Can Change This

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The Journey of Transformation

The pain of alcoholism – Part 1

March 26th, 2012

In my work as a counselor, sometimes I see and hear “themes” for the week; common threads woven through the tapestry of stories I’m hearing. Although I am a generalist and work with many types of mental health issues, this week the theme is alcoholism and its effects. It is synchronistic, in that I celebrated 34 years sobriety on Monday, so my awareness of how different my life would have been had I continued to drink (if I were still here at all) is heightened.

I happened to see four clients who are sober, and work a “program,” and are back in counseling working on other issues. They all feel the same gratitude and humility I feel, to be part of the lucky group that are surviving alcoholism and drug addiction, and have a shot at living a full, rich life.

Others are struggling still, and facing many of the consequences which accompany the poor choices made as a result of chemical use. This includes loss of driving privileges, conflict with family, legal problems, health troubles. One is dealing with chronic relapse coupled with long-standing mental disorders and going to treatment yet again. One is beginning to look at the role alcohol plays in his life. Another is starting treatment at an early age, rather reluctantly, in the hope of avoiding worse consequences and losses.

treatment, recovery, group therapy

Group Therapy

I saw a number of people whose lives are or have been deeply and frustratingly affected by someone else’s chemical abuse. The lies, inconsistencies, and cycles of problems they experience and the abandonment and confusion they feel is tangible. Those that grew up with alcoholic parents are trying to figure out exactly what happened and understand the lasting effects they experience, with difficulty trusting, believing in themselves, and coping with their emotions effectively. They are angry, confused, feeling guilty and grieving.

It is unspeakably painful to watch lives disintegrate due to chemical use.

It is incredibly rewarding to see lives saved, knit back together, and hope renewed, when a person grabs hold of the lifeline and does the work to get sober. It is inspiring to see a person work through ACOA (adult child of an alcoholic) issues and live a meaningful and balanced life.

It is terribly frustrating to see how casually our world treats chemical use, and encourages it.

Soul Retrieval

November 5th, 2011
Story-telling, group, fire, unity

Story-telling around a fire

Shamanic societies, building on age-old wisdom, believe that the world and its challenges can drain our energy. The experiences of discouragement, pain, loss, disappointment, loss of meaning and feeling stuck all drain us. The shamans taught that if we “stop singing, stop dancing, are no longer enchanted by stories, or become uncomfortable with silence, we experience soul loss, which opens the door to discomfort and disease (Arrien).”

 

In  The Four-Fold Way, Angeles Arrien describes the shamans’ remedy for soul loss:

The Four Universal Healing Salves:

storytelling, singing, dancing and silence

Becoming open, again, to the Healing Salves can bring about “soul retrieval” and we can reconnect to joy, optimism, hope, acceptance, motivation and love. Arrien also says the goal of managing a difficult time is acceptance, not resignation; detachment, not holding on; to be “open to outcome, not attached to outcome.”

 

Whenever there is CHANGE there is LOSS; whenever there is loss we GRIEVE. Therefore, whenever there is change, we grieve. Ritual is a human tradition that helps deal with loss, grief and change. The losses may be related to losing a person we love, losing a life style, health, financial security, safety, faith or meaning.

 

Arrien says,

“Ritual is the conscious act of recognizing a life change, and doing something to honor and support the change through the presence of such elements as witnesses, gift giving, ceremony, and sacred intention. In this way human beings support the changes they are experiencing and create a way ‘to fit things together again.’”

 

 Singing, storytelling, silence and dancing help us cope with grief and are part of the ritual of soul retrieval.

 

Silence, meditation

Meditation and silence

We’re in it Together

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!

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