Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Choosing the Adversary, Or Not?

"Today when I think of the year ahead, I will focus on the good that is coming." ~ Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go
Our society has grown so adversarial, hasn't it? Our Congress (U.S.) has been at odds with itself for decades. We watch with glee as the cable-TV women from various metropolitan areas pick each other apart like little school girls in 40-minute snippets. My nation, since 1776, has been at war for a large part of its existence, upwards of 93% by some estimations.

We have become a nation of competitors, antagonists, world beaters, evangelizers of the American Way and masters of the argument. And the US isn't alone in owning many of these attributes.

It seems sometimes we all need an adversary, a dark enemy, a Darth Vader at which we may misdirect our attention from what is truly important. On how many fronts do we wish to battle? In how many directions can we focus our limited energies?

Parents of children who have the disease of addiction have a dilemma. We feel obligated to keep all plates spinning even after we have abandoned the supposed imperatives to control and fix. We become like a hyper-vigilant Eye of Sauron darting back and forth from one imminent threat to the next. (Sorry, this Lord of the Rings reference is simply too perfect!)

We concentrate on everything and affect nothing. It's no wonder our lives once again become unmanageable.

They say, "Pick your battles." But what do they know? I've followed a lot of they-say advice that has resulted in disaster. They also say choose your adversary. All this battle, adversary, war talk is counterproductive to our chosen pathways. It leads to an angry, bitter and choleric mindset.

Is recovery as parents all about a poised-and-ready alert-mode attitude? Do we really want to be ever vigilant to our worst imagined disaster, or can we proceed in a different way?

Picking an adversary, whether it is our substance-obsessed culture, The Addiction or even our children relegates us to a defensive posture. We eschew action and embrace stagnation as we replay those doomsday images in the movie theatre of our minds. We become catatonic and disengage from our true focus.

Remember our focus? What is it? Think hard. When we clear our minds and breathe we'll rediscover it. It's staring us right in the face each time we look in the mirror. When we feel as if we are being overly circumspect or watchful we can know we have taken our attention away what makes us strong and intrinsically ready to manage any obstacle.

We have moved our attention away from our journey.

And you thought we were talking about "us," didn't you!

We are works in progress. We are the journey. When we look at ourselves in the mirror or close our eyes and breathe, we can calibrate where we are and how we are doing along our journey pathway. The journey is the focus. There is no adversary. There is only the NOW. There is only that next step along our recovery roadway. Any imagined adversary would love it if we were to divert from our pathway to self improvement.

If we remain strong in our resolve to continue, to keep moving, to better ourselves and become as close as we can to our true being the Miracle can happen.

Concentrating on The Addiction merely strengthens its hold on our children. Reverting to our former roles of fixer, controller, rager and enabler is an insult to our children and to ourselves. It is a betrayal. It stops our progress and embroils our children deeper into their mire.

There is a struggle ahead to be sure, but the struggle comes from within. It 's not easy, this journey. We wonder if the pathway is leading us anywhere. Are we fooling ourselves? Sometimes we feel it would be easier if we were to find an adversary we imagine must be out there than to Seek that elusive higher plane of existence.

When we doubt ourselves and the journey, this is the instant when we often find ourselves on that plateau, the hillside we have climbed without even realizing our accomplishments. We smile knowing we have used our energies and talents to move ahead, to improve, rather than to avoid the negative. We no longer renounce The Bad but instead focus on embracing The Good. Our actions become a road map to what life can be if we concentrate on what is important and ignore the distractions The Addiction deposits like shit across our pathways.

It is then we can feel it, the pull of The Addiction loosening as our affirming energy intensifies. The alacrity can be felt across the Universe in waves traveling at light speed. And not so far away our children will feel it too, the miracle of The Positive.

They'll have seen the light. Perhaps someday they will want a bit of it for themselves.

... keep coming back
"Do not be discouraged. Learn not to be disappointed in anything or any person. You are disappointed because your will, your desire, has been frustrated. Learn to submit to the divine will, for God's will is all-wise. Wait then, for God's appointments, learning to tread the pathway wisely, serenely." ~ White Eagle

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Decisions and Attitude In The Season of Peace and Light

"I worried about it, but if you turn on the lights, it's no big deal." ~ Kevin McCallister - Home Alone
We've all seen the television commercial with the four kids running from the murderer. Ultimately they head for the cemetery, a perfectly convenient ending for the hockey goalie masked antagonist who probably cannot believe his good fortune. The voiceover rings true: "If you're in a horror movie, you make bad decisions."

Our lives have at times seemed like a horror film, an out-of-body experience, roles played on a stage unimaginable years before. We found ourselves overly preoccupied with The Addiction, thinking by controlling outcomes we could cure what we did not cause. The Addiction kept us distracted from our recovery journeys mired in a spate of poor decision making.

Looking back we can all remember when we should probably have gotten into "that running car" as portrayed in the commercial, yet we remained embroiled in The Addiction's pursuit for our energy and attention.

The chase became the thing. Our lives became secondary.

As I have described before we at some point did (or will) make a decision to no longer be the unwilling play toy of The Addiction. We accepted we were beaten. With nowhere else to go we surrendered to a Power greater than ourselves. We relinquished control of our child's journey.

And so began our transformation.

There is more to this, our stories of transcendence from victim to victor and certainly more required to continue, to maintain our sanity and stay the course along our recovery journeys.

This more, the energy drink or protein bar essential to remain nourished along our pathways is a positive attitude and a shift in our mindset from prey to protagonist of our own prosperity. We can make a decision that our lives will change, our opportunities only limited by our point of view.

The etymology of the word attitude (sorry, but this important and almost eerie) goes back to the Latin aptus, meaning "fit", and the Italian attitudine, a word for fitness and posture. Our attitude is the springboard to our spiritual, emotional and physical well being and our ability to persevere along an often difficult journey. Attitude can be everything, a defense against the constant body blows of negativity, depression and hopelessness The Addiction will throw at us to keep us down and out.

We are at a juncture where as parents of addicts we are not only besieged by the melancholy of our children's addictions but the seeming constancy of evil in the world that monopolizes our conversations, thoughts and outlook. It can seem inescapable, as if the world's troubles are are piling on upon our children's struggles, the desperation of the times engulfing us in darkness with little hope of escape.

Yet amid the darkness there is light if we are willing to let go and accept its presence.

As I am writing this we are a month past the Hindu "festival of lights" or Diwali, a spiritual celebration of hope overcoming despair, light over darkness, good transcending evil, knowledge rising above ignorance. We are also in the third day of Judaism's Hanukkah, celebrating the rededication of the Temple in 165 BC and the miracle of a single day's supply of oil for the Temple menorah lasting for eight days. Christians are in preparation for its annual festival celebrating the birth of Jesus. Central among the images of this observance is a star that led the Magi to Bethlehem.

We can shift our attitude, allow ourselves to accept this convergence of three theologies and other beliefs and life ideologies. We can make a decision. We can continue to seek out the pervasive darkness or embrace the NOW at a time when we sorely need it. This long Season of Peace and Light reminds us to accept when the Universe provides us with a perfect storm of hope to buoy us beyond times like these where evil and despair seem inescapable.

In this season, and at other times, we are reminded The Light exists and is prepared to overtake the darkness from whatever source. Whether The Evil originates from those who would distort a gentle and loving belief system into one of hate and violence or from The Addiction that has similarly contorted the the lives of our children, we can and must be drawn to The Light that exists beyond the darkness. The festivals of light and the story of the star in the East are in-your-face reminders of this. As parents of children who have the disease of addiction now is the time to decide. We can decide to Seek, See and be guided by The Light. We can change our attitude. We can embrace the positive and concentrate on the wonders of our recovery journey.

My wish for all of us is for a joyous and light-filled holiday season as we all journey on. We can love our children while we continue to hate the darkness of The Addiction. It is our decision. We can start with a smile and go from there. The signposts of the Season and the Universe are pointing the way.

Mele kalikimaka!

... keep coming back
"The most important lesson that man can learn from his life is not that there is pain in the world, but that it depends upon him to turn it into good account, that it is possible for him to transmute it into joy." ~ Rabindranath Tagore

Thursday, December 3, 2015

It's OK To Get Tired

"I am really, really, tired." ~ Jackie Chan
Life is beautiful. Life is hard. Recovery is a bitch. Recovery can have its beauty as well, its victories along with its sine wave roller coaster peaks and valleys.

Watching someone in recovery is exhausting. Hope is eternal but can be the cruel ally of The Addiction lulling us into a guarded sense of false, or even real security when everything appears to be turning into daisies and butterflies for our children. It's not that we are naive or let our guard down. It is simply loving our children as we do, we will hang on every victory as if their life, not ours, depends on the outcome of whatever struggle in which they might be engaged. Our far-off view of our children  - two joined souls on different pathways - does not always shield us from feeling their pain, anxiety and depression. We can be empathetic without inserting ourselves directly into their lives or restarting the bad-news cinema in our minds.

But still, our recovery can be so hard and exhausting. Even as we get on with our lives we cannot help but keep that sidelong watchful eye on our children. It's like the sports fan who follows a losing team year after year patiently awaiting the turn around, the dream season every enthusiast hopes for and deserves. Like the fan, we can hang on every loss, each strike out, dropped pass or missed opportunity.

Unlike the fan, thankfully, we have learned not to insert ourselves imagined onto the playing field, our better talents turning the lost season into a playoff run. It is a fruitless proposition and one The Addiction wishes us to pursue to divert us from our journey pathways.

Our players, our sons and daughters, know we're there. He hears us when we cheer his triumphs, she when we acknowledge positive changes in outlook or behavior. We've simply stopped the catcalls, the Monday morning quarterbacking, those insulting "you've GOT TO hit the cutoff man" admonitions.
The worst, when I coached, was when I would witness a fellow baseball manager remind his pitcher to "throw strikes" when in the midst of a tough inning. I always wished the kid would turn toward the dugout, take his cap off , hit himself in the forehead with the heel of his hand and say, "Of course, it's so simple. Why didn't you tell me to do that before I got jammed up!"
Each day for us is the beginning of a new season. For many of us we're like the fans of American baseball's Chicago Cubs or the faithful followers of Aston Villa Football Club in the English Premiere League. Our seasons are played out one day at a time. We're Bill Murray in Groundhog Day hoping for a different result.

Did I mention this can be exhausting?

We learn to breathe. We carve out time for meditation. We seek out kindred spirits, others with whom we can share the experience strength and hope of parents in recovery.

And still we remain ... tired.

And this, as with so many seemingly insurmountable obstacles we encounter along our pathways is OK. It's OK to reach the point of exhaustion. It's OK to feel the effects The Addiction has thrust upon us and our families.

What's NOT OK is when we insinuate ourselves into the situation. Unlike the stalwart fan, we can and must resist the urge to take personally the ups and downs of our children's lives while we hope for that winning season. We have no control. We are handicapped by The Addiction, a bad front office that simply wants to maintain the status quo.

I live in a baseball town that each season amazes opposing teams with its appreciation of the game, the struggle, the competition. I've attended Cardinal games where the crowd has given both teams a standing ovation after a Redbird loss as a tribute to a game well played - an extra inning Cardinals loss to the Mets in the 80s comes to mind where both starting pitchers worked masterful games. The look of astonishment on the faces of the Mets players after their 1-0 win will be forever etched in my mind. Player and fan were exhausted after the hotly-contested game well played, yet tribute was still proffered.

Let me be clear, just like any city we hate to lose in St. Louis but we can appreciate the struggle along with the successes The reaction that day can be summarized in two words: Shit ... Wow!

All we can hope for when we become exhausted from the effects of The Addiction is to Seek and See the victories our children manufacture on their playing fields. Even in seemingly losing efforts our children may be heroically striving for a breakout season. We can rise and recognize the triumph of a hard-fought battle on any day even in the face of an apparent loss. We can offer our children our love, that standing ovation, that reverent cheer affirming their heroic journey along an exhaustingly treacherous recovery pathway.

It can bring shivers down your spine.

Imagine the utter amazement deep inside our children's souls as we rise up and applaud our son's or daughter's little victories as if to say, "Even in the face of apparent defeat we stand by you."

The Addiction will not know what to do with the ovation.

Just remember it's a long season.
"In Nature's world, every loss has meaning." ~ Julia Cameron
... keep coming back 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Ripples of Our Recoveries - A Postette

"People get ready, there's a train a comin' | You don't need no baggage, you just get on board | All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin' | You don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord" ~ People Get Ready - Curtis Mayfield
I am not sure I fully grasp the concept or usefulness of social media, though I am getting close. I know I have connected in unexpected and wondrous ways with people worldwide via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Occasionally I'll see a cartoon on a post or tweet that will be a HaHa moment as opposed to those Ah-Ha's of deep insight very deep people seek during moments of deep introspection.

Sometimes I just need a laugh.

I was recently tweeted (sic) to a cartoon depicting two riders on opposite sides of a train travelling along a mountain ridge towering above a lake as picturesque as one could ever imagine. The passenger on the ridge side saw only darkness and gloom, rock after rock passing dangerously close to his window, a continuously foreboding scene of peril. His fellow passenger was witness to the expanse of the valley, a lake teaming with life above and below with mountainsides folding in one after another in the distance creating an endless cascade of valley after valley after valley.

These were two riders on the same train with totally disparate perspectives on life, one dread filled and depressed, the other, as full of wonder as a child experiencing her first taste of watermelon.

You might call this an Ah-HaHaHa! moment.

This train scene is the perfect metaphor for the hope living our lives can bring to our children who have stumbled into the vortex of addiction. We all know the addict's outlook. It is a perspective born of zero possibilities. This is understandable. When the initial payoffs for leaving the comfort zone of The Addiction are withdrawals concomitant with nightstick-like pain into every body part, the incentives for recovery can be few or nonexistent.

It is the trap of addiction. This is a life no one ever consciously desires yet once imprisoned, for the addict, it can be an existence seemingly impossible to escape. We realized this once we were able to separate our children from The Addiction.
Love the addict. Hate The Addiction.
We are travellers on similar but much different pathways - riders on the same train. We see the lake vistas, our children only bear witness to the crag. There is no reason for us to move ourselves to the other side. We even avoid the nausea-inducing seats facing backward where we can watch the cinemas of the what-has-been obscuring the what-can-be.

One day our children might take that glance to the sunlight, to the windows of the possibilities we see and live each day. This may be a first step for our boys, an entry to an initial epiphany for our girls to embrace what The Universe, the Great Creator, God has available to all of us.  There is no need for coaxing. The sunlight reaches all the way across the aisle of the passenger car, as does the moonlight off the lake and snow-capped mountaintops far in the distance of our vistas.

And they know, they know it is there. This other side awaits them. All we can do is to keep open the window shade, continue loving them while we live our lives as fully and dynamically as possible each day. One day they may notice. They may want some of what we have discovered.

They may just join us to view our vistas.

There's plenty of room for both of us!
"Smile warmly at everyone you meet today and make a difference in the collective energy of the planet." ~ Marion Ross, PhD
... keep coming back 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

An Unexpected Miracle, And Hula Hoops

"And we are put on Earth a little space | That we may learn to bear the beams of love."  ~ William Blake
When I learned I was to be a grandfather I was reluctant to accept the banner. Not that I had any say in the matter, this baby was going to arrive on its own schedule no matter my misgivings about taking on the new role. My reservations had little to do with any responsibilities grandfathering might bring. I was simply not old enough to be called "grandpa" by anyone, much less this new person with whom I had no history!

"How's it feel that you're going to be a grandpa?" I was asked, repeatedly.

"Old," would be my response.

This all changed when she was presented to us outside the delivery room, a beautiful swaddled little flower with a head of thick, jet-black hair.

She continues to bloom, this flower, her hair now strawberry blond like her mother's. On that day, June 3rd, my journey would become broadened, richer. On that day the Universe extended it's hands and provided me a gift I would not be aware of for some time. This gift, this miracle would unfold before me as gently and unhurriedly as this baby would begin to grow and embrace the love, the life and the world surrounding her.

We were building a history together. I became a rapt spectator to her every move, each new word she would say, every new song she would sing.

And one day she called me, "Grandpa!" as I was met at her door, she running to me, all her tiny arms, hands and fingers wrapped around my neck.

I was GRANDPA. I had arrived.

I soon discovered the secret to grandparenting stumbling upon this almost by accident. I quickly found myself falling in love with this little blossom through observation, not interaction. I took note of her laughter, glimpses of her interactions with her father, our son, witnessed her meltdowns, pathetic sadnesses as if she had the weight of the world upon her two-year old shoulders. I watched as her parents attempted to redirect her defiance - sometimes successfully.

"This is so funny, observing this," I would muse. "This is so karmic. This is Universal payback for the Sturm und Drang our kids had so generously gifted us during their adolescence."

How small-minded this thinking was. The Universe isn't petty. The Universe isn't interested in payback. The Universe is about learning, it is about doorways to opportunities and awareness as a pathway to growth and happiness.

Time passed and I still wasn't getting it. I began to watch our granddaughter as she, even at age 2, was stretching the boundaries of toddler propriety. I began to keep a non judgemental watch on our son as he attempted, mostly unsuccessfully, to reign in one of God's freest and fiercest spirits. I began to realize I was missing the point, I was missing the beauty before me by concentrating on the irony, not the joy of my granddaughter.

One day a friend on a similar journey as ours mentioned a secret that had served her well through years of recovery as a parent of an alcoholic.

"I just stay in my own hula hoop," she shared.

This was like a parting of the clouds revealing a heavenly light of understanding and epiphany. I made the leap from my friend's experience with her son to so much time wasted by not simply revelling in our granddaughter's joyfulness. I had been jumping into our son's parent hula hoop. There was a hula hoop waiting for me, emblazoned with the word GRANDPA.

I now watch our granddaughter in her quest for experience, adventure, love, understanding, not a small amount of independence and joyful laughter. I no longer jump into our son's hula hoop to share what he may be experiencing as a parent of a toddler in constant motion. Nor do I discipline or harbor any thoughts of what I might do when a parenting situation arises. This would require a leap combining 2 hula hoops, or two souls in one, a circus act detour off my journey pathway into a chasm of the absurd. I am able to experience the NOW. I do not insert myself. I simply AM with our granddaughter.

This little blossoming flower has provided a metaphor for us all as we continue our recoveries as parents of children addicted to any substance or behavior. We can choose to remain in our own hula hoops, whatever our expertise or attempt to jump into our son's or daughter's circle. It requires a lot of practice to accomplish this, jumping into our children's lives. We know practice makes perfect - perfect misery. It might even require an enlargement of the hula hoop, an expansion of the vortex into which our children have plummeted.

But now, we know. We know this. We would only be in the way.

We know inserting ourselves into our children's lives is pointless, counterproductive and insulting to their abilities.

We have our own hula-hoop momentum to maintain. It takes enough effort to keep our lives in sync without jumping into the lives of others.

There's simply no joy in it.

Who knows? Perhaps our sons will notice our delicate balancing act as we concentrate on keeping our lives moving. Our daughters may understand it is inevitably up to them to take hold of their hoop and make that first push forward to begin the magical momentum of living life.

In the meantime, stay in your own hula hoop. Close your eyes and hear the swoosh-swoosh of life in recovery. It is a sweet sound to behold.
"Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future." ~ Deepak Chopra
... keep coming back

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Letting It Happen - Becoming the Human Beings We Can Be - A Travelogue

"Experience is not what happens to you, it is what you do with what happens to you." ~ Aldous Huxley
When I penned Part 1 of the Letting It Happen reflection my wife and I were preparing to send our youngest on his next great adventure - his entry into university as a college freshman. Feeling compelled to share how this hand off and our subsequent trip to the Smoky Mountains had so dramatically changed my life, I was surprised to see I had laid the groundwork for this travelogue post months before. In this adventure I would stretch personal boundaries, overcome negativity and one somewhat scary fall to move further along my own recovery pathway.
There are no coincidences, simply a universal synchronicity we MUST surrender to.
During my mired years I would never have entertained the possibility of letting go of the struggle to enjoy a quick side-trip to a far off land such as the Smokies, a realm as foreign to me as the Midwest might be to a Central African. A life-long flatlander - as I was called only once, thankfully - I would have presented a long list of reasons for not going. This list would include money, time, work considerations, self loathing, the perceived need to be there for our child, money, and a sincere belief that the "F" word, FUN, was not only unattainable, but disallowed.

A parent mired with The Addiction has neither the time, nor any entitlement to FUN.

Thankfully, this has all changed. We are, my wife and I, well along on our recovery journeys. Though moving along separate pathways, we are, again thankfully, on the same path, though often separately diverted along our way from time to time. We are human after all.

A trip to Gatlinburg after dropping our son off at his university was the perfect getaway, a five-day adventure at the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We immersed. We threw ourselves into the beauty, the wonder and the splendor of the town and its surrounds almost to the point of exhaustion. My wife's exhortations to take full advantage of our brief time in the mountains became our battle cry and a frequent source of comic relief.

This trip became a metaphor for our recovery and a joyous, reflective and often lighthearted reminder of why we continue. Thankfully we were both in training for a half marathon. Gatlinburg can kick your ass. Gatlinburg is uphill, both ways.

I allowed my first impression of this new world to be be uplifting in so many ways. Gatlinburg is a very inclusive town, surprisingly so at least to me, nestled as it is in the north central region of the bible belt. The area folklore is all about stills, moonshine and bootlegging, the surrounding hills and valleys having provided perfect nook-and-cranny hideaways for the mostly eradicated grain alcohol industry. The vibe, however is more about inclusion than intoxication. Southern hospitality is everywhere inviting all to partake of a true slice of Americana whether you be American, European, Middle Eastern, African or Asian. We were among Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Christians. The word is out, Gatlinburg is world-friendly and embraceable, whether out of necessity or the very nature of the character of the residents. Gatlinburg is what all of us can be when we are at our best.

This was Letting Go life lesson number one learned from the hill country.

Everyone is in the same boat when existing between 1300 to 6700 feet above sea level - depending upon how much one is inclined to "embrace the climb." All of us were together in this no matter our backgrounds, journeying up and down the elevations, breathing the same rarefied air and battling gravity in measure equal to our individual wellness and fitness. Gatlinburg with its hills, ridges, slopes and vistas is the great equalizer and a gentle taskmaster to humankind!

As I mentioned previously this mini vacation was an encapsulation of where our recovery journeys have taken us. We left the exhilaration, sadness and trepidation of dropping off our youngest at university to embark on an adventure of self discovery. We pushed boundaries, explored and experienced.

On our first hike to 6600 feet, in our first mile as we began a downslope and I transitioned from the previous constant uphill I became complacent. I clipped a protruding rock with my boot and performed a headfirst slide that any major leaguer would be proud of. After being called "safe" by my wife I continued, bloodied, but better for it, better for the fall.

Thankfully, I fell on a hard bed of pebble gravel, not the baseball to SUV-size rocks and boulders we would soon be navigating. You see, the Universe will never give us more than we can take and for some reason, after my stumble the Smoky Mountains became more magnificent and joyous than I was previously willing to acknowledge.

We rode horses, not my thing, but the six-foot perch atop my selected mount provided a perspective of the ridges to the higher elevations I may never have experienced. Our second hike, twice as long as we had planned, became a lesson learned in letting go - letting go of exhaustion, negativity, resentment and competition. Limits reached for both of us on the downhill return leg of our 5-1/2 mile trek, we both gave in to the beauty of our surroundings in the misty confines of the mountains. We slowed our decent, accepted and beheld what the Great Creator had presented to us that day. We allowed other travellers, more adept at mountaineering than we, pass us by. There were those we overcame, possibly newer to the journey.

Always, knowing nods and smiles were exchanged between the fellow travellers.

Each time our return to civilization was a time for quiet jubilation. We had done it! We had travelled beyond our wildest expectations.

Personally, I had stumbled, fallen, and wore a bloody badge to remind me of how I did not, would not quit. My wife and I traversed the same paths up to and back on each of our hikes, but our journeys were markedly different. Footholds were our own, individually to choose. Routes up or down, to the right or left of rock outcroppings were very seldom the same. She, more adept at the downhills bounding down the trails like a pixie, and I more comfortable with the uphills, created an odd dichotomy that kept us both going, uphill as the air became thinner, cooler and more precious, then, downhill as we fought fatigue on the way home.

As parents of addicts it is important to remember each phase of our journey may not take us where we wish to be or where we believe we should be. If we SEEK and SEE what is truly ahead we just might find what we are looking for. We can accept our negativism and dismay, we can succumb to the struggle of the uphill climb that so often is what life brings, and then, we can look around. The splendor does truly await us.

We'll stumble, fall and learn. We'll wonder why we ever took that path, accepted that challenge, until we reach the clearing to our personal Charlies Bunion, Rainbow Falls, Clingman's Dome or return to civilization. 


Our struggles are temporary. They forever become a part of us so we may embrace and internalize what we've learned - scars and all.

Where there is life, there's hope for our children. We'll catch glimpses of each other along the switchbacks of our recovery trails. We can, by persevering, inspire them to take the path less travelled, that next step, to pick themselves up after a headlong dive back to the abyss. We can TRUST as we continue on, they too will reach their higher elevation, look down on rainbows from 6200 feet and feel the elation of seeing, finally, what The Universe has awaiting for them.

Let it happen. Let them push boundaries, explore and experience. Let them win and lose and learn. Let them stumble. Let them fall and soon, just maybe, their eyes will open to the possibilities, the splendor and wonder life can bring.

It's worth the trip!
"Life is simple, everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don't have to like it, it's just easier if you do. ~ Byron Katie
... keep coming back 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Letting It Happen - Becoming the Human Beings We Were Meant to Be - Part One

"Where there is nothing right and nothing wrong, nothing 'bout weak or strong and nothing left to prove, surrender, oh please surrender, it's only us giving in to Trust." ~ "Surrender" - Peter Eldridge
Our journey is a collective quest for improvement. When we ceased living for The Addiction, so consuming of our children and our families, a void materialized.

"What do we do now?" we asked. No longer fully engulfed in the business of fixing, cajoling and controlling we found ourselves at a loss for ways to fill our waking hours.

It's like the year when my youngest progressed into high school and my coaching days were behind me. Suddenly I had a lot of time on my hands. I was forced to transform from coach dad to something else. What was my new dad life going to look like?

The same was true when I relinquished my role as controller dad, rager dad and enabler dad and began my slow crawl out my own mire I had so enjoyed with The Addiction and my son.

"Now what am I going to do? Who am I, really?" I asked myself.

So began my journey. And so begins the journey of almost all parents in recovery from the toxic relationship with our children's disease. It then becomes our journey, our quest for improvement, our militant resolve to live the lives our Great Creator meant for us. We are soon confronted with multiple decisions and countless paths to explore. The choices are complex and numerous.

Do I dare to be happy? Do I dare to be happy for an extended period of time?

Do I dare?

How dare I? Who do I think I am?

Well, that's the point, isn't it?

The journey is a sojourn to numerous wonders and places. There is no last destination along our pathway - that would be disconcerting!
"Well, here I am. I guess that's it."
As we dare to search for our best selves we may realize perhaps we have never allowed ourselves the inclination, courage or self permission to burst the boundaries of familial, societal or personal limitations. But can we? Can we TRUST in the Universe' plan for us. Can we give ourselves over to a power greater than ourselves?

Can we give in? Can we give in to TRUST?

Remember surrender? Remember how surrender got us to this place where on our knees or even face down in our own crap we reached out, or up, beaten. The triumph of our surrender lifting us from the mire, deep into and out of the vortex with our children we rose to meet a universe of possibilities. We let it happen. We didn't fight it. When confronted with the possibility of a promise from somewhere that there might just be something good up ahead we didn't know what to do. We were perplexed by the chance of the new and wonderful.

Flummoxed, we acquiesced.

Remember this first epiphany that early in our journey moved us those first few steps along our pathway. If can TRUST to embrace the courage to let every day happen we just might see more clearly the possibilities of every sunrise. When we stop fighting the positives, the challenges, the joys and despairs each day presents to us we might find our truest selves, hiding, awaiting discovery.

Who might we meet today?

... keep coming back
"To be astonished is one of the surest ways of not growing old too quickly." ~ Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Just Get Out Of The Way - Revisited, Part Deux

"This is a guidance for each of us and by lowly listening we shall hear the right word... Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into your life. Then, without effort, you are impelled to truth and to perfect contentment." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Our Journey is ours to explore. We know this intellectually. Whether we detach with love or merely sidestep our children's travails, wherever we find ourselves on our recovery journeys there are often those little voices in our heads warning us of all The Bad that could or will happen to our children, or to us. These are the maddening voices that can keep us overly entwined and engaged with our children or our own self-contructed obstacles and distracted from our true pathways.

We have trampled external barriers and character defects. We have experienced the overarching power of our Higher Power, there with Universal gifts for us when we needed burdens relieved and comforts proffered, ours for the taking when we were ready.

At some juncture in our journey we have demanded this of ourselves and the Universe. We insisted on being. We eschewed the darkness and muck, and sick and tired of feeling sick and tired we branched out, extended ourselves, took roads never imagined and reinvented our thoughts and actions.

We began to believe we'd be OK. We gave ourselves the gift of knowing that we would be OK.

This is one of the greatest gifts the Great Creator has waiting for us. This is the greatest gift we can allow ourselves to accept, a pathway to a life where we are no longer getting in the way of our own recovery. We begin to realize so many of life's obstacles we have overcome were barriers of our own creation, borne from doubts for our future well being. It is almost comical, the roadblocks to our personal futures we have constructed.

Saying the words, "I'm gonna be OK," may be one of the greatest gifts to ourselves we can vocalize. Believe it, know it, own it!

Now imagine this same gift for your son or daughter. Close your eyes, imagine her lost life, see him struggling in your mind's eye. Imagine you are looking at your child, eye contact made perhaps for the first time in a while. Calmly and with true conviction you say, "You're gonna be OK."

Self doubt is a powerful enemy. Self doubt is a strong ally of The Addiction and along with shame these three unite to spawn a daunting foe. The Addiction may be a formidable adversary, yet it is not invincible.

You have given your son or daughter the gift of empowerment and validation of something they've known all along. Only they can unearth themselves from the chasm into which they have tumbled. They have tools, the ability. They've been to wilderness, to therapuetic boarding, to recovery programs. They have received a firm underpinning for life's challenges from you. They are watching you living a full life. They feel your love, even from afar.

It is up to them. Hearing good news, seeing our example of lives being lived, not simply observed, the positives The Addiction would rather keep hidden from them will at first be totally foreign to our children. But this gift, this proclamation of OK-ness has legs. It won't leave them. It will be filed and stored even if we see no immediate outward change in behavior.

They may discount our validation. They may reject the notion explicitly. But you've said it. They have heard it, the Truth of the possibility. The Addictions hates the Possible. It only wants the current, the status quo. Possibilities do not exist within the addicted mind.

The gift of you're gonna be OK  is grounded in the word gonna, the contracted version of going to, a future-tense message of movement to possibilities. Our addict, trained only to seek out the immediate fix may not immediately embrace this message. The Addiction wants our sons and daughters mired, transfixed in its spell.

You're gonna be OK implies change, movement, action. At the very least the gift may foster in our children feelings of dicontentment regarding their current situation. The Addiction loathes HOPE. Hope trumps despair and Hope might just lead our children to a desire to explore what is out there, beyond.

Who knows? It's their journey remember.

You're gonna be OK" is a message for ourselves and our children, a verbalization that we have reclaimed our selves and given our children the empowerment of directing their lives. It is the separation of duties necessary for both parties' growth and contentment.

Although we have trained ourselves to live in the NOW, the possibilities along our journey pathways keeps us moving forward to the next adventure, the next step laid out by the Great Creator to bettering ourselves and living more full and fulfilled lives.

In a quiet time, in a quiet place away from distraction we can close our eyes and breathe these words, "I'm gonna be OK, and he's gonna be OK."

It is a gift we can give ourselves. It is a blessing we can give to our children.

... keep coming back
"Maybe OK will be our always." ~ John Green, The Fault In Our Stars

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Just Get Out Of The Way - Revisited

"Every time you are tempted to react in the same way, ask if you want to be prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future." ~ Deepak Chopra
When our children began their spiral into addiction we did everything we could to stop the decline. We enabled, we passively aggressively ignored, we had so many plates spinning we had no time for our lives. Certainly some of us had to step in to save a life, literally, that selfless act of a parent costing tens of thousands of dollars in many cases, just to get our son clean, to give our daughter a few tools we would hope would serve her well in a sorely anticipated recovery. Our children emerged from inpatient or outpatient treatment, wilderness camp, therapeutic boarding school or other recovery programs cleansed perhaps, but in many cases not sober . Many would soon regress into lives of addiction.

We were told the words we did not want to hear, "Relapse is part of recovery." The tools provided to our children would be ignored and we, as parents (read caretakers, fixers) once again would embrace the role of enabler.

We repeated the ultimate insult of doing for our children what they could, should and MUST do for themselves. We stole their consequences, challenges, failures and victories.

This is the consummate tragedy of the enabling parent. We become collaborators with The Addiction.

When we pay bills, make excuses, allow ourselves to be doormats to our addict's addiction-driven abusive behaviors, set higher standards for other family members than we have for the addict and tacitly endorse destructive behaviors we're doing our children no favors. We are playing the game masterfully laid out by The Addiction. We become conspirators in maintaining our children's lifestyle of self destruction contributing to each setback in equal measure with our efforts to assist.

Our lives once again revolve around the addict. We stop living. We fixate. In many cases we become physically sick. We are no good for anyone. We become angry, once again, with our children and miss the point, totally:
They are no more a willing participant in the addiction that has engulfed their existence than a cancer patient riddled with uncontrollable cell growth.
One day we look around and find ourselves in a pit, deep in a dark and dangerous rain forest mired with our children and their addiction.

That's when it hits us.

"What the hell?"

We survey where we are, what we have become. Why have I hit bottom and realize this and my son doesn't have a clue? How could my daughter not see what I see?

What we see is The Addiction leering down at us, its malevolent smile betraying its true intent of bringing every family member down with the addict like a house of cards. What our children see is comfort and stability, a benevolent benefactor of pleasure and predictability.

The Addiction is asking our children daily, "You don't want to give this up, do you?"

We, conversely, realize something at some point, perhaps after three or four nosedives into the shit with our children. We are beaten. We find the courage to say these words:
"OK Addiction, I give. You win. I'm done fighting you."
This is NOT what The Addiction wants to hear.

We step aside and begin to find toeholds out of the morass. Miraculously, we emerge.

We get out. We get out of the way.

Years ago I fashioned a tactic for myself for deflecting the clutches of angry people, those folks who live for the thrill of the confrontation, the competition sport of bringing everyone down with them into their personal pit of crap or dark lair of despair.

I would picture the venom of anger coming at me as if launched off a tennis racket, the 150 mile per hour serve of rage sizzling over the net to my awaiting forehand. I would imagine the ball whooshing past me without lifting my racket. I would refuse to play that game. I would get out of the way. (It works, try it using your own visualization.)

We can employ the same tactic with The Addiction.

We can get out of the way, refuse to engage. The Amazing might just happen. We live, take walks in the park, exercise and explore talents and pursuits previously obscured by our childrens' struggle with addiction.

As we begin to love and explore ourselves we can cherish our children once again. Our hearts soften, we can see our childrens' dependence on the lure of the comfort and security of the addicted life. We lose the bitterness inherent with living in the stink and goo of the mire and find the way to separating our children from The Addiction.

It, The Addiction will lash out in the only way it can, through our children. The services will come fast and furiously with the thump-thump-thump of a tennis ball machine.

It's hard to refuse the service.

This is the secret. The Addiction will NEVER tire of the game. Our children, just might.

This is one of the many counterintuitively magic moments we may encounter along our recovery journeys. If we just get out of the way the beautiful horizons, magnificent vistas and sunrises the Universe has created for us suddenly become visible. We no longer waste time fighting a battle we cannot win, an adversary we cannot overcome. This foe wants us down, but not out.

No longer a willing play toy for The Addiction we emerge into the sunlight to the warmth of our possibilities.

Our children will notice though they may not let on. The life they have tumbled into is not a life they would ever have consciously chosen. They may begin to tire of the muck. Epiphanies may emerge. Bottoms may be reached. They may begin to want to SEE, to SEEK. They may even begin to imagine a way out.

And this, my fellow travellers, is a beginning.

... keep coming back
"Although we have been made to believe that if we let go we will end up with nothing, life reveals just the opposite: that letting go is the real path to freedom." ~ Sogyal Rinpoche, "Glimpse After Glimpse"

Monday, August 31, 2015

Hang On Little Tomatoes

"The sun has left and forgotten me | It's dark I cannot see | Why does this rain pour down | In a sea | Of deep confusion."   ... more to come
There are times along all of our journeys when we take a moment to contemplate a rough spot along our way, a misstep on our part or events that pushed us down, far down that slippery slope back to the lowlands. It's that damned Chutes and Ladders component to recovery both parents and children fear to our core. Our children call it relapse. We can simply refer to it as a stumble or temporary setback.

We wonder how we ever held it together. We managed to function at work, maintain relative sanity with family and not assault anyone on the interstate. We had a lot weighing us down, The bog is all about the heavy and thick - the seemingly inescapable.

"How did we do it?"

Soon after embarking on our recovery we may have persevered by raging or going away. We may have pulled out our old parent tool kit to fix the unfixable, a reaction to perceived chaos that would only throw an incendiary into a roomful of combustibles. We had The Addiction right where it wanted us!

Even after fully embracing the journey we know The Bad can happen throwing us back headlong to our old ways. Even the strongest among us can buckle.

But now we have tools. We have fellow travellers from whom we can draw strength.

We can hang on. We will hang on, we owe this to our children, to our family and most importantly to ourselves. We can hang on first by remembering to breathe, not reacting and even contradicting our mantra of just keep moving. Sometimes, simply being, consolidating and hanging in there may be the best recourse.

My recovery journey began far too late into my son's spiral. I raged, fixed and dove into his vortex with him as if to clear the way for deeper exploration of the abyss The Addiction had created for him, for me. I thought I was holding everything together. What I couldn't see was my entire life eroding around me.

I began to work diligently on an existence not dependent on external forces. It wasn't until I  accepted my beaten, defeated and weakened condition that I first allowed myself the gift of simply being, hanging in, hanging on.

Remember the feeling when we just Let Go, when we handed our Great Creator control of our immediate future? We trusted the Universe had plans for us if we would simply loosen our grip on ... everything. It is a lesson learned and one also to remember as we do keep moving.

We can hang on when we need to and move enthusiastically along our pathways when the opportunity arises. Five years into my recovery I keep moving more and hang on less.

But I still hang on, occasionally.

Occasionally an unseen obstacle may trip me up. I reach out to a friend, a reading or other recovery tool and hang on for dear life. I breathe, check to see all is well then continue on with help arriving seemingly out of nowhere, the Universe extending its hand as if to say, "Oh no you don't. You've got things to do!"
"Just hang on, hang on to the vine | Stay on, soon you'll be divine | If you start to cry, look up to the sky | Something's coming up ahead | To turn your tear to dew instead"
We're fragile. We're human beings, but we're strong and resilient as well. Recovery provides Hope and a spiritual lifeline each day. We've got to hold onto our recovery as if our lives depended on it. And oh, our lives do depend on staying the course, hanging on, holding fast to the journey, remaining as true as we can be to the pathways laid out for us every minute, every hour, each day at a time.

It's a miracle, this journey. Give it time. Let go of the old and hold on to this new life, this new way of living, searching and striving.

... keep coming back
"When change is hard and not so nice | You listen to your heart the whole night through | Your sunny someday will come one day soon to you," ~ Hang on Little Tomato, Written by Thomas Lauderdale, China Forbes and Patrick Abbey 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Hushed-Tone Conversations

"Would Great Ormond Street be so attractive a cause if its beds were riddled with obnoxious little criminals that brought it on themselves?" ~ Russell Brand, The Guardian, March 9, 2013

For us, addiction is real. The Addiction is here, now, for whatever reasons it has entered our lives like a plague, a disease. And that's just the point. Addiction is a disease, not a character flaw or bi-product of inferior parenting.

To all who are at the beginnings of the journey of the self this can be a crucial bit of knowledge to embrace - crucial and difficult.

"What is wrong with us?" we ask. "What is wrong with our family that led us to this awful spiral into which our sons and daughters have plunged."

Hopefully we have moved beyond this loathing and pulled ourselves out of our self-created primordial soup of humiliation. Even so, the prevailing winds of shame swirling all around whisper, "Did you hear?"

We are in the second decade of the third millennium and the conversation surrounding addiction remains an act played out on the stage of hushed tones, insinuations and willed ignorance. It is a tragedy that we have not evolved as a society beyond our deep prejudices against addiction.

Parents of addicts who hear these hushed tones may stumble, fall or become paralyzed. We begin to doubt ourselves. Should we rush in? Should we resume our quixotic pursuit of the fix for what we have obviously caused according to society? We can hear these whispered conversations, a cruel undertone to the joyous chorus we divine as we journey along our pathways to self actualization.

Russell Brand's 2013 article on addiction in The Guardian is a supplication to the general public to understand the true nature of what has afflicted our children. Great Ormond Street he mentions has a mission to "provide world-class clinical care and training, pioneering new research and treatments in partnership with others for the benefit of children in the UK and worldwide." His analogy that brackets critically-ill children with those who have been overcome by addiction is perfection.

Why don't those "obnoxious little criminals" pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and simply get better?

This is what we're up against. This perception that addiction is a result of substandard moral fiber and the addict's conscious decision to live life in society's basement is what our children are up against.

"Have you heard? Joe and Jane's daughter is addicted to pot."

"I hear the Maxwell boy is using heroin."

We can hear them, though almost imperceptible, those hushed tones. Our children can feel them. Hushed tones prevent the conversation from ever moving to a higher plane.

When was the last time someone spoke of diabetes or cancer in hushed tones. For me it was as a child (decades ago!?) when a friend's mother was diagnosed with brain cancer. Now we rally around the families, produce enough meals for a small army, offer rides for the kids and fund raise to defray medical bills. We raise billions of dollars for the cause. We run 10Ks, do jumping jacks, walk miles and miles to nowhere, hula hoop 'til our hips hurt - all noble acts essential to finding a cure for cancer, diabetes, AIDS, MS, or any of the numerous maladies afflicting our population.

No one blames a 17-year-old who has contracted acute lymphoblastic leukemia for her struggle. Even in our most heartless and cruel moments when we look upon the plight of the overweight as a chosen pathway to diabetes we feel compelled to throw a few coins into the Lions Club basket and demand more nutritious meals for our children.
If no one is talking about my child's plight, his disease, I certainly can't share this with anyone. I am an outcast.
Communities embrace a "not in my backyard" approach to addiction. If it does not affect my family, my son or daughter, it's not attention worthy.
Addiction is a terrible thing certainly, but as it affects those little addict hooligans who have brought it on themselves, who also happen to be a minority of our young-adult population, there is simply no need to address this proactively. Let those parents who are at fault deal with it.
There is no reason to dwell on the drain on resources addiction brings to education, law enforcement or health care.

Addiction is everybody's problem. It is just not perceived this way. As part of our recovery as parents of addicts it is important to know this, own this, then flush it from our consciousness. We develop thick skins. We may feel alone but we can be alone together, we few, we (hopefully) happy few, we band of brothers and sisters, we parents of addicts.

We can continue our journeys, encourage and love our children while not belittling them by interfering in those victories and failures they alone must savor and endure. The hushed tones are obstacles with the same ability to sidetrack us as The Addiction. The hushed tones are however less subtle and cunning. The hushed tones are direct, mean and uninformed. The hushed tones can be a danger to our children, ourselves and society if we allow them to be.

Yet with the hushed tones swirling all around we will prevail. We will continue. We will move along our recovery pathways, our gift from the Great Creator, our blessing from our children, knowing that only our sons and daughters have the key to curing the disease that afflicts them. The Addiction IS a disease and NOT a character flaw.

Our children did not, DID NOT wake up one morning saying, "I'm gonna fuck it all up and tumble into addiction."

They didn't want the mire any more than we wanted it for them, any more than the kids at Great Ormond street or St. Jude's Hospital wanted any of the various diseases that relentlessly dash the hopes of the world's best medical minds.

Knowing this, with our hearts softened and our focus narrowed we can courageously move on. Our sons and our daughters will encounter our unconditional love as they stumble along their pathways. The Addiction can't block the LOVE forever. They will discern our purpose, our journey, off in the distance. They may feel the peace we have found and sense some of the same Universal presence that has embraced us, a calm drowning out the hushed tones with a powerful silence.

And silence, in this case, will truly be golden.

... keep coming back

"It hurts me to hear the tone in which the poor are condemed as "shiftless," or sharing a pauper spirit, just as it would if a crowd mocked at a child for its weakness, or laughed at a lame man because he could not run, or a blind man because he stumbled." ~ Albion Fellows Bacon

Friday, July 24, 2015

Clarity

"I can see clearly now, I can see all of the obstacles in my way, Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind, It's gonna be a bright, sunshiny day."     ~ "I Can See Clearly Now" - Jimmy Cliff
It can come out of nowhere. We are progressing down our journey pathway, exploring, learning, loving, living and sharing. We turn a corner, reach a rise in the trail, or come out of a temporary fog and there it is - Clarity.

This happens not often enough along our journeys but when it occurs, if we are open to the clarity, open to messages and suggestions and validations from the Great Creator we see it. There it is, clear as a bright blue sky on a sunshiny day.

Clarity comes to us when we least expect any epiphanies or validations. We know we will randomly experience this gift from the Universe but never expect it. We can never count on it. We never know when we will need clarity. Clarity arrives to those who don't really know they need it, a gift from the Universe to the clueless who are blissfully moving along the track to recovery but have that sneaking suspicion something isn't quite right. The gift is granted to those who walk the pathway step by step. Our futures are found only in the immediate, in what is our NOW that leads to wonderful new NOWs.

We are experiencing everything we can in the moment. Only in this way can we catch glimpses of and embrace those occasional messages that say, "It'll be OK."

I was recently provided glimpse into the Universe' secret plans for me and my family. It was the day after a visit to our youngest son's chosen university. During the visit to Admitted Students Days he had given little indication of any buy-in to the concept of embracing the opportunity of college. I was living in and mired in his lack of enthusiasm. I was frightened for him. For some reason I was frightened for me.

Who was going to college?

I mentioned to my wife that I FELT he was taking no ownership of his destiny. I failed to realize I was wallowing in someone else's shit, drama, and in all probability, fear.

It was the next morning the Universe allowed me a chance to see things more clearly.

I was sitting in our living room where I often prepare for my days and looked up to see our boy emerging from his bedroom. He was wearing the sweatshirt the university had given to all the admitted students present days before. He was wearing this to school. This was a tacit buy-in from him to the concept of embracing the opportunity. This was his embrace of the adventure ahead.

The Universe was reminding me this is his journey. The not-so-subtle clarity (this time) emerged in the acceptance, my acceptance that whatever the outcome of this chapter in our son's life he would be OK. He is embarking on a wondrous journey. By wearing the sweatshirt he was taking not a small or baby step along his path. This was big, this reluctant smart-kid acknowledging to his friends he would be moving on to a research engineering university in the fall to begin a new chapter in his life.

I was grateful to be able to see the gift of clarity presented to me that morning. The clarity was freeing and cleansing.

Clarity is escorted by faith, trust and confidence so we may perceive and decipher the signposts along our pathways. We are on the the right track, our journey taking us to new destinations every day.

The wearing of the sweatshirt signaled a beginning to my son's journey, one of many he will be experiencing his first year as a college student and was a gentle reminder for me to focus on what is mine, what is important to me on my travels.

If we are seeking it and open to it, when clarity comes, we'll know it. Clarity evokes chuckles, outright laughter or even tears. Clarity will come and go yet remains as a reminder of progress made and adventures ahead. Clarity is our encouragement to SEEK, and hopefully, to SEE similar markers to guide us along our pathways.

It will become perfectly clear, even if just for a moment, when we are ready.

... keep coming back

"Everyone sees the unseen in proportion to the clarity of his heart, and that depends on how much he has polished it. Whoever has polished it more sees more - more unseen forms become manifest to him. ~ Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi
"Clear? Huh. Why, a four-year-old child could understand this report. Run out and find me a four-year-old child, I can't make head or tail of it." ~ Groucho Marx as Rufus T. Firefly, Duck Soup (1933)

Friday, July 17, 2015

I Don't Know Anything - Or - Imperfection as the Gateway to Recovery

"The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing." ~ Socrates
When speaking to fellow parent travellers I will often inject the phrase I don't know anything into the conversation. This is not a exercise in self deprecation. I have a watchful eye on such dismissive articulations. Self deprecation diminishes us.

When I say I don't know anything I am simply acknowledging where I am on a journey on which I have come so far with so much further to travel. It is exhilarating to imagine the experiences ahead. It is a liberating mindset.

Knowing we know nothing is vital to becoming imperfect human beings. This is of course a contradiction, one of the many counterintuitive mindfucks we encounter as we proceed along our recovery journeys. Imperfect human beings don't fix, control or rage against the machine of addiction. Acknowledgement of our imperfections and the freedom to bring about mistakes encourages growth. We don't make mistakes, we create, precipitate and inspire mistakes by our actions, our striving, not our passivity or inaction.

Before we began our journeys when we created a mistake we believed the error exposed a character flaw, so we hid. We isolated and attempted to hide, ignore or gloss over our creation, our error.

When I hid and ignored I became an inward leaning, arrogant bastard. I was frightened and stuck. There was no growth and no potential for improvement.

And so it was with my responses to the son who brought me to recovery. For years I saw his addictions as my character flaw, my error. I internalized The Addiction. I could fix him, control the uncontrollable. I devised incentives for his recovery The Addiction would simply laugh off. I knew everything and as a result became a static being. I lost myself in the process of total certainty and had The Addiction right where it wanted me.

Of course this did not work. Eventually I was broken and on my knees realized I couldn't do what I was doing anymore. I couldn't fix the unfixable, redirect someone who was committed to the addicted lifestyle. I had no answers. I was beaten by The Addiction and admitted this to myself. I had to admit I knew nothing and on that day I began my recovery journey.

In this regard it is hard for fathers. We're supposed to know everything. Society says so, right?

It's hard for mothers as well of course. These are your babies who have spiraled.

It's just hard for all of us to admit we need help.

It's hard to be humble.

We all reach our breaking point, that same elusive bottom we anticipate with trepidation for our children. The bottom is a gut wrenching experience. Many breaking points may be required, many bottoms, before we know we are clueless. There may be multiple interventions from the Universe before we are fully aware of our ignorance.

When the humility finally arrives, it is a gift. Humility is liberating. Humility takes us on a journey with no destination other than where we will find ourselves each day.

Humility frees us to to have only one wish for our children. Our wish is that they too will experience the gift of humility so they may embark on a journey of self discovery unencumbered by addiction and its attendant lies and barriers. This keeps us on separate yet somehow joined pathways. We can feel the sadness of our children who have yet to embrace their own cluelessness, who are resistant to taking those first frightful steps along the pathway already laid out for them by the Universe.

We simply no longer need to be our children's Universe.

With each step along our journey we learn, we discover. We may lose our way for a time, learn from these diversions and find our pathway once again. Each new awareness leads us to the next phase of our journey. We can look ahead knowing we have no idea what the Great Creator has prepared for us. This humility begets trust. Trust engenders growth.

There's no wonder this journey is both so damn hard and so damn beautiful and exhilarating.

When we admit we know nothing we acknowledge the most important truth of our journey. The linchpin to our recovery is the here and now, the present. With this realization our imperfections can be recognized, not ignored or put aside as in the past. Our focus is where our journey is taking us. Our trust in the Universe assures us this journey will lead us along pathways to unimaginable fulfillment. We no longer dread a future that has yet to occur. We trust and feel there is a light ahead, a warm place, a real future for ourselves and our children.

We can offload our children's burdens The Addiction would have us carry and hand them to a Force more powerful than any of us. Our children, seeing us freed, changed and changing, may want some of this humility for themselves - or not.

Remember, it's their journey.

Accept, accept the not knowing, the inherent humility of the recovery journey and accept the occasional reminder from the Universe that slaps us out of our arrogance. Accept the NOW and what awaits us just over the horizon.

Release your burdens, breathe, and live life. It can be beautiful.

Who knew?
"Uncertainty is a sign of humility and humility is just the willingness or ability to learn." ~ Charlie Sheen 

... keep coming back

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

No Turning Back Now

"Also, stick around. Don't lose your heart. Keep going. Keep at it. ~ Mark Ruffalo
There will be junctions along our journey pathways where we are inspired to attempt unexpected leaps and accept challenges and adventures so unfamiliar to our life experience, the simple act of considering the leap, the headlong run, to close our eyes and enjoy the new ride lets us know we are growing in our recovery.

We will often experiment, covertly. We don't want to rock the boat. What will our family and friends think if they learn of our considered changes? They might realize we are contemplating a life as our Great Creator meant for us where we live true to our truest selves.

We've changed.

My love of writing was revived when I truly embraced recovery. A breakout through some major hedgerows blocking my pathway occurred when I committed to sharing my experience, strength and hope as a parent of a child who had fallen into addiction (The Journey of Parents in Recovery, posted January 6, 2014). This was a fellow traveller putting himself out there as many of us do as we grow along our journeys and shed, by degrees, our old behaviors and expectations.

When I gently, almost timidly hit PUBLISH there was no turning back. And I felt deep within an acknowledgement from somewhere:
"This is where you should be on you your journey."
Now, I have a secret to tell. I've been considering a new adventure for some time. Here goes ... I have begun to train for a half marathon to be run in October. It is early July and training begins later this month. There is much work to be done even before the official training begins. I have goals: transform my body to a healthier running configuration (read: body mass index), gently progress to a five-mile walk/run before I present myself to the trainers, carve out time for the aforementioned gentle progression, and sign up for professional training and consultation from our local running shoe and accessory emporium, Fleet Feet.

I have also committed to training smarter, not harder. I will not injure myself thus sabotaging my chances of being present at the start line in October as I have the past three years. I will listen to and trust that little voice that says, "Slow down, stop, OUCH!"

I had no idea the Universe had a surprise awaiting, a revelation. This race and the preceding training would be a part of my journey, a way to stretch boundaries, grow, to inspire those I love and perhaps even myself.

I didn't get it, of course, at first. This would require another Universal Gibbs slap to the back of my head, a not-so-gentle yet compassionate reminder of how much I've yet to travel though I've come so far. 

Once I signed up for the race, Fleet Feet, which will be my guide, coach and cheerleader throughout this adventure began sending me emails to keep me informed of events such as 10Ks, training sessions for other approaching runs, classes for stretching (there's a right way and a wrong way apparently), nutrition, even instructionals for using the barbaric Foam Roller to un-kink one's illiotibial (IT) band.
The bane of many runners, the IT band or tract is a thick strip of connective tissue linking the hip to the knee and is often the origin of the runner's limp you might see displayed after an organized run where participants have pushed themselves seeking their personal bests. The Foam Roller is a cylindrical piece of hard Styrofoam, some adorned with nubs like the cleats on a motocross bike tire. The runner is told to balance on the middle of the cylinder as he or she moves along the affected areas, hip to knee then knee to hip to apparently unravel the IT band gnarled from the preceding race or training session. 
The process is as excruciatingly painful as you might imagine. I have suggested the Foam Roller might sell better if it was offered with an optional dominatrix for a nominal fee. My proposal has fallen on deaf ears at Fleet Feet - so far.
But I digress.

My gentle reminder from the Universe was delivered in the form of the Fleet Feet newsletter I began to receive with the emails. One morning I clicked on the newsletter link and an article caught my attention. The article, published by Fleet Feet Sports and written by Amy Marxkors, author, runner and contributing writer to the Fleet Feet e-zine was titled, "Keep Moving."

"Hmmmm," I thought. "This sounds familiar."

As I began reading Amy's article I smiled at the notion of the universal nature of weariness, whether as a parent of an addict or a marathoner lacing up for another grueling 15-mile training run. She writes, "The ultimate challenge of endurance is not to win, it's simply to keep going."

As parents of children who have succumbed to the disease of addiction there is no win here. Our victory, like the runners', is the daily wonder we experience as we progress along our journey pathways. We are a community of parents struggling through an endurance sport where we commit ourselves to loving our children while hating The Addiction. This is not a sprint but a lifetime commitment to finding a new world for ourselves. There are finish lines to be sure, but as soon as we cross we look ahead toward our next horizon, our next exploit. We rest, we recover, then boldly go!

As I continued to read "Keep Going" I was encouraged to know that our experiences as parents of addicts is a shared human experience. As the writer expresses early on, "The truth is, sometimes, I don't want to be strong."

Sometimes, what we have endured is all we can take. We become weary, but we know to keep going. We have a community of parents, kindred, allied spirits we meet at Al Anon, other 12 Step and countless outreach meetings. There is also the unshared experiences of parents sitting not twenty feet from each other in coffee houses and theaters as a Higher Power intervenes and inspires one or both of them to give a nod of encouragement for reasons unknown.

It's like the start of race with perfect strangers lined up awaiting the piercing explosion of the starting gun. There is that shared experience that buoys the runners to a starting pace which if sustained would exhaust each of them halfway through the race. But this feeling, a pre-race visceral acceleration of heart, soul and body is consequential of the human experience - and a lot of pain felt along the way.

When we believe we are alone in our sadness, in our PAIN, know we are not. We are a part of humanity. It is our nature to endure life's struggles and overcome adversity, to move on and keep going to the next plateau, higher ground or mile marker. When we encounter someone with a smile, a nod and a "Nice to see you" greeting we are acknowledging this nature. This person may be a fellow parent, or a marathoner who didn't quite make it to that 15-mile mark that morning.

We may be on disparate journeys but we share something with the runner, or the 10K, half marathon or marathon trainee. We must keep going, keep moving. "Our struggle elevates the phrase" as Amy so eloquently writes, according to where we are on our travels. And together, as parents of addicted children, as runners, as human beings, we're better. We can take comfort in knowing we are never alone along our chosen pathways.

So the next time you see a runner, or a field of runners (I Googled this), smile, nod  and maybe even say. "It's good to see you."

Who knows, you may unknowingly catapult someone along their journey, or even to and through their next training run.

And it can be a means to keeping us moving along ours.
"If you're going through hell, keep moving." ~ Winston Churchill
... keep coming back 


This post was inspired by an article I stumbled upon while embarking on yet another recovery journey. This article was written by Amy L. Marxkors and was originally published by FLEET FEET Sports. You can find the original post here

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Father's Day 2015 Plus 3 - An Assessment

"Most single guys I know think fatherhood is terrifying." ~ Jim Gaffigan
Jim Gaffigan is one of my favorite comedians. A father of five children Gaffigan was given a spot on this year's Father's Day edition of CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood:
"Besides the societal pressure to balance out Mother's Day, what have dads done to deserve a Father's Day? ... Frankly plenty. Besides ordering pizzas and serving as the vice president of the family, dads have to battle their own selfishness every day. Dads strive to raise better, smarter, less dad-like humans. Remember, without the comparisons to dads, moms would look horrible. Damn straight dads deserve a holiday!"
There's so much more there than Gaffigan's self deprecation. Watching this on Father's Day reminded me of the father's journey I have been on the past five years. Father's Day is a microcosm of what dads in recovery endure just as Mother's Day is for mothers. It can be as joyous or heartbreaking as the holidays, birthdays, or other family celebrations where we have an opportunity to compare the what is, to the what might have been.

For me, Father's Day is an opportunity to assess where I've been, where I am going and how far I have yet to go. In one day we are handed a snapshot of our life as recovering fathers, no matter what our situation. Father's Day condenses all what it is to be a dad in recovery into the waking hours (and more if you are one of those immediate dreamers) of one 24-hour period each year.

Some of us spent Father's Day with our children who brought us to this journey. Some of us have children living locally and may or may not have heard from them on this day set aside for us. And some of us miss the son or daughter who is miles away by choice, whether that choice was his or hers, or ours. In all these scenarios Father's Day is a test of our resolve, our resolve to stay in the NOW, to live life not based on the past but grounded in what lies ahead. The journey is the thing.

The experience of Father's Day encapsulates the one truth we must hold onto as we progress along our pathways. Our journey is ours. Our children's journeys are theirs to traverse. This truth hits us square in the face on occasions as this where we are singled out for contributions we have made and continue to make to the precious lives we have helped to bring into this world.

As Gaffigan suggests, "...dads have to battle their own selfishness every day." In our case our selfishness has lead us into the thorny landscape of enabling, fixing and controlling, those insulting parenting behaviors we try, one day at a time, to avoid and purge from our lives.

Did we wait to hear from our son or daughter? Were we expecting a card, a call, a visit? Did we make that call, reach out? On Father's Day we can keep our hopes high and expectations low, love our children and hate The Addiction that brought them to their journeys. We can sit down on the metaphorical hillside and see how far we've come. We can acknowledge that we have gone from ragers to fathers who THINK before we speak. We have replaced anger as our go-to emotion with love for our children and a dedication to living our lives to the fullest.

We are dads, deserving of a holiday.

Damn straight!

... keep coming back
"All I want is to be a good dad but I'm pretty bad at it." ~ Jim Gaffigan

Friday, June 19, 2015

Fear of Connecting

"We need to bridge our sense of loneliness and disconnection with a sense of community and continuity even if we must manufacture it from our time on the Web and our use of calling cards to connect long distance. We must 'log on' somewhere, and even if it is only in cyberspace, that is still far better than nowhere at all." ~ Julia Cameron, God is No Laughing Matter
This is a hard one. This is universal among parents of children who have fallen into addiction, or certainly seems it must be so based on personal experience. Fear is at the core of catatonia. Fear obstructs the journey, impedes striving or asking for or wanting more from life.

Fear of connecting takes this a step further and is a central roadblock to beginning and continuing our journeys. This fear can strike us when life seems to be coming together, a fear rooted perhaps out of complacency, or even the exhaustion of the journey itself. We pause. We cocoon.

The isolation may not have begun when Addiction first manifested itself in our children though isolation may have been a comfortable fall back for many of us at the onset of their spiral. For some of us fear of connecting began in early childhood. For others it is can be traced to the subtle onset of the addiction in our babies.

Whatever the origin, we curl up in a metaphorical fetal position, we seclude then disappear.

It certainly doesn't help that we all felt at some point a scarlet letter A had been tattooed on our foreheads, that guilt-by-association we felt even from the most well meaning of our communities. We felt ostracized, left out and abandoned whether or not this perception was real.

It seemed real enough at the time.

But we got passed that. We continue to move past that each day we decide to live our lives fully and passionately.

Certainly, the individual pathways we seek, find and journey upon are ours to traverse. Recovery, however, is a personal endeavor we cannot undertake unaccompanied. This is one of the contradictions of recovery that can so easily entangle us. Ours is a personal journey requiring connections on so many levels. We work so hard on ourselves we sometimes forget we cannot make it on our own.

Often inspiration may be found along the way from fellow travellers who will not show us the way but will remind us by their simple presence that we are not alone in our endeavor to be true to our truest selves. More often, validations we are on the right path may come from those who are not in any recovery journey. These may be friends, relatives and even acquaintances we have lost, pushed aside, or ignored. We determined these souls don't need our drama and burdens cluttering their lives. We have learned from experience to avoid connection with those who are not on similar journeys. (We even shun those who are travelling similar paths by the way, don't we!?)

How could these people love us, continue to love us, or rekindle their love for us?

This is when the Universe steps in. We receive a phone call, a Facebook friend request, an email or even one of those terrifying alerts that someone is looking for us. These are the gentle nudges from our Great Creator reminding us that we may be ready, even if we are reluctant, we are ready to accept the little bit of love, closeness and camaraderie we've denied ourselves.

We'll see an out-of-town area code on our cell phone - this happened to me. Our fear is replaced with perplexity that can be replaced with anticipation if we allow it.

"Who could this be?" we wonder.

Understand that we can replace the fear of connection with a sense we may be at the brink of a new adventure. This is the Universe at work, our Higher Power enjoining us to participate more entirely in life.

Take a deep breath. Close your eyes and take that call. Watch what happens. Let it take you. Relinquish your learned trepidations and let go as your new adventure begins!

... keep coming back

"Sometimes reaching out and taking somebody's hand is the beginning of a journey." ~ Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration
"A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality." ~ John Lennon 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Survival

"Thriving, that's fighting. ... Surviving is barely getting by." ~ Jillian Michaels
In my opinion survival is an often misused word.  The attribute survivor can summon images of beleaguered souls emerging from darkness - the darkness of the Holocaust, the ravages of war, the seeming death sentence of cancer. These people to me are not merely survivors. They are heroes, conquerors, messengers to us all that the human spirit may be bent but there are examples out there proving it may not always be broken.

The human spirit, our spirit, is magnificently resilient.

We have been through a lot. We have seen our babies struck down by a disease no one wants to talk about. We've been, or we are, at war, first with the Addiction, then, with our tendency to want to fix, control and enable. Some of us have been fortunate to begin our slow emergence from the battlefield, our re-entry into life. Others are still in the trenches, battling.

All of us are more-than-survivors.

We are heroes. We are inspirational. We are conquerors.

But there's a rub that makes contumely of our lives, as there often is when we learn to strive, to Seek and See, to progress beyond our tormentor's scope of influence.

The rub is this. As parents of addicts we are not the triumphant returning Gulf War veterans of conflict. We are more akin to the Vietnam-era vets returning to snubs and disdain. Addiction is not sexy. Addiction has not and may never be vanquished. Addiction is an unpopular and possibly unwinnable war.

So how do we survive, thrive and avoid the pitfalls that our children's life choices would have us dragged into?

Don't get me wrong. Survival is important. Survival is the byproduct of our human instinct to keep breathing after we've been knocked down or out. Survival is the act of refusing to acquiesce. Survival tells the oppressor that we will not ... go ... quietly.

The Addiction would prefer us to remain survivors, to stay down, remaining remission-like, in abeyance, not quite out of the woods. As I have mentioned, at some point in our journey we want more. Perhaps this is what emboldens us to move beyond survival to take the first step out of the prone position to which we have become accustomed. We want more and then some.

How do we move from survivor to thriver, to the conqueror and adventurer the Universe is calling us all to be? How can we accomplish this and still love our children? This is the hook The Addiction has placed deep inside us constantly drawing us in like a marlin in a deep and tumultuous sea, back to a life of enabling, fixing, and pursuing control of the uncontrollable.

We are in a fight for survival. We can spare no energy to restore sanity to our children's lives.

With our Great Creator as our guide we can only restore ourselves to sanity. We can only love our children, gently remove the hook and allow The Addiction and the power it holds to slowly drift away. We can pray for our children and if prayer is not an option, allow The Universe or other Higher Power to take over the duties of watching over our babies. It is no longer our war.

We would never refer to our returning veterans as war survivors. They are heroes, an inspiration and in many cases quiet examples of our grandest aspirations.

All these more-than-survivors, the conquerors, come out of their respective darkness damaged but often better for it. Many have found others for support, communities in which they may immerse themselves to search for faith in something they may not immediately understand, a pathway into, after exiting through the doorway out of whatever hell they may have experienced. These more-than-survivors are inspirations to us all.

We can find a community of souls who have experienced our pain to share our experience, strength and hope. These communities exist. Within these communities there is no malice, shame or even any attempt to help us find our solutions. These communities are there to guide us to our own best selves. When we find one, we'll know it. It may require a few attempts for us to soften our hearts and souls to accept the love and kindness we'll feel while there.

We are in the throes of post-traumatic stress.

Give it time. Thrivers Seek. Thrivers remember what was and what is important. Thrivers take risks with no other motivation than the thrill of discovering, perhaps for the first time in their lives who they really are. Thrivers affect change within themselves and those around them. We are seekers of life, seekers of the truth.

Remember The Addicton hates the TRUTH. The Addiction hates REAL.

We can hold our children close by becoming our truest selves. Our children may witness this, see it, or perhaps not. They will do what they will do. The disease will see to this. This will be whether we thrive, or not.

SO WHY NOT THRIVE?

Who know? Someone may be watching.

... keep coming back
"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style." ~ Maya Angelou 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Prayer - The #PWord

"Your prayer for someone may or may not change them, but it always changes you." ~ Craig Groeschel
"If the only prayer you said your whole life was 'Thank you,' that would suffice." ~ Meister Eckhart
OK, let's discuss the "P" word.

Before we talk about prayer we must first acknowledge the journey upon which we have embarked is spiritual in its very nature. Our growth, our progression along our pathways and the myriad of miracles encountered along the way can no more be logically explained than our children's plunge into addiction.

It is simply inexplicable, this marvel called recovery. After acknowledging we were in the shit with no prayer of escape we reached out for a Power greater than ourselves to take IT all away. We found a Presence to dump on and after we dumped, that Presence said to us, "Is that all you got? Bring it on. I can take it."

The journeys of parents in recovery are undertaken by travellers in possession of various spiritual baselines. We are connected to fellow parents who are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Atheist, Agnostic, from Deist and Theist backgrounds. We arrive at our journey, many of us feeling failed by religion and various dogmas and creeds which seem to somehow drift from the real teachings of messengers who centuries ago carried simple proclamations of love, truth, inclusion, acceptance and prayer.
For this discernment I blame the Jesuits, who taught me to look at what was written in the Book(s) in the context of the times, not how the message had been metamorphosed through centuries of misinterpretations, corruption and theological politicization.
We have a tendency to feel alone as humans.  As parents of children who abuse drugs, alcohol or any obsessive behavior we reach a tipping point of aloneness that drives us more deeply into the abyss than most humans ever experience. Beaten, we have nothing to grab onto. Laden with unimaginable burdens we cannot rise from the six-point hand-knee-toe stance. We are in a pit at 10 times gravity, the gravest of situations.

We are able to raise one hand. We say a prayer unlike any prayer we have ever articulated. The prayer is not an appeal. It is a statement of fact:
"I am beaten."
We fall, prone against the bottom, whatever the bottom is. Face down we let go. We have no choice.
"Take this from me, please," we plead.
We have learned in that instant to pray for the Universe to enter our lives, to intercede, to work its magic for us in the context of Truth and Love, not entitlement or privilege. We begin to pray for ourselves, to See the possibilities that lie ahead amid the tempest. We pray to allow the Great Creator to guide us, to utilize talents buried inside for too long while we concentrated on our children's recovery. We give it up to that higher power, God, the Universe, what ever you wish to call Her, Him or It, (or her, him or it), a Power that's got it together more than we do or ever will.

We stop praying for the things or situation we want and begin to pray for the possibility, the potential, to see what's out there for us.

Things begin to happen for no apparent reason. Events occur, progress is made. We know we have an ally, a mentor, guide, a Sherpa who can bear our heavy load up our personal Everest.

It's our journey. What a view.

And it is then with the revelation of our own possibilities. we can pray for the same for our children.

... keep coming back
"Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is a daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart." ~ Mahatma Gandhi