Why I Run

My reasons for running have changed over the years from a desire for fitness, to compete in races, and to decompress from the mental weariness that came with being the mother of an addict. Now I run to cope with and to overcome the despair from the death of my only child to a drug overdose

My only child was found dead in his apartment on Feb 12, 2014.

He was only 26.

 

I run for those who have lost their lives to addiction.

I run for those who continue to struggle.

I run for addiction awareness and prevention.

 

I run for those who believe it could not happen to their family.

Running brings life back to me through body, mind, and spirit. As I listen to my breathing and my footsteps, running reminds me that I am strong, that I have purpose, that the world is still beautiful, and that life really is a gift in spite of the grief and sorrow.

I run to remember my beautiful boy before addiction caught him in its ugly snare. Grief has been my greatest teacher. It has taught me to pay attention, to remember that each moment is sacred and may be the last, to love the gift of life and to practice gratitude.

If God had whispered in my ear moments before the nurse placed my newborn baby boy into my arms, "there will be much heartache on the road ahead and you can only have him for 26 years...do you still want him?" My reply would have been a swift and resounding “Yes”.

Eric was 16 years old when he hurt his back playing high school football. When he was in pain from standing so long at the neighborhood restaurant he worked at, his boss gave him the painkiller oxycontin.  He told him to take them because they would make him feel better and to keep on working. He gave Eric those pills for quite some time.   A drug addict was born and the living nightmare began.

Eric would lie. He would steal. He would do whatever he could to get the drugs he needed. He became someone I no longer recognized. I cried, begged, enabled, threatened, screamed and used tough love. I became addicted to his addiction.

How I managed to keep my job was a miracle. How my new husband came into my life and actually stayed is a miracle. How I didn't have a breakdown is a miracle. I kept it all hidden from friends and family for many years because of the awful stigma associated with addicts.

I was still trying to protect my son. I would have given my life for him.

I run to feel alive ………… as I leave tiny bits of grief on the road behind me.
— Kimberly Griner Heinz

Now that you’ve read her story would you please take a moment and click on the link below to vote to get Kimberly on the cover of this magazine to spread the word and raise awareness.  A click on a link is so powerful.

Thank you all.

- Anita Devlin

 

Runner's World Cover Search

Another Side of Breast Cancer

Originally posted on My Life as 3d by Dean Dauphinais:

I'm sure most of you read the title of this post and thought you may have stumbled across another blog by accident. Breast cancer? What's a guy who writes about addiction and recovery doing writing about breast cancer?? Let me explain.

My youngest sister was diagnosed with invasive, metastatic breast cancer in July of 2011. This was a huge blow to her, because she had already lived most of her life with lupus and its many side effects, including countless surgeries. Adding breast cancer to the mix didn't really seem fair. But my sister is a fighter and was bound and determined to kick cancer's ass.

Having spent eight years as a comprehensive cancer center administrator and ten years as a medical school administrator, my sister was very familiar with breast cancer. In fact, she was diagnosed while consulting for the cancer program at one of the region’s largest medical centers. (Talk about your work life and personal life colliding.)

Following a lumpectomy in August of 2011, my sister elected to have a bilateral mastectomy as a preventative measure. Her surgery was successful (thank God), and afterward she made another choice: to undergo breast reconstruction. Little did she know that getting new boobs was going to be a way bigger ordeal than the mastectomy.

That August, my sister's first plastic surgeon told her, "By summer, you'll be in fightin' shape." What he didn't bother to tell her was which summer.

My sister's initial reconstruction took place in September of 2011, but that was hardly the end of her journey. What followed were many complications and multiple operations. She even enrolled in a clinical research study in hopes of getting things resolved once and for all. Three years after her first reconstruction, my sister was still having issues with her newest breasts. When she followed up with her plastic surgeon, he informed her that one implant had rotated sideways and the other was upside down.

"There’s nothing more I can do for you," he told her as he hurried out of the exam room.

What. The. Fuck.

"As a patient I felt abandoned," my sister explains. "I felt like I’d lost my breasts--AGAIN. True enough, there was nothing more HE could do for me." Fortunately, my sister's journey and knowledge--which she likens to "drinking water from a firehose"--led her to Dennis Hammond, an internationally acclaimed expert in breast reconstruction revision in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Dr. Hammond performed his surgical magic on my sister on Tuesday. She came home on Wednesday. So far, everything has gone splendidly. Physically, she's doing great. Emotionally, she's doing even better. She sounds like a totally new person, even if only two parts of her are actually new. It appears as though her three-year roller coaster ride may actually be coming to an end.

Hallelujah, Jesus, and praise the Lord.

My sister is quick to point out that having breast reconstruction was her choice,and that the procedure may not be the right choice for every woman who has a mastectomy. There are questions that need to be asked and informed decisions that need to be made.

Educating other women about the process is one of my sister's passions. In fact, at the onset of her reconstruction journey, my sister agreed to be one of the subjects of a powerful book about breast cancer surgery and reconstruction. The book, by veteran medical writer Patricia Anstett and award-winning photographerKathleen Galligan, is scheduled for publication later this year and will tell women's stories poignantly through words and photos. It's purpose? To inform the more than 225,000 American women--some as young as 20--who undergo surgery every year for breast cancer, often without much information or medical consultation.

This book needs some help, though. A month-long Kickstarter campaign to raise $18,000.00 has two weeks left and is still shy of its goal. As I write this, the fundraiser still has about $6,500.00 to go. Without that money, there's a very good chance that the book won't get published. And that would be a shame.

If you could possibly make a contribution to this cause--any contribution, small or large--I would be so appreciative. So would my sister. Like addiction, breast cancer touches so many lives. And the more information a woman facing surgery has at her fingertips, the better. This book can truly make a difference.

Let me emphasize that this book is about choices and doesn’t advocate for breast reconstruction; rather, this book seeks to provide much-needed information to women as they make decisions.

"With my professional experience in healthcare, one would think I’d know the the right questions to ask," my sister says. "But I didn't. I was completely unprepared to choose my plastic surgeon, which, in my case, was one of the first steps in my treatment. The lesson: When you don’t know what you don’t know, you don’t do what you should do."

Please consider helping other women get the information they need, so they can learn from others'  experiences and do what they should do the first time around.

Here is a direct link to this important book's Kickstarter campaign page:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/635883113/breast-cancer-surgery-and-reconstruction-whats-bes

And for more information on the project, along with a great blog on mastectomy, lumpectomy, and reconstruction, visit the Breast Cancer Surgery Stories website at this link:

http://bcsurgerystories.com

Thanks for letting me digress a bit with this blog post. This is a cause near and dear to me and I appreciate you taking the time to read about it.

Peace.

The Three Most Important Questions You Can Ask Your Teenager

Originally posted on Huffington Post by Michael Mulligan:

According to the social scientists, the last of the millennials are now gracing our high school campuses. The Pew Research Center report on this cohort describes them as "confident, connected, and open to change." I agree. Technology is their metier. They embrace diversity like no generation before them. They seek to serve the dispossessed and the disadvantaged. They work to find green solutions to the environmental mess we have bequeathed them. In this regard, they are focussed and unrelenting: a good thing for all of us.

Beneath their energy and commitment to building a better world, though, is stretched, for too many, a fragile membrane that is easily punctured. We have raised a generation that is plagued with insecurity, anxiety and despair.

Former Yale Professor William Deresiewicz, in his fascinating and controversial bookExcellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life writes this of the millennials:

A large-scale survey found self-reports of emotional well being have fallen to the lowest levels in 25 year study... fifty percent of college students report feelings of hopelessness; one-third reported feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function in the last twelve months ... They are stressed-out, over-pressured; [they exhibit] toxic levels of fear, anxiety, depression, emptiness, aimlessness, and isolation. (p. 8)

His is not a lone voice. Deresiewicz quotes adolescent expert Madeline Levine from her book The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids:

Preteens from affluent, well-educated families... experience among the highest rates of depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, somatic complaints, and unhappiness of any group of children in this country. As many as 22 percent of adolescent girls from financially comfortable families suffer from clinical depression. (pp. 45-46)

College deans from elite schools join the chorus. The Stanford Provost writes, for example, (and remember that Stanford is now the most selective university in the country):

Increasingly we are seeing students struggling with mental health concerns ranging from self-esteem issues and developmental disorders to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-mutilation behavior, schizophrenia, and suicidal behavior. (p. 8)

What gives?

Deresiewicz claims that this generation of highly accomplished, college-bound students have been robbed of their independence because they have been raised in a petri dish for one purpose only: to attend an elite college that ensures their and their families' economic and social status. Instead of being nurtured towards real curiosity and a genuine sense of citizenship, these millennials are conditioned to think that everything they do is for the purpose of looking good in the eyes of admissions officers and employers: you earn good grades not because they mean you are learning something, but rather because they will help you stand out from your peers when applying to the Ivies. You engage in community service not because you wish genuinely to make a positive difference in the lives of others but rather because that is how you burnish your resume -- service as check-off box. You play sports not because they build character and teamwork and are a whole lot of fun, but because you want to try to get recruited for a college team. You study art or music not because you wish to refine your understanding of human nature, creativity and culture but because it will help you look smarter.

There is little intrinsic value in what you do. The result: Many college students who fall apart under pressure because they cannot conceive of the fact that hard work and learning are positive outcomes in and of themselves. They have no sense of who they are or what is important in their lives. They have spent so much time trying to look good that they do not know what "The Good" (consider Plato here) really is. They are walking ghosts of seeming, not of being.

Deresiewicz writes:

All the values that once informed the way we raise our children - the cultivation of character, the development of the capacity for democratic citizenship, let alone any emphasis on the pleasure of freedom of play, the part of childhood where you actually get to be a child - all of these are gone. (p. 50)

He laments:

Beyond the junior careerism, the directionless ambition, the risk aversion, and the Hobbesian competitiveness, the system cultivates some monumental cynicism. Whatever the motives of which they were established, the old WASP admissions criteria actually meant something. Athletics were thought to build character - courage and selflessness and team spirit. The arts embodied an ideal of culture. Service was designed to foster a public-minded ethos in our future leaders. Leadership itself was understood to be a form of duty. (p. 56)

The underlying sentiment, and he is correct about this, is that when we teach our children that outcomes are more important than process they lose the ability to enjoy learning for its own sake. Everything becomes about the end-game. The problem is that the end game - whether it turns out as they anticipated or not - is often not intrinsically rewarding. Each effort, each moment, rather than being full as a part of a rich life is simply degraded into being a mere step in a process that leads to...an existential abyss.

The statistics, as related by college deans, adolescent expert Madeline Levine, Professor Deresiewicz, and others, unfortunately bear this out. We have raised a generation of kids who are taught that appearance is more important than substance and that outcomes are more important than character. As a result, they inhabit empty vessels that lead them to a series of negative behaviors that results in, yes, unhappiness, which they try erase with empty sex, drugs, alcohol, and what Professor Deresiewicz calls "junior careerism and Hobbesian competitiveness." The hookups, drugs, and alcohol, of course, just make this abyss deeper and wider.

We can do better.

Truth is, we know full well that lasting happiness springs from good health, solid values, meaningful work, multiple positive relationships, and selfless service. So how about we cease and desist on the pressure front - and get our eye back on the ball that matters - stop asking What (What grade did you get? What team did you make?) and begin asking Who, Where, and How?

  1. Who tells us who we are?
  2. Where do we want to go with our lives?
  3. How do we want to get there?

Question one is important because forces are lined up (internet, television, movies, advertising, just for starters) that tell us who we are is not about how hard we work, how curious we are, or how much we are willing to make a positive difference to others and to our world in distress. No, these forces say: You are what you wear, what you buy, how thin or buff you are, how many like you (on Facebook or anything else) - or for the elite college bound crowd - where you go to college. When we focus on the wrong things, we create these conditions for monumental cynicism in our kids. Our children need to learn that they are important not for reasons of appearance but for reasons of substance.

Question two is important because if we believe that the only thing that matters is college and job status then how can we not end up frustrated, angry, and lonely? Where we want to go with our lives is intrinsically linked to the question of what leads us to fulfillment and happiness? For most of us the answer is passion. We all know we are in the right jobs when how long we work at something is driven by interest and not only about earning a paycheck. The truth is that we are all going to have to work hard to succeed in life, and if that is the case, let's us at least try to work hard on things that matter and that we care about.

Question three may be the most important because how we get anywhere is as critical as where we end up. Kids cheat in school because they think grades are more important than what they learn. They take short-cuts because they believe the longer, harder path has no value or because they are afraid of stumbling or of being seen as someone who stumbles. They are mean or cruel or uncaring often because they do not like themselves; they feel they cannot make the grade that will earn them a spot at That College. They begin to see others as competitors for those spots - not as fellow-journeyers. Diminished self-respect skulks alongside little respect for others. No one wins.

To return to where we started: The millennials are accomplishing great things, caring about important things. But too many of them look inside only to peer into a void that we, at least in part, have helped to create. In our efforts to push our kids ahead, we have forgotten to ask why pushing ahead is important in the first place. What future, what adulthood are they pushing to?

So generation Z is on its way. Let's go back to the basics. Let's help them understand that learning is valuable in and of itself; that hard work, genuine curiosity, and heartfelt passion pave the way to a life well lived; and that real success comes when you can look at your life and say, "I have done my best to make a positive difference in the lives of others and the world we live in."

Michael K. Mulligan is the Head of The Thacher School in Ojai, California. A graduate of Middlebury College, The Breadloaf School of English at Middlebury, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, he has taught, coached, and counseled teens for 38 years.

Tips to Happiness

Originally posted on Q L C:

Life is moving so quickly these days. I feel like the moments are flying by and I’m not spending nearly enough time thinking about all of the things I’m doing and truly appreciating what I have. When I feel like I don’t have time to stop and be grateful, I remember back to when I was a kid driving in the car with my dad. He always wanted to go the long way to get anywhere, just so he could drive by the beach. Mr. Cape Cod we would call him. And he always said, “You won’t live at the beach forever, appreciate it while it’s here.” He would get so excited to see the water. It didn’t matter if the water was still and flat or rough and wavy, he would always have the same cheerful reaction just being there.

So, as a result of moving at the speed…

View original 586 more words


Feminists: What Were They Thinking (A Kickstarter Project)

Please help support this kickstarter project:

DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT

Feminism seems to be the scariest word in the English language. But not for those of us who experienced the game-changing awakening that was the Women’s Movement of the 1970s. Growing up in the fifties and sixties meant not only second class citizenship legally, but 2nd class human being-ship: not invited to the party of medicine, art, law, education, science, religion, except maybe as the secretary. Our film, FEMINISTS: What were they thinking? digs deep into our personal experiences of sexism and of liberation, and follows this ever-challenging dialogue right into the 21st century. We are taking it personally.

ABOUT THE FILM

In the late ‘70s, Cynthia MacAdams, an actress turned photographer, was roaming the streets of Los Angeles and New York photographing women.  She did it, she said, because something new was happening in women and she wanted to see if it showed up in photographs.  Laurie Anderson, Anne Waldman, Gloria Steinem, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Kate Millett, Patti Smith, Michelle Phillips, Judy Chicago, Marisol Escobar, Meredith Monk stopped what they were doing and looked into her lens.  And many others, whose names and faces may not be so familiar but their struggle is--they stopped and looked too.  And out of it came a book called EMERGENCE. 

From this “moment” in history, each woman tells of her personal experiences as a little girl, a teenager and a grown woman--stories of frustration, of limitations and of separation that one never forgets. We intercut these personal stories with footage from commercials, movies, news, music, television, the culture of the 50s & 60s and the culture NOW. Some things have changed, some remain the same. Some are even worse. Then for each woman, there is the very personal moment of awakening to her own precious sense of identity. And at the same time, there is the exhilarating challenge of the women’s movement. As we go from the photos to the culture, scenes play off the women’s private moments with humor, devastating reality, and even joy, building to the present moment. What has changed? What remains the same? Where are we now? How can this dialogue with history help women around the world? Oh, and did I say it’s personal? 

WHY ARE WE MAKING THIS FILM? 

This film is a long time coming. The Women’s Movement isn’t just about changing laws or challenging customs.  It’s about awakening half the human race to full personhood andinspiring the other half to come to the dance.   That’s a lot of cultural habit to liberate ourselves from.  And we believe the most profound changes are the ones that come to us in personal ways. We want to bring those stories, into the 21st century, to explore the dialogue of today with young women who still face many of the most profound barriers we faced 40 years ago.

We need to raise $75,000 to finish shooting our interviews -- the personal stories that are the heart of the film. With those interviews, we can build the film around the cultural changes that are still happening today.


For more information, please visit the kickstarter page here.

Proud Mother


Words can't express how proud I am of my daughter, Alex. She is a strong, confident, driven young woman who amazes me on a daily basis. Please check out her site, Quarter Life Conversations, which focuses on navigating your 20's. 

www.quarterlifeconversations.com

 

 

My Ladder of Life

As I scroll through my new website, I am overcome by a landslide of emotions.  I feel happy, sad, worried, scared and proud all at the same time. I am realizing that although I am fifty-four years old, my site reflects on the life and the challenges I have had in only the past five years.  Those struggles have launched my creativity to heights way beyond my field of vision. Maybe it’s because I’ve learned more about myself as a woman and as a mother than ever before. I have learned more about true friendship and now see who has been holding tight to the base of my life ladder, making sure I don’t fall down.

It’s easy to be surrounded by people when everything is wonderful.  It’s easy to be surrounded by people when you are the well and everyone stops by to take a drink or to fill their cup.  It’s easy to be the one to lend a hand or an ear.  It’s never been difficult to be that person.

What isn’t easy is watching people disappear when your well runs dry and the walls start to crumble.  When things don’t go quite the way they were supposed to.  When you have nothing to offer to help make someone else feel better anymore.  When the party is over and you become the one who needs the strength, or the hand, or the ear. It isn’t easy when the only sound you hear…………………… is crickets.

I’ve learned that life is about fortune and misfortune.  Life is about reflection and lessons learned. It’s about feeling grateful when you reach a certain age and realize what really matters.  Life is admitting that the only people that do matter are the ones who love you for who you are instead of for what you have. I’ve met many people in recent years that have changed my life significantly and I’ve also remained very close to the ones I hold close to my heart.  The ones that never left my side.

The past few years have changed me in ways I never imagined. My concept of strength was skewed.  I never realized how much strength it takes to admit you need help. I never had to ask before. Had I given so much of myself away, that my reservoir of strength had dried up?  I wondered if my need was masked. Did the courage I so easily handed out to others cause them to believe I could never be weak?

Although I can never be prepared for what life may throw on my path, I have reclaimed the things I need most to survive.  My strength and my faith. The past few years have challenged my faith.   I thought I had lost it along the way. It took some time, but halfway through I realized that it was me who was lost.

I’ve learned that sharing difficult times with people means as much as sharing the good ones.

I actually believe that sharing life’s struggles are worth more to others.  In this world of change, everyone seems to be dealing with something they are unprepared for.  We are searching for answers or at least someone’s words to help us get through. It doesn’t matter what the situation is. It has to do with the struggle. As parents we say “Do as I say, not as I do”. This is an example of the worst parenting skills ever.  When we show our kids that we handle life’s struggles without breaking down, they will learn to do the same.

The tough times are when we need the strength to keep fighting and hold on to faith, believing that it will all be okay in the end.  The strength and the faith to find hope in the seemingly hopeless.

This post is dedicated to my dear friend Johanne and to all the people in my life that have never let go of my ladder, no matter how difficult it was to hold on to.

- Anita