Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Radio Flyers and Roller Coasters

"Leap and the net will appear." - Julia Cameron

It appears the world is becoming marginally more self aware. A recent posting from a Facebook friend shared a photo from Edmonton's Child Magazine showing a Radio Flyer wagon shot from above, with these words superimposed:

"Even as kids reach adolescence, they need more than ever for us to watch over them. Adolescence is not about letting go. It's about hanging on during a very bumpy ride."

The same day before receiving this posting, in her Daily OM blog, Madisyn Taylor's words rang true:

"Trying to maintain control in this life is a bit like trying to maintain control on a roller coaster. The ride has its own logic and is going to go it's own way, regardless of how tightly you grip the bar. There is a thrill and a power in simply surrendering to the ride and fully feeling the ups and downs of it, letting the curves take you rather than fighting them. When you fight the ride, resisting what's happening at every turn, your whole being becomes tense and anxiety is your close companion. When you go with the ride, accepting what you cannot control, freedom and joy will inevitably arise."

So which is the course that parents of addicts, or all parents for that matter, should take? Should we assume a watchful posture over our adolescents, or allow our kids to jubilantly raise hands over heads during the tumultuous roller coaster ride that is junior high, high school and young adulthood?

Are you leaning one way or another? Are you buying in to either philosophy? Might I suggest the overtly politically-correct solution that perhaps a little bit of both might do?

The developing brain [all the way through age 25 by some studies] is a rat's nest of malformed nerve endings and contradictory electrical impulses directed by a developing prefrontal cortex that must make God giggle whenever She thinks about it. It's a little like asking for driving directions in a foreign country! [Wie komme ich zum Myparentdepot?]

A teen is ill equipped to be on his or her own on their roller coaster life. It IS a "bumpy ride."

Throw in a dose of self doubt, I mean ANY self doubt, and a parent's inclination to hold on with them and for them, increases exponentially. 

Like I said, it's a bumpy ride.

It can also be a grand adventure.

Kids today are bombarded with more images, temptations, suggestions and alternatives each day than many of their parents experienced in four years of high school. There is definitely a mandate and a duty for parents to hold on during this "very bumpy ride." There is also wisdom in allowing our teens and young adults to experience their roller coaster, let go of the restraining bar, go weightless a bit and realize if they trust in something, or someone [it can be you, other adults in their lives, that Higher Power, or even … themselves], they might experience the freedom and joy of self actualization.

Like so much of parenting, it is a dance, a juggling act, a leap of faith we take each day, if we are courageous enough. 

Last year I sat with our sixteen year old [son who did not bring me to recovery] in his "Radio Flyer" to discuss his curriculum choices for his next [Junior] year. I held on tightly as I discussed the merits of signing up for another year of the AP English class that was so drastically challenging him his Sophomore year. I of course was loading up my "Ben Franklin close" with more "Pros" than I had populated on the "Cons" side. I did eventually concede many of his misgivings about another year of college-level English during his Junior year of high school. 

We parted, almost amicably, he to make his own best decision outside the little red wagon. The next day I heard the clank-clank-clank of the coaster chain as my wife told me what our son had decided. He would drop the AP English class, add a learning lab but take on new challenges in an Introduction to Engineering class. 

As he progressed through his sophomore year I continued to hear those coaster cars being pulled up the anticipatory incline to the next terrifyingly exhilarating drop - his junior year. I had hope that he would trust the weightless experiences of his next year to be exhilarating, his uphills and downhills equally inspiring. I had hope he would raise his hands high, perhaps for the first time, to experience the ride. 

During that summer, I told my son how proud I was of him that he had made the best-informed decision for himself, and to enjoy his Junior year.

This year I am there for him in a different way. I've joined him in that coaster car to relish the ride, not to hold him down.  No white knuckling allowed. And so far, so good.

 keep coming back

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Day of Love

"Love, the magician, knows this little trick whereby two people walk in different directions   yet always remain side by side." - Hugh Prather

I tweeted this a few moments ago: "Today is the perfect day to begin loving your addicted son or daughter. It can be the best V-Day gift you've ever given yourself."

To those who have never been benefactors of recovery from the constant battling, enabling, and hovering that are byproducts of LIVING FOR children who are addicted to anything, these words are meaningless gibberish.

To those of us who have watched our babies fall into the vortex of addiction we know how difficult that first step towards loving our addicts can be. It takes a long time to love ourselves enough to love our addicted children. But in that moment, we know we have travelled the expanses of the many stages of detachment and can look at those souls with love and understanding rather than anger, disdain and bitterness.

It's hard, so hard.

According to, Valentines Day has its origins in a Roman fertility festival Lupercalia, celebrated at the ides of February, February 15. The festival was dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. The Christians absconded with the festival in an attempt to "Christianize" the pagan celebration. Hallmark made it into a way of life and a distraction from the cold winter weather of mid February.

But let's go back to the origins of this day where we now celebrate that Love is all we need. Valentines Day got its start as a celebration of what can be, the potential that comes from laying a fertile groundwork for future growth. That's what we're all about as we begin or continue on our journey of recovery. And LOVE is key to this embarkation from stagnation to fully living our lives.

For some, the ability to love an addicted child is miles away. You might try saying a prayer for your son or daughter. [You cannot think ill of someone for whom you pray in earnest. Try it first with a neighbor you don't particularly care for - I tried it and it works!!!] If you are uncomfortable with prayer, you might meditate by thinking positive thoughts about your son or daughter. The mere attempt might be a first step toward loving yourself enough to let love into your heart for your child.

In this age of electronic communication and social media, you can text, tweet, or e-mail a note to your daughter. You can leave a voicemail for your son that he'll not listen to [nobody between the ages of 14 and 25 listens to voicemail] but they'll know that you are thinking about them, on Valentines Day. What a wonderful way to warm the heart of a lost child on a cold February day. What a wonderful and joyous way to open the heart of a parent, yes, YOU, who has hardened and closed a loving heart for much too long.

Remember …

"All you need is Love!" - John Lennon and Paul McCartney

… keep coming back! 

Monday, February 10, 2014


"We learn to say thank you for these problems and feelings." - Melodie Beatty

The word "Gratitude" can irritate and often anger anyone in the throes of adversity. For parents of addicts gratitude is at first anathema.

What do I have to be thankful for? My child is lost. I am lost. My family is lost. The next thing you'll tell me to do is to start loving my daughter, praying for my son.

There are many ways for us to take that first step toward our recovery. Finding areas in your life to be grateful for is one of these.

When I began my recovery someone suggested I keep a Gratitude Journal on my nightstand and begin each day by rolling out of bed and writing down at least three things for which I was grateful.

That didn't work for me. At five in the morning, to be honest, the only thing I am grateful for is the ability to roll out of bed. I also found that my handwriting, virtually unreadable at midday, could be used as a model for a cipher when I attempt to put pen to paper in the wee hours of the morning.

When I finally fully embraced the gratitude journal idea I started by transcribing those three events, thoughts or people for which I was grateful during the hour or so each morning that I have carved out FOR ME prior to leaving for work. Many mornings these "gratitudes" make me smile. Some elicit calm reflection. Many times these postings reflect my awe of the Universe that the Great Creator has laid out before us.

I can be grateful for a person who is touching, or has touched my life in some profound way. I call these people angels, these people who helped to save my life, who continue to shepherd me along, keeping me out of the mire I can so easily create for myself.

I find myself grateful for a blue sky, for feeling better after a struggle with a cold or flu, for a robin citing on our flagpole outside. As I recovered from a recent hernia operation I went through some serious stages of gratitude!

Occasionally I write down the name of the son who has brought me to this place. I am grateful that he is in my life, I am grateful for the challenges and trials he has brought my way. These have helped me to become better, stronger, more … human.

It took me a long, long time to include him on those pages.

So many days were wasted not including him with "blue skies", "beautiful Spring day", and the name of his younger brother.

My gratitudes now take me to those places I'd rather not be: Sub-freezing mornings, struggles with my own imperfections, encounters on the road with angry people. These I am grateful for because I now know that along with the "daisies and butterflies" in my life, it can be adversity that carries me along my path to recovery.

I am grateful for the stumbling blocks. I am stumbling less, learning and laughing more.

I now see the Universe as a comic genius. Eventually as parents of addicts we realize the repeated punches to the gut we endure are invitations to change the way we live and the way we choose to go beyond mere existence.

And then, for no logical reason, we write "My son's violent outbursts" in our gratitude journal. We do this because we are no longer living to control, react against or protect from.

We're focusing on our lives. We look ahead and see an entirely new vista of possibilities.

Today as I layer up in preparation for my drive into work through the polar vortex I write, "Embrace the cold!"

These words put a smile on my face and it's a lot easier than fighting Mother Nature!

… Keep coming back!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Blank Pages

I write my first drafts in 5" by 8" hardcover "Cambridge Limited" journals that have the look and feel of leather stretched over very dense paper board. These miniature easels encourage me to write in measured, and God willing, thoughtful, bursts. I sit at home in our living room recliner, our Golden Retriever Cali at my feet, the analog tablet in my lap awaiting inspiration to scroll magically across its lines.

As a parent of an addicted child it seems there is never a lack of inspiration, ideas, feelings, victories and failures to share. My Muse is active, busy, committed.

I have filled six of these notebooks since 2012 when I felt called to create this site and perhaps lend a helping hand and provide occasional laughter to members of our not so exclusive club.

Yesterday I went to Office Depot as is my ritual when it is time to replace a completed journal. I chose black, replacing its burgundy-colored cousin that had no more room for any musings. I paid the retail price of a little over $11 for my easel and canvas. Amazon users can cringe as much as you like. This trek to Office Depot is a necessary and critical part of my ritual. It's a writer thing.

The next morning I opened the notebook for the first time and my Muse was for a brief moment stunned by the challenge of the 80 pages to be filled.

Just as quickly I was struck by the beauty of what lay before me, the beauty of possibility of blank pages screaming to be filled, one day at a time.

So I wrote on the top of the first page, "Blank Pages". I wrote these words mindlessly, unsure exactly of what I was about to compose. I simply trust that these books, metaphors of my journey of recovery, are measured not in weeks, months, years or decades, but in daily possibilities that each blank page offers. Each of these blank pages are ushered in by every sunrise, every alarm blast, every breakfast's bacon sizzle or pancake flip.

Each recovering parent of an addict has his or her blank page to fill every day. We never know what those eighty pages will look like when we finally retire that last notebook filled with struggles, victories, experience strength and hope. We never know how long it will be before the pages are filled.

What we have control over is that first line, the next page, then the next, and the one after that - until we have done enough and can breathe, relax, and put "pen and paper" down until the next day.

The blank pages I encounter each day are daunting in magnitude but exhilarating in possibility. I take one word, one thought, one beginning middle and end at a time, as they come.

This is the wonderful astonishing dance of life if we can trust in the Universe and our unknown stories that lay before us.

keep coming back

Sunday, February 2, 2014


"You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working ; and just so you learn to love God and man by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves." 
- Saint Francis de Sales

Above the block of Seven Changes on the "Contact Us" page of my website is an invitation to share "Stories of Joyful Change, Stumbles, Laughter, Tears and Small Victories Toward Our Recovery." The "Contact Us" page is meant as a place for "Shared Exploits and Other Information for Your Journey." This is the place at the Depot to unburden. The words of the Seven Changes were chosen carefully and over time. I often wonder if these will have different meanings for different souls, with changed interpretations depending on where each soul is on his her her personal recovery journey.

I began with three words - Breathe, Trust, Laugh - then inspired by the video Celebrate What's Right in the World by Dewitt Jones I added Seek, Hope, See, Love to the trilogy.

Through this process I admit I began to see myself as a fraud and pretender when confronted with #3, "Laugh". This one is the hardest for me and the most difficult of all the "Changes" to work into my daily life and incorporate into my recovery journey.

As I was developing this core of Seven Changes, as often happens, I was inundated with readings and devotionals that seemed to provide answers to questions I did not know to ask. These seven, these seemingly unattainable actions, mindsets and disciplines for all of us whose children have been kidnapped by addiction, can be summarized in one overarching theme: IMMERSE!

Too often as we devote ourselves to controlling, fixing and curing our addicted children we become strangers to our own lives and well being. We have disappeared, stopped showing up and in many cases abandoned our lives for a misguided crusade to save the addict.

We remove ourselves from life, from our lives.

The word immerse is defined by Merriam Webster as: "to plunge into something that surrounds or covers, to plunge or dip." The word owes its derivation from the Latin 'Immersus", past participle of immergere from in + mergere, to merge.

OK, I know, enough of that please! I offer the definition only to explain the act of immersion as primarily a PLUNGE rather than a dip as in the second definition.

I often encourage my wife to dive into our pool rather than her preferred slow progressive step down the pool ladder. The dive, the plunge, I tell her, is a much more joyous experience. The sensation of the pool water as it "surrounds" and "covers" me is one of my favorite summertime experiences. For a few brief moments I allow the water to rush past as I experience in those few seconds the wonderful weightlessness of the "plunge". I am at the mercy of my surroundings! I allow myself to have little control over the process of the dive.

I offer the etymology as a reminder of the true meaning of the word "merge". To immerse is to become one with your surroundings. We are not apart from our lives, our surroundings. We are inextricably linked, merged with our surroundings, our lives. Or we can be.

To separate ourselves in any way from this truth goes against nature.

Do I always plunge into life's mysteries, merge with this beautiful God-given Universe surrounding and beckoning me?


Those of us who have begun our journey of recovery know that it's progress, not perfection, to which we aspire.

You can start by simply taking a walk. If you feel the need to listen to some soothing music make it background to Nature's majestic symphony. Love the people who love you and pray for those who may not - not so they change to your liking, but in hopes they find a peace within themselves. Seek laughter, feel the pain but exhilarate in your recovery, even your smallest of victories. Immerse, Immerse, Immerse. Breathe, Trust, Laugh, Hope, Seek, Love, See.

There's a lot out there for us if we're willing to take the plunge.

… keep coming back