Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Way to Interrupt Addiction

~ Becky Vollmer

My dad drank Budweiser for breakfast and Chivas for lunch.

Then he usually crashed by early evening, leaving me guessing what he would’ve had for dinner. I’m fairly certain it wouldn’t have been food.I was daddy’s little girl and often wondered as a kid why he didn’t love us enough to stop drinking, especially when it seemed clear that was the root of so many of our family’s troubles.
When I asked that question (silently, of course), I didn’t necessarily think there was something wrong withme. I was a good kid, until the rebellious teenage years, anyway: doting, obedient, perfectionist. I wondered what was wrong with him. What inside his head made his addiction more important than family, than home, than life itself?
The older I got, and the more entrenched I became in my own drinking, the more I understood: Life is hard and drinking is easy. It smoothes the rough corners and edges. It insulates. It facilitates escape to softer place.
Until it doesn’t. And you don’t need to hit rock bottom to trust that fact. It’s an inevitable progression if not interrupted. (Don’t believe me? Watch this.)
My dad knew. I remember a time about 10 years ago, several years before he died, taking him to lunch and telling him about some recent anxiety, depression and panic attacks I’d had.
“Get it fixed,” he said, and went on to share his own battles with depression, which I’d never understood before. “Get it fixed now.”
All these years, I thought he meant fix the depression for the sake of fixing depression. I didn’t understand until recently—with the insight of a remarkable therapist—that he was really telling to take the depression seriously enough so that it wouldn’t fuel the fire of addiction.
He wanted me to interrupt the progression so that I didn’t become like him.
It was a warning. He was trying to save me.
Those of us who struggle with addiction have to be willing to listen to the warnings—not just the voices that speak to us from the outside, but the faint voice inside that finds the courage to speak up every now and then. We have to heed the signs.
Of course, those signs take many forms. They’re not all towering billboards…or can’t-miss neon…or come with flashing cherries.
Sometimes they’re subtle. They whisper. They’re relatively benign.
Like the time I sat in a new doctor’s office, filling out page after page of intake forms. I remember feeling too embarrassed to answer truthfully the questions: “Do you drink alcohol? If so, how many drinks per week?” (FYI, the gov’t considers more than three drinks on any single day or more than seven drinks in a week to be “heavy” drinking for women. For guys, it’s more than four drinks a day, or 14 per week.)
That embarrassment was a sign. Or the time, at the end of a particularly stressful day, that my four-year-old asked me if I wanted a glass of wine “to feel better.” Or when my six-year-old drew a picture of the family eating dinner and outlined everyone’s drink: “Daddy: water. Sister: milk. Mommy: wine.”
That was a sign.
Or the time that I nearly hit another car head on because I was driving under the influence. I shudder to think of how my selfishness nearly cost someone else something precious.
Another warning.
I tried for years to drink less. I made New Year’s resolutions. Wine on weekends only, I’d swear. Drinking allowed only with dinner. For January 2013, I challenged myself to no wine for 30 days; I made it three.
That inability to curb my desire in the moment—along with the knowing that children of alcoholics are about four times more likely to develop alcohol problems—was another sign.
And it made me realize I needed a more drastic, permanent step.
I needed to stop modeling a pattern of behavior I didn’t want my kids to repeat, because I know what some youngsters do when they see their parents drink all the time. It’s monkey see, monkey do: They think a cocktail in hand ‘round the clock is completely normal because they have no reason to believe it’s not.
(Only as a parent can I appreciate my poor mother’s horror the day I showed up at her house one weekday afternoon, 16 years old and wearing my Catholic schoolgirl uniform, with a cold longneck in hand.)
But that behavior—whether it’s a drink or a drug or a lay or any other distraction we use to escape reality—does more than just take the edge off. As BrenĂ© Brown writes in “Daring Greatly,” “We can’t selectively numb emotions. Numb the dark and you numb the light.”
And life’s too amazing to journey through it numb.
So I stopped.
In one breath, I decided.
I released the clutch on my crutch.
Because I love them enough. Most importantly, I love myself.
Now, in the past year of sobriety, I’ve been working on repatterning more than the consumption habits. I’m resetting what “normal” looks like—for me, but mostly for my beautiful daughters. I want their normal to include the courage to work through the complicated situations head on, not to sidestep them with distractions. I want them to learn to feel and process the full, exhilarating range of human emotions—joy and grief, excitement and boredom, having your wishes fulfilled and longing for more.
It’s through the experience of that contrast that we appreciate the highs.
I want them to know that we can stumble and trip, fall and bleed, and still get up to walk, run and even fly again. I want them to know that those moments of struggle can actually bring us to a state of grace, if we are clear-headed and filled with intent.I have the intent… and I’m working toward the grace.
As the Zen saying goes: “No mud, no lotus.”
And as my late, great daddy told me: “Get it fixed.”
And as I say: “Love yourself enough.”

Saturday, March 14, 2015

To The Woman With The Bruises

Melissa Churches

To the Woman with the Bruises,

I know you. I don't know your name, where you live, your age or your phone number.

But I know you.

I know that look in your eyes. That frightened, defeated, depressed, broken look.

I know you, because I once saw that look in my own eyes.

I know what it's like to live with someone who terrifies you. I know what it's like to go to sleep sick and wake up scared.

I know you.

And I want you to hear me, as one survivor to another: It's not your fault.

I know the psychological warfare you've been besieged with. I know how your self-esteem is non-existent, replaced by a constant stream of negatives. I know that you've come to believe that you're so useless, damaged, stupid and lazy that you deserve every word hurled at you in anger, every blow that's ever landed upon you, be it emotionally or physically. I know you believe that if you could just be BETTER, this would all go away, that you'd meet with approval, that finally, he'd be happy. And love you.

After all, he can be sweet, can't he? You have memories that you treasure in your heart, that you keep close and turn back to, time and again. There's hope there. Proof that he can be loving, and kind, and gentle. The rage that takes him over, that's what's to blame. At heart, he's so loving, isn't he?
Here's the truth: No. No, he's not.

His rage is just a part of him as any good you've ever seen. And the reality is that no amount of enduring his rage will ever get him to stop. Nothing you say or do is responsible for his behavior, and therefore, nothing you say or do will ever make him stop lashing out at you.

Because it's all on him. You bear no responsibility for his abuse of you. None.

It doesn't matter how angry you make him, what you've done. If you burn dinner, return home late after work, decided to go out for a girls' night, put a dent in the car. Doesn't. Matter. As an adult, HE has the responsibility to control his emotions, because he's the only one that actually can. There is NOTHING you can ever do that would justify him putting his hands on you in anger. There just isn't.

It doesn't matter WHY he's abusive. It just doesn't. Be it mental illness, addiction or just being an evil, abusive jerk. The end result is the same. Someone that abuses their partner is not someone you need to be with. You can't heal him, save him or fix him. You need to attend to your own safety.

And as for all that crap he's drilled into your head? Think about something: If you're so lazy, stupid, ugly, fat or whatever load of psychologically damaging crap he's hammered into your head, ask yourself... why would he want to have someone like that around? Considering how high his standards are, it makes no sense at all, does it? It's because you're none of those things. What you are is a wonderful person who has the right to be treated by a partner as a blessing in their lives.

He breaks you down, psychologically and physically, because he knows he's not worthy of you, so controlling you, keeping you caged by fear and self-loathing, is the only hope he's got. That's why he ups the stakes the way he does. Finding fault with something he'd praised before -- be it a meal you cooked or a dress you wore -- shows that he needs to assure himself that no matter what he does, he's in control.

There is never, ever a way to satisfy him.

I'm praying you get out. Leave him. There are women's shelters that you can run to. Or, like the Superbowl commercial that aired this year, remember that you can call 911. Please, get help. Get to safety. Get yourself some therapy to undo the damage he's done. Be the woman you were made to be.
And I promise you, that woman? She's nobody's punching bag.

And if you do these things, you'll look in the mirror one day, and the woman gazing back at you will have joy in her eyes. Peace. Excitement. A love of living again. And strength. There will be a strength there that you recognize.

I know you. I was you... I am you. I got out. I stayed out. You can, too.

Be it a violent partner or abusive parents, there is hope. There is a way out.

You can do this. Reach out. Ask for help. Domestic violence hotlines in your area can give you a wealth of information, and are there to help, to listen.
You can do this.

In the U.S., there is both a hotline and a website with chat available. 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE), 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).

If you're in Canada, domestic abuse hotlines are broken down by province. Go herefor more information and a breakdown of hotlines by province.

I wrote this post because no woman, child, or man should ever live in fear. No person, regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status or any other label you'd like to use should EVER be a victim of domestic violence. I'm participating in the #1000Speak movement to get the message out, to offer understanding and compassion to those who are targets of domestic violence.

I chose to write about a woman because statistically, women outnumber men as victims of domestic violence. I gravely suspect that the statistics about men who are abused by intimate partners are even MORE underreported than even the experts are guessing. I hope and pray that as more people speak out, more cry and yell about domestic violence being a crime in our world, that there will come a day when nobody lives in fear from someone who supposedly loves them.

This is my cry out. This is my yell. This is my banner waving furiously. No. More. End domestic violence.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

7 Ways to Kiss a Woman how She Wants to be Kissed

Lori Anne Lothian

First off, I’m not a kissing instructor.

I am, however, a woman who has been kissed by more than a handful of men in my life—not to mention a woman or two.
And in all that lip intimacy, I’ve learned there are woeful lip locking tactics that I can only guess come from magazine articles or watching rough porn or just plain bad habits.
I’ve learned this the hard way—my first make out session with a guy, I was 15, in the recreation room of his parents’ house. We were classmates, and he clearly was as inexperienced as I, because at one point I gagged unromantically on moustache hairs after enduring an hour of lip-mashing.
When I escaped back to my house that night and looked in the mirror I was mortified—my mouth was blood-smeared from the times his teeth (or was it braces?) managed to bite instead of nip. Needless to say, I steered clear of a second date. In fact, I stayed clear of kissing anyone for another year.
What got me thinking all these years later about writing a kissing advice article? An episode of lip-intimacy with my husband who just happens to be—in my view—a great kisser. This marital smooching session reminded me of how much fun kissing can be.
And it also reminded me that great kissing is never really about technique—it’s about presence, connection, daring, affection and and yes, love.
In a nutshell, then, here is what great consensual kissing is really about. Please share this list widely. I want all you kissers to feel elated with the kind of action that brings a smile to your lips when you remember that kiss, even years later.

1. Great kissers show up.

Yes, you heard me. It means you are in room, here, now, with me. Not in your head, and not just in your gonads either. Your full presence takes ordinary lip lust to a new intimate dimension. When your are present with a woman sensually, time slows down, it even seems to stop. (It seems the women I’ve kissed seem to know this instinctively.) And when you are present, you notice things, like how she is responding (or not). Bottomline: there is no better place to be than here and now in both heart and body.

2. Great kissers tease.

Sometimes it’s fun to bypass the kissing warm up. But most times it’s exquisite to have your lips brush against the back of my neck (chills) or trail along my collarbone before working their way up to the main event. This is called playful seduction. It works. And it’s fun for both of us.

3. Great kissers use their hands.

Kissing is only one instrument in the symphony of sensual connection. Your hands can be a beautiful accompaniment—I don’t mean groping. Rather, hold my face in your hands while you kiss me, or stroke or even gently pull my hair. Find ways to make the kiss a part of the music, not the whole song.

4. Great kissers make eye contact.

You know this already. It’s not about that new-age-movement eye-gazing contest where the longer you stare without looking away, the more spiritually evolved you are. It’s about every now and then pulling back from the kiss to look at me. I might be just as shy as you, but when your eyes meet mine, the thrill of vulnerability is worth the risk. And it ignites passion. Try it.

5. Great kissers don’t have a destination.

This means I don’t feel like the kissing part is something you are doing to get points on the way to the next base. In fact, one of my most memorable first dates ended up in a two hour kissing marathon on his sofa—that was the most turned on I have ever been fully clothed! This is a bit about being in the moment, again, but it’s also about intention. If feels different to a woman if you are languorously kissing her for the sheer mutual pleasure of it versus kissing her on a mad dash to get to the penetrative sex finish line.

6. Great kissers take risks.

I am not talking about the creepy lunge-kiss, the kind of move where you completely freak out an unsuspecting woman with your lips. I am talking about those spontaneous kisses you surprise us—your girlfriend, wife, or more-than-first-date woman—with. Those stolen kisses just before we walk arm-in-arm into a party where we both feel a bit nervous. Or that kiss when the kids are not looking. Or hey, the kiss in the green room before I head off to my appearance on some TV show. You know, those kisses where I feel we are a naughty team and you have so-got-my-back.

7. Great kissers receive.

This means you are not always running the show. Guys tend to take the lead when it comes to kissing, sometimes inadvertently over-ruling their partner’s natural inclination to kiss back. Slow down and don’t kiss—see what happens when you allow us to love you back. Give her some room to play with your lips too. You will be delighted at the interplay of kissing and being kissed.
And now for one of my favourite all time kissing songs, Kiss Me Forever, by Julian Dore. The video is funny but the song is sexy. And it sticks in your head for days.

Now, go forth, and kiss!