The last time I went snow skiing, it was in Colorado with my former stepson, me on skis and him on his snowboard. We must have made over thirty runs up the mountain. As always, it was a very euphoric experience for me and reminiscent of my childhood, where I skied weekly with my high school. This time however, there was a compulsive nature to my skiing, almost as if I knew I had to get all the skiing in today for the rest of my life. At the time I wasn’t aware of this driving the experience, but this was the last time I snow skied and it was around 2005. When I wasn’t snow skiing, I was water skiing.  When I wasn’t snow or water skiing I was riding horses. When I wasn’t doing sports, I was renovating buildings or creating my garden. When I first met Mark, my friend Diana’s future husband, she brought him to meet me and I was on a ladder trimming my fig tree with my power saw, with power cords all through the yard into the green house. I physically threw myself into my avocations. That was just how I rolled.

When Eric and I got together, we began renovating buildings. He and I demolished a two-story camelback in a historic area of New Orleans with a hammer and crowbar. I remember single handedly pushing an old sofa out of the second-story window with Eric cheering me on. When David and I got together, he lived in a camp with no running water on a cypress swamp with Spanish moss everywhere. We quietly paddled in a pirogue (Cajun canoe) tracker-style looking for wildlife. We swam in the swamp, hiked for many miles and camped out for weeks at a time in the mountains. My life was inextricably interwoven with being physically active and constantly in nature.

Professionally, I worked at a community mental health center for forty hours a week specializing in children, their families, and women’s issues. I carried a pager after hours for emergency evaluations. These contacts were usually people who had just attempted suicide or were metaphorically on the “ledge” and needed to be talked down. These were probably my favorite evaluations, because people this desperate were, ironically, also open to change. I found it easy to give them a sense of “the bigger picture” at a time when they most needed it.

Around this time I passed my boards and started my private practice. I was able to stop doing emergency after hours evaluations which had left me sleep deprived. Nevertheless, I had a very full professional schedule. In addition to my vocation and avocations, I raised my children as a single mom. During this time my son gave me a mug as a present for workaholics that read, “thank God it’s Monday.” He was able to use humor, but he clearly felt frustrated that I was so “busy.” He told me straight, “I want to spend more time with you.”

Being torn between this level of activity and the desires of my son, I began to look at what was driving this excessive behavior. What was I running from? The more I was working, the more desperate I became to stay in motion. The greater the desperation, the more determined I was to understand this behavior. I knew it was multigenerational. My family is replete with addictive behaviors, from workaholism, rageaholism, prescription drug use to the misuse of food for self soothing. Both of my brothers are in recovery for addictions.

I finally built up enough courage to give notice at work to face my fears. During my final week of work I noticed that my thigh was numb. Were the symptoms an attempt to keep me locked into the status quo, like a child who is acting out? I chose to keep moving forward, numb thigh and all. I don’t want to give you the impression that I was stoic about this. I was terrified. As courageous as people see me now, the complete opposite was true then. I was committed to changing the family pathology for two reasons: firstly, I felt that my body was screaming at me to get my attention, so maybe the symptoms would lessen and secondly, I felt that I had a Sacred obligation to change the pattern so that my children did not have to carry it into the next generation.

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