Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Breathe … A Year-End Message

"In the darkest hour the soul is replenished and given strength to continue and endure." ~ H.W. Chosa
Know this. This journey on which we have embarked, is hard.

OK, I said it. We can sugar coat it all we want with uplifting quotations, slogans and aphorisms. While these are all important elements of our motivation, our journeys can get the better of us even with such signposts to guide us.

There are times even when we know our way, the direction to proceed and the pathway to take, we can become despondent about how far we have yet to travel even knowing how far we have come.

There are countless movies where the main characters, lost in the jungle or forest or wherever, see the light at the edge of the darkness and emerge, only to find miles of impassable valleys, gorges or more jungle ahead. We can all feel the desperation. We've all been there.

"When will this journey end?" we wonder. We want an end to the struggle for our hero on the big screen. We wish this for ourselves as well.

It's as if the signpost reads: "PEACE - 100,000 km.

"I thought I accepted that I was beaten by my son's addiction, I've survived the pain of my daughter's disease," are thoughts running through our minds. Once again we are exhausted, down on one knee one hand on the ground, the other steadying ourselves. We attempt to get up. Something tells us to stay down.

It may be time to listen to the gentle Universal voice that is saying, "Your soul needs a rest, traveller. It cannot continue at this pace forever. It is no good for you if your soul is debilitated."

Like a general who must know the limits of the men under his or her command we need to know our own limitations. We need to be able to listen to our bodies, our minds and our souls. What brings us to this point of exhaustion can be a small incident or a myriad of thoughts or occurrences that build over time causing the little cinema in our heads to run overtime with double features of horrors we are sure MUST transpire.

The brink may be reached also by success. Perhaps we ARE doing well, our children seem to be making at least better decisions driven more by their own small voices than the disease within. We've worked hard, harder than we've ever worked to better ourselves. We've progressed along our recovery journeys through hills, valleys, rain forests and wastelands. We are perhaps more self aware than we have ever been. We've travelled the 100,000 km.

Who wouldn't be exhausted?

Now may be the time to stop, make camp, rest and recuperate.

Now is the time to BREATHE.

An angel taught me the 4-7-8 breathing technique that can have the effect of immediately lowering one's heart rate. Inhale deeply from the diaphragm for a full one-thousand one to a one-thousand four count, hold for a similar seven count and exhale slowly for a full one-thousand one to a one-thousand eight count. This cleansing exercise has immediately noticeable results.

Conscious breathing is not something we often do while in the throes of our journeys though it can be. Breathing can take many forms, a vacation, beginning a "habit" of daily walks in the park, trips to museums, meditation, or creating a place to be alone with our thoughts. Breathing can be a passageway to true self actualization. The respite we allow ourselves even when we believe continuation of our journeys is pointless or a cruel taunt from the Universe can be liberating. A short pause for introspection can rejuvenate us and allow us to take those few, small, next steps along our journeys.

We can break camp, refreshed, perhaps with new talents to put in our quiver of tools and resources we are gathering along our way. The immediate talent or tool, is the gift of rest, an occasional "take five" command from that little voice inside that has our best interest in mind.

We will find, in our absence the Great Creator will have kept everything in place. We've not lost any progress or even time. We'll find events have transpired while we've been regenerating that have moved us along our journeys without any action on our part.

Life, for better or for worse, will have gone on without us. And that signpost now reads: PEACE - 10,000 km. We can laugh at our arrogance. We are proved once again to not be in control and by pausing for a bit we find we have been moved, miraculously along by a Power greater than ourselves, a  Gentle Taskmaster always with us through our victories, failures, progress and retreats.

Just Breathe in, let it out, and let it go!

… keep coming back

"Today, when I think about the year ahead, I will focus on the good that is coming."
 ~ Melody Beattie 

Saturday, December 27, 2014


"The hardest thing in the world as a parent is to let our children be who they are." ~ Al Anonymous

Parents are watchers. We've watched our infant children as they sleep in their cribs, our kindergartners take their first swings in t-ball, our son's trumpet playing in junior high, our daughter's triumphant smiles after a successful dance routine.

Over time we learn to watch, to enjoy, being mere spectators during the hour or so of a soccer match, the two hours spent at a softball or baseball game or the seemingly endless ordeal of grade school strings recitals - or even worse, those dreaded grade school recorder concerts.

An epiphany occurs for parents when we stop coaching from the sidelines, interjecting our wisdom they cannot and do not wish to hear on the field of play. The musical recitals are settings where we have no control. Even the most competitive among us wouldn't dream of rising up during an elementary Holiday program to scream something like, "Sing loud and hit the notes Johnny!" The recitals are basic training for parents who feel the need to inject input into every aspect of their childrens' lives. Ultimately we either learn to sit back and enjoy the joy of the program or stew over all the "imperfections." Even sitting in the stands at sporting events we eventually appreciate our sons' and daughters' struggles on their chosen fields, courts, floors or pools. If we're lucky we see how they learn to figure things out on their own. We see them making their "mistakes," overcoming "failures" such as a loss, a stumble on a balance beam, a strike out or a shot off the crossbar. We take pride in the beauty and audacity of their struggles!

We have become watchers beginning with our infants, weeks into their development. We had no control over the billions of dividing cells, mitosis the Great Creator's coaching input as we stood powerless shouting our daily encouragement, crib side, from the "sidelines."

This encouragement to our infants was simply the love we provided, unconditionally.

When, as parents of addicts, did we forget our training? Certainly there are times to intervene to save a life or to gently guide, but at some point we must get back to what we've learned from years of parenting:

They'll figure it out. They must.

Eventually our children who have spiraled into any addiction will go away. This away place can be a location far from home or in an eggshell-laden household, our children living with us but not really present. We will embark on our recovery journey, we will stop coaching from the sidelines and remembering those years of training, remembering the vision of our babies slumbering in the darkness, we will utter the words we would have never fully believed until they are finally expressed:

"You'll figure it out. You'll be OK."

Once again, we become watchers. We must. It does our children no service to interject our wisdom as they spiral into their chosen addictions. It is no more effective or productive than coaching from the side lines had been.

If we take a step back, Breathe, then Trust that our sons and daughters will find their way, throw in some Hope and Love for ourselves and for them, we will come to the realization that there is life there, somewhere, for  all of us. We can accept our futures lie along separate paths, along totally distinct journeys.

Watchers don't insult. Watchers encourage. Watchers offer gentle honesty. We do NOT interject. - we listen.

Above all, watchers don't go away. We remain available to show our love by bearing witness to goals missed as well as perfectly-hit notes. We allow our children to do for themselves what they can and share the joy in skills mastered after failing for so long.

One day along their journeys our children may thank us for watching. They may even laugh at life's challenges that we allowed them to experience and overcome.

In the meantime keep watching and … 

… keep coming back

"From a distance there is harmony, and it echoes through the land. And it's the hope of hopes, it's the love of loves, it's the heart of every man. It's the hope of hopes, it's the love of loves. This is the song of every man." 
~ "From a Distance" Julie Gold, Composer

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Universe Will Provide (A Christmas Miracle) - A Personal Reflection

"Do you believe in miracles? Yes! ~ Al Michaels at the 1980 Winter Olympics

Our family recently purchased through Craig's List a love seat and sofa to replace an overused set in our downstairs family room. Everyone was looking forward to this including our son who brought me to this journey, as the old furniture would be moved to his apartment. The new set would be a welcome and long anticipated upgrade to our home furnishings.

My wife and our two sons were to pick up the replacement furniture late on an unseasonably warm December Saturday morning. I was scheduled to speak at an early meeting (serendipity!!!!) and afterward, awaited their return at home to assist with moving the old up and out and the new in and down.

The three arrived and the boys did the heavy lifting, bringing the old pieces easily up the steps and angling them out the door, I providing assistance, coaching and foremanship. (I did manage to wrench my lower back during the process which may be a subject metaphor for a future posting.)

The three men began the moving-in process starting with the love seat. I had earlier noted the back piece of the Craig's List furniture was angled a bit more severely than what had been brought upstairs and was relieved when "we" were able to maneuver the smaller of the two pieces through the doorway, then, the immediate clockwise pivot required to transition from the landing down the steps to our family room. It's a tight turn, a mover's nightmare.

The sofa was next, but every effort to angle, turn or pivot this piece of furniture into position to slide down the stairway proved futile. I even sawed off some wooden coat hooks above the landing we were convinced prevented that final move to allow the leviathan free movement. At the point of exhaustion and after an hour of trying we abandoned all attempts to move the unmovable.

We were beaten by an inanimate object, a plush sofa!

We unjammed the sofa, packed it again into my son's work truck that had brought it cross-county to our home not three hours before, brought the love seat back upstairs, gently laid it plush-side down on the sofa and strapped both securely to the truck bed. The overused and outdated furniture was brought back downstairs.

We then decided that the son who brought me to this journey would be the recipient of the new-er sofa/love seat ensemble, his ground-floor apartment being much more receptive to a move. Keeping the furniture in the family seemed like the right thing to do.

It proved to be much more than this on so many levels.

He was ecstatic, our recovery boy, and genuinely grateful.

I admit it took me a few hours to get over the image of $200.00 driving off in a pick up truck to its new home. Before recovery this image would have remained with me for days or even weeks.

The next day my wife told me our youngest mentioned he was happy his brother got the furniture.

"It will make him feel better about himself," he had said.

Tears welled up in love and pride for both my boys.

Later that same day I was able to relate to younger brother how touched I had been by what he had said. I told him I felt the same way but admitted in honesty it may have taken me a while.

At that moment it hit me, one of the miracles of the day.

"You know," I told my boy, "It was meant to be that your brother got the sofa and love seat. We were never supposed to have that downstairs. He was supposed to have that furniture in his apartment all along."

The look on his eyes told me he got it, this message. I stopped there. No talk about the Universe or synchronicity. For once I wouldn't ruin the moment.

The two of us simply embraced the miracle.


One of the gifts of recovery is the ability to feel the miracle when it happens. Miracles are often felt before they are realized or internalized. Miracles are gifts of a warm feeling that surrounds us with an awareness that we are not alone on our journeys, we are not in control and cannot expect to orchestrate our joys and revelations or to even fulfill all our needs.

The second miracle of that day was the gratitude felt by my son who brought me here and a small realization that perhaps there is a presence surrounding him he cannot yet explain. A perplexity entered his soul that only can happen through a new found, if brief, self awareness. Addiction eschews true introspection. Addiction, remember, hates REAL.

We may never know what The Universe has in mind for us and our children who brought us here. Try as we may we cannot force The Good to materialize. Sometimes we have to accept what may seem to be the impossible, and await, patiently, the possible, the possibilities ahead.

Before our recovery how many miracles passed us by? Think of how many situations we forced, coerced,or manipulated as The Universe, God, The Great Creator watched, awaiting our hearts to soften and our eyes to be opened to acceptance, love and peace.

The next time the sofa won't move down the stairway don't waste so much time forcing what will never materialize.

Who knows what The Universe has in mind for us?

… keep coming back

"Miracles happen every day, change your perception of what a miracle is and you'll see them all around you." ~ Jon Bon Jovi
"Miracles are for everyone." ~ Patrick Benjamin

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Season's Gratings

As I write this I am looking out our front window on a chilly early December winter-like morning. Though the season is still Fall, the atmosphere is electric. literally, with Winter, our Christmas decorations on display, all of them, in anticipation of gathering together as a family on December 25 morn.

To parents of children in the throes of battling, or not battling addiction, this time of the year is not always so wonderful. The Season brings with it a contradiction of emotions often difficult to endure. Even those who perceive their Higher Power as a Universal presence and may not celebrate the traditional festivals cannot help being sucked into The Season by the ubiquitous holiday music, menorah and advent wreaths, holiday television, red-greeen and the anthropomorphized cloven-hoofed animals with an inexplicable knack for flying. The Season can be hard for us.

[On a personal note, this week marks the 6th anniversary of when we sent our boy who brought me to this journey to the High Desert of Utah for his first treatment, our first attempt at fixing his addiction.]

The joyousness of The Season is tempered by the realization that our babies, whether with us or not, are truly NOT home for the holidays. They are not really present, nor do they wish to be. The addiction will see to that.

The Season brings with it many potential detours from our journeys. Whether we celebrate a birth, or a revolt, temple rededication and a miracle of oil and light, or even avoid any religious connection during this late November through December time, it is the first Season as parents of addicts when we will wander into almost every side path and allow every distraction to divert us from our journeys. It's ok - this first time. It's natural and to be expected. We simply yearn for those holidays when wonder and joy filled our households and anticipation warmed our hearts. The first year, we need to be gentle with ourselves. We may or not be ready to react any differently.

Those side tracts (sic) we wander into are fear, sadness, shame, blame and most dangerous of all, a gloomy expanse called "let's pretend everything is alright," a don't-feel zone of self pity. The Season will tempt us to revert, to go back to old ways. We're just pretending for a while, for a few weeks. Beginning with Thanksgiving through the end of the year The Season poignantly reminds us of everything we've lost.

We wallow in it, the loss, amid the carols, lights, feasting and festing. We are once again pulled into addiction's vortex with our children. We truly believe he will show at family events, that she will wonder at the joys and messages of The Season.

We expect The Season to materialized as if addiction had not taken our children from us.

Each year we emerge from our detours. We are exhausted, the remnants of whatever dark forest, swamp or desert we wandered into cling to us as a reminder of that first misstep that diverted us from our journey.

Each year we learn. The Season remains a difficult time for certain but we eventually learn, somehow, to stay our course, keep our expectations low and love our children while dismissing the addiction.

For us, The Season invites tension, longing and disappointment to our homes. Our children who brought us to this journey may show up late to family gatherings or not show up at all. If he does show, he may not be present. We become prepared for the contrary and negative spin addiction forces upon our children. The addiction will attempt to make her presence during the holidays a contradiction to the joy and love we are bringing to our homes not just during the holidays but throughout the year.

But we learn eventually to not let this happen. We stop reacting. We relish our children's being no matter what form it may take. If they are not physically with us, they are present in our souls and we remember where there is life there is hope. We observe The Season our own way as parents of addicted children, each year improving our observations. We look around, actively distinguishing between what is real and what is blurred by our fear and sadness. Instead of wishing for what once was, we cherish the NOW and anticipate the joy that awaits us when we embark again on our recovery journeys.

The Season with its rushing, hustling and bustling, the last-minute this and that. over scheduling and overindulgence will eventually allow us to sneak away, sit back, BREATHE, observe and recollect what we have accomplished the past year. From Thanksgiving through New Years we are given many opportunities to shut out the maelstrom of The Season and reflect on where our journeys have brought us and anticipate where we are destined to travel.

Like a world-class athlete who can eliminate all distractions to focus on the moment we are able to see only The Good and eliminate the doubt addiction will attempt to bring to our journey. We can accept the sadness of The Season, take it in, then give it up to The Universe, our Higher Power to bear. We will no longer allow The Season to unnecessarily detour us from the progress of our recovery. We come to believe that whatever spiritual pathway we traverse, this truth and an ever-present partner will carry us through The Season.

Season's Greetings to all, and to all a good journey!

… keep coming back

"If you believe in this spirit thing the miracle will happen and you'll want it to happen again tomorrow. … It can happen every day … you've just got to want that feeling. And if you like it, and you want it you'll get greedy for it .. you'll want it every day of your life, and it can happen to you. I believe it now. … It's great. It's a good feeling. It's better than I've felt in a long time. I'm ready. ~ Bill Murray as Frank Cross in "Scrooged"

Sunday, December 7, 2014

When THE BAD Happens

"The wound is the place where Light enters you." ~ Rumi
It is inevitable - The Bad. The Bad can take many forms depending on where we are on our journeys. Whether a traveller has recently embarked on his journey of recovery or has seen months, years or even decades of pathways traveled, The Bad, when it visits us, is a wrenching and cataclysmic occurrence. It brings us to our knees like nothing has since we were, days, months or years ago, struck down in defeat by our son's or daughter's addiction.

The Bad is often amplified by previous or recent events. Illness, work stressors, relationship issues, loved ones struggling with their lives can all be triggers and perhaps harbingers of The Bad. It is as if The Bad knows we have been weakened, we are at risk - vulnerable. The Bad knows when to strike, and where. It will hit us where it hurts the most sometimes through our sons and daughters who have brought us to our journey, and, sometimes, and this can be more devastating, through people or events outside our immediate pathways.

The Bad seems to come out of nowhere yet in retrospect should not have been totally unexpected.

There were signs.

When The Bad hits like a sledgehammer we ask, yes we do ask, we have to, we ask our Higher Power, God, the Universe, the Great Creator, "Are you kidding me?"

Things are going so well. Our pathway is level, our journey moving along as hoped for. But there is that mist off in the distance, those thunderclouds looming portending something calamitous. We ignore these as our paths take a gentle turn or slight upsloap to our next horizon. We have conquered so much, overcome our deepest fears and worst tendencies, we have learned so much, we've changed, we've grown. The darkness in the mist far ahead, those thunderheads are miles away.

We're doing so well.

So why worry?

Then it happens - The Bad. Seemingly on cue, dramatically, The Bad reveals itself in a phone call, an event, a conversation or one of those epiphanies of self that can destroy from within. The Bad strikes us at our core being. It finds what is dear and loved deep within our souls and commandeers our most treasured hopes and dreams like a master thief.

Again we are brought to our knees, defeated.

We ask the Universe, "Really? Is this my reward for giving everything over to You, for embarking on this journey of self actualization?"

We get no answer. But we are NOT alone.

The Universe, the Great Creator, God, the Great Spirit is awaiting our answer to our own question.

We ponder if The Bad is a cynical response from the Universe to our improvement, putting us in our place, or a reminder that our hubris could be, or will be, our downfall?

Well yes, and perhaps, no.

As The Bad envelopes us, do not fight it. Accept it.

The Bad is not a punishment or a Universal response to our misguided belief we are in control of our recovery. The Universe will  never punish us for striving.

The Bad is a reminder that we still have work to do. Those mists, the thunder clouds were not as far off as we thought. For months, or even years we have been ignoring obstacles to our self actualization. Until now we've not been inclined to pay much attention, we were not ready. When we were ready, the  Great Creator manifested these obstacles, the character flaws and deep-seated habits and life patterns that would have prevented us from continuing our journey.

The Bad was simply the trigger. The Bad knocked us down long enough for the storm of our flaws and self-destructive behavior to catch up, surround and envelope us.

The Bad is our opportunity to confront our worst demons and to call out to the Universe, "Thank you. I get it now. I'm ready."

We know we are not alone. we feel the love of our Higher Power with us, supporting us, lifting us to our feet and declaring, "I'm still here. I will not leave you in your time of need."

Our eyes opened, our souls receptive ..

We see. We see, finally!

The Bad never leaves, it remains etched forever deep inside our hearts as evidence of what inspired us to acknowledge what had been ignored. This inspiration calls us to reinvent ourselves. Our memory of The Bad will always remind us to be vigilant and hold fast to the gains we've achieved. We are brought to a place of sunshine, flowers and cool breezes.

We've not felt this strong and self assured in a long time.

One day, we'll pen The Bad, whatever it is, on our list of Gratitudes, then resume our recovery journeys unburdened of self deception. We become comfortable in ourselves, in our Truths.

We show up. We are present and more self aware than ever before. We may even smile that it took us so long and are grateful for the gentle hand of the Universe for being there for us.

We will find only our fellow travelers can relate when we share the multitudes of The Good that have been realized from accepting The Bad. In a twisted and counterintuitive whirl of Universal synchronicity, The Bad has inspired the best in us.

We shake our heads in disbelief and accept the inevitability of our powerlessness. With tears welling we embrace all this, we revel in all the blessings we are receiving and our new-found consciousness of self and gratefully accept The Good in our lives.

It really is a hell of a ride, isn't it?

… keep coming back
"What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise." ~ Oscar Wilde
"Anticipate The Good so you may enjoy it." ~ Ethiopian Proverb 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Haiku From St. Louis During Difficult Times

“Awakened souls strengthen and encourage each other by their friendships and interchange of thoughts and revealments. They create a network of light over the planet and spin threads of mutual upliftment and inspiration.”
~Vida Reed Stone

This may be seen as a departure from my message for parents of addicts, especially since I am returning from quite a long absence, but events in St. Louis are calling me to reach out in a different way. There is a common thread in the following haiku however, which is in difficult times we must not run and hide, but live and confront our fears in healthy and productive ways as we continue on our journeys unimpeded by what life may may reveal to us. Distrust and prejudices nurtured over two centuries will not be eliminated easily through press conferences, commissions, rioting or police action. Only by accepting that we are in this together on this journey as a nation and not separate from them can we change.  And it's going to take a while for that lasting solution.

I am not minimizing the importance of this crossroads we have approached in St. Louis by expressing the issue in an ancient poetic form. I am merely expressing a complex debate in poetry I love to share and incorporating what I have learned along my journey to hopefully contribute a bit of calm and gentleness to a rising national rancor.

Enjoy, as we continue to use what we have learned on our journeys ...

Deadly force repulsed
Two souls in the same struggle
No easy answers

Mt. Vesuvius
When you forever repress
It's gotta release

Nature in turmoil
Cincinnati forgotten?
Now what can we learn?

Address root causes?
Easier to turn away
Than to look within

Time to affect change
Growing what has been denied

What's really needed
Justice or Equality
Buds of same flower

Burn Little Caesars?
Counterproductive actions
Dumb is what dumb sows

What causes the fear?
That "they" may be just like us
Harvests of hatred

… keep coming back

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


"Autumn is the mellow season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits." ~ Samuel Butler

Fall is the gentle season. Wherever we are on this Earth that the Great Creator has provided, especially if we reside in a temperate band, Fall is Nature's chance to take a long breath after the summer's onslaught. This is Nature's preparation time.

Fall knows not what it is preparing for. It simply knows it has a duty to be that brilliantly vibrant transitional lead up to who knows what - a brutal or forgivingly mild winter.

We can learn a lot from Fall.

Summer, with its oppressive days (and nights depending on where you live) is my favorite time of year.  As a pool owner I would like the outdoor temperature to be 100 degrees (Fahrenheit!) every summer day. I can relish the swelter as long as I know there is that cool-water refuge at my behest.

But I do welcome Fall as it slowly appears. Even the Earth, tilting, shielding itself from the direct bombardment of a nuclear star we call the Sun knows it needs a respite sometimes.

We all do.

As I write this we are just days away from the Fall Equinox of 2014. Even ahead of the equalization of days and nights - the nights soon to overtake the days - the air is cooling, breezes out of the north are gentle, rains ahead of the big day have been steady, sustained, sustaining.

The Earth is preparing, but for what?

As I mentioned, we can learn a lot from Fall. I also said Fall is a gentle season, but not to be characterized as listless or stagnant. Soon, Fall will burst forth with firework colors that mesmerize the eye, final harvests and a determined, methodical preparation for winter.

The Earth is preparing to breathe.

So what can we as parents of children who have lost their way learn from Fall?

We can be gentle with ourselves. We can learn to breathe, take care of ourselves and prepare for the good, as well as the undesirable. We can have our moments of unabashed joyful, burstful explosions honoring ourselves as ourselves. We can celebrate harvests of our talents we've held onto, held back, for too long. We can share the bounty we've found along our recovery pathways.

We can take a break from oppression by taking life in, embracing it, not by running from it. Fall teaches us to take that breath, to be good to and see the good in ourselves. We can shower ourselves with the sustaining love we may not have experienced for a while.

When a St. Martin's summer rolls in bringing with it the not unexpected warmer comfort during our preparation we cannot be fooled or diverted as we continue our journeys during this powerfully different autumnal stage. This is our time, not our son's or daughter's who brought us to recovery. This is our time to be a bit selfish with our energies. It is a time to reflect but not disappear.

There will be challenges ahead. There will be roads, valleys, hillsides and chasms to conquer along our way.

But perhaps not today.

Perhaps today we can revel in the progress we've made, let our colors fly, display our talents and passions in one huge life harvest while allowing ourselves the gift of introspection about where we've been and where we're going.

We've come a long way. That last month, year or even decade was like a hot, oppressive summer but we made it through.

Breathe a little. We deserve it.

We can learn a lot from Fall!

… keep coming back

"And I rose, In rainy autumn, And walked abroad in a shower of all my days." ~ Dylan Thomas, Collected Poems

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Outside Our Journeys - Against All Odds

"We have the best government that money can buy." ~ Mark Twain
Recently, one of our network news local affiliates reported a story both shocking and not totally unexpected.

A sting operation partially funded by a county drug and alcohol awareness coalition and conducted by that county's law enforcement agency revealed that 34 percent of retail establishments tested sold alcohol to minors. This sting, as with others funded by local law enforcement elsewhere was done by the book. There was no coercion or pressure. The underage (actually youthful-looking legal-age plants) were either sold the liquor or were refused. The plants were wired - everything documented.

And that is where everything stopped. There was no follow up, no fines or citations, no liquor license suspensions.

It became apparent that the great State of Missouri has neither the funding nor the inclination to enforce a law put on the books for a specific reason. As guardian of what its citizens hold dear the state has decided that curbing, or at least impeding underage drinking isn't important.

I was first introduced to this story by a few friends who are part of the coalition involved in the sting. As a parent of a child struggling with addiction and a friend to many of you who are in similar situations I was absolutely floored. I was at work when I received the email with its accompanying news feed. "Oh my God," were the words I voiced, loud enough for anyone who might be walking by my office to hear.

Fortunately there was nobody within earshot of my proclamation although this was something I would have gladly shared with my colleagues.

What does it mean to those affected by addiction that the guardians of social mandates are either too busy, overextended or underfunded to support what we as citizens feel is important? Do we throw our hands up in despair and abandon our journeys? Are we all fighting some sort of quixotic crusade to maintain sanity in spite of states' inability or disinclination to enforce existing laws, or, many state legislatures' insistence on legalizing controlled substances?

Sometimes it may seem as though we are losing our minds. Sometimes it may seem like we're alone on our journeys.

Well, we're not, and … we're not. It is important to remember that the journey we are on is ours, not our children's and certainly not a journey travelled with state agencies.

It is also important to note that the social media comments to this story began with shock and support of the efforts of local law enforcement, then deteriorated into calls for parents to "clean house" and "control" their kids.

That is simply not the point. Control we know doesn't work and certainly has no effect, especially with the tacit consent of states to allow underage drinking and hence other substance abuse. This is about the information an adolescent requires for its developing brain to draw seemingly logical conclusions:
If the vendors don't care, and the police don't care (they do, but have no real enforcement authority over the vendors) and the state doesn't care, then alcohol must be okay! And have you heard they're thinking about legalizing pot!
This all contributes to the seeming inability of adolescents to heed warnings about underage drinking while recent states-sponsored legalization of marijuana convinces kids that pot "isn't that bad."

It is okay to become incensed, dismayed and angry by all of this as long as we transform these feelings into a catalyst for voicing our displeasure to local politicians. We can have measured and impassioned discussions with friends and let them know how we feel. Our personal stake in this game can amplify the dialogue.

We must guard against having our journeys diverted by the ineptitude of government. Our pathways cannot be blocked by issues outside our journeys. We can maintain our new-found levels of serenity at all costs continuing to grow and improve ourselves. We can use experience gained during our journeys to coolly insert facts and real-world life experience into interaction with friends, family, our children who brought us to recovery and those who did not. We can add a calmness to the discussion.

We can refuse to contribute to discussions of the absurd. We can be gentle voices of experience and continue on our recovery journeys.

And as we grow so may our children.

And perhaps, possibly, our elected officials.

But don't hold your breath!

… keep coming back

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Islands of Guilt

"If I had ever been here before I would probably know what to do. Don't you?" ~ David Crosby - "Deja vu"

"We should have noticed the change in behavior."

"We should have sent him to wilderness camp sooner."

"We should never have sent her to wilderness camp."

"If only I had been around more."

"If only I had hovered less."

"I was too tough on her."

"I was too easy on him."

We've all experienced second thoughts and reservations, would-haves, should-haves and could-haves, the perfect vision that hindsight predicts in vivid detail our children's spiral into addiction.

How could we have not seen it? We're a good family. We created a loving household for our children.

Why, how, did we let this happen?

We create islands of guilt for ourselves, surprisingly comfortable locales where we can justify feeling less-than about ourselves.

The origins of the word GUILT are unclear. The Old English gylt meaning "crime, sin, fault, fine," has no traceable transitional words to what we now consider the meaning of its modern progeny. It is a word that seems to have emerged out of the necessities of cultural mores and expectations. Perhaps they didn't have time for such wasteful pursuits as guilt in the 11th and 12th centuries - probably not! Perhaps neither do we as parents of children who have journeyed to addiction.

We are in uncharted territory. While there are books like What To Expect The First Year and What To Expect The Second Year, there are no similar publications titled, What to Expect When Your Adolescent Spirals In The Vortex Of  Substance Abuse Or Other Addictions.

If we had ever been here before, we would probably know what to do!

Fortunately there are voices and guides out there who have experienced the pain of watching sons and daughters succumb to addiction. Unfortunately guilt prevents these voices to be heard. Guilt keeps us locked in despair. Guilt keeps us isolated and catatonic. Guilt is a roadblock across the path of our recovery journeys. We may as well be castaways on an island thousands of miles away from rescue.

Most importantly this guilt is unfounded.

We can pick apart the minutia of each minute, every day, month and year of our children's upbringing and pour wave upon wave of guilt upon ourselves until we are isolated on our self-made islands, apart, alone, angry, helpless and doomed. On these islands there is little hope of escape. The tides of guilt that brought us to this island are simply too damn strong.

Addiction is a disease. Guilt felt as a result of our son's or daughter's addictions is like feeling guilty about a child who has contracted a disease. Parents in the throes of combating afflictions such as childhood leukemia rise to the occasion. They model life, not death. They become beacons of hope and encouragement.

As parents of addicts we can live our lives and be that same beacon of hope to our addicted children while keeping in mind only they can find the cure to their disease. Guilt will only inhibit this process, keeping us stalemated on the island, isolated from our addicted children, family, friends and ourselves.

The islands of guilt to which we can so easily travel inhibit our progress along our pathways to recovery. These can be comfortable places. While there, we are divorced from our lives wallowing in eddies of self pity at the expense of seeking what is out there for us to experience.

And often, the addict is right there with us, wallowing with no where to go but exactly where she is, where he has been. We are both stuck in a quicksand of addiction. When we as parents stop struggling with the guilt we can feel the hold our child's addiction has on us loosening. We can break free and move on with our lives.

If we remember the origin of the word gylt - crime, sin, fault, fine - we can avoid or even escape the island. There is no crime here, no sin, we did not cause this, and there is no penalty to impose. We can cease blaming ourselves for a disease that has captured our children. We can love the addict while hating the addiction.

There are dugout canoes awaiting us. Our pathways to recovery are just over the horizon.

Start paddling.

… keep coming back

"And a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries." ~ Paul Simon "I Am A Rock"

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Approaching Real

"Serenity NOW!" ~ George Costanza, Seinfeld, Season 9, Episode #3, "The Serenity Now"

I was a devoted follower of Seinfeld during its original run from July of 1989 to May 1998. And I got the joke. These four main characters, Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer were petty, self absorbed, small, rude, insular.

Shall I go on?

Still, the show was hilarious. Try as they may the four major players on our weekly television stage couldn't carry out a truly noble act even if theirs, or someone else's life depended on it.

Landing in a jail cell as the final episode was an absolute brilliant plot denouement - the Universe exacting its perfect Karma upon the four. Most of us got it. Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer didn't. And they probably never would!

Among my favorite episodes is "The Serenity Now." George's father Frank opens a new business and hires George and George's childhood nemesis Lloyd Braun as sales people. Frank ineffectually employs the phrase "serenity now" learned from a self-help recording by screaming the mantra, rather than calmly and meditatively breathing the words. George also adopts the phrase with drastically unintended results as does Kramer, who has a meltdown and destroys 25 computers he is storing in his apartment for George.

There is really no hope for these three. They are simply going through the motions. They'll never get it.

I laughed along with everyone else at these characters' attempts to become "one with" something. I also laughed at (Senator) Al Franken's Stuart Smalley character ("… because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.")

We all laughed. To this day when I see a You Tube of Franken's character I still go into hysterics, I can't help myself, even though many of Smalley's affirmations read straight out of the Al-Anon and other 12-Step playbooks. In a Seinfeld episode, in an Al Franken bit, it's funny. In real life, it can seem tragic.

This was the 90s after all. We've evolved, hopefully.

We band of brothers and sisters, we parents of addicts must learn to evolve beyond the platitudes such as serenity now, or the cynicism of a besweatered fictional character. What was funny might remain funny, but tragedy has us looking beyond sitcoms and Saturday Night Live skits for answers to progress along our journeys.

We must strive to approach REAL.

When first confronted by our children's addictions our reactions were influenced by our parental instincts to fix, cure and control. Sometimes interventions are necessary to cleanse, save a life or stop sudden downward spirals. Eventually the substance abuser must decide on his own to turn things around. The change usually does not come from the outside. The decision to be free of addiction must originate from within to be effective and lasting.

Our ability to allow our children to find their pathways requires a journey on our part that is fraught with its own perils and dangers. We may feel damaged and imperiled as we change the way we react, feel and live. It is foreign to transform from rager to listener, from a reactionary to a parent who might, just, possibly, THINK before she acts, before he explodes. We are fearful of this change.

It's hard, but true serenity has its own rewards. True serenity is catching. It's like a virus from heaven.

Suddenly people around us are drawn to us, not repulsed. Our responses to situations, to our unique position as parents of addicted children become as foreign to those around us as they seem to us. Our new behavior, uncomfortable and painful to embrace at first, becomes second nature.

We are becoming REAL. We are becoming the human beings the Great Creator, the Universe, meant us to be. And one day someone may tell us how calm we are and we'll smile, knowing we have come to this place just recently by travelling along a pathway to finding our true selves. We won't let them know we've not yet "arrived." This can be our little secret!

We become a beacon of light to family, friends, other parents beginning their journeys and perhaps even the children who brought us to this place if only the fog of the addiction could lift a bit for our new lives to shine through. Realness is something that cannot be ignored forever.

The Real may take a while or may never appear. Real is a progression. Real is an ideal for which we can strive. Our lives now, as real as they are may be improved if we stay true to our recovery journeys.

Because you know … we ARE good enough!

"The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him." ~ THE Velveteen Rabbit  Or HOW TOYS BECOME REAL by Margery Williams | Illustrations by William Nicholson
… keep coming back 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Child Sightings

"The humble heart is protagonist to the critical heart and must always prevail." ~ Patrick Benjamin
It is one of the cruelest burdens we bear as parents of habitual substance abusers and addicts. Sometimes the addiction will allow us a brief glimpse of our sons and daughters as they were, prior to the change.

It is as if the addiction is taunting us, screaming, "See what I've taken from you!"

It is at these times, during these surprise attacks on our souls, when our journeys are tested, our progress at risk. We can revert to the comfortable, we can return to the swamp, the harsh canopy, the darkness and dampness of the rainforest, the inescapable hedgerow. We can tell our addicts everything we've not been able to communicate during substance-driven stupors. We can cajole, lecture, attempt to control. This may be the perfect opportunity to apply a fix, to impart the single lesson that might just turn them around. This is our chance to jump in and talk some sense into our children, right?


This, rather, is a chance to sit back, listen, converse and simply revisit if just for a short time the beauty that is our children who have been taken from us.

How long it has been since our last child sighting is often concomitant with the deepness of our childrens' spiral into addiction. As hard as this may sound, our childrens' addictions will tempt interactions meant to harm, coerce, influence, mislead, misdirect, cast blame and deceive. The days, weeks, months or even years since our last child sightings we've held fast to our recovery journey. We have continued. We've held the line. We've not lectured nor raged, or reverted to the old behaviors, or offered pat solutions to obstacles not under our control.

We can think of the child sighting as our reward for doing for ourselves and our children by doing nothing to fix the addiction. All the time spent keeping our egos in check, staying the course of our recovery journeys, humbly trusting that some Higher Power is at work creating a future we could not create or even conceive has paid off.

My first child sighting came early on in my recovery and is indelibly and forever etched into my memory. It was at an off-site lunch break during a parents' weekend at the therapeutic boarding school we had placed our son to provide him tools for his eventual recovery …

My son ordered nothing. He was angry, still, that we had sent him for eight weeks to the high desert of Utah, then to finish his junior year of high school in western Montana. He used the twenty minutes spent at the local diner to remind me how pointless sending him away had been and what a load of crap we had been handed by the school counseling staff during our parent sessions (the boys had not been there). He peppered his twenty-minute diatribe with enough F-bombs to rival Nixon's 12-day Christmas air assault on North Vietnam in 1972.

I sat there and said nothing. We parents had been prepared for this. So early on in my recovery I was barely able to hold it together.

But I did.

After my quick lunch the two of us piled silently into my rental car for our return to the retreat house. As I prepared to turn the ignition my son turned to me and without any preamble simply said, "Dad, I was really good at football, wasn't I?"

"Sweetheart, you were even better at baseball," was my response. 

We drove to the house without another word.

That was my first child sighting.

Child sightings give us hope that is neither unrealistic nor unfounded.

Child sightings help us love the addict while hating the addiction.

Child sightings are a minor victory over the addiction. Relish this victory. We've earned it.

But do not become complacent.

Our personal recovery pathway is long and fraught with dangers and detours, uncertainty and confusion. We can remember that wherever we are along our journeys the child sightings provide bright sunshiny days and clear vision of what may lie ahead if we persevere. Child sightings give us validation that we just might be on the right path and in doing the BEST WE CAN for ourselves, we're doing the right thing for our children.

This is our opportunity to let our children know they are loved and appreciated for who they are. It is not a time to jump in to fix the unfixable, control the uncontrollable, to cure the incurable or to take ownership of what we did not cause. This would transform time with our children, however brief, into a victory for the addiction.

Cherish these moments. Bask in the sunlight of our childrens' souls. These child sightings are our opportunity to Breathe, Trust, Laugh, Seek, Hope, Love and See, all in an instant.

Silently cry if you need to.

Gently accept these unexpected gifts from the Universe, God, the Great Creator. There's a new-found spring in our step. We are on the right pathway. Look up. There are possibilities ahead we can't even imagine!

… keep coming back

"In the darkest hour the soul is replenished and given strength to continue and endure."   ~ H.W. Chosa

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


"If you understand, things are just as they are. If you do not understand, things are just as they are." ~ Zen Proverb

Some of us are living with the children who brought us to recovery. They are, remaining, still, in our homes as well as constantly in our hearts. Boundaries are eternally established, breached, then reformed for the next onslaught on our souls, the next betrayal of trust. Walking on eggshells in our households has become as much a part of life as the fear of the next late night phone call or knock on the door.

"Is this Mr. Jones? This is Officer Smith with the (insert name of municipality here) police department."

Before we embarked on our recovery journeys life was never what we had envisioned. And now, as we continue on our recovery journeys life is nothing like we could have ever imagined.  Once we have owned our personal lives and found our true life pathways, our former fallbacks of raging, negativity and blame are familiar barriers to be overcome, not barometers of who we are. Rather than falling further into our pre-recovery abyss we now learn and even gain confidence from these encounters with our former selves.

When we stumble upon these metaphorical landslides, fallen trees or other four-legged (or no legged) obstacles impeding our journey, we realize, eventually, that the paths we've chosen in the instant of those encounters with our former selves do not lead to where we want to go - or, lead us nowhere. We figure it out. We turn around. We keep moving. There is another way to where we want to be, who we want to be. There IS … a Plan B! We learn, respond positively and progress along our personal path to recovery.

Still, often, having the addict at home, can simply suck!

It may have been, actually, what catapulted many of us to pathways of realization - the realization that sometimes allowing the addict to remain in the comfortable deception of our households is poison to both our children and ourselves.

Some of us have made the transition through forced separation or mutual understanding, an opportunity we know will refocus our children (college), voluntary or involuntary separation (rehab, wilderness, therapeutic boarding school), or a calm you can't live here anymore discussion that challenges our sons or daughters to find their journeys.

By whatever method or means, our children are no longer at home.

This transition, in whatever form, is at the same time empowering and terrifying. The silence is both welcome and maddening.

Silence brings with it a challenge from the Universe that we use this opportunity to make some real progress in our recovery unencumbered by the madness. We often find instead that our children are somehow, seemingly still there, in our hearts and minds as shadows in our homes.

We can choose to revert to old behaviors, to those former life habits of the comfortable recluse, the fountain of anger, the passive aggressor, the martyr.

This is no life at all. This is the life of fear, stagnation, depression and suffering we experienced long before beginning our recovery journeys. Do we really want to go back … there?

This is when true epiphanies can happen.

We ask ourselves, "How can I continue to feel the pain and shoulder the burdens of my addicted son, my substance abusing daughter? How crazy is that?"

We're not crazy. We're normal. We're parents - still. We still love our babies.

Crazy is repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Crazy is owning someone else's pain and addictions.

Perhaps the madness does not come from our sons or daughters. Perhaps we need to look to ourselves. Could we have possibly given The Addiction too much power?

The silence of a household purged of the addict can be deafening if the addiction and its effects remain. Beyond the silence, beyond the lingering eggshells and the slime left behind by addiction is Life, if we're ready to go for it.

Surely the movies inside our heads will begin to play. Is he OK? Where is she now? What are they doing in the desert? We come to realize that the madness comes from believing we are in control of what has yet to happen. The Addiction will attempt to get in our heads even when our sons and daughters are not living with us.

With the silence, we can break through previously unbreachable barriers addiction had laid in our pathways. Again, we can close our eyes, breathe, and move ahead to what the Great Creator is offering. The offering is Life!

It's just beyond that ridge, that blind turn, that seemingly impassible thicket.

Move forward. We can take this opportunity to seek out possibilities for ourselves. The silence provides a chance for us to seek the good. Only then, will we allow ourselves the gift to see the good available to us.

The Universe awaits us if we can just quiet our minds. Hear the silence, feel its gentle calm. Smile, and with the deafening cacophony of addiction no longer in our heads, we will continue confidently along our pathways.
"Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings to us to learn from." ~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

… keep coming back

Monday, August 11, 2014


"Yes, I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes. You'd know what a drag it is to see you. ~ Bob Dylan "Positively 4th Street"
I've always loved this song by Bob Dylan. Filled with bile, anger and vinegar I have often wondered who he was writing to - not about, to! This was a salvo aimed directly at someone rather than a "fire for effect" composition. This person must have at some point seriously disappointed Dylan to the fullest extent!

Be carefully who you disenchant, especially when they are a master at turning a phrase!

No, this is not the message I wish to leave you.

This last verse of "Positively 4th Street" quoted above is one of those quintessential Rock lyrics along with Randy Newman's milk truck hauls the sunup ("Living Without You"), and Neil Young's sailing hardships through broken harbors ("Tell Me Why") along with countless Springsteen and Billy Joel verses.

I've known people who I've wished could "stand inside my shoes" if only to give them the experience of seeing themselves outside of their consciousness, to give them a mind opening out-of-body experience. These are the "negative energy" beings we have all encountered throughout our recovery journeys and have either jettisoned when possible or established boundaries by which we can maintain a relationship.

It is actually by standing outside of our own shoes and looking at ourselves objectively, lovingly and honestly that we can ever begin our own recovery. This follows the gut-wrenching acknowledgment of being defeated by the addiction of our loved ones.

We know this, and again, this is not the message I want to convey.

I'd like to turn Dylan's verse inside out a bit and, applying it to the relationship we have with our children who have brought us to recovery. Perhaps, to truly love our addicts while hating the addiction that brought them down there are certain things we need to know, certain things we need to own and believe.

Imagine if for just one time we could stand inside the shoes of our children who have succumbed to addiction. We would know and feel the misery and terror of what it is to be … them. To step inside their shoes we need to consciously trust that no child wakes up one day and declares, "I'm going to throw everything away and live my life for an addiction."

We need to know in our hearts and believe and own that addiction is a disease, not a character flaw or punishment. We must allow ourselves the gift of accepting addiction as an affliction as random and devastating as childhood leukemia. Standing inside our children's shoes, we can feel the conflict of the highs and euphorias brought by self medication and lives chosen but never wished for.

We've all seen this. We've all seen this in those quiet times when our children attempt to reach out, but cannot, attempt to escape, but cannot. There are those lucid moments when The Addiction might lose its hold for a moment and our children may express that longing for days past before hope and accomplishment were replaced by addiction's call.

What a drag it is to be our our children.

Now we can see this, we can feel this. It is sad, yes, simply feel this, don't attempt to fix or own this feeling. In that overarching universe of despair we encounter while in our children's shoes we can also discern a faint glimmer of hope for little victories to come, a chance for our children to pull themselves out of their mire.

How many times have we heard our children say, "I was really good at …," or, "I know this isn't the way I want to …," or, "I'm gonna do … ," or, "I think I'd like to be a … ."

For some of us, standing inside our children's shoes may be our first move toward openly and honestly loving our children while being just fine with hating The Addiction. It is a mindset change and a heart tenderizer paving the way to the continuation of our recover journeys.

These shoes are not comfortable. There is a reason for this. We can put them on when we are ready, we can feel the sorrow, slip them off and give them back. We can breathe and let go of the pain that is not ours to hold and move on with a new-found love for our children in our hearts and souls.

"Great Spirit, help me never to judge another until I have walked in his moccasins."         ~ Sioux Indian Prayer
… keep coming back 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Seek The Good, See The Good

"The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but no vision." ~ Helen Keller 
I often wonder how long before our culture forgets the heroic generation that saved civilization in World War II, or the remarkable courage and accomplishments of men and woman like Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. People are more likely to remember 1969 for the New York Mets improbable World Series win than the truly remarkable accomplishment of bringing three astronauts back from a successful moon landing. It took vision, courage and not a small amount of arrogance for these exemplars to even imagine their accomplishments that defied the odds and crashed through seemingly insurmountable boundaries.

Oh, I failed to mention Chuck Yeager. Google him!

If not for sophomoric one-liners and a captivating movie of her early life, the struggles, victories and multiple legacies of author, activist, lecturer and American inspiration Helen Keller would have been long forgotten. The first deaf-blind person to earn a degree (Radcliffe 1904), she possessed more vision than most who have been blessed with sight.

And I love the thought of a blind woman chastising us about our lack of personal inner vision!

We have all experienced the feeling of helplessness that blinds us to so much of what is good, hopeful and exciting about our lives and the world. With a sense of vision we can open our eyes to the possibilities.

As a baseball coach I would watch the hurried, worried and harried catch-throw to first base of my third basemen and shortstops often resulting in baseballs scooting under or sailing over the first baseman's glove webbing.

I would tell them, "Catch the ball, then, throw the ball."

I would instruct them to actually say the words in their heads as soon as the ball sizzled toward them in that light speed instant the then aluminum bats would distribute ground balls to infielders - catch the ball. The change was astonishing. They were able to embrace the danger and uncertainty of the ground ball and reduce each part of the play to achievable segments. The players began to will their bodies, brains, eyes, muscles and ligaments to separately accept the oncoming projectile and then, release  it.

Some of them wanted the ball to be hit to them. They began to embrace the challenge and possibilities of the ground ball.

I even witnessed one of my third basemen motioning to the batters before each pitch with his middle and right-hand ring fingers. He wanted the ball hit to him. One opposing coach complained that this kid was taunting his players. I told him my infielder would stop if they would just oblige with a hot grounder to third base.

It's all about wanting to see, looking for the challenges, the possibilities and desiring to accept the unknown. Vision, so different from sight, requires we do the hard work, the soul searching to want to see what's out there for us. We have to want to see what CAN BE.

"The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but no vision." 
"Catch the ball, throw the ball."
  Then …
"Seek the good, see the good."
There can be so much pain and despair in our lives, we get mired in our own muck and become addicted to our own misery, or, following our children into their tragic spirals we become addicted to the  belittling and insulting "fix" of thinking we can actually cure our beloved. We only seek the immediate end-game, that frantic throw across the diamond and forget to focus on the now. We forget what we really want and need to truly take care of ourselves.

With eyes and souls wide open we can seek out, recognize and truly appreciate those qualities we value within ourselves. We can also find opportunities where our best can shine, where we may find our true selves, our journey's next progression.

This takes imagination, a dose of arrogance and the blind optimism faith brings along. Mostly, we have to "want it."

Some might call this mix of ingredients vision.

We can actively look for the good in ourselves first of all, an activity we have been denying ourselves for too long. We'll more readily perceive our talents and possibilities and perhaps even see the same in the world and in others, including the children who brought us to recovery. So first things first:

Believing in ourselves and our potential and power to BE, to be the best human beings we can be will allow us to see our good qualities.
This frees us to live lives of fullness and growth, to be strong, calm and content in the face of adversity.

If we train the brain to receive the goodness the Great Creator has bestowed upon the world we just might become benefactors to our own recovery. We may find ourselves mindlessly writing odd words like "beauty all around" in our gratitudes.

Vision can be a formidable weapon against fear and stagnation. It is a powerful force.

So watch that beautiful baseball into the webbing of your mitt, feel it there, secure, solid. Plant, then … throw.

It's all good!

… keep coming back
"In order to catch the ball, you have to want to catch the ball." ~ John Cassavetes

Friday, July 25, 2014

Breaking Point

"We are afflicted in every way but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed." ~ St. Paul
In 2001 Stephen Ambrose' book Band of Brothers was brought to life through the vision and passion of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. The book and its HBO miniseries offspring chronicled the experiences of "Easy" Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division from jump training through the occupation of Germany.

The story of Easy company, among other historic narratives of the time, needed to be told.

I even impressed upon my kids, when I felt they were old enough to view the graphic almost 12-hour portrayal, "You need to see this. This generation saved the world."

I added, "And don't think you can start saying some of the words you'll hear during certain episodes. You are NOT under fire."

In the seventh installment titled "Breaking Point," Easy hits bottom during the final days of the German siege of Bastogne, Belgium in the Winter of 1944. Constant shelling of the forest outside the town of Foy where the 101st was ordered to make its stand has taken its toll. It all seems to come crashing down on the men of E Company as it loses many key members - a strong leader to a nervous breakdown, two of its veteran NCOs to catastrophic injury and many more to the constant bombardment from the German artillery.

Somehow they hold it together.

As the episode nears its end the assault on Foy is depicted. As the company emerges from the forest's darkness onto a snow-encrusted kill zone hope is dashed as an inept lieutenant second guesses the command to keep moving!

There are simply too many analogies to which we, we band of brothers and sisters, we parents of addicts, can relate. There is the "move or die" command drummed into soldiers' brains beginning with boot camp, emerging from darkness to light only to be confronted by more obstacle, more danger. There is the analogy of charging into the unknown to be met with uncertainty, stagnation and the familiarity of desperation … again.

We all have experienced, will reach or are even now going through a breaking point. We have seen those around us go down, parents beaten by addiction. We have experienced a feeling of despair that nothing, no one, could ever seem to alleviate. We have tried to emerge out of our personal Ardennes Forest, we may have succeeded only to be confronted, again, by the disease of addiction in its many forms. We have suffered through the putridity of the foxholes dug by ourselves or others, into which we've jumped to avoid the constant barrage of hopelessness brought about by our sons' and daughters' addictions.

Some of us have witnessed the loss of life from the disease. We have witnessed friends and families torn apart, dismembered.

We suffer from a form of shell shock as they called it during the time of the second World War.

But, ultimately, we keep moving, we move along on our journeys.

And, ultimately, Easy Company takes the town of Foy. The negativity and lack of conviction of the inept lieutenant is replaced by someone who, during a firefight earlier in the miniseries we have learned has accepted the possible finality of his situation.
"But Blithe, the only hope you have is to accept that you're already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll be able to function like a soldier is supposed to function."  ~ Capt. Ronald Speirs, 506th PIR 101st Airborne - "Dog" Company 
Alright, we're not dead, but unless we accept our own powerlessness and unless we keep moving, we may as well be.

The successful attack and eventual taking of the town of Foy by the men of Easy was due in large part to the leadership and inspirational example of Capt. Ronald Speirs.

There were certainly more battles to be fought, more losses, victories and setbacks, until, ultimately these men and others of the "Greatest Generation" managed to save the world from sociopathic tyrants.

When, not if, we reach our breaking points, we can certainly hunker down in our foxholes if we need to. At some point we will emerge.

We'll have to.

If we keep moving, find inspiration from those around us, accept the powerlessness of our situation and find some Higher Force to give it [all] to, we can persevere.

We might just save our worlds and even positively affect the worlds of those around us, those we love.

We can be the Capt. Ronald Speirs to ourselves and our children, to our families and communities. Only by being true to ourselves can we ever hope to affect the changes in ourselves we seek, striving, ever improving, stretching boundaries, showing by example that transformation is possible and exciting.

We are engaged in a fight we must not lose, we band of brothers and sisters.

Did I mention to keep moving?

 … keep coming back

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

All We Need Is Love

"Nothing you can do, but you learn how to be you, in time. It's easy.  ~ John Lennon - All You Need Is Love

When John Lennon wrote "All You Need Is Love" at the age of 27 for Our World, the world's first international televised satellite link up he knew he had an opportunity to make an impact on the world never before imagined.

Journalist Jade Wright wrote, "Lennon was fascinated by the power of slogans to unite people and was never afraid to create art out of propaganda."

Asked in 1971 whether songs like "Give Peace A Chance" and "Power to the People" were propaganda songs Lennon answered, "Sure. So was 'All You Need Is Love.' I'm a revolutionary artist. My art is dedicated to change."
When John Lennon was murdered on December 8, 1980, a large piece of what was good in the world went with him, for a time.
But his messages remain.
As parents of addicted children we may choose from innumerable pathways. We choose, sometimes, lives of despair and jaw-clenching discouragement. Or, we can let go of all of it, all of the roadblocks and highwaymen impeding our progress.

We can let love in. And we we can begin with ourselves.  This is an internalized love we've been told is selfish and only self serving.

This is a difficult assignment. There are, again, innumerable pathways for achieving this self love. Whatever path is chosen the main obstacle is that first step.

Watch that first step - it's a doozy!

We have to let go, relax and soften our hearts. Rather than clenching every fiber of our bodies and souls with each experience that comes our way we can end the cycle of involuntary responses and BREATHE, simply breathe, in and out, in … and … out.

We begin to get to know ourselves again. Breathing can bring us back to ourselves, to find those traits, talents and natural tendencies that we'd forgotten, those lost aspects of ourselves we recall fondly, the activities we loved to do and innate gifts we may have considered exploring before our children's spiral. These are the parts of us we once loved but until now would NEVER acknowledge.

We do this by breathing. Breathing helps us end the obsessing, controlling and predicting. We have time now, time to look left, look right, behind and ahead. We can see the beauty all around us.

When we allow the love in, like the Grinch in the Dr. Seuss poem our hearts can soften and grow "three sizes."

Amazing things happen. We come out of isolation, emerge from our hateful, bitter and sorrowful rain forests and partake in in all the possibilities the Great Creator has provided. Only then can we love ourselves and begin to explore who we are.
"Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you, in time."
Scary business, finding our true selves, exploring who we are.

Days, weeks, months or even years later, our selves emerged, we are amazed at the lives we have before us, the pathways laid out, the journey ahead - beckoning.

During the process transformations can materialize. We begin to disassociate the addict from his or her addiction. We love our son because we realize he is in the stranglehold of a disease that we can no more cure than if he had succumbed to cancer. We respect her journey as hers alone and we trust (we have to trust) that she will figure a way out. We have handed over the journey of our children to a Power greater than we can ever be.

We've done this because we have found love for ourselves. We have taken the time. We have been gentle with ourselves, our imperfections and foibles.

We are exactly where we need to be on our recovery journeys.
"Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be."
John Lennon's words continue to impact our lives as they did in that breakthrough satellite broadcast in 1967.

And that is the impact and power of love.
"It's easy!"
… keep coming back  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Together We're Better

"It takes a village to raise a parent." ~ Patrick Benjamin
They say there is no manual for raising a child from infancy through adulthood. This is simply not true. There have been enough books written about child rearing to cover the north leg of St. Louis' Gateway Arch, top to bottom. My favorite was "What to Expect the First Year."

I was just never sure, day to day, what page my kids were on in their development.

With all the books, videos, podcasts and seminars available we all have only our own wits and life experiences to draw upon to escort our children from infancy into adulthood. As parents we are our own best navigators of how to guide our children, they are ours after all. We gain wisdom through media that offers personal parenting counsel to the masses but it is up to us to make the tactical decisions required for the major and minor progressions of our kids' upbringing.

So does this mean we are alone in this? I certainly hope not.

Parents of children who have fallen into addiction of any kind endure a more heightened feeling of aloneness than most traveling down the parenting road. We not only feel alone, we isolate with shame, guilt, despair and bitterness, the four horsemen of the apocalypse of families torn by addiction.

We convince ourselves we are the only parent in our community, city, county or state, who has a child who has become a pothead, heroin addict, meth head, cocaine addict or a slave to any substance or behavior. We know, logically, this is not true. At the same time, we're convinced it must be.

We ARE alone - aren't we?

There is an anecdotal statistic quoted by professionals who work with communities and coalitions to raise awareness about addiction. This is an assumption gleaned through years of experience working within those communities.
When we walk into a coffee house, restaurant, or any public place, more than half of the people we see have been directly "touched" by addiction in their families in some way. 
Convinced they are alone in this, many have chosen to do nothing about the visitation addiction has made on their lives.

At some point, we realize we can no longer live our lives in this way, afraid, shamed and isolated. We transition from a life of victimhood to a life of recovery.

The life of recovery becomes, eventually, a life of joy despite whatever muck our children invite us to enter. Joy may be found in many places. One place is a place called community.

Many of the parents we are introduced to through our children's school and sports activities eventually drift apart from families like ours that have been affected by addiction. Many of us have experienced this sad reality. We become that family, the family we had gossiped about before our sons and daughters spiraled.

If we are very lucky, there will be parents who will remain with us in support. We are surprised to learn these are those families we have seen at the restaurant for years, who have been touched by addiction but were never exposed. These families experienced the ravages of addiction alone for years. They confide in us quietly about siblings, cousins and parents who tore their families apart through enabled addiction. They know we are journeying down a courageous pathway. They have no conception of our struggles but can see a difference our journeys are making in our lives, in our relationships and how differently we parent our children who have not brought us to recovery.

Hold fast to these friendships. These are people who understand a bit of what we are experiencing - but only a bit. These are but acquaintances we encounter along our recovery roads. In many cases, they provide us with the initial impetus to embark, to plunge into the unknown that is recovery. These friends offer only encouragement, hopeful nods and best wishes as they pass. These parents, these friends are on much different journeys.

We must find that village where we can truly know, feel and believe that we are not alone in our journey. We know they're out there.

But where is everybody?

We can find our village in far away places, in parent weekends in wilderness camps and therapeutic boarding schools and exotic rehabilitation institutes, in local intervention programs and retreats that all provide structured recovery work.

We may not connect with all the parents in recovery we meet along our way but bonds joined in these settings can be our first leg up we receive in moving out of our personal chasms.

These villages are fleeting and nomadic. We come to realize that our journey doesn't end when our children are pronounced as fixed. Our journey is life long.

So where is that village where we can put down roots and build a life for ourselves as our children proceed along their own roads to recovery?

The following describes some real-world roadmaps to find those true kindred spirits, keeping in mind that this is not a site that provides any quick, easy or simplified answers or preaches ANY particular pathway for any parent - but our villages can be found.

Many of the recovery programs to which we have sent our children promote alumni coteries where parents may join together in their home towns. Local recovery organizations encourage parents to continue to attend parent meetings after the children have finished treatment. Some are 12-Step oriented, some are not. Al-Anon parent groups are almost everywhere and provide permanent, safe villages, bands of brothers and sisters of addicted children. There may even be local Meetups for recovering parents. These should be safe, comfortable (eventually) havens where we can share our pain, joy, experience, strength and hope. Be wary of excessive negativism. This is another's addiction attempting to pull us in.

But the villages are there if we want to find them. The villages are just over that horizon, beyond that hilltop or possibly, beyond that chasm on our journey. It may take time to find our village. The steps include admitting we are on a journey we can't travel in solitude, owning we have power over nothing in regard to our child's addiction and believing we are not alone and a gentle, loving family is out there waiting for us.

Finally, we need to want to never be alone anymore.

If we SEEK the good, we just might SEE the good and begin to fight for the caring support we've been missing for much too long.

… keep coming back

Friday, July 11, 2014

Reaching Out

"Hope is the thing with feathers, That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all." ~ Emily Dickinson 

Our sons and daughters who have brought us to recovery often make occasional phone calls and send periodic texts. All of us have experienced this. Initially these contacts manifest as appeals for assistance with day-to-day requirements. The coordination of medications or other health-related issues we can do. "Floating" our sons and daughters the few dollars to pay rent or yet another overdue parking ticket has raised red flags and flairs for such a long time now that the gentle, "No" response has become almost automatic.

We can listen to our sons and daughters once we learn to love them while hating the addiction. Listening to the addict which in many conversations means listening to a spew of negativity and anger that is fed by the addiction is hard. At least there is that contact though perhaps one-sided. It is hard to disagree with our children as they relate to us how much life sucks, how awful the world is. We cannot imagine what it's like to stand inside their shoes and quite frankly don't want to. We have our lives to lead. We can only hope that our new-found love of life is somehow noted by our children like a gentle breeze on a hot summer's day. We can only hope at some point in their journey our children encounter a new and strange demon they have no tools to battle, a demon the addiction inside them has evaded and combated in self preservation. That demon is the epiphany of self awareness within our children.

At a certain crossroad in our son's and daughter's journey they will become aware of the addiction inside of them. They will know they are addicted. They will want to stop the spiral but cannot. They are probably using, stuck in the mire and unable to crawl out.

As we watch our children this may be more difficult to observe than their initial fall into the spiral of addiction.

Well, probably not, but close.

Our children will start to reach out. They'll make dates for lunch, to drop by if they are not living with us, or to call. They won't show up.

This "showing up" is a difficult step for an addict experiencing epiphanies.

"If I can see my inconsistencies so can they. If I can feel my inner torment, how must I look to my parents."

If only they knew we've experienced this for months, years, and we've not gone away, we haven't given up on our children although they may have perceived our new-found joy in our lives as just that - abandonment.

Showing up means being there for ourselves first, then we can become accessible and real to others. At the beginning of their battle with the epiphany of self awareness our children just are not ready. Showing up scares the shit out of the addiction inside. This disease abhors "REAL."

Our children are trapped, held hostage by the addiction.

We can speak to friends who truly care. We can find that band of brothers and sisters with whom we can share experiences, victories and failures, and hope. We will be reminded that we are walking on separate paths with our children. We are on separate journeys. What are theirs are theirs, what are ours, are ours. We own our recoveries separately. That ownership has brought us thousands of miles along our recovery road. We all know ownership of what we could claim as ours, our failings, our shortcomings, was a breakthrough moment for us.

Addiction will do everything in its power to shuffle off ownership to whomever or whatever will take it.

As parents we have long ago refused to take ownership for what addiction has taken from us. Our children now have nowhere to go to shuffle off any blame. With nowhere to delegate ownership, we can only hope that our addicted children will begin to look within, to own, to show up.

We cannot begin to know where our sons and daughter are on their journeys any more than we can comprehend where we are on this magical ride we begin each day. What we can know is that we must continue to reach out, pray and TRUST he will find his own way, that she will begin to show up for herself and her life.

The pull of addiction is not something we can fight. Only our addicts have that power. We can hope that he will reach out to a force he doesn't yet recognize is there with him, that she will notice a divine partner in the subtle wisdom and energy of the Universe, God, a Higher Power, the Great Spirit, the Great Creator.

It takes a Partner to begin the journey of ownership, self trust and self actualization. We have long since "owned" this.

We can continue to stay close, to reach out and be available when our children emerge, even temporarily, from the captivity of addiction. With love, someday, our children may let us know where their journey has taken them, and the vistas that await their next steps, and we can share our journeys travelled for so long in different pathways, yet side by side.

… keep coming back

"For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you - here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere."
~ Master Yoda 

Sunday, July 6, 2014


"The hardest thing in the world for a parent is to let our children be who they are."           ~ Al Anonymous

Life can teach us things. Lives lived as parents of children who have spiraled into addiction are full of lessons. Paramount among these are the lessons of gratitude and humility. As we recover our lives and progress along our journeys, in our euphoria and emerging spiritual growth, we are reminded that these gifts from the Universe are meant as a warm blanket to be draped upon our shoulders whenever we unburden ourselves of those things we do not, CAN NOT, own. Gratitude keeps us going. Humility keeps us centered.

It can be humbling to be humbled.

Events, stumbling blocks, tests from our children who are addicted and even those who are not, challenges that seem to come out of nowhere from the Universe all remind us that though we have come so far, we have so much further to travel.

This recovery thing is a lifelong endeavor.

That's the good news. It is the glass-half-full part of the process. Recovery opens up doorways and presents to us vistas and horizons we could never have seen had we not taken the time to look deep within and witness the endless possibilities ahead.

The not so good news is that we will always be tested. We will not always pass with flying colors. We may barely squeeze by. We may fail. It is the newly acquired self awareness that allows us to even realize we are at a crossroad, that we are or have been challenged to a greater purpose, a better end.

It is all about what we do at the crossroad or with the challenge we encounter that makes the difference.

These challenges often will test our resolve, "How conceited am I to actually believe I can live a fulfilled and happy life. My son is in trouble. My daughter has relapsed. I lost it and raged out - again."

We may be tempted to abandon our journeys, to put aside projects and newly adopted life pursuits that not only benefit us, but also our family, friends and those lives we can't even imagine we have touched by our recovery.

It is important to remember we are human, we are parents who have never been given a "how to" or owner's manual.

It is important to be humble and realize we are not perfect - far from it.

I have often said that with recovery comes relapse. We've lapsed once. We'll lapse again, and again and once more, and even more. This applies to our children and to ourselves. All journeys require stumbles to achieve progress, defeats to achieve victory, bearings lost to find our way. We can remember that we're not alone in our journey. We can rely on the Universe to guide us, to redirect our misdirection.

We can only allow this if we are humble enough to say to ourselves or to someone who will truly listen to us, "I am not perfect, I need help. I cannot, once again, do this alone. Please, take this burden from me."

We can literally visualize lifting the "failure" off our shoulders. walking down that Wizard-of-Oz-like central passage way and saying, "Here, take this from me."

What a relief!

As parents, sometimes when things are going as well as they can be, it's devastating when we experience those almost inevitable and seemingly insurmountable roadblocks to our recovery.

That's life.

And these roadblocks, mudslides, tree falls and flash floods traversing our sometimes uneven byways to recovery are messages from the Universe that we are strong enough to figure it out, to find a way, to continue.

We can, and we must.

… keep coming back

"I just want to tell you [all] good luck. We're all counting on you." ~ Paraphrased from Leslie Nielsen's Dr. Rumak in Airplane