Sunday, May 24, 2015

How Ya Doin'?

"'How ya doin'?' I always think, 'What kind of question is that?' And I always reply, 'A bit too early to tell,' " ~ Christopher Hitchens - Love Poverty and War" Journeys and Essays 

A friend of mine once told me he is no longer greeting people with the seemingly requisite "How are you," or, "How are you doing" greetings. The logic here is no one really wants to know how we're doing. Really, do they? Imagine the look of horror we'd have received from friends or acquaintances if any of us would have responded honestly while in the throes of attempting to fix our children, or during any of our challenges along our journeys … insert recollection harp music here.

"How are you?"

"Well, we just had two large men escort our son from our home this morning at 3 a.m. They took him on a red-eye flight to a wilderness camp were he'll bivouac in snow surrounded by the high southern desert of Utah because he is addicted to pot and prescription drugs and was killing himself. Hopefully after 8 weeks of that he'll be cleansed of the chemicals in his body. We'll (note the emphasis on we'll, not he'll) be following this with 6 to 12 months at a therapeutic boarding school for as long as we can afford it and hopefully after all that we'll have our baby back.

"So, how're you guys doin'?"

The checker at the grocery asks me how I'm doing. Well meaning, often sweet but possibly a corporate directive, I feel she doesn't want to know. How could she? I am one among hundreds for whom she will scan on that particular day. That's a lot of encapsulated life stories to consider.

I respond, politely, "Good," and hope her day is as "good" as mine is in the moment.

The query how are you doing begs comparison narratives. The various levels of how we are all doing morphs into a competition sport, a comparison chart. We gauge how we are doing on an imagined scale of 1 to 10 based on the ebullience of our response contrasted with the response of our inquisitor.

I've stopped asking people how they are doing.

I now simply say, "It's good to see you."

The relief is palpable. Recipients are grateful to not be cajoled into a corner where their life is being compared to every human with whom they will be put into contact this particular day - no wonder so many people never leave their homes, never see the light of day, or the lights of the nighttime.

Friends and acquaintances who receive this message, yes the message, not the greeting or question, seem pleased. All of us need to have our goodness reaffirmed. To some it's a shock. It's out of the box. It's one of those things about saying "It's good to see you," that I love. It may be words some of the beneficiaries of the message haven't heard in a long time.


For me, the affirmation keeps me focused on my journey, on the now, on the positive, focused on moving forward. I don't know why, but it does.

Parents of children who have crossed into the emptiness of addiction run the risk, daily, of losing focus, straying off the journey pathway into the bramble-filled detours of fixing, obsessing and enabling.

We know we are there when we ask our children the unsolicited question, "How are you doing?"

Instead, we can visualize an encounter with our children where we say, "It's great to see you."

For our children, we can add the word, "… always."

Saying. "It's good to see you," transports us out of the past and into the present. In that instant when we greet the person presented to us we are in the present! "It's good to see you," is immediate. It is affirming that all who are under the warm blanket of those words are, at least in that moment and in the now, validated and actualized simply for who they are.

"It's good to see you," is liberating. It requires no response. When we say this we are not fumbling in our minds for any answer to the boomerang response - I'm good, how are you? We are not asking for a fraudulent decree of anyone's state of mind. This is none of our business. Instead we focus on the person and our feelings. We focus on our present.

"It's good to see you," is a blessing we can give to others and blessings bestowed come back tenfold.

"It's good to see you," has transformative powers and can become a mantra for living our lives. All people, places, events, victories and trials become experiences in the now from which we can draw strength and hope, catapulting us along our recovery journeys. In a constant and ever-immediate celebration of the NOW we get out of our heads and plunge enthusiastically into whatever adventure we encounter. We are not comparing, We are neither dreading the future nor regretting the past.

Life is, simply put, good to see!

… keep coming back

"How YOU doin'?" ~ Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Friends

Friday, May 15, 2015

Regretting the Past

"The only thing you regret are the things you don't do." ~ Michael Curtiz, Director (Casablanca, White Christmas, et. al.)
We all have regrets. Even knowing we didn't cause our children's spiral and we couldn't control their deepening thrusts into the vortex of addiction and we certainly cannot cure the disease, we doubt ourselves on a regular basis.

We ask ourselves what we could have done to prevent our children's struggles. It is only human nature, and we are human after all.

We begin looking backwards, searching for the invisible, the vanished. We are looking for something that is no longer there. In looking backwards we stumble and sometimes fall. We stop looking forward and in doing so lose our focus on ourselves and our journeys.

Try it sometime. Try taking a walk in the woods or even on a smooth blacktop pathway, looking backwards. It's not easy walking while looking behind, at where we've been. It's actually comical to imagine.

When we stop moving, regret can be easy. Looking into the abyss of the past, the silence of the done, the finished, the evaporated, what is no longer visible, can be more consoling than exploring the exhilarating unknown of our future selves. We fashion our own version of what transpired and allow The Addiction to take hold. Regret can become second nature if we are not careful. We wallow in it. We stop moving. We become an easy target for The Addiction, stuck in our own shit.

The past is the past. We do not require additional looks back to remember. More precisely, the past is indelibly etched in our minds and our souls. The pain, heartaches, failures AND victories are all there, forever. The past never really goes away. We don't need to be constantly looking for it, relying on it, leaning on it, dwelling on it.

It's a part of us.

The past is part of what makes us who we are. As a part of us and with our pilgrimage inaugurated we can be buoyed by our past. There is no need to obsess or camp out in the past. Obsession with the past brings with it the four horseman of our apocalypse: Shame, Blame, Regret, and Fear (with its travelling companion - Paralysis.) We become immobile. Any introspection or self renewal becomes poisoned.

And The Addiction wins.

Our children are left alone.

The beacon of parents relishing fulfilled lives, fully involved in the present, striving, seeking, laughing and improving is snuffed out, stifled and shattered. When we go back to the past we truly get in our own way. We cease to progress along our pathways and regress into regret, stumbling into self pity and the tragedy of depression.

Sometimes we'll even seek out those distractions we had long since abandoned, the over-depedance on something, anything, that had detoured us from our journeys - alcohol, sex, chocolate (one of my favorites), fat (ok, another), fast food, drugs, gambling - those unhealthy diversion we know kept us from showing up 24/7. As parents of children who have succumbed to addiction, during the course of beginning our recovery we have awakened ourselves from the sleep The Addiction wishes upon us, the sleep of doubt, inactivity, idleness, self loathing and seclusion. The Past had forced this sleep of death upon us. Our obsession with it left us exhausted and lifeless.

The little curator inside of us will keep the past experiences filed away, accessible for when these are required as gentle reminders of detours taken into destructive behavior and a grand memorial to our progress and fortitude. We can visit the museum when we wish. Regret would rather we live in the cold archive of the past, where we would have remained isolated and stuck.

Instead we have become doers, seekers and participants in life's adventures. We renounce regret and embrace our own beauty, wonder and splendor with all of our divinely-bestowed imperfections, past failures, missteps and destructive tendencies The Great Creator had given us to eventually catapult us to our next level, our own best selves.

Eyes forward, we look ahead, not behind. It's a much more comfortable journey now, isn't it?

We are who we are. We haven't gotten this far by being perfect. We are human after all!

Our victory comes when we truly accept ourselves and reject that look back. We know we are on our way. We replace regret with Gratitude and rejoice in the journey ahead and the challenges and joys attendant with the unknown.

What's that up ahead? Let's go check it out!

… keep coming back

"My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my success and my talents, and I lay them both at His feet." ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Is It Time To Admit Defeat Again?

"Sometimes it takes a quiet, temporary admission of defeat in order to win the war." ~ Patrick Benjamin
For many of us defeat brought us to this journey of recovery. Beaten, bewildered, flattened and flummoxed we began to find ourselves and in doing so, embarked on our personal search for happiness. Eventually we learned we could begin a pilgrimage to self actualization even while our children walked their tumultuous pathways of self destruction and occasional epiphanies.

We began to feel things. Best of all we began to feel … happy.

After so many uphill climbs it seemed as if we were bounding along waist-high meadows of daisies and butterflies. Our children could see that we were no longer cajoling, lecturing, or attempting to fix. We left them to their own wits. We knew they could figure this out. We embraced a new behavior where we no longer insulted our children with belittling suggestions or dire predictions for their futures.

Today, the directions our children take on their journeys, for good or bad, are our children's decisions. They are progressing, ever so slowly, with the occasional visit to the darkness, because of the choices they make.

We know this now. We cannot own our children's journeys. Our recovery is difficult enough without the meddling into others' affairs we had become so accustomed to in our past lives.

We coast a bit. We'd been through so much. We deserve the respite, don't we?

Yes we do. We deserve happiness. We deserve a rest, to take a load off, to "Take 5."

But let's not get complacent.

Perhaps it is once again time to remember how we began our journey. Perhaps it is time to find again the feelings that brought us here.

Perhaps it is time to once again admit defeat. There are times in our recovery that we have an obligation to acknowledge our victories, growth, new awareness and restored passion for life have not been accomplished in a vacuum. There has been a Universal force at work guiding and nurturing us through our journey. Any hubris we bring to our journey is an insult to our Higher Power and may allow The Addiction to reinsert itself into our lives beckoning us to again insert ourselves into the lives of our addicted.

It is time to once again fool The Addiction.

It just may be time for a tactical withdrawal.

It's time once again to admit defeat at the hands of our children's addiction whether or not we are in a "good place." We can once again admit to our powerlessness to fix, change, control and save our children. As we acknowledge this we do not divert entirely or permanently from our path. We simply take a side trip of our choice, on our own terms, to collect ourselves, to remember a long and difficult journey traversed and honor progress achieved. Like a character in a novel who travels back through time we may even catch a memory of an earlier version of ourselves reminding us of how far we've come.

The Addiction within our sons and daughters may see this as an opportunity to strike at a perceived weakness. We know we are simply using this time to regroup, become stronger and even better prepared for our continuing journey.

What might trigger this tactical withdrawal? It can be a prolonged silence from our addicted son or daughter who is no longer at home that activates the evil projectionist's worst-case-scenario movies to play in our minds. It can be other family issues precipitating the need to take this deliberate diversion. We may be taking for granted the strides we have made. The Addiction is a resourceful and cunning foe and may not attack through the accustomed battle lines of the children who brought us here.

We are not denying or mistrusting our inalienable right to happiness. We are simply appreciating with gratitude where we are at this moment and how far we have travelled.

We are on guard. We realize complacency can drive us back, back to where we were, where we never wish to return.

We will emerge from this tactical withdrawal stronger, energized and ready to keep moving along our recovery pathway.

… keep coming back

"By yielding you may obtain victory." ~ Ovid
"Retreat hell! We're not retreating, we're just advancing in a different direction." ~ Major General Oliver P. Smith at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir - Korea, 1950