Saturday, January 30, 2016

Taking Time to Heal (A Weekend Afternoon Read)

"You have a solemn obligation to take care of yourself because you never know when The World will need you." ~ Rabbi Hillel
We are formidable, yet fragile, we parents of addicts. We are indomitable but not superhuman. Our lives have become tests of our fortitude and a testament to our resolve to continue against the seemingly insurmountable.

Our hope is as we live our lives to our fullest potential our children will see us and find a spark within themselves to seek a life outside the vortex of their addictions. We continue our journey. We maintain an abiding love for them and renounce the notion they are joyful partners of The Addiction. We strive, we explore new horizons, run headlong down pathways not always entirely certain where they may lead as we seek that next adventure and new experience.

We are living life to its fullest.

It can be exhausting!

Sometimes we become injured. Like the world-class athlete whose body is so taut and finely tuned that any tweak might undermine months or years of preparation, or the middle-aged half marathoner desperately holding an aging body together to simply make it to the start line, we as parents of addicts can become injured.

How can this happen? Our recovery is an intrinsically spiritual activity, not one of physical exertion. Though our journey often brings us to long-forgotten or denied pursuits to extend our bodies beyond perceived limits our quest has been primarily one for opening our minds and souls to seeking and seeing the possibilities ahead.

Yet, we can injure ourselves in this spiritual pursuit of life, love and what the Universe has in mind for us. These injuries may be less noticeable than the muscle strain or torn ligament but can have a similar sidelining effect.

Complacency is an injury common to all of us on recovery pathways.  When things appear to be going right with no late-night phone calls, defiant outbursts or unannounced disappearances we can plateau - in a negative sense. The views from a plateau can be beautiful. Here we can become comfortable as we survey what we have overcome and how far we have traversed along our pathways, but sometimes we can become comfortable for too long. Reaching our various plateaus is an important milestone for us to recharge and rejuvenate. Remaining at any level of achievement as parents in recovery is injurious. A symptom accompanying the injury of complacency is a burning in the back our minds notifying us that we are no longer where we should be on our journey. We were in that good place just a few days, weeks or even worse, months earlier. It was a good feeling being at that good place. But why are we still here?

A complication of complacency is stagnation, a secondary injury resulting from holding back on that wondrous momentum we had previously achieved along our recovery pathway. It's like the injury caused by favoring one side of the body after a breakdown of the opposite muscle groups. As one side might be healing, the other reaches out to snatch us from resuming our progress. It's the most infuriating and frustrating of setbacks.

Then everything goes to hell! We are struck down by Isolation. 

Isolation is an adductor muscle tear on our soul. Often perceived as self inflicted, isolation is often a result of The Addiction tripping us up when we least expect it. It's a cheap shot, a cleats-up slide tackle from the back and can occur on the plateau or in a Bad Place where we have followed The Addiction and our children. We'll be out for a while as we nurse the groin pull of recovery injuries. Isolation's nagging pain is Shame, keeping us mired in a self-imposed quarantine for much longer than we require. One begets the other. Our seclusion separates us from family, friends, life and even our fellow parents-in-recovery travelers.

Anger and Bitterness are the strain and tendinitis accompanying our injuries, immobilizing us and making even the slightest movement forward too painful to endure. These originate deep within our damaged souls and appear as an outcropping of the other injuries we have suffered.

We're not moving forward. We allow envy and resentment to set in and immobilize us.

We may even perceive those outside our journey looking at us as if to say, "That's what they get for living their lives while their children languish. That's what they get for wanting more - and then some."

It is when we are struck down, again, we need to remember why we began this journey and what our goals were even if we didn't consider our short and long term aspirations as goals. The goal, the yearning hope and dream of parents in recovery may be encapsulated in one phrase:
"I want my life back!"
We ask ourselves as we try to recall the victories and long for the free movement along our pathways, "Where am I now in my journey? What has happened? Who am I  - NOW?"

When we're down and hobbled it's not enough to simply battle through the injuries, to gut it out, to man up (sorry ladies) and push on. This can exacerbate an already dire situation and cause injury upon injury.

I can draw parallels from the marathoners and half marathoners. For three years I had trained alone for a half marathon each Fall. I ran through the pain. I had run track in high school - years ago. I knew how to run.
How hard could it be?
Each year as I pushed myself I became injured to the point of immobilization. I never made it to the start line.

In 2015 I decided I needed help. I joined a family of runners under the umbrella of a national running and fitness retail organization. I had two goals, to make it to the start line of the local Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon and to make it to the finish line of the local Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon. The first goal seemed a bit more challenging given my history.

Halfway through training I became beset with something called runner's knee or even more direly put, patellofemoral pain syndrome. I immediately sought the assistance of an orthopedic physician referred to me by the training team- something I would never have even considered pre-journey - who ruled out any catastrophic tear or break. He gifted me with a brace and an hour's worth of exercises which I embraced daily. Cured of the runner's knee I developed severe tendinitis in the opposite ankle which hobbled me severely. Again I reached out to my training team and doc, who again, thankfully eliminated the possibility of a training-ending injury and prescribed physical therapy.

Through this I remembered my first goal:
Make it to the start line ... 
Again I was issued a regimen of exercises and informed that while my knee and and ankle were feeling the pain my hips were the villain of this melodrama. I made multiple trips to this therapist.

There was a period of two-and-a-half weeks of therapist-prescribed running abstinence. I was a painful walker. Steps were avoided if possible.

Tuesday prior to race day I attempted the track work indicated on the training schedule, just twenty minutes on the oval.

I can honestly describe the experience as excruciatingly painful.

Somehow I remained focused on that first goal. The journey begun in July for a mid October race meant a lot. This half marathon was much more than simply a race with several thousand of my closest friends. This race was a pathway integral to recapturing my life and myself.

I remained in contact with my running team, my family, my running band of brothers and sisters. I drew strength from their encouragement even in the downtime.

I received physical therapy the Wednesday prior to the race weekend and a miracle happened.

I was walking pain free for the first time in almost three weeks!

That Friday my final round of physical therapy before the race was administered. I was taped up and determined ready to go by my physio.

On Sunday, October 18 after 12 weeks of training I rejoined my team. I began to run as we passed the start line, my first goal achieved. There was NO PAIN. With the help of multitudes of angels along the way I completed the 13.1 miles and even had a little left at the finish line - goal #2!

So how is this metaphorical recollection and vainglorious recap of my exploits in achieving my first half marathon success pertinent to our journey as parents of addicts? 

We must remember we will become injured at some some time. We will be hobbled or even temporarily sidelined. We may become complacent when when our journey seems to take us to a plateau resplendent with daisies and butterflies, puffy white clouds and cool breezes. We can isolate when our children dive, dive, dive deeper into the vortex with The Addiction. We may even seek out anger and bitterness as self therapy when things don't go as planned and we are diverted from our goals. 

What can we do then, when as parents of addicts we feel that tinge of pain portending an injury that might sideline us or even put us out for a time? We can remember why we began this journey and our ultimate goal of reclaiming our lives. This goal is a moving target, morphing, expanding, intensifying, yet remains a finish line to becoming better, forever reaching new plateaus and seeking new horizons. Our purpose in life is to become our truest selves each day, one day at a time.

We can and MUST reach out for help. We can set aside our pride that will encourage us to believe life is a simple proposition.
We've done this all our lives. How hard can it be?
We can realize, perhaps, we don't know everything, or anything. We can accept help from parents, professionals and others who have run this race before and only want us to succeed. We can trust miracles will happen when we least expect the pain to subside, the spring restored to our step. There are angels, an entire team to aid us along our healing process and keep us on track once we've been given the OK to resume our journey, our personal half marathon!

We can't do this alone. Once we realize this our seemingly solitary journey becomes one where we are surrounded by hundreds, thousands, millions of souls each encouraging the other to persevere, to take time to heal when necessary and get back on the road when ready and Trust in the unknown.

We will heal. We will move forward stronger, confident in our journey and more in tune with our souls when healing again may be necessary.

Parents on your mark ... !
... keep coming back
"The only person you need to worry about is you. You are perfectly valid where you are and if you are showing up then you've accomplished the hardest part of the morning."      ~  Greg Depp, Marathon and Half Marathon Coach
"And so I wait, I wait for time to heal the pain and raise me to my feet again - so that I can start a new path, my own path, the one that will make me whole again." ~ Jack Canfield,  Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul II

Friday, January 15, 2016

Doing the Doable - A New Year's Revolution

"I never do the New Year's Resolution thing. I kind of just try to stay focused, not get too sidetracked and do the best I can. And that's something I like to tell myself every year around New Year's." ~ Cameron Monaghan
"The First step in getting the things that you want out of life is this: Decide what you want." ~ Ben Stein 
It's January 5th as I put pen to paper on the first draft of this narrative and thankfully I've so far failed only one of my New Year's resolutions. Last night when my wife called and suggested she could pick up a fast-food dinner of empty calories, fat, crap and carbs on the way home from work I acquiesced. My resolution to be more fun, spontaneous, positive and less critical collided with it's sister commitment to eat healthier.
Can't we all just get along?!
So there I sat eating a meal with my family, the fun spouse and dad, less judgmental perhaps but certainly more bloated, anticipating gastrointestinal distress in my morning-after future.

This prognostication by mastication was not a result of those evil projectionists I can so easily conjure in my theater of the negative. I had a gut feeling I'd pay for this. I was right.

Tuesday morning reminded me why I had decided on this second of two resolutions for 2016. My body was asking, "Are you serious - four days?"

I knew the early relapse could be rectified. My first resolution to be more positive about life and less critical (read happy) told me this was so. I didn't have to beat myself up for such a human stumble.
"It's OK," I told myself.
My past New Year's resolutions have ranged from making no resolutions (the angry-obstinate resolutionary - sic) to the impossible (the self-defeating resolutionary). Each year I would make a conscious decision to remain stagnant or establish a pathway to failure. Either way self improvement would be impossible.

I've experienced too much to continue in this way. Many of us have.

This year I have committed to a journey of The Doable as I travel along a road to a better, happier, more fulfilled and present life.

It's not like doable is easy. My recent journey along the path to completing my first half marathon taught me this. This can become exhilarating, empowering while at the same time intimidating.

Did I say intimidating?

Oh my god! If my goals are reachable, seemingly small and insignificant, not game changers but game starters, I might be successful! Success, happiness, growth along our pathways are scary concepts for those of us unaccustomed to even articulating these hopes.

Remember, Success is NOT spelled with a "k".

I'm not referring to success measured in monetary gain though this may be an outcome of our many victories. In my case as I have embarked upon this new 366 day journey in this leap year 2016, success will simply be measured by the accomplishment of my two goals, MOST of the time. The rest I must believe will follow.

It is a revolutionary concept, at least for this traveller.

I have made a decision to eat healthier (positive) as opposed to avoidance of my nemeses - chips, beer, ice cream (negative).

I have committed to share with a smile my gratitude for life with anyone who will embrace with me this gift from our Great Creator. Through the power of gratitude I hope to soften my heart by eliminating the time wasters - judgement, anger, isolation. The time wasters can be exhausting, a drain on my finite resources of energy, talent and time I have been given to share with the world.

These are my doable goals for 2016, my New Year's Revolutions.

This year we can all bring a bit of anarchy to our new year by making our goals, hopes and dreams attainable and affirming. Imagine that!

2016 is looking pretty good right now!

... keep coming back
"When the solution is simple, God is answering." ~ Albert Einstein
"The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot." ~ Michael Altshuler