share selections from my book, The TurnAround Mom. This week a portion of the introduction follows:

Child see, child do: Stopping the toxic tornado.  


I believe every mother who has truly looked into the eyes of her child wants a sane, loving home in which to live and rear that child. But for many of us who grew up in the insanity of addiction and abuse, or became addicted, abused, or stretched to the breaking point, these are incredible challenges.


Chief among these challenges are the thoughts: If I don’t know what it feels like to be sober, calm, and peaceful, if I don’t know what an emotionally healthy family life looks like, how can I create a sane and loving home? How can I help my child grow up with balanced emotions? How can I help her recognize and create healthy relationships? How can I teach him to live a life free from toxic intensity and compulsive behaviors?


This column is filled with experiences, processes, tips, and tools that I hope answer those questions. The stories are meant to bring hope—hope that we can see how powerless children are over the situations they’re born into, how profoundly they are affected by their parents, and how lives can be changed for the better when there’s a willingness to feel and heal past pains, a willingness to grow and learn.

In my volunteer work with women at treatment centers, I often hear stories of women doing what I believe we all do if we are not conscious and committed to a better way: recreating many of the same problems their parents had.


In our time together we will talk about how difficult it is for those of us with deep emotional wounds to realize, accept, and find gratitude in the fact that we do have choices.


Ultimately, we come to the conclusion that even if our parents numbed their pain and created even more pain for themselves and others by being alcoholics, addicts, and abusers, we don’t have to. Our parents’ pain does not have to be our pain; generations of pain do not have to be passed on to our children.


As I join many far wiser than I who believe “what we can feel, we can heal,” and that “pain we don’t heal, we pass on to our children,” my hope is that by sharing parts of my journey, you will be guided and inspired to start or continue your own journey to healing.


I have seen this happen in the groups I work with. When I read my stories out loud with them, they tell me that they do go back to those similar situations and feel the desperation of their childhoods, the desperation that leads, ultimately, to a resolve to do whatever it takes to make things different for themselves and their children. They say they also feel hope and that they get an idea of how much better life is and will be if they continue in their recovery.


It is such a gift to me to watch tears fuel resolve, and resolve fuel hope and action. What is happening to them as they hear my story is what happened to me as I remembered and wrote it.


My hope is that you reading this column helps you experience the same feelings of sadness, the same feelings of strength and determination, the same feelings of courage and hope. My hope is that going through this process helps us all recognize self-defeating behaviors we use to act out our pain, so we will choose to stop destructive self-sabotage, take responsibility for our actions, and then be still and quiet until reality and reason return. I also hope we learn or affirm how to separate what works from what doesn’t, and how to begin or continue the daily routines that create stable, loving lives for our children and ourselves.


I don’t have all the answers; this book is for me as much as it is for you. From what I’ve experienced and what I’m learning from the groups of women I lead, I know that recognizing and dealing with past hurts clears the way for us to feel greater joy today.


If we are to avoid recreating the past, we simply must feel that pain and use it as motivation to make life better for ourselves and our children.


Further, it is clear that we must have a source of hope, the hope that comes from being able to visualize what a sane and loving home looks like. That’s why it is so important for me to write down and share what my family life is like now that I have experience in recovery. It helps me to remember—and share—that even when things get a little crazy, we do know how to be sane and loving.


With God’s help, and with some work on our part, we can remember a time when we felt better about each other. Those positive feelings can and will create the shift that pops us up and out of a dark place. That is a turnaround!


I believe parenting, even in the best of circumstances, is a tremendous challenge. As my children get older and the world gets crazier and more violent and the things my family needs to live become more and more expensive, it takes a lot of deep breaths for me to keep my serenity, to keep the turnarounds going.


I’m inspired to take those breaths, say my prayers, and keep doing the next right thing, as best I can, because I know the more my children see me deal with my feelings in honest, open ways—instead of using a substance or an abusive behavior to dull or act out the pain—the more likely they are to deal with their losses and disappointments, joys and pains in healthy, mature ways. The more they see me stack one sane and loving action on top of another, the more likely we all are to stay turned toward that which is sane and sober.

 

Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Her book is available at here.  


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Nov 19

We are legion, we children of chaos. 


It’s estimated that there are about 30 million adult children of alcoholics in the US, and that today, one in four school children (or 13.5 million children ages 5 - 17) lives in a home where there is alcoholism or drug addiction. If you add in addictions to food, spending, the Internet, sex, codependency, and what I call “Toxic Intensity,” or the addiction to self-generated angst, it is likely that a far greater percentage of children -- and adults -- are living with the effects of addiction.


You see, addiction of any type has a negative impact on every member of the family, not just the addict. While the statistics below are about children of alcoholics, as revered pollster George Gallup, Jr., points out, “any type of addiction makes parents unavailable to their children and is damaging to them in other ways as well. The resulting neglectful and abusive behaviors are most often unintentionally passed on from generation to generation, perpetuating cycles of addiction and abuse.” The stress and insanity of living with addiction attacks the immune system of every member of the family.


I can speak to this damage on two levels, first, as an advocate for children and children of alcoholics. According to the National Association of Children of Alcoholics (NACOA), “children of alcoholics experience greater physical and mental health problems and higher health care costs than children from non-alcoholic families.” NACoA reports that for children of alcoholics:


  • Inpatient admission rates for substance abuse are triple that of other children.
  • Inpatient admission rates for mental disorders are almost double that of other children.
  • Injuries are more than one-and-one-half times greater than those of other children.
  • The rate of total health care costs for children of alcoholics is 32 percent greater than children from non-alcoholic families.

Speaking on this from the second level, as an adult child of an alcoholic (ACOA) myself, I concur. I spent a lot of time in the doctor’s office as a child, and have had, over the years, some of the typical health and depression issues detailed in the groundbreaking report: The Health and Social Impact of Growing Up With Adverse Childhood Experiences, The Human and Economic Costs of the Status Quo by Dr. Robert Anda, MD, MS.  


I know that my immune system requires extra help in the form of supplements and self-care. And, I must be mindful of my addictions to toxic intensity and sugar.


Addictions succeed when they are making their addicts, and those around them, sicker. My addictions want to compromise my immune system by having me yield to rushing, over-committing, eating sugar, worrying, not being in the present. The result can be a bad cold, a bout of bronchitis, a sinus infection, or saying and doing things I will regret.  


The greatest defense against my immune-busting addictions is my own spiritual immune system – my internal Jiminy Cricket conscience/judgment – that tells me when I am headed away from healthy actions and toward unhealthy actions such as rushing, over-promising, and that urge to please people at almost any cost. My strongest weapons are two words: THANK YOU and NO.


When I am at my best, the thank you comes the first thing in the morning – thanking God for rest and the hope of a new day. Then I make a gratitude list for the blessings in my life. This is an immune booster of the highest order, generating joy, helping me plan my day, and helping to keep negativity away. (Negativity is another addiction that wants us dead.  If you are a child of chaos, you’re familiar with negativity, and know how seductive it is. To steer clear of negativity, it’s best to limit exposure to negative people and stay in gratitude.)


Gratitude helps me plan my day so I can use the NO to stay away from the unimportant but urgent time wasters and stress makers that can push me/my immune system toward overload, and away from health. 


These are important lessons for this adult child of chaos, who is grateful, today, to continue moving away from chaos and disease, and toward life and health.  

 

Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Her book is available atAmazon.com http://www.amazon.com/TurnAround-Mom-Addiction-Survivor-Family--/dp/0757305962/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1317756315&sr=8-1


Read more articles by Carey Sipp here.


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

 

Jan 14

Addictions to substances – alcohol, drugs, nicotine  –  are life-threatening and damnable in their ability to destroy people, families, careers, businesses, anything and everything caught in their wake. 


Addictive behaviors involving actions we must take to survive – eating, spending, interacting with others, etc. – are also heartbreaking and damnable in their ability to destroy people, families, careers, businesses, anything and everything caught in their wake.


As a person who has been challenged by both types of addictions – substances and behaviors – I will confess that for me, the behaviors are the far greater challenge. I can live without alcohol. I cannot live without eating, and it is truly hard to live without spending money or interacting with people.


So this is my experience, strength, and hope regarding food addiction, weight loss and control, and recognizing triggers that make sober eating so difficult for millions of Americans, myself included. 


I have found great comfort in food through the years, usually in the sweet things that helped compensate for whatever sweetness I thought I was missing in my life, or whatever sweetness I had in my life that I was not recognizing and appreciating.


As a 20-year-old who’d been reed-thin most of my life (except for a quick hormonally based ballooning at 13 that was quickly deflated by horrifically painful braces), I stunned my mother and friends when I returned home one semester weighing about 30 pounds more than I had when I left just months earlier.


I had discovered Hagen Daas coffee ice cream and had used it to soothe loneliness and despair night after night. It took the pain of hearing my loved ones freak out about my weight gain, and the break in addictive behavior of transferring to another college (where I was happier and started swimming again), to knock the weight equivalent of 30 pints of ice cream off my hips and thighs.


There have been other romances with specific foods that resulted in rapid weight gain arrested by major life changes.  An addiction to cocoa-laden nut-based brownies at a raw food restaurant resulted in a quick build-up that melted in a few days when I had pneumonia seven years ago.  By the time I got well enough to drive six weeks later, the restaurant had closed. I think it was because I wasn’t there to support them.


An obsession with a combination of Trader Joe’s marvels: French toast topped with melted dark chocolate, frozen mangoes, and Greek yogurt, was thwarted by a diagnosis of pre-diabetes, complete with having to do thrice-daily blood-sugar testing finger-stabs. Six months on the South Beach Diet saw my A1c levels drop from 6.4 to 5.8, and led to my discovering the joys of plain Greek yogurt mixed with organic peanut butter with flax seeds, plain organic cocoa, cinnamon, and vanilla-flavored stevia, a far healthier food craving that put protein and healthy fats ahead of natural sugars, and resulted in the good report on my blood sugar and a 12-pound. weight loss.


As a person who’s watched a loved one die of alcoholism and diabetes, you might think I’d be “smart enough” to avoid those pitfalls. But emotional eating – finding comfort in food when you’re triggered by grief, shame, blame, guilt, loss, joy, fear, anger, or whatever other thoughts our feelings and reactions gin up into a pain that can only be satisfied by carbohydrates – is a blessing and a curse. 


It’s a blessing because it probably keeps me from doing something worse, but it is a habit that is self-destructive. And one that must be taken more seriously with the pre-diabetes issue and the reality that aging makes weight loss more difficult. The older I get, the more staying power the calories have.


This year I’m going to support myself and my loved ones in our efforts to lose weight and get healthier by cooking without the substances that trigger cravings: white flour, sugar, excessive salt, unhealthy fats.


I’m shopping smarter by filling the grocery cart with more vegetables than anything else.


And I’m walking the walk, literally and figuratively, by walking more (this makes the dogs happy) and not bringing into the house foods that would trigger my loved ones or me: again, the white flour, sugar, foods with excess salt, unhealthy fats. I'm also taking more deep breaths and working on the emotional self care that empowers me to respond to challenging situations with greater maturity, instead of reacting in ways that only create more emotion and angst. This means asking more for what I truly need and want, instead of fulfilling unmet needs with unhealthy foods, thoughts, actions. This requires greater courage and greater acceptance. And, lest I mislead anyone into thinking that I believe I have all of this figured out, it also means I am grateful to be living in a time when there is "healthy chocolate."


With all the news in recent years that dark chocolate is good for us, I am thrilled by the high-cocoa-content chocolate bars in the health food section of our grocery store. It is good that some of them have almost as much protein and fiber per serving as they do sugar (5 grams). That makes those almost-black blocks of chocolate safer – in my mind.  It also makes them unappealing to almost every other human in my house. (Dogs love chocolate but it is deadly for them; I am careful not to leave any within their reach.)


As I say, the older the woman, the darker the chocolate. So I will yield to that temptation, as a little bit of pitch-black chocolate goes a long way.


And to my knowledge, nobody gets pulled over for driving under the influence of dark chocolate.



Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Her book is available atAmazon.com http://www.amazon.com/TurnAround-Mom-Addiction-Survivor-Family--/dp/0757305962/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1317756315&sr=8-1


Read more articles by Carey Sipp here..


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Jan 29

If part of growing up is recognizing your limitations, then I have more recognition than Kim Kardashian’s most famous asset.  Among the things I’ve learned about myself over the years is this: If smartphones had been invented when I was a new mother I would have missed the best moments of my son’s childhood. (For those of you born in the new millennium, there were no iPhones, Blackberries, YouTube, texting, Facebook or Twitter when I was a new mom in 1995.) You could not be bombarded with messages from your 200 best friends and followers every moment of every day.


And for that I am eternally grateful.


Because for me, smartphones are the new cigarettes: they are addictive, they are dangerous and you can burn people with them.


It took me most of a year to finally quit cigarettes, and I was mostly a casual, not always daily, smoker (for 10 years). But still, I was definitely addicted.

I grew up in a family were my mother smoked four packs of cigarettes a day; my father smoked two packs a day and he was considered a light smoker. My mom quit smoking every time she was pregnant (four times in six years) but she took it up again in the hospital right after the umbilical cord was cut. When I was a kid, there was never a time that my mom did not have a cigarette smoldering somewhere.

My parents were notorious for burning holes in everything – clothing, the tops of end tables, the kitchen counters. My mom was the queen of appliqués – my father’s tennis shirts were littered with little embroidered ladybugs and leprechauns that my mom sewed on to cover the burn holes. I am sure if you look closely at my body I have scars from accidentally getting in the way of my mother’s cigarette embers. There is just no way you can hold a baby in one hand and a cigarette in the other hand and not do some damage.


Listen, when I was a new mother, I remember carrying my son in my arms and one day as I walked into his room I accidentally bumped his head on the doorframe (he had grown an inch overnight, apparently). And I was paying attention. (It didn’t bother him at all. I cried for 30 minutes.) Imagine if I had been on my cell phone! You’ve seen the videos of people’s mishaps while walking and texting – the girl who fell into a manhole, the woman who tripped into a mall fountain.


I’m fairly certain that I would have been one of those mothers. I have to fight the urge to pick up my phone when it dings and I’m driving. If I have to use the bathroom when I’m out to dinner, I check my email in the stall. I aimlessly wander through Facebook before I even get out of bed in the morning, and I don’t really actually know half the people whose posts show up in my News Feed – or if I know them, I’ve forgotten exactly how I know them. High school? College? My first job? And why do I feel the need to Google tomorrow’s weather as I pull into my driveway? It’s not only dangerous, it’s usually not even accurate.


Being well aware of this limitation of mine – the hold that handheld devices have over me -- I am continuously thankful that Steven Jobs waited until 2007 to launch today’s most addictive gadgets. 


Getting back to the connection between smartphones and cigarettes? I'm just saying that cigarette smoking is distracting, dangerous and requires the use of at least one of your hands and your mouth. Same with cell phones. 


When I see a new mom with her baby at a restaurant, and he’s in the high chair and she’s texting on her phone and doesn’t even realize that the spoon is nowhere near his mouth – it makes my heart hurt. I want to yell, “Put it down, put it down, put it down! Our babies grow up so fast! In 10 minutes that boy will have his driver's license and will be asking you for the car keys!”


Worse is when I see a mom driving with her baby. He’s strapped in a car seat in the second row of her mommy mobile which she bought for its safety rating and she's texting and talking and driving all at the same time.


I want to roll down my window and shout, “Baby on board! Hang up and sing Barney!”

Not only is it dangerous to text and drive (no matter what age and even if no one’s on board), but the baby is watching you. And I promise there will come a time when you're at the dinner table with your family and you will hear yourself say to your kids, “No cell phones at the table, kids, I’ve told you a hundred times. Put it away or lose it.”


And they’ll say? “I’ll put mine down when you put yours down, Mom.” (Well, they might not enunciate this, and it might sound like “Ughguh” and look like rolling eyes, but this is the rough translation. I am fluent in teenspeak.)


When I was little, my brothers and sister and I would hide my mom and dad’s cigarette packages; we begged them to stop smoking. We hadn’t read the latest surgeon general’s report but we didn’t like the smoke. We knew it made them cough, too.


And yet, I ended up a smoker. In fact, all of my siblings ended up smoking and having to quit. And quitting, for all of us, involved hard work, emotional backsliding and resisting temptation. But we felt better, healthier and more connected within months.


I long for the day when pulling out our cell phones in public is viewed with as much intolerance and dagger-looks as smoking is today. 


I’m one of the lucky ones – I’m old. Let me give you the benefit of my years: hang up and talk to your kids. Hang up and laugh. Hang up and have dinner together. Hang up and be present with whomever you’re with. And watch out for door frames.


Ginger Emas is a 20-year veteran corporate writer in Atlanta, and most recently, the former national web editor at skirt!, www.skirt.com. She is a contributing blogger for The Balancing Act, Huffington Post’s divorce vertical (www.huffingtonpost.com/divorce) and skirt.com, the mother of a 16-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has been featured in More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. She has appeared dozens of local and national TV and radio shows, including as host of Book Talk with Ginger in Atlanta, Georgia.   

For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 


I quit smoking in the old days, back when the “tech support” options were not very advanced. There was no such thing as an electronic cigarette, and doctors weren’t routinely prescribing smoking-cessation medications.  I didn’t exactly have to walk 10 miles in the snow, up hill both ways to get to school, but it was certainly a very different landscape than today’s world. To quit smoking, I was pretty much on my own.

 


I started smoking to be cool. At 14, I wanted to appear older than I was, and I honestly thought the ability to make excellent smoke rings was a sign of sophistication. As status turned into habit, I wore it proudly, secretly thrilled that the guy at the Crown Gas station would stand outside his glass shell with a pack of Marlboro Lights and 35 cents in exchange for the dollar I held out my window.

 


At 16, I had permission to smoke in “the area” at school, and by 20, when the nurse at the health center asked if I was a runner, I stated clearly, “No, I’m a smoker.” I was totally hooked.

 


Truth is, I’ll always be a smoker. I’ve often joked that, when I get to my 80s, I’m going to take up smoking again. If it weren’t such a dirty and expensive habit, I might actually consider it.

 


Like most former smokers, I’m obnoxious around smokers. Maybe it’s a little jealousy in disguise, but I find it totally annoying to breathe in another’s smoke, and I rarely hide my displeasure. My kids have adopted my disdain, but I’m trying to teach them to be polite about it (good Southern girl that I am!).

 


Also like most former smokers, I quit more than once. The first time I did it for love, and it lasted a year or two. (I must confess to being a cheating scoundrel in that relationship: whenever I went ‘home’ on vacations, I smoked incessantly with my old friends from high school). The second time I did it for my health and myself, and it has lasted a lifetime – so far, so good.

 


Many factors motivated my quitting the second time, but few of them more compelling than my embarrassment. A single woman in my mid-20’s, I was enjoying an elegant greeting from a single young man who reached for my hand and bent down to kiss it. As he lifted his head, he made a face at the smell! I was mortified. Years of chronic bronchitis were no deterrent, but my dating life? THAT was a different story.

 


So how did I quit? I did it the same way I do almost everything like that – gradually, and then suddenly, one step at a time.

 


What I Know Now(ok, what I can remember –it’s been nearly 25 years),



The 15 Step Behavior Modification Approach to Quitting Smoking (that worked for me!):


1.    Set the intention. Get clear about what’s important about it to you. I didn’t want to quit smoking, but I did want to feel healthier and stop getting sick all the time (ok, the bronchitis DID start bothering me).


2. Pay attention to the smell. If you can’t smell it, lick an ashtray for a refresher.


3.    If you don’t already, start “field-stripping” your cigarettes and commit to throwing away the butts (which may mean carrying them around with you for a while). Take a responsible approach to your smoking – at least, respect the environment and others by not leaving your trash behind you.


4.    If you drive, stop throwing cigarette butts out the window. They’re your cigarettes, use your own ash tray (see #3).


5.    Stop smoking in your car and get it cleaned.


6.    Begin to reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke, gradually.


7.    Identify your trigger areas, and cut them out one at a time, allowing a few weeks in between if necessary. (For example, wait to light up after a meal until you’ve left the table. Do this for a few weeks before you stop lighting up whenever you get on the telephone, etc.)


8.    Delay the first cigarette of the day as long as you can.


9.    Get down to five cigarettes a day –you can do that in a couple of months or less.


10. Set a date at least two weeks out with NO NATIONAL SIGNIFICANCE ATTACHED TO IT, an arbitrary date that may have no meaning to you at all. Everyone quits on Jan. 1. Try quitting on Feb. 4. I chose the weekend of a close friend’s wedding – that way I can remember every year.


11. Tell everyone you know that you are quitting on that date. Start spreading the news. Ask for encouragement from people.  


12. Plan a trip or vacation for the day after you quit (preferably with a nonsmoker). Go someplace you’ve never been, or that you don’t associate with smoking. Visit a nonsmoker. Set yourself up for success!


13. While you are away, arrange to have a friend come in to your place and clear out all signs of smoking including taking clothes to the laundry or dry cleaner. You can do this yourself, too, if you can trust yourself not to go find that ashtray with all that laundry to do!


14. This next step is a matter of preference. 


a.    Some people need to stay on pattern until the last day, and gradually cut down from five cigarettes to four, three, two, one.


b.    Others need to blow it out (or suck it in) the last day, and smoke like crazy until it makes you feel sick. (This method worked for me, but there was tequila at the wedding. The other would have worked for me, too.) 


15. Finally, create a number of “fake cigarettes”* and carry them with you everywhere. They are roughly the same weight as a cigarette. Use it in place of smoking, and take long, deep drags on it when you are in real need of an oral fix.


Now, I acknowledge that this method will not work for everyone, and thankfully there are countless forms of support available that I know nothing about. But this method is tried and true, and has worked for several friends of mine over the years. I hope it works for you. If not, well, don’t give up. Get clear on WHY you want to quit, and start again. YOU are worth it! 


*“Fake Cigarette” recipe: Take a regular straw and stuff it with about 3 bar straws (clearly, you can do this anywhere!). With scissors, cut the straw to the length of your regular cigarettes. It creates a draw quite similar to taking a drag on a cigarette. It’s really quite effective!

 


Elaine Taylor-Klaus is a Life, Leadership and Parenting Coach and the founder of Touchstone Coaching and ImpactADHD™. She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 


Read more articles by Elaine Taylor-Klaus here. 

 


 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Many smokers refer to cigarettes as their “Best Friend and Worst Enemy.”  When a relationship is this dysfunctional, breaking up is hard to do. 


While there are those lucky few who quit with a patch, a pill or pure will, others require a deeper exploration of their relationship with cigarettes before they can break the habit. I’ve helped many folks quit smoking during the course of therapy. This decision typically arises after there has been a profound shift in self-perception. With an uptick in the value they place on themselves comes the conviction:


“I am worth the time and energy it takes to quit smoking.”   


Jared, a 20-something man with a history of serious drug addiction, was turning his life around.  Clean and sober for a year, he’d been unemployed and living with his parents to solidify his recovery and keep his stress levels low.  His next step was to start classes at a local college.  As a symbol of his changing role from Addict to Student, he decided to quit smoking.  


In order to tackle this challenge, we talked in depth about each cigarette, from the first one he tapped out of the pack at 5 a.m. to the last one he inhaled before turning out the lights.  Once he understood the function of each one, he explored ways that a non-smoker would negotiate those life-moments.  Jared was surprised to discover that there was more to this than just getting the nicotine out of his system: through this process he’d be developing the precise life skills required to be physically healthy, socially connected and academically successful.


Jared often bolted awake at 5 a.m., unable to calm his racing thoughts and fall back to sleep.  The “Morning Cigarette” slowed down his mind and relaxed his body enough to ease him back to dreamland.


So I taught Jared a Progressive Muscle Relaxation exercise to help him get out of his head and into his body. Starting with his feet, he’d tense his foot muscles for a count of 5, then relax his feet and feel the blood rushing back in, creating a warm, heavy sensation. He repeated this pattern with each muscle group, slowly moving up his body. This simple exercise not only shifted his mental focus to his body but it relaxed the tense muscles which were keeping him awake.  


One down.  


One of Jared’s biggest fears about returning to school was hooking up with the druggie-crowd and relapsing.  Sure enough, as soon as he started school he began joining his fellow smokers for a between-class-cigarette. He realized that this was actually increasing the likelihood that he’d meet just the people he was trying to avoid!  “But how else am I going to kill 20 minutes between classes?” For years, the “Cigarette-Break Cigarette” had been his default way of both killing time AND meeting people.  We agreed that a 20-minute walk around campus was a better use of that time, during which he was encouraged to concentrate on how good it felt to breathe fresh air into his lungs.  Since his social life had revolved around drugs for a decade, we discussed other potential ways for him to meet non-smoking students.  


Two down.


The cigarette he smoked in the evening while doing homework served yet another purpose.  The “Study Cigarette” was meant to calm the anxiety he felt about using his brain in a new way.  Delving deeper, he discovered that he was afraid his drug use might have caused damage that had diminished his intellectual capacities. He secretly wondered if he was smart enough to keep up with college classes. This cigarette helped quell those fears.


It was also his way to treat himself since he found studying stressful.  A little discussion revealed that he was, in fact, understanding the material and actually enjoying his homework. Maybe he was smarter than he’d led himself to believe!  We discussed alternative ways that he could treat himself while he was studying, whether sipping on some tea with fresh lemon or snacking on healthy treats. 


Three down.


So you can see where this is going.  If you’re trying to quit, this Cigarette Breakdown is a great exercise.  Ask yourself “What function does each cigarette serve?”  You may be surprised to discover that each is different and therefore requires a different intervention.


Here are eight possible needs that cigarettes fulfill, along with suggestions about how you’ll make it through those moments like a non-smoker


1.  The Relaxation Cigarette


Ask yourself, “What is stressing me out?” It may be your own thoughts or perceptions. Attempt to view things from a different perspective. Try meditation, yoga, stretching, progressive muscle relaxation. 


2.    The Energy Booster Cigarette


Perhaps you need more sleep.  Exercise will also increase your energy


3.    The Way-to-Meet People Cigarette


Hanging out with smokers makes it doubly hard to quit.  Join a group of people who are doing something healthy or positive for the world


4.    The Treat Cigarette


A pedicure, a refreshing drink, gum, a hug or some kind words might all make you feel better. Picture black lungs and ask yourself if this is really a “treat."


5.    The Cigarette Break Cigarette


You can still take a cigarette break: just walk for those six minutes instead.  Focus on your breathing and how delicious the clean air feels in your lungs


6.    The Keep-My-Hands-Busy Cigarette


Knit, play with beads, un-bend paperclips, rub on some hand lotion.


7.    The Bonding-With-My-Partner Cigarette


Perhaps you can bond around quitting smoking.


8.    The Connection-to-My-Past Cigarette


If you grew up in a smoking household, as much as you hated it, this can be a difficult chain to break. A therapist can help you work through those feelings. 


If you are trying to quit, please add your ideas to this list.  Write in the comment section and share your insights with Your Fellow Future Non-Smokers!   



Dina Zeckhausen is a nationally-known clinical psychologist and author who specializes in treating eating disorders and body image in both adults and adolescents. She is a weekly columnist for ShareWiK.com. You can visit her on the web at dinazeckhausen.com and MyEdin.org



More Dina Zeckhausen articles, click here.  



©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

So, did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year?  Many of us do and they most often focus on how we can make ourselves better.  Exercise more, eat better, clean out our closets, reconnect with friends, and the list goes on. 


How many of you parents made your children a part of your resolutions?    New Year’s resolutions tend to bring out the need for “me” but as a teacher, I am here to tell you that the “wee” ones in your life need some attention too.


What in the hell is happening to our children?  What are we as parents doing to our kids?  


There is a crisis with our youth that the responsible adults in their lives are ignoring.  This crisis is the failing mental health of our own flesh and blood as they are forced into dealing with the crisis in a parent’s life.


Four new students have joined my classroom since December 10.  Considering there were only 10 students to begin with, this is a 40 percent increase.  All four children are coming from homes broken by alcoholism, addiction to pornography, and infidelity.  All four have now become part of the statistic that approximately 40 percent of all children in the U.S. today come from divorced parents.  (healthvermont.gov)  And while a great number of children appear to adjust to their parent’s divorce without any significant issues, a considerable number of children do not deal well with the change in their family’s structure.

 

Let me tell you about Benjamin.  His father is an alcoholic.  I don’t know the status of his sobriety but Benjamin thinks his dad is still drinking and that is all that matters.  One day last week, Ben was not acting himself. He looked physically ill.  He frequently had his head down on his desk, his eyes were tearing up, and he clearly couldn’t concentrate on his school work. 


I asked him several times if there was anything I could do to help – did he want to go home?  Call his mom?  Anything?  I finally got him to confide in me that he had had a bad phone conversation with his dad the night before.  Apparently dad told him that he didn’t want to see him.  I have no idea what his dad said or meant by that statement, but I know how Ben took it.  He heard ‘my dad doesn’t like me, much less love me, therefore he doesn’t want to spend any time with me.’  Further, he didn’t want to tell his mom what dad said because he felt it would cause more problems.  What a burden for a 12-year-old to deal with.  I wonder if Ben’s dad made any resolutions this year?


Next I’ve got Charlotte.  Her parents have recently separated because dad has alcohol and other addictive behavior issues.  Charlotte is an academically sound student but she does seem to need more affirmation and attention than others in my class.  The good news is that she has forged a bond with the boy I have spoken of in earlier columns whose mother is a chronic alcoholic.  They have found common ground with their dysfunctional families and perhaps they can support one another in a positive way.  I hope one or both of their parents has made a New Year’s resolution to find their way back to their families.


Certainly a New Year’s resolution is not the guaranteed fix for a hurting family.  Addiction is an evil master in anyone’s life and is not the path most people chose to remain on.  I know that staying sober, staying clean, staying away from the things that pull you down is difficult.  I know that parents do not intentionally bring children into the world with the intent of causing them distress and grief. 


I also know that addiction is selfish and in order to continue the habit you have to continue to think only of yourself and your habit.  What I am angry about is while these parents are off feeding their addictions, I am in the classroom trying to provide a stable school environment for children who are overwhelmed with pain and agony.  Forget learning math, science, reading, spelling, and history, I am teaching survival skills, how to deal with anxiety, and how to behave in a responsible manner all while trying to be encouraging and supportive to these students.


I commend the parents who do everything in their power to support and provide stability in their children’s lives.  I pray continuously for parents whose lives are ruled by addiction. 


But my hope is in our youth who will one day be making decision for you and me as they become the leaders of our communities.  I hope that any resolutions they make will be done thinking of the “wee” ones in their lives and not just their “me”.

 

Margaret Andersen is the mother of three teenagers and is a middle school teacher somewhere in the Midwest.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. For more Margaret Anderson articles, click here. 

 

 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

Most of today’s afflictions and addictions are a direct result of our desire to not know what we know.  There are times when we cannot bear the anxiety, anger and grief that accompany harsh reality. Humans are constantly devising new methods for numbing our awareness: from cigarettes to heroin, from shopping to cell phones.  We find ways to leave our bodies because powerful emotions make us uncomfortable.  Knowing the truth can have frightening implications. 

 

A man involved in an intensely destructive marriage keeps himself numb with alcohol so he can better tolerate the craziness: “I’m afraid if I divorce her, she’ll kill herself.”  

A woman who hates her job soothes her pain with chocolate every night: “I’m too fat to leave; no one would hire me.”

 

This need to numb is a natural part of the human condition. We hone this skill in childhood.


***


When I was young I spent much of my summer barefoot, resulting in frequent splinters from wooden docks and rafts. There was nothing scarier than my mother approaching my tender heal with sharp implements, so I developed an effective numbing technique.  


Whenever I got a splinter, I’d inform Mom and then run up to my bedroom where I’d will myself into an instant, deep slumber.  Mom would tiptoe in with her tweezers and needles, deftly removing the splinter like a surgeon operating on a sedated patient.  I’d awaken refreshed and splinter-less, running back outside to play.    

       

***


But my splinters were minor irritations compared to the pain of trauma, abuse, and loss that many kids experience.  Trapped in their bodies and their families, to maintain their sanity they must find ways to check-out without physically leaving.  Some kids escape into a world of imagination or develop severe dissociation. Others turn to junk food, cutting or starving to numb the pain. 


While these techniques are adaptive for surviving the pain of childhood, becoming an Expert Numb-er can hinder your decisions in adulthood.  Your gut is primal; it is a finely tuned Cavewoman built for survival.  She tells you when to Say No, Get Out, Save Yourself.  Silence her and you may end up in the wrong place, the wrong career, the wrong relationship.  


***


In my early 20s I dated a man who was stable, successful and kind.  After two months he proposed; in two more months we moved in together.  On paper, he seemed like great husband material. In my head, I couldn’t find a compelling reason NOT to marry him. 


The day we moved in together, I felt myself leave my body.  We’d have minor disagreements, which would turn into days of silence and distance. I remember hovering above my body like those “near death” experiences, watching Dina below and thinking (with apologies to The Talking Heads) “This is not my beautiful life!”  I was floating downstream towards a rushing, crushing waterfall called “My Wedding.” 


I had a massive splinter, and I was sleeping deeply.  Mom took me wedding dress shopping, but I was not really there. She sensed that something was amiss, but she couldn’t fix it this time. I couldn’t remove the splinter myself because I couldn’t feel it. 


Around that time I went to my friend Martha’s wedding.  Through my fog, I watched her kissing and laughing with her new husband. At one point she grabbed me enthusiastically: “Oh my God, Dina! Congratulations on your engagement!  Tell me all about him; does he make you laugh?!”  


Her simple question brought me surging back into my body.  I fumbled through an answer, but something had shifted.  I couldn’t marry him. We had a fundamental disconnect.  Sure, we didn’t fight but we didn’t laugh either…not in the way that I needed to laugh.   No wonder I had left my body. But once I was back inside myself again, there was no turning back.  Soon after that, the Cavewoman spoke and told him: “We’re not going to make it.”  Then I was moving out and moving on. 


I’m so grateful that Martha asked me the key question, which brought me back into my body, before the invitations, the vows and the babies.


***


I’ll bet you can recall similar Ah-Ha moments in your life, when the light bulb went on, when you suddenly saw something so clearly that it inexorably changed the direction of your life.  It was a feeling in your gut, wasn’t it?


Unfortunately, the notion of “listening to your feelings” has gotten a bad rap. Teenage bullies and narcissistic 20-somethings are blamed on parents who’ve over-indulged their kids’ feelings.  The Tough-Love-Suck-It-Up philosophy of the Tiger Mom movement is our culture’s typical knee-jerk over-correction.    

  

But there is a middle place. 


It’s about valuing the wisdom in our emotions and having the courage to view feelings as useful information. As a therapist, my emotional responses to my clients’ stories provide me with important clues.  But being “in touch with my feelings” doesn’t mean I cry all day long.  This ability to connect to my emotions helps give me both empathy and resilience.


I’m hopeful about our culture’s surging interest in yoga and mindfulness. These practices can help us tune back in to the stirrings of the Cavewoman. 

 

If you spent much of your childhood trying to leave your body, being present takes a courageous and concerted effort.  But you ignore your inner CaveWoman at your peril.  Without her wisdom, you don’t know that your hand is on the stove until you smell your flesh burning.  Honor her and you’ll access the energy, courage and focus to run away from danger and towards a fuller, saner life.  

Dina Zeckhausen is a nationally known clinical psychologist and author who specializes in treating eating disorders and body image in both adults and adolescents. She is a weekly columnist for ShareWiK.com. You can visit her on the web at dinazeckhausen.com and MyEdin.org.

 

More Dina Zeckhausen articles, click here.

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

May 07

I thank God every day that I am a mother in recovery.


I grew up in an intense, violent, alcoholic home. My father grew up in intensity and abuse. For a while, I was afraid I would somehow repeat the cycle with my own two children.


Some of us recreate what I call “toxic intensity” in an attempt to understand, correct, overcome, or be the opposite of it. For those of us with addictions or the combination of addictions and attention deficit disorder (ADD), creating intensity is a form of self-medication—a crisis that makes our bodies produce the adrenaline we “need” to focus and succeed at something, even if the newly “ginned-up” intensity just helps us get out of the trouble we’ve created.


We also create intensity to divert our attention from what really matters: the sometimes boring option of simply taking care of ourselves and our families. Many of us just go on automatic pilot, living our lives the way our parents did, not realizing that we do have choices. All that being said, please understand this right now: This is not a condemnation of my parents; today I love them deeply.


My father died of alcoholism and diabetes in 1981, at the age of 56. An abused child himself, I believe he passed along to others the pain he felt at the hand of his father. While I forgive him for acting out his rage and depression, I can’t help but wonder how different his life could have been had he been committed to a program of recovery, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and if he’d had access to modern-day antidepressants.


Today I know his behavior was not my fault. (Many children of alcoholics blame themselves for their parents’ behavior.) I believe that sharing what happened and refusing to pass his pain on to my children is my best way of honoring him.    

    

My mother was able to set Daddy’s temper flaring in a heartbeat. I know that she put an incredible amount of energy into trying to control his addictions, and in doing so almost destroyed herself. Though Mother’s staying in this violent, alcoholic marriage subjected my brother and me to danger and abuse, I understand how difficult it is to leave an abusive situation when, at times, the situation seems to be improving.


Today I am grateful that throughout those hard years, Mother kept taking us to church, although we sometimes resented it. While we would never dream of talking to anyone about our family secrets, I believe that my youth group involvement—the routine of going, the friendships, the messages that somebody loved me—probably saved me from wider-scale self-destruction.


I am also grateful that in the last few years, Mother and I have both learned that the best way to help an addict is to take great care of yourself, keep the focus on your own issues, and refuse to criticize and react to the addict’s behavior. If I start thinking resentful thoughts, I work hard to stay in the present, to look for my part of the problem, and to “let go and let God.”


As an adult, I take full responsibility for my actions. I know I must ask for help to face my fears; find healthy ways to deal with problems when I want to numb out with alcohol, food, or work; practice self-discipline and pray for focus and maturity so I can balance my checkbook, pay bills, and fold laundry instead of creating a crisis. (For many years, it was a lot more fun to solve a problem than prevent one.)


Like Pearls on a Treasured Necklace: Adding Sane Day After Sane Day


My hope is that by sharing my experiences, we’ll have this guide to turn to when we are challenged. We’ll have firsthand proof that life does get better. We’ll see together that we can be transformed.


We may give up excitement for a steady job, fancy clothes for markdowns at Old Navy or the resale shop, and sacrifice rushing to an important meeting or date in favor of being home for dinner at 6:00 p.m. every night. But when we ask for help from others, put structure in our lives, and face life on life’s terms, God really does “do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” He takes the routine of our days and strings those days together like pearls on a treasured necklace, helping us to turn, one day at a time, our once hopeless lives into cherished family heirlooms that make a difference, especially for our children. And if we’re extremely lucky, our parents are likely to be thrilled by our progress, and to learn from it as well.


When we practice turnarounds, our children grow up in sane environments. We forgive the past and heal generation upon generation of wounds. Parents and children alike grow up together without feeling the need to destroy ourselves and one another with alcohol, acting out in anger, drugs, or other high-risk behaviors. A legacy of sanity begins. 


 

Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Her book is available here.

  

 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

Jun 13



It’s estimated that there are about 30 million adult children of alcoholics in the US, and that today, one in four school children (or 13.5 million children ages 5 - 17) lives in a home where there is alcoholism or drug addiction. If you add in addictions to food, spending, the Internet, sex, codependency, and what I call “Toxic Intensity,” or the addiction to self-generated angst, it is likely that a far greater percentage of children -- and adults -- are living with the effects of addiction.


You see, addiction of any type has a negative impact on every member of the family, not just the addict. While the statistics below are about children of alcoholics, as revered pollster George Gallup, Jr., points out, “any type of addiction makes parents unavailable to their children and is damaging to them in other ways as well. The resulting neglectful and abusive behaviors are most often unintentionally passed on from generation to generation, perpetuating cycles of addiction and abuse.” The stress and insanity of living with addiction attacks the immune system of every member of the family.


I can speak to this damage on two levels, first, as an advocate for children and children of alcoholics. According to the National Association of Children of Alcoholics (NACOA), “children of alcoholics experience greater physical and mental health problems and higher health care costs than children from non-alcoholic families.” NACoA reports that for children of alcoholics:


  • Inpatient admission rates for substance abuse are triple that of other children.
  • Inpatient admission rates for mental disorders are almost double that of other children.
  • Injuries are more than one-and-one-half times greater than those of other children.
  • The rate of total health care costs for children of alcoholics is 32 percent greater than children from non-alcoholic families.


Speaking on this from the second level, as an adult child of an alcoholic (ACOA) myself, I concur. I spent a lot of time in the doctor’s office as a child, and have had, over the years, some of the typical health and depression issues detailed in the groundbreaking report: The Health and Social Impact of Growing Up With Adverse Childhood Experiences, The Human and Economic Costs of the Status Quo by Dr. Robert Anda, MD, MS.  


I know that my immune system requires extra help in the form of supplements and self-care. And, I must be mindful of my addictions to toxic intensity and sugar.


Addictions succeed when they are making their addicts, and those around them, sicker. My addictions want to compromise my immune system by having me yield to rushing, over-committing, eating sugar, worrying, not being in the present. The result can be a bad cold, a bout of bronchitis, a sinus infection, or saying and doing things I will regret.  


The greatest defense against my immune-busting addictions is my own spiritual immune system – my internal Jiminy Cricket conscience/judgment – that tells me when I am headed away from healthy actions and toward unhealthy actions such as rushing, over-promising, and that urge to please people at almost any cost. My strongest weapons are two words: THANK YOU and NO.


When I am at my best, the thank you comes the first thing in the morning – thanking God for rest and the hope of a new day. Then I make a gratitude list for the blessings in my life. This is an immune booster of the highest order, generating joy, helping me plan my day, and helping to keep negativity away. (Negativity is another addiction that wants us dead.  If you are a child of chaos, you’re familiar with negativity, and know how seductive it is. To steer clear of negativity, it’s best to limit exposure to negative people and stay in gratitude.)


Gratitude helps me plan my day so I can use the NO to stay away from the unimportant but urgent time wasters and stress makers that can push me/my immune system toward overload, and away from health. 


These are important lessons for this adult child of chaos, who is grateful, today, to continue moving away from chaos and disease, and toward life and health.  

 

Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Find Carey's book here.


Read more articles by Carey Sipp here.


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

Jul 16

Almost nine years ago, over the course of four days, I let my doctor send me home from his office three times before I almost died of pneumonia. I spent two weeks in the hospital; it took many months to fully recover.  It was a life-changing experience, and I continue to learn from it.

 

About three years ago a physician’s assistant skipped a basic, obvious test for a 17-year-old with swollen glands. Twelve hours later, in the emergency room, physicians glanced at my daughter, diagnosed mononucleosis, and confirmed it shortly thereafter with a “spot mono test.” The greater danger though, came from a severe reaction to antibiotics, medication my daughter would never have taken had the mono test been done at the doctor's office. The horrifically painful reaction could have killed her.  

 

Despite the fact that I’ve helped in marketing and fundraising for more than a dozen medical entities, including a hospital safety consultancy, in my 30+year career, it’s taken years of a different type of recovery to realize that no physician has what it takes for me to care for my family and myself.  That requires the self-awareness, trust in my own intuition, and courage to risk evoking anger in someone in “authority” by calling them into question, if need be. That type of courage comes from becoming an emotionally healthy adult.

 

As a person healing from abuse, I must work doubly hard to stay in the moment and not let fears from the past keep me from doing “the next right thing.”  An overwhelming fear of authority, desire to “people please,” and a sometimes crippling self-doubt can prevent me from questioning others, especially if I am not taking great care of myself; if I am not “living in the moment.”

 

 “I am a real bulldog when it comes to advocating for my mom,” I said to the staff at the infusion clinic where my mother was to receive three pints of blood recently.  The staff wanted to give her all three pints on the same day. My gut told me that at almost 87, my mom, who had just lost her husband to Alzheimer’s the night before, and has been weakened for years by an autoimmune disorder, did not need to be in that clinic for 16 hours straight. When, three days later, we received her diagnosis of congestive heart failure, the doctor said we’d made a good choice to stretch the procedures over two days. 

 

My mother, daughter, and I survived each of those medical crises. I wonder, though, had I known more or followed my intuition earlier when my daughter and I were sick, if our outcomes could have been better.  

 

By the time we got to my mom’s situation, I knew that relying solely on medical professionals does not ensure the best care. More important was learning how to trust my instincts and speak up. This is equally important for the millions upon millions of addiction and abuse survivors. We, especially, need to remember these bottom lines: 

 

1. We need to practice “extreme self-care,” and try to stay out of the hospital; our health is already compromised by the stress of “adverse childhood experiences.”


2. If we do go to the hospital, just like everyone else, we need an advocate friend or family member to help us watch what’s going on – right down to asking hospital staff if they’ve washed their hands before we're touched. We must value ourselves and have the courage to ask for help.


3. If you yourself are filled with the self-doubt, insecurity, and fear of authority that can come from growing up in addiction and abuse, these emotions can keep you from getting the best care for yourself and your loved ones. This is a good time to learn more about emotional healing that can help you, and your loved ones, learn how to speak up and become healthier on all counts.

 

There is not a surgical procedure that can cure the more than 30 million children of alcoholics who live, as I do at times, affected by some or all of the characteristics called the “Laundry List” of 14 characteristics of adult children of alcoholics.  If there were such a surgical procedure, it could save our health care system literally billions upon billions of dollars from family addiction and abuse passed on from generation to generation.  Addictions to alcohol, food, drugs, cigarettes, and harmful behavioral addictions to sex, gambling, spending, pornography, and toxic relationships, cost our health care system more than any other single condition.

 

The most amazing thing? One of the most effective treatments for these addictions, and the co-addictions suffered by the family members, is free. It just takes the courage to find a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Overeaters Anonymous, or the like. Again, the meetings are free. You can even call a toll-free number and attend meetings in complete anonymity, via a conference call.

 

Nine years ago,  had I not prayed for the strength to stand up and ask for what I believed I needed – a surgical procedure to remove fluid from my lungs – I may well have died.  I had to trust God, and my own God-given intelligence and courage to speak up.

 

The big lesson: recovery really does save lives, one day at a time, whether we’re in the hospital, or at the kitchen table.   



Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Her book is available here.


RESOURCES:


 CDC Adverse Childhood Experiences 

Cost of Alcohol and Drug Abuse


There is help for Children of Alcoholics at 

nacoa.org 

(National Association for Children of Alcoholics)

and

  adultchildren.org 

 (Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization Worldwide, Inc.)  



Read more articles by Carey Sipp here.


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

 

Recently, there’s been a growing awareness of the problem of eating disorders among women who are middle-aged and older. Guidebooks have been developed for the adult offspring of these moms to help them support their ill parent.   


But what if the child of the eating disordered mom is just a kid?  And what about the young siblings of teenage eating disorder sufferers?


Children between the ages of eight and 13 often end up as collateral damage in these families.


At a highly tumultuous stage of emotional, cognitive and physical development, tweens who live in a family wrestling with an eating disorder may be anxious, confused and overwhelmed by conflicting messages about food and their growing bodies. Often the needs of these kids are subsumed by the family’s total immersion in the illness and recovery of the “sick” family member.  


Imagine these scenarios from the child’s perspective: 

  • A 10-year-old girl attempts to eat dinner but feels guilty when her mom serves a substantial meal to the family while only allowing herself dry lettuce and black coffee.   
  • A 12-year-old girl notices her body changing. Dealing with this normal pre-pubertal weight gain is challenging enough around her skinny friends, but she’s mortified to discover that her exercise-addicted older sister wears smaller jeans than she does.  
  • An 8-year-old boy feels an ineffable sense of dread when he hears his mom vomiting in the bathroom after dinner every night.  Afraid something is terribly wrong, he takes his cues from his Dad, holding his fear inside since he’s learned that “Mommy’s problem” cannot be discussed openly.       

Fast forward 20, 30, 40 years.  These are the adults suffering from depression, low self-esteem, addictions and eating problems.  Being raised in these families profoundly shapes their self-concept, their relationship with food, their interpretations about their emotional needs and their body image. They may struggle with feeling “too needy” in their intimate relationships. They may be driven by a chronic need to please and take care of others.  They may wrestle with drug addiction or develop their own eating disorders, having never learned to relate to food in a healthy way.  


Thankfully, even kids in these trying family situations can be remarkably resilient if certain needs are met. Here are ten fundamental needs of these kids:        

  1. Additional sources of emotional support outside of the immediate family
  2. An intellectual understanding that eating disorders are an illness so they don’t blame their family member or themselves
  3. An awareness of the ups and downs of the recovery process
  4. The knowledge that their feelings about the situation are normal, along with appropriate ways to manage sadness, anger, fear and envy
  5. Healthy ways to deal with boredom, anxiety and perfectionism
  6. A vision of Normal Eating
  7. An understanding of the complex connection between food and feelings   
  8. A dose of media literacy to inoculate them to “eating disorder messages” in the culture
  9. A knowledge of why restricting food (i.e. dieting) could be potentially dangerous for them
  10. A positive body image based on their body’s functions and abilities, not based on weight, shape or size   

It’s important to help these kids understand what is happening to their loved one and normalize their response to the crisis in the family. They need permission to have their own needs and feelings about the situation, while learning healthy coping skills and how to support their loved one. 


Focusing on the needs of these kids is vital prevention work. The combination of Nature plus Nurture puts them at high risk for developing eating disorders or other addictions. With the proper help, they need not become collateral damage in a family’s war against an eating disorder.   By engaging with them and addressing their needs directly, these tweens can grow into resilient teenagers and mentally healthy adults.  


Dina Zeckhausen, PhD, is the author of “The Ultimate Tween Survival Guide to Eating Disorders: Understanding Them, Preventing Them and Helping a Loved One.” (Zeckhausen, 2012).  Dr. Cynthia Bulik writes: "The Ultimate Tween Survival Guide" addresses the unique needs of young tweens who are struggling to make sense of their loved one’s eating disorder.  Grounded in the most current research on these complicated illnesses, Dr. Zeckhausen has created an accessible, hopeful and empathic resource to help support your loved one’s recovery."  


Learn more at www.tweensurvivalguide.com.


For more Dina Zeckhausen articles, click here.

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Oct 17


The Greatest Generation was set up to have eating disorders, and to then have children and grandchildren with eating disorders.  That is my theory. This not grounded in science. It is grounded in what I’ve seen at home and out in the world. 


And this isn’t about judgment. God knows there is enough of that in the world. It is simply about observation with regard to my own family, the size of people, the size and nutritional facts of meals out, and the size of the problem we, as a nation, are facing if we don’t get a grip on eating disorders one person, one family, at a time.  

 

Children of the Great Depression I knew – my dad, mom, stepdad, an aunt and uncle, a few older friends from that era – grew up hungry and afraid there wouldn’t be enough. Their mothers were afraid of not having enough food for their hardworking husbands and children. My father’s mother scraped and saved a penny here, a nickel there; a bite of fatback here, a cup of flour for gravy there.

 

She would mix the white flour, lard, sugar, and home-grown fruits for pies and sugary preserves. Her family would feast on these foods that we now know have a high glycemic index, meaning that the carbohydrates in them would break down quickly, flooding the bloodstream with sugars and setting up a spike in blood sugar, a surge in insulin, and then a drop in blood sugar that creates a tremendous craving sensation for more and more food. 


It is was a vicious cycle then, but the good news was that then, back in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, people were required to be more physical. At least my family was. For my dad there were farm chores to do. Those chores, plus walking to school and other places, burned calories. That helped to balance the blood sugar and kept his weight low until he returned home from World War II. I don’t know what kind of shape he was in then, physically. Emotionally, though, I have heard he was devastated by what he had seen. And glad to be home in one piece. And glad to have his mother’s cooking. He had been missing the sweetness in life. Now it was back in front of him.

 

Her gallons of sweet tea, made with cup after cup of sugar that mounded at the bottom of a clear glass pitcher and turned into a glucose tolerance test when the hot tea was poured over it, must have tasted wonderful to him after two years of Navy food. He would love that tea for another three decades as again and again its plentiful sugar and caffeine fueled a surge of energy and another drop in blood sugar, another round of cravings, another round of overeating.

 

Even though the Depression and WWII were decades behind them, the cooking and eating habits from the ‘20s and ‘30s drove our family's need for a table full of the foods to which he was addicted: biscuits and gravy made with white flour, lard, milk, sausage drippings. It was hot and tasty and came from loving hands that wanted to make sure there was never any more hunger in that house.

 

On many, many levels, food represented love. The food brought on a kind of stupor – a food coma of sorts – that would require coffee and Coca-Cola in the afternoon. For my dad, the Coca-Cola often had several shots of bourbon along with it. The combination over the years led to his adult-onset diabetes. His body was so damaged by the wildly changing blood sugar levels that he required several injections of insulin a day. On top of that, his vision kept changing. An eyeglass prescription never lasted more than a few months before it would stop working. The damage to his vision due to high blood sugar started stealing his sight when he was in his early 40s.

 

Food and liquor were ultimate comforts; ultimate killers. In his mid-50s, he quit drinking for three months. The doctor told him that if he ever started back again it would kill him. He started back the day before Thanksgiving, 1981, and was dead within 24 hours. The change in his body chemistry was just too much; it was too toxic. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage just three weeks short of his 57th birthday.

 

Food was an addiction. Alcohol was an addiction. Irregular schedules, some unhealthy relationships, lots of worry and intensity around money; it all caught up with him and his brain – the seat of his soul, the home of his brilliant but troubled mind, the keeper of his painful secrets – could not process the additional poison.

 

That was 31 years ago next month. Since then, we’ve all learned so much more about nutrition, and what’s healthy. Why we need to eat to live instead of living to eat. And yet so many people I know are plagued by the destructive consequences of food as comfort instead of food as fuel.

 

That big business has a hand in keeping people addicted to food is another story, and one I will write about soon. What is sad to me is that most of us have access to healthy food and access to help in the form of Overeaters Anonymous or any one of a number of free support groups to help us understand what happens when food becomes a Higher Power. Yet most of us don't take advantage of that help. 


I don’t think the Greatest Generation fought so hard for us to be able to have freedom of choice, and then choose to kill ourselves with food.


 

Quick facts from the Centers for Disease Control:



  • Obesity is common, serious and costly
  • More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese. [Read data brief  [PDF-528Kb]]
  • Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death. [Read guidelines]
  • In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight. [Read summary]


 

  Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Follow her on Twitter @TurnAroundMom.


Read more articles by Carey Sipp here.


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

 


Most of today’s afflictions and addictions are a direct result of our desire to not know what we know.  There are times when we cannot bear the anxiety, anger and grief that accompany harsh reality. Humans are constantly devising new methods for numbing our awareness: from cigarettes to heroin, from shopping to cell phones.  We find ways to leave our bodies because powerful emotions make us uncomfortable.  Knowing the truth can have frightening implications. 

 

A man involved in an intensely destructive marriage keeps himself numb with alcohol so he can better tolerate the craziness: “I’m afraid if I divorce her, she’ll kill herself.”  


A woman who hates her job soothes her pain with chocolate every night: “I’m too fat to leave; no one would hire me.”

 

This need to numb is a natural part of the human condition. We hone this skill in childhood.


***


When I was young I spent much of my summer barefoot, resulting in frequent splinters from wooden docks and rafts. There was nothing scarier than my mother approaching my tender heal with sharp implements, so I developed an effective numbing technique.  


Whenever I got a splinter, I’d inform Mom and then run up to my bedroom where I’d will myself into an instant, deep slumber.  Mom would tiptoe in with her tweezers and needles, deftly removing the splinter like a surgeon operating on a sedated patient.  I’d awaken refreshed and splinter-less, running back outside to play.    

       

***


But my splinters were minor irritations compared to the pain of trauma, abuse, and loss that many kids experience.  Trapped in their bodies and their families, to maintain their sanity they must find ways to check-out without physically leaving.  Some kids escape into a world of imagination or develop severe dissociation. Others turn to junk food, cutting or starving to numb the pain. 


While these techniques are adaptive for surviving the pain of childhood, becoming an Expert Numb-er can hinder your decisions in adulthood.  Your gut is primal; it is a finely tuned cavewoman built for survival.  She tells you when to Say No, Get Out, Save Yourself.  Silence her and you may end up in the wrong place, the wrong career, the wrong relationship.  


***


In my early 20s I dated a man who was stable, successful and kind.  After two months he proposed; in two more months we moved in together.  On paper, he seemed like great husband material. In my head, I couldn’t find a compelling reason NOT to marry him. 


The day we moved in together, I felt myself leave my body.  We’d have minor disagreements, which would turn into days of silence and distance. I remember hovering above my body like those “near death” experiences, watching Dina below and thinking (with apologies to The Talking Heads) “This is not my beautiful life!”  I was floating downstream towards a rushing, crushing waterfall called “My Wedding.” 


I had a massive splinter, and I was sleeping deeply.  Mom took me wedding dress shopping, but I was not really there. She sensed that something was amiss, but she couldn’t fix it this time. I couldn’t remove the splinter myself because I couldn’t feel it. 


Around that time I went to my friend Martha’s wedding.  Through my fog, I watched her kissing and laughing with her new husband. At one point she grabbed me enthusiastically: “Oh my God, Dina! Congratulations on your engagement!  Tell me all about him; does he make you laugh?!”  


Her simple question brought me surging back into my body.  I fumbled through an answer, but something had shifted.  I couldn’t marry him. We had a fundamental disconnect.  Sure, we didn’t fight but we didn’t laugh either…not in the way that I needed to laugh.   No wonder I had left my body. But once I was back inside myself again, there was no turning back.  Soon after that, the cavewoman spoke and told him: “We’re not going to make it.”  Then I was moving out and moving on. 


I’m so grateful that Martha asked me the key question, which brought me back into my body, before the invitations, the vows and the babies.


***


I’ll bet you can recall similar Ah-Ha moments in your life, when the light bulb went on, when you suddenly saw something so clearly that it inexorably changed the direction of your life.  It was a feeling in your gut, wasn’t it?


Unfortunately, the notion of “listening to your feelings” has gotten a bad rap. Teenage bullies and narcissistic 20-somethings are blamed on parents who’ve over-indulged their kids’ feelings.  The Tough-Love-Suck-It-Up philosophy of the Tiger Mom movement is our culture’s typical knee-jerk over-correction.    

  

But there is a middle place. 


It’s about valuing the wisdom in our emotions and having the courage to view feelings as useful information. As a therapist, my emotional responses to my clients’ stories provide me with important clues.  But being “in touch with my feelings” doesn’t mean I cry all day long.  This ability to connect to my emotions helps give me both empathy and resilience.


I’m hopeful about our culture’s surging interest in yoga and mindfulness. These practices can help us tune back in to the stirrings of the cavewoman. 

 

If you spent much of your childhood trying to leave your body, being present takes a courageous and concerted effort.  But you ignore your inner cavewoman at your peril.  Without her wisdom, you don’t know that your hand is on the stove until you smell your flesh burning.  Honor her and you’ll access the energy, courage and focus to run away from danger and towards a fuller, saner life.   


Dina Zeckhausen is a nationally known clinical psychologist and author who specializes in treating eating disorders and body image in both adults and adolescents. She is a weekly columnist for ShareWIK.com. You can visit her on the web at dinazeckhausen.com and MyEdin.org. Find Dr. Zeckhausen's new book, The Ultimate Tween Survival Guide to Eating Disorders: Understanding Them, Preventing Them, and Helping a Loved Onehere.  Follow Dina on Twitter @DrZeck.

 

For more Dina Zeckhausen articles, click here.

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Mar 05

This may sound strange, but I actually have a couple of really good memories from when I broke my wrist in December 2005. I had been walking one of my dogs when she decided to take off after a squirrel. We were right in front of our house, in the middle of the street. She was so strong and quick, and so surprised me, that I spun around and fell on my left side.


I had never broken a bone before and I could not believe the pain. I just laid there for a few moments until my husband suggested that I get out of the street. I got up somehow and was so dizzy I had to lean against the mailbox for a minute before coming into the house. My wrist was swelling up, but my husband had to convince me to go to the hospital emergency room. Like I said, I had never broken a bone before and it took me a few minutes to realize the gravity of the situation.


At the hospital, I begged for some strong painkiller – and I have a high tolerance for pain. Fortunately, a hand surgeon we were familiar with was on call and that night he operated on me. I remember waking up from the surgery feeling great. No pain. I had been sleeping so well.


So what, you may be asking, are the good memories? The doctor gave me a prescription for oxycontin, a strong narcotic painkiller, and I truly appreciated it. It didn’t take me long to understand why it has become the “street drug of choice.” Before I finished the pills I was prescribed, I was already cutting them in half to ensure that I would have them as long as possible. I don’t remember whether I was able to get any refills, but I knew that my doctor wouldn’t keep prescribing them for me.


Since then, of course, we have heard on the news several stories about well-known people actually getting addicted to oxycontin. I am not at all surprised. I’m also not surprised that no doctor has prescribed this drug for me again. After my last few operations, doctors have prescribed oxycodone, which is a milder pain reliever. I don’t achieve the same dreamy effect of the oxycontin, but I know that these can be addicting as well.


How do I describe it? The pills sort of take the edge off of things. Yes, they relieve pain, but they also lift my mood. 


At some point after my diagnosis of cancer, and after I finished all my required rounds of chemotherapy, I started seeing a therapist. I knew I had to work through the emotional repercussions of this diagnosis. I was diagnosed with incurable, but treatable, cancer. I was slowly beginning to understand that I would be living with this chronic disease the rest of my life. 


I don’t remember exactly when, but I remember telling the therapist about the uplifting effects of taking a painkiller I was taking after some surgery. I wasn’t taking the pill so much for pain, as for the mood it helped me achieve. And she pointed that out to me very quickly. That was when I realized that I needed a mild anti-depressant. I had never taken one before; I’ve always been a very positive person. But my reliance on a pain reliever to help my mood convinced me that it was time.


This last week I was reminded of all of this because I ran out of the oxycodone that my doctor prescribed for me after my recent surgery. I immediately tried to get a refill, not knowing whether the doctor would even agree to another prescription but in any case, it was the weekend, and I wasn’t able to get more pills immediately.


I realized that yes, I was experiencing some pain and the drug certainly relieved it, but the real reason I wanted more pills was to lift my mood in the evenings. I had to question myself: perhaps I need a higher dose of my anti-depressants? I don’t know, but so far I don’t have to answer that; I found a few supposedly expired pills from a previous prescription. And that has helped me get through the weekend.


I watch the news about celebrities dying of drug overdoses and the fact that Americans take way too many pills. I am not ignoring these facts, but I do understand why it happens.


Jan Jaben-Eilon is a long-time journalist who has written for The New York Times, Business Week, the International Herald Tribune, the Jerusalem Report and Womenetics. She was a founding reporter for the Atlanta Business Chronicle and was international editor for Advertising Age before she fulfilled a lifelong dream of moving to Israel. Jan and her Jerusalem-born husband have an apartment in that city, but live in Atlanta.

 

In November 2006, she was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer and has kept a blog on her cancer journey since December of that year. 



©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved. ShareWIK does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information, please read our Additional Information, Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

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