Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Contrarian Soul Training

"Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same." ~ Francesca Reigler

I recently read something encouraging me to love myself. We've all encountered this inducement in meditations, devotionals and self-help books.  This time the message came with a twist. The challenge was to go so far as to love even my "fears, frustrations, pain, boredom and despair". (1)

Well that was different.

"This is a little like extending our hand in friendship to a neighbor we can't stand," I reflected.

Then I countered: "No, it's exactly like that!"

We all experience our own plateaus, valleys, mountaintops and gorges in our recovery process as parents of addicts and substance abusers. When light turns to darkness we can lose sight of what our focus is, what it should and can be if we have the tools to maintain, to stay the course.

We have our imperfections, failings and character tendencies that pull us off track in our paths to recovery. Some of us have identified these shortcomings, or at least some of them. We know they exist. We don't have to search for constant reminders that we are not perfect. We can instead accept and own our flaws and rather than fighting them, let go and make some changes in the way we pursue life, love and happiness. The behavior we have exhibited may not be (?!?) working for us. We may wish to try other paths. We can train ourselves to ACT differently. We can take control of our lives, accept the good and expand upon the positive foundations we have built for ourselves. We can call this positive contrary thinking, unlearning or inversion. Some contrarian steps we can take can be:

  • Reaching out to that neighbor we don't particularly get along with
  • Contacting friends and family we've lost touch with
  • Applying our best efforts to improving our lives and and the lives of others using tools and talents the Great Creator has provided each of us
  • Taking responsibility for our financial well being
  • Truly nourishing our bodies with foods selected from the perimeter of our local grocery - think about it!
  • Nurturing our spiritual selves through meditation, prayer and quietude
  • Loving ourselves, faults and all, and accepting our negative tendencies head on without our fall-back martyr's self deprecation
  • Unequivocally trusting that the Universe has a plan for us that we cannot begin to fathom and that we WILL BE fine, mind, body and soul
It's training for the soul that allows us to accept ourselves. We WILL want more out of life and progress beyond anger, bitterness, rage and despair to a life we deserve. It requires acceptance of ourselves and where we are on our journey right now, while refusing to accept eternal life in the shadow of our child's addiction.

It's a little like loving the addict but hating the addiction.

"Or perhaps, it's exactly like that!"

This is not a long list nor is it the only list. There are as many lists as there are parents progressing along recovery journeys. Some of us who are not "list people" may simply wish to utilize meditation, prayer and quietude to hand over control of the uncontrollable to a Power greater than ourselves. 

Whatever path and tools we choose, we can move on, out of the darkness to higher ground.

And you know what: The hills ARE alive!

… keep coming back

(1) Copyright 1991 In God's Care - Karen Casey

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Spirit Levels and Other Deep Meanings

"Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb." ~ Macrina Wiederkehr, O.S.B. "A Tree Full of Angels"

Symbolism was in the past absolutely lost on me. I am not referring to the symbolism, metaphor and foreshadowing found in novels and poetry. I am a "trained" English major so the constant search for those other meanings in any book I start is the main reason I read at a snail's pace compared to others. Decades separated from University I continue to read for content as if the final exam is imminent.

Until recently life's coincidences (there are none) and angels brought to me from somewhere came and went, blessed my pathway without any recognition of the immediate or future impact these would have on my life.

I was blind.

I write three gratitudes almost every morning. Some days it can be difficult to formulate the few, the "3." I have begun to train myself to look beyond my negative undercurrents and pain to notice what is going on around and within me. A sampling from the last few months are:
Songbirds, beautiful cool morning, wife, sons, daughter, family, warm day, writing, daily meditations, our Golden Retriever Cali, snow, feeling healthy, feeling positive about life, feeling (at all), life, sparrows, blue skies, life (often mentioned), beauty all around, days getting longer, cardinals (birds), Cardinals (baseball  team), spring cleaning, beauty all around (also often mentioned), angels past and present :) 
This ability to look beyond the immediate, pathetic and depressing that is often thrust in our faces can be achieved through months and years of commitment to ourselves and doing those little, silly things like the gratitudes.

At some point we can notice this training paying dividends.

A years or so ago I noticed a man, probably in his thirties with rugged good looks, likely dressed to perform the task of a trained craftsman. He carried a backpack over one shoulder that had a three-foot-long level protruding vertically from a large zippered pocket.

I had to laugh.

"I know there's some symbolism here, if not even a life metaphor," I privately grinned.

"Life is like a carpenter's level thrust into a backpack - Grasshopper!"
Perhaps this was meant as a reminder that everything we need is within our reach if we simply allow ourselves to reach out - or perhaps not!

I learned that the man carrying the level was a bricklayer, certainly a metaphor for living life one moment (brick) at a time. I searched for even deeper meanings by Googling carpenter's levels and found that these are also referred to as SPIRIT (!)  levels, but was dismayed to learn the term is derived from the liquid, usually ethanol, used in the bubble vials!

I was hoping for something much more metaphysical and spirit-ual.

Sometimes deep meanings may not come to us immediately. Sometimes we're not ready to receive the gifts the Universe has for us. Sometimes there are not any deep meanings at all. It can be enough that we notice and appreciate the experiences the Great Creator makes available to us if only we take the time to seek these out.

Sometimes it's enough to smile.

I am grateful I saw the man with the spirit level.  I am grateful I spoke with this "symbol" and learned he was not just a symbol but a craftsman with skills far beyond my own. I am grateful for the ability to laugh at myself and my hubris for trying to mine some deep meaning from a bricklayer's tool.

Sometimes we can be grateful to be aware enough to experience all that the Universe has to offer us if we just want to see beyond our own mire. We can let let it go, get out of our heads for the moment and simply move on.

And one day we'll look back and realize there WAS a reason for the encounter with that bricklayer or any angel who comes our way and how, without knowing, the encounter helped carry us along our recovery journey.

Breathe, Trust, Laugh, Seek, Hope, Love and See, and we'll be OK.

… keep coming back

"You can observe a lot of things just by watching" ~ Yogi Berra

Friday, April 25, 2014


"Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, "Grow, grow.'" - The Talmud

It is late April and we have survived the polar vortex Winter of 2013 - 2014. The trees are budding, lawns look as thought they were transported from a Republic of Ireland or New Zealand tourism brochure, the birds are doing what birds do in the Spring and I'm sure the two evil chipmunks that live in my front yard are plotting how this year might be the year when their intricate system of tunnels under my lawn might be completed, thus collapsing everything above.

This happens every year, this Spring thing, so why even write about it? This past Winter was long, cold, brutal, relentless and unforgiving affecting us more than usual, worldwide. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is nothing compared to VAD (Vortex Affective Disorder). We all noticed how our collective demeanor moved toward the negative more than in previous years. By Winter's end we would get an earful on the road from the slightest vehicular misstep. Emergency rooms were slammed by patients suffering from OMF (Overused Middle Finger) Syndrome.

This year Nature is providing another lesson for us all, especially us band of brothers and sisters struggling to find our way, our own recovery.

The rebirth from Winter to Spring this year was a tease with fits and starts repeatedly tantalizing us with hope that Spring might finally be upon us. Just as we would experience a day or two of sunshine and thaw the Great Creator would deliver Northwesterly winds accompanied by rain and sleet to remind us of a great Truth:

"You are not in control, but you can still get on with life."

We who are moving along our own pathways, trails or tangled clearings, wherever our recoveries are taking us can take heart from the message Nature provides us this time of year. Sometimes if we simply take time to slow down, breathe and seek what the Universe is saying to us we can see those Universal and timeless messages directed to us. We can see the possibilities before us.

Rebirth isn't easy, doesn't come without tumult, isn't predictable or concurrent with ANY timetable we might establish. Rebirth is its own reward each time it arrives to greet us. It is a beautiful and unexpected event. Rebirth is God's unanticipated gift to us when we move on with our lives. 

As I look again outside our front door I realize the three purple tulips straining for the morning sun were not part of last Spring's arrival. 

Sometimes this unanticipated gift comes also with unforeseen growth and beauty. 

As we all progress through our Winters we can know we will emerge the better for it. This season is a reminder to take time to feel and relish our rebirth taking place possibly slowly, but assuredly. 

So get on with it!

… keep coming back

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What Are Your Dreams?

"It is not because things are difficult that that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult." - Lucius Annaeus Seneca
"I learned this, at least, by my experiment, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." - Henry David Thoreau in the "Conclusion" Chapter of "Walden 

Any of you who have read the introduction to my website at know the story of an epiphany I had a few years ago. I had just finished a talk to a group of parents of addicts. This was my first talk to my Al-Anon home group and of course was very prepared.

Ok, it was a completely written speech that I read word for word.

One of the parents walked up to me afterwards and asked me if I was a writer.

"Yes I am," I responded after a very short pause. The pause was so short that I actually surprised myself. The admission took my breath away!

That day in 2012 began a rekindled embrace of my passion for writing. It took an angel I didn't even know at the time and am not sure if I have even seen since that meeting to begin the process for me. I could have ignored the invitation, the terror of possibility that comes with such a gift from the Universe, God, our Great Creator. 

That evening, I chose to NO LONGER ignore possibilities.

I had always written. As a junior high school after my mother moved from Cincinnati to Florida I remember writing to my friends back home to keep in touch. These were not letters, but travelogues of living in Florida, a handwritten "blog" before the Internet was even a glint in Al Gore's eyes.

I wrote all the time. I wrote short stories, poems, "news" articles and even haiku and sonnets.

I attended college on scholarship and when calculus and physics betrayed my dearth of spacial acuity I dropped pre-med as a major and switched to English, taking on as many business courses as possible as a hedge against unemployment.

Soon after graduation I accepted an administrative position in the defense industry as a "Management Trainee."

I took the road most often taken.

And that has made all the difference.

I am not regretful. I have had wonderful experiences in multiple industries. I've learned a lot and met and worked with some remarkable people. But except for a brief stay in public relations where I wrote and edited, and contributed to marketing and PR campaigns I was not passionate about my craft.

"Are you a writer?"

This question has made all the difference - now.

I have rediscovered my passion and allowed myself to reclaim my passion for writing. None of this could have been possible before the gift of recovery was bestowed upon me as a result of my son who brought me to this place.

Crazy? Maybe.

A wonderful epiphany occasioned by acceptance, letting go and getting out of the way of possibilities?


What are your dreams? What do you want to be when you "grow up?"

I work with people in many walks of life and am heartened when the discussions turn briefly from the business at hand to other things. Occasionally I will witness the description of a song, a main character in development, or a kiln they wish to purchase so they can "throw" clay again.

These signs of self awareness make me smile.

So, if you didn't have to work to eat, keep your place of residence, clothe yourself and occasionally do fun things what in the world would you do with yourself?

Would you, like NCIS' Leroy Jethro Gibbs build wooden boats in your basement with painstaking care seemingly only for the love of the process?

Do you have music inside of you? Has anyone told you your photographs capture moments like nothing they've ever seen? Are you one of the gifted who can build or even sculpt things, anything, out of anything?

Do you have great ideas for inventions or innovations, for business or society?

Let your spirit rise to the possibilities!

I am not suggesting you quit your day job, sell the house, move the family to a one-room efficiency in the bleakest of neighborhoods, or even to Alaska.

I am suggesting that you do not have to wait, for the next day, week, month, year … maybe until retirement.

We can all start now, start small, but start living our dreams.


"What's Fun?"

"What ARE your dreams?"

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

You may be surprised by what you discover when you put Fun and Dreams back into your life.

"Savor the moments that are warm and special and giggly." - Sammy Davis Jr.

… keep coming back 

The "F" Word

"The important thing to realize is that this very part of us that resists our healing is the part that most needs our attention and love." - Madisyn Taylor - "Daily OM" 

So we've begun the hard work of concentrating on our recoveries. We've explored the multiple paradoxes of detachment, loving the addict while hating the disease, detaching with love, not anger, resentment or control.

The paths to our recoveries are as varied as the parents who seek them. There is a common byproduct reported by those of us who have embarked upon the road to self discovery - a renewed energy and excitement for life. Once we become aware enough to feel this we want to do something with it every day.

This is the scary part.

A few months ago I was fishing through my "manly man purse" where I keep my scrawlings, and found a worn bit of notebook paper I had not revisited in almost a year. A friend (angel) had written the following words on this almost forgotten sheet:

What's Fun?

What are your dreams?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I cannot remember if these questions were meant for me to ponder or directed to my (then) 16 and 21 year old sons to aid in their quest to find their passions. Looking back, I have a sneaking suspicion these were directed to me.

I do know that I held this tattered sheet close all these months for a reason. There are no coincidences. There is only synchronicity. Perhaps, the Universe was simply waiting patiently for my response.

It wasn't until the beginnings of my recovery that I even possessed the desire and self awareness to   contemplate the first question: "What's Fun?"

Just prior to our older son's spiral into addiction I had purchased a Trek hybrid bicycle built for road and off-road riding. This was fitted at the bike shop just for me and was the coolest bike I had ever owned.

As it became apparent that our son's addictions were more serious than originally thought (hoped) I sunk deeply into a state of self loathing and pity. I had no time, desire, will or even a sense of entitlement for any fun.

The bike "sat", actually hung, for a year and a half.


It wasn't until the beginning of my recovery that I took that bike down and brought it back to the shop for its "annual" Spring adjustment. The technician commented that except for a bit of rust on the handlebars the two-year-old bike was in remarkable condition. I was sure he knew it had hung unused somewhere, ignored. I wondered if he thought I had been afraid to ride it.

How close to the truth that thought might have been disturbed me.

I had become afraid of fun. I had determined I couldn't have fun while my son was spiraling. Fear and guilt had robbed me of that inalienable right.

By the way I believe I failed to mention that we live within a half mile of a 14-mile Missouri Greenways bike trail.

I am happy to say I am now a grateful rider of that trail and others in our area.

There are times when we will, all of us, become stuck, forget to take care of ourselves and allow the "F" word into our lives. These times may come and go quickly or linger for a while. It's OK. You cannot force Fun, but you can learn to embrace it when it comes along.

So the next time somebody mentions the "F" word in conversation we can smile and simply imagine the possibilities.

Have Fun!

… keep coming back 
Up Next - "What Are Your Dreams"

Here's a link to Madisyn Taylor's complete Inspiration from April 18, 2014 -

Reprinted from DailyOM- Inspirational thoughts for a happy, healthy and fulfilling day. Register for free

Monday, April 14, 2014

Take Two Belly Laughs and Call Me In The Morning !

"Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand." - Mark Twain

When parents of addicts come together you can feel the pain in the room. Whether we meet in  formalized settings such as Al-Anon meetings or simple get together of friends in similar situations the pain can be palpable, especially if that pain is being denied by some in attendance.

Al-Anon and other 12-Step programs offer at least a one-hour oasis from the pain. By our very presence at these gatherings, for a brief slice of time, we can lay bare our anguish and anger opening up our souls like a chest cavity on an operating table.

You'll notice something else at these "O-R" meetings.

There is a lot of laughter.

People new to these meetings, referred to as "newcomers" are often put off by the laughter so often present before the meetings are called to order. I know I was. I am certain many of these newcomers never make it to the entrance. The exuberant din of laughter and animated conversation can be heard well outside the meeting confines.

Those who do make it as far as and through the doorway often wear confused, hurt, angry and apprehensive looks which seem to say, "Am I in the right meeting? Why aren't these people feeling MY pain!"

The simple answer to these questions is this. Almost all of us when new to Al-Anon or other similar programs made the trip in the hopes of fixing the son, daughter, spouse or partner who brought us there. The attendees who are laughing and engaged in joyous conversation are in various stages of improving their lives. They are in various phases of their own recoveries. We wouldn't know whether some of them were having good weeks or bad days. We would have no idea if they had received a call, text or email from someone before the meeting, from someone who had "brought them there", for whom in their prior lives they would have dropped everything in an effort to control, fix and cure.

In this one hour these people have made a decision to live lives that are full and happy. These people have made a commitment for change. Each of these one-hour meetings is a concentrated training session for the real world.

Those of us who have watched The Biggest Loser are familiar with the challenges faced by contestants when they have an opportunity to leave the "ranch" for a home visit. The "Losers" are hoping to translate to everyday life what they are learning in the laboratory setting of a reality television show .

It is the same for us as parents of children who have succumbed to the allure of substance abuse. Sometimes it's as if we must train ourselves to find happiness, joy and laughter.

But is laughter an outcome of our recovery journeys or a prerequisite? I would postulate the answer is "C", BOTH.

No matter where we are in our recovery journeys, in order to snatch back our lives from years of living with addiction, laughter is something we all yearn for. We cannot put the cart before the horse, so sometimes we need to Seek the laughter. Sometimes the laughter may come as a result of us softening our hearts when we reach a level of recovery, look down from the plateau reached through pushing through the agony and see how far we've come. And laughter is absolutely necessary for our recovery from an emotional and physiological standpoint. I won't bore you with the brain chemistry crap. Simply trust that when we laugh, some really good stuff happens to our brains and bodies.

So, if we must seek out the laughter, we can Google Steve Chappel, George Carlin, Lewis Black, Bill Cosby, Kathleen Madigan or Jim Gaffigan. We can do things that we're not really good at and have a good laugh at ourselves or watch an old Stooges or Marx Brothers movie (you're either one or the other).

We can laugh, smile, let go.

There will be plenty of time for seriousness. And we'll be better equipped to deal with it!

"Happiness lies in the consciousness we have of it." - George Sand

… keep coming back 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

5H!T Happens

"The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything, they just make the most of everything that comes along their way." - Unknown

"When life gives you lemons make lemonade" is a quote attributed to turn of the century writer Elbert Hubbard, Dale Carnegie and others. It's a good quotation, one that can evoke both reflective consideration and eye rolls depending on your mood.

But what happens when life gives us a nice pile of shit on our doorsteps or elsewhere, either figuratively or literally? What are we supposed to make with that?

Let me explain.

One evening our household was startled by the visual cacophony of flashing lights outside our front window. The first concern is of course that this could only mean an ambulance, police cruiser, or both have pulled into the neighborhood. As a parent of someone who has abused drugs, the immediate connection "flashes" to the police with images of COPS, or the last scenes of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. But these were not the familiar and irritating white-blue-red flashes of our local constabulary. These lights were amber.

We all approached our picture window as if cast in a sci-fi alien invasion movie. I saw the MSD logo on the truck and large men in brown canvas jumpsuits emerging from it.

Initially relived that no one had succumbed, been arrested or was going to be put into custody, my mind then turned to the innumerable possible reasons that a Metropolitan Sewer District truck would be parked on our street (bad), and in front of our house (even worse).

It was about this time that I was asked by one my housemates (i.e.; family members, i.e.; wife) if I had noticed the backup from the sewer in the storage area of our basement.

I had not. I had not even ventured there since coming home from work that evening.

I made my recon downstairs and as reported, there it was, in all its putrid glory, a splash of overflow from our drainpipe, a mixture of sludge, tree roots and other material one would expect in a situation of this kind.

"And that's all I have to say about that." - for now.

What happened that night is a personal metaphor I would like to share on how our reactions can change, how our personal and ongoing recoveries can actually leach out (sorry?!) to our lives in the "real world". It is a metaphor for how we can deal with all our parents' worst nightmares we will experience as we continue on our recovery journeys.

My first reaction before beginning my recovery would have been to fume, curse and rage and stomp around like a spoiled toddler on speed, cleaning, rearranging and misplacing items in a driven mission to fix the situation immediately as I mopped myself into a fecal lather.

I almost started on my accustomed behavior. I felt the panic, the urge to control the ooze, the uncontrollable.

Then I stopped myself and thought, "Maybe I'll go talk to the MSD crew."

So I made my way outside only marginally dressed for the cold February night looking for anyone who could provide me with what I needed - information.

I quickly deduced that an MSD night crew is not assembled for its people skills or abilities to engage in conversations with homeowners. The goal is to take care of a problem - to get in and get out.

I selected the member of the crew who seemed most likely to act as spokesman and asked what prompted a visit from MSD this night. He explained how some sewer work up the street from our lot had dislodged dirt, root and other large wretched refuse. This had made its way down the sewer "main" playing havoc with normal sewer function downstream. In other words, work up the hill had essentially plugged everyone's laterals (long drainpipe leading, "laterally" from houses to the sewer main).

The MSD crew was in the process of flushing this material down the hill when my contract lifted a manhole cover exposing a large blockage in the flow.

"Shut it down, shut it down!" he screamed to the crew at the base of our street who were somehow controlling the water flow. The stream of water ceased revealing two large roots, partially decomposed by a week or two of detachment from its deciduous host yet maintaining a sufficiently gnarled form to disrupt my evening.

Even I knew this was a bad thing. This night I was learning more about sewer systems than I ever cared to while at the same time gaining an appreciation for the work these men performed.

"I'll let you do your thing," I screamed against the din of a generator nearby.

My spokesperson said nothing, looked up and gave me a polite nod as if to say, "It's about time … sir".

In my search for information I did "unearth" a couple of truths about sewer system issues.

Sometimes things happen over which we, as homeowners, have no control. These things can trickle down as if from nowhere and cause major issues when we least expect them to arise. And if we, as homeowners, attempt to force the issue, it may only exacerbate the problem.

I also learned that when MSD does flush a line the increased water flow will find a place to go and will,  generally, find its way into your lateral. fighting gravity until it finds all the space it needs for relief. This space, generally, is the basements of everyone downstream from the area being cleared. Then, any "stuff" flushed with the water will remain behind when the obstruction is cleared, gravity is allowed to do its job, and the water recedes back down the hill resulting in crud - everywhere.

It  was 9:35 p.m. and I reinspected the storage area and resolved to have the issue fixed. I contacted our local lateral boring firm.

The two hours predicted arrival by a technician turned to an apologetic, almost trembling revision of the timetable from the poor woman at the answering service.

"I am so sorry sir, we won't be able to make it out until early tomorrow morning," she whimpered.

"How early?" I calmly asked.

"Nine a.m." she responded, almost pleading.

And that's when I realized what was happening. I was beaten by a spew of roots, mud water and shit that I didn't cause, had no control over and couldn't fix.

(Did I mention I had used a bathroom plunger that evening????)

As Tom Hanks said in Castaway, "I had power over NOTHING!"

So I let it go, or at least began the process. I informed the family that limited use of plumbing would be the rule until further notice, let them know that whatever they did please remember not to flush, and went to bed.

"It's going to be a long morning," I thought to myself.

The next morning I awoke at my normal time, got some coffee and returned well before nine o'clock to await the arrival of the guy who would make all this go away. It wasn't until 10:35 our Golden Retriever alerted me of his arrival. The young man was full of enthusiasm and not yet embittered by the job. He went straight to it and within half an hour was finished.

Now I had been through this before so I made the trip downstairs to inspect the work.

What I saw seemed like a miracle. He had found the mop and mix of non-ammonia-based detergent and bleach I had prepared the night before and had done an energetic yet incomplete cleaning of the area.  To me this seemed above and beyond and though the initial "fix" was complete there remained remnants of "everything" everywhere.

Then, an amazing thing occurred.

My learned, possibly genetic inclination kicked into high gear, to sanitize everything, make everything right, immediately, if only on the surface. My first thought to call work to let them know I would be taking the day off caused my hand to move toward my cell phone. I had to remedy, sanitize, whitewash!

Then, I decided, no!

"The shit has beaten me, for now," I admitted to myself.

I stepped back, turned off the lights in the basement and left home to go to work.

Actually , first I went to get my hair cut, something I had been putting off for weeks. I took care of myself this late Friday morning.

That evening after squeezing a full day of work out of six or so hours I came home later than usual.

"IT" was waiting for me, beckoning, tempting, hooking, bating, calling to me. IT was beginning to permeate the house. This permeation wasn't so much a stench as a not-so-gentle reminder:

"I'm still here, and I'm not going away!"

Once again, miraculously, I held fast. I did not react. 

I informed my wife, "I think I'm going to wait to clean up the mess. I'm going to wait 'til tomorrow."

"Why don't you," I heard her say from another room. 

"Perhaps she doesn't want to hear my rantings, cursing and noises from objects being thrown about as I become 'one with the crap' ," I surmised. "Or, maybe she just thinks I'm suffering from a case of the Fridays."

I had a higher purpose in mind.

Saturday early afternoon I took IT on, on MY terms - calmly and deliberately . With three disposable mops and two buckets ready I began by throwing away or recycling anything we hadn't touched, looked at or thought about for years. I lugged soccer cones, baseballs, electronics and other expendables up the steps and outside. I carried the dog kennel and a space heater that refuses to die outside for a thorough cleaning and sanitation. My wife and I rearranged shelving, reminisced on baby pictures of all the kids, revisited wedding pictures we hadn't seen for years and debated about keeping books left to her by her maternal grandmother (we did).

When I separated my life from the crud I was finally ready, ready to slowly and methodically and with thought and care, eliminate IT from the basement.

So I cleaned. I cleaned around, under and through. I cleaned thoughtfully, slowly and meticulously remembering what had transpired days before but relinquishing blame and ownership. I cleaned once, twice then three times. The taunting beckonings that had haunted our house were replaced with a cleaner, purer feeling of relief and accomplishment.

I even contacted MSD the next week to begin the adult process of transferring ownership to the rightful offender. There was no malice here. I simply detached. I let go of what was not mine to own.

MSD paid the bill for the dredging of the lateral.

We all moved our possessions back to the storage area. We rebuilt our lives. It's still not a perfect storage area. Few really are, but it's better than before.

So when Life hands us shit, what can we do?

It's up to us.
"For we are always what our situations hand us." - Billy Joel, Summer Highland Falls 

 … keep coming back

Monday, April 7, 2014

Broken Glasses Half Full

"Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so."              - Noam Chomsky
We have witnessed tragedies at Sandy Hook, Connecticut, Philadelphia and Army bases, a fiscal cliff reached and breached (sort of), and other events and reports that have both bruised and touched our souls. The local news starts and ends with tragedy clinging to the "if it bleeds it leads" strategy begun in the 70s when news organizations postulated we had to be shocked in order to tune in. Finally, the polar vortex experienced by most of us in the world has put us all in an unusually intense funk. We need a thaw, quickly!

The words of Noam Chomsky are needed now more than ever.

Chomsky, is an American treasure, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, logistician, historian, political critic and activist. The son of Russian immigrants he enjoyed a comfortable middle class upbringing but was witness to injustices that seemed to surround him. If you take the time to read about this human being you will find someone who was exposed to much more than would be expected in the cocoon of the relative comfort he enjoyed. My cursory review of his life revealed a man with little patience for unnecessary dallying or pettiness.

This quote provides a strong message to any of us watching our children writhe in the various stages of substance abuse and recovery.

Substance abuse can bring with it a predictable cycle of recovery followed by relapse. This repetitive dance that breaks the hearts of parents of children who have been for whatever reason drawn to substance abuse of any kind can be a brutal and torturous process to observe. Trusting the process of non-interference, fighting our parental urges to enable but somehow, somehow knowing when to step in to provide a leg up, or in some cases to save a life, is an inexact science. Sometimes we get it  right. Often we do not.

So how can parents like us be optimistic as championed by Mr. Chomsky as we are bombarded by the one-two punch of worldwide chaos and the tumult and tragedies we face in our little corners of the world? How can we be expected to protect ourselves and retain that same optimism for our children when so much of the process of recovery seems to indicate that there is no reason to think that way?
"...Because unless (we) believe that the future can be better (we) are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so."
Let us change our thinking then from "we can" to "we must".

We must be optimistic about our own recovery. We must take charge of our lives while not being blind to what is going on with our children. We must show the way of recovery as a road taken not with the best intentions of others in mind but with our own dreams and prospects in mind. Only in this way, by being true to ourselves, can we be true to everyone we love and who love us - even if they are not ready to admit it.

It is a grand adventure, life. The future can be better. Make it so!

… keep coming back!