Archive for January, 2009


Beware of Care-Zilla

January 28, 2009


Have you ever met someone who you believed tried to help you but you later realized that their act of giving was actually an act of taking?


I recently observed the most self-deceived situation where  a person in a position of Caregiving was insidiously using teacher-zillathe situation to meet their own needs at the expense of the care recipients.  It immediately came to mind that I have seen this more frequently than I recognized.


The scary thing is that this dynamic can exist frequently in recovery, mental health, educational, and medical communities.


The leader of my step-child’s Special Needs School has made sacrifices to get this school off the ground.  This has been a legitimately admirable and noble effort.  Currently, things are going a little off track.  The educational component has been neglected and it turns out that the children mainly do recreational activities much of the day.  This is not what the mandate of the school was nor the representation given to my wife and her child’s father at enrollment.


Now any of us can get off track.  Any of us can make mistakes.  So I am not criticizing the fact that the educational component drifted.  It is a complex task that I could probably not pull off myself.  Where it is getting unhealthy and dangerous in fact is how the leader is responding to questions and offers of help by parents and others.


angry-caregiverThe leader is resisting help and making excuses.  The leader has actually re-written the mandate to downplay the educational component.  Basically re-writing the goals to match the results.  The big question is “Why”?


It appears to me that the leader is looking to fulfill their need to be needed by heading up this effort and then allowing it to become and remain on the verge of chaos.  Again why?  To which I would reply… So that they can be in demand as the go-to person to solve the problems and put out the little fires. 


One of the indicators I am going by is the extreme defensiveness of any questions about what is going on with the school.  Another indicator is a lack of openness to accepting any help.  They also dodge accountability with a lot of double talk where the leader tends to recite their resume yet again and state how many hours they work.  Neither of these are anything to do with the childrens’ needs.  Essentially… it feels like they are wrapped up in fulfilling their need for self-importance that they cannot even recognize they are hurting others.  Sounds a lot like addiction to me.


Personally, it looks to me like the leader is attempting to build and defend an empire that is a monument to themselvesbraveheartCould it be because they lack self-worth that they need to be recognized in this way?  It reminds me of the line in Braveheart where Mel Gibson’s character says to the ruling Nobleman,

“You think the people of this country exist to provide you with position. I think your position exists to provide those people with freedom”.

In other words, are leaders not there to serve the needs of the people they serve, rather than the people they serve being there to provide the leader with what they need.


Sadly, in areas such as recovery, health care, and education, there are people of profound needs.  Some self-deceived “Leaders” may find it a natural place to go to find fulfillment for their need to be important, wanted, needed, etc. 


I had a similar experience with a leader of a recovery house.  He was a taker, not a giver.  I truly believe that the only reason he wanted anyone to recover is so he could look good… and profit by it.  Even in a house full of addicts, he was the sickest one there.


I do not mean to take away from those who do legitimately give of themselves and serving others.  My point is that there are many instances where people who appear to be givers are really takers.  And sadly, they take from some of the most needy people in our communities.


I hope this pisses some people off.


Ciao.  Chaz


Hockey Fights are better than Addiction

January 25, 2009

Chaz’ Top 7 reasons that Hockey Fights are better than Addiction



As a Canadian, I grew up watching hockey.  Canadians widely accept that the “Hockey Fight” is an acceptable inclusion in our national sport.  Most do not see the Hockey Fight as an act of violence, but more a release valve for blowing off steam in the fastest game on earth!


Politically correct pacifists, read no further!  We Canadians reserve our right to bloody the ice as we see fit!  Go dawn your Birkenstocks and beads and march in protest on someone else’s blog!



Here we go….


hockey-fight1.  Hockey fights usually involve opponents of similar strength.  Addiction on the other hand is a bully that will whoop anyone’s ass.


2. Hockey fighters mutually agree to fight.  Addiction picks on who it wishes and eventually picks all the fights for you whether you want to or not.


3. Hockey fights usually last only a minute and then there is a penalty for the participants.  Addiction often lasts decades and everyone in the addict’s life pays a penalty for years.  Sometimes generations.



4. Most Hockey Fighters respect their opponents.  Addiction respects no one.


5. Very few people have died from Hockey Fights.  Addiction kills thousands yearly.


6. Hockey Fighters don’t snatch purses or rob convenience stores.  Addicts do.



7. Hockey Fights occur with referees and linesmen standing by to break up the fight at first reasonable opportunity.  Addiction wants you to hide in your basement and use in isolation where “they” can’t find you.




Addicted to emotions

January 20, 2009


I often observe in myself and other what appears to be addiction to emotions.


An event yesterday at work with a colleague in his 50’s brings this to mind.  Something in a transaction did not go as flusterhe had anticipated.  It affected his commission income negatively.  It was an oversight on his part that ended up in a slightly lower commission. 


He flustered in a very childish manner.  Projected anger at me and a few others.  Threatened to quit.  None of us are his boss.  I suggested he take the issue to the owner for clarification and/or resolution.  He did not.  It appeared that he preferred to just get charged up and go some place emotionally and take us all with him.  The sad part is that this is a repeating pattern with this guy.


I am not judging him.  One reason it is so painful to watch is because I have been there.  I have been the guy who flailed around and upset everyone when some small thing went wrong.  And looking back, I can see that I somehow knew I was affecting and controlling others by my mood and behaviour.


Even though enlightened to the fact that I had been this way at one point in my life, oddly, I find myself repeating that behaviour from time to time still.  I hate it but I do it.  Probably not unlike my colleague.


I ask myself then… are these addictive emotional patterns?  Are we addicted to these feelings and dynamics that we enter into?  Is there some strange euphoria we arrive at in behaving in these ways?  If it weren’t in some manner addictive, why is it so hard to change when truth stares us in the face?

Could this emotional addiction be one of the reasons we return again and again to places of depression, anxiety, pain, and self pity without even being aware we are getting something out of them?  Familiarity if nothing else?





Discouragement with AA

January 16, 2009



I read a post recently where a fellow recoverer was feeling discouraged with AA.  I have also dialogued at length with a number of people who do not care for AA or who feel it is not the program for them.  And still others who angrily oppose AA and the 12 steps.


When I read the open-minded tone of the AA Big Book, nowhere do I get the sense that the founders and pioneers of AA ever felt that AA was the “only way”.  I get the sense that they felt that finally, after years of failure by their own efforts and the efforts of medicine, psychiatry, and religion, they came across a process for staying sober.


Nowhere in the Big Book do I get the sense that all alcoholics are the type of alcoholics that need AA.  Rather, I get the sense that AA was discovered to be incredibly effective in helping alcoholics of a particular type and that this particular type happens to be a relatively large percentage of us.


The 12 steps in fact are specifically referred to as a “Suggested” program of recovery.  This then makes the 12 steps the “12 Suggestion”, not the 12 Orders or 12 Commandments.  It is also my experience though that many participants of AA treat and share our program as “The Only Way” and change the steps from Suggestions to Commandments.


Our traditions state that “Our public Relations Policy is based on attraction rather than promotion”.  I do not see that narrow-mindedly forcing newcomers to conform to what we believe AA to be as very attractive.  I do not see that forcing our timelines on them is in any way attractive at all. 


As I have experienced, there is far more power and attractiveness in the process of suggestion giving and receiving.  When I was told I must make certain changes, my resistance went up and usually I did not do what was told to me and distanced myself from the person making the demand.


On the other hand, when something was suggested to me, and to that suggestion I added my willingness and volition and followed through, I went through a process of life-changing discoveries.  By following suggestions by my own volition, I now earned and owned the solutions rather than having them surgically grafted to me.  We seem to be creatures that must learn for ourselves.  Our willingness appears to be a necessary ingredient to change.


Certainly, there are many circumstances where a newcomer’s immediate safety (or safety of others) is at stake and we are wiser to express a more of a demand in these acute situations.  I am referring though to the ongoing process of recovery and growth when I speak of the process of suggestions.


 I have felt that many AA members, having discovered the life changing power of AA, turn into Hell-fire evangelists and zealots preaching AA rather than offering its suggestions.  Then when the newcomer does not respond to the preaching and demands, preachers step it up the intensity.  This is not AA as I read it in the Big Book nor the 12 x 12.


I am glad to say that I feel I have discovered a balance that works for my sobriety and recovery.  I am grateful to weed out the demands and discover the suggestions then follow them through to a beneficial end.  I thereby stay sober and in a process of recovery.  As do millions of others of our kind.  No pressure to conform, just an offer to join us on the journey.


Ciao.   Chaz


12 Steps Competes with Jesus?

January 14, 2009



This has been a point I have pondered for many years.


laughing-jesusNamely that many Christians I have known feel that 12 Step programs compete with Christianity.  I have heard many Christians express offense that we do not require an understanding of God exactly the same as the Bible describes.  The 12 steps only suggest that we do our best.  It feels like an all-or-nothing perspective from many Christians.  Like saying, “If you do not see God as we do, then your program is wrong”.


To me, it feels as if many Christians are threatened by the 12-Steps as a competing philosophy.  Yet I have never seen anywhere that the 12-Steps professed to offer salvation.  Only to get sober.  To me, the 12 Steps are such a selfless gift of God that he does not even require specific recognition for the gift.  He allows us free will to recover without having to fully understand God all at once.  To me, this reveals even more the loving nature of God.


God does not require specific, defined recognition by diabetics for insulin to work any more than he requires specific , defined recognition by alcoholics for 12 steps to work.  Yet I am sure many a diabetic would say “Thank God for insulin”, yet have no clear recognition of exactly who God is specifically.


God as I understand him is as the Bible describes.  Yet 12 steps does not compete with my faith.  If anything, the 12 steps speaks to me that the Bible is true.  The 12 steps to me are a practical outworking of many biblical principles.  Yet I have many friends including my sponsor who believe differently yet still enjoy the benefits of sobriety and recovery.


This post stems from a discussion I had with another blogger buddy under the tag “alcoholism” by “mywordlikefire”.  I did not feel that posting a direct link was necessarily appropriate to so please don’t bombard the guy.  The post only brought up a bunch of thoughts that I have long struggled with.


This issue of competition has always left me scratching my head given that the founders of AA seemed to have believed the Bible.  And that many people wo believe the Bible practice the 12 steps effectively in many areas of their lives.


My take and experience anyway.


Ciao.  Chaz


At the crossroad yet again

January 11, 2009


So here I am yet again.  At another crossroad…. at a Y in the road.  Needing to make a decision




It is not simple to recognize these Ys in my road when the road I refer to is the roadway of my thinking.  Yet I am now at least aware that I am at a Y, and that I do have a choice which way I go.


I have not heard back from my daughter in over a week.  I sent her some dates I was available to take her for dinner.  No big deal, just a Dad and Daughter get-together as we often have done in the past.


The simple facts are:

  • I have not heard back. 
  • I am hurt.
  • I feel she is being rude and inconsiderate. 
  • I miss her a great deal.


Now, the Y I face is that my old thinking wants to take these facts and go one way.  My old habitual thinking wants to make more of it than it is.  My old thinking wants me to feel sorry for myself that such a thing should happen to a “super-dad” like me.  My old thinking wants to blame my ex-wife for being such a b!tch and teaching my daughter to ignore people.


The other direction is my new thinking.  My new thinking is that this is just typical teenage behaviour, that she is probably hugely busy getting back to school after new years, that many people have it way worse than I do, and that I have had many, many wonderful years and times with my daughter and this one hurtful variance will not erase all of those and those likely to come in the future.  And that the current hurt of missing her will pass.


Yet, there are huge magnets just around the corner of each branch of the road.  Both sides are calling me to choose them.  Both sides of the Y in the road want me to travel their way to their destination.


Experience tells me that if I follow the road of old thinking, I will feel a lot of painful self-pity and anger.  But it will be easier to get started on this pathway.  It feels automatic.


If I follow the new way, it will take more patience and effort to get started.  But the destination is far better.  Wonderful in fact.


I never used to recognize these crossroads of decision.  I never recognized that I had a choice.  I just automatically followed what I always did… self pity, blame, anger, resentment…. which all turned the pain into long-term suffering.  I rehearsed and practiced this way of thinking so long, it became automatic.


I’m sticking to the new path the best I can today.  It is wonderful.  I can remain productive.  I went to work today and got things done.  Instead of moping around.  I am on my way to celebrate a year of sobriety for a newcomer to sobriety.  Instead of getting caught up in self-pity.


These crossroads exist in so many areas of my life.  The power to choose which way to go is a new-found freedom.






Growth at the rate of pain

January 9, 2009


A wise person once suggested to me that,

    “We grow at the rate of pain”. 

Meaning that pain is the main driving force in our personal growth.



  Another saying that I have lived and learned to be true is:

“A year of pain will teach you far more than a lifetime of comfort”

I used to hate pain, until I found myself emerging from the other side of some painful episodes in my life.  Upon doing so, I found that my outlook was different.  I took less for granted.  I appreciated more, and valued what I used to consider the “little things” in life.


Pain taught me that I was thinking and living in a ways that were not working.  Ongoing pain taught me that it was not just external circumstances that were the source of the pain in my life.  They contributed greatly, but the real pain and ongoing suffering was a result of what I did with the pain that was delivered to me.


So now, when in pain, once the initial sting has subsided, I am more prone to having some hope that the pain I am in can serve a purpose.  And that I will emerge from it at some point.  So I do not have to feel hopeless in it.  I do not have to feel like a victim.  Because actually, the pain means I am probably in training for something.


There is not a successful person on earth who did not endure pain at some point in order to get where they are at.  So if we are in pain, we are in pretty damn good company.


I know people who have been “spared” pain in their lives.  Whether by afluence, or by people who enable the dysfunction that they continue in.  This “sparing” kept them from learning what the pain would otherwise have taught them.  So they continued in their dysfunctions.  So what were they really spared?


So when pain arrives in my life now, it is not so frightening or overwhelming.  I find that if I can just keep reminding myself of that the pain is probably trying to tell me something, I can get through it and emerge better than when I started.


After all, “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”.  I have come to believe this through very real experiences.






More people I don’t like…

January 8, 2009


Dealing with people I (we) don’t care for is actually more frequent than dealing with people I (we) like. difficult people


Since my last post on the subject, this point has been fresh in my mind and I have noticed the pattern in many areas of my life (meaning that I am often in situations where I learn from people I don’t care for or trust). 


I was called into a meeting yesterday to be advised that a temporary colleague who 90% of our staff does not care for is now permanent and in a position of leadership.


Fortunately, he is lateral in postition to me.  However, I do have to work in conjunction with him which is challenging.  Yet, is it not from these circumstances that we have the most opportunity for growth?  Is this not a skill in itself…. Working with people who you don’t care for and still being able to be productive?


Does the same not apply to family relationships?  And other groups of people we may be associated with?  Like Church, School, PTA, Rotary, AA, whatever?  Where is it that we have the rare privilege of working exclusively with people we do like?


A person in my life comes to mind who cannot seem to hold a job because they cannot handle how they are “treated” by others.  This person is a hypersensitive, low self-esteem over-processor.  It is sad really because they are suffering financially because of the number of people they cannot get along with.


So my work situation will be an interesting adventure.  My task is to work productively with someone who I have differences with.  My goal is to develop in this ability for the betterment of my life and recovery.  Call it development of a personality asset.   I think it will be a test of my own self-esteem, maturity, communication ability, and management ability.


Yee ha!  Here we go!  Will let ya know how it goes.


Ciao.  Chaz



People I don’t like – A Sign Post of Recovery

January 6, 2009


In my recovery, a sign post of progress seems to have been the ability to learn from people I either:

·         Don’t like

·         Don’t trust

·         Don’t relate to


There was a day when I would shut down when I felt any indication of the above.  I would tune them out and hear nothing.


In early recovery, I got set up and pretty much used by a devious individual.  He had betrayed me by breaking confidences, anonymity, and just plain ripping me off.  He offered to help people but turned out to be doing so for his own self-fulfillment, ego, and financial gain.  He  was one sick dude.


I used to hate the guy.  Then one day, I found myself quoting something he used to say a lot.  I realized the quote was a helpful truth.  I began passing the grain of truth around to others who also found it helpful.


I then realized that I could actually learn from this guy who I otherwise found completely distasteful.  The ability to filter out some value from this devious taker was an amazing discovery.  I think even my shear willingness to open my mind up to believing that bad people could offer good things was a growing experience.  It took the edge off my propensity to resent and turned up my ability to exercise acceptance.


The crap he pulled on me and wrong he did to me, frankly are now laughable.  Ya, it hurt at the time and the financial consequence left a mark.  But overall, I gained from it and have moved on to be happy overall.


His life unfortunately appears to remain a disaster.  He doesn’t appear to have changed much.  Nobody who knows him trusts him.  Sad really… for him.


Ciao.  Chaz


Thoughts are like children…

January 3, 2009

parent-and-child1It has often occurred to me …  Are our thoughts not like children, in that we should not just let them wander anywhere on their own?

In reflecting back on past thinking patterns, as well as some that still remain, I used to just let my thinking wander wherever it may.  I was naive to assume that it was harmless to just walk along with any thoughts that seemed to come along.

I used to let my thoughts wander off with of hurts and injustices that I had gone through.  I let them spend as much time with these hurts and injustices as they pleased.  Never realizing what a bad influence it was to leave them alone with those companions.

This type of behaviour led me to deep depression, anxiety, resentment and the brink of insanity leading up to suicide.  Need I be any more convinced that letting my thoughts wander off unguided was dangerous?  Just like it would be for a child.

Today, I limit to a large degree where I let my thoughts wander.  I spend very little time thinking about hurts of the past.  If I do, it is either by mistake or in a theraputic environment.  I do not think about my ex-wife and the betrayal I felt. 

As a happily (re-)married man, I do not think about other women.  Of course I notice them, but I do not allow myself to entertain thoughts beyond that.  Why would I?  It can’t lead anywhere good. 

I do not think about how it felt to be on booze or drugs.  Certainly I remember these times and feelings.  That will never leave.  But where I have a choice in the matter, I do not spend time recollecting or longing for those thoughts and feelings again.

Instead, I guide my thoughts, like I would a child, to healthy places and people.  I focus my thoughts wherever possible on the real and tangible good things in life.  On my marriage, on my recovery, on my kids, on my job, on all the wonderful blessings that have been served up to me on my journey of recovery.

Ciao.  Chaz