Monday, July 2, 2018

Trust Your Compass

"Your inner knowing is your only true compass." ~ Joy Page
When was the last time you were hiking or traveling in a place unfamiliar and you didn't trust your compass? Unless you are standing at one of Mother Earth's magnetic poles where I understand a compass can do some funky things depending on how you're holding it - I wouldn't know, the farthest north I've ever traveled is Köln, Germany - you probably trust your compass is indicating the directions, N S E W, correctly, and proceed accordingly.

The compass in its simplicity is a tool to be trusted, not ignored, left behind or dismissed as an unnecessary accessory for journeys to parts unknown. Some are damn near indestructible unless the user purposely takes an axe or hammer to the compass for some crazy reason or if god forbid he or she lends the the compass to another which to me would be akin to loaning (read relinquishing) your grill or smoker to someone.

Digression alert - that, my friends, to be clear, is just NOT done.

Yet the compass is not perfect. The compass is flawed. By its very nature it leads us away from true north to the magnetic north. The magnetic poles are elusive targets, moving from time to time in response to magnetic changes to the Earth's core.

You'll never find Santa using your compass, but you'll get close. For this reason the compass is in its own counter intuitive construct is a freeing instrument. Following the direction provided by a compass will never get you THERE, or even THERE. Once near the destination it is up to the explorer to discern the pathway to where there is.  And that is the magic of the journey.

Do you see where I'm going with this? If not, you'd better start from the beginning. I can't make it any clearer!

As parents of children who have lost their way through addiction it may seem as if The Addiction crushed our compasses with an axe and a hammer. We certainly doubted ourselves in those first few months or years as we wrestled with our sanity amid the muck and tar of the abyss into which we had crawled with our babies. This is exactly why it was so important to start moving toward a better path, no matter the direction. The mission was to emerge, to find the upwards trail way out of the cloud forest to the light, to the meadow, hillsides and vistas we knew The Universe had in mind for each of us.

The direction was not important. The goal was to get on it and keep moving.

And as we began to emerge from the darkness our compasses began to reemerge - resilient things those compasses. As we felt our internal compass become stronger, forces from without and within made us doubt this truth. Spouses, friends, The Addiction, our addicted children and sometimes even their siblings conspired to gaslight us into believing our thoughts and feelings were not true or real.

We've been through too much to have our intuitions invalidated. We have come out of our self-inflicted isolation more self aware than ever, more certain that the path ahead is leading us to a new destination filled with love and laughter for ourselves and our children. With each step along our journey we receive validation we are moving in the right direction as long as we do keep moving. Our hearts know this to be true. We can feel it. Our hearts are inextricably linked to our internal compasses.

Our internal compass may not get us exactly THERE immediately but we're getting pretty damn close. Trust it. It's a wondrous adventure!

. . . keep coming back

"In this world you have a soul for a compass and a heart for a pair of wings." ~ Mary Chapin Carpenter

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Permission To Fail

"Our life is so short that every time I see my children, I enjoy them as much as I can. Whenever I can I enjoy my beloved, my family, my friends, my apprentices. But mainly I enjoy myself, because I am with myself all the time. Why should I spend my precious time with myself judging myself, rejecting myself, creating guilt and shame? Why should I push myself to be angry or jealous? If I don't feel good emotionally I find out what is causing it and fix it. Then I can recover my happiness and keep going with my story."  ~ Don Miguel Ruiz

I recently heard a parenting tip I wish I had been clued in on 30 years earlier when it might have made all the difference, or not. The tip was to occasionally ask our children this question:
"So what did you fail at today?"
Kids today seem to have a lot more on their minds than the kids of the 60s and 70s or even those who grew up through the 90s and the 2000s. I'm not certain what the cause is and it really doesn't matter, although anxiety and other self esteem issues seem to be much more prevalent these days even at the preschool level. As we know this can lead to a myriad of issues down the pathways of our little ones and as we are also all painfully aware, anxiety and lack of self esteem can often be the impetus leading our children down paths searching for validation and peace in in all the wrong places and and by all the wrong means.

And as our thoughts drift to those times when we feel in our hearts we failed our children by ignoring the obvious, overreacting, hovering, screaming and going away we can let go of all these burdens of guilt, breathe, and know it's not what is in the past but what lies ahead that is important.

Yes, what did you fail at today is a question we can yet ask our children who have traveled those ill-advised paths. It's not too late, ever, to release our children from the burden of feeling perfection is an immediate goal. Whether they are locked within the vice grip of addiction or moving along a recovery path, the fear of failure, or the impractical notion that a precipitate, immediate and total turn around of their lives is their only options leaves them stuck, or worse, in retreat. What did you fail at today is an interrogative we can offer to give our children pause to rethink their current random journeys.

Then what - what about us?

We as parents of these can and need to release ourselves from our self-imposed exile borne of our frailties and missteps. Only by taking this first step can we can move on and be fully free by asking ourselves the very same question we can ask our children:

"So what did I fail at today?"

Parents of addicts and those firmly in recovery often fear saying the wrong thing or taking the wrong approach in response to our children's responses to life events. The important thing is to ALWAYS BE THERE for our children for those instances where they break free and show their true, REAL selves.

Then, we must take an active approach to our lives, even if it means doing nothing in response to our addicts' words and actions, which can often be the best approach as we know - how's that for counterintuitivity!

Owning we are not perfect and giving ourselves permission to fail from time to time is freeing. Demanding perfection of ourselves is exhausting and the last thing we need to encounter along OUR recovery pathway. And allowing little failures is another pathway to move us along our recovery so we learn and keep moving.

Fear of failure puts us in a catatonic state. Allowing ourselves to fail is like the explorer who takes that leap across the crevasse to that finger hold on the smallest of outcroppings of the cliff.

We can forgive ourselves of ALL THOSE THINGS we perceive we did wrong as our children dove into the vortex of their chosen addictions or even as they progress along their recovery pathways. This is the only way we can move on with no fear to live our lives with passion, knowing we WILL FAIL along the way and learn, move on and keep moving to live, love and laugh as The Universe wishes for us all. This is the recipe for learning to love ourselves, live our lives, then learning to hate The Addiction while at the same time loving our babies with all their faults, frailties and missteps.

So ask yourself, "What have I failed at today?"

Take that leap into the nothingness. I dare ya!

. . . keep coming back  

"Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. ~ Winston Churchill

Friday, May 25, 2018

Haiku For You

Every now and then I get the urge. Here are some Haiku for my Parents with some "related" posts. Peace!

"No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path." ~ Budda

Steadfast is the word
Perseverance is the key
Watch the nest builders

Our fears created
We have the will to vanquish
The world awaits us

Nature's constancy
Believe in The Miracles
Only way to live

Repeat behavior
It's persistent déjà vu
Get back on the path

Opening our hearts
Roads to positivity
Be the solution

How do we arrive?
To become our truest selves
Stay the journey course

Beginnings are hard
Plunge now into the abyss
Delight in the NEW!

Our "what's up aheads"
Have been there for the taking
Just don't know it yet

Unique parents on
Different recovery paths.
Find the gentle ones

Be the JOY today
Reach for the stars and then some
SEEK, and SEE and LIVE

. . . keep coming back

"I'm on the path to being someone I'm equally terrified by and obsessed with - my true self." ~ Troye Sivan

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Waiting for Forsythia

Estragon: "I can't go on like this."
Vladimir: "That's what you think." 
~ Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

It's been another brutally elongated winter season in the U.S. heartland or so it seems. Meteorologists are saying this is typical for our region and the past few years have jumped the gun on spring. Mother Nature in her wisdom teaches us delayed gratification each year as our planet makes it's revolutions around the Sun. 

I'm not buying a word of this. I'm ready to skip spring and nosedive into summer ... maybe.

We should be accustomed by now to not only wild climate mood swings but also seasons that seem to wear out their welcome. The season I least embrace, winter, is once again in my mind hanging around way past its usefulness. I think the hibernators have had enough sleep, and my maple tree in the front yard has lost enough buds due to faux warm spells followed by frosts to fill a large trash bag.

It always seems the forsythia finally break out in an explosion of yellow magnificence, announcing, "Spring is here." Each year I wait for this with great anticipation, the springtime. I have been pining for the forsythia to bloom, those harbingers of spring, to officially announce the transition from winter.

As much as I love the summertime, what a waste of a beautiful transitional time that would be, skipping spring. Transitions and transitional times are important.

As I write this and look out the window upon the first cloudless sky we've been allowed in some time,  there is a semi-tease of spring displayed for all to see. The dogwoods and Bradford pear trees, those impetuous bloomers that seem able to withstand many frosts along the road to the transition have been for weeks announcing a false spring and are standing firm in their resolve that spring is here.

Spring may not be here. It may be nigh, but it is not here.

Stop messing with me liars!

In the meantime all I can do is prepare for what I hope and pray is coming soon, continue living, persevere through the false signs of improvement of the weather to more a temperate and reasonable climate, and keep moving. I will never surrender to the cold, the darkness, grey skies and intermittent icy rainfalls.

Now what in the world does all this have to do with living life as a parent of an addict or a son or daughter in recovery?

Well, everything.

While we militantly follow our own pathways we continue to love our children and long for the reemergence of their truest selves, whether it be the announcement they are finished with living a life subservient to The Addiction or as they continue to unwaveringly, or waveringly, reach weeks, months, years, or decades milestones of recovery. We fight against false hope The Addiction throws our way before our children are truly ready to take back their lives. We wait in great anticipation while refusing to put our own lives on hold. We do what we can to prepare fertile victory gardens of love and support for when our children do bloom in spectacular colors and hues announcing their spring is finally here, the proclamation of even greater things to come, of life, love and laughter of their own making they have not experienced for far too long.

Wait for it. Wait for it. Hang in there. Spring is nigh. Summer will be indescribable.

. . . keep coming back

"You usually have to wait for that which is worth waiting for." ~  Craig Bruce

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


"Every saint has a past. Every sinner has a future." ~ Oscar Wilde
We've all heard about addiction being a family THING. It took me a while to accept this. It took a lot longer for me to embrace the concept. In some families certain behaviors, tendencies and compulsions run deep like a toxic vein of pure lead perpetually filling the cracks in the rock face of our character and the inherited personalities of our children.

Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, looking back, we can perceive addiction as being a footnote in the fine print of our children's job descriptions. It's that 0.1 percent variation in the genome that is what makes each one of us, well, each one of us. It's the nature half of the nature AND nurture equation.

Each day, every hour, minute by minute opportunities are laid across our pathways to embolden us to make decisions that directly effect our lives, our journeys. We've all been pre-programmed to a certain extent by our life experiences. For many of us the computer programming of our childhood and early adulthood has served us well in our quest for a complete life, with or without The Addiction element thrown in. For most of us, our early roadmaps in our recovery journey unfortunately led to confrontation and a tendency to internalize every single barb The Addiction would implant in our souls to pull us into its vortex with our children.

We thought we were winning the battle. It was a lie we told ourselves because society, our birth families all reinforced it. The lie was, "Addiction is a weakness. You can fix him. You can control The Addiction within her. Relinquish your life for this noble cause."

Almost 3 years to the day of this writing I posted a few thoughts on what it feels like sometimes to be a parent of an addict who is actively engaged with her or his addiction or who is in the midst of the arduous journey of recovery. It might be worth revisiting now.
Do we enjoy the conflict, the battle with The Addiction? I am convinced some people relish a constant state of discord. Are we so pre-programmed? Even knowing the results of trying to control and fix and cure are a stalemate at best and, more probably, a further dive into the abyss with The Addiction, we continue on the pathway we have been led to by our parents, society and misguided social mores.

How strong are the chains that bind us, motivating us to blindly travel down pathways we know lead nowhere? How strong do we want them to be? Looking back at the post from 2015, repairers of the breach do not look outward for a solution. They look inward to see what makes us walk those mindless pathways to which we have become so accustomed. Instead, we can, link by link, begin to break the chains that have only fed The Addiction's insatiable appetite for conflict and misery.

It's a long process, breaking the chains. It's so counter to our previously learned behavior we may become physically ill, we may cry, we certainly may doubt the wisdom of pursuing a new way of life.  But as we continue on this barely discernible pathway, as we concentrate on each footfall we make on this most difficult and technical of trails, we will emerge out of the darkness into a brilliantly blinding light of Life, Love and Laughter. We will have a new capacity to love ourselves and cherish our children while hating The Addiction that has chained them to a life they do not want.

Chain breaking is hard. Think back on the images from books and movies of escaped convicts dislodging themselves from their shackles. It's a great analogy. To break the chains we must first make that terrifying DECISION to escape from the prison of The Addiction and then, using whatever means possible, strike the leg irons we have fashioned until they shatter. This is as painful and bloody a process as we could ever imagine, an undertaking that can require weeks, months, or even years to complete.

When we have finally been released from the generational, familial and societal chains that have bound us for so long, the transition to life on the outside can be difficult. It's not easy living in a new way, even though the pathways may be beautiful, wide and sunny. Trust the signposts along the way. Do not be mislead by the distractions The Addiction WILL lay across the road. You may not notice the change within you but others will, including your child who may or may not have realized there is a life for them outside of the world created by their addictions. You will become a signpost for your child, your son, your daughter, as he or she realizes you are no longer engaging with The Addiction. He will not recognize you at first as he travels down the murky, miry bog of The Addiction. Eventually, she will see the remnants of your release from the chains - the rock, the shackles, fetters, your bloodied and bruised legs and arms. They WILL see the pain you went through for YOU, and ultimately for them.

They may not recognize you at first, it's been a while.

Go ahead, introduce yourself. Give it time. It'll be OK.

. . . keep coming back
"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." ~ Nelson Mandela

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Embracing the Suck

"You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather. ~ Pema Chödrön
It's been raining where I live for what seems like forever and the forecast is calling for additional rain for the foreseeable future. It's not as if this part of the U.S. heartland has no history with long periods of dark, dank, wet and grey. It's just that it always appears to be a big surprise and an oddity to all of us when the Sun disappears for long periods of time.

This is when the marathon training kicks in. I embrace The Suck of the darkness.

We have no control over the rain, the wind, or the oppressive heat when it comes. Our feeble attempts at battling the onslaught of bad weather typically take the form of complaining, cursing, or getting into a funk and hiding, in other words, going away, disappearing.

We cannot control the weather. We can, however, be judicious stewards of our own well being, of our souls and bodies. We can take care of ourselves by accepting there is not a damn thing we can do about the rain. We can look forward to spring's resurgence, we can notice the greens beginning to emerge despite the constant water cannon fire from above.

We can learn a lot from the crocuses and daffodils.

We can see the beauty of the March and April showers. We can look beyond our varying degrees of Seasonal Affective Disorder and grow to love the nourishment coming from the dark clouds above. By awakening those peeking perennials the Great Creator is urging us to look beyond the NOW, to prepare our bodies, our lands, our homes, our minds and souls for the explosion of life we know is imminent, even if we can hardly imagine a world of color and warmth in the dankness that is early spring.

No, we cannot control the weather. What we can do is to NOT give up on life. There is a future for us, and those whom we love. We CAN embrace the suck of the early spring even while we hate the missteps into 6-inch potholes filled with billions of cold raindrops.

"DAMN... and I just bought these shoes!"

We can love our children and hate the addiction.

Early spring storms are classrooms for us to learn how to look beyond the pain we feel each day as we watch our children struggle with the lure of addiction and the perils of recovery. And sometimes, the March and April squalls will extend into May and June as a reminder that recovery has its own schedule. Those extended periods of wet springtime provide lesson plans meant to sustain us through our journey. We cannot control the pace of our children's battles against The Addiction. What we can do is keep moving. We can see the tiny emergence of life and remain joyous in the knowledge the darkness NEVER lasts forever. There is sunshine ahead for us and our children if we continue along OUR journey pathway, embracing the struggle knowing we will emerge better for it, and so will our daughters and sons.

The forsythia are just a few weeks away - I know it!

...keep coming back

"I believe in it now. I believe it's gonna happen to me now. I'm ready for it! And it's great. It's a good feeling. It's, it's really better than I've felt in a long time. I'm, I'm I'm ready ... " ~ Bill Murray as Frank Cross in Scrooged

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Looking Back at Our Not So Finest Hours

"Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final." ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
I am reminded from time to time of the struggles our family has been through as we have, each in his or her own way, grappled with The Addiction and its hold on all of us.

Both hateful and insightful words have been uttered, such as, "It used to be so wonderful here, what happened," to "Yeah, you might be a good parent now but where were you ten years ago?"

True that - all of it.

Where was I? I was in the bog, in the cloud forest trying to fight off The Addiction in my mistaken belief that my Anger and self loathing could defeat it.

That's smart.

We all learn, we all ... get better. We all eventually keep moving and with the help of the Great Creator, The Universe, God or god, angels and signposts along our recovery pathways, assemble the counterintuitive weapons of hope, self worth and joy, not in a misguided attempt to defeat the Beast, The Addiction, but to render it powerless, useless. No longer able to syphon our energies from our hearts, bodies and souls, The Addiction slinks away, and disappears.

For many of us, having emerged long ago from the darkness of whatever hellish circumstance we allowed our children's addiction to place us, we can look back and see it. Whether we are on a hillside after recently escaping the dankness of the bog, the darkness of the rainforest or the unforgiving heat of the desert, or on the mountaintop, triumphantly looking back at numerous victories over our worst tendencies along with those times we failed and tumbled back to exactly where The Addiction wanted us, we can see it - the desolation left behind.

In our minds eye we can recall those times when we confronted The Addiction in misguided attempts to control, fix, cure. It's a scorched earth landscape, our actions having temporarily destroyed life beyond the immediate, our not so finest hours spread out from our self-centered centroid affecting our lives and the lives of everyone we hold dear, and perhaps others of whom we were not even aware. We can recall the tears, the anger, the glances that only conveyed one message: "Why?"

But like any aftermath of a destructive force, if we look carefully we can see green emerging from the destruction. Life, finds a way.

It is all part of the process, these missteps and failures. We've come out of the forest better for it, and looking back doesn't mean we beat ourselves up about the missed opportunities early on in our journey. What we have done is hard. What we will continue to do is harder. We are constantly reminded to recall what got us back to the slime and how we crawled out. We can see the saving grace that living our lives brings to our quest to become REAL. Our families, friends and even acquaintances will see the change and most importantly so will our children in various stages of their own pilgrimage.

Looking back affords us an opportunity to grieve for the lost time and energy and the hurt we placed upon those we love, while reinforcing our resolve to keep moving, to improve, to Live, Love and Laugh as a beacon for our children in the vortex with The Addiction and those bravely facing the headwinds of recovery.

Ok, that's enough looking back.

What's that up ahead? Hmmmmm.

...keep coming back
"Remember, you have two lives. You get your second life when you realize you have only one." ~ Frank Liddy