Saturday, February 28, 2015

SAD Days in February

"Good morrow, Benedick. Why, what's the matter | That you have such a February face, | So full of frost, of storm, and cloudiness?" ~ William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing (Act V, Scene 4, Don Pedro)

It as been a brutal winter early in 2015. Winter Storm Linus blanketed Chicago, Detroit and our northeastern coast with record snowfall measurable in yards rather than inches or feet. It is almost as if the weather service knew Linus would be a blizzard maker .

It is almost as if, yet doubtful. The odds were in favor of the synchronicity. February is the suckiest month.

I cannot remember when I stopped "embracing the cold" but I have. I've had enough of the dark days.

The weather joke where I live goes like this. The weather persons display maps with icons depicting snow, sleet, rain, sun and fog seemingly to cover all bases. Last week in one 24-hour period our region was treated to snow, sleet and a bit of rain, all combining to create "isolated areas of scattered fog" as reported by the weather woman, who obviously works for her station's department of redundancy department.

As predicted there was no sunshine, just a dark, crappy, sloggy, slushy period of winter funk. I often wonder if the dark days of February are the month's payback for having been shortchanged on its allotment of days.
"Oh, so I get 28 days, maybe 29 every four years because no one can seem to get the astronomical math right? Well screw you all. I hope you've stocked up on your eggs, milk, bread and toilet paper." ~ February
I began writing this on a day with a cloudless azure blue sky stretching from horizon to horizon to horizon, the sting of the bitterly cold air tempered by sunshine providing comfort to reach, warm and comfort us. It seemed to buoy all who ventured outside. Drivers were a little nicer, kids were treated to outside recess, walkers and runners abandoned the treadmills and walked and ran outside. After days of dourness we acted as if it wasn't February. In our minds we were enjoying at least March, if not a day in early April.

The next day would bring a new front with a return to snow, sleet and temps in the teens followed by single digit temperatures at night. It would look and feel again as if we lived in an Ansel Adams world of grays, blacks and more grays, a colorless film-noir land, hopeless and lifeless.

I overheard someone say, "And we're not even getting snow days out of any of this!"

"February just messes with us," I responded.

Yes, February messes with us. February is unpredictable. February is the month when all of us feel as if we are saddled with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Those who have been diagnosed as the SAD afflicted are brought down by February - hard. February will provide glimpses of beauty, color, blue skies and yellow orange sunshine defying logic and providing hope for the future. Then, as quickly as the hope may have arisen, the month of grays will bring us back to our senses.

It's February. What were we expecting?

Does February remind us of anything?

February evokes memories of our darkest hours, hopeless nights and seemingly endless and desolate days with our children. As with February's occasional glimpses of spring, Addiction will allow brief Child Sightings that taunt and tease us unmercifully. We don't need to be sucked in by the addiction chosen by our daughters or the unpredictable addiction-driven behaviors of our sons any more than we should embrace the cold days of February. We can allow that the second month of the year is simply a part of the cycle of the seasons but need not sit in it, just as we can know and trust the Addiction journey of our children is not ours to undertake.

Nor should we engage in comparisons. What occurs in February in one part of the world may not be as oppressive as what we are experiencing, or may be more intense. Or we may look at the Februarys of others with disdain as if to say, "Oh, they don't have it so bad. My winter plight is much worse than theirs."

This is an unimportant, counterproductive and pointless exercise. Is three yards of snow in Boston any more devastating than a half inch of ice in Memphis or seemingly endless and unusually bitter cold in St. Louis? Comparisons of our plight to the plights of others moves our focus away from our journey and keeps us mired in the doldrums of February. The same may be said for our fixations with our childrens' addictions.

We are all different. We all have different experiences. We feel differently yet that simple experience of feeling is where we are all the same.

The Addiction loves for us to ignore our journeys. Our Higher Power is beckoning us to continue.

We can look February in the face and say goodbye to its darkness, its cold. its snow, sleet. and wind chills. We know there is a March and an April just ahead.

We can learn from February. We can isolate the month from ourselves. We do not need to identify with February. We do need to become February.

The Addiction that has engulfed our children is a dark, cold, paralyzing presence. Our immediate response Addiction may be to hibernate, curl up and wait for the sunshine, some sign of the Addiction melting away to loosen its hold of our boys and girls.

When Addiction attempts to cover us with its bleak blanket of hopelessness we can look ahead. The Universe will show us signs of March, April and May pathways laid ahead for us.

We can journal, be grateful for what we have, get out of our metaphorical houses and connect. We can visualize the warmth, the Sun, the beauty ahead.

Golf treats me in February to its West Coast and Florida tournaments it calls "swings" and provides a glimpse of what is just ahead on the calendar. I watch barbecue shows on the Travel Channel and Food Network. I immerse myself in what is to come. I recognize the month I am experiencing but I don't wallow in it. When I watch the golf and the barbecuing I can feel my spirit lift a bit above the frozen. The Addiction would have us believe the despairing must last forever. We know there are better times ahead for us and perhaps even for our children - but we know it is their journey to traverse.

Spring is not here, but it is beckoning. Let us revel in what our Great Creator has prepared for us. February might suck, but we don't have to.

As I end this it is the afternoon of February 28. The weather prognosticators are predicting 3 to 6 inches of snow this evening and into tomorrow, then sleet, then rain and by March 2nd, temperatures in the 50s for day or two.

The earth is tilting. February cannot stop this. February is not forever. The Universe has our pathways prepared.

Get ready, get set … GO!

… keep coming back
"If winter comes, can spring be far behind?" ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ode to the West Wind

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Live … Then, Let Live

"So I say, "Live and let live." That's my motto. "Live and let live." Anyone who can't go along with that take him outside and shoot the … … …  . It's a simple philosophy, but it always worked in our family." ~ George Carlin 

The phrase live and let live has its origins, possibly, in Charles Dickens' Bleak House, possibly back to Christmastime sometime during World War I, possibly all the way back to Petrarch - "Vos vestros servate, mehos mihi linquite mores." It has been variously defined as allowing others to go on with their lives (societal), allowing an enemy force to proceed unscathed, albeit temporarily (military) or perhaps even a lame attempt at deriving some sort of Universal acceptance of and divorce from those with whom we disagree. [Petrarch's words may be loosely translated as, "You cling to your own ways and leave mine to me."]

Modern interpretations are often accompanied with a shrug of the shoulders. It is a passive-aggressive disassociation with whomever we disagree and would rather leave behind.

We are in essence saying, "I'm done with this person, I sever ties, good luck with YOUR life."

Live and let live is an expression I shudder to hear as much as the dreaded You know I love him to death.

Similar to its cousin, the proclamation of loving anyone to DEATH is most often followed by the qualifying word, BUT.

But, as I often do, I digress.

The Great War soldiers in the trenches of France and Belgium knew the true meaning of live and let live. There were truces at Christmastime that are well known, perhaps not to the extent that inter-army soccer games broke out in the scorched fields between the trench lines, but there are stories told of both sides hearing faint choruses of familiar and shared carols across no man's land in the predawn holiday silence. The phrase had serious meaning in World War I. Each side cherished a few hours where life reigned supreme. This was a temporary reprieve, as all truces are. There was, however, no real trust in these holiday ententes. There was nothing lasting in the live and let live doctrine.

There is nothing lasting in the current interpretation of the phrase either. What has happened in today's definition is a morphing of the phrase into a meaning that encourages isolation and exclusion.  The first word, live, has totally lost any effect, any meaning. Live and let live has become more of an attitude than a message for enduring catastrophic conditions or failed relationships.

Is any phrase accompanied by a shrug, or a word such as BUT worth our attention? Are live and let live or I love her to death thoughtful, honest, insightful, necessary and kind?

As parents of addicts we often find ourselves in trenches, many we have dug ourselves with painstaking attention to everything but our recovery. We can if we want fashion our own phrase, a mantra for self preservation, for permanence and lasting ties to those we love while we focus on what is  truly important - our journey.

Let's take the aphorism apart to emphasize two steps integral to our recovery starting with the word live.

Let's face it, we're not under fire, we're not in the trenches, we are not facing mustard gas or being showered by the hailstorm of the German MG08 machine gun.

All the same, our lives are at stake.

Just as we've learned to heed our internal commander's call to "move or die," there is another self-evident truth we must follow as parents of children who have fallen into addiction.

It's so simple it seems insulting.

We have a choice. We can choose to live, or to die.

So we can take the turn of phrase originally turned in the early 1300s or 1900s on its ear a bit.

Live, THEN let live.

Living our lives sends a multitude of messages throughout the Universe. Living our lives sends a message first to our selves, our hearts, our souls, our inner spirit that we've not given up, we've not abandoned life. We take a metaphorical athletic stance. We're ready for anything. We rejuvenate!

Living our lives sends a message to the Universe that we are ready and willing to embark or continue on our recovery journey. Living our lives leads to wonders and challenges we would never have imagined prior to our decision to experience the possibilities.

Yet this is the causality dilemma of recovery.

Does the act of living life however disjointed or aimless begin our recovery? Does beginning our recovery launch us along the journey of once again living our lives?

It can make your head explode.

But does it matter?

The message that at least one of us has not given in to the siren song of Addiction will be felt throughout the Universe. There is a path laid out for us out by the Great Creator we can no longer dismiss.

Live … then … let our children suffer their failures, and experience with joyful and tearful eyes, their victories.

It is the greatest gift we can bestow upon our boys, our girls.

It is the greatest gift we can give ourselves.

… keep coming back

"Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children as the unlived life of the parent." C. G. Jung

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Take Five

"Rest and be thankful." ~ William Wordsworth

Many years ago television gave us the World War II wartime drama Combat!. This hour-long series ran for five years and followed a front-line American infantry squad as it battled its way through war-torn Europe. Grittier than anything on television at the time, Combat! reflected more grimly on war than its immediate successors such as Hogan's Heroes or Gomer Pyle. Combat! addressed the ravages of war without shying away from the effects battle can have on men, and women, physically, emotionally and morally.

Combat! was ahead of its time.

As a kid, I watched the show which seemed to be filmed as much on Hollywood sets as in outdoor environs. For this reason I always felt the squad was wandering about aimlessly, battling in circles as it encountered one enemy platoon, personal demon, partisan, collaborator or manifestation of evil after another. It wasn't. These men, or the men portrayed by the players on the Combat! stage had a higher purpose. History tells us this is so.

"When will they win the war?" I still pondered in my preteen naivete'.

It also seemed like one soldier was always feeling the brunt of the war. To add further realism to the drama the writers needed to emphasize a devastating truth of warfare. People are wounded by gunfire, mortar and shelling. Private Littlejohn was the character to highlight this painful certainty. Every other episode seemed to find Littlejohn wounded, only to be "patched up" to rejoin his brothers at the ending minutes of the hour.

Even as a kid I thought, "Poor Littlejohn."

Very often during a broadcast where the action had built frantically to a pace of action and emotion that seemed exhausting for the characters as well as the viewer, a call would come out from the squad leader, Sergeant Saunders

"Take five."

With these words, action stopped.

The men would do what they always did when given an order by their tough commanding non-com. They obeyed. No questions asked even with the war raging all around. They trusted their sergeant knew what they could withstand, he knew their breaking point, their limit. The eight to 13 members of the squad - depending on the number of guest cast members - would stop everything to find a safe "covered" place and with one or two guards posted take five minutes to recharge, and for a few moments, perhaps, forget about the carnage.

As a dedicated viewer I never felt the action stopped during these times of respite. Instead, I felt a welcome break from the tension and drama the show would bring to my young life. I also knew this brief rest would soon end and and the soldiers of King Company would resume their journey battling on through World War II-era France. I would also feel exhilaration when the men would take off their helmets and light up, some sprawled upon the ground under the ever watchful eye of their buck sergeant and one or two posted sentries.

I felt exhilaration because I knew action would soon follow, rising and falling, and these unlikely heroes would soon be, heroic. I realized, or perhaps I now realize, the respite was needed for the squad to bear the trials ahead.

They call it a "breather" for a reason.

So take five. Breathe. Sometimes we may feel if we stop all will be lost. Maybe we just need to take an inventory of where we've been and how far we've come. Perhaps we've been through so many battles we simply can't take it anymore, for now. We can even take a more extended leave if we've been hit, taken down, hard. Maybe. like Littlejohn, we've been wounded and need some time to get patched up.

It's OK to take five, 10, or 20. Knowing there is a presence watching over us helps. There is a sentinel, a force we can trust. Sergeant Saunders never took a break. The omniscient viewer knew he was always watching over his squad, strategizing, mapping, anticipating. His soldiers simply trusted he would always show them the way.

We can return, rejoin our journey with our band-of-brothers-and-sisters travelers, rejuvenated and ready for anything our child's addiction can throw at us.

Take five, then keep moving!

… keep coming back

"Just find a place to make your your stand and take it easy." ~ "Take It Easy" - by Jackson Browne & Glenn Frey

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Day of Love 2015

I thought I would reprise this post I shared a year ago. Valentines Day is a unique albeit Hallmarkian creation where we are reminded that our hearts and souls are gateways to living our lives. It is only through softening our hearts we can remain side by side with our children without crawling with them into their mire. Here's to Hope and Love!

Happy V-Day!

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

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

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

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

It's hard, so hard.

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

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

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

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

Remember …

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

… keep coming back! 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Getting Out Of Our Heads

"Cogito ergo sum." ~ Descartes
"I think therefore I exist (am)" is a phrase that has become a fundamental element of Western philosophy. Many of us who were part of a liberal arts curriculum in university learned the very act of doubting our own existence might be the proof of that existence. I always wondered in philosophy class about the lowly slug or igneous rock which, incapable of thought, must not exist at all.

"So what am I seeing?" I wondered.

Our Golden Retriever Cali, however, does continually ponder existence on so many levels that I am convinced she MUST exist. She ponders the existence of food, squirrels, her bone, noises, and whoever might, or might not be, entering the house at any given instant. Cali is the quintessential in-the-moment being. I often envy her.

But I digress.

We long for those days of 50-minute debates in the 400-Series philosophy class. Descartes' postulation may have been the inspiration for the Matrix trilogy, existence merely a function of what the brain wishes to, or is allowed to process. We perceive, therefore we ARE. In the movie, Neo, prophet visionary, programmer, hacker and black-market software purveyor was able to see beyond what was "wrong with the world" to prove the existence of "being" beyond everyones' immediate perceptions, beyond the constraints of what the Matrix allowed.

Our culture, a Matrix of sorts, prizes strong will to overcome adversity and advertises a pull-up-from-the-bootstraps mentality equating personal failures with a weak mind and weaker character.

Is there a Latin phrase for "I think, therefore I am all right?"

As parents of addicts we are notorious for believing we can arise from the ashes of our children's addiction through thought, force of will and logic. We soon learn we can proceed along our journey not by any cognitive process, but through a devastating realization felt to our very core. We are beaten, defeated and broken. There is something "wrong" with our world. We require drastic measures to be rescued from our false perceptions.

This escape doesn't require any deep thoughts and this is the beauty of it. We feel the defeat. We know what to do, the simple act of survival to get up, breathe, take a step, then another. We have no idea where we were going or where we are at any given moment, we just know we have to keep moving to escape the bog, the jungle, the thick foreboding forest of our children's addictions. We have to escape our self-constructed Matrix.

We know there is a better life out there for us. We don't know where, we simply Trust the Universe has plans for us. Eventually we emerge from a darkness, still not knowing where our journey is leading us. We only know, we can feel it, darkness being replaced by light, hopelessness by promise.

Sometimes as we progress along our recovery pathway we forget the elation of discovery we find when we Trust our Great Creator. We forget to Let Go and Let God and begin to get in our heads for a solution. We're beginning to get it together. We are the poster child of recovery! We can think these things through. We no longer require the gentle hand of the Universe to guide us.

We can take it from here.

Logic is safe. Logic is better than feeling, isn't it? Trust is frightening.

We climb into our heads and once there, the levers, buttons and switches that got us into the mire not so long ago are once again at our disposal. We're in control, exuding confidence for all to see.

We're lying to ourselves of course. Control is what got us bound with addiction's vortex. Control is Addiction's evil salesman showing us the way to a life we can ill afford. We can do this, we are led to believe, with a few … easy … payments. All that is required of us is that we give over our lives to the addiction of our children. This is the only payment Addiction will ever require from us or our children.

Breathe, Trust, and Feel. Let Go.

We feel, therefore we grow.

Feel the Pain

Feel the joy.

Feel the exhilaration each step of our recovery journey brings. Feel the warm blanket of our Higher Power draped across our shoulders as we proceed up, down and around the magnificent pathway laid before us.

We'll get in our heads from time to time. It's OK. Be aware, feel the isolation that comes with diving into our own grey matter. We'll learn to climb right back out again. Then, take a deep breath, look around, Trust in the possibilities "out there" we cannot even imagine. Take that first step, again, then the next and keep going.

Look around. We are not alone. Breathe, trust, laugh, seek, hope, love and see.

This is the essence of our being as parents in recovery.

… keep coming back

"I exist as I am, that is enough, If no other in the world be aware I sit content. And if each and all be aware I sit content." ~ Walt Whitman
"Contrariwise," continued Tweedledee, "if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic." ~ Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland