Friday, December 15, 2017

Selfless or Selfish? - That, Is the Question

"Each of us sends out positive or negative vibrations, often without being conscious we are doing so. What if we made an effort to be consciously positive to resonate messages of the highest good for others and ourselves? What if we made a deliberate attempt to keep our thoughts aligned with God's perpetual optimism, to refuse to be stuck in self-centered fear? Our thoughts speak louder than our words. In order to change what we create, we must change our thinking. We must mind our mind." ~ Albert Clayton 

Here we are again, in the middle of the holiday season, one of the most wondrous and yet most difficult times for many of us whose children are struggling through addiction and recovery. Whether we are living with our babies and separated from them emotionally, or parted from them by minutes or miles, the holidays can exacerbate the many challenges to our journeys.

We ask ourselves, "Where are they, what are they doing now?" The temptation to fix our children during this season of light and joy, to control The Addiction, becomes amplified.
"Can I fix her just this month? Can't I bring him in, if only for the holidays?
The maddening, mind-twisting, gut-wrenching and totally counter intuitive answer to these questions is simply:
NO
The two words that come to mind, selfless and selfish, have distinct meanings of course yet seem intertwined in our hearts and souls as we proceed along our journey pathways. By living our lives to the fullest and seeking the joy and adventure The Universe has laid out for us we often feel a pang or two of guilt.
"How the hell can I (insert personal life endeavor here) while my son is languishing in the jail cell of his addiction, while my daughter is struggling with her recovery?"
Merriam Webster defines selfless simply as: Having no concern for self.

Doesn't this mean if we do not attend to our children, if we do not do everything in our power to turn their lives around for them, we then become the selfish and not the selfless. A very recent and very personal experience may better illustrate what I am trying to say.

As I write this it is two days until the deadline for choosing a health care plan under the Affordable Care Act. Last night our 26-year-old recovering and I sat down to review his options. He had begun this the previous weekend and found the medication he is taking (this time under a doctors care 😌 ) is not covered on ANY plan. He and his mom had worked the ACA website to the best of their abilities. I was not asked for assistance nor did I offer any.

I knew my time would come.

So as predicted, with three days until deadline number 2 son and I sat in our office after work to continue what he had already begun. As I watched him navigate the site I said, "You've gone as far as you can go. You've done what you can." I then added, "All you can do is talk to a human being tomorrow about your meds to see if there is anything you're missing." That is all I said. I was done - a gentle nudge in the right direction.

For a moment a mix of terror and indignation  - we all know that look - came and went. He reached for his phone and realized he was outside the normal business hours when the ACA call center would be available.

Then one of those little miracles happened. He looked at me and said, "You know there's an app you can use to get coupons for my medication. I'd be spending $50 or $70 a month instead of $300, and I could get a lower cost plan off the marketplace for medical. He showed me the app. The terrified, indignant (angry) look softened to a one reflecting achievement. He had a plan all the time.

He didn't need me.

This will become his accomplishment - not his mother's or mine - and another mile logged along his recovery journey.

Last weekend required a lot of selflessness for me to stay in the background, to refuse a call not sent until the following Wednesday, to reject my fed-by-fear baser instincts to rush in and save him when as it turned out he didn't, doesn't need saving.

Perhaps I'm the one who needs saving, regularly.

It would have been selfish for me to SAVE him. I would have been taking care of me, not my son.

Now, are there times we need to intervene to save a life?

The answer to this question is a resounding YES! We'll know it when we see it. We will remain close enough to our children to let them know there is unconditional love for them if they'll take it. We'll see when they need a rope thrown to them to pull them out of the muck. And we'll be there when they simply say, "I can't live like this anymore."

We can remember the stealing of victories AND consequences are selfish, not selfless acts. When we insert ourselves where we needn't be we are putting ourselves right where The Addiction wants us. We become allies of our children's mortal enemy.

Be the beacon, not the bully. They've got this, most of the time. They just don't know it yet - until they know it, that is.

. . .keep coming back
"Enveloped in Your Light, may I be a beacon to those in search of Light. Sheltered in Your Peace, may I be a shelter to those in need of Peace. Embraced by Your Presence, so may I be present to others." ~ Rabbi Rami Shapiro
"For though my faith is not yours and your faith is not mine, if we each are free to light our own flame, together we can banish some of the darkness of the world." ~ Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks 



Thursday, December 7, 2017

Deciding

"Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy." ~ William Butler Yeats

Roads diverge, paths split into pathlets and constantly cross each other in a seeming spiderweb of possible directions.

Unlike Robert Frost in his poem "The Road Less Travelled" we have chosen many roads more often taken, some by reflexive choice, others out of necessity. It has truly made all the difference in our lives, hasn't it? After all we have experienced we should be masters at making the correct choices, navigating, knowing when to zig, when not to zag, to emerge at last to that meadow of sunlit delights at least for a time.

We should be.

During our wanderings as we searched for our own recovery destinations, the roads, trails and pathways we chose were those most often travelled by parents of children who have wandered into the vortex created by The Addiction. The trails were named the Fix Her Trail, the Control Him Trail, the Cure Trail and the ubiquitous Anger, Rage, and Depression trails, all loops, bringing us back to our starting points at the Despair Trail head.

We all know how that turned out. It's so easy to be tempted to take that familiar, oft trodden pathway.

Frost got it right taking the road less travelled. In his poem we witness a conscious decision on the part of the traveller. This was no snap judgment to proceed down the trail seemingly untouched, the one that "...wanted wear," He stood long and hard peering down both options at the fork, and, "... knowing how way leads to way, (he) doubted if (he) should ever come back."

He decided.

Unfortunately, unlike the expedition made by Frost, our journey tracks are often intersected with invitations to take the easy way, the downward sloping footpath leading to the same shit from our recollections. We must be vigilant in our convictions that our children's journeys are theirs to navigate. There is no need to search for them, to wander down the pathways made wide by hundreds of parents like us in the infancy of their recovery journeys. It is a constant process of deciding to SEEK and SEE the joy amid the tragedies and struggles of our children, to bathe in the sunbeams trickling through the treetops to take in The Universe' treasures. We become adventurous contrarian trail hikers.

We'll catch glimpses of our babies on their journeys, watch their progress as they proceed up and down their trails, falling, picking themselves up, dusting off the dirt and the occasional bloody scrape, learning, failing, winning.

We can just decide not to engage in The Addiction's temptation to throw ourselves onto the rock and muck as well. We're better than that - we've logged too many miles to be duped into once again going down that road. We'll know when and if we need to intervene. The miracle is, thankfully. they have the intellect and tools to find their way.

It's a matter of deciding, most of the time and to the best of our ability, to take the road that may still seem a bit unfamiliar.

Believe me, it will make all the difference.

. . . keep coming back

"We did not ask for this room or this music; we were invited in. Therefore, because the dark surrounds us, let us turn our faces toward the light. Let us endure hardship to be grateful for plenty ... We did not ask for this room or this music. But because we are here, let us dance. ~ Stephen King

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Giving Thanks Throughout The Year

"Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot." ~ Hausa Proverb
Each year at Thanksgiving my family knows it's coming - the appeal for all who are present to express one thing for which they are thankful. It is a cruel tradition of mine, I demand it every year. I think this year I'll wait until after our turkey has been dispatched so they'll think they have sidestepped the torture!

The "they" in particular are the two most affected by The Addiction, the recovering and his younger sibling, who are most resistant to gratitude yet most in need of daily doses of it.

I am prepared for the eye rolls, the "Dad ... Nooooos", and their apparent urgent need to do something, anything, somewhere else.

Maybe I should ambush everyone early, in the pregame-appetizer phase of the day?

No matter the cost I will remain steadfast in my belief that Gratitude is as important and nourishing on our national day of thanks as the turkey I will lovingly, hopefully, smoke to perfection (there's that word again - sorry!) over a 4-hour period in the early afternoon.

Thanksgiving Day is a chance for us to rekindle a practice as important as eating well in moderation, exercise, finding the FUN, seeking the JOY, all those resolutions we make at the turn of the calendar each January.

But why stop now? Although the western calendars begin the holidays with the feastival of turkey and pies I always think of the season beginning, this year on October 19, with the Hindu Diwali, the festival of lights. What better reason to be grateful than the victory of good over evil?

We can think of the extended Thanksgiving weekend and the ensuing celebrations as springboards to gratefulness throughout the year, rather than one and done commemorations that end with resolutions that resolve nothing. Once again, by becoming grateful for what we have rather than obsessing about the negatives - and those negatives WILL come - we may again become beacons to our children to focus on the positive, deal with the bad as it appears, then move on.

Keep moving.

Becoming thankful for each day is a prescription for living life to its fullest. It's a daily multivitamin required to maintain our equilibrium and carry us along paths both clear and fraught with obstacles. These gratitudes can be as simple as "sunny day" or as momentous as "finally cancer free" and reflect who and where we are on any particular day. Our children bathed in the constant negativism of The Addiction might even see us, persevering, making it through the muck and hedgerows of life with vigor to experience what is out there for us all if our souls are open to the possibilities of The Universe.

So make that $2 investment in a 5.5" x 4" college ruled notebook and pen - they're available at your local local dollar storeand get writing. I'll even help you with your first entries:
 Bought the notebook
Bought the pen
On my way to gratitude
It's really that easy.

We'll touch base this June!

. . . keep coming back

"A verse from the Veda says, 'What you see you become.' In other words, just the experience of perceiving the world makes you what you are. This is a quite literal statement." ~ Deepak Chopra

Monday, October 30, 2017

Laugh

"Laugh, when you lose all your money, Or you can't find your shoes, to cover your feet... Laugh, at the things that are wrong, if you think it's this song, then laugh." ~ "Laugh" The Monkees, Phil Margo, Mitch Margo, Hank Medress, Jay Siegel

Do you people-watch? I do. As we approach the Holidays my people watching skills become ramped up to a heightened degree in preparation of the parade of souls we all will soon see on Halloween, Thanksgiving and the myriad of theologically-based (and other) observances occurring through January.

This may be premature but I would like to wish everyone a happy and joyous Saturnalia!

I have mentioned, even very recently, the coffee house I frequent prior to starting my day. Visited by the old, the young, elementary, high school and college students, their teachers and professors, professionals, laborers, blue, gray and white collars, cops (and perhaps an occasional felon) and even a few community builders who try to remain anonymous but to those of us who know them or remember them from local news stories years before, this place is an absolute cacophony of personalities, facial expressions and I'm certain, ongoing life stories.

Let me catch my breath.

I never know what is behind the smiles, frowns, far away gazes, sidelong glances and even sometimes a mien that betrays a person with the weight of the world on his or her shoulders. It's none of my business, and many if not all of us have been there. As parents of addicts we have been at one time or another members of that exclusive club of those at odds with The Universe, struggling against ourselves to find some peace amid the craziness.

Conversely, I am sometimes witness to unabashed joy, treated to bursts of laughter from some of the young women from the high school up the street. I see expressions of delight blossom as they review their social media posts. I wonder if the joy I am witnessing is a function of being so early on in their life journeys, then I remember the delight can often takes a hiatus at final exam time. Of course, many of us parents of siblings of addicts know even kids are not totally immune from life's devastating upheavals.

Everyone has has ebbs and flows, ups and downs, even teenagers. Nobody can maintain a complete level of euphoria 24/7, but we MUST allow ourselves to take the time to SEEK and most importantly SEE the joy when it is there, when it is presented to us. This is the joy that comes from a contented and centered heart and soul and not the kind borne of negativity, sarcasm or the misfortunes of others so, so prevalent in today's entertainment.

It is the joy that surprises us, that sneaks up on us along our journey and stays with us, not for a little while but then again, not so long as to spoil us into thinking this is the way life is all the time.

It is the joy that elicits laughter for no logical reason at all. We can find the joy, the laughter, whether we're 13, 30, or three times 30. The joy, the laughter is out there - or IN there, inside all of us. It starts with being grateful at the start of every day for the little things, then going out there to conquer the world.

It's a simple strategy: be open to The Joy, find The Joy, then LAUGH - oh hahaha!


. . . keep coming back

"It's not so hard to see exactly what I'm after. Sometimes a tear should fall but I require giggles and chuckles..." ~ "Laugh" The Monkees, Phil Margo, Mitch Margo, Hank Medress, Jay Siegel
"Laughter is carbonated holiness." ~ Anne Lamott

Friday, October 20, 2017

What's Our Hurry?

"Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it." ~ Soren Kierkegaard
I spend many weekday mornings at a local Starbucks that has an interesting vibe. Nestled in a decidedly leftish-of-center middle to upper middle class community and fueled in part by a girls high school and a university, both up the street within walking distance, this coffee shop is a meeting place, the Marktplatz of the area in my town called Old Orchard.

In an effort, I guess, to carve out yet another slice of the population to become Starbucks customers the caffeine giant recently launched a new service. You may be one of the many who have succumbed to this latest siren call of the Starbucks mermaid. Patrons with the 'bucks app on their phones and tablets can now pre-order their frappuccino and croissant which will be magically ready for pick up upon arrival - no waiting in line, no eye contact with anyone necessary, no conversations short of the obligatory thank you required. 

I think it's sad.

I was struck by this just the other day as I watched a woman navigate like a roller derby jammer through the throng of folks awaiting their orders. In her her haste she almost flattened one of them and making no apologies darted left, then right, to reach the counter where her order lay waiting.

She was gone before you could say "no whip, no foam, no fun", as those who had not called ahead remained, many engaged in short conversations with friends, others chatting with those who were heretofore perfect strangers.

Once again The Universe was tapping me on the shoulder with a reminder: you've got places to go on your pathway, you can see that beauty awaiting in the distance but it really is OK to pause and look around to see the beauty all around, even if the place where you are now may not be where you're going, or where you want to be.

There are wonders, beauties and mysteries everywhere, even in the darkest of rainforests or the most forbidding and desolate wastelands - really! You just have to be willing to take time to notice, take in those hidden gems of splendor, then keep moving. It may often require a pause along your journey pathway and rather than remaining steadfastly focused on the end game goal of that next horizon take your eye off the prize, for a moment at least. Look around.

Amid the darkness of our children's struggles are glimmers of their REAL, their true selves. You may have to look hard, but it's there, buried beneath the muck of The Addiction. We can take heart they are still there, as beautiful as we remember and as we acknowledge this beauty we are once again  affirming our love for our children.

So slow down, it won't hurt.

What are you waiting for?

. . . keep coming back

"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday." ~ A. A. Milne

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Signposts, Angels and Gratitudes

"When we are lost in the woods, the sight of a signpost is a great matter." ~ C.S. Lewis
"I'm trying to shut up and let the angels speak to me and tell me what I'm supposed to do." ~ Patrick Swayze
Sometimes the Universe can try and try to get our attention and we just don't get it. We become too immersed in ourselves and overly fixated on the pathway. Yes, this can happen. Life as we know it as parents of addicts and those in recovery can be hard, with current times and events exacerbating feelings of despair and discouragement. As a result just when we think we're turned on and tuned in, all we've really done is to drop out of life.

In the end The Universe just can't take it anymore. It will never give up on us any more than we will give up on our children, and it just might get impatient, even annoyed.

Yes, after multiple attempts to draw us out of ourselves and back to the life we need to live to survive, the Universe, our Great Creator, might throw a barrage of positivity and inspiration our way just to see what happens.

Will this snap us out of our self absorption or just piss us off?

It is, as with everything else, up to us, is it not?

This happened to me recently. Not that I had succumbed to despair or hopelessness. I had simply ... stalled.

Recently, over the span of a couple of days I noticed The Universe had had just about enough of me and my inactivity and complacency. It came after me with an annoyed persistence. Even I couldn't help but notice:

Day One: I had finally scheduled the doctor's appointment I had been putting off and very very early the day before, I stumbled into the clinical lab to have my blood drawn. The phlebotomist was cheerily welcoming, almost off-putting. I wasn't there for a morning coffee with friends after all. I was there to have someone stick a needle in my vein and draw blood for the full range of tests my doctor would need to confirm I was operating on all cylinders.
Digression warning: I love that word as it is associated with blood tests. There's no drawing involved here, no crayons and paper are provided. They're sucking, siphoning, pulling, four vials of my essence from my arm - but I digress ...
To put it mildly, this draw-er of blood was my first hint that something special was afoot for the next two days. This was a Dickens-like "you will be visited by three ghosts" moment. The woman was spiritual in a walk-the-walk sense, so much so I actually thought to myself, "Normally I would say, 'thanks but no thanks' but this time, let's hang in here and see what happens."

I can't even remember exactly what she said, but her messages, her signposts, were originating from somewhere outside the little room where countless arms had been presented for piercing and countless souls had been given the choice to receive or ignore this woman's grace.

"Are you a minister?" I asked.

"No, I get that a lot," was her response.

I left the lab a bit lighter of hemoglobin, red and white blood cells and platelets, but buoyed and receptive to what The Great Creator would soon place squarely ahead of me along my pathway.

Day Two: My first visit would be in the form of our lead marathon trainer, coach and sensei, who is a brilliantly buoyant motivator and angel-mentor for all of us crazy enough to think we can actually train for a marathon much less finish one. Each week she posts a video of our instructions for our Saturday long-slow-distance (yes - LSD) runs. She reminds us of important things like at which park or trail the run is being held, the mileage, how to pace ourselves and the importance of these slower weekend events with 250 of our closest friends. This time, she threw in a zinger. She mentioned the importance of writing down at least three gratitudes each day in a notebook or journal.

Are you kidding me?

Of course, a proper mindset is key when attempting to run a 5K, 10K, half marathon or marathon, whatever your goal or ability. I've seen how negative attitudes can destroy a runner half way through a long run or even worse on race day. But I hoped her ah-ha-moment-like endorsement of something as Zen-ish as this didn't fall on deaf ears. It certainly didn't for me. Her reminder [directed by The Universe squarely at me of course] was a message meant to shake me out of my complacency. It was totally unexpected, but knowing this person as I do, I should have seen it coming.

I have since been hyper vigilant about writing down my gratitudes.

The doctor's appointment went well. My counts were all better than good, each one a signpost telling me to continue on my journey to eat better, train better, live and love better. And this time my internal medicine doctor didn't tell me not to run. She seemed pleased, almost delighted by my health. [Signpost saying "CONTINUE ON =>".]

The last angel I was given witness to on the second day was one whom I had met months before but hadn't seen in quite a while. She is a third-grade teacher in a local school district who can infuse a room with positivity as soon as she enters. This gift from the Great Creator walked up to me and gave me a huge hug - never did THAT before - I believe, simply to ensure I had not only gotten the message, but that the message had been received, internalized, and not leaking out of me somewhere.

I got the impression after this last encounter The Universe was no longer impatient with me. I got it, finally. The annoyed persistence had paid off.

I am back now. I saw - no I SEE!

And just in time too. I've got things to do, including a marathon to run next month.

Crazy!

. . . keep coming back
"Gratitude can turn common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." ~ William Arthur Ward
"It's not about what it is, it's about what it can become." ~ Theodor Seuss Giesel 


Friday, September 15, 2017

Perhaps We Are the Journey

"When you do things through your soul, the river itself moves through you. Freshness and a deep joy are signs of the current." ~ Jalaluddin Rumi 
"Most people focus on doing things as the way to make a difference. What they don't realize is the most powerful way to make a difference doesn't require you to do anything at all! You start by changing YOUR world. You end up changing THE world." ~ Aman Motwane

So often, there it is, right in front of us - the answer. We are getting better at recognizing the pathways to recovery by noticing the obvious and the not-so-obvious signposts pointing the way. It is certainly the Great Creator, God, the Universe and not us, positioning the clues in strategic positions for us to find. We're simply following along as best we can, trying to keep up.

But have you ever felt something deep inside, some sort of receiver through which we can sort through what is true and what is bullshit to reach our most REAL we can be. Some call it instinct, others intuition or even street smarts.

Perhaps there is something within us that goes deeper than learned behavior. Our hearts and souls have been sorely effected over the years by The Addiction and what it has done to our babies. We have been changed to the core. What has happened to us has caused a fundamental shift in our thinking and way of life.

At some point we transcend being mere spectators in our recovery journeys, simply following the loving and caring lead The Universe provides. At some point we begin to understand the journey is more than a passive reaction.

At some point, we will, or have BECOME our journeys.

What exactly does this mean? It means we internalized The Good that comes our way and have built-in defenses against The Bad. We surround ourselves with exuberance: people, places and things, and eschew the negative. In fact we find ourselves running like the wind from negativity. As I've mentioned before this doesn't mean we become the village idiot who plods along dum-dee-dum as the world around us turns to the shit. Yes, shit happens. We simply stop looking for it, expecting it and subconsciously hoping for it because at one point along our pathways the shit had become our comfort zone, our way of life we settled into with our children.

We learn our greatest gift to our children and ourselves is to embrace the journey we have become. We truly become that beacon that shines through the ingrained pessimism The Addiction pours over our babies to conceal from them The Possibilities. When we recognize that we have become our journey our lives are then infused with a muscle memory that encourages us to SEEK and SEE our grandest vistas and horizons.

When we recognized we have transcended to a plane of existence different than what we may have lived under the thumb of The Addiction we want that feeling every day and guard against slipping again into the vortex of lives poorly lived.

It's inside of us, our Journeys. There it is.

Go for it!

. . . keep coming back


"There is a force within which gives you life - SEEK that. In your body is a priceless jewel - SEEK that. Oh wandering Sufi, if you are in search of the greatest treasure, don't look inside, LOOK within and SEEK THAT! ~ Jalaluddin Rumi 
"Face your own complexity." ~ Mark Gerzon 

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Fable of The Beangstieg

"If we stay where we are, where we're stuck, where we're comfortable and safe, we die there. ... New is life." ~ Ann Lamott, Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers

The cave, with its muted darkness dimly lit in the daytime by sunlight bounding through its narrow opening and small cracks in the rock face, and by night, with oil lamps he found upon his arrival and the moonlight illuminating, gently blanketing the cave's interior with its ever-searching moonbeams became the perfect safe haven for the man. He had travelled so far in not a small amount of time. His journey had taken him from the abyss.  The life changing, life-saving passage had given him so much, had given him his life back, yet had taken so much out of him.

It was a courageous, exhausting, long, strange trip. He was tired, and frightened.

The Beangstieg, his nemesis, was still out there - he knew it. He had defeated the Beangstieg but not vanquished the beast.

"I will stay here, for a while," he thought. "I must. I must wait out the Beangstieg."

The Beangstieg was a fearsome beast with its vile anger and hypnotic spell it had cast on him and all who dared to engage the monster in battle. Fighting and at the same time for some reason embracing it had overtaken his life. Somehow the Beangstieg became his focus, a dance that had consumed him and led him away from his family, friends and his future.

Of course he had to flee his former life. Otherwise the Beangstieg might sink its teeth into those the man held dear.

What he did not notice, or, what he didn't wish to know, is the creature had for a time laid waste to his family and threatened the very fabric of the community of which he had been a part. He had noticed his loved ones had seemed to overcome the Beangstieg, had somehow prevailed and moved on. He had not.

What he had come to realize is the Beangstieg is a being borne of the self loathing and insecurities of its victims, feeding on a diet of those victims' despair, fear and attempts to defeat and vanquish the beast.

"The Beangstieg," he thought as he sat alone in his cave, "might be invulnerable," acknowledging his own self doubt.

Outside the cave, the Beangstieg was waiting, feeding on these thoughts. The monster was growing stronger and unknown to the man was still the overwhelming force in his life. The Beangstieg WAS his life.

The man had seen the fate that awaited others who had ventured out of their protected zones alone. Eventually the Beangstieg would prevail in a final and gruesome battle matching its superior physical and psychological combat skills to the fading and fruitless efforts of friends who naively thought they were a match for it. In the final battle the Beangstieg would enlist allies familiar to the present foe - friends and family appearing to assist would only get in the way, and weapons formerly effective against the creature would vanish into dust.

So the man would stay in the cave, "for a while," he thought.

He soon noticed his thoughts drifting into recollections of the abyss he had fled which now seemed, incredibly, to be encroaching into the space he had chosen, the safe, secluded spot away from the teeth, claws and appetite of the Beangstieg. It became evident, at least to the man, the monster was somehow reaching through the rock as if to say, "if you do not come to meet me, to face your fate, I have other ways to defeat you. I will devour you in your nothingness."

"Am I losing my mind?" the man wondered.

And he was running out of the precious lamp oil, and food.

The man began to ask himself what would be the worst that could happen if he ventured out to recapture the remainder of a life that seemed a lifetime away. He could die, certainly, at the hands of a foe he had once evaded and nearly defeated. At the very least he might plummet again into the abyss the Beangstieg wished for him, caught in an everlasting web of self loathing, where the creature would slowly drain the life from every fiber of his body and soul.

It was then he began to hear the other voice. This was a kind, gentle voice emanating from the cave's entrance. He turned to face this voice and saw an ethereal being, exquisite in its translucent radiance.

"Are you an angel?" he heard himself ask the being.

"I am what you need me to be if you have the courage to accept me as a gift from The Universe. I am now, yet have been in your past and am in your forever. I am but a guide to a future of your own creation if you are only willing to dream, want, seek and see more than what you have now," said the light.

"What do I need to do," he finally said after what seemed hours.

"Write down where you see yourself in your most cherished future," was the reply.

"But I have no pen or paper."

"Write it on the wall. Use the rock of your cave as your pen, the walls of your cave as your medium. Make it real. Make it permanent. Your heart and soul shall lead you along this path."

As he finished the laborious task of carving his dreams for a future he had never before dared to imagine and how he might get there, stone to stone on the far side of the cave, similar carvings appeared covering the eastern portion of the cave in which he had spent hiding. There they were, carved in countless languages, the hopes and yearnings of what seemed to be hundreds who had come before him in that little space.

He asked the light, "Were all these people fleeing the Beangstieg like me?"

He turned around. The angel was gone.

The man looked around, smiled and felt a teardrop trickle down his cheek landing precariously on the corner of his mouth. He knew what he had to do. He had to leave that cave. He now had dreams. He now had somewhere he knew he needed to be and it was no longer THAT CAVE. He had a life to live.

"But what about the beast?" he thought. He reached for his sword which had served him well, but not well enough, in his battles against the Beangstieg. He grasped the hilt and once again experienced the deadly power of the long leveraged blade in his hand and how savagely lethal it felt. He had been a warrior against a deadly foe for so long, battling bravely against certain death. He had prevailed for a time where others had failed.

He placed the sword against the stone wall beneath the carving he had just completed and proceeded to the cave's entrance. He knew he had to devise a new battle plan.

The man exited the cave. As he had expected, there IT was, the beast, the Beangstieg, waiting, its claws deployed, its fangs dripping with anticipation of its next feast. The man could feel the roar of the beast and smelled its putrid breath as he passed closely by. To the man, the Beangstieg was no longer an obstacle. It was now a gatekeeper to his most cherished future. 

There he stood, within a sword's length of the monster and awaited his fate, his transcendence to a life he had never imagined before the angel appeared.

"Hold fast," a voice within him whispered.

It was the angel.

The Beangstieg in its battle stance saw the man had no weapon. It became perplexed, then enraged at the audacity of this puny being thinking it had any power to withstand the inevitable mortal blow. The beast propelled its claws toward the man's jugular. This would be a simple nick to the artery to begin a slow, weakening flow of blood, bringing its victim to his knees once again before its master.

"This human needs to be taught a lesson," reasoned the Beangstieg.

The claws met their target and the monster felt the brutally satisfying blades-through-butter sensation it always felt when bringing down its victims. It waited to watch for the inevitable buckling of the knees, the look of despairing horror of another brought back under its control.

The man stood, unflinching.

The beast swung again, and again to no effect. Feeling only wisps of putrid air passing across his face the man had no response to the attacks, there was no need. He would no longer be a pawn to the wishes and pull of the beast's enticements. He would no longer feed the Beangstieg's insatiable appetite for other's lives, at least not his own. Slowly the monster tired, and became weak with exhaustion. It's knees buckled, a look of perplexed horror crossed its visage.

The man watched as the beast began to transform into nothingness. At this transformation a black putridity left his body, causing him to lurch. The man fell to one knee, his right-hand fist on the ground, eye level to the dying evil being.

"I am done with you," shouted the man with a strength he had not felt in years.

The monster breathed its last.

The Beangstieg, defeated and vanquished, disappeared, leaving only a small dark remnant on the ground before the man.

"I did it," thought the human, who felt a strength return to his body he had not felt in years. He turned to look toward an unknown but exciting future, an adventure he knew would be both exhilarating and sometimes terrifying. In the far distance he saw what he thought at first was a hallucination. As he walked toward the vision he realized what he was seeing.

"It's the hundreds!" he cried out loud in his amazement.

And leading them was the Angel.

At the feet of the angel were three gifts from those who had gone before: a compass, a walking stick, and, his sword.

As he held the last gift he looked at the angel curiously.

"To make your way through the thick brush and hedgerow should you become lost," the being said with a gentle smile.

The man turned and made his way through the hundreds who began to slowly vanish as they seemed at the same time to follow him. He was heartened to see his family and friends among the multitude, smiling, encouraging.

This would be his journey to embrace but at that moment he realized he would never be alone. As he looked back at the cave, his heart leapt with excitement and a strange sense of melancholy. Returning his gaze to the opposite direction toward which the angel, the hundreds and his family and friends had escorted him, the man took a quick glance at the compass.

"That way," he said.

And so it begins.

. . . keep coming back

"My will for you is not harsh or unpleasant. It is gentle and perfectly tailored to your unique needs. Do  not fear my direction. I am your heart's happiest guide." ~ Julia Cameron, Answered Prayers: Love Letters from the Divine


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Hold On Tight To Your Dream

"Lose your dreams and you will lose your mind" ~ Mick Jagger, Keith Richards - "Ruby Tuesday"
Author J. K. Rowling is quoted as saying, "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live." This is profound insight from one of the most prolific and imaginative authors of our time. When I first read this while preparing for this chapter my first thought was she must be downplaying the power of dreams. When I reread the quotation I hoped she was allowing for dreams, perhaps just not the overly obsessive fixation on these to the extent that one would become catatonic and forget to keep moving.

Often as parents we are confronted with obstacles borne from our children's struggles. One doesn't have to be a parent of an addict to know this. Our children are our greatest treasures, the most significant gifts of our lives. As parents of addicts these obstacles can seem to move with us, a constant in-your-face reminder of the what might have beens before The Addiction planted itself firmly in the path of our babies' maturation.

It's like a hedgerow on rails, or more like an army defending its boundaries.

It can be disheartening at best, at worst, a relentlessly deflating dream crusher.

Our sons and daughters may in some subconscious way wish to be the absolute focus of our lives. We know, of course, it is The Addiction driving the need as it does with so many of our children's priorities. What they don't always realize is much of our attention is, and has been for months, years, or decades devoted to their disease. They just don't always see it  - except for those brief moment of clarity when The Addiction temporarily loses it grip on our babies.

What we don't see, always, is the loosening of our hold on our dreams, our hopes and wishes for ourselves. When we let go of our dreams to devote more than is necessary to fixing our children, rather than what is needed to show them our undying, unequivocal love for them, The Addiction has won, and our children get the message they are incapable - of anything.

When we hold on tight to our dreams and pursue those aspirations we may have put aside to concentrate on perhaps literally saving our children we become sherpas to our children's journeys. When we go for it, when we dig deep and look inside ourselves for those talents, drives and passions we have denied ourselves our lives open to extraordinary possibilities. It's modeling on a grand scale, a lighthouse beacon nobody can be blind to.

Write down what you have been denying yourself for too long. Find a book to set your course (mine was The Artists Way by Julia Cameron), try something you said you could NEVER  - an awful word to purge from our vocabularies - accomplish (mine was the marathon).  Take a pathway the Great Creator, the Universe is beckoning you to try. This may be the greatest adventure of your life. You will awaken a spirit within, continuing that journey to becoming that complete, REAL human being we all strive to be.

And ya' know what? It might just be fun!

"Things are only impossible until they're not." ~ Patrick Stewart as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard - Star Trek, The Next Generation
"When you get so down that you can't get up... When you're so downhearted and misunderstood ... Hold on tight to your dream." ~ Jeff Lynn - "Hold On Tight To Your Dream"

. . . keep coming back 


Monday, July 31, 2017

El Capitan of Our Children's Recoveries

"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory." ~ Ed Viesturs, No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks 
We are all on various stages of recovery, from the tar pits, cloud forests and primordial stews of our initial crawl out of ours and our loved ones' vortices, to views from peaks and plateaus of what our lives can be if we continue to SEEK and SEE our own true REAL. Our children too are traveling their own pathways, winding in and out of THE ADDICTION'S grasp, battling with it and their personal demons of self doubt, negativity and isolation.

For our children in recovery, for those who have come to the realization they cannot and will not continue to live lives dictated by THE ADDICTION, their journey may seem almost complete. They are, it would seem, on a path to those vistas we have hoped and prayed they would enjoy someday.

It's a nice thought to believe they're on their way. While I like to think of a parent's journey as one with many uphills, down hills, twists and turns with breathtaking flora and fauna along the way (kind of like a marathon), our children's recovery, once begun, is a shock to them.
"OK, I've made my decision to take back my life, so now what the hell do I do?"
I'm not a trail runner, rock or mountain climber. I do not have the inner ear, or maybe even the cojones for either. So when I was searching for ideas for this chapter I had to research the whole climbing experience from the top down. It was then I happened upon the quotation above:
"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory."
"That's it!" I thought. This encapsulates the journey of the recovering addict, or at least what I have seen from a parent's perspective.

Finally getting to that peak exhilaration of life out of the vortex' pull must be to the addict like the adrenaline rush of the mountain climber as he or she ascends to the top of a chosen summit.

But what goes up, must come down, the challenge isn't finished until it's finished. The mountain climber looks down, says, "OK, here I go," and begins the descent. There's no chopper awaiting to whisk him off the precipice, no wings to become grounded, safe and secure from et montem istum to terra firma.

It's daunting, terrifying. Looking down to the relief of solid ground and the steps, possible missteps, slips and unsecured finger and toe holds to get there, it's no wonder many of our children in recovery go clean, then stall, remain stagnant, and pause.

Sometimes they pause for a long time.

Moving down that mountain requires baby steps, a skill their recently drug-ravaged brains don't yet possess in their grey-matter arsenal. We can help with words of encouragement or even by offering a temporary place for encampment on the peak. But temporary is a relative term and can become just another roadblock on the pathway. It's just not safe up there, forever.

There's a storm coming for sure. Get off that mountain - NOW!

Have you seen the movie Everest?

We can step in by asking where they want to be in a year or six months and how they're going to get there. They know, they already have a plan in their heads on how to get down off that mountain peak. They're either waiting for that chopper that's never coming (parent rescue) or are convinced the descent must be immediate, a dangerous impossibility. The baby steps are the oxygen tanks they'll need along the way and the bivouacs for much needed respites on their journey.

They prepared their way during the ascent. It's all there awaiting them, the oxygen canisters, the outcroppings on the vertical cliffs.

It's just that first step that's a doozy, the commitment to value themselves above THE ADDICTION. What they don't realize is that once they begin the descent there's no turning back, and each step will build on the next in a cascade of increasing self worth and self love.

Now, where was that last toe hold?

. . . keep coming back

"Rob, you've gotta get moving. You've gotta come on down." ~ Jan Arnold to husband Rob Hall  - Everest The Movie


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Our Persian Flaws

"Perfection itself is imperfection." ~ Vladimir Horowitz
"Now I ain't saying that I'm perfect, 'cause I'm not. And I ain't gonna never be. None of us are. ~ Wood Harris as Julius Campbell in Remember the Titans
We parents of addicts and recovering addicts are not perfect - none of us. That my friends is a certainty, one of just a few certainties in life that can be counted on to to be testable, provable and repeatable. We have used the scientific method numerous times to test this hypothesis and proven it to be true and without knowing it, have countless time ignored the lab results (life) and pursued more testing to disprove the reality.

We have repeatedly attempted by striving for some sort of state of parental perfection to turn the momentum of oncoming Addiction tsunami.

Look where that got us.

Do you remember the muck and slime of the cloud forest?

Too many times we have pushed ourselves hard to attain some level of perfection as if this might avert continuation of our sons' and daughters' dance with The Addiction. We compared our parenting with others' methods as if there was a correlation between our best efforts as parents and our children's dive into their vortex.

How arrogant we were to think that we might ever become some sort of perfect human beings and by somehow accomplishing this impossibility, control and cure the disease of addiction.

The Persians had it right.

Centuries ago Persian rug makers became known for their beautifully intricate carpets which chronicled their lives, trials and tribulations. Even today this tradition, passed along through countless generations to retain a certain perfection in the weaving and dying processes, produces the beautiful wool masterpieces we can find in upscale boutiques and the most revered museums.

With all the intricacy of these seemingly flawless works of art the Persians believed only God or a higher power was perfect in all aspects. For this reason they would intentionally place flaws into the carpet as they wove.

These carpets would often take years to complete and would require the efforts of many community members. Only the rug makers, or those well versed in the process would know where the flaws resided, how many existed or if, in the minds of the creators, the mistakes diminished or amplified the beauty of their creation.

As far as I am concerned, these Persian Flaws, even unseen, become the true heroes of these carpets. The flaws represent a sense of the makers' awe of everything the Great Creator has bestowed upon all of us and a deep humility even in the face of their seeming perfect creations.

Why then do we believe we have the ability to weave perfection into our lives as we stumble through our own life recovery, or we can through some sort of flawless lifestyle lead our children out of their morass.

Just like the Persian rugs it is our imperfections that make us the beautiful human beings the Great Creator meant for us to be. It is through our imperfections that our true humanity shows through. We know the imperfections are there. Unlike the rug makers we do strive to become better human beings by making small, almost unnoticeable changes to better ourselves, yet many of those imperfections will remain. Couples fall in love with the little flaws in their mate's makeup. Our children struggling with their own feelings of low self worth look to us as beacons of hope for their eventual recovery as we live our lives to the fullest. The last image they need to see is one of some smug, arrogant self-proclaimed perfect being leading the way.

They do not need to see an unattainable goal as their recovery endgame.

They see us, with all our imperfections, living the best possible lives we can, striving to become REAL, and perhaps, never quite getting there.

As we progress along our recovery journeys we know our flaws are there. Surely, some we need to expunge, those knots in our lives that simply get in the way of living, those noticeable recurring, twisted life threads everyone, including us (eventually) can see. Yet as we continue our pilgrimage toward becoming the truest most REAL humans, parents, friends and lovers we can be, remember perfection is best left for the gods and their creations. The quest is the thing. As our children struggle they will notice our journey too includes encounters with our deepest demons. They will see us stubbornly persist, reaching plateaus even we thought unattainable.

They know our imperfections are there. Hell, they've know us all their lives. We can become an inspiration rather than self-righteous preachers of recovery. We are beautiful, flawed Human Beings. They'll see that in us, smile, or even laugh at our expense. And that's OK.

Perhaps then, they will give themselves a chance to feel the same about themselves, breathe, and take those next trepidatious steps toward their own, REAL lives.

Our flaws, like those in the Persian rugs, make us better human beings, more REAL - better, brighter beacons of hope.

So what shall we weave today?

. . . keep coming back

"Lighten up, Francis." ~ Platoon Leader Sgt. Hulka to Psycho, Stripes 1981


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Joy Trail Found

"The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience." ~ Emily Dickinson
By now many of you know I am a marathoner. It's something I am proud of as part of my recovery journey. For me, running and training for a goal race is fun and I will continue this as long as it remains enjoyable and as long as my arms and legs remain attached to the rest of my body.

So far, so good.

In February of 2017, I wrote about The Joy Trail. Today I wish to share my story of a joy trail found.

We're in between official training from our last marathon to the next. For most of us who run together our marathon training will resume in late June and finish anywhere from October through December depending on the race chosen. I selected the Memphis St. Jude marathon last year, an early December date involving a long, grueling 5 months of training that I believe left many of us overtrained, but that's not important - again, as I will from time time, I digress. This year wifey and I have chosen a race midway through the summer/fall marathon season, the November 4 Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis. It will be fun and certainly less hilly than the Cincinnati Flying Pig marathon I completed in May!

During this down time some of us continue to run, less often for most of us, less miles and certainly the runs are done less vigorously. We do this because it is fun for us and quite frankly for me at least, I don't want to show up at the marathon training kickoff meeting looking like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and I surely don't want my body to forget how to run long distances.

I can't imagine starting the marathon training journey all over again, wondering if I'm up for a long Saturday morning run. Now THAT would NOT be fun!

Running alone is okay but running with people who I've come to know and love through this marathon training thing is the best. Our training team has gotten through a lot and supported each other in victories and defeats, tears and jubilations. We are a tight-knit group of very slow but determined runners. Completing 26.2 miles has that effect on people.

A few weeks ago I began to send emails out to my fellow Lanterne Rouge teammates to schedule Saturday morning runs - if you're not a fan of cycling and don't know what Lanterne Rouge means Google it if you want a chuckle. This is totally out of my comfort zone but as with most everything I have done as part of my journey to burst through my inhibitions and past tendencies, these emails have been a blast. Plus, I've been able to do these Saturday runs with other crazy marathoners!

These are smaller group runs since many of our teammates stay close to home for their maintenance runs, don't necessarily want to start early in the morning as we do when in full-bore training, and many are on vacation.

On a recent 6 miler on Memorial Day morning I and a fellow Lanterne Rouger were completing mile 4 of a 6 mile loop when we approached a group of three walkers on the trail. As I do on these trails I made eye contact with one of the three  - the youngest in this case -  and said hello. My running partner and I were at that very moment signaled by our Garmin watches to begin a one-minute walk interval which we do when training, so we of course began talking to the three - or one of the three to be more precise.

I quickly ascertained the younger man was of Middle Eastern descent and asked the terribly politically incorrect question because that's who I am:

"Where are you from?"

"Iran," he answered. "These are my parents. They just came from Iran to visit me."

"Wow," I said. "Welcome."

"Yes, welcome," said my running partner.

Both of our messages were quickly translated from son to mother and father. Broad smiles followed.

And this would be the extent of our contact with three people from the other side of the world, from totally distinct cultures and ideologies. Our Garmins were chirping at us to resume running.

We explained the lunacy of interval training and bid a fond goodbye to our new-found friends - or so we thought.

As the two of us transitioned to running, we were astonished to see mother and son following stride for stride. We talked about the world, about how David, the son, had lived in numerous countries and states and cities and found our little Midwestern city his favorite. As if we were on a satellite feed we would say something to mom, would wait for David to translate to Farsi and then, receive her response translated to English. These two actually pushed us beyond our planned pace but that was just fine, The magic of this moment surpassed any maintenance training goals we might have had for that day.

At mile 6 we explained we needed to stop, parted company and turned to walk the half-mile to our cars. As we approached the parking lot we passed dad who flashed us a huge smile, something everybody everywhere does in the same way.

We left the park that day buoyed by this magical training run. I added this to the many "reasons why I run" and we agreed, if the world only operated the way this encounter of cultures transpired over the mile and half at this little park in St. Louis Missouri, we would all be better for it.

Privately, I also truly believe both of us were grateful to have allowed this miracle mile and one-half to transpire. On that day we ignored our shared tendency to fixate on the task at hand (training) and let go to let the moment happen. Miracles are happening all around us. They're happening at our workplace, the grocery, the cafe, at home - everywhere.

Take the time, the next time a miracle approaches, or you literally run into it, to recognize it, stop what you're doing and embrace the opportunity.

It' may only be less than a mile and a half out of your way.

. . . keep coming back

"If you smile at me I will understand, 'cause that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language." ~ Wooden Ships, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Paul Kantner

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

JuSt fOr FUn ... uNOfficially, SuMMeR, Though Not Yet Summer, Haiku

"The Earth has its music for those who will listen."  ~ George Santayana

Memorial Day
In multiple shades of tan
Khakis now allowed

When the rains subside
Chamber of Commerce days rule
Late spring in Midwest

The cooling breezes
Deceptive blue skies abound
The fooling low temps

Flowers reveling
Lawns lush, so clueless to the
Summer's heat approach

Peace in pre-summer
Belies its trues treachery
Storms will soon follow

Bluest azure skies
The Great Creator Beckons
Come to me, my loves

Your pathway awaits
Nature's best season welcomes
Take that chance and FLY!

. . . keep coming back

"Adopt the pace of Nature. Her secret is patience." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


Monday, May 22, 2017

The Fable of THE FEAR

"There's one thing that humans do better than any species we've met. When we're faced with a common threat, we put our differences aside and try to cooperate." Jonathan Archer, Star Trek, Enterprise, "United"
"So first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inauguration Speech, March 4 1933
They knew it was coming. They saw it looming, or perhaps as so many would later admit, they should have. The town would soon be besieged, their peaceful existence would become a nightmare of darkness they had witnessed occur in so many neighboring communities.

Some had already been touched or besieged by the affliction. THE FEAR would soon overtake the seemingly tiny little hamlet. Although not an insignificant dot on the map - the town was actually a small city - it was large enough to be a target of the attack yet small enough that word would spread quickly as more and more of the population would be afflicted.

One by one the townspeople began to isolate. They isolated from each other, they isolated from the neighboring towns and villages and even began to withdraw from themselves, from their lives. They had been existing in a state of fear for so long many of them had forgotten what they were afraid of, exactly. They knew it was something terrible. It had to be.

It had all begun with a plague, or a similar menace. At first it afflicted the young adults, in equal measure among the boys and girls. There had been rumors about some of the youth coming back from traveling far off to unknown lands to experience something different from what they had known in their little city, only to be racked upon their return by something nobody in the town could explain.

They had been warned about venturing out to experience experiences, live lives and face their worst fears and demons the elders had told them would destroy them.

Others said it began with THEM, a group of outsiders bringing with them the NEW. They seemed to look different, talk differently, even dress differently. They tried to fit in and when the NEW realized the town was too full of THE FEAR the NEW became fearful. The NEW isolated from the townspeople who had already begun to retrench after noticing the effect the NEW was having on the youth. The youth were changing. The youth and even some of the elders were drifting away from everything the community held true and dear.

But it wasn't the NEW, it wasn't even the needs of youth to experience, to live life and sometimes in doing so to stumble desperately and despairingly into hellish vortices sometimes impossible to escape.

It wasn't actually any one thing that contributed to the crumbling of the town's culture and cohesion but once the divide began, THE FEAR saw an opportunity to pounce.

Many of them had forgotten what they were afraid of, exactly.

Now those who were directly affected saw the other townspeople moving away from them, friends would reach out but would soon grow tired of the drama THE FEAR brought with it. The families struck down were the first to feel the brunt of the effects of THE FEAR.

The rest of the city dwellers were committed to fighting the scourge. They decided they would begin an attack of everything unknown, anything odd and mostly things that would threaten what they would consider important to their values.

Even though many of them had forgotten what they were afraid of, exactly.

So they fought what they were perceiving. They began by increasing the commitment to isolation. They built walls - walls around the town, around their homes, businesses, schools. These were the walls of brick and mortar and of thought and mind and soul. And as the walls continued to rise these constructs fed THE FEAR.

Soon, on the coattails of all this, THE ANGER entered the small city and that moment, as many of the townspeople would later remember, marked the point of no return - or so they thought.

All the isolation led to disconnectedness, division, further divides and distrust among the dwellers. A dark cloud settled above the city and refused to leave. The sun never shone, the moon no longer blanketed the town with its ethereal comfort. Ideas were forgotten, imagination gave way to constant dread and consternation. The safe way became the only way - the status quo, maintaining one's current station was the only goal.

THE FEAR was winning. The townspeople became united in self interest.

This continued for months until one day one of the children of the small city began to cry. Nobody had cried since even before the dark cloud's arrival, nobody dared to. Crying meant that you cared. Crying would signal discontent regarding the current state of affairs. This would be anarchic and rebellious. Crying would signal a desire for something different than the current existence was allowing. Crying would signal a profound longing for something NEW.

Then, the crying of the child stopped. There was a silence upon the silence forced upon the city for many months, perhaps even years. This silence was one of those deafening stillnesses portending a momentous change. The wind even seemed to take a breath. The air stopped, chilled a bit. A small sliver of sunlight seemed to pierce the seemingly never-ending cloud canopy. Everyone in the town listened for what they knew would be a sign of a worsening of the darkness. They listened, and from the tallest bell tower in the town's center, they heard the words of the small child whose crying had stopped just hours before.

"I can't live like this anymore!" she called out in a low yet piercing voice that projected throughout the town.

The sight of this young soul and her courageous outpouring of a truth nobody had dared to voice began to have an effect on the people of the small city. Some too, began to cry. Some buckled in their tracks, both exhausted and relieved that someone had finally given voice to a truth most were afraid to even think about. Some smiled for the first time in many months, perhaps even years. The people of the town began to emerge from their homes, from their isolation. They began to wander, to enjoy the town's sites, the parks, beautiful still though in disrepair after the long neglect. Almost mindlessly they began to see each other for the first time in anyone's recent recollection. The NEW apprehensively peered out from their homes and saw the townspeople beckoning to join them.

You see, many of them had forgotten what they had been afraid of, exactly.

On that day there was a joining of souls for the soul purpose of living life, experiencing what is out there to be experienced, not to be avoided. The cloud lifted, and THE FEAR, with nobody engaged in devoting energy to hate, prejudice and intolerance, THE FEAR left the town.

Slowly, with not a little trepidation, the townspeople began to embrace THE NEW and a new life devoted to learning and yearning for the adventures that living life to its fullest brings. They began to trust that without depending on THE FEAR to control their lives they could survive, missteps and all. They took plunges into the unknown, leapt into new ventures and adventures, took chances, smiled, laughed and cried. They experienced victories, defeats, setbacks and breakthroughs.

They trusted in life and in each other, yet they knew THE FEAR could re-emerge at any time if they did not remain vigilant in their desire for joy, life and happiness.

In the town square stands to this day a statue commemorating the little girl who had the courage to cry out and declare she wanted more from life than any dark energy would allow. The Statue of the Crying Girl with the one tear descending her left cheek stands as a reminder for the townspeople to remain steadfast in their pursuit of both life's joys and desperations.

And with its new-found courage and commitment to embracing THE NEW, the unknown and unfamiliar, the small city never again witnessed THE FEAR enveloping their lives. The dark cloud never settled above the city and refused to leave. The daytime sun always shone with its comforting warmth and the nighttime moon forever blanketed the town with its ethereal, loving comfort.

. . . keep coming back

"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less." ~ Madame Marie Curie 
"Although we have been made to believe that if we let go we will end up with nothing, life reveals just the opposite: that letting go is the real path to freedom." ~ Sogyal Rinpoche

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes

"The Jews taught me this great word. "Schmuck." I was a schmuck, and now I'm not a schmuck." ~ Bill Murray as Frank Cross in Scrooged
We all change as we progress through what we believe to be a linear timeline, as we experience our lives on this wonderful blue ball circling a bright yellow dwarf star year after year. It doesn't require an astrophysicist to measure these transformations, nor does it require catastrophic life events to trigger them. Many of us progress from uptight to laid back, conservative to liberal and back, critical to accepting, closed minded to politically correct without any massive roadblocks thrown our way such as deaths in the family or other tragedies like addiction.

It's the maturation process that comes with living life. It is a natural progression we all endure in different ways base on life lessons learned or ignored. Normally this is a slow progression played out over decades.

Those of us who have experienced the blight of addiction in our lives and our families have learned this progression must be accelerated.

Keep moving, or die.

Like many of you I was a rager. Many people who know me now find this hard to believe. I fought The Addiction toe to toe, broadsword to broadsword until exhaustion would curtail the battle so the war could be continued at another time. Not realizing my energy expended to end the rule of The Addiction in my son's life only intensified its power over him I battled in our home and even on the streets in plain view of terrified onlookers. I disposed of paraphernalia and pot, physically forced drug tests on my addict son and engaged The Addiction in order to fix my son, all the while not knowing our baby was crying inside, overtaken by the vortex.

For the longest time I didn't know I had to change to live, even when this realization was placed directly ahead of me on my journey, I had no idea I was traveling on a pathway deeper and deeper into the abyss.  I chose to ignore this. The signposts were invisible in the fog and cloud forest of my creation. I was pushing my wife, my family, my life, away. I was so angry at my son for upsetting the family applecart and hurling it over the precipice, I began to fight everyone who might help me find a way out. I resisted every offer of assistance ignoring angels sent by the Universe. Fortunately for me, for all of us, The Universe doesn't give up easily. The Great Creator smiles on us as we struggle, knowing our time will come.

I had nowhere else to go. I gave up, stopped fighting The Addiction on its own terms and like the first collection of cells that crawled out of the primordial soup countless millennia ago I began a journey for which I had no direction, no goal. I just knew there was life out there for me if I only trusted what I couldn't understand.

Move or die.

Trust the unknown. Follow the signposts, believe in and listen to the angels you find along the way. Don't be afraid to accept the gifts that are there for the taking if you can only believe you are never alone in your journey. Accept that you can change. The transformation that awaits you is nothing short of a miracle. Actually, it IS a miracle.

It's a lot more fun than being a schmuck. Believe me, I know.

. . . keep coming back

"For that one fraction of a second you were open to options you had never considered. That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping the stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknowable possibilities of existence."  ~ Q, to Picard, Star Trek The Next Generation, "All Good Things, Part II"
"The louder our world today is, the deeper God seems to remain in silence. Silence is the language of eternity. Noise passes." ~ Gertrud Von Le Fort

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Minutiae

"Flow with whatever is happening and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate." ~ Chuang Tzu
Spring brings with it the smallest of nuances, the most gradual changes and spectacularly slow transitions. It can be the most subtle of seasons. Spring teaches us to pay attention and if we don't, we'll miss it altogether and suddenly summer will be upon us.

We have many parks and trails where I live and on a most recent run I turned off the main pathway to a nature loop through a wooded area. When in its fullest majesty this detour can only be described as the U.S. Midwest's answer to a European medieval greenwood. The last time I had entered the loop I remember wondering to myself when the rebirth would begin. This time I was greeted to an explosion of emerald, hunter, sea, moss, shamrock and a million other sub-shades of green.

I am grateful to have been struck by the wonder of the renewal, that I was not so concerned with pace or how each of my muscles, tendons and ligaments were feeling that I totally missed the show. The next act will be the return of blooms of blue-purple across the expanse of green creeping foliage.

It will be a sight to see. I will make it a point to take in the eruptions of colors and sounds of life renewing.

I will make it a point to take in the minutiae of these moments. We can all share these with those on similar journeys, especially with our children who are trying their best to find any way out of the vortex of The Addiction.

This post was actually prompted by three helium balloons in a coffee shop - really! I am certain I had walked past this display dozens of times without noticing. We have become overcome and numbed by such marketing calls to action. This time I was struck by the oddly bizarre simplicity of this attention grab, three sealed vessels of acetate painted with retro blue, pink and yellow flowers and held aloft by lighter-than-air helium. This attempt to portray coffee as a harbinger of Spring provided an early morning chuckle, something we all need from time to time. I assume the designers of the display didn't have this result in mind but I am grateful for their efforts.

Sometimes our heads can be spinning with so many thoughts and worries and hurries, fears and forebodings we forget to look around to take in this crazy beautiful world manifested for us by the Great Creator. Our attention can be so wrapped up in the immediate, or what we believe to be of greatest concern we ignore the small gifts and oddities surrounding us.

Seeing the minutiae of the world, taking the time to dissect the cacophony of the sights and sounds all around allows us to see our world in entirely new ways. We learn then to wait with anticipation for the next surprise, miracle or gift to come our way. We learn to pay attention, to SEEK and SEE, to listen rather than speaking, to accept the immediacies the Universe is ready to bestow on us to take us to our next level, that new plateau, the progression we are meant to take to becoming more REAL than we ever thought we could be.

Here's to seeing what we see every day in multiple contexts, observing beyond the obvious and accepting the gifts in plain site and masterfully concealed as signposts along our way.

Those little blue flowers are just one rainfall, a bit of sunshine and a turn to some warmer weather away.

I can't wait. Can you?

. . . keep coming back
"Pay attention, don't let life go by you. Fall in love with the back of your cereal box." ~ Jerry Seinfeld

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Feeling The Sadnesses

"Sadness is but a wall between two gardens." ~ Khalil Gibran
We've just about had it about the sadnesses, haven't we? We've had enough of pain, suffering, the recollections of the might have beens, the if onlys. We've experienced in our lives as parents of addicts more pain and suffering than one person should in a lifetime, yet we have persevered and broken through the barriers, of our own creation, to happiness. Even so, we often look upon our children in the thrall of The Addiction or even our children in recovery and feel their pain, our pain, once again.
Etymological side note: Thrall is derived from the Old English thrœl, meaning "Slave."
It's our first inclination to push these sadnesses to the side, not in ignorance of them but to feel, briefly, the pain and immediately fahgetaboutit. Their pain is not our pain we have learned. We have learned to replace the pain and catatonic state The Addiction would have us wallow in with an undying love for our children and a constant motivation to keep moving, living our lives to our fullest potential.

The sadness never happened.

The pain won't get us anymore.

This, like our instinctive reaction to The Addiction's siren calls can become our go-to response to any of life's challenges or even minor, troubling interruptions in our normal routines.

This is NOT good. We're not Vulcans. One of our many wonderful characteristics that make us so marvelously human is our ability to feel emotion, truly absorb the effects and then ... learn, and move on. We know we have truly grown and taken those many steps to becoming REAL when we can experience pain, sadness, take it in, recognize its origin and in a way smile at our self realization and our priceless vulnerabilities.

Sometimes the sadnesses don't bring us to our knees or buckle us in our tracks as did the first realizations brought by The Addiction, but are simply felt as loving, emotional responses deep within our core being.

I experienced one of these sadnesses recently just prior to one of my marathon training, Saturday morning long-slow-distance runs (with 250 or so of my closest friends). My wife would be running a half marathon trail race the next day so she would not be joining me in this particular Saturday workout. As I pulled into the parking space I felt an emptiness. I missed my wifey being there. For some strange reason I was immediately grateful for this sadness and even more grateful I was able to feel it. The sadness was soon replaced by a joy born from all we had been through and how our love had prevailed - through it all. This sadness brought me to a higher plane, to a plateau from which I could view my life from a perspective of contentment.

I rocked the training run!

The sadnesses will come and go - give yourself the permission to feel them. You may find yourself confronted with sadnesses seemingly unrelated to your children who have succumbed to The Addiction. Or are they unrelated? It doesn't really matter.

Don't fear these sadnesses as they arrive - feel them without overthinking, embrace them, take them in. There are reasons the sadnesses find you.

You might be surprised where these little awarenesses will take you.

Enjoy the view!

. . . keep coming back


"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures."  ~ Thornton Wilder


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Do You Believe In Miracles?

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." ~ Albert Einstein
A friend of mine recently FaceBook-shared the video of the last two minutes of the US Olympic hockey team victory over the Russian squad at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. This brief historical playback continues to send chills up and down my spine 37 years later. For those of us around the world who witnessed it, Al Michaels' "Do you believe in miracles?" call with three seconds left is an enduring part of our collective, global memory. The United States was firmly embedded in a crisis situation and needed a boost, something to lift our spirits and mend our collective soul.

The boost came from an unexpected source. The boost came from a bunch of college kids with attitude and an average age of 21, the youngest team in U.S. Olympic history and the youngest team in the Olympic tournament.

It was truly a Miracle on Ice.

No one saw this miracle coming. And that's just it about miracles. If we're not careful, if we're not aware, believing in them and SEEKING miracles, they can come and go without us ever noticing. Not every miracle has a world stage on which to play and a world-class announcer to interpret what we're witnessing, what we are living in a moment, as a miracle.

Parents of addicts don't often interpret what they are experiencing as the universal phenomenons meant to move us, miraculously, along our own recovery pathways. We are often embedded in crisis situations from which we desperately need a boost. We need our spirits lifted, our souls mended. We can become blinded to the miracle.

The discovery and acceptance by a parent of an addict's plunge into addiction is a miracle as much as the addict's sincere admission of "I just can't live like this anymore." Every stage along our pathway isn't always concomitant with joy and happiness, the daisies and butterflies or momentous moments we often associate with the miraculous. Miracles can be BIG instants in time or small and seemingly insignificant, or even totally unrelated to our journey - or so it may seem.

I remember after having missed so many miracles along my pathway a friend suggested I consider buying a book on writing. The miracle wasn't the friend's suggestion or the book. The miracle was that I, a life-long procrastinator and self diminisher would for some unknown reason immediately SEEK out this book and dive into a 12-week creativity course, changing my life forever.

So let's get back to the 1980 Winter Olympics and those crazy upstart Americans and their oppressively solemn coach Herb Brooks. It was certainly a miracle that Brooks was chosen as coach, that the players were able to endure his relentlessly endless practices - that gave them an insanely high third period scoring differential - without imploding. It was a miracle they beat a talented Russian team. These miracles were important, certainly, but had the journey ended the day that impossible victory was achieved those miracles would not have been so memorable.

The true miracle is they had to do it all over again the next day - and they did.

Miracles build on themselves. Miracles are not to be taken lightly or when experienced, to be considered a final reward for our attentiveness. Miracles are often accompanied by angels pointing us along our way and reminding us there are miracles beyond our limited realities, to look beyond the immediate. Miracles are a speedway to the next adventure, the next path along the journey. Miracles are that slingshot effect around whatever obstacle we may have been experiencing, whatever roadblock that had previously impeded our progress.

Miracles are are not a final destination but a gateway to our most exciting and beautiful NEXTS!

As Herb Brooks said, "Great moments are born from great opportunities."

We and our children all have great moments to create, great opportunities to embrace and miracles to fully experience, appreciate and utilize as The Universe wishes us to. It's our gold medal for the taking.

Take it. Then keep moving!

. . . keep coming back

"Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see." ~ C.S. Lewis

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Joy Trail

"For today, all you need is the grace to begin beginning." ~ Julia Cameron
It can be hard to be joyful. It can sometimes appear as if anger, vindictiveness, distrust and acrimony surround us with every headline, newscast and notification on social media. The world can amplify what we as parents of addicts and addicts in recovery have been experiencing for a long time.

It can be paralyzing.

There have been times like this we can recall, perhaps not in the world we are blessed to be part of but in our tiny little microcosms we call family where we were confronted with a "move or die" decision. We were many times given the choice to dive deeper into the vortex with The Addiction and our children or to look up, look ahead and through the muck, the shit and hedgerows addiction threw our way, to resume our journey to recovery.

"How did we ever pull this off?" we ask ourselves.

We decided to SEEK and SEE the possibilities. We didn't need to look far beyond our immediate surroundings to find dismay, misery or distractions away from the lives we were meant to lead as fully alive human beings. We wanted more than The Addiction could ever offer us if we drilled down into the abyss with our children. We wanted what was REAL. And we knew surrendering to The Addiction would reinforce our children's pessimistic and fatalistically defeatist attitudes toward life. We hoped by finding that next plateau or that next sunny meadow our children might see the glories that living life fully can bring, though remembering not to harbor any false illusions this would be an easy transformation to achieve for the addicts or even the ones in recovery.

We CHOSE to be alive. We chose to be happy, and eventually, we found the Joy trail.

It's like the muscle memory of a world-class athlete. We've done this before, we can do it again. It's the riding-the-bike or driving a stick shift thing - I haven't driven a stick in years but I believe I could remember the clutch-shift release choreography after a few stalls and grinds.

That might be just what is required. When we look to resume our pathways on the Joy Trail we might experience a few stalls, a few bumps in the road and reactions from onlookers as our attempts to become joyful human beings result in awkward fits and starts before our travels again become smooth and natural.

Being joyful does not equate with becoming the village idiot, the "don't worry be happy" buffoon with the constant smile on his or her face - though smiling does help, it clears away the brush, the fog that can obscure our next steps along our journeys.

Joy is a decision. Joy is a state of mind. Joy brings with it more joy and those unexplainable happy synchronicities delivered from The Universe to confirm we are on the right track.

Joy repels negativity. Remember how you got here. Remember where you're going. Be joyful, SEEK out the joy in life and watch the world's negativity bounce off your soul like sleet off a steel roof. Our kids are watching intently.

Who knows what might happen?
. . . keep coming back

"Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties." ~ Helen Keller

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Keeping the Plates Spinning, OR, When the Other Shoe Drops

"Once you're a parent, you're the ghost of your children's future." ~ Joe Cooper, Interstellar
Years ago there were programs on television called variety shows. These would showcase various talent from around the world - acrobats, comedians, opera singers, pop singers, Broadway stars, rock groups, animal acts - you never knew what you'd be treated to each week. The closest thing we have to the old variety shows is the Got Talent franchise. I am captivated when a novelty act progresses through to the late stages of these competitions. We are all witnesses to something special as these quirky artists pursue dreams against the longest of odds.

Growing up my favorite of these unconventional variety show performers were the plate spinners. Google this along with the song "Sabre Dance" which these men and women would often choose as accompaniment to their frenetic presentations. The goal was to spin as many plates or bowls as possible on long sticks while at some point also ending the act by gracefully catching each as they fell, moving from one stick after another, normally from right to left or left to right in order, miraculously, hopefully, without breaking anything. Often, to complicate things there would be plates spinning on tables and other kitchen-utensil-related perpetual motion distractions to make us think the hero of the insanity would take his or her eye off the ball, I mean ... plate.

Every now and then a plate would fall proving the person on stage was human after all. We would share in the victory of all or most plates spinning and gently being returned to a state of rest. We would breathe a collective sigh of relief that could be felt around the country.

Years have passed and we no longer see many of these intrepid overly-practiced entertainers. I have found YouTube videos of Chinese plate spinners including one who performs by standing (rolling) on what looks like an oversized fitness ball, as if keeping 6 to 8 plates spinning at one time isn't hard enough. Though the plate spinning act may be a thing of the past, the image remains burned in our collective national psyche and has even become part of our lexicon:
"I can't meet you for lunch today, I've got too many plates spinning."
As our children progress through the various stages of addiction and recovery we can have innumerable plates spinning at one time: the rehab plate, the walking on eggshells in your own house plate, the family budget plate, the detachment with anger plate, the detachment with love plate, the trust plate, the hope plate, the expectation plate - that's just 8 plates, and there's more.

Too often, some plates don't even make it to the stage much less to any part of our performance as parents of addicts or addicts in recovery. Boxed up or perhaps on deck for a spin when time permits, these plates are kept protected from possible damage, remaining in the perfect state as we remember them before The Addiction took over our lives.

Two of these plates are our relationship with our most significant others, and our responsibilities and connection to the siblings of the addict.

Let's focus today on those siblings whose lives were turned upside down by the entrance of The Addiction into our households.

With so many plates spinning we run the risk of taking our eyes off those who are indirectly impacted by The Addiction. We become so naturally and rightfully focused on our babies whose lives are at risk we wrongfully assume their brothers and sisters will see how falling into the addition vortex can ruin lives. We hold our other children to a higher standard nobody could ascend to, we project our addict's worst tendencies, past behaviors and first steps into addiction onto the brothers and sisters, or simply devote all our attention to the addict or recovering addict. We risk losing our other babies. At some point, the other shoe may drop, the sibling may rebel by acting out, or worse, following in the footsteps of the addict stumble into the same rabbit hole.

Or, the perceived pressure to succeed, to "not be another addicted kid," or "failure" may be too much for the brother or sister to bear.

We can remember our journey must remain focused on self actualization and as a part of this we can continue to love, trust (a BIG one) and listen to our children who feel betrayed by their heroes. We can fight our natural tendencies to overcompensate for our perceived failures (hopefully we've escaped Failure Island) and allow our children to know they WILL BE OK and if they fall, we will no more give up on them than we have on their addicted brother or sister. Remember, addiction is a family disease.

Trust, the BIG one, means taking the sibling or siblings out of the box where we have protected and isolated them to keep them in that perfect state of our recollections, and place them lovingly on one of our many life sticks we have become so masterful at maintaining. We've got this. We're practiced at this perhaps more than most.

Our babies may lose some of their pristine sheen, they may become chipped, cracked or even broken, temporarily, but that's all part of life isn't it? We will someday see the plates spinning, all of them different, yet equally cherished. It will be a sight to see.

And our children will remember how we helped them along their way while allowing them to figure life out on their own, chips, dings and all.

I'll be listening for the collective sigh of relief ... and joy.

. . . keep coming back
"People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed. Never throw out anyone." ~ Audrey Hepburn