Are you living life from the cheap seats?

I had a meeting with a client yesterday and after I had listened to her for a while I commented that I felt she was shortchanging her life, living it from the cheap seats. “Wow” she said “what a great metaphor, that is exactly how I feel”! I think we all deserve those big cushy velvet reclining seats up front but they don’t come easy. They are more costly and the price is this; your willingness to get out of your own way and do the work. I have personally had to slay this dragon many times in my own life. Kicking and screaming I went, but the reward was worth all the discomfort and harsh realities. We need to get right with whatever is wrong.

I saw a staggering statistic the other day. Depression in women had doubled between 2000 and 2010. Process that for a moment. Now I do not profess to be an expert on depression and I am aware they there are varying degrees of depression as well. I do feel however based on my own experience with it that all of us go through times of despair. Women are programed to be stoic. The nurturing mothers, the dutiful spouses and partners, and the fixers of all things. We carry that flag proudly but sometimes we just need to be ok with not being ok. We carry around baggage from our past and let it define our present and determine our future. We shortchange ourselves, and put everyone before ourselves.

What has worked for me and what I pass on to others is self awareness and accountability. Look at your situation and if it is not working for you and creating a positive space in your life, then it needs to change. Don’t fear this change, be ok with admitting it, sharing it and getting uncomfortable around it. That is when the change you desire will manifest. Change evolves out of discomfort. Invest in the support of a good therapist or coach. Allow those who can help you the privilege of doing so. The benefits that show up as a result of working on yourself are huge.

As I left my client yesterday I told her that I welcomed the opportunity to work with her and be an ally for change in her corner. “You just need a little dusting off and before you know it, you will have a front row seat, a cushy velvet seat to your own life”.

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Going Elsewhere

By the time we get to be middle aged we have all experienced the death of someone we love. Some of us like myself have experienced many deaths. It is hard to imagine when we are kids that these people will ever not be around. I am in process of writing two books. One about addiction and enabling and one about death and grief. I write based on my own life experiences with these two necessary but rather unpopular subjects. I am somewhat of an expert on both, not by choice but by life and how unplanned and unpredictable it can be. Death is a natural part of life, I knew this, yet was so unprepared. So taken aback by what I knew would be the inevitable.

When I write of death, of losing my family and of forging ahead without them I talk a lot about “going elsewhere”. This for me became a coping tool . I mastered this tool….like a lumberjack with an axe.This was something I could do inside my own head when I simply did not want to be in reality. It is emotional dislocation. Reality can be terribly painful, elsewhere can be anything we need and want it to be. After my father died I went elsewhere right before I landed in Albany. I would imagine Dad would be there to pick me up garbed in his same winter p coat he had since my birth, black wool hat that my mother hated and snow boots that had seen better days. Huge smile intact, arms extended. I could almost feel the bear hug. I could hear his voice “hiya hon” “are you getting younger”?  Dad always the smooth talker. We would drive home and pull up to the house where I knew Mom was waiting inside having just returned from church ( always) and making dinner. I would see her little head in the kitchen window. Funny the things I seem to remember and miss the most are small little things like my moms head in that kitchen window. Like dads tattered winter clothes, like “are you getting younger”? I really miss that one!

Now we have landed and the reality sets in, no Dad, no Mom, no hug, no what used to be, just reality of what is no longer there and let me tell you….it bites. Elsewhere is a comfort and a painful reminder at the same time. My mom has been gone 11 years and I still have to stop myself from pulling things off the rack in the store that I think she might like. I allow myself to go elsewhere for just a second, just long enough to comfort myself. Long enough to feel the feeling again, just for a moment.

I have always been great at pretending, maybe that is why I got so good at this whole thing. I find myself creating elsewhere scenarios all the time with my parents. I imagine they are visiting and wonder what we would be doing and how they would react to certain events. For example I will be having my second hip surgery in ten days and if they were alive they would fly down to fuss over me and lend a hand. Dad would make jokes about how I am going to be bionic and cook us up wonderful food and mom would worry and pray and tell me I need to wear a better bra and make sure I bring panties to the hospital cause it will be cold. Mom used to sell ladies fine lingerie, can you tell? But no matter, they would be here and going to my elsewhere place allows me to experience it just for a moment. For me this has been a big part of my healing.

In the book “The Year of Magical Thinking” Joan Didion writes prolifically about death and grief. She captures the essence of loss so beautifully when she speaks about how in the beginning we pretend they are coming back. She pretended her husband John was coming back. Very much like going elsewhere. Joan has been  there, to this place in the brain where hope resides, restless hope, unrealistic hope, irrational hope, hope against hope. Hope that does not exist. We go there and we wait.

I never wanted to know the language of grief. Through the process though I have also found enlightenment and a love and appreciation for what is here today. I have learned to take nothing for granted, especially those I love. I still visit elsewhere sometimes when I need to but mostly I live in the now and carry on the legacy that my parents left me. To simply be a good person, stay close to family and be happy. I miss them everyday but I know they are with me standing on the sidelines and as I coach others…..they are coaching me. I think they are happy.

Recovery Is Not Just For Addicts

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When I tell people that I am a life coach working with people who desire recovery they immediately say “oh you deal with addicts”. Well, actually …no I don’t. I do however work with many family members who are struggling with addicts.

The word recovery has long been associated with the world of addiction, so it is no wonder that people automatically assume that I am coaching addicts. What folks don’t realize is the definition of the word recovery. If we look it up in the dictionary it simply means To get back, or regain. I am hard pressed to think of one person that I have met in my life that this would not apply to. We all have setbacks, we all have issues that are not conducive to a healthy life, we all have baggage. We all need healing at some point.

Addictive behaviors have a presence in just about all of our lives. Many of us are addicted to certain emotional behaviors and patterns. That was certainly the case for myself, living with a drug addict, alcoholic for 16 years. I was the classic enabler. Enabling is an emotional behavior that will ruin your life if you let it. Domestic violence also requires recovery. Women who are victims of domestic abuse are victims not just of the abuse but of their own behavior of staying in the relationship. I can relate to them because staying with an addict and staying with an abuser are both enabling relationships. We feel trapped much of the time, and once we make it out of these relationships we need help. We need recovery.

Death and illness also require recovery. For example I am recovering as we speak from hip replacement surgery. Anyone who has ever had a major illness and required treatment or surgery knows exactly what I am talking about. We need to get back to our normal life, we need to regain our strength. When we lose someone that we love it can be shattering. Grief is a very powerful emotion and the body as well as the human spirit go through a great deal of trauma. A recovery program that is grief specific is critical to those of us who are grappling to move forward after a profound loss.

Recovery is the only healthy option, and my hope is that more and more of us will embrace it as sort of a navigation tool to redirect our lives and be happier and healthier. Don’t be put off by the word, remember what it means and think about how it would benefit your life.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid…..of letting go

ImageWhen people finally make their way to me they are terrified. They are desperate to get out of a toxic relationship but at the same time they are scared to death about what will happen to their child, spouse, partner, parent or friend if they should walk away. Many times we stay because we fear what will happen if we do leave or like in my case throw them out. It takes guts and courage to break away.

I remember one day in class my professor had the words “What would you do if you weren’t afraid” written on the blackboard. For some reason that question really resonated with me. Maybe because I remember how afraid I was to get out of the  enabling relationship I was in for 16 years. Or maybe because fear is the thing that hinders our forward movement in so many aspects of life. Or maybe because it really gave me pause to think about what fears I had today that were constricting my life in some way. Have you ever thought seriously about what you would do if fear was not in the picture?  Fear is a deadly enemy, a most unwelcome visitor and a toxic emotion that can cripple us emotionally and leave us exhausted and defeated. When you live with an addict you are afraid much of the time. Afraid they will die, go to jail, end up in a mental hospital or as was in my case a nursing home because she had damaged herself so much.She was living in a nursing home at 48 years old. But think about it, if the fear was gone would you be willing to take the steps to get out of the relationship?  Would you be willing to let go?   

The first part of any recovery program is anything that will help release that fear. In my workshops it is a combination of many steps including meditation, excercise, nutrition and self awareness. Calming the mind and slowly letting go of the stress and trauma that is causing the fear. This takes time and real commitment, no easy fix here. Recovery is hard work. It is critical at this time to rid yourself of negative sources, people, places and habits. Don’t be afraid to clean your house. Don’t be afraid to distance yourself from those who do not support what you are doing. I can tell you this because this is what I know; fear can be conquered and once it is you can begin the road to healing.

Love the addict; hate the addiction

Emotional Healing, Philomena Aceto,CLC, health for women,enabling

Emotional Healing, Philomena Aceto,CLC, health for women,enabling

There are so many difficult things about loving someone who is an addict. There is the lying, the manipulation, the loss of trust and the enabling. Enabler is not a title we strive for in life, and yet most of us have enabling relationships in our lives.

I lived with an addict for 16 years, I contributed to the addiction every single one of those days. People ask me all the time “why did you stay so long and why did you put up with all of the heartache”? My answer is always the same; I loved this person and I clung to who she was under the addiction. Addicts are not bad people, they are good people with a very bad disease. We want so badly for them to “get well” we want so badly for the person who we know and love to come back, so we cling to the hope that if we just give them one more chance this time it will work. It is astonishing how long we will keep giving those chances. We just don’t want to give up on them because this time it just might happen.

Every time they go into rehab we become filled with hope. I remember talking to my partner from rehab and she would sound so clear headed, so well and so much like the person living under the disease. I would be renewed with hope and positivity. She was so convincing. I felt light had come back into our otherwise very dark world. I think deep down inside I knew better than to be so optimistic, I knew better than to relax and think that my constantly knotted stomach would finally ease.

Her story does not have a happy ending. My story does have a happy ending for me. I finally left the relationship and I finally embraced my own recovery. It was probably the hardest thing I have ever done short of burying my parents. I left the world of addiction and enabling behind me and I have never looked back. You cannot save them no matter how much you love them, love does not heal addiction. Love does however heal those of us who are enablers, those of us who are suffering from a brokenness that is so painful. I am talking about love of self. Love yourself enough to know when to let go and let the healing for you begin. There is life after living with an addict and I am living proof of that.

From This Day Forward

Every day is a new beginning, a new opportunity to start over and heal the brokenness in your life. If you are seeking recovery in your life then I invite you to follow me and together we will laugh, cry, share and discover your path to a healthier, happier existence. No matter where you are today and how rough things seem you have the power to create the change in your life that you need. I believe that we all know what we need….sometimes we just need a gentle nudge or even a good swift kick! Remember this: even on the worse days the universe has your back. You cannot arrive without traveling, so off we go to a place of healing, recovery and ultimate joy.