Thursday, February 28, 2013

"Everyone has the right to tell the truth about her own life" ~ Ellen Bass

"Colour of Dignity" by Elisabeth Slettnes

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Can't Fake the Core

“If there's one thing I believe more than I believe anything else, it's that you can't fake the core. The truth that lives there will eventually win out. It's a god we must obey, a force that brings us all inevitably to our knees.” ~Cheryl Strayed

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

Domestic Violence Problems, an extra therapy session targeting alcohol abuse may help to speed overall improvement in violent behavior

(Reuters Health) - For heavy drinkers in treatment for domestic violence problems, an extra therapy session targeting alcohol abuse may help to speed overall improvement in violent behavior, according to a new study.

Alcohol can lower inhibitions and impair judgment, according to lead author Gregory Stuart of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. "One theory is that alcohol can narrow focus to negative aspects of the environment, and is linked to impulsivity," he told Reuters Health.

Men who are arrested for domestic violence are usually referred by the court to group educational sessions called batterer programs, which don't always address alcohol - even though drinking is involved in a high percentage of domestic disputes, experts said.

Because previous research has found these programs especially ineffective for batterers who also have drinking problems, Stuart's team set out to test whether adding a therapy session devoted to alcohol would affect both drinking and violent behaviors over the course of a year.

For the trial, the researchers recruited 252 men who had been arrested in Rhode Island for violence against an intimate partner and who reported binge drinking (having five or more drinks per occasion) at least once a month.

All attended the court-mandated standard battery program, consisting of 40 hours of group educational programs split into 20 sessions, and half of the men attended an additional 90-minute one-on-one substance abuse session with a therapist.

The men were then asked to complete a survey about their behavior at 3, 6 and 12 months following the treatment program. The researchers also gathered any police reports relevant to the study participants, and analyzed only data for men who had intimate partners at the beginning of the study period.

On average, all of the men participating in the study reported lowered overall violence levels after one year, Stuart's team reports in the journal Addiction.

But participants who received the extra alcohol counseling session had greater short-term improvement in both violence and alcohol consumption compared to men in the standard batterer program.

When the researchers looked at specific aspects of partner violence, for example, men who received the alcohol intervention were less physically aggressive toward their partners at the three-month mark, and less psychologically aggressive at the six-month mark.

The alcohol-intervention group also drank less per day at the three-month mark and drank less often at the six-month mark.

But at every checkpoint in the study, there was little difference in overall frequency of partner violence in both groups, and after a year, the levels of physical and psychological aggression among men in the comparison group caught up to those of the men in the alcohol therapy group.

"I would have preferred to see these results maintained over time, but for the first six months the rate of improvement was greater for the folks who got the alcohol intervention," Stuart said.

The improvements associated with the extra alcohol-focused session didn't fade over time, Stuart pointed out, but the extra therapy seemed to give those men a "jump start" over the other group during the early months.

"These 90-minute motivational enhancements have been shown to be effective with a variety of different (people)," but usually for those who seek out treatment of their own accord, according to Kenneth Leonard, director of the Research Institute on Addictions at the University at Buffalo in New York who was not involved in the study.

For that reason, seeing any positive result, even a small one, in a group of men in a court-ordered program who had not sought treatment on their own was promising, Leonard said.

In Rhode Island, the 40-hour standard batterer program includes a short section on alcohol, but the duration and content of such programs can vary widely by state, according to Stuart.

Other studies have questioned the effectiveness of existing batterer programs, which Stuart says were "created with the best of intentions" but sometimes include methods that aren't supported by evidence and have a lot of room for improvement.

"All of the participants on average had substantially less substance use and violence relative to where they started, however, there was still too much violence and substance use," Stuart said.

He and his colleagues suggest that the jump-start might have lasted longer if there had been multiple follow up "booster" sessions with a therapist over the course of the year.

"When you start getting into these more severe samples, my sense is that something more than 90 minutes would be required, or additional sessions," Leonard agreed.

Although the gains were small and temporary, Stuart thinks the results of this study are a promising start toward improving batterer programs.

"The goal is to gently lead them to the conclusion that potentially stopping the use of alcohol and drugs is a good idea," he said.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

“The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” – Gloria Steinem.

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

Monday, February 25, 2013

"If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people." ~ Virginia Woolf

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

Sunday, February 24, 2013

"God grant me the compassion to love others the way they are, the wisdom to know when it's abusive or beneficial, and the courage to address it or leave if they persist."

 ~James Glines, The God Article
"Truth is on the side of the oppressed." ~ Malcolm X

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Compliant Woman is Unnatural

“When a woman is exhorted to be compliant, cooperative, and quiet, to not make upset or go against the old guard, she is pressed into living a most unnatural life -- a life that is self-blinding...without innovation. The world-wide issue for women is that under such conditions they are not only silenced, they are put to sleep. Their concerns, their viewpoints, their own truths are vaporized" ~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

Friday, February 22, 2013

Home is always waiting. It is as near as a conscious breath,
conscious contact with your body, and a descent
into the wholeness, wisdom, and truth of your inner life.
-Patricia Lynn Reilly

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I am Complete

“In the infinity of life where I am, all is perfect, whole, and complete. I no longer chose to believe in old limitations and lack. I now choose to begin to see myself as the Universe sees me – perfect, whole and complete. The truth of my Being is that I was created perfect, whole and complete. I will always be perfect, whole and complete. I now choose to live my life from this understanding. I am in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing. All is well in my world.” ~Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your Life

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Owning yourself

"The key to our power is feeling. When we fearlessly own the full spectrum of our emotions (which also serves all of our creations), we begin to own the truth of who we are. Sometimes to discover this, we have to descent to our depths to repair old wounds or unearth old desires. But out of the old pieces and the new we form a new creation -- our lives. The results of such work are always positive even if some of the steps we take to achieve them cause pain. But that pain is short-term. The pain of never owning our full, rich, authentic selves lasts forever." ~Karen Andes, A Woman's Book of Power

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Making amends is more than an apology

Addiction creates moral wreckage. People who become addicted to alcohol or other drugs might lie, cheat, or steal in order to get and use their drug of choice. Often what's left behind is a trail of shattered relationships.

In this situation, apologies won't do. Alcoholics Anonymous calls for amends instead. These are mentioned specifically in several of AA's Twelve Steps, including:

Step Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Carrying out these two steps is a delicate process that calls for guidance from a sponsor or counselor. In an interview, John MacDougall, D.Min., director of Spiritual Guidance at Hazelden in Center City, Minn., answered questions about making amends.

How do amends differ from apologies?
An amend has to do with restoring justice as much as possible. The idea is to restore in a direct way that which we have broken or damaged--or to make restoration in a symbolic way if we can't do it directly.

Say, for example, that I borrowed 20 dollars from you and never paid you back. If I go up to you and say, "Gee, I'm sorry I borrowed your 20 dollars and spent it on drugs," that would be an apology. Making amends is giving your money back to you.

Why does Step Nine suggest that people avoid direct amends in certain cases?
For instance, you don't run home and say to your spouse, "Gee honey, I had a wonderful time in addiction treatment. I learned all about rigorous honesty, so I want to apologize to you for an affair I had five years ago." That's clearing your conscience at the expense of someone else who's going to feel terrible. In this case, your amend can be an indirect one. Stop having affairs and bring your heart, your energy, and your attention back home where it belongs.

Are direct amends simply impossible at times?
Yes. Say, for example, that someone gets drunk, drives, and kills somebody in a traffic accident. You can't go back and "unkill" the person who died. Instead, you can fill out an organ donor card. This is an indirect amend that can give life back to someone in the future. Remember that with crimes such as drunk driving, people might need to go to court and take a punishment. That's part of making amends as well.

You've mentioned direct and indirect amends. Are there other kinds?
Sometimes people talk about "living" amends. This simply means that we live differently. Amends are about a genuine change in our behavior instead of the patchwork of an apology. We take on a whole new way of life. We stop accumulating fresh insults to our selves and others.

What are the benefits of making amends?
If we've continually harmed people and haven't made any effort toward amends, then we've got a lot of people, places, and things to avoid. Large areas of life become closed off to us. When you're willing to make amends, those areas open up again. You don't have to avoid people any more. This is true not only for people in recovery but for all of us.

The book Alcoholics Anonymous mentions the promises of recovery. They come right after the explanation of Step Nine. "If we are painstaking about this phase of our development," it says, "we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace."

That's what happens when we bring justice back into our lives by making amends.

From Hazelden.

Monday, February 18, 2013

“When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her.” ~ Adrienne Rich

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

Sunday, February 17, 2013

"Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth." ~Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Truth is not a Facade

"When Truth blossoms inside the Heart, the person carries the fragrance of that. Truth cannot be unfelt, cannot be dry. It is not a facade. Ripe fruit has sweetness and fragrance. A plastic apple and a real apple appear the same, but there is no comparison. One of them has no life. You discern!" ~ Mooji

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

When God Was a Girl | BBC Documentary | Women and Religion

The Truth, a mysterious concept to addicts

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” ~Buddha

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

Friday, February 15, 2013

Rising up, throwing up and letting myself heal

I spent weeks learning the "Break the Chain" dance for One Billion Rising yesterday.

My kids seemed to be sick with stomach flu right on top of each other so I was thrilled we were all able to go with my mom. Dancing with the other women right out in the public square was one of the most empowering moments of my life. Somehow, I knew I had to do this, despite my discomfort with dancing and my belief about myself that I am not a "good enough" dancer.

I have felt for a while that dancing would be the last step in my full recovery. But I have felt so much resistance towards doing it anyway.

After the dance, we marched another mile or so and then my stomach flu came on. I suppose part of me knew it was coming after both kids had it. But after barfing more than I thought was possible, I also felt like I was releasing all the pain, abuse and trauma of my life.

So, today, I am being easy on myself. I had to walk the kids to school but then I came back into bed. I took a nap. I am reading. And I am thinking. I am crying. And I am letting go.

There are so many good things coming up. We are bring a Red Tent to Portland, hence the video below.  I am finally surrounded (almost) entirely by really kind and amazing people. There is still a part of me that hurts sometimes, but it is becoming less and less frequent.

And now that I have done this dance, there are other things that I know I can do too.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy V-Day

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are RISING today with the rest of the women.

And, if you are too tired, worn out and beaten down to rise and dance - as I was many years ago - know that millions of other women all over the world are dancing for you.

I feel the collective consciousness of the world shifting. Know that things are changing - and your sisters stand with you. May we all find our complete and total recovery from violence of every form.

And so it is!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Root of all Addictions

"...patriarchy, hierarchy, and capitalism create, encourage, maintain, and perpetuate addiction and dependency. Patriarchy and hierarchy are based on domination and subordination, which result in fear. This fear is expressed by the dominators through control and violence, and in subordinated people through passivity and repression of anger. The external conflict of hierarchy between dominants and subordinates becomes internalized in individuals, creating personal inner chaos, anxiety and duality. To quell the inner conflict people resort to addictive substances and behavior."
-Charlotte Davis Kasl, PhD - Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps

Friday, February 8, 2013

Faces of Addiction

I will admit that it is often hard for me to see the humanity of an addict.

Years of excuses, lying, cheating, and every sort of pain have pretty much robbed me of the ability to feel sympathetic.

But I am glad I spent some time this morning to take a look at this project: Faces of Addiction.

I think there is a tendency among women to have too much sympathy for the addicts in our lives - which often causes us to put up with too much. So most of my writing centers around that.

But this reminded me of the other side of the coin. Most addicts do not have the safety net of a rich father who will always bail them out.

[These are] the stories of addicts in the Hunts Point neighborhood, the poorest in all of New York City. I post people's stories as they tell them to me.

What I am hoping to do, by allowing my subjects to share their dreams and burdens with the viewer and by photographing them with respect, is to show that everyone, regardless of their station in life, is as valid as anyone else.

Its easy to ignore others. By not looking, by not talking to them, we can fall into constructing our own narrative that affirms our limited world view.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


We had more drama last night. We all woke up worn out.

I was thinking this morning that it is amazing I even survived living with my ex.  Just dealing with him now in small doses takes all the life out of me. My back is causing excruciating pain again. My body feels tired and lifeless. It is no wonder I was accomplishing so little during that time. There was no energy left to do anything. Just get by.

Life is so much more than just getting by. I wonder how many women are living this same nightmare. It makes me feel very sad for all of us.

I have much to do now, so there is no time to dwell. But it saddens me that still after all this time, and so many positive changes in my own life, that this one person has the power to suck so much energy from all three of us.

I hope that one day, soon, this will no longer be the case.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Adjusting to Reality

Every single time I see or talk to my ex, I have to remind myself of what the truth is.

I pondered this today as I walked to my kids' school (just in case, he did not pick them up.)

Yes, even after years apart, I still have to do this.

Yesterday, I put a firm boundary down.

Since the school year began 5 months ago, he has never once picked the kids up from school on time. Every week, he has an excuse; usually that he has to "work."

I reminded him yesterday that all parents have to work, including me. The $988 he pays in child support does not allow me to be flexible anymore.

As usual, it is me who is the unreasonable one.

As I walked to make sure he actually showed up, I heard his words in my head again.  The same words he has said to me so many times.

"You are a TERRIBLE person."

I know these words are not true. And yet, they still sting.

And I thought, I have never been the one who did not pick my kids up.

I have never been the one who no-showed while my kids waited for me by the door.

I am never the one who cheated, or didn't come home all night.

I have not lied. I have not cheated financially. I have not destructively destroyed my spouse, my-self or my kids.

And yet, I have never told him he is a terrible person.

My priority has always been my kids. Even when it hurt me to put them first.  I remembered a quote my friend sent me.

"We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are." ~Anais Nin

My refusal to see my ex as he is has hurt both me and my kids for a long time.

His view of me is only a reflection of his terrible self.