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