Friday, December 15, 2017

Selfless or Selfish? - That, Is the Question

"Each of us sends out positive or negative vibrations, often without being conscious we are doing so. What if we made an effort to be consciously positive to resonate messages of the highest good for others and ourselves? What if we made a deliberate attempt to keep our thoughts aligned with God's perpetual optimism, to refuse to be stuck in self-centered fear? Our thoughts speak louder than our words. In order to change what we create, we must change our thinking. We must mind our mind." ~ Albert Clayton 

Here we are again, in the middle of the holiday season, one of the most wondrous and yet most difficult times for many of us whose children are struggling through addiction and recovery. Whether we are living with our babies and separated from them emotionally, or parted from them by minutes or miles, the holidays can exacerbate the many challenges to our journeys.

We ask ourselves, "Where are they, what are they doing now?" The temptation to fix our children during this season of light and joy, to control The Addiction, becomes amplified.
"Can I fix her just this month? Can't I bring him in, if only for the holidays?
The maddening, mind-twisting, gut-wrenching and totally counter intuitive answer to these questions is simply:
The two words that come to mind, selfless and selfish, have distinct meanings of course yet seem intertwined in our hearts and souls as we proceed along our journey pathways. By living our lives to the fullest and seeking the joy and adventure The Universe has laid out for us we often feel a pang or two of guilt.
"How the hell can I (insert personal life endeavor here) while my son is languishing in the jail cell of his addiction, while my daughter is struggling with her recovery?"
Merriam Webster defines selfless simply as: Having no concern for self.

Doesn't this mean if we do not attend to our children, if we do not do everything in our power to turn their lives around for them, we then become the selfish and not the selfless. A very recent and very personal experience may better illustrate what I am trying to say.

As I write this it is two days until the deadline for choosing a health care plan under the Affordable Care Act. Last night our 26-year-old recovering and I sat down to review his options. He had begun this the previous weekend and found the medication he is taking (this time under a doctors care 😌 ) is not covered on ANY plan. He and his mom had worked the ACA website to the best of their abilities. I was not asked for assistance nor did I offer any.

I knew my time would come.

So as predicted, with three days until deadline number 2 son and I sat in our office after work to continue what he had already begun. As I watched him navigate the site I said, "You've gone as far as you can go. You've done what you can." I then added, "All you can do is talk to a human being tomorrow about your meds to see if there is anything you're missing." That is all I said. I was done - a gentle nudge in the right direction.

For a moment a mix of terror and indignation  - we all know that look - came and went. He reached for his phone and realized he was outside the normal business hours when the ACA call center would be available.

Then one of those little miracles happened. He looked at me and said, "You know there's an app you can use to get coupons for my medication. I'd be spending $50 or $70 a month instead of $300, and I could get a lower cost plan off the marketplace for medical. He showed me the app. The terrified, indignant (angry) look softened to a one reflecting achievement. He had a plan all the time.

He didn't need me.

This will become his accomplishment - not his mother's or mine - and another mile logged along his recovery journey.

Last weekend required a lot of selflessness for me to stay in the background, to refuse a call not sent until the following Wednesday, to reject my fed-by-fear baser instincts to rush in and save him when as it turned out he didn't, doesn't need saving.

Perhaps I'm the one who needs saving, regularly.

It would have been selfish for me to SAVE him. I would have been taking care of me, not my son.

Now, are there times we need to intervene to save a life?

The answer to this question is a resounding YES! We'll know it when we see it. We will remain close enough to our children to let them know there is unconditional love for them if they'll take it. We'll see when they need a rope thrown to them to pull them out of the muck. And we'll be there when they simply say, "I can't live like this anymore."

We can remember the stealing of victories AND consequences are selfish, not selfless acts. When we insert ourselves where we needn't be we are putting ourselves right where The Addiction wants us. We become allies of our children's mortal enemy.

Be the beacon, not the bully. They've got this, most of the time. They just don't know it yet - until they know it, that is.

. . .keep coming back
"Enveloped in Your Light, may I be a beacon to those in search of Light. Sheltered in Your Peace, may I be a shelter to those in need of Peace. Embraced by Your Presence, so may I be present to others." ~ Rabbi Rami Shapiro
"For though my faith is not yours and your faith is not mine, if we each are free to light our own flame, together we can banish some of the darkness of the world." ~ Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks 

Thursday, December 7, 2017


"Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy." ~ William Butler Yeats

Roads diverge, paths split into pathlets and constantly cross each other in a seeming spiderweb of possible directions.

Unlike Robert Frost in his poem "The Road Less Travelled" we have chosen many roads more often taken, some by reflexive choice, others out of necessity. It has truly made all the difference in our lives, hasn't it? After all we have experienced we should be masters at making the correct choices, navigating, knowing when to zig, when not to zag, to emerge at last to that meadow of sunlit delights at least for a time.

We should be.

During our wanderings as we searched for our own recovery destinations, the roads, trails and pathways we chose were those most often travelled by parents of children who have wandered into the vortex created by The Addiction. The trails were named the Fix Her Trail, the Control Him Trail, the Cure Trail and the ubiquitous Anger, Rage, and Depression trails, all loops, bringing us back to our starting points at the Despair Trail head.

We all know how that turned out. It's so easy to be tempted to take that familiar, oft trodden pathway.

Frost got it right taking the road less travelled. In his poem we witness a conscious decision on the part of the traveller. This was no snap judgment to proceed down the trail seemingly untouched, the one that "...wanted wear," He stood long and hard peering down both options at the fork, and, "... knowing how way leads to way, (he) doubted if (he) should ever come back."

He decided.

Unfortunately, unlike the expedition made by Frost, our journey tracks are often intersected with invitations to take the easy way, the downward sloping footpath leading to the same shit from our recollections. We must be vigilant in our convictions that our children's journeys are theirs to navigate. There is no need to search for them, to wander down the pathways made wide by hundreds of parents like us in the infancy of their recovery journeys. It is a constant process of deciding to SEEK and SEE the joy amid the tragedies and struggles of our children, to bathe in the sunbeams trickling through the treetops to take in The Universe' treasures. We become adventurous contrarian trail hikers.

We'll catch glimpses of our babies on their journeys, watch their progress as they proceed up and down their trails, falling, picking themselves up, dusting off the dirt and the occasional bloody scrape, learning, failing, winning.

We can just decide not to engage in The Addiction's temptation to throw ourselves onto the rock and muck as well. We're better than that - we've logged too many miles to be duped into once again going down that road. We'll know when and if we need to intervene. The miracle is, thankfully. they have the intellect and tools to find their way.

It's a matter of deciding, most of the time and to the best of our ability, to take the road that may still seem a bit unfamiliar.

Believe me, it will make all the difference.

. . . keep coming back

"We did not ask for this room or this music; we were invited in. Therefore, because the dark surrounds us, let us turn our faces toward the light. Let us endure hardship to be grateful for plenty ... We did not ask for this room or this music. But because we are here, let us dance. ~ Stephen King

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Giving Thanks Throughout The Year

"Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot." ~ Hausa Proverb
Each year at Thanksgiving my family knows it's coming - the appeal for all who are present to express one thing for which they are thankful. It is a cruel tradition of mine, I demand it every year. I think this year I'll wait until after our turkey has been dispatched so they'll think they have sidestepped the torture!

The "they" in particular are the two most affected by The Addiction, the recovering and his younger sibling, who are most resistant to gratitude yet most in need of daily doses of it.

I am prepared for the eye rolls, the "Dad ... Nooooos", and their apparent urgent need to do something, anything, somewhere else.

Maybe I should ambush everyone early, in the pregame-appetizer phase of the day?

No matter the cost I will remain steadfast in my belief that Gratitude is as important and nourishing on our national day of thanks as the turkey I will lovingly, hopefully, smoke to perfection (there's that word again - sorry!) over a 4-hour period in the early afternoon.

Thanksgiving Day is a chance for us to rekindle a practice as important as eating well in moderation, exercise, finding the FUN, seeking the JOY, all those resolutions we make at the turn of the calendar each January.

But why stop now? Although the western calendars begin the holidays with the feastival of turkey and pies I always think of the season beginning, this year on October 19, with the Hindu Diwali, the festival of lights. What better reason to be grateful than the victory of good over evil?

We can think of the extended Thanksgiving weekend and the ensuing celebrations as springboards to gratefulness throughout the year, rather than one and done commemorations that end with resolutions that resolve nothing. Once again, by becoming grateful for what we have rather than obsessing about the negatives - and those negatives WILL come - we may again become beacons to our children to focus on the positive, deal with the bad as it appears, then move on.

Keep moving.

Becoming thankful for each day is a prescription for living life to its fullest. It's a daily multivitamin required to maintain our equilibrium and carry us along paths both clear and fraught with obstacles. These gratitudes can be as simple as "sunny day" or as momentous as "finally cancer free" and reflect who and where we are on any particular day. Our children bathed in the constant negativism of The Addiction might even see us, persevering, making it through the muck and hedgerows of life with vigor to experience what is out there for us all if our souls are open to the possibilities of The Universe.

So make that $2 investment in a 5.5" x 4" college ruled notebook and pen - they're available at your local local dollar storeand get writing. I'll even help you with your first entries:
 Bought the notebook
Bought the pen
On my way to gratitude
It's really that easy.

We'll touch base this June!

. . . keep coming back

"A verse from the Veda says, 'What you see you become.' In other words, just the experience of perceiving the world makes you what you are. This is a quite literal statement." ~ Deepak Chopra

Monday, October 30, 2017


"Laugh, when you lose all your money, Or you can't find your shoes, to cover your feet... Laugh, at the things that are wrong, if you think it's this song, then laugh." ~ "Laugh" The Monkees, Phil Margo, Mitch Margo, Hank Medress, Jay Siegel

Do you people-watch? I do. As we approach the Holidays my people watching skills become ramped up to a heightened degree in preparation of the parade of souls we all will soon see on Halloween, Thanksgiving and the myriad of theologically-based (and other) observances occurring through January.

This may be premature but I would like to wish everyone a happy and joyous Saturnalia!

I have mentioned, even very recently, the coffee house I frequent prior to starting my day. Visited by the old, the young, elementary, high school and college students, their teachers and professors, professionals, laborers, blue, gray and white collars, cops (and perhaps an occasional felon) and even a few community builders who try to remain anonymous but to those of us who know them or remember them from local news stories years before, this place is an absolute cacophony of personalities, facial expressions and I'm certain, ongoing life stories.

Let me catch my breath.

I never know what is behind the smiles, frowns, far away gazes, sidelong glances and even sometimes a mien that betrays a person with the weight of the world on his or her shoulders. It's none of my business, and many if not all of us have been there. As parents of addicts we have been at one time or another members of that exclusive club of those at odds with The Universe, struggling against ourselves to find some peace amid the craziness.

Conversely, I am sometimes witness to unabashed joy, treated to bursts of laughter from some of the young women from the high school up the street. I see expressions of delight blossom as they review their social media posts. I wonder if the joy I am witnessing is a function of being so early on in their life journeys, then I remember the delight can often takes a hiatus at final exam time. Of course, many of us parents of siblings of addicts know even kids are not totally immune from life's devastating upheavals.

Everyone has has ebbs and flows, ups and downs, even teenagers. Nobody can maintain a complete level of euphoria 24/7, but we MUST allow ourselves to take the time to SEEK and most importantly SEE the joy when it is there, when it is presented to us. This is the joy that comes from a contented and centered heart and soul and not the kind borne of negativity, sarcasm or the misfortunes of others so, so prevalent in today's entertainment.

It is the joy that surprises us, that sneaks up on us along our journey and stays with us, not for a little while but then again, not so long as to spoil us into thinking this is the way life is all the time.

It is the joy that elicits laughter for no logical reason at all. We can find the joy, the laughter, whether we're 13, 30, or three times 30. The joy, the laughter is out there - or IN there, inside all of us. It starts with being grateful at the start of every day for the little things, then going out there to conquer the world.

It's a simple strategy: be open to The Joy, find The Joy, then LAUGH - oh hahaha!

. . . keep coming back

"It's not so hard to see exactly what I'm after. Sometimes a tear should fall but I require giggles and chuckles..." ~ "Laugh" The Monkees, Phil Margo, Mitch Margo, Hank Medress, Jay Siegel
"Laughter is carbonated holiness." ~ Anne Lamott

Friday, October 20, 2017

What's Our Hurry?

"Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it." ~ Soren Kierkegaard
I spend many weekday mornings at a local Starbucks that has an interesting vibe. Nestled in a decidedly leftish-of-center middle to upper middle class community and fueled in part by a girls high school and a university, both up the street within walking distance, this coffee shop is a meeting place, the Marktplatz of the area in my town called Old Orchard.

In an effort, I guess, to carve out yet another slice of the population to become Starbucks customers the caffeine giant recently launched a new service. You may be one of the many who have succumbed to this latest siren call of the Starbucks mermaid. Patrons with the 'bucks app on their phones and tablets can now pre-order their frappuccino and croissant which will be magically ready for pick up upon arrival - no waiting in line, no eye contact with anyone necessary, no conversations short of the obligatory thank you required. 

I think it's sad.

I was struck by this just the other day as I watched a woman navigate like a roller derby jammer through the throng of folks awaiting their orders. In her her haste she almost flattened one of them and making no apologies darted left, then right, to reach the counter where her order lay waiting.

She was gone before you could say "no whip, no foam, no fun", as those who had not called ahead remained, many engaged in short conversations with friends, others chatting with those who were heretofore perfect strangers.

Once again The Universe was tapping me on the shoulder with a reminder: you've got places to go on your pathway, you can see that beauty awaiting in the distance but it really is OK to pause and look around to see the beauty all around, even if the place where you are now may not be where you're going, or where you want to be.

There are wonders, beauties and mysteries everywhere, even in the darkest of rainforests or the most forbidding and desolate wastelands - really! You just have to be willing to take time to notice, take in those hidden gems of splendor, then keep moving. It may often require a pause along your journey pathway and rather than remaining steadfastly focused on the end game goal of that next horizon take your eye off the prize, for a moment at least. Look around.

Amid the darkness of our children's struggles are glimmers of their REAL, their true selves. You may have to look hard, but it's there, buried beneath the muck of The Addiction. We can take heart they are still there, as beautiful as we remember and as we acknowledge this beauty we are once again  affirming our love for our children.

So slow down, it won't hurt.

What are you waiting for?

. . . keep coming back

"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday." ~ A. A. Milne

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Signposts, Angels and Gratitudes

"When we are lost in the woods, the sight of a signpost is a great matter." ~ C.S. Lewis
"I'm trying to shut up and let the angels speak to me and tell me what I'm supposed to do." ~ Patrick Swayze
Sometimes the Universe can try and try to get our attention and we just don't get it. We become too immersed in ourselves and overly fixated on the pathway. Yes, this can happen. Life as we know it as parents of addicts and those in recovery can be hard, with current times and events exacerbating feelings of despair and discouragement. As a result just when we think we're turned on and tuned in, all we've really done is to drop out of life.

In the end The Universe just can't take it anymore. It will never give up on us any more than we will give up on our children, and it just might get impatient, even annoyed.

Yes, after multiple attempts to draw us out of ourselves and back to the life we need to live to survive, the Universe, our Great Creator, might throw a barrage of positivity and inspiration our way just to see what happens.

Will this snap us out of our self absorption or just piss us off?

It is, as with everything else, up to us, is it not?

This happened to me recently. Not that I had succumbed to despair or hopelessness. I had simply ... stalled.

Recently, over the span of a couple of days I noticed The Universe had had just about enough of me and my inactivity and complacency. It came after me with an annoyed persistence. Even I couldn't help but notice:

Day One: I had finally scheduled the doctor's appointment I had been putting off and very very early the day before, I stumbled into the clinical lab to have my blood drawn. The phlebotomist was cheerily welcoming, almost off-putting. I wasn't there for a morning coffee with friends after all. I was there to have someone stick a needle in my vein and draw blood for the full range of tests my doctor would need to confirm I was operating on all cylinders.
Digression warning: I love that word as it is associated with blood tests. There's no drawing involved here, no crayons and paper are provided. They're sucking, siphoning, pulling, four vials of my essence from my arm - but I digress ...
To put it mildly, this draw-er of blood was my first hint that something special was afoot for the next two days. This was a Dickens-like "you will be visited by three ghosts" moment. The woman was spiritual in a walk-the-walk sense, so much so I actually thought to myself, "Normally I would say, 'thanks but no thanks' but this time, let's hang in here and see what happens."

I can't even remember exactly what she said, but her messages, her signposts, were originating from somewhere outside the little room where countless arms had been presented for piercing and countless souls had been given the choice to receive or ignore this woman's grace.

"Are you a minister?" I asked.

"No, I get that a lot," was her response.

I left the lab a bit lighter of hemoglobin, red and white blood cells and platelets, but buoyed and receptive to what The Great Creator would soon place squarely ahead of me along my pathway.

Day Two: My first visit would be in the form of our lead marathon trainer, coach and sensei, who is a brilliantly buoyant motivator and angel-mentor for all of us crazy enough to think we can actually train for a marathon much less finish one. Each week she posts a video of our instructions for our Saturday long-slow-distance (yes - LSD) runs. She reminds us of important things like at which park or trail the run is being held, the mileage, how to pace ourselves and the importance of these slower weekend events with 250 of our closest friends. This time, she threw in a zinger. She mentioned the importance of writing down at least three gratitudes each day in a notebook or journal.

Are you kidding me?

Of course, a proper mindset is key when attempting to run a 5K, 10K, half marathon or marathon, whatever your goal or ability. I've seen how negative attitudes can destroy a runner half way through a long run or even worse on race day. But I hoped her ah-ha-moment-like endorsement of something as Zen-ish as this didn't fall on deaf ears. It certainly didn't for me. Her reminder [directed by The Universe squarely at me of course] was a message meant to shake me out of my complacency. It was totally unexpected, but knowing this person as I do, I should have seen it coming.

I have since been hyper vigilant about writing down my gratitudes.

The doctor's appointment went well. My counts were all better than good, each one a signpost telling me to continue on my journey to eat better, train better, live and love better. And this time my internal medicine doctor didn't tell me not to run. She seemed pleased, almost delighted by my health. [Signpost saying "CONTINUE ON =>".]

The last angel I was given witness to on the second day was one whom I had met months before but hadn't seen in quite a while. She is a third-grade teacher in a local school district who can infuse a room with positivity as soon as she enters. This gift from the Great Creator walked up to me and gave me a huge hug - never did THAT before - I believe, simply to ensure I had not only gotten the message, but that the message had been received, internalized, and not leaking out of me somewhere.

I got the impression after this last encounter The Universe was no longer impatient with me. I got it, finally. The annoyed persistence had paid off.

I am back now. I saw - no I SEE!

And just in time too. I've got things to do, including a marathon to run next month.


. . . keep coming back
"Gratitude can turn common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." ~ William Arthur Ward
"It's not about what it is, it's about what it can become." ~ Theodor Seuss Giesel 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Perhaps We Are the Journey

"When you do things through your soul, the river itself moves through you. Freshness and a deep joy are signs of the current." ~ Jalaluddin Rumi 
"Most people focus on doing things as the way to make a difference. What they don't realize is the most powerful way to make a difference doesn't require you to do anything at all! You start by changing YOUR world. You end up changing THE world." ~ Aman Motwane

So often, there it is, right in front of us - the answer. We are getting better at recognizing the pathways to recovery by noticing the obvious and the not-so-obvious signposts pointing the way. It is certainly the Great Creator, God, the Universe and not us, positioning the clues in strategic positions for us to find. We're simply following along as best we can, trying to keep up.

But have you ever felt something deep inside, some sort of receiver through which we can sort through what is true and what is bullshit to reach our most REAL we can be. Some call it instinct, others intuition or even street smarts.

Perhaps there is something within us that goes deeper than learned behavior. Our hearts and souls have been sorely effected over the years by The Addiction and what it has done to our babies. We have been changed to the core. What has happened to us has caused a fundamental shift in our thinking and way of life.

At some point we transcend being mere spectators in our recovery journeys, simply following the loving and caring lead The Universe provides. At some point we begin to understand the journey is more than a passive reaction.

At some point, we will, or have BECOME our journeys.

What exactly does this mean? It means we internalized The Good that comes our way and have built-in defenses against The Bad. We surround ourselves with exuberance: people, places and things, and eschew the negative. In fact we find ourselves running like the wind from negativity. As I've mentioned before this doesn't mean we become the village idiot who plods along dum-dee-dum as the world around us turns to the shit. Yes, shit happens. We simply stop looking for it, expecting it and subconsciously hoping for it because at one point along our pathways the shit had become our comfort zone, our way of life we settled into with our children.

We learn our greatest gift to our children and ourselves is to embrace the journey we have become. We truly become that beacon that shines through the ingrained pessimism The Addiction pours over our babies to conceal from them The Possibilities. When we recognize that we have become our journey our lives are then infused with a muscle memory that encourages us to SEEK and SEE our grandest vistas and horizons.

When we recognized we have transcended to a plane of existence different than what we may have lived under the thumb of The Addiction we want that feeling every day and guard against slipping again into the vortex of lives poorly lived.

It's inside of us, our Journeys. There it is.

Go for it!

. . . keep coming back

"There is a force within which gives you life - SEEK that. In your body is a priceless jewel - SEEK that. Oh wandering Sufi, if you are in search of the greatest treasure, don't look inside, LOOK within and SEEK THAT! ~ Jalaluddin Rumi 
"Face your own complexity." ~ Mark Gerzon