Powering on

The last day of November, and a dark and rainy one it is.  I had a restless night, woke every hour or so to the sound of great drops splatting on the roof. When I looked out the window around 3 a.m., sheets of water were pouring down the hill.  At seven, the gray cat began walking on my face, purring feverishly. It was time to get up.  I meditated for half an hour, which felt good, despite the wave of sorrow that so often burbles up, chatted with my husband, checked my favorite recovery forum, then drove across town through puddles and potholes to an acupuncture appointment at my HMO.

Credit: Takahiro Takano

Credit: Takahiro Takano

I’ve had acupuncture before, but this was a little more bare bones–a large room with beds curtained off and people in various stages of treatment.  I could hear snoring from the bed next door, and, later, a long discussion with a practitioner about which foods had anti-inflammatory qualities and why one shouldn’t eat sugar.  The middle-aged man who treated me was gentle and soft-spoken, kept thanking me for coming, asked permission for every single step he took, and finally left me to rest with needles up and down my spine and a glass cup on my lower back.

The room had quieted, and I lay on my side with a heat lamp shining on my back, listening to the hum of the ventilation, cars passing on rain-slick streets, my mind drifting back across the years to the birth of my eldest son, when I sustained the injury that later resulted in scoliosis–a large baby and a precipitous delivery that nothing could have slowed down, and a complete pelvic realignment.  For a completely natural phenomenon, childbirth can cause an awful lot of trouble.

Would I have drunk less without that pain?  Who knows. Pain, depression, what Martin Seligman calls learned helplessness, the belief that nothing you can do will make any difference, it all entered in.  I never believed I had much personal power–power came from others or from collective action–so I rarely sought fixes for things that went wrong, I just lived with them. Women of my circumstances and generation weren’t raised to be active on their own behalf.  Life happened, and you went along with it.  Most of us were more proactive for our children, but even there…there is much that I would do differently today.  At least I hope I would.  Passivity is bad for the heart and soul.

And speaking of that, I’d like to put in a plug for a couple of active women who’ve organized a series of podcasts on iTunes called “The Bubble Hour,” airing the stories of people struggling with addiction. The latest is the voice of Michele from Mished-up, telling her story with humor, courage and honesty.  Very big thanks to Ellie and Lisa, the shakers and movers.

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9 Responses to Powering on

  1. mishedup says:

    Several wows. I also have scoliosis, but I was born with it…and why I sometimes feel so old, right? Those aches and pains and sciatica and…well. I know I have been in more pain, or maybe just notice it more, now that I have stopped drinking. And new pains galore. sigh.

    Thanks for the shout out for the Bubble Hour….I know it will just get better and better as Ellie and Lisa get the format perfected. The stigma of alcoholism is Ellie’s fight, and it starts with people’s acceptance of their own, and other’s struggles. People like you show us that we’re not so different, that we don’t have to be homeless or get a DUI…
    Anyway…thank you!

    And I am dying to know if you follow a particular way of meditation, guided, solo, music….I am working on it myself. I do yoga, which is meditative, but the just sitting is hard. Any hints would be great.

    Thank you for your beautiful writing!

    • sswl says:

      Sorry you’re having to deal with scoliosis too, Michele. Mine has gotten worse with age, but maybe it doesn’t have to.

      I really enjoyed hearing you on The Bubble Hour–very nice to know what you sound like! It’s great that Ellie’s interested in the stigma aspect. It keeps a lot of people from seeking help, I think. What’s stunned me is how many people I’ve gotten to know who really were homeless or jailed for DUIs and now seem pretty much like me. There but for fortune…

      What I follow would probably be considered ‘meditation-lite’ by a lot of folks, but it works for me. It’s transcendental meditation as taught by George Quant. I thought there was a link on my blog, but wasn’t, so I just added it to “Recovery Links.” Seemed appropriate somehow. He has a very low-key, do-it-comfortably-so-you -keep-doing-it approach that I find much less intimidating than most, and using a mantra keeps me on task. I downloaded the course from his website–well worth the money.

  2. Dawn says:

    Scoliosis here as well… In fact, recently saw an image of my spine – YOUWCH,, the perfect “S” shape, ughh,.
    I have been meaning to get over to ellie and lisa’s new site! So so much reading to do, Hope you are doing well at the time of this writing!

  3. What a powerful post; you are a gorgeous writer. Thank you so much for mentioning The Bubble Hour, and helping to spread the word. And I’m so glad to be introduced to your blog, too!



  4. Learned helplessness and acupuncture- two topics that greatly intrigue me. I’ve not had acupuncture, but would love to try it. Thank you for your beautiful writing.

    • sswl says:

      “Learned helplessness and acupuncture- two topics that greatly intrigue me.”

      Me, too, Christy. The learned helplessness experiments on animals that Seligman describes are fascinating, though repugnant, since the animals didn’t choose to participate. I’ll write more about it in another post.

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