Friday, July 24, 2015


"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