Sunday, February 28, 2010

Diversity Sunday


We celebrated Diversity Sunday a few weeks ago. One tradition we have during all of our services is to have a children's circle, where the children come up front and hear a special message for them.

I thought this was a lesson all children should grow up with.

The minister showed everyone her prayer shawl she had been wearing. She asked them to notice all the little children of different colors and shapes embroidered on the shawl and admire how beautiful they were. However, years ago, we decided to become an "Open and Affirming Community", which means that all people are welcome. We have many gay and lesbian couples and welcome people of all nationalities and colors, as well as people from different faith backgrounds.

I also practice Islam, and when I told the pastor that, she thought it was great. She said, after all, there is one God. I have come to believe whether there is one God, or many, it doesn't matter. There is no conflict to me. I see people who worship various gods as people who worship different aspects of God. Whether God is one or many makes no difference to me.

The minister asked all the children to close their eyes and imagine looking at themselves in the mirror. She told them to admire how beautiful and perfect they are.

Then she asked them to all open their eyes and look at the other children, and see how beautiful and perfect they were.

I think the essence of this is respect and love - for ourselves and others. So many of us grow up without either.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Busted


This is not a happy day for me.

Last night, I was checking my Facebook account when I saw something pop up that two of my friends had been tagged in a picture. Usually I wouldn't probably have taken notice, but for whatever it intrigued me and I clicked on the link.

The picture was of my husband and one of his "friend" both with a glass of wine in their hands. My husband's eyes look messed up. It occurred to me that while I drink, you would be hard-pressed to find a picture of me where my eyes look like this.

There have been so many signs of my husband's drinking - for months, if not years.

I have always been made out to be the "crazy" one. My husband always denies everything. I have smelled alcohol on his breath, he is late, the finances are a mess, he doesn't show up for things....

All the signs have been there. But to see this picture, was just a hard slap in the face. I felt like I had been knocked down to my knees.

The picture was taken last July, weeks after our camping trip with his AA group. This is significant because my husband has been announcing his AA sobriety birthday as January of 2009. Obviously, that is not the case.

At first, I felt somewhat vindicated. The reason for our separation last May was because he did not come home all night long. A few weeks after that, he missed our daughter's 3rd birthday entirely.

I told his family that I thought he was drinking and gave them my reasons why. That birthday party was actually the last day I saw his aunt alive. She was clearly upset. But later, his dad sided with my husband, and I suppose the rest of the family did too.

My father-in-law told me, maybe if you were nicer to your husband, he would come home more often.

It occurred to me last night to send this picture off to my father-in-law, but I have come to realize he can not help me anymore.

All these years, he has disabled him. My father-in-law has too much vested in believing that his son is right, and I am wrong.

It really saddens me that after all of these rehabs, AA and everything else that my husband is still not sober. I have always rooted for him, even if I was not able to stand by him anymore. I have been angry, so angry - but now I am just sad.

This is my children's father. And whatever pain he has caused me, there is no way that I can replace their daddy.

Stop Reading My Blog

I am done being nice about this. You have done enough damage to me and the kids. This blog is my outlet, and it is mine. You have no business being here. You have no business reading my thoughts. My thoughts do not belong to you. I do not belong to you.

You need to stop blaming me and look at yourself.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fidelity


I have been thinking a great deal about fidelity lately. I have been on all sides, so it an interesting question to me. I think the thing that is difficult for most people is not so much the sex, but the dishonesty that often accompanies it. I saw that the Dalai Lama was going to be on Larry King, so I taped it on my DVR. It was an interesting interview - but this is the part that stuck out to me.

Fidelity takes discipline. That's not hard because it's in your own best interest. All morals and values are in your own self-interest. Just like taking care of your own body.

-Dalai Lama to Larry King (in response to a question about Tiger Woods)

My first husband always says, if someone cheats on me, it is not hurting me so much as it is hurting the person who cheats. (rough translation of his Lebanese English.) But I've always thought that was very true.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mission Accomplished

I spent most of the night gathering my documents and filling in the necessary forms. My dad takes my son on Tuesdays so he went over all the documents with me to make sure I did not miss anything.

I barely slept. I kept thinking of new things I needed to include. I also had a presentation with my son at his school early the next morning. I knew I would have to drop my daughter off at early care, get to my son's school, try to help make his presentation fun, and then finish what I needed to do for court by 11am.

The presentation at my son's school went well and I tried to stay calm as I prepared all the documents at my office and made all the necessary copies. At the last minute, I found a notary who was happy to help me (I was literally walking out the door, late.)

I went down to the courthouse and the time I was supposed to be there and was told that they didn't have time to help me because they were going to close for lunch in 20 minutes. She told me to come back in about an hour. I decided to try to eat something, but I could not.

I went back and stood in line. I was the first one so I was able to see the clerk first. I thought I had all my documentation ready but he seemed perplexed by something. It seems that he thought my expenses were inconsistent with my actual income and that raised a red flag for fraud.

At that point, I lost it. I could not hold the tears back. He asked me if I had documentation of my mortgage, and I did not think I did. I was just about to give up when I remembered that I had pulled a copy of my credit report that morning to show the damage that has been done to my credit history.

While he was away to verify everything, I completely lost it and started bawling right there in the courthouse lobby. It was one of the most humiliating moments of my life.

The clerk was able to use my information and grant me the waiver. He obviously felt bad and gave me some tissues and tried to make me laugh.

I went into the next line to wait. That was somewhat less humiliating, although I was still in the same lobby with all the same people who had just witnessed me sobbing.

The clerk had me help him paper-punch all the documents, told me I was done and wished me good luck.

I think I did everything correctly. It will be interesting what the response from my husband and his attorney will be. Neither know I filed yet. I suppose they think they will have an automatic win tomorrow as planned.

Instead, they will get copies of my response.

This was a humbling day but it did give me strength to know that I can do this. I can fight back even if my husband and his family try to cripple me financially. These are my children. It is my duty and my right to protect them as their mother. It takes some research and perseverence to represent yourself, but I do believe that the truth always wins.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pathetic

Tonight I am reeling after a day full if reeling.

My husband filed for divorce in June 2009. I was served papers on in late January. We went to court in early February.

I received paperwork from his very expensive attorney (I can not afford representation) late last week. There was a small font portion of the documents that said if I did not respond within 30 days of being served, the case would automatically be won by him.

This was after picking up my daughter for him, as he was unable to do it.

I asked my husband about this and he said I had nothing to worry about. He said he called his attorney and she affirmed that I had already appeared in the case and did not need to do anything further.

Being that my husband has proven to be a habitual liar, I decided to go to the courthouse myself with my own document to respond.

I waited and waited in a second line after security check line. It was hot and I ended up taking my coat off. I felt like I was going to have a heart attack. My heart was beating faster and faster and the line seemed to never move.

After about 45-minutes of waiting, I finally got to a clerk and asked if my document would work. Her face fell. She told me no. She looked up my information and saw when I was served and when I was expected to respond and her jaw kept dropping.

She said that I did in fact need to appear or the case would be decided for as my husbands attorney had written it, which includes joint custody of our children. It also includes his delusional attempt of portraying his income, which will determine child support and spousal support. I started crying as I told her my husband is an addict and I could not let that happen.

She gave me the proper forms to file and a waiver form for the $300+ filing fee. I spent the afternoon filling it out and will spend the night collecting all the necessary documents after the children go to sleep to file my response properly tomorrow.

Thank God for intuition. I still have to say it hurts. After all I have suffered with my husband I was still gullible enough to believe him. I was still gullible enough to believe he wanted the best for me and the kids. I was still gullible enough to believe he wanted to work this out amicably.

I should not be surprised that this was the woman that my father-in-law hired however. And it will be a long time before I believe another word that comes out of my husband's mouth.

Judging

We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It's one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it's another to think that yours is the only path.

-Paul Coelho.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Heaven

A woman sang this at church this morning and I thought it was a beautiful song.

Heaven

Beyond the rules of religion
The cloth of conviction
Above all the competition
Where fact and fiction meet

There's No color lines or casts or classes
There is no fooling the masses
Whatever faith you practice
Whatever you believe

Heaven. Heaven.
What the hell is Heaven?
Is there a home for the homeless?
Is there hope for the hopeless?

Throw away your myth misconceptions
There ain't no walls around heaven
There are no codes you gotta know to get in
No minutemen or border patrol

You must lose all earthly possession
Leave behind your weapon
You cannot buy your salvation
There is no pot of gold

Heaven. Heaven.
What the hell is Heaven?
Is there a home for the homeless?
Is there hope for the hopeless?

Heaven ain't got no prisons
No government no business
No banks or politicians
No armies and No police

Castles and cathedrals crumble
Pyramids and pipelines tumble
The failure keeps you humble
Leads us closer to peace

Heaven. Heaven.
What the hell is Heaven?
Is there a home for the homeless?
Is there hope for the hopeless?
Is there is a home for the hungry?
Is there hope for the hopeless?


- Brett Dennen

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKbLR3MEjAg

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Gift


My husband came and picked up the kids about 2 hours ago. He was late, as usual, but I was glad for a little extra time with them. It is sad for me to see them go.

I took a nice walk. It's a beautiful day here. And then took a luxurious shower. I have struggled with letting my children go. But it occured to me this morning that this could be a gift to all of us.

I have not had free time like this since before I had children, nearly seven years ago. I love spending as much time as I can with my children, but there has been very little equality in my relationship and I have been given very little time to do things for myself. I have gotten used to that.

When we did have some extra money, we actually hired nannies to watch the kids. They were not spending that extra time with their dad. If I needed to do something, we paid someone money to watch our children. Looking back, I find that very sad.

Most of these nannies are no longer in our lives, with the exception of my sister, who watched my son the first 2 years of his life while I worked. And our dear A, who has become a very close friend. I'm glad the kids have this continuatity.

The other day, when I was pulling photos out to take to my son's school for a presentation, I asked him if he rememebered any of these other women. He did not. Even the photographs brought back no memories of them.

I am happy that my children will have this time with their dad. It did not come about the best or easiest way, but I do think it is important. I can not imagine not having the special times I had with my dad over the years. He was always taking us places, and I still carry on some of the same rituals with my children, like the park and the Blues Festival and the beach.

I saw this poem on Syd's blog about a month ago and I really liked it. If you have not checked it out, Syd writes a very good blog about his recovery in Al-Anon. It's one of the most centered recovery blogs I have come accross. (I'm just F.I.N.E. Recovery in Al-Anon).

In any case, this poem captures many of my feelings this morning, so I hope Syd won't mind if I reprint it here. :)


If you put your hands on this oar with me,
they will never harm another, and they will come to find
they hold everything you want.

If you put your hands on this oar with me, they would no longer
lift anything to your
mouth that might wound your precious land –
that sacred earth that is your body.

If you put your soul against this oar with me,
the power that made the universe will enter your sinew
from a source not outside your limbs, but from a holy realm
that lives in us.

Exuberant is existence, time a husk.
When the moment cracks open, ecstasy leaps out and devours space;
love goes mad with the blessings, like my words give.

Why lay yourself on the torturer’s rack of the past and the future?
The mind that tries to shape tomorrow beyond its capacities
will find no rest.

Be kind to yourself, dear – to our innocent follies.
Forget any sounds or touch you knew that did not help you dance.
You will come to see that all evolves us.


~ Rumi ~

Friday, February 19, 2010

Visit at the Donut Shop


I stopped into see some of my Lebanese friends with my daughter this morning at their donut shop. I didn't know who would be there exactly but I lucked out and saw 3 of my favorites. They gave us a huge box of donuts and we started talking and laughing. My favorite, Haj, who the patriarch of the family came in and immediately smiled. He told me that the last time I ran into him at Costco, he did not even recognize me. I had lost so much weight and was extremely thin (size 00 to be exact). He said he walked out the door and asked his daughter, who was that?

When she told him it was me he could not believe it.

He said, now you are back. I'm so happy.

He asked about my marriage and I told him I was divorcing. He said he had heard that and was sorry. He said my daughter was beautiful and he wished her good luck. He said in Lebanon when they see a beautiful young girl, they always wish her luck to marry a kind man.

He said not everyone is lucky like me in business and love. He began to speak of his wife who passed many years ago after a very bad stroke. He shared about sending her to Lebanon once for vacation while they were living in Africa. Israel invaded the south of Lebanon a few days after she arrived. Members of the Israeli Army came into their home and demanded all the gold and valuables. They took all her paperwork. It took 3 years before she was able to return to him.

I met him and his wife over 15 years ago. She was extremely disabled from stroke when I met her. She had to be fed, could not walk and could barely speak. The grace that her family took care of her with in that 10-year period before she died has always stayed with me. Her daughter-in-law would quietly wipe away her drooling when no one was looking. She had to be helped with every little thing in her day-to-day life. But I always remember that they treated her with dignity, respect and love. I never heard anyone in that family complain about their duties, even though I knew they were very hard duties to carry out day-to-day for all those years.

Even today after her death - nearly 6 years ago - he was still obviously deeply in love with his wife.

He then spoke of his daughters. He has 5.

He said all but one were lucky with their husbands because they asked his blessing first. The daughter that did not get his blessing married a very bad man who did not work and lived off of her. He told her that he did not believe she should marry him, but she decided she wanted to anyway. He told me about a recent fight they had where the husband called him and threatened to divorce his daughter. He told him please do. And began to laugh.

I told him next time, I will bring the man to him first for approval. We laughed again.

Haj got up to leave and gave me a giant hug. He told me, you are a very nice girl. You deserve a lot better. I love you.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

We Wear The Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes--
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be overwise
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but O great Christ, our cries
to thee from tortured souls arise
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask.


-Paul Lawrence Dunbar

Trying to Make Things Work


I am irritated this morning that my husband continues to ask me about trying to make things work. He does not seem to understand that he has done too much damage. He wants to continue to play the victim, when he has been the one to victimize me and the kids - continually.

He asked me again this morning after I did not respond to his message last night. I told him he had managed to strip any desire I had left to want to stay in the marriage. Let's just focus on the kids and try to get along.

For a long time, I have held on to this idea of being married and raising our kids together. But as my counselor always told me, I was holding onto a dream of how I wanted things to actually be and not the reality of how things are with my husband.

Our society puts so much emphasis on being a part of a relationship - especially when you have children. I think I have really bought into that. Single mothers are second class citizens in so many ways.

Mothers and wives also seem to be weary of a single attractive woman. As many of my male friends keep telling me, you just need to put on about 20 pounds, and then all the wives will feel comfortable around you. I am really not interested in being with anyone's husband. I am not really interested in being with any man.

I think it is sad that fear makes us do so many things. Tony Robbins says people will do more to avoid pain than to obtain pleasure.

I'd rather be a whole person than a half of a dysfunctional relationship.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Addiction: Episcopal Perspective

Cynthia Bourgeault replies:

A:It’s not really a question of “mind over matter” because the mind IS matter!

As recent neuroscience has demonstrated, every habit lays down its own neural pathway i.e., it carves its own rut track in the brain – and the inertia around these pathways is considerable. The disruption of ANY happy pathway brings with it considerable discomfort and resistance. So you’re quite right in lumping together habits and addictions; the difference between them is more one of degree than of kind. One can be addicted to coffee, alcohol, porridge for breakfast, endorphins, heroin, meditation, exercise, sex or God! The difference is only that the classic “chemical dependency addictions” add to our already full plate of cognitive and emotional distress and at the interruption of a habit, physiological distress as well.

Most of the moral and spiritual training of Western minds over the past two millennia has been couched around instilling “good habits” – or at least replacing unhealthy behavior patterns with healthy behavior patterns. But there has been a school of spiritual training in all the great traditions that claims that real spiritual maturity is the ability to be habit-free: to be able to bushwhack through consciousness without laying down ANY of those familiar but deadly ruttracks.

My own teacher Rafe belonged to this school of thought. On his prayer desk, he kept a quotation from the British spiritual teacher Maurice Nicoll: “Faith is a continual inner effort, a continual altering of the mind, of the habitual ways of thought, of the habitual ways of taking everything, of habitual reactions.” Rafe took that saying deeply to heart. From time to time, he would spontaneously uproot his established patterns and preferences in order to keep his spiritual life (as well as his mind) supple, and to experience that pure rush of freedom that comes from being able to sit in the chaos of a disrupted habit – like an anthill that’s just been kicked in – and transform the pain into the razor’s edge of pure consciousness.

To do this, however, is an advanced spiritual skill. It requires an ability to sit in the presence of powerful emotional currents – pain, grief, yearning, fear – and experience them as pure sensation rather than as part of the story we keep telling ourselves about who we are. This is an acquired skill, whose foundations are in meditation and conscious breathing.

Both habits and addictions, in my experience, are a kind of shorthand we resort to for getting through our lives because we lack the spiritual/energetic force to stay present to the field of our own “pure awareness.” Our habits are primarily the SYMPTOMS of our low level of Being, not the CAUSE of it. So my own preference is to work a little each day on increasing my tolerance for Being (or presence or pure awareness – they’re simply different ways of speaking about the same vitalized energy field of consciousness). Once that force of Being is strong enough within us, then dealing with habits/addictions is like taking off a raincoat once the sun is shining.

Cynthia Bourgeault

Cynthia Bourgeault is an Episcopal priest, writer and retreat leader. She is founding director of the Aspen Wisdom School in Colorado and principal visiting teacher for the Contemplative Society in Victoria, BC, Canada

Proverbs

Every night, the kids and I enjoy reading from different books, poems and religious texts. Usually I read mostly from the Qu'ran but last night I pulled out my Bible and started reading Proverbs with them. I forgot how good the book was....

Proverbs 26
1 Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,
honor is not fitting for a fool.

2 Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow,
an undeserved curse does not come to rest.

3 A whip for the horse, a halter for the donkey,
and a rod for the backs of fools!

4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you will be like him yourself.

5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes.

6 Like cutting off one's feet or drinking violence
is the sending of a message by the hand of a fool.

7 Like a lame man's legs that hang limp
is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.

8 Like tying a stone in a sling
is the giving of honor to a fool.

9 Like a thornbush in a drunkard's hand
is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.

10 Like an archer who wounds at random
is he who hires a fool or any passer-by.

11 As a dog returns to its vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly.


12 Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.

20 Without wood a fire goes out;
without gossip a quarrel dies down.

21 As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.

22 The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
they go down to a man's inmost parts.

23 Like a coating of glaze [a] over earthenware
are fervent lips with an evil heart.

24 A malicious man disguises himself with his lips,
but in his heart he harbors deceit.

25 Though his speech is charming, do not believe him,
for seven abominations fill his heart.

26 His malice may be concealed by deception,
but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.

27 If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it;
if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him.

28 A lying tongue hates those it hurts,
and a flattering mouth works ruin.

Proverbs 27

1 Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring forth.

2 Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
someone else, and not your own lips.

3 Stone is heavy and sand a burden,
but provocation by a fool is heavier than both.

4 Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming,
but who can stand before jealousy?

5 Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.

6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.

7 He who is full loathes honey,
but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.

8 Like a bird that strays from its nest
is a man who strays from his home
.

9 Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,
and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel.

10 Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father,
and do not go to your brother's house when disaster strikes you—
better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.

11 Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart;
then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt.

12 The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and suffer for it.

13 Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger;
hold it in pledge if he does it for a wayward woman.

14 If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning,
it will be taken as a curse.

15 A quarrelsome wife is like
a constant dripping on a rainy day;

16 restraining her is like restraining the wind
or grasping oil with the hand.

17 As iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another.

18 He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit,
and he who looks after his master will be honored.

19 As water reflects a face,
so a man's heart reflects the man.

20 Death and Destruction [a] are never satisfied,
and neither are the eyes of man.

21 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
but man is tested by the praise he receives.

22 Though you grind a fool in a mortar,
grinding him like grain with a pestle,
you will not remove his folly from him.

23 Be sure you know the condition of your flocks,
give careful attention to your herds;


24 for riches do not endure forever,
and a crown is not secure for all generations
.


Proverbs 28

1 The wicked man flees though no one pursues,
but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

2 When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers,
but a man of understanding and knowledge maintains order.

3 A ruler [a] who oppresses the poor
is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.

4 Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
but those who keep the law resist them.

5 Evil men do not understand justice,
but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.


6 Better a poor man whose walk is blameless
than a rich man whose ways are perverse.


7 He who keeps the law is a discerning son,
but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.


8 He who increases his wealth by exorbitant interest
amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.

9 If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law,
even his prayers are detestable.

10 He who leads the upright along an evil path
will fall into his own trap,
but the blameless will receive a good inheritance.


11 A rich man may be wise in his own eyes,
but a poor man who has discernment sees through him.


12 When the righteous triumph, there is great elation;
but when the wicked rise to power, men go into hiding.

13 He who conceals his sins does not prosper,
but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.


14 Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD,
but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.

15 Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
is a wicked man ruling over a helpless people.

16 A tyrannical ruler lacks judgment,
but he who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long life.

17 A man tormented by the guilt of murder
will be a fugitive till death;
let no one support him.

18 He whose walk is blameless is kept safe,
but he whose ways are perverse will suddenly fall.

19 He who works his land will have abundant food,
but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.

20 A faithful man will be richly blessed,
but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.

21 To show partiality is not good—
yet a man will do wrong for a piece of bread.

22 A stingy man is eager to get rich
and is unaware that poverty awaits him.

23 He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor
than he who has a flattering tongue.

24 He who robs his father or mother
and says, "It's not wrong"—
he is partner to him who destroys.


25 A greedy man stirs up dissension,
but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.

26 He who trusts in himself is a fool,
but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.

27 He who gives to the poor will lack nothing,
but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.


28 When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding;
but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.

Addiction: Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra replies:

A:Addiction Is a Mystique and a Mystery
Human beings become addicted because we are complex. Addictions are like a jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces are on the table but no one quite knows what the whole picture should be. Here are the main pieces:

1. The addictive substance or behavior
2. Brain chemistry
3. Social pressure for and against addiction
4. A vulnerable psyche
5. The X factor

It’s important to understand all five elements, because leaving anyone out leads to false hope and tragically, temporary cures (or no cure at all). If you have a family member who’s an addict, don’t form an opinion until you have looked at every piece of the puzzle. You don’t want to fall into the trap of blame and shame, which is always waiting when addiction starts creating intense stress in a relationship.

The addictive substance or behavior: This piece of the puzzle has always grabbed the headlines. A hundred years ago it was “demon” rum and whiskey. In the fifties, the demon became heroin, now it’s crack. In reality, no substance is a demon. The ability of a drug to induce pleasure isn’t an evil. There must be another element, or a number of them, to turn any substance addictive. Millions of people try cocaine, heroin, LSD and marijuana and then walk away. The ones who can’t walk away are different, and it’s that difference we must isolate and heal. The same goes for addictive behavior such as overeating or craving power or the need to control.

Brain chemistry. Drugs change the brain by affecting receptors in your brain cells that exist for pleasure and the cessation of pain. If you take any substance long enough, the brain adapts by altering its receptors, and then the trouble begins. The burned-out addict is actually a burned-out brain. When pleasure receptors are overloaded, then they no longer transmit signals of pleasure. Instead, the addict finds himself fending off pain. This becomes the chief reason for getting high, and it marks a far more desperate phase of addiction. When your whole purpose in life is not to feel agony, existence becomes hollow and meaningless.

Social pressure. Although we all have an image in our minds of the secretive addict shooting up or drinking alone, society always plays a part. Cocktail parties are social events that permit people to escape social rules. They are temporary vacations from inhibition. They are also group bonding sessions, as is passing a joint. Social pressure is complicated. It can work to encourage belonging, but it can also throw you out of the group and make you an outcast. Addicts experience both sides. Before they are labeled addicts and shunned by society, they went through an early phase of trying to belong. The net result is a deep confusion about where they stand with family and friends.

Vulnerable psyche. Addicts aren’t weaker than other people, nor are they morally deficient, irrational, stupid or undisciplined. All those labels are used by outsiders who want to judge against the addict. If you discard moral self-righteousness, the reality is that addiction preys upon some kind of psychological wound. It seems to cure the wound at first. The first high is often described by addicts as a kind of miracle cure or religious euphoria. Their reaction is extreme because at a deeper level they are seekers of healing. A hidden trauma or unconscious need has been searching for a cure. It quickly becomes obvious, however, that addiction mimics a cure – it is actually only a distraction or an empty escape. What the addict really wants – a sense of meaning, a grip on reality, a self that doesn’t feel impaired – still hasn’t been found.

The X factor. Having figured out the first four pieces of the puzzle, a great deal of good can be done. Addicts can be brought to healing and self-knowledge. They can be weaned off substances and their brains (slowly) returned to a more balanced chemical state. Yet there remains the X factor. Call it a predisposition, karma, the unconscious or a perverse urge to self-destruction. For some addicts, the journey of addiction is existential. They want to experience a kind of “left hand path,” to pick up a term from Indian spirituality. Wrestling with the devil tempts them into a private melodrama of the soul. The lure of temptation is seductive to everyone, not just addicts. Ultimately we want to come through to the other side. The point isn’t self-destruction (except in some rare cases), but finding safety and a better reason to be alive.

Added up together, these five pieces give us understanding about what creates addicts. They also explain why we are such an addicted society. As the result of more leisure, money and the absence of old moral strictures, along with a craving for distraction, modern America is an addict’s paradise. The term is used ironically – in which we are all free to define our own existence. In other words, we are free to explore human complexity. This isn’t to make light of addicts. They can cause enormous harm to themselves and others (always remembering that the greatest harm by far isn’t caused by exotic or illegal substances but by alcohol).

It turns out that there will never be one picture of addiction, even when all the pieces are on the table. Each addict is unique. The pieces fit together differently from one person to another, and in the end, the X factor counts for a lot. As long as addiction enjoys a mystique that is at once forbidden, criminal, tempting and scary, no one will discover a rational solution. Too much of our irrational side comes into play. Hard as it may be, coming to terms with any addiction means coming to terms with the complexity of a life journey, with all of its dark passages and hidden motivations.

Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra is President of the Alliance for New Humanity (www.deepakchopra.com and www.anhglobal.org). Deepak Chopra’s new book, Jesus: A Story of Enlightenment is available at Amazon.com.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Goodbye Pat


My counselor passed away Saturday night. I had known it was coming for a while so I feel at peace with it. She was a tremendous force in my life. I began seeing her early on in my relationship with my husband. Once I realized I was pregnant with my son, I went into turbo-charge in my sessions. I really wanted to be the best possible parent I could be and I knew to do that I had things I needed to deal with first. I really credit her for the mom I am today.

The other really powerful lesson I learned from her was rearding my sisters. I took my youngest sister in with me about 5 years ago because we weren't relating the way I wanted to. Pat had a way of calling people on their shit and she did that with me then. She told me I was being unfair to compare this sister to the others and make assumptions and demands on her based on my relationships with the other two. She reminded me that she was a different person. She was so right.

The following is a poem she gave me about 8 years ago. It has always been special to me.

After A While

After a while you learn
the subtle difference between
holding a hand and chaining a soul

and you learn
that love doesn't mean leaning
and company doesn't always mean security.

And you begin to learn
that kisses aren't contracts
and presents aren't promises

and you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes ahead
with the grace of woman, not the grief of a child

and you learn
to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow's ground is
too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down
in mid-flight.

After a while you learn
that even sunshine burns
if you get too much

so you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure
you really are strong
you really do have worth

and you learn
and you learn
with every goodbye, you learn...

Addiction: Psychological Perspective

Dr. Karen Binder-Brynes replies:

A:Over the years as a psychologist, I have treated countless patients who have suffered from one form or another of “addiction.” Whether it was the woman whose whole body was marked with needle marks from her secret heroin addiction, the young girl addicted to binging and purging or the good-looking athlete, wasting hours of his days with video porn...all suffered terribly from something that has most likely plagued humankind from the beginning of time – addictive behavior.

Addiction, in my view, has two basic elements. These include the tolerance and withdrawal phenomenon. Tolerance basically means that over time, more and more of the addictive behavior or substance is needed to achieve the desired effect. Withdrawal essentially means that the individual has a very painful physical and/or emotional reaction when the substance or behavior is ceased. Addiction is probably one of the most costly and serious problems facing our culture today. If each of us stops to reflect, we can probably all come up with at least one negative addiction we have or have had in our lives that has caused pain and suffering.

There is much controversy in the medical and psychology worlds in terms of what the exact nature of addiction is. I tend to gravitate toward a multi-leveled, biopsychosocial model as a theorem for explaining addiction. Although historically addictions were usually regarded in terms of psychoactive substances, such as drugs, that when ingested caused chemical alterations in the brain, the current thinking has broadened to include other compulsive behaviors such as pathological gambling, shopping, eating, etc. In our current lives, even “working” can be addictive. In fact, so commonplace are addictions, that we have adopted the terminology “oholic” for many behaviors, e.g., alcoholic, shopaholic, workaholic and so on.

Without getting too technical, it is now accepted that the human brain, like many animal brains, is organized to prefer one outcome over another. In essence, “all sentient beings have developed in such a manner, through natural selection, that pleasurable sensations serve as their habitual guides” (Darwin, 1958:89). Basically what this means is that most addictions can be traced to an activation of the brain’s pleasure and reward systems. What I am saying is that humans and other animals will seek to find pleasure and for the most part, avoid pain at all costs. This makes intuitive sense as well as being a biological reality. Now the question becomes whether or not one’s individual will can ignore, overcome or avoid the temptations of those habits, which ultimately turn from pleasurable and rewarding to destructive and often life-shattering addictions.

Why some people become more prone to addictions than others is a matter of great debate. The arguments range from a strict “disease” model suggesting a biochemistry of addiction, perhaps with genetic basis, to a “choice” model (Szasz, 1973) suggesting that the addict is a person who chooses a taboo substance or behavior to a low-risk lifestyle. Regardless of the causes, addictions can be costly and cause tremendous suffering for not only the “enslaved” person but for their families, friends and society in general. If you or someone you know is addicted to substances or destructive behaviors, it is never too late to get treatment. Denial and shame are often deterrents to seeking assistance. Never lose hope that you or a loved one can get help and beat an addiction. People can make miraculous recoveries from the powerful grip of addiction. I have seen it!

Dr. Karen Binder-Brynes

Dr. Karen Binder-Brynes is a leading psychologist with a private practice in New York City for the past 15 years. See her website, drkarennyc.com, for more information.

A Love Song

My dad and his wife sent this to me on Valentines Day and it is really fantastic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nh7D2g5v-Sg

Monday, February 15, 2010

Addiction: Zen Perspective

Zen Master Dennis Genpo Merzel replies:

A:I think it’s important to first understand the root cause of all our addictions. Our major addiction is to the self and all that we consider to be the self, in other words, to my body, my mind, my ego, to my beliefs, concepts and opinions, and to my desires, cravings and attachments. Most of our addictions are to avoid the truth that “I” does not exist as a separate entity, and we use our drugs of choice to help the “self” feel better temporarily. To realize “no-self” is to face true emptiness or the void that we are always trying so desperately to fill.

Our addiction to the concept of self is the most deeply ingrained and the hardest to overcome. To do so we have to begin by seeing into the truth that there really is no self. The self is just a concept, an agreed-upon notion, much like that of a corporation. Over a period of 80 to 100 years, the CEO and all the employees will have changed several times. The product and even the name of the company may also have changed. So what is the company? In fact, there is no company, other than a legal agreement that it exists and persists over time as the same company. The self is just like this. We know that before there was a concept of self, there was no such thing called the self. We all agree when a baby is born that this baby is a self and has a self. But the baby doesn’t have a concept of self. We build that concept up over time, and the more time and energy we invest in the concept of self, the more attached, or addicted, we become to the notion that “I” exists as a separate, solid and permanent entity. Moment by moment, day by day, year by year, the more we have invested in this notion, the harder it is to free ourselves from the addiction of self. Once we have truly realized that there is no self, the easier it is to drop our addictions.

From this notion of self comes all our suffering. When we realize there is no self, there is no suffering, for there is no one to suffer. However, this is not the end of what is possible to realize. Imagine a triangle with “the self” at one end of the base, and “the no-self” at the opposite end of the base. Then envision moving to the apex of this triangle and embrace the two aspects of the one reality: the relative, the self; and the absolute, the no-self. And since the relative and the absolute are one in reality, just two opposite ends of the same triangle, we realize that the no-self is the self.

At this point, we are totally free to choose to be a human being. We can choose our addictions wisely. I choose to have my cup of coffee in the morning. I choose to avoid harmful substances or behaviors. I choose to be attached to my family, friends and loved ones. I choose to be attached to helping all beings awaken – and it too is an addiction!

Zen Master Dennis Genpo Merzel

Zen Master Dennis Genpo Merzel is the founder of Big Mind Big Heart – A Western Zen Approach to Life and head of Kanzeon Zen International. His latest book is Big Mind, Big Heart: Finding Your Way. For more on Genpo Roshi’s work, visit www.bigmind.org

Addiction: Kabbalah Perspective

Michael Berg replies:

A:I Want More

When looking through the lens of Kabbalah, addiction is seen as a positive door to greater personal transformation, provided we understand these urges are coming from the soul, not the body. In a way, it is the deepest, truest part of ourselves saying, “I am not satisfied.”

Kabbalah teaches that we are in this world to achieve lasting and true fulfillment. However, our wires often get crossed and we think this fulfillment can come from physicality. This is never the case. The material world always leaves us wanting more. There is a saying, “If today I have one then tomorrow I want two, and if today I have 100, then tomorrow I will want 200.”

The addiction battles many of us fight are here to push us toward finding a deeper fulfillment, which comes from connecting to the real things in life: love, compassion, sharing and revealing our true essence.

Addiction is simply a misguided yearning of the soul. What happens with alcohol, drugs, sex and money is that they are short-term fixes for this deeper desire. Sure, in the moment, they give us a certain amount of fulfillment, but as we know it never lasts.

Our soul has this massive thirst, and we are trying to quench it with a teaspoon.

Therefore, there are three essential things we can do to begin the process of leaving addictive behavior behind:

1. Realize these yearnings are coming from a true place (our soul) telling us we need to do more, and we can do and be more.

2. Begin a process of both realizing and connecting to our true essence by focusing, meditating and becoming more conscious of our thoughts, behaviors and true potential.

3. Do actions that take us out of selfish behavior. Become a more giving person. This helps us be less busy with ourselves.

Being addicted doesn’t make us bad, weak or hopeless. Just the opposite. It means we have a unique soul that wants more. We aren’t satisfied with the status quo. We have a burning desire to connect to something bigger than ourselves. And as we come to understand the source of our desires, and stop letting our addictions distract us from our true essence, we can find a lasting, uninterrupted level of fulfillment.

Michael Berg

Michael Berg is co-director of the Kabbalah Centre™.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Addiction: Sufi Perspective

Shaikh Kabir Helmsinki responds:

A:I’m sure there are addiction counselors who could share their knowledge and give excellent answers to these questions at the psycho-physical level. In the end, however, most addiction counselors themselves would acknowledge that the spiritual level is where these questions will be most adequately answered.

First of all, let’s be compassionate with ourselves and toward people who try to deal with the pain of life through addictions. These are sometimes the most sensitive people among us. What we experience as the pain of life is really a call to the transcendent level of human experience. Addictions are both misguided attempts at self-transcendence and ways to numb ourselves. Intoxication shuts down parts of the mind, frees us of inhibitions and opens us up (sometimes). Sexual addiction brings a rush of emotion and sensation. Other less dangerous addictions are still just numbing dead ends in the long run.

Meditation, and any true spiritual practices, such as meditation, singing/chanting or body-prayer, may also be repetitive activities, but they point us toward a dimension of experience that is not a deadend of physical dependency, but, rather, an infinite opening to an ever-changing reality. This connection with the transcendent level of experience is not an abstract aloofness. The experience of the sacred and holy leads us back to life. It can be integrated with the immanent experience of our daily life, livelihood and relationships. We need to bring the transcendent, the holy, the sacred into our lives. But it is in the nature of addiction to also be in denial, to justify our futile, repetitive, self-defeating ways.

Transformation becomes possible when the soul in its state of addiction can say: “I don’t want to feel this way, live this way or be this way. Help me...”

The Infinite understands all languages and answers, and in some way, all calls.

Have you noticed the intensification of time lately? There’s so much pain and confusion out there. At the same time, the Infinite is beckoning, inviting with an unprecedented insistence.

Kabir Helminski

Kabir Helminski is Shaikh of the Mevlevi Order, Co-director of The Threshold Society (sufism.org).

Perspectives on Addiction

I found these different perspectives on Addiction and I thought they were very interesting, so I will be posting all of them in time.

Addiction is defined as “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, such as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.” What makes so many of us prone to addiction in its various forms? What causes us to be open to this enslavement? And how do we begin to undo it?

-Goop, Nourish the Inner Aspect

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Liars

"If one understands the world from the standpoint of the liar, then the purposeless lie has a purpose. By lying, the individual builds up his opinion of himself as special, as unique, as having power over others because he can pull the wool over their eyes and make fools of the...m. Lying becomes a way of life for several reasons. One is that the liar has a great deal to conceal so he does not get into trouble. Then, once caught, he lies to find a way out. Third, even in seemingly trivial matters, he is determined to gain the upper hand. He can look you in the eye and lead you to believe you are hearing the truth."

- Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D.

http://members.cox.net/samenow/conceptjuly_09.html
See More

Friday, February 12, 2010

PHENOMENAL WOMAN

This poem was recited for me on my birthday by one of my dear friends. I had not heard it in some time and I think it is something that all women can appreciate.


PHENOMENAL WOMAN

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing of my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can't see.
I say
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
The palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

- Maya Angelou

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Verbally Abusive Relationship


My counselor gave me this book nearly 8 years ago, when I first began seeing her at the beginning of my relationship with my husband.

I only recently started reading it. I sure wish I would have read it earlier. I suppose I was not ready for it. It was a quick read for me - I absorbed it and felt affirmed by the answers I found within the book.

I never would have put the initial signs together and thought that I was being verbally abused. What I realized after reading this book half-way is that verbal abuse usually starts gradual and it is very covert.

It was easy to acknowledge that calling me a CUNT and a BITCH was verbal abuse. There are a lot of things I can look back on and recognize as sure signs of verbal abuse. But what this book explains is all the little things that led up to that, which I suppose my counselor saw and I was blinded to.

"A child's name calling ("You poo poo!") and an adult's name calling ("You bitch!") both originate witin the same level of emotional development. The child hasn't had time to mature, so we are not disturbed by his name calling. The adult who is still name calling not only is disturbing but also be dangerous." (137)

The book also explains how his reality is completely different than mine, which actually helps a lot.

A favorite book of mine is The Four Agreements. One of the agreements is to "Not take anything personally." Throughout reading this book, I kept thinking about that agreement over and over again. I have taken the abuse by my husband and his family very personally. But this is a generational, family issue with them. This book really explained the dynamics in his family (and mine) that allowed his happen and continue.

"Now, let us look at the origins of the abuser's behavior. The typical abuser also grew up in Reality 1, where Power Over and dominance prevailed, and hence so did verbal abuse. Also, as with the case of the partner, many of his feelings were neither validated nor accepted. However, unlike the partner, he had no compassionate witness to his experience. Without a compassionate witness, he could conclude only that nothing was wrong. If nothing was wrong at all, then all his painful feelings must not exist. Automatically he stopped feeling his painful feelings. He closed them off from awareness as one would close a door. And he did not know what he suffered. In this way he closed the door on a part of himself." (171)

"Without the knowledge of his feelings - of what he had suffered - he could not experience empathy and compassion and so could not cross the threshold into Reality II. This Reality was now behind closed doors.

Since the abuser feels justified in his behavior and seems to have no comprehension of its effects, we can only assume that he is acting out his repressed feelings and is, therefore, acting compulsively. Abusers seek Power Over because they feel helpless. The helpless, painful feelings of childhood that "must not exist" and "must not be felt" do exist and, if not felt, are acted out.

A long time ago in the abuser's childhood, he closed the door on these feelings. To survive in childhood he could do no less. His feeling self, nonetheless, lived on behind closed doors.

The longer the child within is unrecognized, the more enraged it becomes, and consequently, the more rage the abuser acts out. Alice Miller tells us

As long as this child within us is not allowed to become aware of what happened to him or her, part of his or her emotional life will remain frozen, and sensitivity to the humiliations of childhood will therefore be dulled. All appeals to love, solidarity, and compassion will be useless if this crucial prerequisite of sympathy and understanding is missing. (Alice Miller, For your Own Good, 1983, p xv.)

Appeals to the abuser's compassion are fruitless, because the abuser is not empathetic." (172)

"The confirmed abuser can define himself and the interpersonal reality so convincingly that the partner may accept his definitions. Such acceptance and trust increase her confusion...to most people, he's Mr. Nice Guy."...The abuser's loss of his feeling self and consequent feelings of powerlessness usually compel him to increasing self-aggrandizement and correspondingly greater disparagement of his partner. However, he cannot, by abuse, bring his stifled feeling self to life. Since he mistakes excitement for aliveness and triumph for strength, he remains in constant need of bolstering his ideal image. Usually, verbal abusers who become physically abusive do not see themselves as abusive, even when they are arrested. The abuser's denial arises out of the conflict between who he thinks he is and his compulsion to act abusively. The denial is a defense against the shattering of his ideal image and an impending identity crisis. His very identity would be at stake if he were to admit to what he was doing. This is why verbal abusers do not sincerely apologize." (174)

"As time passes, the typical abuser is more and more unwilling to face himself and the pain of his feelings. When they do surface, their source, to him, is his partner. This is projection. Through this projection, he will accuse his partner of all that he does, and blame her for all the abuse that she suffers. She then becomes as he once was, wounded and without a witness to her wounding." (175)

The last thing I want to touch on is that she also states something that really resonates with me. While my husband and I attended the Betty Ford marriage workshop, we were told that we both played a 50% role in the blame for the relationship. My husband likes to pull this out during an arguement, but I have never believed this. Evans explains that for a therapist to even suggest this to someone who has experienced verbal abuse, is to abuse them over again.

After reading this book, I really feel that the majority of problems between both me and my husband and me and my father-in-law revolve around verbal abuse. Alcoholism and addiction seem to be a secondary issue.

Feeling Grateful

I am feeling very grateful today. This has been a hard couple of years but I feel like I am finally moving in the right direction.

I looked through some of the pictures on our family blog from years back. What struck me most was all the happiness my children, my friends and my family have brought me. I was struck by these lines from the verse on Love in The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. This entire poem was read at our wedding.

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.


Even though my marriage was not a "success", I do feel that I did this, and the love I received back was ten-fold from most of the people in my life.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Kids' Sweet Tooth Linked to Alcoholism, Depression


A new study finds that children are more likely to have an intense sweet tooth if they have a family history of alcoholism, or if they've suffered from depression themselves.

The research was conducted by scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, and published online in the journal Addiction.

Sugary foods and alcohol trigger many of the same reward circuits in the brain, so scientists in this case decided to test the sweet tooth of children with a family history of alcohol dependence. They also hypothesized that children who suffer from depression might be more likely to crave sweets, because they make them feel better.

The study involved 300 children between the ages of 5 and 12. About half of them had a family history of alcoholism, defined as having a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle diagnosed with alcohol dependence. About a quarter of the children were classified as showing depressive symptoms.

Researchers gave the children five different sweetened water samples, with varying levels of sugar saturation, and asked them which one they liked best. The children who preferred the sweetest sample were also the ones who had both a family history of alcoholism, as well as symptoms of depression.

The findings suggest that a preference for sweets might not be solely about taste buds, but instead could have to do with the child's chemical makeup and family history.

"We know that sweet taste is rewarding to all kids and makes them feel good," the study's lead author, Julie Mennella, said in a news release from Monell, where she works as a developmental psychobiologist. "In addition, certain groups of children may be especially attracted to intense sweetness due to their underlying biology."

Previous studies have illustrated a link between adult alcoholism and a sweet tooth. But other research has also shown that children's preference for sweet drinks coincides with growth spurts, rather than any underlying family biology.

For the 37 children in this study who had both the alcoholism and depression factors, the level of sweetness they most preferred was a solution with 24 percent sugar – the equivalent of about 14 teaspoons of sugar dissolved in a cup of water. That's more than twice the level of sweetness in a typical can of cola.

It was also a third more intense than the sweetness level preferred by the other children without the same family history, which was an 18 percent solution.

The study is careful to note that children with a sweet tooth won't necessarily grow up to become alcoholics or suffer debilitating depression. "At this point, we don't know whether this higher 'bliss point' for sweets is a marker for later alcohol use," Mennella said.

She and her colleagues also measured the ability of sweets to mitigate pain, by timing how long the children could keep their hand submerged in a tub of cold water while holding a sugary substance in their mouth. The sweets worked best for the non-depressed children, who kept their hands in the cold water for 36 percent longer.

"It may be that even higher levels of sweetness are needed to make depressed children feel better," Mennella said.

An outside expert at the U.K.'s Cardiff University, professor Tim Jacob, told the BBC the Monell study's findings were interesting, but that it's tough to make firm conclusions from one study alone. The results could reveal something about children's brain chemistry, but also might be explained by behavior and upbringing, he said.

"While it is true that sweet things activate reward circuits in the brain, the problem is that sweets and sugar are addictive, because the activation of these reward circuits causes opioid release, and with time more is needed to achieve the same effect," Jacob said. "But the taste difference may be explained by differences like parental control over sweet consumption."

The Monell research received funding from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

-Lauren Frayer

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Children and Drugs

I talked to an old friend at a business lunch today about finding cocaine in my home and my father-in-law's response. His partner responded with a story about his cousin, who became a meth addict. She overdosed in her home while alone with her 2-year-old daughter. It was 2 days before someone finally realized something was wrong. They found her in pretty bad condition, with her dead mother on the bathroom floor.

The partner told me that he was really glad I had called the police and that he believed I had made the right decision. He was also the father of a 3 and 6-year-old and he said he would do the same thing, even if it were his wife.

Here is the poem I wrote for my father-in-law. He responded by telling me I was stupid.


If my daughter-in-law called me to tell me my son was using cocaine
I would listen to her
Embrace her
Ask how I could help
Empathize
Be there
Immediately
Fly out on the next flight if I had to
(Even in the middle of the night.)
I would hug my son until he started sobbing-
He would know that I love him-
He would know it, damn it.
I would just hold him-
Until he felt it-
Until he told the truth.
Even if it took all night
Even if it took all week
Even if it took the rest of my life
To make up for what I hadn't done.

If my daughter-in-law called me, sobbing, shaking, desperate;
I wouldn't make her feel like a nobody.
I would tell her
I'm sorry
I'm sorry
I am sorry.

Cheating

You don't expect to ever have to worry about AIDS or STD's when you get married. At least I didn't. Maybe I was naive. I've since heard statistics that 80% of men cheat and 65% of women do (which is likely under-reported).

However, I think I felt like my husband was still in the process of making amends to me and never would go there.

I remember a friend of mine who went through a very similar story to mine, with an alcoholic husband and 4 children. After getting through recovery with him, she then found out her husband was cheating on her. My husband said at the time he thought that was horrible.

I have known for some time that my husband cheated on my during our marriage. I thought it was only once and with one woman. I assumed he would have at least given me the courtesy of using a condom, but he did not.

I am done pretending that it wasn't as bad or that he did it while we were separated. I know that was not the case. I am done letting my husband think he has gotten away with something or trying to make him feel better about the situation.

One of the most humiliating experiences of my life was having to go in to my doctor and ask for an AIDS test. After asking me why and talking to him about the cocaine in the home, he asked me if my husband was sleeping with prostitutes. He suggested I get fully tested for everything. Luckily, nothing came up but, it scared the hell out of me. And I have yet to get even an acknowledgement from my husband, yet alone an apology.

It is just excuses, excuses, excuses.

Yesterday, my husband asked me when the last time I tried to make him feel good was. I gave him 2 recent examples. The first was when I tried to make him feel better about our daughter not wanting to go with him. The second was late last week when I made tostados. I know he likes them and I let him take all the leftovers, despite the fact that we barely have money for groceries right now.

He was not able to acknowledge either thing. I told him I have always been nice to him and done things to make him feel better, but he has taken me for granted.

I told him it never mattered how nice I was to you - you still ended up with your dick inside someone else - or multiple someone else's.

He started giving me excuses. He said I left him. That I had left him a long time ago.

I told him to stop lying. I told him I knew that he had done this during the time we were living together. He seems to forget that I found proof of a $500+ hotel bill. I told him that I knew the truth, and have always known it.

My husband seems to think that all his behaviors have some justification. But there is no justification for cheating on your wife with 3 women without condoms. He feels that I didn't take care of him. Even if that were true, it does not make it right.

I seem to remember his mother dying, and that was an excuse to stop drinking again. But I was there for him then. I ran out of the vet's office the second he called, mid-appointment and rushed out to be with him. I called his dad and said I was worried that this would cause him to relapse. I did everything in my power to make sure he had adequate support.

But in the end, it was his choice to drink again. It was his choice to be with other women. He never told me then that he felt neglected. It is only now, that everything is out that he tries to blame me for his actions.

And it's not going to fly. I will not take responsiblity for his actions. He needs to take responsiblity for himself. He can not blame me, he can not blame his parents, he can not blame his friends. He needs to look at himself.

I am done trying to make him feel better. If anyone should be making anyone else feel better it should be my husband, trying to fix the damage he has caused to me and our children.

Alvin and the Chipmunks


I have been feeling unbearably sad lately. My daughter absolutely loves to sing and really likes upbeat songs. My son recently got an Alvin and the Chipmunks CD filled with what I'd mostly call hip-hop sung by the Chipmunks. One of their favorites is "Shake your Groove Thing". This morning, we listened to that several times with my daughter singing and bopping along at with all she had. I finally suggested that we try another song - and this one seemed perfect. It's hard to feel too sad listening to the Chipmunks singing - especially this song.


Three Little Birds
"Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right.
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!"

Rise up this mornin',
Smiled with the risin' sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin', ("This is my message to you-ou-ou:")

Singin': "Don't worry 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."
Singin': "Don't worry (don't worry) 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!"

Rise up this mornin',
Smiled with the risin' sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin', "This is my message to you-ou-ou:"

Singin': "Don't worry about a thing, worry about a thing, oh!
Every little thing gonna be all right. Don't worry!"
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing" - I won't worry!
"'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."

Singin': "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right" - I won't worry!
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing, oh no!
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!

-Bob Marley

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCQFMI9UMAE

Conditioning and the Partner

"A scientist conducted an experiment. She put frog number one into a pan of very hot water. The frog jumped right out. Then she placed frog number two in a pan of cool water. This frog didn't jump out. Very gradually, the scientist raised the temperature of teh water. The frog gradually adapted until it boiled to death."

- Anonymous

Monday, February 8, 2010

By Any Means Necessary

Well, so far I'd call my husband's visitations disastrous, at least with my daughter.

She is not used to spending so much time alone with him. She's still adjusting to being at school 6-7 hours a day. I don't know why my husband can't understand how she might feel as a 3-year-old little girl. It seems that everything is always about him.

It sounded as if everyone had fun on Saturday. But when she came back though, she was clearly out of sorts. She threw a huge temper tantrum at my dads. She kept saying, I don't want to be with my dad. I just want to be with you mommy.

I called my husband later that night and explained that she was having a hard time and that maybe we should ease into the visits, at least with her. I really felt like I did this in a very kind way that made it clear I was trying to think of our daughter first.

He seemed to accept that then, but the following morning after church, we got into a huge argument.

My daughter kept saying she didn't want to go and I tried to ease the situation for him by downplaying her words. (In retrospect, I won't do that again - it's disabling her feelings.)

They were all going to go to lunch together, but my daughter wanted to stay with me. She wanted me to take her out to lunch. I told her I could not afford that. My husband blew up at me for saying that in front of her.

What is wrong with the truth? I can't afford it. There was no judgement in my tone. I simply said I could not afford it. I can't.

She was by then strapped into her car seat in my car and he started screaming and yelling in the church parking lot and saying he was going to take her anyway and she was just going to have to get used to being with him.

I quietly told him he was not helping her. I reminded him that this wasn't about him, it was about her.

He ended up letting me take her after making a big scene and threatening me about how things were going to be.

I drove off shaking my head, driving past half the church members who were still in the parking lot.

He continued to text me. I ignored him.

We stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few items. He called. I answered, thinking it might be something about my son. My husband just continued to rant and rave about everything. I told him that I was in the grocery store and I could not talk. He continued on. I hung up the phone.

He brought back my son around 3pm. There was more unpleasantness. That has continued on through today.

I just want peace, for myself and for my children.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Until you do right by me...


He laugh. Who you think you is? He say. You can’t curse nobody. Look at you. You black, you poor, you ugly, you a woman. Goddam, he say, you nothing at all.

Until you do right by me, I say, everything you even dream about will fail. I give it to him straight, just like it come to me. And it seem to come to me from the trees.

Whoever heard of such a thing, say Mr.___. I probably didn’t whup your ass enough.

Every lick you hit me you will suffer twice, I say. Then I say, You better stop talking because all I’m telling you ain’t coming just from me. Look like when I open my mouth the air rush in and shape words.

Shit, he say. I should have lock you up. Just let you out to work.

The jail you plan for me is the one in which you will rot, I say.

Shug come over to where us talking. She take one look at my face and say Celie! Then she turn to Mr.___. Stop Albert, she say. Don’t say no more. You just going to make it harder on yourself.

I’ll fix her wagon! Say Mr.____, and spring toward me.

A dust devil flew up on the porch between us, fill my mouth with dirt. The dirt say, Anything you do to me, already done to you.

Then I feel Shug shake me. Celie, she say. And I come to myself.

I’m poor, I’m black, I may be ugly and can’t cook, a voice say to everything listening. But I’m here.


-Alice Walker, The Color Purple (p.176)

New Day

Yesterday was a bad day all around. My dad threw a late birthday party for me so my sister could make it down from Seattle.

I ended up crying all afternoon. I did not feel like going to a party or getting dressed for a party. I waited until 15 minutes before I absolutely had to leave and put some clothes on.

My dad made me a picture CD as we were leaving and when we got home I looked at it. I will not be posting any pictures of me from that night on our family blog. I looked terrible. It was such a contrast from the Christmas pictures he also gave me on the disk. I looked like I had aged 10 years. My face was worn and my body just looks puffy.

It was good to be around my family and to get the kids back.

Midway through dinner, my daughter threw a fit and I had to remove her from the table. We went into my dad's bedroom where she continued to scream loudly. She said she just wanted to be with me and that she just wanted to be at home. She kept saying she did not want to be with her dad.

I know that she loves her dad and it is good for her to spend time with him. But I think it was too long of a day for her age, especially considering how much time she has spent with him previously. It sounds like they did have fun and all went well, but I think they need to gradually work up to spending time together.

I talked to my husband about it and we are trying to work out a compromise. Today, we are heading to church and my husband will meet us there. That was something that I added into our temporary agreement. I feel that the church is a very positive force in the children's life and I want them to continue to get that support every week.

Hopefully in time, we will work into an easier existence. Right now, everything seems very hard.

My daughter woke up in a very sweet mood this morning and it was very precious to lay in bed with her and hold her for about a half an hour before we all got up. She is still young enough that she has all her baby fat so she is very cuddly.

My son doesn't usually like to be held anymore but last night he let me hold him while he was falling asleep. However sad I may be feeling I know that this divorce will be harder on them than anyone else, so I want them to always know how much they are cherished and loved.
"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."

- The Gospel of St. Thomas Logian

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Your Wound Grows and Grows

Today has been rough.

I have rarely been apart from my children for a full-day, let alone to have them spend the day alone with their father. He arrived 25 minutes late. I decided I need to accept that he will just always be late.

It was hard for me to let them go this morning. My sister and her boyfriend are here visiting from Seattle, so I spent the first hour with them in my home. They headed downtown, my sister for a meeting and her boyfriend to shop. She said I could go with her boyfriend, but I decided to stay home.

About an hour ago, I competely lost it and started sobbing. It hit me that I have always been working or watching the kids in these last 3 years. I have had very little idle time. When I have felt like crying, I have stopped myself and said, I don't have time for this.

I decided today that I should use these times for my own healing. There has been no real time to grieve, and I need that.

I spoke to my husband and told him some of how I feel. I said it is easy for you because you always have your father to bail you out. But I have to start over with nothing and this has ruined me.

It infuriates me that he is still so flip about everything. He does not take responsiblity for the mess he has made of our lives. It is never a big deal to him. He keeps saying that soon things will be better, and I reminded him today that he has been saying that for 3 years.

He started to say that he will be making so much money and blah blah blah....I told him that doesn't help ME.

I am devastated that he has been so competely careless with my life. Not only with my financial well-being but by driving drunk and having unprotected sex. It hurts that after carrying both of his children that I have meant so little to him.

I have always believed in justice and in karma. I have done nothing to deserve this.

It hurts.

I feel very raw. I feel like I am suffocatinng underneath the weight of a giant piano squishing my chest.

My husband told me it hurt him to hear me cry like this - but he will never see that he caused my pain.


I draw halos around you, as if you are the foe, as
if you are the Messiah. If you were alone, I tell you, I would
prostrate myself you you. If just ten, I would hide you in my lungs.
Since you are a thousand, I shall give you to drink from my blood. Your wound grows and grows.
it slits my throat from vein to vein. I put sand in your
wound. I put your wound in a giant, and around myself I
light the fire.

Who are you, that I should love you in the space I love you, in
the wound?


-Hoda Al-Namani


I realized that there are a lot of things I could do right now to numb myself - whether it be working hard or starting to date. But I really need to deal with all of this before I move on to anything else.

I need to heal.

Fools

I saw this quote the other day and it reminded me so much of my late grandfather. I never saw him argue with anyone. Even when provoked, he was cool as a cucumber.


"Arguing with a fool proves there are two."

-Doris M. Smith

Friday, February 5, 2010

Insanity

My husband called me upset today because he has been reading the blog again.

I don't know how many times he will tell me he will stop reading it, only to read it again.

It doesn't really bother me any more, aside from the integrity aspect. How can I trust a man with my children when he seems to be incapable of keeping his word on basic things?

I told him he should start his own blog if he wants to tell his side of the story.

Last night, one of his "friends" from Betty Ford contacted me and said he needed to talk to me about my husband. I am really tired of all the drama.

I told my husband, never in our marriage has someone contacted you about anything that I have done. It just made me feel dirty.

I am really sick of addicts in general and ended up telling the guy off. Leave it to an addict to only think about himself and not worry about his "friends" wife and children.

I don't know what he wants to talk to me about and I don't care anymore. My heart was racing a million miles an hour last night wondering what else was next.

I finally realized, it doesn't matter. It has nothing to do with me anymore.

Tonight my husband called me again and I really couldn't tell what he was getting at so I said, well, have a good night.

He said something about me wanting to get off the phone with him so I said, I don't know what else to say to you.

So he said, how about I love you and I made a huge mistake?!

What??!! Are you serious??!! What mistake did I make?

He said not trying to work things out with me.

So I just said, OK, talk to you tomorrow.

He told me this was "my last chance" and that he wasn't going to ask me again. "If you want to you're going to have to come to me!"

Something is very wrong here

I am highly annoyed this morning.

There are 5 days off for my children in February that I know of so far, in addition to the sick days they have already have had and probably will have.

Usually I enjoy these days with my kids, but today I only feel stressed out. My son is here with me at my office. This morning he asked for yet another thing that I could not afford to buy him. I'm tired of always saying "We can't afford that."

The kids told me they like to be with their dad because they can have as much ice cream and yummy food as they want. He also has more money to buy them whatever they want. I really resent the position I am in now. I feel like my husband fucked us financially and now I am taking the brunt of it. I barely have enough money to cover our basic needs, let alone buy anything extra for the kids or myself.

My husband and I do not see eye to eye on buying things for the kids. I believe in one gift on Christmas and one gift on birthdays. I buy very few extras. The kids have a lot of family that buy them things, so it's not like they are wanting for anything.

I don't think buying kids excessive toys or treats helps them in any way. So many kids grow up now and get into heavy debt because they never learn how to save for things or weigh whether they really need to buy something.

I believe if the kids want something that is over and above a basic need, they should have to earn it. I always ask my son if he would like to buy it with his own money. We go through how much the item costs and how many weeks worth of allowance it would take the purchase the item. Most of the time, after thinking about it, he does not want the item that badly.

I don't want my kids to grow up with my husband's excessiveness or entitlement issues. I feel like it has caused both him and our family a lot of problems. It is much easier to throw money at something, but it is better to spend time with children and show them boundaries and love.

I can already see the schism between us growing. Now that we are divorcing, I feel my husband will just try to buy the kids. He already tried to use that as a bargaining mechanism with me earlier this week when we were negotiating our initial settlement. He said if I wanted more money he needed to have the kids overnight. I said I would not negotiate about that. I told him the kids are not for sale.

Ironically I told his dad that same thing a few years ago.

I really feel like we have an unfair system for mothers in this country. If I woman chooses to stay home to raise her children, she is ultimately screwed if the relationship does not work. I think a lot of women stay in bad situations because they do not feel that they have choices.

I don't appreciate the way my husband acts like he's a hero every time he gives us money. I cashed in my retirement accounts before we got married because that is what needed to happen for my son to live. Meanwhile he was just off drinking and doing what he pleased. I never asked for a medal for that. I just did it, because we needed the money.

I should have done as I was advised and sued for child support the moment our son was born. I think my husband became accustom to walking all over me from the get-go. Now I just feel like I am suffocating.


"All this was summed up in Lenore Weitzman's famous statistic from The Divorce Revolution: Women with dependent children experience a 73 percent drop in standard of living after a divorce, while their ex-husbands' living standard goes up by 42 percent. The colloquial summing up is simpler: If women have young children, they are only one man away from welfare...Yet if two homemakers were to cross the street and work for each other's husbands, they would be entitled to an eight-hour day and a forty-hour week, Social Security, disability pay, and unemployment compensation - and perhaps paid vacations, transferable health benefits, and a retirement plan (not to mention a better legal safeguard against violence, which also has economic value). Something is very wrong here."

-Gloria Steinem, Moving Beyond Words, "Revaluing Economics", (220-221)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Solutions

"There are no solutions when you are focused on the negative."

- Bryon Pulsifer

Trying to stay more positive today!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Growing up Dysfunctional


Oprah did a show yesterday on the children of the woman who kidnapped and tortured Elizabeth Smart yesterday. I found it SO fascinating.

I rarely see families that are as dysfunctional as my husband's family, so this was a very interesting inside scoop for me. I wrote down some of the quotes from the show because I felt like despite the abuse they suffered, all four of the children (now grown adults) featured on the show had shown healing and responsibility for their lives.

It's hard when you've had no one to model after to build a foundation of anything.
-Andrea, Daughter of Wanda Barzee

The thing is though when you're a child when you don't get the what you need to develop you don't know you're not getting what you need to develop.
-Oprah

I had to evaluate who I was. I had to look back and say I was on the wrong path. I had to learn responsibility. And once I figured out that I had to own my mistakes it was a whole new world for me. I realized that I couldn't be a victim of my circumstance anymore. I couldn't blame my background for where I was going.
-Derrick, son of Wanda Barzee

All mammals instinctively do what is necessary to protect and care for their children. When that doesn't happen that means that something is very very wrong.
-Oprah.

My Case

My husband and I have been together almost 8 years and married for the last 4 and a half. We have been separated for the better part of 2 years.

My husband hired an attorney in June but has repeatedly told me that he wants to work this out and that he only filed so we could get marriage counseling.

I have always intended to stay in this marriage and raise our children together, as I have never believed divorce was good for children. That said, my husband was sober when we married and then relapsed, which has been completely disastrous for our entire family.

In December of 2008, I found cocaine in our home in the front closet where our then toddler daughter played. I called the police and he was arrested. He has a felony conviction for cocaine possession (Jan 2009). This initiated our initial separation.

My husband has been in rehab 2 times for total of over 5 months since 2004. His last visit was to Betty Ford 90 days in the Summer 2008

He has relapsed several times since then.

Says he is "in recovery" now but I don't trust him - do not want him driving around with my children.

He has previous DUI s and admitted to driving drunk with us in the car while he was at Betty Ford.

I also found that he had multiple affairs during our marriage in which he engaged in unprotected sex.

He stopped working for over a year after his relapse. His previous income was significant and we lived a very good lifestyle. We are struggling financially as a result and his dad has been heavily supplementing his income.

He had an OK year last year, but is starting to make very good money again.
I stopped working to care for 2 young children (3 & 6 now) - previously I also had good income, but mortgage market is also down and I have taken many years off. My husband is not giving us enough money to live on. I went back to work in September and am slowing working back up my income. But I am also fully responsible for kids 99% of the time so I am limited with what I can do. My primary “job” during our marriage was to be a homemaker. It is my desire to spend as much time with my children as possible so that they can grow up to be strong and healthy adults.

We have significant debt. We are currently trying to modify our mortgage loan.

I feel I am being forced into bankruptcy.

I believe that there are assets that my husband is hiding, but he has put me in a situation where I can barely take care of my children, let alone afford to hire an attorney.

My husband often doesn't keep his appointments with kids. Has rarely kept them overnight by himself or taken them to school. He is now saying he wants to take them overnight every other weekend - which I am no way OK with.

Our son has been in counseling 2 years.

I realize that my husband loves our children, but his actions towards myself, our children and our life as a family have often been hurtful and irrational.
I have made numerous personal sacrifices to stay in this marriage and have always tried to do the very best thing for my children, regardless of what the cost was to me. My husband and his father have done little but be hurtful and try to hide their financial resources.

It is not my intention to keep the children from their father. I realize he plays and important role in their life. But I am asking that you help me keep them safe until he has a longer-term sobriety, that is monitored by regular drug and alcohol testing.

I ask that you give me sole custody of the children, with short, weekly visits with their father as we have been doing since May.

I also ask that you award me temporary child support, alimony and money for an attorney so I can adequately defend myself.