Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Getting Unstuck - Part 632

Lessons Learned: Getting Unstuck. Making a Decision. How to move forward. What to do when not in a crisis.

Let's start out with a question. You will see the meaning of this at the end of the post.
Your house is on fire. You have the following choices;
1. Put it out yourself
2. Get out of the house yourself
3. Get the dog and child (or children) out first
4. Call the fire department
5. Put on your make-up/best clothes in case of Paparazzi
6. Get your best stuff you've accumulated and chuck it out the window


I made up this psychological-therapy question myself. So if my therapist is reading this, this will cost you. My rates are rather high. In fact, you may need to see my rates before you consider borrowing this question.

What I would do. Easy. Get the child and dog out. No question.

If the fire was small, my answer would be the same, with exceptions;
1. I would try to put the fire out (I would go back in after the children and dog were out) and
2. Chuck stuff out the window that I thought was cool/or that I needed

My wife. She would;
1. Get out herself (choosing #2). No question.
2. She might remember to go back into the house and get the dog and child.


Getting Unstuck
It's interesting, that Al-Anon has cost me virtually nothing in money. And I have learned so much for free here.

Last night we had a Men's Meeting. And I had a two hour session with my therapist (coach/counselor/teacher/shaman/spiritual guide).

The Men's Al-Anon Meeting was after the therapy session.
As a side note: I called her my Sherpa yesterday. I meant no harm. I really meant Shaman. Then I looked up the definition this morning:

Shamans have the ability to;
1.) diagnose and cure human suffering and,
2.) in some societies, the ability to cause suffering.

[On another side note: I felt like yesterday we spent too much of my time and money on #2. My human suffering by the way.]

Where as; a Sherpa is defined as someone who carries loads at high altitudes.

Now I am confused. I think she is carrying my heavy load and we are traveling at high altitudes, somewhat spiritually. So, I think both terms are appropriate.

OK - Back to Reality (or at least this post).
With the therapist, I spent most of the time venting (again). I took control of the meeting (I know you are reading this and thinking, ah, there's that control word and the thought you took control of the meeting is something else we will have to explore). I need for her to work on me or I am going to have a huge bill and not much but venting to show for it.

I also need to shut up and stop venting about my wife's non-recovery.

Who's Problem Is It?
At Al-Anon, what I learned about my wife's recovery and/or drinking, is that it is not my problem.

The Men's Al-Anon Meeting
At the men's meeting we talked about getting help by asking for it. I spoke when it was my turn. I spoke on how I got help for my daughter's schooling. It was slow going at first. And then three weeks later, trudging along through pools of peanut butter, things started to occur. The school had an after-hours program coming up. A neighbor helped me by asking a friend if her 12th grade daugher could teach my daugher. My daughter's school teacher asked around and got the name of a friend at school who was looking for part time work.

Asking for help does work. I am grateful for learning this. For I was stuck. And that is the topic of this post.

I am also grateful for being able to "unburden" my load at Al-Anon. The people there have been there, done that and they can immediately relate.

Getting Unstuck
When the house is on fire, that's a crisis. Everyone knows what to do. Get out. Now everyone may have a different order of things to do, like get dressed - if sleeping and the fire is not roaring and get some stuff out.

But even if the fire is roaring, I would knock down walls to get my daughter out.

In fact, and I am a little tired of hearing this analogy of when you are in a plane, and the plane depressurizes, and the oxygen masks fall down, you are supposed to put it on yourself first and then help your children.

The metaphor/analogy, is you have to get well first before you help someone else. But in this scenario, I would probably put the oxygen mask on her first. While I type this, I know this is stupid talk. But it's true.

So, in a crisis, we are not stuck.
In a crisis, you can see clearly your priorities. What is important to you. So you are not stuck.

But when not in a crisis, it is easy to become stuck. There's a big long task in front of us. Or a lot of pain. And we have to work through it to get to the end of it. The problem with this kind of "slow boil crisis" - as I call it - is that there is no sense of urgency. There is no prioritization. There are no "steps to take" or actions to perform. And there is no fire department to call.

Reread that paragraph again before proceeding forward.

Did You Really Reread it?
In a slow-boil-crisis, we are simmering. I will not use the boiling frog analogy. (Oh yes I will, just did).

Do you see what happens in a real urgent crisis reader? Do you see what doesn't happen in a slow-boil-crisis?



In a crisis, like a house on fire, we have the following things we have pre-thought or thought through:

1. An escape route.
2. What we would do: Who we would get out. What article of clothing we would like to save or jewelry. Or cars to back out of the house. (you have too thought about this admit it)
3. Calling someone. Who's house we would run to and the fire department to call.
4. We even have fire extinguishers.
5. We have a sense of urgency - "Get out" is the call.
6. All of the above has a "decision tree" based on the size of the fire and where the fire is in the house.
7. We take action!

But what if there is no fire? What if you are in a "slow boil" crisis?
This is where we get stuck. The slow boil crisis is one where we don't have to do anything. We accept it. We become complacent. We hope it will go away. We have no sense of urgency. We sweep it under the rug.

But we know it won't go away. Really, in our heart of hearts, we know there is a problem we are not dealing with.

In a slow-boil-crisis, we don't take action. Until our hair is on fire. And then, we try to put it out with an ax.

So, what do we need to do? Here are several actions to make;
1. Define the problem clearly. Think of this huge problem we have. It can be any problem, actually. But defining it as accurately as you can will help you.
2. Think on paper. Do not use the laptop. Do not allow it to swirl in your head. Get it on paper. Think on paper. Define the problem clearly on paper. Define everything on paper. There is magic between the pen, hand, arm and brain.
3. Chunk the problem. Salami slice the problem. Chunk the problem up into rational parts. Some parts are separate problems, that are not really related to the problem or are separate problems to be dealt with later.
4. Prioritize the issues. Which one is more important? Then, ask, which ones can we solve now? Prioritize problems/issues and potential solutions. (again, on paper)
5. Focus on Yourself. What are all the things we can possibly do to help ourselves?
6. Have "experts" to call. Like the fire department, you have to call in help. In an emotional crisis, you have to seek outside guidance. Al-Anon has people who have your same issue so they understand. Get a sponsor. Or a therapist. If not related to alcohol and it's related to work, get a mentor. Ask someone to be your coach when you are having and facing problems at work. It can be someone in the office or outside your office (choose someone wise and not someone who will coddle you).
7. Create a sense of urgency. Create a list of things to do. But time bound each activity on the list. And stick to the dates of WHEN you are going to get each action done.
8. Take action. Take action. Take action. Even if it is a phone call, make it. If it is a walk or jog you have to tale at noon instead of eating lunch, do it. Like Nike says, Just Do It!
9. Don't get hung up on perfect. Perfect is not your friend. Know that less than 50% of any decision is right the first time. What people do is they correct the decision they made or adjust it as they receive feedback from the decision activity. They "self-correct" and the decision becomes right over time and with adjustment.
10. Review your Plan. Review it often, once a day, once a week. And review it with your sponsor.


Laurie said...

Joe - I've read this post twice this morning already. It feels you were writing specifically to me! I find myself wanting to seek help and make changes during the "crisis of my husband's drinking" but as soon as he "gets back on track" I sweep it under the rug, ignore the issue. Because in the here and now everything is good - or so it seems. You're completely right, in my heart of hearts I know...

Thanks again for your writing - it speaks volumes to me!

Francy said...

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Anonymous said...

YOU are living a life I have lived.
Amazing the way you can describe those feelings so well. everything you have written I identify with to a tee. Scary...I get the slow boil analogy..I once leanred I am an avoider. I wait for descions to be made for me sometimes because I can get so stuck. I don't know how I got to be this way except to say if it's not on fire I can't deal with it. I work great in a crisis, made decisions under pressure, and am excellent at providing hope, but do I have a game plan for me, a vision for my life, a road map for happiness? No, not even sure what I want anymore or what makes me happy. Haven't had the time to think that out, been too busy surviving all these years.....Just nice to know I am not alone.

Anonymous said...

could someone please explain to me what the word: 'codependency' means?
If i venture into another relationship, what should i be looking for????
does it mean a life alone????

Joe said...

Anonymous -

Look at this morning's post on Enabling. This will give you a start on how we become codpendent.

Also, go to the right hand side of this blog, the side bar. Look under Labels. Click on the link Codependency.


Joe said...

Anonymous - here is all the links to Codependency.

Just place this in the address line of your browser.

Or See codependency - click here

Maresie said...

I think for me after 7 years of living with an active Alcoholic the issue is there is so much to do I don't know where to start. Right now its my health, then it will be other issues. I have to prioritize other wise I paralyze. Good rhyme huh?