13th Step Consequences

Addicted 4, photo by Nicole Dee, Landing, OntarioI have written about the dangers of getting sexually involved with someone who is early in recovery from addiction and/or any other vulnerable state. This is commonly known in the 12 Step fellowship as 13th Step consequences and needs to be treated as a serious warning, even though the term causes nervous laughter.? Steve’s comment is an example of such a traumatic outcome and here is my response:

Steve, I was sorry to read that you have had such a traumatic experience and that you are now disabled with a muscle disease too. Not all AA members are as thoughtless as the one who hurt you and your partner. There are many AA members who are careful not to get involved in that way and who make good supportive friends for each other and for new members. Perhaps you could both try another meeting if you want the benefit of the program. Then again no one says you must use AA. There is a group known as SMART Recovery and it does not encourage friendships? between its members, as there is no buddy system. It is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and does not use a God perspective.

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Self love or codependence

My eyes, photo by Lucretious, Thessaloniki, GreeceAn important part of being in recovery from codependence is having a healthy relationship with self. In other words, the choice is self love or codependence. A comment from Maranda on my post about having a relationship with self shows how difficult it is for some to conceptualise this – “Nice theory… How can you start “loving yourself” in real life, I wonder?” Some people can only feel lovable when someone else loves them and then they see themselves through someone else’s eyes. No one can make you feel in a certain way unless you allow yourself to feel that way to begin with. So the ability to feel one way or another comes from within. The same way that you can feel terrible about your self, you can feel confident about yourself and, therefore, feel lovable – that’s self love. To hand over your power about how you feel is codependence or being neurotic.

Loretta came home with her small children and
found his clothes gone!
she managed to get the toddlers bathed, fed and to sleep
then she collapsed as the reality hit her
what happened? how come she didn’t know?
how did he expect them to survive without him?
she got through the night without any sleep
then the next day she was in ‘shell shock’
but the next night, too exhausted to stay awake
she drifted off believing that without him she
would be forever alone raising their children
it never occurred to her that she was lovable
at 25 she thought she would live alone forever!
fortunately, she remembered that she is lovable
and when faced with self love or codependence
she chose to focus on the relationship with self
he came back but in time she just sent him away
because she discovered that she deserved better

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Burnout

125191_empty_2.jpgWhen we commit to too many deadlines we risk burnout. That feeling of becoming immobilised and overcome by massive apathy. This can be interpreted as fatigue and in many ways it is. How easily burnout can sneak up on us, even if we are experienced and take the necessary precautions usually to avoid it happening. The sneaky part is that we are hooked on completing the task at hand, and the adrenaline rush throws us into denial about the risks that come with neglecting the safety measures. Once we are suffering burnout it, nature takes its course and we find that we are unable to do even the simplest things – as we vegetate the body and mind rejuvenates itself. We fret about being out of control and we promise never to let it happen again. Then we worry about the immobilised state we are in. We just need to remember that ‘this too shall pass’ and we will find the strength and motivation to become active once more.

I have not written daily posts for the last 2 weeks
because I was in burnout – to the max
I completed two deadlines which kept me up late
at night and which involved my days full on too
my abstinence from food addiction was threatened
and I thought I was in control of how much
this work was affecting my wellbeing
it was not until after I met the deadlines that
reality ‘bit me on the bum’ and I realised my mistake
now I am resting reminding myself that it will pass
and soon I will be up and moving again, but cautiously
this is my first step today

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Trust is vital

Lovers, photo by Ovlachi György, Budapest, Hungary, intimacy, loveFor a relationship to grow, trust is vital. Whether the relationship is one between you and your lover, parents, children, colleagues, and/or your friends, without trust you have major problems. Trust creates closeness, otherwise known as intimacy and this fuels a relationship. So when you have relationship difficulties, look at what has happened to the trust between you and rescue the relationship by building the trust once more. Sometimes you need the assistance of a therapist for this.

he kept telling her that she needed
to lift her game for him to trust her again!
and then he was surprised that she
didn’t want to have sex or that
she wanted to leave him
we spoke about the impact his
criticisms had on her self esteem
and that she couldn’t trust him now
because his remarks had hurt her so much
in time as they spent more quality time
their friendship strengthened and
they were able to express their needs
much more appropriately than
attacking each other or expecting
that the trust be earned before
love could be rekindled between them
now they are enjoying their relationship
as the trust grows stronger

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Romantic trade-off

You&Me, photo by Valentina Jori, Roma, Italy, intimacy How many times have you been frustrated with your partner because you feel that you give and cannot get the same in return? Whether it has to do with the type of movie you want to see or what hobbies to share. This can affect your sex life too because the partner who feels less powerful in the relationship can lose their sex drive and can appear to be with-holding that pleasure. Of course, communicating your innermost concerns is a tricky task for some. An effective way to right this imbalance is to use a romantic trade-off. The couple can sit and work out what each one feels is missing in their relationship and then agree to trade-off one requirement for another. In that way there is a fairness to the process which results in greater intimacy. Sometimes this is done with the help of a therapist.

Susie was a sexy, sensual woman when
they first got together
that’s one of the characteristics that
attracted Bob to her
then after awhile that changed drastically
Bob had wondered what had caused that
was she no longer attracted to him?
when they came to see me we looked at
what worked and what didn’t and
some of their needs and wants were negotiated
for a romantic trade-off which satisfied both
not all requirements were resolved but at least
they agreed to disagree, for now

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Secrets fester

Ball, photo by Marcelo Gerpe, Buenos Aires, Argentina, stimulus responseWe should not confuse the concept of secrets and confidentiality. Confidentiality is when we don’t disclose information that belongs to someone else unless respecting that person’s privacy is threatening to someone else. Having a secret is withholding information because there is shame about it and that can only cause the secret to fester. One thing leads to another and before long the secret is exposed and so are the lies that have been used to cover it up. This is the basis for compulsions and addiction.

Gary came into the halfway house after detox
and the first lessons her learnt were that
he needed to abstain from using drugs
he needed to go to meetings every day
he needed to keep his own area clean
he needed to do likewise with the rest of the home
and he needed to be ‘up front, honest and open’
about how he felt and what he was doing
in other words ‘no secrets’ because they
go hand in hand with lies and shame
which are what everyone needs to be free of
so as to be in recovery from addictions

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Children need love, so parents chill out

Anger, photo by Ivar van Bussel, Groningen, Netherlands, abusive tantrumsFathers and mothers, with small children, are usually at a Life Stage when stresses affect their behaviour, making them intolerant. It’s vital that we don’t psychologise abusive behaviour exhibited by stressed parents. In other words, avoid excusing abusive actions just because parents are stressed – there’s no excuse good enough for abuse. So parents, remember that although you’re having a hard time, when you over-react about your children’s mistakes this negatively impacts on their self-esteem. Also your behaviour is seen as inappropriate and abusive by children and everyone around too! What’s more if the ‘punishment is too severe then the lesson is lost’. When you’re finding it difficult to keep your cool, then maybe you need to see a therapist so that you can let off steam before it becomes abusive for everyone concerned. Children need love to grow healthily, not fear. Childrearing specialists claim that prisoners didn’t get there from too much parental love as children.

she was almost hysterical as she told me
how her family was driving her crazy
her husband was in the same state!
you may say “no wonder” when they
are in stressful jobs and trying to
make a decent lifestyle for their family!
then as the story unfolded they realised that
their lives had become unmanageable due to
hard work, lots of bills and not enough rest
everything had become so serious and
children have no way of knowing how
to deal with their parents’ stress, therefore,
they chose to do things as a family that
would bring them fun and relaxation
as well as putting their home in order
instead of just excusing the dysfunctionality

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Active listening

Can you hear me?, photo by T. Rolf, Kolding, Denmark,  feeling heardWe often think we are listening but our minds race and we have already come up with comments to what the other person is saying before they even finish talking. Active listening is about being able to feedback what you have heard the other person say before you make your comment. That way they feel heard and do not have to repeat themselves over and over. That’s how nagging develops.

as they complained about each other
I realised that they were not waiting until the other
finished talking, before they contributed their view
so we had a practice run with each one giving feedback
before saying what they wanted to
I mediated so that they kept to the format
and at the end there was active listening
which is guaranteed to improve a relationship

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Role models

Dad's Shoulder, photo by Joseph Zlomek, Pottstown, United States, loving parentSome people have had abusive parents as role models. Others have had one parent functional and the other dysfunctional. Unfortunately, there are those who have been abused and become abusers, mainly because they experienced how powerful induced fear was. The promising thing is that as we grow most of us learn to appreciate the healthy role models and mimic them in adulthood.

Nina was surprised that her mother’s abusive behaviour
hadn’t made her an emotional cripple, but remembered
that her father was a gentle, loving parent and
whenever she was tempted by her mother’s words
to believe that she was ugly and worthless
Nina would recall her father’s unconditional love
which gave her the confidence to make healthy choices
at times it took a lot of work to raise her self esteem
because her mother’s words would creep into
Nina’s thoughts unexpectedly, however
that was short lived as she developed the skills
to diffuse such thoughts by sending them
off into the universe in imaginary balloons

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Devil woman

Paper devil, photo by Brian S, Jakarta Indonesia, no faultHow often have we heard “the devil made me do it”? In actual fact we make choices and sometimes we regret these choices and find it necessary to blame others in order to save face. This is especially the case when the consequences are not wanted. No one can make us feel anything we don’t want to – we allow them to make us feel in a certain way.

he had cheated before but convinced his wife that
it wouldn’t happen again and she believed him
then one day he disappeared with his best friend’s wife
she suffered for two weeks not knowing where he was
then he came back and professed his love for her
insisting that he did not love the other woman
but that she had thrown herself at him and
eventually he weakened and gave into her spell
the devil woman made him do it
that was the line that convinced his wife
it was impossible for them to
have a happy life together so she ended it
to this day he cries over being dumped by her
and his friends actually feel sorry for him!

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