Addiction had me spend 10 years of my adult life out of my kids’ reach. Thanks to their forgiveness, grace and mercy I’ve been back in spades since. What I will never understand though, is how any father can make a conscious, sober choice to be distant and estranged from the very lives they helped to create. Yet I know some who do and will always wonder what else has filled that God-given void so full that they are blinded to the most wonderful experiences they never will have and times they can never recover.
The time spent with my grandkids is directly proportionate to the number of naps required to go spend more time with them.
It’s the little things that matter, literally. And they are exhaustingly wonderful.
A tapping at my front door at 3am, from my peephole was one I’d not seen nor heard from in a year. I flipped the lock, the door swung inward, and I was immediately accosted, held in the cold grip of this stranger seeking entry. I didn’t fight but acquiesced to what will undoubtedly be a long chilling captivity, and one for which I’ve been patiently waiting.
From dope dealing to hope dealing.
That’s how I roll now and have for a dozen years or more.
But every one of you knows at least one still unrecovering addict of some sort. Statistically, the number is 12 addicts you’ll know closely in your lifetime, probably more. Some of them will make it over the addiction hump and some will sadly be buried under it. But addiction isn’t going anywhere. There’s too much money to be made from it.
The question is: who do you become around them? That depends on any number of variables and life experiences. So let’s bring that question closer to home: who are you called to be around them? Is there any moral or spiritual imperative that supersedes the reflexive human emotions of hate, disgust, or mistrust?
Now I’ll be first to suggest against wholly trusting an addict.
Addiction 101 clearly taught us that manipulation and lies are the divine pathways that gets us to using.
However, if we believe in all people, we have to believe that all people are redeemable and worthy of that redemption en route to getting clean. That means we need a chance at becoming what once in our lives we always wanted to be: clean and sober.
Whether one or a dozen addicts in your life, we are each struggling every single day to be better people. Some are more successful than others.
And I suspect they are the fortunate few surrounded by people of compassion. The people of the Second Chance.
Living as an addict to the urge of anything is a lot like having a song in your head 24/7 you’re constantly fighting not to sing. You recall it as something you once enjoyed but know it’s dangerously capable of stealing your sanity.
There was a point in my 15 year career as a marriage and family therapist when I thought my shit didn’t stink.
My calendar was booked out for weeks, I had a hospital practice and influential private practice referral sources, and I made a lot of money. I scored high on the licensure exam, my masters thesis was on record as an example for younger students on how it is done, and I was the unanimous staff vote for the top counseling student of the year. I started on a fast track to success, or so it seemed back then.
It may indeed be true that pride comes before a fall.
Despite my subsequent long and painful fall from grace due to my divorce and decade-long addiction to crystal meth which left me penniless and homeless and full of self-hatred and regret for all the relational fallout I had caused, I clawed my way back to sobriety.
Since then, I’ve found that the more of life’s experiences I consume, the more prideful and delusional I had been about how good a therapist I’d believed I once was.
It’s taken a lot more than just time and spending more years clean and sober than I’d spent in drug and sex addiction. While I now work in an entirely different profession, once a therapist, always a therapist, the skills of which transcend most others and become useful when parlayed into the vast self-discovery required in the process of becoming and staying sober.
But sobriety is more than getting and staying off drugs. That’s called being “clean.” Sobriety, once set in motion, is the never-ending process of self-discovery about what makes you tick and why you tick the way that you do. You see the world differently and years of mental health training and practice help you to learn disgusting things about yourself. Once embraced, that never-ending process is what KEEPS you sober for years to come. Thanks to sobriety, I’ve recently discovered that as a therapist, my shit stunk to high heaven.
These years, I read articles and listen to podcasts about mental and spiritual health, self-preservation, and insights from practicing professionals whose work is inspirational at the very least. Therapy has come a long way since I was schooled and to a trained eye, the truly insightful and skilled practitioners are as obvious as diamonds in a coal mine.
If I can swing the expense and find a gem of a therapist, I plan to re-enter the field as an eager client with so much more to learn about myself. Bad therapy can sour the experience and expense of counseling, but good therapy conducted by skilled practitioners is worth every session.
In retrospect, I wasn’t such a bad therapist. I was pretty damn good compared to some of my graduate classmates who eventually put their names on counseling center doors around town to begin their careers. I’d seen them work first-hand in our training and wondered how they would ever become gainfully employed in this profession.
But from my view these days, it seems poor practice standards aren’t tolerated either in school or by clients and therapeutic skills and interventions are much improved perhaps because more therapists themselves have sought therapy and continue unabated on a course of learning. And perhaps best of all, they accepted early on that their shit stinks just as bad as everyone else’s.
If you can, seek out a good therapist. Ask which books they’ve read, what continuing education courses they have attended, what spiritual orientation they practice. Ask them if they are good therapists and how they arrived at that conclusion. Ask them what they believe they do best in their practice and what they don’t treat in their practice and why.
You may just discover the right fit with someone able to help you discover how to fish yourself out of the toilet of misbeliefs and set you on a better path. And hopefully, ours will cross in the process.
Dreams are nothing to be ashamed of, but you can learn a lot about yourself from them.
No, it wasn’t a crazy X-rated one but it might as well had been from the way I felt waking up. The circumstance was benign, simple and harmless but I was caught lying red-handed and yet I continued to lie like a six-year old school boy. Though I was a parent, I persisted in putting on what was such an unconvincing act of innocence that as my lie deepened I even indicted my kids as the culprits. I’d defended what was a hand-in-the-cookie jar infraction as if it were a felony with pending prison time. Fake tears shed for my guilty heart hoping I’d be believed and vindicated. It was such a truly disgusting act on my part, even now I feel I should go rip my shirt and confess to someone. So here we are.
Bad way to start a Monday.
Two mugs of coffee brought me back to my senses but clearly, the moment you pride yourself to be so far beyond such a dastardly deed is the very moment you will be shown its sinner with the darkest of hearts willing to sacrifice others in your path and even so, willing to take a simple lie to your own fiery grave.
Nine-four-eleven was a date I made with heaven.
Now a dozen years later I’m still a clean celebrater.
My doctor explained that people who are immunocompromised by certain specific conditions are also particularly susceptible to the more common opportunistic illnesses like colds and flus and the like. Not everything is the C-word these days. Some illnesses are just old fashioned temporary and non-life threatening conditions like mom used to fix with soups, juices, rest and forehead kisses to check your temperature.
I could have used a mom yesterday when I woke up with all the symptoms, no soup, no juice and lots of work deadlines awaiting my urgent attention. My temperature broke at some point during the night and while I’m still a world of hurt, I’m over the hump in my home office satisfying yesterday’s email requests of my coworkers.
It’s comforting to know I’ll survive this but I’m convinced those magical mom kisses are the real antidotes to healing at any age.
We get more than our share of odd and unusual folks at my church located in a highly traveled homeless neighborhood. Many show up at services looking for a hand up or a hand out and we’re happy to oblige and get them resources to begin their path out of a life of drugs and danger on the streets.
Today, during one of those conversations, a man asked me if I was ready to die today. I told him that was an unusual way of greeting someone when hi-how are you would’ve been just fine. But as I said, it’s sometimes a strange crowd. He pressed on with his greeting and I consented that if it was my day, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.
For him, living on the street, I suppose it must be a question he asks himself more than once every morning so perhaps it was well-intentioned.
I invited him in and he was welcomed by everyone. I suppose that’s what I enjoy most here.
‘Come as you are’ is a real thing.