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Part Two: Women in Dentistry: We Juggle Different Stuff from the Men

By:  Dr. Cynthia Bolton, DDS – NCCDP Volunteer Coordinator for Dentists

My life in active addiction was out of control. I was overextended and miserable, turning to drugs and alcohol to change the way I felt if only for a few moments at a time. Looking back, I am so grateful for my addiction. My addiction led me to “recovery from addiction” and the best life I have ever lived.

Our families, religious organizations, schools, government, neighbors, friends, and such place certain expectations on the role of a woman in today’s society. Don Miguel Ruiz, in his book, “The Four Agreements”, refers to this as the process of domestication. Ruiz explains that we humans are born as innocents but quickly become domesticated by what we are told by those around us. He states, “During the process of domestication, we form an image of perfection in order to try to be good enough. We create an image of how we should be in order to be accepted by everybody, but we don’t fit this image. Human suffering begins with domestication.”

I tried so hard to be all things to all people and lost myself in the process. The gifts of recovery have given me the opportunity to finally learn who I really am. This knowledge lets me make better choices and live a balanced life. Here are some examples:

  1. I never knew before that I could say “NO”.
    If you say yes to everything then that yes ceases to have any meaning. Doing the work and learning about myself allowed me to discover my core values. I make decisions based on my core values. If I am not passionate about a work or endeavor, I know it’s not for me to devote my energy to. It’s practicing good self-care to say, “Not this time, I think I’ll pass, but thank you for asking.”
  2. I set boundaries
    Early in recovery, I struggled with setting boundaries. As my self-worth grew, I found it much easier to set appropriate boundaries. When I think about boundaries, to me they are similar to making an amends. Boundaries are for me, not for the other person. Initially, I thought I would tell someone what they were going to do, that was my boundary, and don’t you cross it. But today I realize that I can respectfully tell another person what I expect from them and not be concerned with how it is received. Either they will or they won’t. I know from my recovery program that I am not in control of other people. The boundary is for me. If my boundary is not respected, I no longer have to keep myself in the situation. It’s that easy.
  3. I stay spiritually connected. A lot of what drove my unreasonable behavior prior to recovery was fear. Fear that I was not enough. Fear that I did not fit in. Fear that people would not like me. Fear that people would discover I was a fraud. As long as I maintain my spiritual connection, my faith can overpower my fears. Whenever I find myself fearful, I pull out my gratitude list. I look at all the past times my Higher Power has been there for me. I see how many Miracles my Higher Power has worked in my life. Why would I be afraid that my Higher Power would not be the same protective, loving spirit in this moment?
  4. I practice self-care. I take time every week to take care of myself physically and mentally. I see a chiropractor and acupuncturist regularly to care for my back. I schedule time with my girlfriends for lunch and “catching up”. Of course, most of my girlfriends are in the program so lots of times we are going to meetings and then out to lunch! I take time to do things that bring me joy. I make crafts, I read, I spend time with my dogs!

Today life is about choices. I choose what I want to spend my time and energy on. I chose to write this article because I am passionate about the work of the North Carolina Caring Dental Professionals and what this organization does for dental professionals and their families. I am grateful for the opportunity to be of service and sharing my experience, strength, and hope brings me joy.