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