Short Post: “Thanks for Sharing”

I intend to post a whole series about the phenomenon of the “Selfie”, and started writing a long complicated post. However, I will be out of town next week, so I probably won’t post then unless I find something great to “reblog”.

So this post is about the film, “Thanks for Sharing”, starring Mark Ruffalo and a with a great supporting appearance by the singer/performer Pink who turns out to be a really good actress. Gwyneth Paltrow and Tim Robbins and Joely Richardson. ImDB describes the movie as “A romantic comedy that brings together three disparate characters who are learning to face a challenging and often confusing world as they struggle together against a common demon: sex addiction.”

It’s directed and partly written by Stuart Blumberg who is known for writing the movie, “The Kids Are Alright.”

This movie did not get much attention before, during or after its run in the movie theaters, however, I went to it and actually really liked it and I think it is very under appreciated. I have told many patients to see it as I work with a lot of people who attend 12 Step Meetings of various kinds and for whom the 12 Step Program is a healing and integral part of their lives and recovery.

Anyway, what struck me the most about the movie is that the 12 Step Program, in this case S.A. Sex Addicts Anonymous (there is also SLA, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous) is the main character portrayed on many levels in the flim.

Well, I just learned something: there are 4 different 12 step programs that address this kind of addiction/compulsionnn, not just the above two:

Sexaholics Anonymous (SA)
Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA)
Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA)
Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (SCA)

FOr a good description of the differences between these, here is the link I found:
http://www.billherring.info/atlanta_counseling/how-different-12-step-meetings-for-sexual-recovery-define-sexual-sobriety

THat’s what I love about blogging. I learn as I write! As the main character, SA links all the characters together, not just the main one played by Mark Ruffalo. In the opening shots the camera goes down streets in NYC, and what I found great was that the cinematographer captured the point of view of people with sex addiction in terms of their having a different brain response to stimuli in the environment, especially visual stimuli. As the camera goes down a crowded day time NY street, it captures how just about anything, not just people, but inanimate objects, can be taken in as a sexual stimuli, and gives you an idea of the brain of a sex addict getting “triggered” by anything, even a fire hydrant or street light, as well as any random person walking down the street of any gender.

The movie captures the essence of the 12 Step Recovery System which is not for everybody as it follows an abstinence sobriety model, not a moderation/balance model. It is highly effective for many people with sex addiction issues though. The main human character in the film has about 5 years “sobriety” which means he has had no sexual activity including masturbation in 5 years. The longer recovered addict played by Tim Robbins is his sponser and the Ruffalo character is sponsoring a newly in recovery, forced to go to 12 steps person who is still out of contol. Pink enters the movie later and is also a sex addict with little recovery time. So the movie does a good job portraying the different challenges of 12 Step Receovery for the long recovered married addict, the 5 year person with the challenge of having to stop avoiding dating and relationships to more fully recover, and the struggling beginning addicts who are stumbling along having a lot of trouble staying sober and “slipping” while still going to meetings. What saves the two early recovery people is that they bond and help each other because they are on the same level. Ruffalo refuses to sponsor the new sponsee because he is not actively doing anything in his recovery and not being truthful in the meetings or with his sponsor.

For the long recovered addict played by Tim Robbins, there is a great portrayal of a split that can happen with 12 Step Recovery. His SA sponsor role model self is very dedicated and he has saved his marriage and developped a kind of father son relationship with his sponsee, thus making progress with SA while in his personal life, he is having a lot of trouble with his son who is also an addict. He does not accept or validate his son and his disagreements with his wife are about the son. So his main conflict involves changing as a father and stopping hiding behind the replacement father role of being a better sponsor to his sponsee than father to his son…

The Ruffalo character has the challenge of starting to date someone and figuring out how to “come out” about his sex addiction without scaring away his potential girlfriend, and being challenged by relapse and the messiness of life that he cannot avoid anywya.

THe movie zeroes in on the special fellowship of the people at this SA meeting and the way it can be a supportive community, but the challenge is to go back out in the world and manage on your own with your sobriety. The movie is complex enough that we see several different kinds of challenges faced by the characters in SA, as well as seeing how they fare trying to explain their addiction and recovery to non addicts. Because the movie takes on the challenge of sex addiction, which is not understood by the mainstream culture very deeply and which has a lot of shame associated with it, it does have a lot of gorund to cover and cannot be extensive, so unfortunately it only shows people identified as heterosexual with these struggles, and would have been a deeper movie if there were characters from the LGBTQ community.

Much more can be said, but I will end with a few important 12 Step phrases that were important in the film and quite helpful to anyone. “CLean your own side of the street” said by a non sex addict, the partner of the Tim Robbins character, about how she has managed to stay in her relationship and be growing in it. She is aware that she has her own work to do on herself and that her husband’s sex addiction is his “Side of the street” and his problem, not hers. “THanks for sharing” is of course the title and based on what people say in meetings in response to someone sharing their struggles. This phrase is actually very meaningful, it covers the attitude of gratefulness for recovery and rebirth and second and third chances as well as a grateful attitude towards everyone who comes to a meeting. All can equally share no matter how much sober time they have. It is the “Sharing” and community that really aids in the healing process and can be true for any kind of therapeutic healing or group. The mere act of sharing and being validated is very powerful for anyone struggling with mental illness and/or addiction. The two minor characters with little experience sober are sharing with each other outside the meeting and it actually works, because the writer knew not to drama things up and have them sleep with each other. Instead they are learning to have a non sexual relationship through SA, which is incredibly healing for them to “share” in the kind of friendship neither has yet experienced.

So I highly recommend this film as a great effort at portraying some aspects of 12 Step Recovery and the humanity of a person who has done the kind of terrible behaviors sex addicts are compelled to do. This is the other side of it, so we can have compassion for all the characters wherever they are in their recovery, and understand the struggles they have due to a probably biological as well as environmentally caused disorder/imbalance.

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quick post on the “12 Steps”

The 12 Steps, like anything else outside ourselves, including alcohol, food, etc. are just a tool that can be used in a productive way or misused. I have seen my patients who are open to receiving the wisdom from them have breakthgoughs in their recovery and really feel they have a community of equals who are supportive. 

One quote I always remember and use with lots of things is, “take what you like and leave the rest, in other word, if you like going to the meetings and listening to others but you don’t like all the steps, you can still benefit from meeting.

The big stumbling block for a lot of people is the whole “god/higher power”. I think the concept of a higher power was developped to help people with alcohol addiction to understand that there might exist a power outside themselves that could be more powerful than the most powerful thing in their life — their drink of choice-. It is about surrendering. Anyway your higher power could be the pizza parlor down the street or your own desire to heal and stop self destructive behavior. Basically we all have limited power in our lives, which we observe and learn everyday. (Life is what happens when you’re making other plans. John Lennon)

I found this great version of the twelve steps that doesn’t mention god or even a higher power and uses the journal, and thought it was worth sharing:

The Twelve Step Journal

 

These are the 12 steps as outlined in the book The Twelve Step Journal, by Claudette Wassil-Grimm, M.Ed..

  1. We admitted we were powerless over our addiction/compulsion – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that, like all human beings, our power was limited and we needed to learn to let go and learn from others.
  3. We made a decision to let go of control, assume a spirit of goodwill, seek the wisdom of responsible others, and discover our true “voice within”.
  4. We made a searching and fearless inventory of our strengths and weaknesses.
  5. We admitted to our journal, ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to listen to wise counsel and seek that still small voice within to guide us to change our behaviors which have been harmful to ourselves and others.
  7. Humbly began the process of deep change so we could overcome our weakness.
  8. Made a list of all persons we have harmed, became willing to make amends to them all, and to forgive those against whom we have held grudges.
  9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so whould injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Through meditation and journaling we continually seek to clarify and improve our own judgment and to consider the best direction and purpose our lives can take.
  12. Having developed deeper wisdom and an appreciation of the spiritual as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Great Website: The Broken Light Collective

I don’t know if I’ve talked about them before on my blog, but I’ve been very excited about the “Broken Light Collective” blog website and what they are doing for people affected by mental illness, and in addition as an added bonus, as a way to educate the public about mental illness. This is a really impressive endeavor as it is much more than a blog. It is very moving and somehow allows people to be vulnerable and feel safe as well as able to express their own unique voice…

This is a WordPress blog started by people who wanted to post daily photos by people with mental illness. I’m not sure what got them focused on photography as the medium of choice, but it works extremely well on the internet, and nowadays with phone cameras etc., non professionals can express themselves skillfully through the art of photography and manipulating photos to create an image. There are so many options: just a snapshot caught at the right moment, a photo reworked in Photoshop to heighten it in some way, even photo collages… The only thing any of the photos all have in common is a search for the Truth about Life, as experienced by the photographer/individual.

Broken LIght Collective is a beautiful name for this simple idea. Follow the blog. and every day you will see a new image, completely unique, made by someone struggling with a mental illness or less often, someone very affected in his/her life by a loved one’s struggles with mental illness, and of course, many people fit both of these descriptions. If you are interested in studying mental illness, this is a great blog to follow to learn from the people who are struggling with it every day of their lives. They have a lot of wisdom and battle scars, not to mention the courage of putting themselves out there and showing a part of themselves through their photography.

This is to me, in a sense, art therapy at its best — a form of community art therapy or photo therapy or whatever you feel like calling it. It is an example of healing through creativity and sharing, which I think is a very important component of this original and thoughtful and sensitive blog/website. I believe strongly that creative acts and sharing of one’s creations coupled together promote the most healing as connecting with others who are sensitive to one’s struggles and/or struggling with similar issues is most healing of all. This is not to elevate or promote the idea of connecting as being social. This website is great for people with “social anxiety” which I am starting to doubt is a real “Disorder”. Anyway it is a great form of therapy through community combined with individuality, something very rare to find in the “physical world out there” in our daily lives, but perfect for the internet. In the case of the “Broken Light Collective”, the therapeutic healing aspect of this endeavor is accomplished through as a supportive community which gets formed through the people’s efforts, much like the AA model, however without any philosophy or approach to recovery. Just an interest in telling people’s stories through words and pictures. Thus the strong community of sensitive people does not require a therapist to be present, although some of the interesting “profiles” are of psychotherapists and healers of one kind or another sharing their own struggles with mental illness.

So please go check out the blog and follow it!

Inspired by the Broken Light Collective, I would like to do something similar with art in all other media excluding photography and post a picture a day of art work with the person’s story. I’m thinking of calling it the Shadow Brush Group and would model it on the philosophy of Broken Light. It would just be a place where people instead of sharing photos, share photos of paintings, drawings, mixed media, sculpture, crafts, fiber arts, environmental art, even short poems.

Note: For the Broken Light Collective people can choose to post on there with their real names and also are able to post with a pseudonym to keep their privacy… There is no judgment either way, just an invitation.