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