Once upon a time I was just a mom.

A regular mom.

When I held my little miracle in my arms for the very first time, I rubbed my cheek on his fuzzy head and whispered, “Joey, my beautiful son, I will love and protect you for as long as I live.” I didn’t know then that my baby would become an addict before becoming an adult, or that the addict taking his place would shred the meaning of those words to smithereens.

When Joey tumbled into my world, he arrived without an instruction manual, but I was the best mom I could be as someone with good intentions and no experience. I stumbled through parenthood like everyone else — rocking my baby to sleep, kissing the scraped knees of my little boy, setting unwelcome limits for my sometimes testy teen, and hoping I was doing things kind of right.

Then, slowly at first, came the arrests and the overdoses, the needle marks and the dealers, interspersed with big fat lies. My loving child was turning into a monster, manipulating me and using me and twisting my love for him into knots, but I was befuddled by this scary new world I didn’t even know I was in and that I knew nothing about. You see, I thought I was still just a regular mom stumbling through regular parenthood like everyone else. (You see, a mothers trust and belief in her child’s inner goodness aren’t easily cast aside.)

Addiction is a disease, but not even the professionals have it all figured out yet — and they aren’t trying to figure it out while in a blind panic, running through the fires of hell with fears and dreams and maternal instincts tripping them up. So, I shouldn’t feel like a total failure for having missed so many clues and for not being able to love and protect my child as I promised… but still, sometimes I do.

Joey became an addict in his teens, lured to drugs and alcohol by a culture that glorifies substance abuse — the same culture that later, so ignorantly and harshly, passes judgment. I am judged for helping or fixing or pushing (or not helping or fixing or pushing enough) the sick child of mine who won’t be helped or fixed or pushed. I am judged for over-reacting and under-reacting, enabling and letting go, and, most hurtful of all, as a mother whose love must be somehow flawed.

Once upon a time I was just a regular mom, stumbling through parenthood like everyone else — and then I had to figure out how to be the mom of an addict. I had to figure out how to love my child without helping to hurt him, how to grieve the loss of my child who’s still alive without dying, and how to trade shame and blame for strength.

To be the mom of an addict is to be an ambassador of truth and understanding.

No more shame. No more silence.

This post was written by Sandra Swenson, author of THE JOEY SONG: A Mother's Story of Her Son's Addiction

This post was written by Sandra Swenson, author of THE JOEY SONG: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction

 

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Men, Relationships, and Trauma

The role of trauma in men’s relationships is interesting – to say the least. What is so difficult about it is how hidden it can be. I have learned a lot about trauma in the past decade. Before then, despite being over ten years in recovery, it simply was not on my radar. At least not as an issue that affected so many men as I now believe it does. And, perhaps most importantly, not an issue that had affected me so much!

Something you will hear from me over and over again is: “The best way for a man not to have trauma, is to simply say ‘I don’t have trauma.’” That, of course, does not make that statement true. I have no doubt that trauma is at the heart of a many a man’s failed relationships. The worst part: he just doesn’t know that. The thing you have to always remember is that men are not socialized to see their experiences as trauma or to have an accurate perception of what trauma even is.

Until you have quietly reflected on this issue and looked into it at some length with an open mind, you may not know whether or not you have experienced any trauma. What I can say is that I know far too many men who have lived with trauma for many years of their recovery with no awareness that trauma was at the root of their suffering and feelings of disconnection. Do not let contempt prior to investigation prevent you from exploring something that could offer you a degree of peace and freedom you never thought possible.

The challenge a lot of men have is that they do not necessarily see their experiences as traumatic because they compare them to other people’s traumas—what they might consider “real” or more serious trauma. Many men probably look at their traumatic experiences in hindsight with an adult’s understanding, saying to themselves something to the effect of “I see how this could be traumatic for a six-year-old, but I am forty years old now and it’s not a big deal. I am over it. That was a long time ago.” That is the danger. Our brain, particularly our brain’s limbic system, does not care about our age, then or now. And it maintains the emotional memories of those experiences, no matter how long ago they occurred. That is why people’s trauma reactions can be triggered so long after the original events took place. Our bodies also carry the memories of traumatic events, and we may have physiological reactions to external stimuli without realizing that this is a common trauma response.

The challenge for us men is that given how difficult it can be for us to be emotionally aware or engaged is that trauma can drive much of our behavior and we do not even realize it is happening. It eats away at our relationships, from the inside and we think it is everything and everyone else. Before we know it the relationship has fallen apart, the marriage is over, the man is in jail for abusing his partner, his addiction has gotten even more out of control, and/or he has even taken his life. He sits there scratching his head wondering why it is hard for him to connect. Why is it so hard for him to be able to keep a relationship together? Why, when his heart seems to want it more than anything, is it so hard to love and be loved?

This post was written by Dan Griffin, MA, author of A Man's Way Through Relationships

This post was written by Dan Griffin, MA, author of A Man’s Way Through Relationships

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

Short. Direct. Callous. And as It Turns Out, Life Saving

Did you hear the one about the 450-plus pound man working in the fashion industry? I certainly did; mainly because I was that guy. The same guy whose scale would read ERR (short for “error” since the scale couldn’t register any weight over 400 pounds), the same guy who would be out of breath just from talking on the phone, and the same guy who threw his candy wrappers in other employees’ trash cans so the janitors on our floor wouldn’t know who was eating multiple 3 Musketeers bars in a single afternoon. And boy, did I think I had everyone fooled.

And yet, while working for R. H. Macy & Co. (back when the store was more known for its cutting-edge styles), I was definitely the odd man out. Mainly because I wasn’t fitting in with my fellow employees, each of whom, with a quick outfit change, could have doubled for one of the many professional models we featured in our magazine ads and editorial spreads. But not me. I was the big guy buying my sixty-inch-waist pants at Casual Male XL, rather than using my Macy’s in-store 20 percent discount.

And so it happened that one day, while sitting in a meeting during which buyers introduced us to the new season’s clothing lines, I realized I was the living and breathing version of a “before picture.” Everyone else in the room — from the other writers (like myself), to the art directors, the buyers, the managers, and even the lady setting up the coffee service — all had something I did not have: a normal body weight.

Why were they all thin while I was so fat? Had I missed the day at work when an email with “secrets to being thin” had been sent? Or had other employees received this clearly covert information before working in the advertising department? Maybe they’d taken a special class in college, one that my university didn’t offer. Or maybe they’d been given a leaflet while on the subway one evening. No matter, I suddenly became convinced that there was some kind of classified information being passed around about how to be thin and gorgeous while still being able to eat the donuts that were on display near the lady who set up the coffee service.

And yes, I was in touch with the fact that I was eating chocolate (and more) when no one was looking. But these strange, mystical thin folks were eating chocolate while people were looking. This was fascinating to me. Why wasn’t a Jane Goodall-type covering all this on a PBS special? This was a great mystery, and I was determined to get to the bottom of it.

I narrowed my focus to our department’s vice president, a man who seemed to have it all: beautiful wife, great personality, twinkle in his eye, ability to eat anything without gaining an ounce, and someone who sported a 34-inch waist. (Or was it 32 inches?)

Thus I braved up, marched into this VP’s office, and explained to him that I was overweight. (Just in case he didn’t realize that I weighed over 450 pounds.) After I recovered from his blank stare, I leaned across his desk and asked him, point blank, “What can I do to lose weight?

I didn’t have to wait long for the advice that was so callously handed out to me. His words of wisdom? His “secret” to staying thin and trim? His suggestion for my being able to have my home scale register my weight again? “Just stop eating so much.”

What? Excuse me?

I quickly deducted that this VP wasn’t willing to share his secret for staying lean. And, quite frankly, I’d never been more offended. “Just stop eating so much?” As if. I mean, just how much did he think I was eating? This was something I pondered as I marched back to my cubicle and sought therapy from my friends, the 3 Musketeers.

And yet, I couldn’t stop thinking about those five words. The more I thought about them, the more incredulous I became. I could barely believe the audacity of this person. Didn’t he know that being overweight wasn’t my fault? After being raised by extremely abusive parents, after being the victim of sexual abuse as a child, after living a lifetime of eating to cope, didn’t this person realize that I was a victim and needed sympathy and a pat on the shoulder?

Wait a minute. Was that what I was doing in his office? Did I need my reasons for being obese to be validated? Did I want to be enabled? Looking back I would have to say… probably. Only instead I got served some shorthand advice. Advice I couldn’t quite shake. And as a result, before much longer, the phrase “just stop eating so much” wasn’t swirling around in my head as much as it was resonating in my soul.

It was now dawning on me that although this VP might eat donuts or candy bars in public, he sometimes didn’t finish the whole donut. And other times, I would see him consume just one candy bar as opposed to three. Or an apple. Or even say, “No thanks,” when someone told him they were making a snack run for our department.

“Just stop eating so much,” you say?

Well, it turns out that the rudest and most insensitive advice I’d ever received also happened to be the most effective. It wasn’t long before I did just stop eating so much and, along with incorporating healthy amounts of exercise, took off over 250 pounds of excess weight within a year’s time. No pills, surgery, or any wacky diets required.

To this day, I’ve never shared this story with the VP who tore my bandage off fast and instantly rendered all my years of ridiculously intricate (and pricey) dieting “tricks” — and excuses — worthless.

And yet, I feel like many times, when we’re looking to overcome a challenge or obstacle, no matter how addictive that challenge or obstacle might be (and trust me, food can be as addictive as heroin for many of us), the simple, forthright and, yeah, rude advice can sometimes be the most beneficial. It can manage to knock us out of our comfort zone. And let’s face it; too often our comfort zone involves those “things” we are addicted to, be they food- or whatever-related.

So for me, that quick, callous advice was also the most valuable. Today, once people learn that I used to weigh over 450 pounds and have been at a healthy weight of around 175 pounds for well over a decade, they want to know what magic wand or “trick” I used to take off the excess poundage. And when I give them the same answer I received all those years ago, they usually look at me with the same shock and awe.

We want the answers to be complicated, enabling, and even pricey. But often the best advice we can receive comes without any fancy packaging or outrageous promises or gratuitous politeness — or, for that matter, candy wrappers.

This article first appeared on the Huffington Post

This article first appeared on the Huffington Post

 

 

 

 

 

This post was written  about the new book WEIGHTLESS. Click here to buy the book

This post was written about the new book WEIGHTLESS. Click here to buy the book

Posted in Addiction News, Author News, Blog, Child Obesity, Eating Disorder Recovery, Family & Addiction, Personal Development | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Tell-all book chronicles man’s 250-pound weight loss

Gregg McBride doesn’t hold anything back in his new book that details his incredible weight loss.

KABC

By Lori Corbin

Thursday, October 16, 2014 10:30PM

LOS ANGELES (KABC) –
Gregg McBride is one of millions of Americans who has struggled with weight. A tragic childhood led to food addiction and then morbid obesity.

His parents responded to his eating disorder by locking the kitchen cabinets.

“When I was eating it was always in secret. I would steal money from my dad’s wallet. I would buy junk food — I’d have to hide it in my room. I would even hide ice cream,” said McBride, author of “Weightless.”

The average American male waist size is 40 inches. McBride, at his heaviest, wore a 60-inch belt and weighed more than 450 pounds.

McBride’s parents put him on countless diets but abuse was really the root of his problems.

“Neglect, abuse, he was sexually abused. His mother was ill. His father was alcoholic,” said psychologist Dr. Rick Shuman.

“My mother was basically a pathological liar, she would tell people that I was adopted. She eventually started to tell people that I had a disease,” said McBride.

Now 250 pounds lighter, McBride has chronicled his journey in order to help others.

“Part of the point of ‘Weightless’ is at 18 years old, I was then responsible for it and it turns out I needed to get rid of the mental weight as much as the physical weight,” he said.

Dr. Shuman agrees.

“There’s nothing magic in this formula. There’s never going to be anything magical in this formula. It’s about the self-discipline and the self-understanding that allows you to make different choices and better choices growing up,” said Shuman.

McBride did just that. He started walking an hour every day, then added gym time.

He stopped the gimmicky weight-loss tricks and began eating the basics, focusing on fresh food in the proper quantity.

McBride wants to help others fight what he calls “fat thinking.”

“People are always trying to fix their stomach, whether it’s certain food group combinations or surgery or pills. And I say over and over again, the problem is in our heads,” said McBride.

Weightless_small

Posted in Addiction, Addiction & Recovery, Addiction News, Blog, Child Obesity, Eating Disorder Recovery, Emotional Eating, Emotional Eating in Children, Family & Addiction, Personal Development | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Yoga Cannot Cure All

Yoga is an amazing practice.  The physical postures energise at the same time they relax you, strengthen the body while adding flexibility and balance.  Breathwork and meditation can be used at anytime to recenter you, bringing you to present time awareness.  Self knowledge can be developed with an ongoing yoga practice that can lead you into a deeper understanding of the union of body, mind and spirit,; how you feel and what happens to you are recorded in the geography of your body and nervous system. Yoga can release these. Yoga truly can help you heal.  It is NOT a remedy for all illnesses, it is not a panacea. It is an adjunct to any recovery process not a replacement for treatment.

Yoga teachers and the often associated healing modalities such as massage, acupuncture,  nutritional counseling and so on, can promote a mistaken position that these practices can replace and supplant western or modern medicine.  Some yoga communities eschew modern remedies to the point of shaming those who integrate medicine and medications into their healing.  This is wrong headed, whether you are looking at physical illnesses or diseases of the brain.  For the yoga students and teacher who do reach outside of yoga for help this shame is like the Buddhist’s “second arrow”; an injury upon the injury.

Lee Ann Finfinger

Lee Ann Finfinger

Lee Ann Finfinger is a well known yoga teacher based in Pittsburgh, PA.  She has taught in many venues, in the states and internationally.  Beloved by her students and  she lives the ethic and values of yoga.  She is the real deal.  She has also been a victim of the “meditate not medicate”  mantra of the yoga culture.  Yoga culture can be pedantic when it come to illness.  Unfortunately as the result of this Finfinger has felt the need to suppress her challenges with mental illness in order to conform to the yogic culture.  Yoga culture can remorselessly maintain that whatever your challenge is “yoga” can address it.  Insomnia? Do this practice. Hip pain? Do these poses.  Mental Illness? “healing can come from holding crystals, chanting, or doing any special mood-elevating yoga poses” (Finfinger).  Yogis can be quite dogmatic in their promotion of nutritional and asana (pose) remedies to illness and disease.

Yogis are not all purists, mind you: there are “Yoga and Wine” events, yogis who use cannabis (or other drugs), yogis who smoke, and not to overlook that yoga festivals in general can include parties of all sorts. Evidently that is “different”; it is RECREATIONAL and OK.  People who practice or teach yoga do not necessarily abstain from all intoxicants and drugs.

Many yogis talk a lot about detoxing, cleansing, tongue scraping, lemon water and juicing. Others whisper to one another about non-gluten free treats and cups of coffee they have had as if there were truly forbidden fruits.  We have our secret consumptions and yet become haughty over western medicine. With teachers who feel shame in reaching to western medicine there can be a schism between the private life and the presentation in the classes.  This can be in response to the overall silence if not disdain for those who have an injury or an illness and cannot find a yoga-only remedy.

There can be pushback to taking care of yourself with ongoing medication, taken for anything from menopause to mental illness.  Both the unspoken and the verbalized opinion is that there has to be something lacking in your yoga practice if you need medication.  Herbs, oils, lotions and diet change should be sufficient.  If you have a mental illness that requires a prescription you haven’t looked hard enough to find a yogic answer.  The implication is that your yoga practice is imperfect therefore supplemental treatment is required. It is really the other way around:  yoga completes the picture not replaces the treatment.  Finfinger writes:

“When I found yoga at the age of thirty, my practice supplemented the care of my disorders. I cannot stress that enough. My yoga practice supplements my mental-health care. It is not a replacement for my psychiatrist, therapists, or daily medication.” (emphasis mine)

I am a person in long term recovery. I, too, have found yoga to supplement my recovery.

While I have not found any resistance in the yoga community regarding my recovery: bear in mind recovery from addiction only requires abstinence.  I have not been urged to leave my meetings and to practice yoga exclusively to address my recovery and to prevent relapse.  I have had many years to build up my shawl of comfort with my recovery and I no longer feel shame.  Society on the other hand has an impact on others who are not yet ready to confront or address their addiction in a public way.   Students who attend my recovery oriented classes are often concerned about having their name associated with the class, or to be seen coming into the class.  This has more to do with society in general than with yoga in specific.

It is important for me to stress to my students and to other teachers that yoga does not replace my regimen of treatment: meetings, service, working my steps and continuing to be involved with my recovery community.  Yoga augments the union of body, mind and spirit.  Yoga leads me to be aware of my physical being, to sense my reactions and responses to life at a gut level.  Yoga also give me a way to become and stay as well as I can, from both the exercise perspective and from the perspective of emotional balance and wellbeing.  As I use the steps of my recovery program to work through issues of behavior, character and attitude; yoga helps me work through the issues as they stay lodged in my body; feelings of fear, insecurity or loss that tighten my structure and cause pain and loss of breath.  In spite of these amazing benefits- yoga cannot alone sustain me in my recovery. I need my outside help- I need my program of recovery.

I do know of students who have come to classes hoping to burn away the toxins from a heavy night of drinking and using. I know students who come to yoga and meditation classes, to spiritual talks and sharing to address the longing within that drives them to use. They do this to avoid facing their illness and to avoid going to recovery meetings. Yoga cannot replace a program of recovery.  It is folly to believe that a few hours on the mat can cure our disease. Even the full practice of all the limbs of yoga cannot replace a focussed practice of the principles of a 12 Step program.

Yes, like mental illness, addiction is a disease. Finfinger writes that there still remains a “stigma about mental illness”.  Surprisingly stigma and shame remain in society regarding addiction as well as her terrible sister; codependency.  Each of these illnesses require outside help.  This help beings with a 12 Step Program (or other recovery based model) and can include therapists and for those who suffer from dual diagnosis, whose disease includes mental illness, medication.  And there are more and more people who have been discovered to have mental illness as part of their challenge in recovery. We cannot take away a managed approach to stabilization due to societal stigma.

Yoga teachers cannot take on these issues for their students and, above all, they must address them in themselves.  Taking spiritual or nutritional or chakra balancing  bypass to avoid dealing with the disease does a disservice to the traditions of yoga and to the traditions of recovery.   Yoga teaches strength, flexibility and balance.  Take these practices off the mat and apply them to life. Yoga teachers can help by supporting one another in being open and honest that each may authentically demonstrate the self care they are trying to teach their students.

Kyczy Hawk E-RYT200, RYT500 is a leader of Y12SR classes, and the creator of SOAR(tm) (Success Over Addiction and Relapse); a teacher certification training. Find out more about her, her classes and the SOAR(tm) training at yogarecovery.com

Kyczy Hawk is the author of YOGA AND THE TWELVE STEP PATH

Kyczy Hawk is the author of YOGA AND THE TWELVE STEP PATH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to read Lee Ann's article 'The Culture of Yoga and Mental Illness' in full

Click here to read Lee Ann’s article ‘The Culture of Yoga and Mental Illness’ in full

Posted in Addiction, Addiction & Recovery, Addiction News, Author News, Blog, Mental Health, Mindfulness, Mindfulness, Yoga | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Addiction and Petroglyphs, Recovery and Basketball

One of active addiction’s cruel realities is that gradually and progressively, alcohol and other drugs work less and less well. The inexorable truth the phenomenon of tolerance teaches all addicts is that the longer they use substances—whether from the street like crack and heroin, prescribed by a doctor like painkillers and benzodiazepines, or bought at a store like alcohol and now, in some states marijuana—the less of the desired effect they will experience. As human biochemistry adapts to the substance and becomes used to it, it takes more of that substance to produce the same mind- and mood-altering effects.

The only options are to continually increase the amount used or to switch to a more efficient route of administration (such as smoking or shooting) that delivers the payload more rapidly to the brain’s reward center. However, even these are but temporary fixes (pun intended). At a certain point in the evolution of an addict, a threshold is crossed where he or she no longer gets “high.” Past that point, alcohol and other drugs are used just to feel “normal,” and to avoid the agony of withdrawal. Using ceases being “fun” and becomes a form of work—a job unto itself.

The drug-induced dynamics of diminishing returns have two levels: micro—declining effects with each successive dose over the course of a given day or using session, and macro—decreasing desired effects that occur over the total length of time one has been using, whether weeks, months, or years. This notwithstanding, those in active addiction invariably continue to chase the sublime intensity of the rush they experienced early in their using careers. Addicts retain vivid Technicolor memories of that revelation of chemically-induced ecstasy. It is that perfect moment, resplendent as the memories of one’s first true love. Like petroglyphs etched in rock formations that are clearly visible hundreds of years later, those rhapsodic recollections are engraved deep within the midbrain—beckoning sweetly and seductively.

The progression of active addiction is a deviation-amplifying process, much like pushing a wheelbarrow in a rut. The more the wheelbarrow is pushed in the rut through time and repetition, the more well-established that rut becomes. The more well-established and deeper the rut becomes, the harder it is to get the wheelbarrow out of it. There comes a tipping point where it becomes much harder to get the wheelbarrow out of the rut than to continue to follow it, which only makes the rut deeper still.

The brain adapts to repetitive experiences by forming memory connections or tracks that are unconscious. When such repetitive experiences revolve around using, the memory tracks that are laid become the neurological foundation of the “habits” of addiction. These unconscious learned responses are strong enough that they remain operative, even after years of abstinence. As a result, people are naturally pulled back toward the experiences and behaviors with which they are familiar and comfortable, making it more difficult to stop such behaviors and stay stopped.

However, a predisposition to returning to using alcohol and other drugs or addictive behaviors (gambling, eating, or sex) does not predetermine relapse. For many people relapse is a reality, but it is by no means an inevitability.

Recovery is a deviation-counteracting process that involves consistent course corrections based on conscious awareness of one’s internal and external environment—for which basketball is an excellent analogy. On the court, as in real life, the environment and its circumstances evolve continuously. The action is ongoing but its pace varies, and energy and momentum can shift dramatically.

Different players rotate in and out of the game, some playing more substantial roles than others. Each person’s playing time and the significance of his or her role can change. Coaches and assistant coaches are resources that help to provide direction, guidance, and mentoring. Even the best players require the support of teammates in order to win games. And even the best teams have to call time-out on occasion, when the game gets away from them, and they are anxious or stressed and need to regroup.

In order to be successful, it’s important to be present-centered and not get sidetracked by self-defeating thoughts or distressing emotions. It’s imperative to be able to see the court accurately if one is to respond skillfully. Is the defense playing man-to-man or a zone? Is it ultilizing a full-court press or a half-court trap? Is the defense laying back to prevent the dribble-drive and giving up the outside shot? Or it is playing close and tight, creating opportunities to drive to the hoop? Success in different circumstances requires a different set of responses.

Achieving and sustaining recovery by negotiating the ever-evolving flow of life on its own terms requires a similar assessment of the full range of situations with which we are presented. And, as is the case with basketball (or developing real skills in any area), the way to become proficient is through persistent and dedicated practice. This is the 25th anniversary of September as National Recovery Month. Its message is that people can and do recover.

This blog originally appeared on the Psychology Today website

This blog originally appeared on the Psychology Today website

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

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

Do you know your story of your life is the greatest story ever told?

We all have our stories. Every man has his story of how he has become the man he is today. Yet, we do not always put a lot of time into knowing our story – or sharing it with others.  It lets others in beyond the surface of so much of how we present ourselves in the world today. Our story is the blood rushing through us. I share a part of my story – as I understand it today – with you because it lets you know a little about who I really am. I share a part of my journey of becoming a man because it is a part of our stories we haven’t spent a lot of time taking to honor – or share with one another.

As an adolescent I had an unusual and deeply painful experience. My body literally did not grow. To say I was a late bloomer is an understatement. I became acutely aware of this in eighth grade, but there were still a few other boys who also had yet to hit puberty. The summer between eighth and ninth grade I had hoped “it” would happen, but it didn’t. I stayed short and began to feel more and more powerless. The shame about who I was and about my body began to spread like a weed throughout my psyche. It was a secret, and I had to protect myself from being found out to save myself from the ultimate humiliation.

The truth is that as a prepubescent young man I stood outside the usual images of masculinity. I started to see the Water, not because I consciously and thoughtfully reflected on the Man Rules, but because I was not a man. As I felt myself in the Water, I also felt the dissonance between what seemed to be the ideal masculinity and me. I was drowning in the Water and desperate to find some degree of solace. Burning in my psyche was this constant and resounding voice telling me that I was not a man. I believed it. That voice haunted me. The worst part was that once I grew to almost six feet tall and matured into what many people consider to be a handsome man, it was too late. The damage had been done. Like anorexics wasting away on death’s door who still see themselves as fat, it has taken twenty-plus years for me to not see the gaunt, prepubescent five-foot boy looking back at me in the mirror. And he can still show up when I’m under stress or feeling threatened.

What is your story about how you have become the man or woman you are today? Are you willing to share the chapters you are still trying to forget? The ones you tried to rip out of the book of your life? Do you know yet that those are the greatest parts of your story? If your voice does not shake when you tell your story to others then it probably isn’t your story. Do you know your story of your life is the greatest story ever told?

This post was written by Dan Griffin, MA, author of A Man's Way Through Relationships

This post was written by Dan Griffin, MA, author of A Man’s Way Through Relationships

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

My Struggle

My baby grew up to be an addict. There was a time when I believed a mother’s love could fix anything, but it can’t fix this.

For too many years I thought I was helping Joey.  I thought I was doing my job by keeping him out of trouble and getting him out of trouble and believing his lies. I snooped and stalked and tried to out-manipulate his manipulations. I did everything and anything to make things right. I tried to keep my child from suffering, because that’s what a mother’s love does.

I loaned Joey money when times were tough, but not wanting to make times any tougher didn’t ask him to pay the money back. I made excuses for Joey’s new self-centered meanness and I pretended not to hurt when he missed my birthday or when his place at our Thanksgiving table remained empty. I believed Joey’s explanations for his sunken eyes and shaking hands and I believed his convoluted denials of drug overdoses and emergency room DOA revivals. (Well, sort of.) When Joey was arrested — the times I knew about — I showed up in court as a reminder that he was loved and had reason to head in another direction; I even stayed when he bared his teeth at me and hissed. I wrote letters to the judge (damage control) pleading for Joey to be sentenced to rehab not jail. And then I listened as Joey blamed everyone he could think of for why he did end up in jail; the only person not to blame was the one looking at me from the other side of the smudgy glass.

Three times Joey was convinced or cornered into going into addiction treatment. And three times Joey played it and everyone around him like a game and then walked away. I connived. I wheedled. I cried. I begged. And, I continued to aid and abet and enable like a champ.

I did everything I could to protect Joey from himself until finally I realized it wasn’t him that I was protecting. I was protecting the addict. Making it easy for the addict. Giving the addict one more day to further consume my son’s body and mind.

I was helping the addict to kill the son I was trying to save.

My motherly love would need to be contorted and redefined.

There’s nothing about this kind of love that feels good. But I’m not doing it for me. It’s not called Tough Love because it’s mean. It’s called Tough Love because it is tough to do.

I will do nothing, ever again, to help the addict. Because, if I do, I have no hope of ever seeing my son. I love Joey. And it is because I love him that I am done.

We never had a chance.

In so many ways, Joey’s addiction has taken away so much—in so many ways, the birth of my son keeps on dying—but of all of the breaths of the thousands of little deaths, the saddest loss may be that I no longer know what it means to be my son’s mom.

Oh, I’ve learned how to navigate our now-adult relationship with arms-length respect and mile-wide boundaries, but that’s the sticks and the bricks of it. Sticks and bricks do not make a Mom. Like a teddy bear without any stuffing, this is all wrong.

Addiction has pummeled my family. Beating it back has been one long, hard fight. These mother’s hands of mine, these nubby, bloodied claws, have seen battle—the battle between Hanging On and Letting Go; the battle between Barely Hanging On and Hanging in There; the battle to Survive the Unexpected; and the battle Just to Survive. Battered and bruised I may be, but I’m stronger and wiser.

I finally understand there’s nothing more I can do to help my son other than give him moral support in a quest to help himself. Still, I carry around the very maternal and human need to do something. And I need to do something with this need to do something.

And so, I share my story of love and loss and learning–and surviving my son’s addiction while coming to terms with the fact that he may not.

Written from the place where I live, the place where love and addiction meet.

This post was written by Sandra Swenson, author of THE JOEY SONG: A Mother's Story of Her Son's Addiction

This post was written by Sandra Swenson, author of THE JOEY SONG: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction

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

Publishers Weekly reviews WEIGHTLESS!

Gregg McBride, Weightless: My Life as a Fat Man and How I Escaped, Central Recovery, (Consortium, dist) $17.95 trade paper (280p) ISBN 978-1-937612-69-6 After a lifetime of binge eating and morbid pw logoobesity, L.A. writer and producer McBride (Just Stop Eating So Much!) began to take responsibility for his own weight, and ceased blaming it on his unhappy childhood. In this funny and candid memoir, McBride reveals without shame the psyche of the fat person who learns to “eat his problems away,” beginning as a small child sneaking money out of his Air Force officer father’s wallet for afternoon binges of candy. As an army brat, moving around constantly as a child including stints in Singapore and Germany, McBride (along with his younger sister, Lori) became acutely aware of his father’s drinking problem, his mother’s promiscuity, and the fissures in their marriage. Indeed, his mother enlisted him in her romantic entanglements by making him foil her phone calls, and when he grew embarrassingly fat, passed him off as an adopted son with a health problem. Brazen about lying to other people and stealing money for binge eating (“in the world of junk food, I was safe, warm, and loved”), McBride grew huge, taking on the clown characters in drama productions, learning to surround himself with beautiful people and act “foxy for a fat kid.” But the moment of truth had to come, and there were many: when he blossomed to 464 pounds and watched his doctor cry; when a child in the store asked loudly why he had “boobs”; and when the therapist ceased buying his excuses. McBride unrolls an excruciatingly honest tale of becoming thin. (Sept.)

This post was written  about the new book WEIGHTLESS. Click here to buy the book

This post was written about the new book WEIGHTLESS. Click here to buy the book

Posted in Addiction & Recovery, Author News, Blog, Child Obesity, Eating Disorder Recovery, Emotional Eating, Emotional Eating in Children, Personal Development | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Man Rules™ & The Water

Has it ever felt to you like you were following some set of unwritten rules on how to be a man? Men can do this but can’t do that. These are the Man Rules I refer to throughout my new book, A Man’s Way through Relationships: Learning to Love and Be Loved and discuss at length in Chapter 1. They are unwritten yet very real, and they guide our lives from an early age, telling us how to be boys and men. We follow these Rules to let the world know that we are “real” boys and “real” men. When we don’t follow them we run the risk of being viewed by others and viewing ourselves as being less than real boys or men. Where did the Rules come from? The answer is that they come from many different sources, some personal and some societal. The Rules come from both of our parents and other caregivers, from other family members, from coaches and teachers, from the kids on the playground, and from the media based on the images of “real” men presented on television, in movies, and in print and broadcast advertising. Adolescence can be a particularly brutal period of indoctrination to the Man Rules.

There is a story of two fish swimming in the ocean when a third fish swims up to them and says, “Hello, gents. How’s the water?” and he swims away. The two fish look at each other and say, “What the hell is water?” In this way, the Water becomes a metaphor for those built-in aspects of our experience we take for granted to such an extent that we don’t even notice them. That is how the Man Rules show up in so many of our lives. We have no awareness of them; we do not see them because we are so used to them being there as a natural part of our experience. We react to them as if they are the only version of reality—the one truth. However, they have been created by other men and women and passed on for years, decades, and centuries – even millenia.

It starts as soon as we are born – research shows that we hold baby boys less, sooth them less, and give them less space to express their emotions. That can be likened to putting a baby in a dixie-cup and pouring water over his head. As the process continues we don’t stop pouring water – we simply change the receptacle – from the little cup to a small fish bowl and then a large aquarium. By the time we are adolescents we have been thrown into a local pond. And then a lake. Until we are adults and are basically fish swimming in the ocean without any idea of the water.

The truth is most of us were never given a choice about the Rules or what kind of men we wanted to be. Nobody sat us down, reviewed the Rules with us, and asked us which ones we wanted to follow and which ones didn’t fit for us. Our fathers didn’t tell us about how the way they were living by the Rules was killing them – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. Many men simply don’t realize that they have a choice.  In all likelihood we became immersed in The Man Rules early in our lives when we were incapable of thinking about them critically. We never had the opportunity to consider whether the Rules made sense for who we were and who we wanted to become.

But the truth is we do have a choice – we always have.  We get to decide how we want the Rules to fit into our lives. The Rules are not bad – they simply limit us and our lives when we do not wear them  as a loose garment. Which are the ones that fit for me? Which don’t fit for me? That is what my work – both professional and personal – has been: figuring out how to not let the Rules, rule me. That is why I wrote A  Man’s Way through Relationships: Learning to Love and Be Loved. I hope you find what fits for you and live into that to be the best man that you can be.

This post was written by Dan Griffin, MA, author of A Man's Way Through Relationships

This post was written by Dan Griffin, MA, author of A Man’s Way Through Relationships

 

 

 

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