Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An Interview With Michielle DJ "Michi" Beck

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Michielle DJ "Michi" Beck. Michi is an accomplished writer of print books, ebooks, articles, essays, ghostwritten research, opinion pieces, and white papers. A prolific writer, Beck has produced thousands of short pieces in addition to her longer works, creating quality content under her own name and as a ghostwriter for others.

As an editor, she has worked with ebooks and print books, as well as articles, essays, white papers, and dissertations, in copy editing and substantive editing roles.

Her full-length books - both fiction and non-fiction - are represented by The Swetky Literary Agency and published through traditional channels as "Michielle DJ Beck." She also publishes online articles and blogs, as well as ebooks that are too short for literary representation and traditional publication, under the name "Michi Beck."

Ms. Beck is the author of SORRY, I THOUGHT I LOVED YOU, the groundbreaking new memoir/self-help title on relationship addiction - available in ebook and paperback from Chipmunka Publishing.

Tell us about this book

I wrote Sorry, I Thought I Loved You because it was something that I felt could make a difference in people's lives. The book is part life story and part advice from a professional. It covers relationship addiction and codependency, and provides information on the conditions, the symptoms, and the ways to get help. Because it gives a personal account and a professional account of the conditions, I think it provides something unique that readers won't find in other books on relationship addiction.

Who did you write this book for?

Anyone suffering with the same kinds of issues that I dealt with in the past. I struggled with codependency all throughout my life, and still have some trouble with it. I was a relationship addict, getting married and divorced 5 times in the space of 17 years. People don't have to go through that many marriages to be relationship addicts, though. There are many ways to be addicted and codependent, and people who have those kind of problems need to know that they're not alone.

Is there a central message in the book?

The central message of the book is hope. No matter what you've done in the past, or how many things have gone wrong - even if you made mistake after mistake - there is always hope. People shouldn't give up on becoming what they've always dreamed of being, and they shouldn't give up on being healthy. I'm no one special. If I can do it, they can do it, too.

What are you sharing in your book that will add value to the reader’s life?

I'm sharing my experience with codependency and relationship addiction. There are other books out there on the topic, but finding a first-person account of what it's really like isn't the same thing. This book is real, honest, and open about everything that happened. There are things in it that make me ashamed, when I look back on them, but I knew if I was going to tell my story I had to tell all of it. Readers, I think, will get that sense of openness - and I think they'll respond to that. Many of them can probably relate to at least part of the book and some of the events that take place in it.

What does it mean to be codependent, or to be a relationship addict?

Basically, it means that you can't just be yourself - often because you're not sure who you really are. Instead, you're focused on who you are in relation to everyone else. You're a wife, mother, daughter, worker, etc. You have to please others, so that they'll like you. You may feel like you aren't anyone if people don't like you or know who you are. When I was young I was very eager to please my family, and I wanted the other kids at school to like me. They didn't, of course, and it was extremely painful emotionally. Even today, I want to be liked - and I'm still very interested in my parents' approval. I've gotten better at understanding how to be okay just on my own, but it takes work every day. It's not something a person just "gets over" when he or she decides that it's time for a change.

What kinds of codependency and/or addiction signs should people look for in their own lives?

They need to assess their life from the point of who they're really living that life for. It's good to help others and do things for people they care about, but it's also good to be a little bit selfish sometimes. If you're too much of a people pleaser, and just about everything you do is in the hope of making someone else happy or making them like you, you're not going to have much joy. You need to look for validation inside yourself, instead of seeking it externally.

What helped you regain your life, and how did you know you needed help?

Music is actually what helped me, but it may not help everyone. Mostly, you have to want to get better and you have to find something that you're passionate about and focus your efforts on that. That "something" shouldn't be another person - or even something another person wants you to do. That interest has to be just for you, and it has to be something that deeply matters. Music is a good choice, but so is nature, prayer, painting, drawing, writing, or anything that appeals to the "you" that's trapped inside - the one that's just waiting to get out if it can get past all the people pleasing and drama that's been created around it. I knew I needed help for a while before I actually got it. I just kept ignoring that little voice that we all have - the one that lets us know we're making a mistake. Eventually, that voice became so insistent that I knew I had to stop and listen. My life was a wreck, and I was so miserable. I felt like there was nothing good for me anymore, and then I heard the music that affected me so deeply, and I knew there was more to my life than what I'd experienced. It was still a struggle, though. People don't like to admit that something's wrong with them, and I was no exception to that.

Can you "cure" codependency or relationship addiction?

I really don't think you can cure them, in the same way that I don't think you can cure any kind of addiction. If you've lived much of your life as a codependent person, you'll always have those tendencies. The most important thing is that you learn how to control the impulses you have to please everyone else and put yourself last. Relationship addiction can be difficult to address because people have to have relationships. They can't just live completely alone for the rest of their lives. Because they can't avoid the object of their addiction, they have to learn coping skills that will help to keep them from jumping too deeply into a relationship to quickly, or getting into a relationship that is unhealthy.

What forms of help are available to people in a situation like yours?

Self-help is always available, and people can also seek professional help through therapy. Being able to work with a therapist can help a codependent person or a relationship addict learn the coping skills that they need to have to function in the world of relationships. It can be hard to say no to helping others when you've said yes your whole life, but it's important. It can also be hard to feel like you matter if you're not part of a couple, but you can also learn that skill. Building your self-worth and self-esteem is a large part of that, because many codependents and relationship addictions crave praise and validation from others. They put very low value on themselves, and look for others to continually reinforce the idea that they matter. With help and effort they can learn to give that value to themselves, instead of needing it from other people.

What can people do to maintain healthy relationships?

In order to have healthy relationships, people need to realize their own worth. If they have no self-esteem or they don't think that they're valuable as individual human beings, they can't have healthy relationships with others. They're too busy trying to please everyone else, and they don't realize or know what they want for themselves. Healthy relationships take work and effort, but they're worth it when they can be found. People who have problems with codependency or relationship addiction shouldn't give up on having relationships that are healthy - but it's important for them to get help so they can recognize what's healthy for them and what's not.  

Are there other conditions that are common to relationship addicts and codependents, or that can make them more vulnerable to addiction?

In some cases, codependents and relationship addictions also have other mental and emotional health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. Many of them also have very low self-worth and self-esteem, and they may have been abused or overly-sheltered as a child. That's certainly not true for every codependent or relationship addict, but it's not uncommon.

Most authors have one specific reason for writing a book. What was yours?

I wanted to make a difference. Of course, all authors hope to sell a lot of books and make a career from their words, but this book isn't about money. I already make a living as a writer. This book was written out of love for other people who are struggling and who might not understand exactly what's wrong with their lives. They need to know that they aren't alone, and that they can get better. Sometimes, just putting a name on something or seeing that other people are experiencing it and speaking out about it can be enough to make a huge difference in a person's life.

What is the part of your book you personally like best?

I like the joy that is expressed when I find the beauty and value of music. It's so nice to have found something that matters, and yet at the same time it seems so simple, and almost silly in some ways. Who would ever think they would have a life-changing transformation that was caused by German hip-hop? If I hadn't actually had it happen, I might never have believed it was possible. Everyone has something that matters deeply to them, though. When they find it, they should incorporate it into their lives in a healthy way. It can help them grow and change, and it doesn't have to be a big thing. That's why I like that part so much, because it shows that something very simple and completely unexpected can wake you up and set your feet on the path to being healthy and whole.

How important was research in the writing of this book?

All of the research I needed for this book was already in my own head. That doesn't mean it was easy to write, though. There were many things in it that were uncomfortable for me, and writing the book brought up a lot of old memories that I would rather have left alone. It was worth it, though. I've already been contacted by several people who have described what a difference the book has made to them, so that's been very encouraging.

Other than selling your book, what do you hope to accomplish with it?

I hope to reach out to anyone and everyone who's suffering from codependency or relationship addiction, as well as their friends, families, coworkers, and anyone else in their lives who needs to understand these conditions. I hope that these people will read the book and be helped by it, and that it will make a positive difference in their lives.

Who should buy this book?

People who are struggling with their relationships, or who feel that they have to please everyone else instead of living life for themselves. I did that for far too long, and I'm just now really learning how to live for myself. I know I'm far from the only person out there - especially when it comes to other women - who has spent too much of life trying to be everything to everyone else. I tried to be the happily-married woman, because I thought that's what society and my parents wanted. Each time I failed, I figured it must just have been the wrong guy, so I tried again. Eventually, I came to the realization that it wasn't the guys. It was me. People who read the book may see a lot of themselves in it - and that can help them make better choices in the future.

Where can people buy your book?

They can get the book from The publisher's website - Chipmunka Publishing - and also from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell's, and many other book retailers. It's available in paperback and in Kindle format.