Resentment Returns in Long Recovery

There are some issues that come back again and again no matter how long we have been in recovery. Resentment is one of them. It’s not so much that we are slow learners; it’s more that we are just human beings. And then too, we are around other human beings all the time: at home, at work, at the mall, on the golf course, even in our Twelve-step meetings. So resentment is a topic that is always relevant no matter how long we are in recovery.

In “Out of the Woods” I write about resentment and what I have learned and how I still learn to deal and heal. I acknowledge that we get resentments and that, yes—we also create resentments for others. So what can we do?

It turns out that the advice in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous is very good. We can pray to be free of resentment. It does work. But I have found—and maybe you have too—that I have to be reminded over and over again.

So to speed things up we have sayings and slogans. I think some of the pithiest, funniest and most pointed gems we hear in long recovery are about dealing with resentment. And even though resentment will haunt us at the ten and 20 and 30-year mark, the good news is that we are able to shift out of resentment faster. And isn’t that a relief?

Some of my favorite sayings that allow me to catch myself before I do too much damage (and it’s always damage to ourselves) include these:

Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die.

Resentment is like setting yourself on fire and hoping the other person dies of smoke inhalation.

Resentment is like letting someone live rent-free in your head.

I know these sayings to be life saving and I have included more slogans and instant-sanity sayings in the new book.

This blog was written by Diane Cameron, author of OUT OF THE WOODS

This blog was written by Diane Cameron, author of OUT OF THE WOODS

Author, Diane Cameron

Author, Diane Cameron



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Beware Switching the Witch for the Bitch

“This desire to switch the witch for the bitch was always there. Just because I was making inroads to recovery didn’t mean I didn’t have a deep desire to numb my feelings. Drinking alcohol often took the place of my disordered eating in times when my food was under control. It became the thing I used to numb myself so as not to feel my emotions. So I had to say no to that, too.”  – Making Peace with Your Plate

I tried for years to overcome my eating disorder. I went in and out of recovery as if it were a revolving door. I lived in seven countries in five years searching for the perfect recovery combination that would end my eating disorder, make me look good and enable me to drink like a “lady,” too.

During my travels I found many people in eating disorder recovery who had broken free from their food issues and were able to drink normally. Unfortunately for me, when I drank I got outright drunk and it ultimately led me back to eating disordered behavior. So when I finally decided to delve head-first into my recovery and give it all I had, I knew that alcohol would have to go, too.

I never liked being labeled. I hate it in fact. So to be faced with two possible labels (substance abuser and eating disordered) was not something I found myself easily admitting. What I could admit, however, was that every time I put down the food, the craving for alcohol came up, and every time I put down the alcohol, the food obsession returned. This kept me in a perpetual cycle of discomfort, coupled with a sense of lack of control and constant emotional distress.

I was not alone. A recent study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs reports, “We found that some of the genes that influence alcohol dependence also influence binge eating in men and women.” The researchers urge awareness of the links between alcohol dependence and eating disorders to find ways to treat them at the same time.

One woman told me, “As a recovering meth addict and alcoholic, of course there was going to be weight gain when I first stopped using. But it seemed like the weight came on so fast and just stayed. With that weight gain came depression and I continued overeating. I was replacing one addiction with another. I didn’t even realize I was doing this until getting further into my recovery. I gained nearly 50 pounds.”

Still another woman in recovery said, “It just happened. I stopped drinking alcohol and all of a sudden I found myself throwing up. I had never done that before. It lasted about a year.”

It doesn’t really matter what came first, the eating disorder or substance abuse. (It’s kind of like the “chicken or egg” question.) What matters is that we find a way to address how we look at food in order to best support a more full and free recovery. The way I see it is if we spend a great amount of effort putting down one addiction, why not work hard to ensure that nothing interferes with that?

The problem: We can stop drinking or drugging completely in recovery from addiction. However, we cannot stop nourishing our bodies with food when in recovery from an eating disorder. We have to eat to think clearly; eat to support our body’s functions; eat to survive.

“Switching the witch for the bitch” is a catchy phrase I use to jolt me into remembering the serious risk of putting down one addiction and automatically gravitating toward another to put in its place. After getting substantial recovery of my own, I created Nutritional Healing: A 3-Tier Approach™ as a tool to empower other people to protect themselves as I have learned to.

If we are struggling in recovery due to food and body issues or if our nutrition is inconsistent and out of balance, there are steps we can take to stabilize ourselves and safeguard against switching addictions.

Within my Nutritional Healing: A 3-Tier Approach, the first tier is the Structured Approach and is the foundation of food recovery. Within a contained structure we learn to regulate nutrition while allowing room to explore and get in touch with our body’s needs.

A structure provides safety and freedom in eating to maximize physical, mental and emotional healing, as well as appeasing some of our fear that if we eat whatever we want, we will “eat the whole world,” or end up being “the size of a house.” The structure allows us to see that this simply is not true, while also stabilizing our nutritional intake.

Here’s some suggestions to build a structure:
1. Commit to three meals and three snacks per day at regular intervals.

2. Think of each meal being served on a 10-inch circumference plate.

3. Remove all “good” or “bad” labeling of food

4. At each meal include protein, grains, fruit and vegetables.

5. Be sure to include a wide variety of food choices. Variety is key.

It is essential we put nutritional structure in place to stabilize our eating until our body’s signals can be sorted out and heard. Of course many of us want to skip this and go straight to mindful eating (eating only when hungry, stopping when full) and self-care eating (eating only the foods that are for optimum health). Without restoring our body and mind, however, we have little or no chance of sticking to anything that feels limiting. Only after learning our body’s cues can we be in tune with it in a way that allows us figure out how to best support it.

The truth? It’s  possible to be free of body and food obsession, reach optimum health and feel good in recovery. But there are no quick fixes and diets don’t work. Instead, we make our recovery worth it by moving beyond obsession and into freedom and putting food in its rightful place.

Robyn Cruze, author of Making Peace with Your Plate

Robyn Cruze, author of Making Peace with Your Plate

Robyn Cruze, author of Making Peace with Your Plate featured in Renew Magazine (Spring 2014)

Robyn Cruze, author of Making Peace with Your Plate featured in Renew Magazine (Spring 2014)

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Clothing and Spending

More than two hundred years ago the poet, William Wordsworth, wrote, “The world is too much with us; getting and spending we lay waste our powers.”

Many women in long-term recovery would agree with him. Long after we gave up drink or pills or food we are still –maybe secretly—struggling with managing money, too many trips to the mall and painfully joking that, “My name is Diane and I am a shoe addict.”

photo credit: Orin Zebest via photopin cc

photo credit: Orin Zebest via photopin cc

Yes, it may be true that no one dies from a shoe overdose but it’s also true that we are not “happy, joyous and free” when we are ashamed or afraid because of our money or shopping issues.

In my new book, “Out of the Woods” I write about clothes, and shoes and even ways that woman use cosmetics in recovery. It’s light-hearted but also deadly serious. Our growth simply continues and it can be easy to switch from a chemical addiction to a behavioral one. It’s all about our motives, honesty, self-care and talking honestly to other women in recovery. Yes, I too have spent time in a meeting checking out another woman’s clothing instead of the speaker’s message.

I love clothes and had to try many strategies in my recovery. In Chapter Nine of “Out of the Woods” I tell you all about my inventories: emotional and sartorial both. It’s a woman’s issue and a recovery issue. And the very good news is that we can laugh and heal at the same time.

This blog was written by Diane Cameron, author of OUT OF THE WOODS

This blog was written by Diane Cameron, author of OUT OF THE WOODS

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Newcomer Envy

After many years of recovery I can still feel shame when this happens. And it happened again just this week: A man in my home group celebrated 6 months and he was glowing. His life was transformed, he had found a deep faith in his Higher Power, his surrender was total; he had completed his step work and was quoting the Big Book. His “share” was more lecture than personal story, but still I bit.

I was jealous.

I know better. I knew better. But I could feel myself become envious and annoyed. I knew that I should be happy for his newcomer’s pink cloud and his new life but my own smallness revealed my envy. After all these years and all this work—I’m still trying to surrender, have absolute faith, and be a perfectly perfect person.

I know, I know.

This is also why I wrote “Out of the Woods”. In my new book I talk about the awkward things, the difficult things and even the embarrassing things that can happen to us in long-term recovery. Envying a newcomer is just one of them.

In the book I write about those moments when I wish for a meeting for people who have ten or 15 or 20 years. Not to leave other people behind but to be bale to say, “Does anyone else feel like this?” and to laugh at something like envying a newcomer.

I know better. You know better. But still.

I’m sure I did exactly what he did. In fact I know I did. I was the young woman bringing recovery literature to a family Thanksgiving dinner and passing it around like hors ‘dourves.

So you’d think I’d have more compassion.

But what I know now—and what I have written about in “Out of the Woods” –is that life happens to all of us, and that we need those pink clouds and happy days to give us the ground under the harder parts of our recovery. And as we stay in recovery a long time those harder parts will come on their own.

My red-faced humility is this: When I hear those newcomers speak of their transformed lives and the perfect peace that recovery has given them, I still want what they have. So I keep coming back.

This blog was written by Diane Cameron, author of OUT OF THE WOODS

This blog was written by Diane Cameron, author of OUT OF THE WOODS

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Take Five and Lighten Up


The porch light was burnt out and I walked carefully up the brick walkway to our house. Because it was so dark, I analysed every footstep. I inched up the stairs and fumbled the key into the lock. Once inside, I turned on the light. Now I could walk easily, without worry. As I moved around the house, I realized I had literally “lightened up.”

Turning a little light on a subject makes the journey easier. So often, we’re focused on tasks and responsibilities, and we forget to lighten up, lift ourselves up and laugh.

Here are a few easy ideas:

Be Your Own Off-Off Broadway Musical

Think about something that happened to you today and make up a song about it. Pretend you are in one of those melodramatic operettas; sing with great passion and emotion. Sing in the car, the shower or in front of a live and probably giggling audience. Your own glorious silly singing will light you up!

Swing Your feet

Sit where your feet can’t touch the ground and swing your feet. You’ll get a delightful sense of irresponsibility. It’s a relief to not always have your feet on the ground.


Bat a Balloon

Blow up a brightly colored balloon and bat it around. This is a great way to lighten up the energy. Do it after you’ve completed a hard task. Do it during that late afternoon draggy period.  Do it when you get home from work. See how long you can keep it up in the air.

Embrace A Dream

Create a five-minute dream-collage. Think of someplace you’d like to go, something you want to do, or some way you want to feel. From old catalogues or magazines, tear out pictures or words that represent this dream, then tape them on an index card or piece of paper. Place your dream-collage where you can see it.


Give Someone Good Luck

Drop a nickel, a penny, a dime and a quarter on the sidewalk as you walk. Imagine who will pick them up. Imagine how they will smile and feel luckier and happier.

Deborah is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey

Deborah is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey

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No Man is an Island─Even on St. Thomas

“As caregivers, we need to connect with each other and share our stories. ”

Those were the opening words of our host, Murlene Vanbeverhoudt at a recent caregiver’s gathering at the charming Pistarckle Theater in St. Thomas, USVI.

We were honored to share stories from Love in the Land of Dementia with 75 people, a mixture of family and professional caregivers and community members.


The Team Who Organized the Event

Love in the Land of Dementia Event in St. Thomas

Large audience in St. Thomas


Love in the Land of Dementia Speaker

Deborah Shouse on Stage in St. Thomas

Seven Secrets for Building Strong Connections

During our time together, we invited people to discuss some of the wisdom they’d garnered from their caregiving journey. Here are some of their insights.

“When my mother, who has dementia, feels tense, I try to remember to smile at her. A smile always puts her at ease.”

“Simple, loving touch helps me communicate with my friend who has Alzheimer’s.”

“I try to accept my husband just as he is.”

“Every week I visit a friend who has Alzheimer’s. Before the visit, I prepare myself by slowing down and knowing I will need to be patient. I also bring her favorite foods — bread and cheese — and I bring her favorite music. I never mind if she asks the same questions again and again; I am grateful she asks me questions. When I play her music, her face lights up and sometimes she gets up and dances.”

“I treasure hearing the old stories. My mother and her sister both have memory loss but they can talk vividly about their growing up years.”

“My mother doesn’t know what she had for breakfast but she does remember in detail how to dig a coal pit and how to skin a pig. These are the stories she’s been sharing with my son, who is in college, studying physical therapy. At first he wasn’t that interested in the stories. Then he learned that later on in the semester, he’s going to be skinning a cat in biology lab: he’ll have inside knowledge from his grandmother’s pig story!”

“I try to avoid saying ‘No’ to my clients who have Alzheimer’s.  Hearing ‘no’ can set up a resistance. Instead, I move onto another subject. I distract them and try to accomplish my goals in a slightly different way.”

Striding into The No-Share Zone: The Importance of Self-Nurturing

We also talked about the many stresses of being a caregiver.  Some of the issues included frustration with communication, exhaustion, and feeling overwhelmed.

Several people who ran caregiver’s support groups urged everyone to connect with a group.

At the end of our session, we told our story, The No-Share Zone, which celebrates the importance of self-nurturing.  To conclude, we all nurtured ourselves with chocolate and with a luscious lunch. (We ate dessert first!)

Connecting Through the Maze of Dementia

St. Thomas is a beautiful island, rich with pristine beaches, first-class snorkeling and sweeping vistas. Equally beautiful is their community of caregivers, each on a deep emotional and spiritual journey, trying to keep connected through the maze of dementia.

We welcome your insights: what have you learned from your journey through dementia?

Deborah Shouse,


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Baseball and Spiritual Life

The first thing I learned about baseball is this: If you raise your hand a man will bring you food. I learned this at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, and in my first year as a fan I spent most of the game facing the wrong way. Raise my hand, get ice cream, raise my hand, get popcorn, raise my hand, get peanuts. It was 1958.

Two years later I understood it was a game. On summer afternoons I’d beg my brothers to take me with them to the ballpark. I was falling in love with baseball.

John Gregory Dunne wrote that, “Baseball is the couch on which we examine our psyches”. George Will said, “Baseball is the universe”. And catcher Wes Westrum said, “Baseball is like church, many attend but few understand.”

We have these sayings and many more because baseball is one of the greatest sources of metaphor in American life. Maybe only 12-step recovery has more sayings and code words than America’s Game. And in many the heart of baseball is like the heart of recovery.

Baseball is one area of our lives where we surrender the clock to the event. But there is something else in this game that asserts the spiritual: In baseball we begin and end at home. The goal is to get home and to be safe. That’s also the goal for us in recovery. We drank because we thought we’d be safer socially or we’d be more comfortable. Then alcohol turned on us and we were out in left field feeling unsafe and we feared we’d never ever get home again. Then each of us experienced the miracle of recovery. Something happened. We found our way to a meeting. Many people say that when they came to their first meeting they knew they were home.

This is the kind of deep spirituality I write about in “Out of the Woods”.

In the new book I write about finding your true faith community and finding our way home. We crave this in baseball. We experience it in recovery. We are keeping the faith.

This blog was written by Diane Cameron, author of OUT OF THE WOODS

This blog was written by Diane Cameron, author of OUT OF THE WOODS

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From Awareness to Action

Awareness Does not in and of Itself Change Behavior.

In order to be successful in and sustain any process of meaningful change, both awareness and action are requisite. Translating conscious awareness into intentional action in recovery from addiction and/or chronic pain is similar to the process of learning and building new skills in any area—be it sports, reading, video gaming, cooking, auto repair, keyboarding, gardening, plumbing, or meditating. In order to get better at anything it is necessary to: 1) learn the techniques that work, and 2) practice what works with consistency and persistence.

The process of learning and skill development has four stages according to Milton Erickson, MD, the renowned psychiatrist and psychotherapist who had an extraordinary grasp of human perception and behavior, with an emphasis on unconscious processes. Erickson’s four stages of learning—unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence—characterize virtually any skill development process. To illustrate this process with a concrete example, I went through each of these stages when I committed to learning how to eat with chopsticks shortly after arriving at UC Santa Cruz for college.

Unconscious incompetence is a state of obliviousness—not knowing how to do something, but also not knowing that we don’t know how to do it, and therefore not caring about it one way or another. Before I started thinking about learning how to eat with chopsticks I was unconsciously incompetent in this area. I didn’t know that I did not know how to use them and didn’t care. At the point that I decided I wanted to learn how to use chopsticks I progressed to conscious incompetence. I became consciously aware that I did not yet have the skill and experience to use them proficiently. I was functionally incompetent, but set about working to acquire this skill regardless of how foolish I looked or inept as I felt during the learning process.

Someone with considerably greater knowledge and skill taught me the essential techniques of using chopsticks. Through testing out and learning these techniques along with ongoing practice that included fine-tuning what worked most effectively for me, gradually and progressively I was able to achieve conscious competence. I had developed the level of skill I sought, but still had to think very deliberately about how I positioned, held, and manipulated the chopsticks as I used them, especially when eating rice—among the ultimate tests of chopstick proficiency.

It was only by continuing to carefully and consciously practice eating with chopsticks over the course of dozens and dozens of repetitions that my ability reached the level of unconscious competence. At that point, I no longer had to think about how to use them; I could do it automatically. Unconscious competence is also known as mastery. When athletes are described as being “in the zone,” they are in a state of unconscious competence. They are playing at such a high level that the game seems to yield to them, yet their performance may appear effortless, almost as if they were operating on autopilot. It is as if they are in sync with the universe and have tapped into its cadence.

Skills such as accepting things we want to change but can’t, and tolerating distressing emotions and physical sensations without acting on them in ways that make situations worse, are incredibly difficult to master. Moreover, skillful recovery generally requires a high degree of moment-to-moment conscious attention. While achieving anything but occasional unconscious competence in recovery may not be realistic for most, becoming increasingly consciously competent and skillful in recovery from both addiction and chronic pain surely is.

The real test of one’s learning and ability to apply that learning skillfully in any area is what happens when we have to perform under stress—when we challenged in some way. This is especially true in recovery. It can seem easy when life is going smoothly. It’s not unusual for people, particularly in the earlier phases of recovery (once the storm of post-acute withdrawal has passed), to be lulled into the false belief that it will always be so. But how do they respond when presented with adversity—in relationships, health, finances, job/career, etc.? When the shit hits the fan (and sooner or later it always does, for everyone), the ability to be successful depends on how well people have developed the skills of recovery through dedicated learning and consistent practice. This is true whether someone has been in recovery for one year or twenty, and is the essence of translating awareness into action.

This blog was written by Dan Mager, MSW, author of SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED

This blog was written by Dan Mager, MSW, author of SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED

This blog originally appeared on the Psychology Today website

This blog originally appeared on the Psychology Today website

Posted in Addiction, Addiction & Recovery, Addiction News, Author News, Blog, Chronic Pain, Pain Recovery, Personal Development | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lean In–Go Toward

Has this happened to you: You learn a recovery skill, or a strategy in early recovery that –over time– kind of slips away, and then later you get to revive it? In “Out of the Woods” I write about this phenomenon that happens in long-term recovery.

It happened to me this week. I had the opportunity to remind myself of a strategy I learned from one of my early sponsors.  In my earliest days when I told my sponsor about a person or a situation that I was afraid of or that I was trying to avoid she would say, “Go toward her,” or “Lean into that” or “Go toward them.” It wasn’t easy but it always worked. It’s brilliant life advice. It got me through a lot of situations in early recovery.

But then, probably, I thought I knew how to live and that great advice slipped from memory. But this week –more than 25 years later–finding myself dreading a meeting and then a person and then a project–I thought, “Hey, go toward it; lean in.” And it worked.

This is also why—in “Out of the Woods” I write about going to meetings in later recovery—and how you find the number of meetings that is right for you. (That’s in chapter five.) I want to remember my early recovery–not just for how painful it was back then (and it was) but also to remember how carefully I listened to sponsors and other recovering people. Pain is a great motivator to learn. In later recovery we can remember to keep learning even when pain is not the trigger.

This blog was written by Diane Cameron, author of OUT OF THE WOODS

This blog was written by Diane Cameron, author of OUT OF THE WOODS

Posted in Addiction, Addiction & Recovery, Alcoholism, Author News, Blog, Family & Addiction, Personal Development, Relationships | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

I Had No Idea: Spotting an Eating Disorder

“I had no idea,” a radio host said to me after I’d explained my experiences with an eating disorder. “I had no idea,” the physician said as I was educating her on symptoms to look for in patients who may suffer from eating disorders. “I had no idea,” my grandmother wrote in a recent letter to me after reading a copy of my book.

Eating disorders are secretive, and when I was in my illness, I was secretive too. I fiercely protected my illness at any cost. I knew the demands of my illness were dangerous and even possibly fatal, but to be or feel “fat” felt more petrifying. So I went to any lengths to hide it. Those of us who have suffered through an eating disorder become as secretive as our illness. I left the dinner table early, and outright lied — telling my parents that I’d either eaten when out, or had homework and would eat downstairs. I binged in any place or any time I felt I could be alone. I purged the same way. I would make excuses to my friends, telling them that I was either allergic to the food in question or had already eaten, or I would overeat in front of them, telling them that I had not eaten in days due to a stomach flu. When exercising with friends, I was unable to connect with them. I was constantly occupied by the speed at which I “must” exercise in order to lose weight or shed the binge. To my loved ones I appeared unavailable and disconnected. Truth be told, like many who suffer from eating disorders, I didn’t want anyone to know that I was sick. If they knew, I might have been forced to stop.

Eating disorders carry an overwhelming emotional and physical burden due to malnutrition, predisposed genes, environmental stresses, and the constant demands and consequences of the eating disorder. Near fifty percent of those suffering from an eating disorder also meet the criteria for depression, and many others will meet the criteria for other mood disorders, such as anxiety. This was definitely my story. I felt tortured by the daily demoralization of my illness and the feeling that I was never enough — no matter what I did! Due to a deep fear of the unknown, I was unwilling to let go of the need to control my body. It was this fear that made it impossible for me to disclose my vulnerabilities to others. I believed that my illness would save me from myself, from the world in which I lived, and when it got to the point where I realized it wouldn’t, I felt trapped in the cycle of self-destruction and truly believed there was no way out. One of the ways I hid my emotions was by isolating. I sought comfort in my room and withdrew from activities. I slept more frequently than before my illness, and my mood changed dramatically — my negativity permeated all those around me.

Individuals with eating disorders are not necessarily underweight: In a world where being obsessed with body weight is wildly accepted and even promoted by the media and societal norms, it is difficult to spot an eating disorder. The misconception that only people who look overly thin and “sickly” or “obese” have an eating disorder can make it almost impossible to spot, unless you are the actual sufferer. My weight fluctuated on any given week when I was in the throes of my eating disorder. With yo-yo dieting comes yo-yo body size. Although my weight fluctuation was extreme, I often landed in the “just above average” weight range or body mass index (BMI), according to medical charts. Yet my eating disorder was severe enough to kill me. Statistics show that Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

Stigma kills. I wish with all my heart that eating disorders were viewed in the same way as a broken arm or a red, splotchy skin allergy. I wish that the shame and guilt surrounding illnesses based in our brains would disappear, that these illnesses were as outwardly discussed and supported as physical illnesses. I am hopeful that one day they will be. They should be. This is why I share my story with you. I want everyone to know that eating disorders cannot always be identified based on a person’s body size. And that just because your weight may be in a “normal” range according to onlookers or weight charts, it does not mean that your eating disorder is not destroying you or your loved ones. I want you and your loved ones to know that there is nothing to be ashamed of by either talking about your own eating disorder or finding ways to talk to someone else about concerns you might have regarding eating or other behaviors relating to nutrition, spending calories, or efforts to make your body “perfect.” I want you to know that you can get help and that there are people to help you. I want you to know that you are not alone, and that becoming “fully recovered” from this illness is so very possible.

You see, the statement “I had no idea” is a phrase readily spoken about this illness that affects approximately thirty million people. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

This blog was written by Robyn Cruze, co-author of MAKING PEACE WITH YOUR PLATE

This blog was written by Robyn Cruze, co-author of MAKING PEACE WITH YOUR PLATE

This blog originally appeared on the NEDA website

This blog originally appeared on the NEDA website

Posted in Addiction, Addiction & Recovery, Eating Disorder Recovery, Family & Addiction, Personal Development | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment