Keeping an Eye on The Big Picture

I very much enjoy my new home group, and I don’t particularly mind that they wind up with The Lord’s Prayer instead of the Serenity. The sound of human voices in worship is always stirring, and the prayer is poetic, its rising cadence leading up to the climactic phrase about power and glory forever and ever. I can’t, however, make myself say The Lord’s Prayer, because it’s a Christian prayer and I am not, either culturally or spiritually, a Christian. I understand that we are human, and live human lives, so our spirituality is likely going to be determined by … Continue reading

Stepping into Life

Emily Roiphe Carter

When I hear the word retreat, I tend not to think of meditation, cedar scented cabins, or even a prettily situated lakeside bench. I think of troops of traumatized and malnourished shoulders slogging through mud to get back from the front lines, I think of standing in the doorway of a party and seeing some bad decision I’d made making his way to the front of the buffet line; I think of retreat as something to beat hastily in order to get somewhere I can I can let out that breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding. Like most people, … Continue reading

Dry in the High Desert

At the age of 55 one should be running out of “re-boots,” the do-overs, the “new starts,” the major moves should be done with, and instead one should be beginning to observe what one has made of one’s life, using amassed experience in a new way, approaching what’s called “wisdom.” Then there’s the economy. It’s the economy, that implacable arbiter of who gets what and when, that decides when enough is not yet enough, and it’s that same economy that’s decided that I should move to Gallup, New Mexico for my husband’s new job. It’s a place that’s new to … Continue reading

Like Dolphins Made of Silver Light

This weekend I was scrolling through the video playlist on a field biology site I like to visit when I came upon a warning, “Elephant Calf Eaten Alive by Lions: Not For Sensitive Viewers.” I make myself watch these videos for two reasons: First, I have the irrational need to convince myself that it is not as bad as I fear, and second, because my father once told me that if one loves the world, one must love it with open eyes, accepting its horror as well as its beauty. I had briefly wanted to be a field biologist and … Continue reading

The Holly- Frazzled Parade

Emily Roiphe Carter

It’s that time of year already — the gatherings, the food, the family — and, what I’m personally looking forward to most of all. The resentments. Gathering over the Thanksgiving table, around the Menorah, the Christmas Tree, the Harvest Spruce, whatever, is the perfect time to take out all those unresolved little wounds and give them a polish. After all, there are relatives around you may not see again for another year, some may be older, some may be living overseas and who knows when you’ll get your next chance. Of all my most cherished resentments my favorite could be … Continue reading

One Excruciating Minute at a Time

Emily Roiphe Carter

“Pain is mandatory–suffering optional” goes one of the many folksy sayings woven through the 12-Step fabric. This has some basis in literal fact. Neurologists have long known that the sensation of pain and our experience of that sensation as something awful are generated in different structures of the forebrain. However, since being alive requires that different places and structures in our brains create one felt experience, pain and suffering are usually linked. What the saying means is “don’t wallow,” which is reasonable. Even so, sometime in our sober lives we will be hit with a lightning bolt of pain we … Continue reading

Sentimental Education: In the Rooms

Emily Roiphe Carter

It’s an old crack, but when I heard it for the first time, it was the first time I’d heard it: “You don’t need rehabilitation, you need habilitation.” It was true, until I had to get sober I had neglected to learn almost all of the things that most people my age were already doing by reflex. One of these things was sitting in a room with other people without being chemically fortified. Until my first AA meeting I did not know how to comfortably sit in a social arrangement with other humans. I either tried to get all the … Continue reading

My Retreat

Emily Roiphe Carter

I am not a woman naturally drawn to serenity or stillness. I am often tangled in the trees and quite unable to detect the shape of the forest. I do not tend to meditate, or exercise with the kind of disciplined regularity required to make up a healthy habit. There is however, a place I can go to escape the world and myself. It’s on video and it’s available in abundance of YouTube. At night, in bed, before I fall asleep, I watch a story about a humble, blind masseur wandering through Edo period Japan: my own personal Jesus—Zatoichi, (Masseur … Continue reading

A Brief Taxonomy of Addiction

“Think you’re different”? read the tagline on the poster my first C.D. counselor would point to the second a new patient entered his office. The words, printed in a cheerfully comic balloon-lettered font scrolled over a depiction of thousands of densely massed European lady bugs, bright red with big black polka dots. “I’d relate better” I said “if they were cockroaches” I said. I understood it, though; I was already getting the idea: Find the common ground. Whether in treatment, or in the “rooms,” addicts come together from wildly different backgrounds, cultures, levels of formal education and religious upbringing. If … Continue reading

If you live in America today…

……a large part of it at least, you live in a place designed to make you overweight and unhealthy. It was not designed this way on purpose; nonetheless, that’s the effect. Sidewalk-less suburban cul-de-sacs keep you from walking. If you do walk, you face having to cross a four-lane highway to get to a store. Once at that store you are presented with a mile long row of boxed options disappearing into the horizon, all of them packaged with bright, distracting colors and most of them containing a great deal of sugar and fat. If this becomes overwhelming, as it … Continue reading