Recovery on Yellow Brick Road, Part 2: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
This is Part 2 in a series based on ideas from my book, (Follow the Yellow Brick Road: How to Change for the Better When Life Gives You Its Worst) applied to the world of men in recovery. In these first two articles, I outline the first principle from the book: We don’t change in Kansas, we change in Oz! (If you missed Part 1 you can read it here.)
The key to a successful journey through the Land of Oz is not what you do but what you don’t do. Don’t leave! The typical reaction to going to Oz is to panic and to try to get out of the Oz experience. If you remember, Dorothy wanted to get back to Kansas, ASAP. However the key to a successful recovery is to not panic, don’t react and don’t exit. Dorothy eventually chose to stay in the Oz experience and because of that she acquired all the benefits of staying (she melted one scary inner witch, got rid of a deceptively destructive wizard and developed and integrated Tin Man-love, Lion-power and Scarecrow-mindful knowing. She grew up).
Most individuals, when they are thrown into the Land of Oz, react with old Kansas (default) behavior patterns. Many people resort to addictive behaviors to get away from the Oz experience such as by excessive drinking, eating, sex, etc. Others use manic behaviors like over working. Still others become chronically depressed or identify as “victims” for the rest of their life.
John, a man I worked with who experienced ongoing sexual abuse by various men in his youth, reacted like Dorothy; he wanted out of his unsolicited unbearable dark-Oz experienceJohn held the experience at bay as a remote vague memory until the fateful day when a metaphorical tornado dropped him in the Land of Oz. He tried to escape. Unlike many in this situation, John did not use substances to escape. Instead John became manically involved in “working out.” One of John’s inner witches was the tremendous fear that he might be homosexual, a sexual orientation that did not fit with his sense of himself. So he manically tried to make himself “more male” by body-building. Of course, this did not work. So, like Dorothy, he eventually decided to stay on the Yellow Brick Road.
And if you stay in the process and see the Oz experience as an opportunity to grow and change, you have a fighting chance as well. Over the years, I’ve come to understand:
Oz happens! Life is difficult; we need to accept it. Instability is just as much part of life as stability. We get both. Interestingly, there is an uncanny power in shameless acceptance of what is. Remember: Pain faced with love will not harm you. Paradoxically, pain faced (thus felt) will eventually lessen the pain in the long run.
Face your witches. They melt. Witches can stay hidden in good times. However, like a virus, when life gets tough (tornados) the witches come out. If we run from them, they get BIGGER. If we face them, they melt.
For John, one witch was the fear that he was gay. In therapy, we faced this fear. As it turns out John was not gay—not that it would be a wrong if he were. But like so many men who experienced sexual abuse as boys, he was deeply confused by the experience. He also had to face the painful sense of betrayal, boundary confusion and distrust so common to adults sexually abused as children. And as he did, his inner witches began to (slowly) melt.
Can’t do it alone. Seldom can we stay in the Oz experience alone. Dorothy needed friends to be with her. And we need the support of our friends, organizations like 1in6, The Joyful Heart Foundation and The Good Men Project and often the help of a trained professional.
When we can endure the difficult or painful parts of the Land of Oz, we are then able to enjoy the wonderful aspects of Oz! People who can stay on this road less traveled—write the lyric, paint the work of art, love the beloved and sing with passion. In the Land of Oz we find Our Self and the Beloved. For those of us who can endure, the Land of Oz is a truly wonderful place
-By Sam Alibrando, Ph.D.
Sam Alibrando Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in Pasadena, CA. He has worked for over 30 years with individuals and families using a “collaborative healing” process, where the client and the professional team-up to achieve a therapeutic and growing process—together. Specializations include adults abused as children and sex addiction. Dr. Alibrando is nationally respected as an organizational consultant, speaker and author of Follow the Yellow Brick Road: How to Change for the Better When Life Gives You Its Worst. He served as President of the San Gabriel Valley Psychological Association and liaison to the California Psychological Association (CPA); Director of Fuller Psychological & Family Services; and as an Adjunct Professor at Fuller’s Graduate School of Psychology. Read more on the Joyful Heart Foundation
The mission of 1in6 is to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier,