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


"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.


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