Saturday, February 15, 2014

SPREAD THEM OUT....PENETRATE....SCORE!

THE LIGHTS ARE ON BUT THEIR BRAINS ARE DARK!




Well, first, we had to decide if we were going to let Jackie Robinson in the locker room let alone in the showers.  Well, through some miracle of the universe, we got passed that (at least I think we did!), and then we had to decide whether or not to allow women reporters into the locker room.  Now that is kind of weird to me especially for guys that wear cups that make them look like ballet dancers.  Who really had a problem with women in the locker room?  I can imagine any number of players with that “secret” dream to be a porn star screaming to let them in and thinking to themselves, "I can fulfill all my dreams and make my honey jealous all at the same time!"  And I guess we solved that huge problem with a towel!


Now, we have our next challenge.  Apparently, some NFL executives and coaches FEEL uncomfortable about having a gay player in the locker room.  WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  Isn’t this the game where a man is required to penetrate eleven other men, through the red zone no less, to score?  Isn’t this the game we see a coach putting his arm around a player, pulling in him really close, whispering something in his ear, and then slapping him on the butt to send him back into the game?  Isn’t this the game where one guys walks up to another guy who is bent over, bends down a tad and places his hands right smack in between his crack and the family jewels?  I think that spot is called the perineum.  So here’s one guy hunched over another guy who is bent over, and placing the upper side of his hand hard into his pereneum and then he barks like a dog.  That is ALL perfectly okay!  Really?  Okay, NFL folks, what is your problem?  You’re cracking me up.  Sorry!  It’s a pretty silly time in history to try to bring up the rear.  I mean one of the guys on your team has been playing with another guys perineum for how many years, and now you’re going to get excited about a very talented gay professional football player in the locker room?  Uh?  



I'll only make one more comment about butts. It seems that the first picture that comes up on everybody’s mental screen when they hear the word gay, is a man having anal sex with another man.  Gay men are no more interested in butts than heterosexual homophobic men are interested in butts.  So it is a level playing field after all!



I have one last comment.  NFL executives and coaches, shame on you! (See Sports Illustrated Atrticle.)  You don’t deserve anonymity.  Quit being ignorant dicks and treat all your players and potential players with respect.  After all, they put a ton of money in your rear pocket!

Monday, February 10, 2014

SPIRITUALITY AT ITS BEST



I know I talk about humility in this blog, BUT! This is going to be the best article you have ever read on spirituality!

And hopefully after reading this, you too will want to at least consider surrendering to Life rather than trying to control Life.

Hopefully you will begin thinking about surrendering to heaven instead of forcing your way there.  Hopefully you will realize you can stop running from hell and surrender to whatever Life has to offer you at any given moment.

Hopefully you just might surrender to the gnawing urge to give up trying to be better than everyone else.

Hopefully you will consider surrendering to this very moment with the faith that there is a More, both inside of us and surrounding and sustaining us if we only let it.
  
And like the baseball player, hopefully, you will decide to stop judging your success by how many times you strike out, and you will see for the first time in your life that being successful thirty percent of the time is a DAMNED GOOD BATTING AVERAGE, A HELLUVA BATTING AVERAGE.

MORE OF MY STORY
Anonymity is an important spiritual principle in twelve step work, so I have consciously made sure that nothing I share in my story jeopardizes anyone’s anonymity except my own, and I have chosen to be seen rather than remain anonymous with careful forethought. 

I am very fortunate that I started attending Al Anon meetings before I got honest with myself and recognized I was at the “wrong” meeting! (Check out my previous blog).  You see, I am as judgmental as they come, and I think, had I not developed a connection with and a liking for the folks in the Al Anon group, I might have judged my way out of any AA meeting.  I would have picked a part every person there and quickly came to the conclusion that everyone was way nuttier than I, and that AA could or would not do diddly for me let alone diddly squat!

There were many miracles happening to get me to an AA meeting.  First, it was a miracle I even went to the Al Anon meetings.  It was even a bigger miracle that I got to that first Al Anon meeting alive, as the person driving was blinded by the setting sun at one point, and while I was literally screaming, “Stop,” she crashed into a cement island and then laughed hysterically!  I laughed too because I had crapped my pants!  No, just kidding.

So when I finally get the obvious, that it could be even more helpful to me to go to AA (although many folks participate in both, Al Anon and AA), I discover there’s an AA meeting right around the corner from my house.   In fact, it’s the same morning meeting I have been recommending to my clients for the past twenty five years!  No, I never went myself!  How funny is that?  (Or is that sad?)

The meeting was also held in a building that was once a small church.  It was the same little church where I had stopped several times a week in the afternoon to sit and talk to God until it was decommissioned!  I was furious that they had desecrated MY sacred spot by turning it into some kind of multi-purpose hall, and I was preparing to write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper with my complaint.  You know, how does the House of God become decommissioned?  Is that some new brand of real estate theology?


So it was becoming a tad difficult to turn a blind eye to a God at work here, and a God with a weird and great sense of humor.  I mean what do you think?  Gets me to an Al Anon meeting when I really need to be going to AA, gets me damned near killed on the way to the Al Anon meeting, softens me up for a few weeks listening and relating to some powerful personal sharings at the Al Anon meeting, and then directs me to the very same little church where, for the last thirty years, I had been stopping several afternoons a week to sit and talk to God?  Is that total coincidence?  Or is that the kind of “proof” we all look for to know that there may not be a lot of strings, but obviously some, and God does yank them around when He or She wants.

So I walked into my first AA meeting, naturally a little nervous, a tad protective and defensive, but also open, very open, and to my surprise there were folks there that I already knew. Wow!

One of the first things I heard shared or proclaimed was, “God did not get sober.  I did.” At first, I wasn’t sure just what the person was trying to convey, but I just about fell out of my chair laughing, but I contained myself.  I wanted so badly to say, “Hey, thanks for that information.  Now I get it.  God is drunk and you’re running the show.”

I heard another person share, “I come here each morning to have fun, and if you’re not having fun, I don’t know what in the hell you’re here for!”  What a wild ass thing to say?  I was sold.  I hadn’t laughed that hard in weeks or perhaps months or perhaps years.  So AA is not a punishment for me.  It’s not something I have to attend.  Never even thought of it in those terms.  I go to AA to have fun, and I do. 

But here was the biggest kicker of all for me. That first AA meeting was the most powerful spiritual experience I had ever had in my entire life, and each meeting continues to live up to that standard for me.  Yes, spiritual experience.

So how is it spiritual, you ask.  Well, first of all, it was and continues to be a very humbling experience.  Not humbling in terms of shame or feeling lowly.  Humbling in the sense of sitting in a room with other people who are just like me:  ordinary, flawed, searching, wanting more, sometimes weak-willed, sometimes proudful, sometimes irresponsible, and they make no bones about it.  They put up no defense to disguise themselves.  You never hear folks groveling about any part of their lives even though some of them have lost a great deal because of their alcoholism, a great great deal. Yes, those are the rightful consequences, and yes, these men and women are willing to take complete responsibility for their entire life.  Yes entire life, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  

And whenever anyone shares, they include something about their relationship with, well, some refer to their higher power, some, to the God of their understanding, and some just refer to simply God.  Everyone acknowledges that they really don’t understand who God is or what God’s make up is, but they experience God’s presence and working in his or her life, and some of these same folks admit they aren’t really sure there even is a God, but they cannot deny their experiences of God.  The most common experience shared is God removing the obsession to drink.

And they don’t talk about this relationship in theological or dogmatic terms or in pretty terms.  They are just plain ol’ down and dirty in sharing their relationship with God.   They talk about God as if God is their best friend or a partner or a mentor or a guide.  God is never described as punishing or angry or mean or cruel or tricky or dishonest or withholding.  No one seems to have a fear of God.  They talk about how this relationship moves them to grow and continue to grow a selfless caring for the people in their lives, particularly the people they love and have hurt including those who no longer want anything to do with them.  They talk openly about ALL the ways they have hurt other people and continue to hurt people (that’s one of the things we do as human being, right?), and the ways they go about making amends.  They talk about their daily prayer life not in some task-oriented way, not in terms of some religious practice where you better pray or else.  But praying has become an important part of everyone’s day.

You know, the stereotypic Mafia hit man, big bruiser, with the Italian accent?  Well, imagine that guy sharing that he gets on his hands and knees to pray every morning and every night. And when he doesn’t, his wife reminds him to. That brings a big laugh.  You don’t think I felt humble listening to him?  Of course, I don’t get on my hands and knees.  That’s for little kids or is it?  Or is that who we are?  Grown-up little kids?  And you know what?  During the last almost four years, I have heard that same sharing from different people, over and over again to the point I have begun trying it on for size for myself.

People share things like, “Yeah, I got pulled over for drunk driving several times, but they always let me go and well, the last time, they didn’t let me go.  And I knew almost instantly, that this was the best thing that ever happened to me."

What?  The best thing that ever happened to you?  God was somehow having this deputy arrest you?

“Yeah,” he would say, “the best thing that ever happened to me.  It woke me up and made me realize what I was doing to my wife and to my kids and to all of you by being a drunk.”

And people share how God has lead them back to a life that includes a job, having enough money to pay the bills, being able to once again be a contributor, being able to hold their head up high, being proud to be out in public with their loved ones and family, knowing that no matter how challenging starting over is, God keeps giving them a sense of hope and confidence like they have never experienced before.

Oh, here’s another kicker.  You’re not going to believe this one either.  Every person shares how SERVICE to others is the final piece in the puzzle.  Without service, sobriety remains incomplete.  Service?  Yes, service.  If I want to remain sober, I better be doing something for my fellow human beings, something that benefits me nothing, except ironically, the final piece to my sobriety.   And one better!  Don’t tell anyone when you do something to serve others. Keep it to yourself!

I knew that what I was hearing here on that first morning, and continue to hear, was and is real and coming from down deep inside each person’s soul.  God was in this room in a way that I had never experienced in any church or any church service.

Now you got to understand, these folks are not what we think of when we think alcoholic. This AA fellowship represents the entire gamot of our little town including those alcoholic stereotypes.  But everyone in this fellowship is seen and respected as an equal human being no matter their wealth or their poverty, no matter their formal education.  Everyone is considered wise and having much to offer spiritually.  And we listen intently to each person for what they give us.  There are no priests or reverends in this spiritual gathering.  There are no chosen authorities to whom we better listen.  We are all a part of this gathering and simultaneously a part of something bigger than any of us individually.

So it is no longer MY sobriety, MY journey.  The same way that we all get it that Love is not a singular journey.  Love exists in a relationship, obviously.  So too, sobriety is not a singular journey.  When you make it a singular journey, you are indeed sober, but walking around with hairs up your ass and you drive everyone absolutely insane, and you can never figure out why because after all, you’re sober just like everyone wants you to be.  But you’re resentful about your sobriety.  You’re proudful about your sobriety as if you did it all by yourself.

I know all about sobriety ALL BY MYSELF (See the previous blog).  This time around I decided not to go it alone. I have come to realize that sobriety is a connection to my highest self, so to speak, and that connection demands yet another connection to other human beings.  My sobriety has also become my connection to God even if I don’t believe in God.  That’s perfectly okay because I am still connected and I get it. I’m connected to “something” I’m not sure I even believe in, but somewhere in my soul, which I might not believe in either, I know there is an indisputable connection that has allowed me to accomplish what I never thought achievable before.

Even though at this moment in my life, I have no doubts about God’s existence and presence, I wrote the above paragraph the way I did because I know most of us have those questions and doubts.  And they may come and go. Sometimes they are like fuzzy shadows and sometimes they are like absolute darkness.  But that’s what is so profound about the spirituality of twelve steps.  You do not have to be certain about God in order to connect to God.  How is that for one big paradox or oxymoron?  But that, my reader, is spirituality at its best!

Thanks again, to Phillip Seymour Hoffman for giving his life so I might be inspired to write about sobriety.  There will be more.

THANK YOU FOR READING AND THANK YOU for looking at where you are spiritually.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

A TRIBUTE TO PHILLIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN

Picture taken from DAILY NEWS ARTICLE 


     We like to convince ourselves that our sons and daughters die on the battle field for good reason.  Those of you who know me know how much I think that is bunk, and that we should be on our hands and knees to our sons and daughters seeking their forgiveness for offering them up just because we, as a nation, still do not know how to resolve conflict.

     But for today, I am going to run with that notion that sometimes people die for good reason, and I am going to say that Phillip Seymour Hoffman died on the battle field of addiction so you and I might be SOBER at least for today.  Maybe it is through his death that we find the courage to get off the battlefield and come home.  And I don't mean that cynically, sarcastically, tongue in cheek, ironically, paradoxically.  I mean it sincerely.

MY STORY
     In June, 1987, I attended a workshop presented by Claudia Black.  At the time, I was forty-two years old and had been drinking daily since age twenty three and frequently drinking to the point of getting sick.  I left that workshop knowing that I would never drink again.

     I began to literally enjoy being sober and feeling sober.  I never wanted to experience that “buzz” again. Looking at the buzz from my sober memory, I realized that the buzz left me feeling off-balanced and disconnected from important parts of myself, my brain for one, and my mind and soul for two and three.  I began to experience a sense of wholeness about myself that I had never experienced before.

     This journey into sobriety was not a self-righteous journey.  I did not look down my nose on my friends and family who continued to drink, some quite heavily.  I was simply clear about what I truly wanted for my life.  I changed the way I ate.  I began exercising and lost considerable weight.  I thought I was beginning to look like the man I wanted to be. And I did it all BY MYSELF. No program, no meetings, no outside help, no rehab, just ME walking MY journey.  

     Seven years into MY sobriety, I decided to have A glass of wine.  And I did, ONE SMALL glass of wine.  That was it.  In the days that followed my one glass of wine, I thought to myself, “I can do this.  I can have one glass of wine.  I am not an alcoholic after all.”  I’m not sure what the “this” was when I said to myself “I can do this.”

     Sixteen years later, my liver was screaming. I was waking up in the morning wondering who drank with me the night before because I would find a wine glass, half-full, patiently resting right next to where I had fallen asleep (or blacked out) on the couch.  Secretly, I knew the glass could not possibly be mine because I would never leave a half-glass of wine!  And secretly, I knew I could not drink A glass of wine.

     I looked in the mirror each morning secretly wondering if I looked like an alcoholic.  I did not bother to look into the night before where I poured myself two scotches on the rocks prior to guzzling enough wine straight from the bottle to leave approximately two glasses plus a splash for the bottom.  You see, I knew that a normal person could drink about two glasses of wine over the course of the evening and not be in trouble.  So I drank my two glasses and left that splash sloshing around the very bottom of the bottle, proof positive I did not drink an entire bottle of wine by myself.  I don’t know why I thought the scotch somehow didn’t count! I guess a good alcoholic always has any number of invisible or stealth drinks.  You know, like a thirty pack is just a couple of beers!

    During these sixteen years of relapse, I wanted more than anything to feel sober again. I would stop drinking for a day, two days, a week, six weeks, but the obsession for just one glass always took me for that wonderful ride that wiped out every stress, every worry, every drop of sadness, every pound of hurt, disappointment, disillusionment, self doubt, guilt, shame, old anger, old pain, new fear and old fear.  I mean a couple of shots of Glenlivet single malt scotch and a “glass” of Folie a Deux’s Menage a Trois, were better than any pharmaceutical available.

     What happened next is interesting to say the least and probably just downright miraculous.  I was lucky that I did not end up in jail, probably could have benefited from rehab.  Where I did end up was an Al Anon meeting. Now, in case you don’t know, Al Anon is a meeting for folks who have a difficult time living with an alcoholic!  With me!

     I wasn’t drunk when I went to that meeting, but I wasn’t sober either.  I went to that meeting under the guise of supporting a friend who was leading the meeting that night.  Oh how God works!  That Al Anon meeting was exactly the place I needed to be to begin my journey back home to sobriety.  

    I began attending those Al Anon meetings weekly, listening intently to very raw sharings, which unexpectedly triggered incredible sadness and tears for me, and I became starkly aware of the impact of alcohol on my entire life.

     My Uncle was the classic falling down drunk. But I loved him dearly.  He bought me my first lunch pail and my first bicycle.  When he came to visit, he took me with him everywhere he went including every bar along his “itinerary,” and of course, we got thrown out of every bar which initially I found quite exciting.  It was sort of like a cowboy movie!  “I’m sorry, sir, we can’t serve him.”  Uncle Herman would let lose with the expletives.  “God dammit, he doesn’t want a god dammed drink.  He just wants a coke, right Butch?”  I would shake my head yes and hold my breath!

    My Dad, on the other hand, was the classic sophisticated controlled alcoholic.  He carefully measured every shot and counted every drink. First, the scotch and sodas, and then the wine with dinner.  He drank only the best scotch and only premium wine.  Whenever he broke out the champagne, he was a zillion laughs, quite funny.  But day-to-day, he was moody, emotionally distant, and it was my Mom’s job to keep him isolated from us kids when he came home from work, not because he was mean and she was afraid he would hurt us, but because he wanted to be alone.  He wanted peace and quiet, and he found that peace and quiet in alcohol.

    At some point in our growing up years, my sisters and I were all introduced to alcohol. First to wine with dinner and eventually to cocktails (I loved Manhattans!) on special occasions, and champagne, lots of champagne, on even more special occasions.  For better and for worse, through Al Anon, I became aware that alcohol had been a significant part of my every day life for as long as I could remember.

    I actually continued to drink after the first couple of Al Anon meetings.  In fact, I drank quite heavily.  The bubbling pain was too intense, but somehow or another, my addicted brain was able to say out loud, “This is nuts!” So on September 17, 2010, I began my journey home to sobriety once again, and two weeks later, I went to my first AA meeting.

    As I share my story with you, I place no blame on my Uncle or my Dad, nor myself, for that matter.  It’s ALL just part of my story.  Are Uncle Herman and Dad the cause of my alcoholism?  Am I genetically predisposed to alcoholism?  Do I have a disordered addictive brain?  Did I ever have control over my drinking and lost control?  Did I have choices along the way, to drink or not to drink?  At what point did the addiction take over my free will or my ability to make choices?

    These are all interesting, yes interesting questions.  If we are in any way touched by addiction, we are driven to answer these questions.  We want to find the cause, we want to find the thing(s) or person(s) to blame, we want to find the genetic link, we want to find compassion and or excuses for the person trapped in the chains of addiction, or we are just outrageously angry with them and blame them for being so shamefully out of control, so selfishly choosing guaranteed “death” for both themselves and the people who love them.

     And this is the absolute insidiousness and power of addiction.  It MAKES NO SENSE, and there are no answers.  Once an addiction becomes part of the equation, whatever the equation is, your relationships, your dreams, your goals, your life, nothing, NOTHING, absolutely nothing, NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING will ever add up or make sense.

     This is so difficult for us to accept because our brains are driven to make sense out of every and anything we cannot make sense out of.  When we cannot make sense out of something, we are powerless over it.  Ugh!  I know you didn’t want to hear or read that! Sorry!

     When it comes to addiction, it is pointless to blame, it is pointless to search the neuropathways of the brain, the swirling chains and links of genes, it is pointless to beg, plead, threaten, shame, guilt, it is all just plane pointless.  Perhaps addiction, like nothing else in our lives, takes us right up to that edge, right up to that wall where I can go no farther nor further on my own.  It’s me against myself.  It is me against the universe.  As Ziggy once said, “I think we’re gonna get creamed!”  This is the edge, the wall, where I realize I am an important but small piece in the big scheme of things, but I am not it, I am not all powerful. 

   So am I saying that when it comes to addiction, we are all victims?  Did you hear me say that?  Did you read me saying that?  Isn’t it interesting that that is where some of us go? Immediately, no less!

      I AM saying that there are places or times in our life or in our world or in the universe in general where we are powerless and the way through that moment is to embrace the powerlessness.  Embracing the powerlessness is not the same as embracing hopelessness or helplessness.  It is not the same as dismissing all the power I do have.  It is not the same as crying uncle.  It is not the same as defeat.  It is simply recognizing that I have come to an edge or hit a wall in my existence.  It is like the scene in Harry Potter when he must get to Platform 9 3/4 

   Embracing my powerlessness is simply acknowledging that I am not God.  Whether or not God exists, whether or not I even believe in God, I accept, for certain, I am not God.

      It is a moment of faith, faith in the reality that there is something more; faith in the reality that I am something more; faith in the reality that I am not the sum of all of my unmet needs; I am not the sum of all my critics, including the critical voices inside my brain; faith that I am not the sum of all my decisions, right, wrong, and indifferent; faith that I am not the sum of all my accomplishments and failures; faith that I am just plain MORE, and finally, acceptance that my addiction, whatever it is, will never get me to that more.  My addiction will never take me to platform 9 3/4.  My addiction, as high as it might take me, as low as it might take me, will never get me to heaven or hell.  It will always leave me STUCK at the base of that wall.

      It reminds me of yet another movie scene, the end of Episode V of Star Wars, where Luke is battling Darth Vader and has virtually no choice but to hang on and submit to Darth Vader or to let go and tumble into an abyss that seemingly will also bring certain death.  So he lets go, and yes, down into the abyss he goes.  And, of course, he does not die.  In fact he is literally “snatched up” at the bottom of the abyss.

    So hitting the wall is a good thing.  Sometimes folks refer to it as hitting bottom.  It is the place where we are willing, speaking of free will, to at least imagine that there might be a power which I cannot access through any scientific, moral, motivational or religious pathways.  

     So, do I think I finally have it?  Sobriety?  Do I think I finally embraced my powerlessness?  I have for this very moment and it’s not something I am proud of or brag about, but something I am humbly grateful for.

     Am I better than Phillip Seymour Hoffman? Are you kidding me?  So, then, what is the story of folks like Phillip Seymour Hoffman?  Well, we go right back to you and me trying the impossible, to make sense out of addiction.

      What do I think happens to folks like Phillip Seymour Hoffman?  Do they go to hell?  Do they get to come back and give it another try till they get it right?

     You know what?  I do not need to be so smart to have those answers and for me to try to come up with those answers is simply one big act of grandiosity.

     I once told a panhandler sitting outside of Starbucks (a pretty smart place to panhandle by the way), that I was giving him money under one condition.  If I were in his “boat” next week, he had to share that spot with me.  And I was serious.  Life is mysterious and tenuous, you know, and that is what I do know for certain.   

     So is this it?  This is all I have to say on the topic?  No, I am going to continue with several more blogs, sharing with you my moment-to-moment journey of sobriety and what has sustained me.  So be looking for the sequels!

     Thank you for reading and thank you for taking something away for yourself and your own recovery whatever you are recovering from. And thank you, Phillip Seymour Hoffman for giving your life that I might continue to discover the path of sobriety and most importantly discovering that it is not MY sobriety nor MY path.

THANK YOU.



Monday, February 3, 2014

WE ARE ALL SITTING DUCKS







     When it comes to relapse, we are all sitting ducks.  It's like driving on a narrow windy mountain road with no guard rail.  Even the best driver sometimes....  

     So what is relapse?

     I can tell you this, it is NOT about will power!   
     Whatever drives us into addiction in the first place, also drives us into relapse.  And absolutely yes, I can never blame what drives me.  I ultimately take responsibility for my choices even when I have lost the awareness that I have choices.

     What drives every addiction and relapse is PAIN and typically OLD PAIN.  We all walk around with old pain.  It is stored in a part of our brain that we do not have conscious access to.  That place is called the amygdala.

     How does that happen?  Well, when we survive an over-the-top experience, the chemistry necessary to weave the experience (both the emotions and the story line) into our memory is neutralized by all the stress hormones flowing at the time, so the emotions associated with the experience never get processed into our explicit memory, but instead sit in their raw form in our amygdala, just waiting to be fired off in response to anything that even remotely reminds the brain of the original pain.

     When old  pain gets fired off, we have no way of knowing it is old pain because it feels very very present, and the pain is real.  Yes, all pain is in our head.  What else is new?  It still hurts!

     Is there a way to get that old pain out of the amygdala and processed into our explicit memory?  Absolutely.  First of all, I have to begin recognizing it is old pain.  I want to take note of those certain emotions that keep getting triggered over and over again, like anger or feelings of worthlessness or shame or guilt.  I have to begin telling myself, “I am just too reactive here.  This must be old pain.”

     So once I identify old pain, then I create a story line to weave with the pain.  And what if I don’t remember or know the story line?  Well, you can ask relatives and family friends what they know about your “story.”  And if they refuse to tell you, you can pretty much make up a story based upon the nature of the pain.  I mean there are only so many stories that fit particular kinds of pain.  And it doesn’t matter if you are correct.  You don’t have to have all the facts.  We’re not going to court here.  We simply want to weave the pain together with a story line, any story line, so the emotion and the story can be laid to rest in our memory, and we are no longer reactive or vulnerable to being triggered.

     O my God, you are concerned about truth!  Get a grip.  There is only one truth.  You are walking around with old pain which eventually is going to kill you or someone else.  That is the most important truth.  So weave it together however you can.

     You know what is really crazy?  Some of us do remember the painful events.  We remember them quite quite clearly which is a miracle in and of itself because it is more likely that the stress hormones pumping at the time of the event would have neutralized the brain chemistry necessary for memory.  So yes, we remember, and if we could make a story out of what we remember, the weaving process could take place, and again, the painful event could be laid to rest in our memory in a way that it is no longer a trigger.

     But when we try to tell our story, when we try to check out our story, what does everyone tell us?  They tell us we are remembering incorrectly.  We are told that what happened to us happens to everyone, so no big deal.  We are told to stop crying over the past.  We are told that if we had any sense, we would let this painful event make a better man or woman out of us.  When it comes to soldiers and first responders, we tell them NOT TO TALK, but to simply BURY THIS SHIT.  That is what we tell them.  Yes, those are the very words a World War Two Veteran told his son, a Viet Nam Vet, who was literally dying to talk about his experiences in Nam.

     So it is like we have unwritten rules that tell us it is better to walk around with old pain and triggers than it is to find a way to lay the old pain to rest.

     So the flavor of our discussion so far sort of implies that old pain comes from really over-the-top events like childhood abandonment and abuse, lack of early attachment experiences, some kind of terrifying accident or act of Nature, medical procedures, deaths of loved ones, being in the midst of a war, living in poverty, living in subhuman conditions, and so on.  

     But much of our old pain comes from equally disturbing events but of a different kind.  They are wounds that erupt ironically from “stories” that people make up about our character, our heart, our ambitions, and our dreams and unfortunately, we buy into these character assassinations hook, line, and sinker.

     So, like what, you ask?  Well, for example, being told that I do not measure up or that I will never measure up.  Getting the clear message that whatever I accomplish is never good enough or basically that I am not good enough.  Being told directly or indirectly that I will never be as good as my sister or my brother or I will never be the man my father is or the woman my mother is.  Being told either directly or by implication that I am not very pretty or handsome or that I am fat (even when I am not), awkward, stupid, crazy, defiant, mentally ill, selfish, without talent (picked last for everything).  Being told, at a moment I am genuinely apologizing and making amends, that I have never been sorry for anything in my life. Being told, after a large audience congratulates me on an inspiring presentation, that I was inappropriate in my language and delivery by one or two people into whose hands, for whatever reason, I have surrendered my self worth.  These are the events, some of them occurring and reoccurring, that we never diagnose as deep deep wounds.  

     When we hear these death sentences from a very early age and then again and again in our adult life, we walk around with a kind of low grade anxiety that whispers and warns us that we cannot accomplish what we set out to or when we do, this low grade anxiety literally challenges the reality of our accomplishments. Then we slip into an undefinable depression which we nor anyone else can make sense out of.  So we find refuge in concluding that we must have a chemical imbalance.

     So I win an Oscar for my performance, but it’s not enough for the little voice, and so I assume it must not be enough for anyone else, and then that pervasive sense of not being good enough surges like a tidal wave.  



     Unless we can find a way to look these “pains” and these voices in the eye, so to speak, they will haunt us for the rest of our lives and always beckon us toward addiction and relapse.

     There is something else, perhaps even more insidious, that invites relapse.  When we are successful, that same little voice taunts us that the success will not last.  The little voice drives us to find a way to make the accomplished feeling last, so we turn to our addiction to keep the high of the accomplishment going.  It is a devastating way to celebrate our accomplish-ment.

     It is amazing when old pain gets triggered. I, for one, cannot believe that pain, that is so old, and that I thought I had already woven into the fabric of my being, can still get triggered and leave me feeling sad, I mean SAD, depressed, like a complete failure, like I am worthless, unlovable, unlikable, ugly, fat, and every other negative descriptor in the Thesaurus. 

So there is one more critical piece for recovery and avoiding relapse that is important for us to look at and explore.  Just like I was willing to venture into the bottle (of pills or booze), into the syringe, into the smoke, into the food, into the craps table, into compulsive sex, into religion even, I must be willing to venture forth into the realm of the spiritual.

     So here’s what I am talking about.  When I write a short story or professional book, a poem, when I compose a song, I am more and more amazed at what comes out onto the page or onto the staff.  It becomes clearer and clearer that I am not the author or the composer.  I know there is an Author or Composer much greater than me that is sending the inspiration through my brain, through my musical ear, through my fingers on to the computer screen.  Yes, I am a small part of life (with a small “l”), and there is a Life out there with a capital “L.”  For me, I call that Life, God or sometimes my Senior Partner or sometimes, Love.  When I journal in the morning, for example, I begin with “Dear Love.”

     So almost every day, I come to places in my life where I hit the wall.  When I hit that wall, old pain is immediately triggered, triggered in relationships, triggered in both business successes and failures, triggered dealing with my aging body, triggered in my fears, my disappointments, my dreams that seem dashed or far away.  I consider everything I know to do myself.  Blow up the wall, walk away from the relationships, push through, envision a miracle happening in my body but I do the envisioning with so much stress that I undermine my own miracle.  If I am lucky, I tap myself on the shoulder.  If I am really lucky, a friend or loved one taps me on the shoulder.  If I am really aware, I stop.  I stop trying to get passed that wall.  I stop trying to get over it.  I stop trying to go through it.  I literally surrender to my own efforts and reach, reach, reach to Life, to God, to my Senior Partner, to Love, to what some folks refer to as their Higher Power or to God as they understand God.  And I let myself have faith that my Senior Partner will reach back. And my Senior Partner always does.

     When I lose that connection with my Senior Partner in my daily life, in my daily recovery, I am a sitting duck for relapse.  And I have to humbly tell you, and I hope you can humbly acknowledge for yourself, I am and we are all sitting ducks.  Just like any relationship, staying connected spiritually takes daily commitment and work.

     So embrace your old pain.  Create a story about it.  Don’t let anyone critique your story. It is your story.  And reach out to Life, to God.  Let your Senior Partner take your hand and walk with you and carry you just like in the poem Footprints.

     This surrendering costs you nothing.  You lose nothing, not your personal power, not your will, not your ambition, not your dreams, not your abilities or talents.  You lose nothing. Ironically, you gain it all including a Senior Partner.  How cool is that?

     And you know how I get passed that part of myself that refuses to surrender?  It is not in solitude or meditation.  It isn’t something I learned on my own.  I learned and relearn to surrender by humbly sitting in a gathering of other sitting ducks, humbly listening, humbly sharing, and becoming aware that I truly am not alone on my journey.  My Senior Partner has a billion hands.

THANK YOU FOR READING.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

A SYRINGE WITH HEROIN STUCK IN HIS ARM

     Of course it’s not your job to keep people from committing suicide!  Or is it?  I know, as a therapist, people can talk about killing themselves all they want to in the therapy session, but once they say, “Hey, thanks for everything, I’m out of here (going to kill myself),” then it is my legal obligation to do whatever it takes to keep that person from killing him or herself.  I resent the heck out of that.  That is so crazy to me, or is it?

     Well, I decided today to stop bearing the burden alone.  It is up to EVERYONE of us to keep people from killing themselves.  Of course, people have free will.  Of course, people are going to continue to kill themselves.  And I’m not talking about taking over the responsibility of your significant other’s pain pills and dishing them out so they won’t overdose because they do overdose every time they have a chance. Go to Nar anon, now! Contrary to what you think I have said so far, it is not our responsibility to keep someone else alive UNLESS.

     So here is the UNLESS.

     Begin by asking yourself, why are so many folks in our country, in our immediate family, in our extended family, in our circle of friends ADDICTED to every and anything including food, television, exercise, church, sex, gambling, drugs, pills, alcohol, facebook, ad infinitum?

     Begin by asking yourself a similar question. Why am I ADDICTED to everything including.....?

     Begin listening to every word that comes out of your mouth.  Dom Miguel Ruiz in The Four Agreements invites us to be impeccable in our word.  Powerful invitation.  What are we saying to our infants?  Remember, they cannot process the words, but they process the emotion from seven months in the womb.  Yes, I am not making that up.  

     What do we say to our toddlers when we are frustrated with them?  What are we saying to our school age children especially when we are under the influence of our own addiction?   Listen to yourself.

     What are we saying to our teenagers?  What are we saying to our significant others when they put on weight, when they fall apart for whatever reason, when they don’t measure up?  
     What do we say to ourselves when we look in the mirror each morning or do we avoid looking in the mirror like the plague?

     What do we say to our neighbors who look, think, and believe differently from us?  What do we say about different people when we are under the influence of our own addiction?

     What do we say to our children whom we continue to righteously sacrifice to the gods of war?  President Obama ought to be ashamed of himself for using Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg as a center peace for justifying war. I am glad Cory received such an amazing standing ovation, BUT.  Yes, BUT.  Instead of thanking him for defending our freedoms which is bull, we should be on our hands and knees APOLOGIZING that we are willing to sacrifice our children because we are too ignorant to resolve conflict other than the archaic means of going to war.  Come on, folks, don’t be stupid here.  Read your history, especially the last 100 years.  War has accomplished nothing. Economic investment has, and guess why Iran is even willing to talk a little bit.  They want their money!!  Best move we ever made.  What an effective weapon!  Much more powerful than saber rattling or any other kind of gun, bullet, missile, bomb, troops, tanks.  Nothing matches the power of MONEY!  And it is money that drives us into war, NOT FREEDOM.  Get a grip and use your intelligence, for crying out loud. It’s not difficult to figure out.  Right, Mr. Cheny?

     And if you want to play the Hitler card, then by all means, know your history.  Learn how much American money actually supported Hitler.  Yes!  Learn how Hitler was inevitable because of our revenge mentality after World War I.  Look at the fact that 532 California veterans over age 80 committed suicide between 2005 and 2008.  Check it out!

     YES.  There’s a lot here that none of us want to look at.  Of course not, because then we would have to take on a new kind of responsibility. 
  
Then look at the medical industry.  Why is it that people with chronic pain become addicted? PILLS, pills that make us feel really really good. I know of only one, and there maybe others, pain management program that teaches pain management without ANY DRUGS.  This is not a commercial, but it is part of the Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs.  There you learn how to use the most powerful drugs available.  The ones in YOUR BRAIN.  

     Let’s go back to what comes out of our mouths.  And let’s expand that to what comes out of my eyes, my body language in general, my heart, my mind.  What am I doing today to create a climate around myself where in the people I know, the people I meet, the people I bump into, the people I stand next to in the check out line, the people I am driving behind on the freeway, the people I LOVE, WHAT AM I DOING TO CREATE A CLIMATE WHEREIN ALL THOSE PEOPLE ARE BOMBARDED WITH A DESIRE TO BE ALIVE AND TO LIVE?

     Obviously, there was not a rich enough climate, maybe going back years and years, to generate that desire to live for Philip Seymour Hoffman.  We have work to do, folks.  Will you join me?  Will you become conscious of the life-giving or the death-giving climate that you create around yourself today?  When it comes to the climate that we create around ourselves, most of us could use some climate change and global warming!  THANK YOU FOR LISTENING and really THANK YOU FOR DECIDING TO MAKE A CHANGE IN YOUR LIFE.