Ideas Worth Sharing

We all have ideas worth sharing with others, and this is the place to do it. I am particularly interested in those ideas which, if enacted, might make a significant difference in the world in which we live. I'll start with a few of my own ideas which I've mulled over and nurtured for years. I welcome your constructive feedback and will post ideas from others that I think fit my criteria. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

IDEA #14 Veteran Dads Teach New Dads

Not all of the ideas worth sharing come from me by a long shot. Every once in a while I come across an idea in the media that I think is well worth putting in this web log to share with others. The idea of training classes for fathers-to-be run by experienced fathers accompanied by their own babies is one such idea. I'm not sure how long this hot link will be good, but here is an article from a local newspaper about such a Training Camp For New Dads.

While we're at it, there are many mothers-to-be who need training from experienced mothers, as well. Gone are the days when a woman could be counted on to have many hours of supervised experience caring for younger siblings or cousins and the responsibility of baby sitting or being a nanny before having children of her own. Our lifestyles are too unnatural to depend on "maternal instinct" to come through with all that a woman needs to know to raise an infant and toddler. Mothers and mother-in-laws can no longer be depended upon to come to teach their skills to new mothers during the first few weeks with their new babies. Raising a newborn is too complex and too important a job to be undertaken without training. If we are going to improve the quality of our families, we need skilled, professional parents (see IDEA #5 below).

I hope readers of this web log will check with their own local hospitals to see if they have programs like Training Camp For New Dads, and if they don't encourage them to start one.

To let me know what you think
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May we all be blessed with a grateful heart on this Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

IDEA #13 Recovery United Retirement Homes

While I'm on the topic of Twelve-Step Recovery groups and the need for a Recovery United (see IDEA #12 below), I'll write a bit about the need for retirement homes and communities where long-term Twelve-Steppers can live together with others who have spent a large part of their lives committed to living the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of their recovery programs.

Virtually every religious group has retirement homes for members of that group. Twelve-Step Recovery groups do not consider their program a religion, but rather a spiritual practice which can be combined with any religion or none. Nevertheless, recovery groups do gather like-minded people who are dedicated to a similar set of values embodied in the program and who have learned to live in peace with one another through the application of their Steps and Traditions to all aspects of their lives. I believe Recovery United Retirement Homes would provide a sense of safety and comfort, peace and continued purpose to these retirees.

Recovery United Retirement Homes might be located in small towns in areas of natural beauty which attract tourists. They might consist of an apartment building adapted to independent living for the elderly (wide doorways, ramps, sturdy grips around the tub and toilet, and so on). They could have a common lobby/sitting room, several small meeting rooms to be rented to Twelve-Step Recovery groups, a literature outlet for conference-approved literature of all the recovery groups represented in the home and community, an office for an answering service, and perhaps even a hall and commercial kitchen for common dining and to rent to groups for larger events.

People who chose to retire at a Recovery United Retirement Home would never need to worry that they might not be able to make it to their Twelve-Step meetings as their meetings would be in the same building where they live. They would also be able to devote themselves to service to their recovery groups (an essential part of Twelve-Step Recovery programs) by taking turns operating the literature outlet and answering service and cleaning the meeting rooms and hall. In this way they could feel useful and productive so long as they were able.

Small towns often have only one or two recovery programs available. However, locating a Recovery United Retirement Home in such communities would make it possible to expand the number of programs available to the whole community as well as to tourists on vacation in that area.

While Twelve-Step Recovery groups themselves do not purchase property, Recovery United could purchase these retirement homes and run them as condominiums or cooperatives. The retirees could continue to participate in the decision-making process for their retirement facility as they have over the years in their recovery programs. They could decide whether to rotate the necessary jobs for the maintenance of their home among themselves or to hire a housekeeper, handyperson, gardener or even a cooking staff. They could contract as individuals or as a group with barbers, hairdressers, and home care providers for services as needed. They could have a fitness center and other activities on site. In short, they could provide for their needs in cooperation with others who share their values and way of life.

To let me know what you think
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Wednesday, November 13, 2002

IDEA #12 Recovery United

Most people have heard of Alcoholics Anonymous, that granddaddy of all Twelve-Step Recovery groups begun in 1935, and its Big Book or Blue Book or simply The Book titled simply Alcoholics Anonymous. If nothing else, they've seen spoofs of recovery meetings in which people introduce themselves, "Hi, I'm _______, and I'm an alcoholic." Perhaps they've even become aware that the original Twelve Steps found in the Big Book have been adapted to a plethora of addictive, compulsive and obsessive problems with living.

I once put * Anonymous into the search engine Google and came up with over 20 groups modeling themselves to a greater or lesser degree after Alcoholics Anonymous. Just a few include Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Smokers Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous and Clutterers Anonymous. Then there are also the Twelve-Step Recovery groups for family members and friends of addicts, like Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and O-Anon. Most people could find one or more Twelve-Step Recovery groups for which they qualify should they have the desire to use participation in a spiritual fellowship to help them cope with their lives. In this day of online meetings, more and more of these recovery programs are available to everyone wherever they may live.

Nevertheless I think there is a place for an organization I tentatively call Recovery United. Recovery United would be an umbrella group holding speaker meetings where people from any of the Twelve-Step recovery groups could be invited to tell their stories and where people with multiple addictions could tell their whole recovery story involving two or more programs without breaking the traditions of their individual programs. These speaker meetings would be open to anyone in the community who wanted to learn more about Twelve-Step recovery.

Recovery United could serve those people who want to practice the Twelve-Steps in their lives but may not yet know for which programs they qualify. It could provide meetings for travelers from any of the Twelve-Step recovery groups. It could establish literature outlets including the conference-approved literature from all the various programs. It could provide a single local telephone number through which callers could be referred to all the different Twelve-Step Recovery programs in the community. It could participate in community health fairs where it could give handouts informing members of the community about all the various Twelve-Step recovery groups in the community or available online or by mail.

In smaller communities, Recovery United meetings might be the only exposure members of the community would have to the less known, smaller recovery groups. Recovery United could serve a function for Twelve-Step recovery programs similar to small business incubators: they could bring together people who have a need for a recovery program not yet in their community and invite speakers from communities where that program has groups in order to help a local meeting get organized.

In many ways Alcoholics Anonymous has served these functions within the recovery community. They are the largest, oldest, best organized, and most widely available of all the Twelve-Step groups, and it is with their help and cooperation that the others have been established. However, this is not AA's primary purpose and may serve as a distraction from their very important work. I think the Twelve-Step Recovery movement has become large enough and diverse enough to require an umbrella group along the lines of Recovery United.

To let me know what you think
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Wednesday, November 06, 2002

I'm back. I usually post something new to this web log every Wednesday, so if you want to add it to your favorites list you can usually count on finding a new idea or commentary toward the end of each week. The last two weeks were an exception as I was on vacation, traveling to visit family in Michigan. I had a great time exchanging genealogical information and old family photos with some of my cousins as well as celebrating the 85th birthday of my husband's father with his family. While I'm still thinking about what we inherit from our families I think I'll write about an idea I had some years ago about where (and when) we can best intervene to improve the mental health of our family line.

IDEA #11 Therapy for New Parents

A popular cartoon some years back showed a large auditorium with one person sitting in the midst of a sea of empty seats; on the wall behind him was a banner reading "Welcome Adult Children of Normal Parents!" Over the past twenty years or so the words "dysfunctional" and "family" have come together to describe what most of us grew up in and perhaps passed on to our own children. The dysfunction of the family came out of and produced various forms of mental ill health, from anxiety to depression, compulsion and addictions.

Some of us unknowingly carried on the family line, producing another generation with our family's brand of dysfunction. Others swore to "break the chain" that bound them and erred just as grievously by doing the opposite of what their parents did until they discovered in their mid-forties that they had, in fact, become like their parents in spite of their best efforts. A few were forced to become aware of how they were thinking and acting by some crisis in living--a "nervous breakdown", severe depression, "hitting bottom" with alcoholism or addiction--and sought help and support in making deep changes in their approach to life. Often these changes came too late to help their children who had already "grown and flown".

As I have observed this in my own life and the lives of others over the years I have pondered on where meaningful intervention in this ongoing family pattern could do the most good. After all, mental health resources are chronically too scarce to deal with all the dysfunction in individuals and families in our society, so where could they be best applied to give the most "bang for the buck"?

Some attempt has been made to identify "at risk" individuals, often in childhood or even infancy, in order to provide preventive services that have the potential to save both suffering and tax money in the long term. This seems a move in the right direction, but, in my opinion, is usually too narrowly focussed--the problem is not in the individual child but in the family culture. How does that culture get transmitted from one generation to the next and how can it be most effectively modified in a healthy direction?

A book I read several years ago convinced me that a Swiss infant psychiatrist's work points the way we need to go. The book is The Scripts Parents Write and the Roles Babies Play: The Importance of Being Baby by Bertrand Cramer. For this gentle and humane doctor, "the 'patient' is not a lone baby perched on a couch but is at least two people--mother and infant--or sometimes three, including the father." (p. vii) As Dr. Cramer notes, "Pregnancy and birth make women particularly amenable to therapeutic intervention. From the point of view of a psychiatrist, this period is a 'privileged moment' for preventive psychotherapy." (p. 118) I believe this may be equally so for a new father, especially if he was a labor coach for his wife and was present at the birth of the baby.

Surely the moment of birth is a sacred moment in any family and deserves to have every support our society can manage to provide. Gentle care in preparation for the birth, in the delivery itself, and in the adjustment to parenthood for the new parents can go a long way in healing the wounds of the past and providing a new, more loving family relationship for the growth of a new family legacy. Therapy for new parents with their infant can be a crucial component of this transition to healthier families.

To let me know what you think
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