Can Change This

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The Journey of Transformation

Archive for the ‘Health Issues’ Category

More transitions; so what’s new!

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

So, I am in the middle of more transitions. Does it ever stop? No, we just get to cruise sometimes. I am not in cruise control right now, but in the midst of some heavy traffic, construction, detours. I need to be on my toes.

My love relationship ended earlier this summer, due to core differences in our values and worldviews, and an erosion of good feelings between us.  It has not been easy, but my busyness has certainly helped to distract me from the loss.

I have had lots of company, fun weekend activities, a heavy workload and the process of my father moving from assisted living to nursing home. It has been hectic, challenging, rewarding, fun and draining.

Last weekend I spent 4 days with my team, Sand Shells, as crew at the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure in the Twin Cities. It was, as always, moving, inspiring, exhausting and exhilarating. My ankles are still swollen and bruised, and I wasn’t even trying to walk the 60 miles! I helped to set up and run Pit Stop 3 with my team. We handed out food, water, Nuun (our sponsor’s sports drink) and encouragement. We used the theme, “Wild, Wild Breasts!” If you haven’t been around the 3-Day, it is quite focused on breasts and having fun, so plays on words and irreverent themes rule the day. We had western outfits and props (even a photo op with a pony!) and got a lot of smiles out of the walkers. The spirit and energy of my teammates was amazing to watch.

The Closing Ceremonies, where I was allowed to wear a pink shirt and walk with the survivors, created feelings that are beyond words. The inclusion and validation we survivors experience fills my heart up to the brim, and reminds me how precious it is to have come through breast cancer. There was a moment during the Walk that I was encouraging walkers with water and thanks, and suddenly one of them said, “No, thank you, Survivor. Walking three days is nothing compared to chemo.” She had seen my “Survivor” button. It was so unexpected and so powerful that I melted into tears. It made all the sweat, exhaustion and body aches worth every minute.

3-day, breast cancer, walk

3-Day Walkers

Earlier I had visitors from Sweden and spent a week with them. It is a special thing to show them around the area to which the Emigrants came and have them get to know their American family better. I spent a weekend with one of my best friends, her siblings and cousins and had a ball. The laughter and cameraderie were delightful.

I have had a full schedule at work, because of taking time off here and there, and filling up the remaining spaces with clients. Always feeling behind and overwhelmed by paperwork, but managing to keep my head above water and give clients what they need from me. At times I have heard positive feedback and have been moved to tears by the growth, insight and relief they express, as well as their gratitude.

Finally, I have just started a new endeavor of teaching a foundational social work class at a local college, St. Cloud State University. My first class met this week and I did well, I think. Thanks to a great curriculum I inherited from others, and help from several professors there, I got through it and feel optimistic and enthusiastic to continue it. It does challenge me, though, and I see that I am a student this fall too, as well as those in my class!

SCSU, St. Cloud State University, Social Work

SCSU

The pain of alcoholism–Part 2

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Beer, alcohol, drinking

It is difficult for me to see how accepted alcohol abuse is in our culture. Drinking is pervasive and over-drinking is tolerated.

I hear of young women and men who are close to losing their children due to neglect or outright abuse. Their drug of choice may be marijuana or methamphetamines, but what leads them back to these drugs is the drug alcohol, because they and the world see it as harmless. Friends and family say, “It is just a few drinks, that isn’t so bad.” They risk losing their kids so they do not have to give up the “pleasure” of alcohol and drug use.

I had a friend, a charming Southern woman, raised in grace and wealth. She was hospitalized in her fourth relapse, for drinking perfume. She had used alcohol all through her life to manage loneliness, insecurity and fear, and was encouraged to drink to “calm your nerves.” She continued to do just that, in whatever form she could find, in spite of losing everything to her drinking.

I see a man who has had treatments since age 20, has destroyed his liver with alcohol and now, in his late 50’s he relapses every few months. He has warrants out for his arrest in three states, got his wife put in jail one night, is getting evicted for frequent police calls and blames everyone else for his problems. His doctors tell him he will die if he drinks again, and yet he does drink again and again. Answering a question of what prompted him to start again this time, he said, “I just wanted a beer while I watched the ballgame.” Just like a hundred thousand other guys on a Sunday afternoon. How many of them will face liver disease, divorce, DWI’s, job loss or worse? One in ten.

One in ten people who drink becomes alcoholic. It is the rare person who never tries alcohol, because our society values drinking, so almost everyone is at risk for alcoholism. Our culture tends to see alcohol as a necessary and welcome part of life; without which, life would not be as rewarding. Some people hold this belief, even when their families have been devastated by alcoholism. Because they don’t seem to have “alcoholic” struggles they take alcohol use lightly. This framework tends to set up those persons who will have alcoholic struggles.

Over-use of alcohol is tolerated, even accepted. By the time it is clear that a person cannot handle it like others, much damage is already done. Then, often that person is judged when the problems mount and they can’t seem to drink like others do.

But maybe some of those people who take alcohol use lightly are having more struggles than they are willing to admit. There is a wide range of symptoms and results of alcoholism—from the obvious late stage symptoms (chronic, frequent overuse, multiple problems and consequences, numerous losses, concern of others) to the less obvious early to middle stages, where alcohol use is regular, occasional problems occur, relationally, medically, legally or vocationally. There may be efforts at cutting back or quitting, but alcohol use always returns; sometimes worse than before. These persons (or someone that loves them) may have concerns they are drinking too much, but they quickly justify it and explain away the concerns, so they don’t have to feel uncomfortable about their drinking.

 I often say to people that one simple way to judge your relationship with alcohol is to ask: “Is my drinking the way I would like it to be, and if not, do my efforts to make it that way work?” In other words, if you wish and intend to not get drunk, does that work or do you still get drunk? Do you make promises to drink less but fail at it? Do you have remorse and fear about your drinking but continue to drink anyway? Do you find yourself explaining to yourself or others why your drinking isn’t a problem? Important questions to ask, given 10% of drinkers become alcoholic.

It is widely believed that the only viable route for an alcoholic to take to get better is to abstain from alcohol. I have seen this proven to be true over and over again.

Making a choice not to drink is not easy. It means giving up the quickest way to feel better. It means feeling acutely, life’s pain. It often means exclusion. It means the culture is not supportive of what you are trying to do and sees it as abnormal. It frequently means a major life style overhaul.

AA, recovery, sobriety

1 Year AA Sobriety Chip

I learned early in AA: “Recovery isn’t complicated; you just have to do one thing—CHANGE YOUR WHOLE LIFE.” Wouldn’t it be great if friends, family and neighbors were willing to change just a little bit of their lives to support alcoholics change theirs by having some alcohol-free events?

We’re in it Together

Friday, October 14th, 2011

boat, people, common ground, all in the same boat

I have always said that the people with which I work are “normal people who have encountered bumps in the road of life,” or some such analogy. I also have a child’s drawing that shows a family fishing in a boat (Sloop John B as a matter of fact) and I have it framed as a representation that “we’re all in the same boat.” The meaning behind that for me is that my journey and that of my clients’ is the same—we take different paths at times, are at different places on the paths, yet the experience of journeying through the challenges of life is known to every one of us. Psychotherapists and other counselors are merely helpers who know a bit and understand more of the journey and the process, and thus, can help others move along the path more effectively. The key is for the helper to manage her own troubles successfully, in order not to get tripped up by them.

 

Similarly, physicians and nurses get ill at times, and need care, and only if they choose not to get help or to deny their medical needs does the illness get in the way of helping their patients. Attending to oneself is essential for any helper to continue to be effective. Finding my way through the briars, pitfalls and thunderstorms of life, and continuing to use the knowledge gained to help others on the journey inspired this website and blog. I hope it will be helpful.

WELCOME!

Monday, June 13th, 2011

As a psychotherapist I have witnessed crisis leading to transformation.

 

I have also experienced crisis and transformation myself. In my 50th year I experienced great change and challenges. I moved back home with my parents to care for my mother, who was dying from ALS. I also got divorced, got cancer, lost both of my beloved cats, started a new career, and bought a house of my own.

 

It became a time of transformation. The wisdom I gained brought a better quality to my life. It also enabled me to work with clients at a deeper level.

 

There are four essential building blocks that allowed me to grow stronger rather than grow bitter, and how to transform the experience of pain and change it into one of growth and enrichment.

 

They are: RELATIONSHIP, RESILIENCE, RESPITE and RENEWAL.

 

These principles (the 4 Rs) hold the key to get through the trials of life. I now share what I learned in those days, to help others to utilize these skills to cope with a major life challenge or transition.

 

It might be that you are a caregiver, it may be that you have experienced loss of health or a job. Maybe a marriage is ending. Whatever the transition, these tools can help you cope and feel better.

 

On the journey through caregiving or significant personal transition facing struggle, emotional pain and fear are inevitable, but transforming those experiences into an enriching experience is a choice. This site is intended to inform, touch, and in some way, inspire you to do just that.

clouds, trees, sunshine

Sun shining through