Romance is alive and well

How do I know that? Because 23 million Americans tuned in to watch Kate and William get hitched, and the number worldwide reached as many as 2 billion! Even Dunkin’ Donuts got in on the royal wedding with a heart-shaped donut, which signified “the love between Prince William and Catherine,” now the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge. The doughnut was filled with jelly to show how their lives would be filled with happiness. The white frosting represented the wedding gown (which was far more elegant) and the chocolate drizzle stood for William’s love for chocolate. Okay, I’m with them on that one.

I think it’s lovely that William and Kate got married after ten years of being together. Hopefully they both know what they’re getting into. Marriage can do a lot to destroy romance, even if you don’t have to live your life according to palace protocol.

Romance, that sentimental and idealized version of love, feeds on excitement and mystery. It takes us away from the doldrums of everyday life. Bodice-ripper romance novels have a huge following. Then again, so does porn. I’ve been shocked to learn that women seem to like porn almost as much as men do. Yet they still tune into the royal wedding and fantasize about being a princess.

What exactly is romance anyway? What sort of chemical imbalance blinds us to our loved one’s faults, to their potential for violence or lack of ethics? Why do we sign on for future heartbreak?

Up until very recently in history, marriages were mostly arranged. There was very little mixing and matching done across established boundaries of race or religion, not to mention gender. Romance usually involved tragedy—look what happened to Romeo and Juliet, who came from warring clans. Nowadays we’re expected to fall in romantic love, then get married and try to avoid being the 50 percent whose marriages fail.

What do we expect? That excitement and mystery will continue when she has to pick up his dirty underwear off the floor, when he has to deal with her crazy brother moving in “just temporarily,” when the economy collapses and there’s no money to pay the mortgage?

But something inside craves the possibilities inherent in romance. That brief respite from reality when we get swept off our feet, carried along on the wave of long talks over a candlelit dinner, holding hands as we walk along a moonlit beach, long languorous explorations of bodies, minds, and souls. We want to be known, to be “seen,” to be told we are beautiful and that we’ll never be alone again.

When we are in romantic love, we want to wallow in personal bliss, not do the long hard dirty work of healing our own wounds, telling our truth, standing in our own integrity.

But enough about reality. Back to the important stuff: jelly donuts with chocolate swizzles on top of a pure white heart . . .


Charlie Sheen and the Lesson of Addiction

Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, leading up to Easter Sunday on April 24th this year. During this time, Catholics used to give up something they enjoyed, say chocolate, or maybe nowadays it would be Facebook. During my Catholic childhood, I abstained at various times from dancing and skating, two of my favorite activities as a kid.

It’s not easy giving up an habitual behavior, whether it’s viewing a favorite TV show, gliding over the ice, or trying to break an addiction. I’ve been watching what’s happening with Charlie Sheen, and remembering my own addiction to alcohol, cigarettes, pills, extreme dieting, and promiscuous sex. In other words, I was addicted to escaping from myself, much like Charlie is these days. I don’t know what his ultimate train wreck moment will be, but mine came in my mid-twenties when I was diagnosed with cancer.

My very first step to recovering my health was to join AA, and I immediately gave up alcohol and Valium. I’ve heard Charlie’s rants against 12-step programs, and his deluded idea that he can conquer his addictions through will power alone. Trust me, he can’t. The genius of 12-step programs is that they show you how to admit that you are powerless over that substance or activity, and your best chance of remaining clean is to stay completely away from whatever it is you are addicted to (which is why food addiction is so hard to conquer; you have to keep eating).

Trying to come off a drug like cocaine (and there’s a strong chance that’s Charlie’s drug of choice) really requires two types of support: medical supervision to deal with the symptoms of physical withdrawal when you stop taking the drug, and the emotional and spiritual support of like-minded peers, like those you find in a 12-step program. I see Charlie trying to conquer his addiction with will power alone and going totally insane in the process. And he may have permanently injured his brain with too many years of cocaine, which induces a manic-like state. In the language of AA, he’s trying to “white knuckle” his addiction. And he’s looking crazier and crazier.

In the years I spent healing the cancer, I learned perhaps the most important lesson of addiction—we can’t get away from ourselves, no matter how much we drink, snort, smoke, shoot up, or eat. I could wake up in strange beds with no recollection of how I got there, but there I was again, facing another day of trying to escape from myself. It was only when I turned inside that I started to heal.

I was like a private detective, examining all the clues I had tried to ignore for so long. At first, it was simply noting my emotions throughout the day. Literally noting them in a little notebook I carried everywhere. Was I feeling jealous of a particularly thin friend? I’d write “jealous.” Sad, scared, angry, really angry, downright furious . . . whatever it was, I wrote it down. Just acknowledging that I had feelings was a big deal. Then I started writing in a journal. It all started to pour out of me— the difficult experiences of my childhood, my feelings of inadequacy, the pain of relationships, along with whatever I was going through that day.

At the same time as I turned my attention inward instead of trying to escape outwardly, I enlisted the help of alternative medicine and holistic practitioners to support my efforts—acupuncture, massage, and natural health remedies. I cleaned up my food. It wasn’t fast, and it wasn’t easy, but it saved my life in every possible way. Ultimately, in the hands of an energy healer, the cancer went into remission. Over the years, I went from being a manic corporate attorney to being a health & wellness expert, healer, teacher, and the author of books that are meant to help you find the truth of your life so you too can fulfill your highest purpose.

Do you want to give up your self-destructive habits, whether it’s  alcohol or cigarettes or being a couch potato or a food junkie? Start by shining a light on your emotions. If you need help naming what you’re feeling, go to or simply google “list of emotions.”

And take a moment to send some positive energy in Charlie’s direction. He needs all the help he can get.


And the Award Goes To …

Are you tired of reading about Charlie Sheen and other celebrities whose addictions and negative behavior patterns foul up their lives and those of others? And what about the people in your life who are in desperate need of personal transformation? Don’t you wish that, just once, you could be rewarded for being the good person you are? In this season of award shows, let’s hear it for being the best. Read my blog in The Huffington Post, “And the Award Goes To . . .” at


International Women’s Day goes in-hand with the Oscars


The 82nd Academy Awards showed us what women can accomplish. Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to ever receive an Oscar for Best Director, a highly prestigious award that should lay to rest forever the old saw that “There are no good female directors.” And this was a woman telling a war story—The Hurt Locker”—that takes place in post-invasion Iraq. Then she had to turn right around and accept a second Oscar for Best Picture.

The following day was International Women’s Day, which reminded us of how far we are from reaching a place where all women around the world enjoy equal rights and equal opportunities. Much progress has been made over the last 100 years since International Women’s Day started, but there’s still further to go. Read my Huffington Post blog about it at

Oprah addresses incest again

It takes courage to speak out about incest, but talking about it is a major component of healing from the trauma of abuse. It’s bottling up the secret that keeps a victim feeling “dirty,” and filled with guilt and shame. Yesterday, Oprah had a follow-up show to her interview with Mackenzie Phillips that featured more brave souls who shared their experiences of incest—women who had been afraid to speak out until Mackenzie opened the door for them.

One of the guests was Kathryn Harrison, who had written a book about her 4-year incestuous “affair” with her father, called The Kiss. When it was first written, over a decade ago, no one believed her. As more people reveal their experiences, it will become safer for victims to open up about the traumas that shaped their lives.

Watching Oprah’s show, I was once again triggered to remember some of my past with my father. You can read about it at

Truth about Incest


The topic of incest has exploded into the media with the revelations of MacKenzie Phillips, the young TV star of “One Day at a Time,” about the sexual tie between her and her father, Papa John of the iconic 60s group, the Mamas and the Papas.

As the survivor of incest myself, I understand all too well both her situation and the reaction she can expect from family members who will want to deny her truth. Most of all, I want her to know that, despite what she has said about the relationship being “consensual,” incest is always the parent’s responsibility. For her to heal, she will have to know that it was never her fault.

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, “Studies conclude that 43% of the children who are abused are abused by family members.” And despite the secrecy involved in incest, it’s estimated that over 10 million Americans are victims of incest, most of which is father/daughter. It’s important to know MacKenzie’s story so we can open the doors to a public discussion of all sexual abuse, including the shameful taboo of incest.

Many are horrified or disgusted by the depravity of incest, but as a seeker of truth you’ll want to read my blog in the Huffington Post, at

Michael Jackson, Chris Brown, and the Summertime Blues

I’d love to be able to take a swim at the beach, sit under a tree reading a novel, or chill out with some cold chocolate ice cream, but I’ve been pulled back into the reality of the world by Michael Jackson’s father, Joe, appearing on Larry King Live to deny he ever beat his son. That, on top of watching Chris Brown’s 2-minute video apology for beating Rihanna, have given me a worse headache than biting into an ice cream cone. You can read about the abuse issues that have clouded the clear skies of my summer enjoyment in Psychology Today.


Michael Jackson and Mother’s Little Helpers

Can’t sleep? How about knocking yourself out with the “milk of amnesia” used for surgery? Anxious about performing 50 intense shows at the age of 50? Try 40 tabs of Xanax and add in some antidepressants. Michael Jackson certainly was a believer in better living through chemistry.

So many people these days are reaching for the prescription drug bottle to smooth out the wrinkles in our lives that use of these meds, especially pain relievers, has surpassed usage of illegal drugs as the pathway to oblivion . . . and, in Michael Jackson’s case, to death.

Read my blog on this topic from the Huffington Post.


Michael Jackson: Sexual Predator?

Michael Jackson brings up conflicting feelings in me: sympathy for him as an abused child and admiration for his talent as a performer, while not condoning in any way his probable behavior as a child molester. I watched his trial on charges of sexual abuse and thought there was evidence of guilt, although I was glad to see the charges dropped because of the way in which the trial had been conducted.


Michael Jackson: Persecuted, not Prosecuted

I lived in Santa Ynez (down the road from Neverland Ranch) when Michael Jackson was on trial for sexual abuse. It was obvious that he was being persecuted, not prosecuted.  I was so glad when the trial was over. Although I thought the evidence showed him to be guilty, the trial itself was a travesty of justice and the charges were rightly dropped.

Jackson was not only a victim of a wrong-headed trial, but also suffered greatly from his emotional and physical abuse as a child. Actually, he was never really allowed to be a child, which he tried desperately to do as an adult. It didn’t work, and his coping mechanisms left him more broken in heart and spirit.


David Carradine and Auto-Erotic Asphyxiation

It looks more and more likely that actor David Carradine’s death was related to the risky sexual practice called auto-erotic asphyxiation, or AEA. It’s the grown-up version of what kids call the “choking game.” Carrdaine, who is best known for his recent role in the “Kill Bill” movies and the mid-’70s TV series “Kung Fu,” was found in his Bangkok hotel room with ropes tied around his neck, genitals, and wrists. His ex-wives confirm his penchant for dangerous forms of sex play.


Elizabeth Edwards: The Lies that Bind

Hi Steph,

Thank you for taking the time to vent! Just a couple of clarifications:

1. No doubt Bill Clinton respects and admires Hillary’s many talents, but I believe he also sometimes feels quite intimidated by her (who wouldn’t?!) and that that is one factor that leads him to his countless infidelities. My guess is they stay together for a host of complex reasons that include love and public status.

2. I made no comment on the importance or lack thereof of sexual fidelity in a relationship but Elizabeth did; perhaps you’re recalling her statement.

3. People don’t cause cancer; emotions can though. As a health and wellness expert, I’ve worked with thousands of cancer patients and see many of them turn the corner and begin their recovery when they are able to face their emotions and move through them. A woman like Elizabeth who is still in denial, i.e., can’t even bring herself to name the enemy, has a way to go however. I do believe that Elizabeth might well have a significant improvement in her health if she were to look at this situation more honestly. Writing a “tell all” and dragging your errant spouse on national TV is a great payback but doesn’t address the real pain that lies underneath.
More on Hillary Clinton
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost