He Feeds his Good Wolf

 

Eric Zimmer
The One You Feed

 Do you know the Cherokee parable about “The Two Wolves”?

A grandfather is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The grandfather simply replied “The one you feed.”

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My guest today  is Eric Zimmer.  Eric and his best buddy, Chris Frobes started The One You Feed podcast in early 2014 and it has quickly risen in popularity.  The One You Feed  features guests each week who educate the audience through their conversation with Eric.  The conversations always start with a question about how the guest's internal good and bad wolf influences them.  He's had experts in the fields of neurosciences, mindfulness, spirituality, wellness and personal fitness on.  They are 96 episodes in an counting with close to 2 million downloads.  That being said, maybe you don't need to be told any of this because you're already a fan.

"The One You Feed" podcast was rated #1 by iTunes in 2014.  That's great and all , but why is Eric on The Coaching Through Chaos Podcast? Don't I feature people who will "inspire, motivate and empower you"? Well, in fact, this episode marks the first in what will be a recurring series of episodes in which I bring a story of resiliency and triumph over life's hardships, losses or mishaps.  Eric has a story to tell that I think is worth hearing.  Eric's life took him from the depths of despair and homeless in his addiction to entrepreneurship and now to a place of bringing help, and hope, to others.

In this episode you will hear Eric and I discuss:

  • What helped him save himself from addiction
  • What keeps him clean and sober today
  • How he took a risk at a critical time in his life and how it paid off for him
  • Where he first heard the parable of The 2 Wolves and how the podcast came to fruition
  • What 2 lessons he learned from his guests that he applies to his own life
  • How he fights self-doubt when it comes creeping up on him
  • What he hopes his audience takes away from listening to The One You Feed
  • What's in the future for The One You Feed
  • How he takes care of himself in the midst of doing so much for others

Eric has come a long way in his life and he demonstrates a resiliency and self-awareness that seems to keep him in check.  He won't forget where he came from and he can appreciate how far he's come. 
It was my pleasure to converse with  him on The Coaching Through Chaos Podcast.

 

Wolf Awareness Week 2015

wolf awareness weekFew species are as historically vilified, as ecologically valued, and as continually controversial as wolves. Despite the vital role they play in many of our native ecosystems, wolves were nearly eliminated in the U.S. by relentless hunting and predator control programs determined to wipe them out. This interview was released to coincide with National Wolf Awareness Week (the third week in October), a time set aside to celebrate these important animals, highlight the threats to their survival, and spread the word about what can be done to help wolves stay protected and help humans learn to live alongside them. Find out more at Defenders of Wildlife.

The Hurricane and the Honeymoon: Love and Addiction

This is the story of hundreds of thousands of peoples’ relationships right now.
When you love someone with an addiction, life often feels like you cycle between a hurricane and a honeymoon.

I grew up on Long Island, about an hour outside New York City. It was usually a very pleasant and seasonably predictable place to live. That being said, some of my most memorable moments growing up are relative to the hurricanes that came through and wrecked our lives for a short time. Even though they were brief, they felt catastrophic when they happened. In particular, I can still remember the details of preparing and experiencing Hurricane Gloria in 1985.

Life was good. It was the time of year when summer transitions to fall on Long Island, leaves turn colors, we look forward to Halloween. But then, seemingly all of a sudden, we were taping our windows closed, filling up the cars with gas, buying up all the cereal and Spaghetti-Os we could to prepare for the turmoil ahead…
The storm hit! We braced ourselves and hoped for the best. Gloria was a terrible one – we were left without power for about 2 weeks and there was a tremendous amount of damage to areas of Long Island. In the end, we were fortunate. Our house was still standing and once the power came on our lives really just went back to normal. We went right back into our honeymoon experience where life was pleasant and relatively predictable. The damage from hurricanes varies from minimal to catastrophic. Certainly the range in between is vast, and relative to one’s previous storm experience.

That is exactly how it can feel to love someone with an addiction. I’ve been working as a therapist who specializes in addictions for most of my career. Loving someone with an addiction also hits close to home for me as I have a dear family member who continues to cycle through hurricanes herself. The countless stories I’ve heard from clients, either as the partners of the addicts or the person causing the storm, mirror the honeymoon-hurricane cycle.

People that love an addict will say there are times in the relationship that are “really nice” and their partner is “exactly as they were when we first got together”, but Hurricane and honeymoon - Coaching through chaos - when you liove an addictinevitably, the storm comes in. It may be in the form of them “just” being unreliable or flaking out on plans because they are already imbibing or otherwise using. Other times, and more frequently the longer the relationship lasts, the hurricane comes in like Gloria. It causes what we think of as more damaging consequences in the relationship. The storm can come in the form of not returning home, hooking up with someone else or losing a job (causing both financial and emotional consequences in the relationship). No matter how strong the person who loves them is and how much they say they want a fulfilling relationship, I often witness peoples’ struggle with the honeymoon-hurricane cycle. The partner’s tolerance level is usually directly relative to their past experience in life. If they grew up in a chaotic household, and even more so if they grew up with an addicted parent, their tolerance for the storm damage is high – just like people who have weathered many hurricanes.

The honeymoon period comes about after the storm. What usually happens is that the addict is so remorseful that, just like the 2–week post-Gloria blackout, the addict finds a way to seemingly restore the honeymoon period. Maybe they don’t drink “as much” or they hide their drug use, or just keep it at home . I should note that using at home is usually safer emotionally for the couple in that the non-using partner thinks “At least I know where they are and that they’re alive”. In extreme cases, the addict may make it to rehab or enter a 12-step program, saying all the things their partner needs to hear to decide to stay with them. Very often, the partner truly means the words when they say them, but their addicted brain may pull them back to using, often looking like they just said what they thought they needed to in order to keep their partner happy.

this is a couple on a honeymoon

To people who have not experienced many storms, these things still seem intolerable. If we don’t understand the addicted brain, we think – “This is unacceptable behavior!” and “I deserve better than this!” An outsider might say, “You should just leave since your partner keeps choosing the alcohol over you!” The partner of the addict may even think this themselves, but they learn along the way, that the addict does not have a choice and they are not “choosing” the substance over the relationship once they are addicted.

The thing is, choosing to end a relationship with an addict is not so simple.
Drugabuse.gov defines addiction as “ a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain”. Addiction is not an actual diagnosis.

In the addiction treatment field our latest diagnostic manual permits us to specify that a person has a “Substance Use Disorder”. We don’t leave our partners because they get diabetes, cancer, or rheumatoid arthritis, but we live in a society where others judge those that choose to stay in relationships with people who have the brain disease of addiction.

a house after a hurricane
pic orig on thrifyfun.com

We didn’t do a mass exodus from Long Island after Gloria. We removed the tape from the windows, picked up the branches from the yards and re-stocked our refrigerators to get ready for the honeymoon of normality to return. Couples with catastrophic relationships damaged caused by addictions may hole up for a few days at home, talk to each other about what happened, and make a prevention plan to try to stave off the next storm much in the same way. We all have weathered some storms in our day. For a couple with addiction, their life is just more prone to them.

How will you build your happy cage?

A lot of talk in recovery work deals with “building a positive (& sober) support network” and there is a concept called “re-joyment” – essentially it’s teaching addicts in recovery how to have a good time or recognize fun when they experience it.  When people have been addicted to substances, they are used to such dopamine overloads in their mind, that when life returns to “normal” and they don’t have such stimulation, it can sometimes be difficult for one to recognize a sense of what “joy” or “fun” feels like. When I have taught Drug & Alcohol Counseling courses, I used an example of the football game: Very often addicts/alcoholics were used to supporting their teams through  hours-long tailgating with lots of alcohol (which also increases the brains release of dopamine) & alcohol throughout the game.  When they are sober, they have to “re-learn” how to participate at a game & what exactly they are feeling.  People DO go to football games without drinking AND they may even tailgate without alcohol, but for the alcoholic in recovery, this is a new concept to them.  This is why the positive support network has been a positive part of recovery.

The article linked below provides new support for the positive supportive environment & it’s role in helping addicts stay clean.  It reminded me of the expression: “Happy Wife, Happy Life” :) Researchers found that when rats who were previously addicted to drug-infused water and isolative environments, they got addicted, but when they gave them the same water paired with other rats they could interact with, even after being “addicted”, they were ale to stop drinking the drug-infused water.  The article notes that in a preliminary study with combat veterans, when they were addicted overseas in combat, they could more easily leave the addiction behind when they were back home in happier environments.  The article posits that, like the rats who did better in more hospitable cage environments, we humans can design our cages (or support networks) in happier ways that could lead to more positive outcomes for a person’s recovery from addiction.

This post was inspired by someone dear to me who is trying to learn about their own venture into addiction and how to stay sober and I just want to publicly note how thrilled to know she is surviving and learning through her sobriety :)

Scientists may have discovered the real cause of Addiction
by Seam Levinson