Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sharing (Or Not)

My school sent me an e-mail today informing me that there will soon be a session for incoming grad students about dealing with addiction--both in the people we serve and in ourselves, as we work in an often busy and stressful environment that can often lead to higher percentages of such problems. There will be various community panelists who have battled addiction coming in to work with small groups, to let these new students know about the harrows of addiction and recovery from various substances and behaviors. In the e-mail, one of our professors asked for any of us who might have had experience with addiction (either on our own, or family/friends etc.) and would be willing to share to join in the small groups as panelists, were we comfortable doing so at this point in our recovery.

I think, first of all, that this is a fabulous idea. Too many professionals (in most fields, not just my own) don't realize just how prevalent addiction is among us, and knowing that some of your fellow students have dealt intimately with the subject could be incredibly helpful to those who might otherwise be too afraid or proud or ashamed to step forward and seek help otherwise. In fact, I think it's such a great idea that I'd love to step forward and help out as a panelist. The problem is, I'm not sure if either my husband or I would be prepared to take such a huge step in "outing ourselves."

I have gained a great deal from others as I have worked through my own recovery from this crazy disease that is SA. Without other bloggers, online meetings and support groups, and real-life counselors, I don't think I would be where I am today--let alone my husband or my marriage. And it is one of the major points of most recovery groups that the ultimate in giving back is to share the message with others. But yet, there is something incredibly private about sex addiction, especially given the stigma that it carries in the media and society in general. If my husband were a recovering alcoholic, this would seem to be a much simpler answer, but sharing with a group of colleagues, some of whom I know relatively well and some who will be my superiors as I continue in school and career, is much more difficult a prospect given the sensitivity of the subject. I know first of all that D may not approve, and his privacy is equally as important as mine. Even if he approves, however, I am not sure that I would feel comfortable being so open to these people I work so closely with.

I have some time to make a decision, but I find myself intrigued by the prospect of doing so. What do you think? If you had to chance to share your experience with co-workers and colleagues in a setting like this, would you take it or protect your anonymity?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Empathy and Its Downfalls

A close friend of mine (let's call him/her J) recently discovered that an immediate family member has a life-threatening illness (it's so terribly difficult to share things like this and maintain anonymity, so you'll have to forgive the vagueness). This particular disease, once diagnosed, has a very short life expectancy--a year, perhaps, maybe a bit more or less. Obviously, I feel terrible for J. I cannot fathom what it must be to be going about life minding your own business and suddenly be facing the imminent death of someone you so dearly love. There are always the survivors, of course, those who defy the odds, but the odds are still not good. As a result, I find myself trying to do and be what J needs right now, to help facilitate the maintenance of as normal a life as possible given the circumstances. But I just can't help but feel that I'm running into trouble.

It's not that I'm over-extending myself trying to care for J. In fact, J is almost as stubborn as I am in refusing to ask for help if it's needed, or at least is still in shock and just unsure of how to feel and act--and as a result, I honestly haven't found much that J will actually allow me to do to help at all. Where I'm finding trouble is that I think I'm just transferring way too much of J's emotional climate to myself in an effort to be empathetic. I've always cared very much for people and naturally do feel like I am more in tune with others' feelings than most, and I know that it can be a detriment as much as an asset at times. Right now with J I can't seem to stop thinking about how awful I would feel if this were my mother/sister/father/spouse, and what in the world I would do without one of them, and what if one of them was going to die--and then I actually start feeling scared as though it were happening to me, or at least sick with worry that it could happen to me and mine. Much of this grows from my love for J, from whom I would spare this pain if I could--but it's not my burden, and I am growing tired of these feelings of fear and anxiety for J and for my own family.

Yet another thing I can't control but can't seem to stop stressing over.