Be Yourself

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Who you are as an individual is no accident. An Infinite Being with extreme precision designed you. You are you, because you were meant to be that way. You can’t escape it, and if you try, you will be both unhappy and fall short of your potential.

Recently I pondered what was the most important thing for me to share with my children and grand children. I was meditating/praying for an answer. “What is it, that you, my Higher Power, want me to say to my kids?”

The answer was “Be yourself.” That’s what they need to hear from me.
So much of life is spent acting or pretending to be something you aren’t.
Society pushes and pulls us in so many directions that don’t feel right. But we go with the flow. We don’t want to stick out. We don’t want to seem out of it. We want to be part of the “in” crowd. We want to achieve success and things, no matter the sacrifice to our soul.
How do we instruct them to find this inner peace? Where is his acceptance of a Higher Power and the fortitude to follow the passion of their life with peace and love?

The message I received was to find a place to seclude myself in order to find me? Unless the seclusion causes me emotional/psychological problems, it will help me find peace. Seclusion is one of the most powerful tools for spiritual growth, and was used throughout history by prophets, kabbalists and holy people. To make sure you’re using the tool correctly, it’s good to have a mentor for this type of activity.

If you find it difficult to get away, you can make a space in your home for seclusion and introspection, meditation and prayer. But ultimately, the goal is to live amongst society, while retaining your integrity.

It is true that isolation is detrimental, and I am not saying that we should remove ourselves from our community or fellowship. We need to be apart of the lives of others. We cannot remain reclusive. We must go out into the world and make it a better place. But we can only do so if we have perfected the individual God created us to be.

Practice your trumpet alone in a room, away from others. When you have perfected your instrument and found your own music, come to the band, share what you have to offer, and join the holy orchestra.

Spend time this week meditating on the thought: Be yourself. Try to discover ways to make yourself more of the real you.

 

Forgiving My Drunk Dad on Father's Day

My father was handsome and witty and charming and bright. He dressed well, and appreciated the finer things. 

He shaved and cologned and went out alone. He wore a green three-piece suit with green Florsheim loafers, which matched the forest-colored luxury car he spun around town in.

And he drank: at home, at family gatherings, and at bars he haunted until last call. Scotch on the rocks, chasing a dozen or so of these with an over-proof cordial of emerald hue.

 

Despite his weaknesses, my father did the right thing in one case, when his 20-year-old self married my pregnant 19-year-old mother. Thus, I came crashing into the world legitimately, through a maternity ward from which the man was several floors removed.

A generation before husbands were allowed anywhere near a delivery room, I imagine him pacing and chain-smoking as if he were being featured in some screwball comedy. The story goes that when he got the news, he ignored the hospital’s creaking elevators, bounding many flights of stairs in order to get a peek at his first-born son.

The flush of paternal pride wore off quickly, as his main interests—a sense of style and a dozen other superficial qualities that did little to bolster him as a husband—had nothing to do with children. My father indulged in his first extra-marital affair when my mother was pregnant with my sister.

In my first real memory of him, he is furious. It didn’t take much to set my father off, and when there was a genuine transgression—like the time I created an art installation out of rock salt and green paint in our garage—his rage was frightening. I watched from an upstairs window while he opened the door to the structure, thinking, uh-oh, as a roar emanated from outside the house. I might have been about four.

The first night my father didn’t come home turned into a dark, wintry morning. My mother was spinning the radio dial in search of news. But he was just drunk somewhere with some tramp.

My brother soon came along. That made three children in five years, and there were plans, I learned as an adult, for a fourth. But I believe my mother—a pretty, sheltered girl who was intelligent if a bit naïve—had wised up by then, and gained a full apprehension of the sort of man she had married.

The first night he didn’t bother coming home turned into a dark, wintry morning. Snow drifted under the eaves of our house. My frantic mother was spinning the radio dial in search of news of an unidentified man—her husband—lying unconscious in some snow bank. Her fear, and the anxiety she heaped on her children, were over nothing. My father was just drunk somewhere with some tramp.

I spent my teen years incubating my alcoholism while our family disintegrated. I (sometimes) attended a mediocre school where I performed poorly, and sought the approval of genuine hoodlums, many of whom went to jail and are now long dead.

I sloped home one night waxed on a handful of downers boosted from the back of a pharmacy, alarmed by the lights burning in the kitchen, my father’s green car parked in the driveway. He busted me right away. He slapped some lies out of my mouth and dealt me a beating that was so spirited, my mother had to intervene. It was like another kind of movie—no screwball comedy this time—but a British drama perhaps, via one of the Angry Young Men. When I passed out, he was still screaming. I slept through the entire next day.

I left school early one afternoon and as I made my way into the house I noticed a bottle of scotch with a big dent taken out of it on the table. Two ashtrays overflowed. I looked up to see a woman dash past me, holding her clothes against her body, her bare butt jiggling while she scooted into the bathroom and slammed the door. The old man definitely had a type. In her coloring and shape, the woman bore a strong resemblance to my mother. The room she bolted from was the bedroom he shared with her. I suppose it was cheaper than a hotel.

The Roller Coaster Relationship With An Alcoholic/Addict: When Do You Get Off the Ride?

Not soon enough and never!  Relationships are difficult; whether it is the ongoing give and take of two people sharing their lives, understanding and communicating with our children or just getting along with co-workers and friends. Add to the mix a silent partner like drugs or alcohol, and the difficulty factor increases substantially.

So what or where or when is our breaking point?  For everyone it's different. 
Often guilt, shame, pity, fears of being alone or just plain laziness keeps us in relationships that we know are toxic; whether it is with an alcoholic/addict or not.  We find ourselves exhausted at the end of the day from just doing our jobs, getting the kids to school or whatever life is throwing at us.  Often, we just don't have the strength or energy to confront our partner or make waves if we witness their unstable or irresponsible behavior due to substance abuse.  We have become numb to this kind of relationship and therefore have settled by bumping along the bottom holding on to an eyelash width of hope that maybe tomorrow will be different; either they will change or we might find the strength to change these circumstances ourselves.

I have compiled what I call The Pyramid of Change; 6 phases of the alcoholic/addict from the beginnings of irresponsible behavior to full blown wreckage. I will discuss 2 this week and 4 on my next blog.

Do you find yourself in phase 1 or 2...or way beyond?

Phase 1 - Regardless of what stage you are in a relationship, or whether you've started to become aware of your child's unfamiliar behavioral patterns, something tells you that things are just not right.  You are beginning to witness little, almost insignificant spikes of illogical behavior that you accept as mood swings, simple frustrations regarding work, school or just daily occurrences.  It's no big deal, a passing interruption in what you are used to as a normal, stable life.  You might mention something now and then about their behavior being a bit odd, but are easily appeased with their answer and things usually get back to normal...for a time.
Phase 2 - You are aware that what felt unsettling in Phase 1 is becoming more consistent and hard to just slough off as a bad day at the office or losing a football game.  Broken promises, questionable and irresponsible behavior start creeping up more and more.   You are scared to probe too deeply as it might incite anger, and chances are you're not ready to face the reality that there may be a problem; because if there is one, what then?
Though you are uneasy about the excuses, you accept them and they convince you once again that as soon as "A, B or C" is taken care of in their life, then this rocky ship will stabilize.  Nonetheless, the alcoholic/addict admits that he/she might be ready to "get a handle on things".  You are buoyed and hopeful that your loved one has come to this conclusion, and you breathe a sigh of relief. 
I want to flag a scenario. If the alcoholic/addict continues to struggle in "getting a handle on things", you may become an easy target to blame for their problems and lack of commitment.  How convenient to lay at your feet that your attitude, physical appearance or anything you do or say is the reason they are not behaving as they once did or how you would like them to. 
I had a client that was in a relationship with a man that she suspected might have a substance abuse issue.  Every time she would bring up these concerns he would turn the tables and blame her for the instability in his life. He would accuse her of spending too much money, and when she cut down on the expenses, he switched gears to her appearance.  Once again, in the hopes of him aborting this road toward substance abuse, she would lose the weight or cut her hair; but she finally realized it was all an exercise in futility for no matter what she did or did not do, he continued to indulge his addiction.   
Though it's easier said than done, don't buy into this.  This is a complete cop-out on their part and a very useful and protective way for them to deflect their problem or issues back on to you.

If a loved one is in their addiction dealing with a substance abuse issue, it will always be difficult to roll up your sleeves and have an honest, thoughtful conversation with them.  You never know if you are talking to them alone or their silent partner is speaking for them.

Next week I will discuss phases 3 - 6.

On another note: a very big and grateful thank you for all the comments on my last blog regarding Al-anon.  I can't tell you how much I appreciate your view points and they have given me much food for thought.  Please keep your comments coming; I grow and learn from you as you hopefully do from me.

 

7 Signs of Addiction

It's like a train wreck. We want to look away, but we can't. We sit by stunned as they flash mug shots of favorite movie stars drunk and disheveled across the television screen. Beloved talk show hosts are fighting obesity in public. Super models, every bone visible, are speaking up about eating disorders. The story of the day is a politician or prominent sports figure caught in an infidelity scandal. It's extreme. It's dramatic. It's addiction.

Addiction is out of the closet and into the spotlight. Treatment centers for every imaginable addiction are popping up like mushrooms. What does this do for the average person? It lessons the stigma that was for so long associated with addiction, and it helps you understand that you are not alone -- that addiction can happen to anyone, anyplace, anytime regardless of race, gender or financial status. The seven signs of addiction are:

  1. Questioning. People who don't have an addiction problem don't wonder if they have a problem. It's simply not something they think about because they don't need to. The mind is funny in that way. If we're paying attention, the mind tells us what we need to know whether we want to hear it or not. If it is haunting you with questions such as "What am I doing," "Why do I keep doing it," and "Why can't I stop," take note. Your problem may have crossed that line into addiction.
  2. Defensiveness. When others touch on the topic, do you feel your hackles rise, and do you instantly defend yourself with statements like: "It's not a problem for me, "If other people don't understand, it's their problem," "I can stop doing it anytime I want to," or "I'm not hurting anyone but myself?" But, in your inner core, do you know these things aren't true?
  3. Blaming. Placing blame for your behavior on others or a situation is an old ploy of addicts that keeps them from taking responsibility for their choices. When others are out of the picture, and the situation is resolved and the behavior continues, it's a clear sign that there's a problem -- yours.
  4. Secrets and lies. Often, addicts are the only ones who think their addiction is a secret. They believe the lies are hiding the secret, but those close to them have noticed they are drinking too much, abusing prescription drugs, gambling away necessary funds, overeating, purging, shopping. living in clutter, etc. If addicts know that others know, but they continue to tell lies, then the only ones they're fooling is themselves.
  5. Time and effort. The time addicts put into the behavior, and into finding ways to stop doing it, takes away from other parts of their lives. The effort it takes to manipulate situations and other people so that they might indulge in the behavior take away from the effort they could be putting into building better relationships, getting an education or building a career, or simply living life free to choose what they will do.
  6. Guilt and shame. How you feel about your behavior should be a clear indication about whether or not it's a problem. If you feel guilt and shame, but you can't seem to stop what you're doing, then the problem has become an addiction. No one wants to feel guilt and shame, so if you inflict it on yourself repeatedly, then that's something you should take a hard look at.
  7. Isolation. Convincing yourself that no one loves you, others don't understand, or you don't fit into the world around you to justify your behavior may convince you that you are protecting yourself from more pain and disappointment, but it will leave you feeling alone and empty. Telling yourself you are different and can handle things that others are not able to handle will only prolong the problem and escalate the possibility of serious addiction.

It doesn't matter whether it's alcohol or shopping, drugs or clutter, eating or not eating, gambling or infidelity -- if it's causing problems, and you can't quit even though you want to, then it is an addiction. The good news is that there is help ranging from treatment centers and anonymous meetings to individual therapy. Very few addicts find successful, long-term recovery without a support system.

The ultimate goal in recovery is to be happy and free -- free to live life boldly and unafraid, to embrace others and the world around you without the burden of addiction. There is a whole world out there waiting for you to shine your light on it and, through brutal honesty and seeking help, it's possible.