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.
... keep coming back

"In Nature's world, every loss has meaning." ~ Julia Cameron