094 MINDFULNESS, CHRONIC PAIN & PARENTING AND RECOVERY

094 MINDFULNESS, CHRONIC PAIN & PARENTING AND RECOVERY

In this podcast, Omar interviews a friend whom he met in a 12 Step Program for Recovery from Addiction and has just caught up with recently, having maintained their connection through Facebook. Dan Mager has a Masters degree in Social Work and 20 years of post Masters’ experience as a Psychotherapist and Clinical Director for a wide range of behavioral health and addiction settings. He has written 2 books; Some Assembly Required, A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain, and his most recent book, Roots and Wings, Mindful Parenting in Recovery. Dan also writes a blog for Psychology Today. An extremely informative and inspiring interview with a breathing exercise for mindfulness included at the end. 

The practice of mindfulness has helped Dan Mager to recover from a long period of addition and deal with chronic pain. Today he shares his solutions with others as an author and a blogger.

Bio

Dan Mager, MSW, is a writer in long-term recovery with decades-long mindfulness practice. He received his Master of Social Work from the Hunter College of the City University of New York, School of Social Work, and has nearly twenty years of post-masters experience as a psychotherapist and clinical director in a wide range of behavioral health and addiction treatment settings. He is the author of Roots and Wings: Mindful Parenting in Recovery and Some Assembly Required: A Balanced Approach to Recovery From Addiction and Chronic Pain, and writes a blog for Psychology Today. Click here to visit Dan's blog.

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This is a very high energy and powerful conversation in which Omar interviews a friend from a 12 Step Program where they met, years ago. They have just caught up recently having maintained a connection through Facebook. Dan Mager’s two books, Some Assembly Required, A Balanced Approach to Recovery From Addiction and Chronic Pain, and more recently, Roots and Wings, Mindful Parenting in Recovery describe accurately his life challenges as well as his passion for helping others who are going through similar life themes that he endured. His goal is to be in the most conscious state possible and to be the ultimate skilled person that he can be. This passion can felt/heard in his voice as he shares his thoughts and perspectives on both mindfulness and parenting. 

 

Dan went through 30 years of active addiction, partly due to chronic back pain and partly fueled by opioids that were prescribed to control that pain. His addictions wreaked havoc not only in his personal life and professional life but also in the lives of those around him which included a lifetime relationship as well as the lives of his children. He still experiences chronic pain, though he now handles it in a completely different way. 

 

His philosophy is “Life is full of challenges” and that “All is well” in spite of Life’s fluctuations. 

He views Life as an ongoing process and pain is inevitable in the human experience whether it be emotional or physical. It is the meaning that we give to pain, the psychological interpretation, the voice that talks about it, that determines how and to what degree we experience it. Oftentimes, we bring on this suffering ourselves. When we suffer, it spills over, into our lives.

 

Pain and suffering are everywhere in our experience in forms such as sadness, depression, anger, hatred, guilt, shame, fear, loss, mourning for something that is no longer there. That mourning can stem from the loss of a pet, jobs, careers, or relationships, to name just a few. We increase our suffering when we focus on negative thoughts concerning our loss such as thinking that something is ‘not fair’, or that it ‘sucks’.  When there is resentment or anxiety, suffering increases. Dan says that we need to allow these emotions and losses to exist, in ourselves and in our children, rather than suppress them so that we can move through them. “Suffering is optional.”

 

“A conscious awareness of discomfort, either physical or emotional, makes you more able to deal with it. It is better to be present with ‘what is’ than to be attached to where you get lost in it.” Avoidance strategies such as alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, sex, video gaming change brain chemistry but only temporarily, leaving you wanting more. Mindfulness techniques, dating back 2700 years rooted in Taoism (China) and 2600 years rooted in Buddhism (India) have stood the test of time in being effective techniques for both emotional and physical pain. Western civilization is late to this, though new studies and major corporations are embracing these techniques to enhance the quality of the lives and effectiveness of their employees. Mindfulness is now ‘trendy’  in America. 

 

Parenting, from Dan’s perspective, is a fascinating adventure as there are so many things that contribute to our parenting skills. We all carry ‘baggage’ from our past experiences, our parents, and our environment. We have expectations and develop attachments of how our children ‘should be’. We often parent without awareness on ‘unconscious auto-pilot’, with a depth of love that is positive only up to a point. Children learn to ‘self-censor’ and thereby, become less authentic because they are so dependent on their parents. They learn to suppress certain needs and interests to please their parents. Dan’s overall message is that parents need to provide a soft, accepting environment where children feel safe and loved, and free to be themselves, with reasonable limits which are necessary for children to feel protected. 

 

Spirituality is not separate from Life. There are no quick fixes. Dan shares a breathing meditation that helps us connect to the Essence of Life; the Soul, as Omar would say. It is in simply slowing down the breath, and focusing our awareness upon it that we can connect to Life. Mindfulness is living moment to moment in the ‘NOW’, while you are living your life. It is the middle ground between ‘allowing’ and ‘avoidance’. Meditation, on the other hand, is a more focused, more specific structure. Both are pathways to healing and greater health. Practiced together they create a fabric of wholeness that permeates all of Life.