Monthly Archives: August 2016

Remember September.

Though I try my best to remember

the months and years I can never forget,

every time it’s the month of September,

I most often remember regret.

Regret for the times I was never…

Regret for the times I was lost…

Regret for my lack of endeavor…

Regret for all that it cost.

But regrets now take no lead,

because from them I’ve been freed.

Regrets bring strife, but remembering brings life;

An incredible distinction, indeed.

September fourth it was over,

Now it’s September fourth of nineteen,

eight wonderful years I’ve been sober,

eight sobering years I’ve been clean.

But I’ll always remember September

and thank God I survived to regret

the lost years I’m alive to remember

And the best still ahead of me yet.


Bullseye on your back?

If I’ve learned one thing, haters are gonna hate if it’s the last thing they do. Fortunately and sometimes, it is.

The best thing about having a dark, sordid past, is having a public dark, sordid past. For those who know me and many who don’t, if there’s one thing for certain, I’m pretty transparent. It took handcuffs of course, but since then, my past is so widely known and told in so many of my own and others’ stories, it’s pretty much old hat and inconsequential anymore. My stories themselves however, have helped free many who’d held themselves captive to their own.

[Enter still addicted ugly person with time on their hands and an axe to grind.]

Having spent the better part of a week helping someone out of their own bad mess at great expense of time and money, instead of gratitude or at least silence, they embarked on a tour of public badmouthing me like a Salem witch trial to which a. nobody came and b. they ended up hanging themselves. They’d spent countless hours gathering internet evidence of my former bad character, criminal history and other Google hunts to defame and discredit me. To this day, I still don’t know their motives or goals and mostly don’t care. Long gone are the days trying to understand people like this, but since I’ve grown up, I just say “Some people…”

Going public with their findings to my friends, family and acquaintances they were met with blank stares who aptly replied “So what?” and “Yeah, he wrote a cool story about that on his website, you should read it.”

Haters are gonna hate.

Transparent living is not simply an admission of your skeletons, but putting them on parade in dunce hats for the world to see. Good 12 step programs are about using transparency to help others free themselves from their own secrets and disempowering and disarming your past from its ability to haunt your future.

So when the bullseye is on your back and haters take aim, transparency is your best defense because the bullets go right through you. Active shooters with bad aim can’t hurt you. They do, however, get caught with their pants down, left to hang with their own skeletons and bullseyes on their own backs.

He’s going home.

Today, he leaves on the trip of a lifetime, and I don’t expect he will return in one piece.

Going home for the first time in 40 years rarely returns the same person.

Things change. People change. Stories change. And his youthful life on a now abandoned small town Colorado farm, is liable to answer many questions he would rather not. But it’s time to grow up. And he is driven.

Ignorance is bliss when you are a child. As a grown man decades later, ignorance loses the soothing capacity that makes a difficult life bearable at 10 years old. Truth tends to sour the sweet, connecting family dots in a way that never made sense at 10, but every sense for a 50 year old in need of answers.

Going home again breaks family secrets, exposing well-intended protective lies which have haunted him with so many questions he’s compelled to answer before their depositions are unavailable and it’s too late to correct history.

So he’s going home.

Like so many, we grow up with fond recollections of being normal but a persistent, grating curiosity about the real truths behind them that we’ll address on a better day somewhere, somehow, sometime. But time is not the great healer it promises to be. So many events of our lives are proudly recalled in cocktail conversations which should end the unnerving, silent question marks hidden from others and ourselves because we just want to fit in and be normal and for them to just go away.

But forty years later, we are no more normal than we’d chosen to believe all these years, and living with those nagging inconsistencies drags us back to the place of their birth for a private intervention that will very likely put us in pieces on the floor of an abandoned farmhouse, alone asking all the whys of no one there to answer.

Go home, good friend.

And when you return, I’ll be here to help you pick up the pieces and reassemble your once favorite stories in a painful new narrative of truth that hurts so much but heals so much more.

I’ll still be here with no better answers but to help unpack the discoveries of your new baggage and put it all away for good.

God grant me the serenity, dammit!

The last time I got really angry about something, I really didn’t.

It’s rare that something upsets me to the point of being angry anymore. Disgusted, yes. Irritated, sure. But angry, almost never. I credit four years of a psychotherapy degree, 15 years in practice, and six years clean and sober for that rarity.

Anger is always the second emotion.

Anyone who’s read a book on managing emotions knows this but fewer know what it really means.

People don’t actually get angry, but as one of my favorite instructors once put it, “They should all over themselves.”

Martha was one of those weird professors with a new age twist on pretty much everything. But having run out of grains of salt taking in her lectures, one day the epiphany finally hit me.

There are few things that get me so riled up that blood pressure medicine is the first remedy. Thanks to Martha, though, the second is a quick evaluation of the shoulds, oughts, musts, need-tos, have-tos, got tos and supposed-tos that overcome us all at times.

For the record, as if it really matters, my angering short list includes a)incongruous people who publicly profess one virtue, yet practice another in private. The other two include self-absorbed people and bald-face liars, both of which round out my personal anger trifecta.

But why?

Anger is the second emotion…second only to deep and erroneous beliefs that things and people should be different, better mannered, more fair, decent and, well, more like me.

Plenty of good people fit that bill, but there are plenty who don’t, won’t and don’t care to.

In my recovery from drug addiction, the Serenity Prayer was the cornerstone: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. The healing power of this prayer lived out within a congruous life has helped me address my angry moments therapeutically, long before they become destructive words or behaviors to myself and others.

People ‘should’ all over themselves.

If anger is the second emotion, then the taking of a big disgusting ‘should’ in your head is the first.

When I was a therapist, I used this simple illustration:

The speed limit is clearly marked 45mph. People should observe that limit. But however reasonable, life-saving or safe the speed limit, if I pull onto that street, I am bound to encounter an 80 year old blue hair in a Dodge dart going 20 and/or a dude in a Ford F-150 going 70. Failing to embrace this possibility beforehand is a certain set up for becoming angry and saying or doing things I will regret later.

Changing my expectation of situations and the behavior of other people to a language of “I hope that…It would be nice if… or I’d prefer that…” before I pull out into traffic, potentially mitigates against an angry response if my preference of what happens doesn’t actually come to pass. Our heads are full of mistaken beliefs and expectations such as these which embrace more of what ‘should or ought to be’ than what, in all honesty…and sadly…, really ‘is’ in this world. So when I’m stuck behind the blue hair, I accept the imperfection of the situation and arrange away around her, and maybe even chuckle at her timidity. When the truck blows by, though startled, I can save myself the rage and perhaps wonder if he’s late to watch the birth of his first born. It doesn’t make it right. It just makes the moment tolerable.

I’ve learned to be creative. Not so much for the sake of others, but for the sake of myself. “Be angry and sin not in your anger” is the key to control and the solution is to abandon the mind’s misbeliefs of a perfect world.

God, grant me the serenity in this imperfect world.
And God bless old Martha, wherever you and your blue hair are now after all these years.