Posts Tagged ‘heartache’

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Fortressing a limp

November 6, 2010

Why is change so rare and difficult? I heard a fascinating interview with a doctor this week. He gave an analogy about people who would come to him with back pain who he helped by treating their feet.

Why? Because in these cases, he discovered that the back pain originated in a foot problem, which was compensated for by the ankle, which then was compensated for by the knee, then hip, and by the time they did anything about it, their back had joined the chain of compensating adjustments and now was hurting.

The patients had re-arranged most of their body to keep the untreated foot problem alive. They altered the way they stood, walked, sat, and slept to facilitate the foot problem. They unknowingly built a fortress around the original hurt and protected it with everything they did.

Treating the back did not have longterm benefit. The problem kept reoccurring because the cause was the untreated foot. He analogized this to problems in our lives where we experience a hurt or problem such as a childhood trauma or dysfunctional conditioning by our family, then slowly and silently begin re-arranging our life to suit the hurt; often for decades or a lifetime.

Over years, we have actually created a network of supports to enable the hurt to continue and affect us. We unknowingly choose and get into habits of thought and behaviour that help keep this damage alive. We choose people, build relational dynamics, occupations, living environments, and daily routines that also nurture and protect the hurt. We fortress it. Or we let the untreated hurt destroy our relationships and hurt others. Why?

Perhaps simply because it’s familiar and in a paradoxical way, comfortable? And why can’t we detect it to any degree that we can bring about change on our own? Perhaps because it is so woven into our psyche, it has become effectively permanent (so far).

Then, when one part of the compensating behaviour is challenged (the knee-limp), it upsets the whole dynamic (foot, ankle, knee, hip, back) so we resist it. We may be fearful or confused by the new awareness so we retreat to the comfort of the familiar, even if it is only kind-of working.

After years or decades of this protective behaviour, we have a well-rehearsed limp; physically, emotionally, relationally etc.
It is no wonder that we recovering alcoholics, ACOAs, codependents, ragers, etc. cannot affect change on our own and that the journey of change requires time, effort, and lots of support. Equally sick people in our lives often resist change as much as we do because it takes them into the less familiar as well, so they may not want us to change. And they too have fortressed in their limps with compensating behaviours.

I am grateful today for the numerous voices that I can listen to that help me see more of the root causes of my problems, rather than just the symptoms. I am grateful today for the company and influence of healthy people who are also on journeys of recovery, who don’t need me to continue limping in order for them to remain comfortable. I am grateful today to God for bringing these people and circumstances into my life to help break the fortresses around my pains and dysfunctions. I know a freedom and contentment like I have never known. I feel like a freed captive.

Ciao.

Chaz

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“… at best, nobody will ever take another word you say seriously ever again”.

October 26, 2010

A dialogue from Bugsy, the 1991 movie portraying the life of legendary mobster, Ben Siegel, came to mind today. 

In particular, the dialogue between Siegel, played by Warren Beatty, and Meyer Lansky, played by Ben Kingsley, in which Siegel tells Lansky of his seemingly hair-brained plan to fly to Italy in the midst of World War 2, work his way through elite Italian society to get close to  and assassinate Mussolini. 

Lansky’s response to Siegel was to ask him to promise never bring up this grandiose plan ever again because if he did, “… at best, nobody will ever take another word you say seriously ever again”.

I remember all the grandiose plans I would state to people pre-recovery.  What I was going to do, where I was going to go, who I was going to be.  It was not so much the fantasizing during my drinking, but more the self-deception due to my alcoholic thinking whether drunk or sober.

It was self-deceived because I seldom ever followed through with the stated plans.  My behaviours, in fact, worked completely opposite to my verbalized intentions.  How badly I harmed my credibility in those times.  How sad it was for the people in my life to not be able to believe the words that came out of my mouth.  Yet the saddest part was that I could not even see it.  And truth remained hidden from me largely because some things were indeed working out.  But it must have been largely by fluke because I was not often following through.

One noticeable change for me in recovery is my ability to believe my own words.  This is partly because I less often state things that are unrealistic.  And partly because recovery has taught me to align my words and behaviours so they are moving in the same direction more often than not.

As an ACOA (adult child of an alcoholic), I have also come to grips with the fact that I used to over-commit because I didn’t want to let anyone down.  I was completely unrealistic.  Yet this urealisticness was the very source of me then letting people down.  Weird eh?

Being credible to ourselves and others is an amazing gift of recovery.  We more often are able to say what we do and do what we say.  Nothing more complicated than that.

Ciao

Chaz

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Powered by Gratitude

September 17, 2010

In the past 2 years, I have been discovering the amazing depth and power of gratitude. 

I’ve discovered gratitude at levels far deeper than can be expressed by words alone.  I am talking about the gratitude that we live, rather than say.  We express it in our actions by doing and the choices we make on a day to day, moment to moment basis.  We begin to see so vividly that the blessing we have received and recovery we have experienced are truly rare and amazing, that gratitude permeates our subconscious and becomes one of the foundational influences of our entire outlook on life.  We don’t just think about it in our conscious mind, we move to feeling it in our emotions continuously.

The power is that we are far less fearful, far more hopeful, and we discover new energy and motivation in life because we feel grateful for everything, and anxious for little.  We can do and achieve things that we used to fall short of.  Why?  Because the negative thoughts that always stopped us in our tracks are now nudged out by gratitude for each moment, each person, each event, and each physical item in our lives.

On a practical level, I have found gratitude helps me maintain a happy marriage, a fun and functioning relationship with my kids, physical fitness, success in my career, and better relationships with everyone in my life.

Again, why?  Because I have let go of so much self-pity that kept me only seeing the negative in each circumstance.  Filtered through fear and self-pity, I would virtually always see the half-empty glass.  My mind would automatically nit-pick the imperfections in my job, my home, my wife, my family, and my health.  Even if I didn’t say it, I would allow the thoughts in my mind that would then translate into behaviours that limited me.  Or worse, led me to give up.

Gratitude on the other hand, especially when we live it rather than say it, keeps us focused on the half-full portion of the glass.  Gratitude leads us to become excited and energized because of what we do have.  So we make use of the blessing of the half-full part of the glass and build a better life for ourselves with what we do have, rather than remain immobilized looking at what we don’t.

An example on a practical level would be times when I decide to act in gratitude for my wife by doing something as an expression of this gratitude.  This may be rubbing her neck while she works at her desk, or telling her I love her at a time when I don’t normally, or doing some of her share of the household responsibilities, or taking the kids out so she can have some peace for a while.  When I determine to act in gratitude, I am careful not to speak it as well.  I feel I don’t want to taint the purity of the expression.  And by doing, it has such an impact on me and her, that the most amazing feelings in both of us begin to emerge.  And our marriage functions better and better.

Another example is my fitness routine which includes cycling for about 10 kms a few times a week.  Self-pity would have me complain in my head about the cold, the rain, dogs, traffic, sweating, and how hard it was.  Gratitude on the other hand focuses on the opportunity to be in shape, the beauty of the area I cycle in, the fresh morning air, the compliments from others, and the feeling of accomplishment that only comes from knowing I completed a task fully.

When I let gratitude guide my thoughts and express itself in my actions like riding longer or pushing harder, I have better workouts and cycling than ever and get better results, which then fuels more gratitude and more action.

Gratitude expressed only verbally will do some good.  But gratitude internalized so deeply we constantly feel it to the point that it becomes one of our defaults of perspective, then expressed in actions, can take us to new heights in every part of our lives.  It has freed me from so many of the shackles of negativity that limited me.

I encourage everyone to seek gratitude beyond words then act on it.

Ciao

Chaz

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and the “Life Hands You Your Own Ass” Scholarship goes to…

June 30, 2010

I was at a Grad ceremony recently for a relative graduating from High School.  Our family was pleased and proud.  Our Grad won some awards.  It was exciting and precious.  We are so glad they have completed something and are off to a good start.

The graduation was from a middle-class suburban school that requires parental involvement and place high emphasis on academics, athletics, and social responsibility.  Parents sacrifice to get their kids into this school.  We are grateful. 

The procession of students was narrated by an MC who read the future plans for each grad.  At least 75% stated they wished to attend university and seek a highly trained profession such as medicine, law, business, law enforcement, science, engineering, humanitarian or arts endeavors.

There were numerous scholarships from various businesses, churches, organizations and individuals.  All were awarded based on criteria such as academic achievement, sports achievement, community service, leadership, friendship, and representation of the character of God.  Similarly some awards were for ambitious plans to notable universities and degrees.

I was impressed with the level of achievement so many of the kids aspired to work toward.  And of course, this would not be the time or place to state that some of the more painful and unexpected realities of life are likely to impact and challenge these wide-eyed grads as they set forth on their journeys into adult life.

I wondered to myself, would it not be fitting to offer the “Life Hands You Your Own Ass” Scholarship?  Which would consist of a deferred, rather than immediate, bursary to be presented to the first student to whom the bitter realities of life show up first.  The money could be applied to any of, but not limited to, the following:

  • Psychological counselling (for things such as divorce, parental divorce, assault (sexual or otherwise), unexpected pregnancy, suicide ideation, depression, mood disorders, etc.  Invariably, at least 25% will experience one or more of these within 10 years of grad).
  • Divorce legal fee fund.
  • Single parenthood expenses.
  • Legal defense fund for criminal activity including impaired driving.
  • Gender preference confusion counseling.
  • Drug or alcohol rehabilitation.
  • Pornography addiction counseling. 
  • Disability income.
  • Unemployment re-training.
  • Bankruptcy.

Again, a public graduation ceremony is hardly the time or place to state the inevitability of such painful life issues lurking on the horizon for a large proportion of any population.  I suppose the thing that jumped out is the gross degree of naivety that reveals itself when our kids emerge from the protected enviroment and comfort of middle-class, suburban, family supported life.  They are of course setting their best foot forward with the best of intentions as we would hope they would do.

And having the realities of life served up to us is not necessarily a bad thing.  If dealt with, endured, and overcome, they can be the best thing ever to happen to us.  In fact, they would make us better doctors, lawyers, police, engineers, pharmacists, and business leaders.  I suppose I was sensing the overlooked fact that formal education is not the only thing of importance to becoming successful and influential in life.  And that we easily and simply get what we desire the way we expect it.

Life will show up for our grad and all others.  It may in fact, show up bearing the gift of their own ass.  Neatly packaged in a painful life circumstance that may feel like failure, like being robbed, ripped off, had the rug pulled out from under us.

I in fact, would trust someone far more who endured and survived a painful life circumstance than I would someone who hadn’t.  A year of pain will teach us far more than a lifetime of comfort.

Ciao.

Chaz

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Two-speed Chaz

May 31, 2010

I used to have two setting; Elated or Enraged.  There were very few point in between.  Not until I was nearly 40 years of age did I learn that there were a whole range of intermediate setting for my emotions.  One of which was disappointment.

In my pre-recovering thinking, any let down was cause to switch to the Enraged setting.  And manifest this setting by either raging, fearing, depressing, pouting, drinking, or shutting down.  Yes, I am talking about during my adulthood.

Disappointment is that setting just a few notches in from “Normal” that I now switch to when something doesn’t turn out like I hoped it would.  It involves a little pain, which I accept as part of the setting.  But I know now that the pain is never enough to kill me and that it will eventually pass.  So I just let it pass through and if need be, talk to someone which always helps.  I no longer have to switch all the way to Enraged when little to medium things don’t work out.  I have a place to go emotionally that is far safer and becoming very familiar.

In active alcoholism, I wonder how many of us sought to be on the elated side of things, aided by our grandiose thinking and drinking.  And when we weren’t in these elated states, we sunk to some form of dark enraged irritability?  Did we know that a Normal setting even existed?  Or did we bounce back and forth in a bi-polar fashion?

Sobering up limited our options to spend time in what we felt was elation.  We are now available to discover and function in many points on the emotional spectrum.  Isn’t this what most “normal” people do?

Ciao.

Chaz

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Barometer of progress

April 11, 2010

How do we measure progress in recovery or simple growth as a person?  I am not sure how to quantify this progress, yet I have discovered observable indicators that I see on a frequent basis that tell me that life is changing, progressing, and that I am growing.

I woke this morning to find my car having been ransacked last night.  I lost a bag full of work-related papers, a pair of prescription sunglasses, and a ring I had bought my daughter for her birthday I had left in the glove box and was going to give her tomorrow.  All told, probably $700 worth of belongings.

My reaction? Smirk, and a quietly verbalized “niiiicee”, as I stood there in the driveway looking at the open door of my car with remaining contents of my glove box on the passenger seat and floor.  I smirked further at the thought of the thieves trying to wear the sunglasses.  They are prescription lenses… they will not have any fun with them.

The telling part was my initial reactions did not include rage.  Nor did they include feelings of deep loss for these items.  I sit here disappointed at the inconvenience and forthcoming expenditures.  But that is it.  I am not furious.  I am not panicking.  In fact, I am blogging over it.  Thats it.  In days and weeks to come, I will replace the items and move on.  Even though I paying for all of these things is not something I can easily do at the drop of a hat.  But so what.  I have lost things in the past and I will lose things in the future.  So did millions of others throughout history.

Some of my barometers of progress include:

  • Road rage: Am I getting any better at how I behave in traffic?  Can I apply the principles of recovery such as acceptance, tolerance, and surrender to the behaviours of others in traffic?  My answer is yes.  More than ever.
  • Relationships: This is the big one.  As far as I am concerned, recovery expresses itself the greatest in how our relationships are going. Any one relationship can have trouble.  The more important question is, are our relationships in general improving?  Do we have more positive interactions in our lives?  Do we connect with stronger and better people more frequently?  Do we have people who can speak honestly with love into our lives?  Do we have any less flare-ups with people than we used to?
  • Handling change:  How do we handle change and crisis now?  Is it any better.  Do we “lose it” as often?  Feel the victim? Go into a rage? Sulk? Whine? Gossip? Self-pity?

 

Recovery is not something we do “in the rooms” or while we are working steps.  Recovery is how everyday life changes and improves.

So I hope someone out there is enjoying my prescription sunglasses.  And I hope they get a good buck at the pawn shop for the ring.  Summer is a ways off and I can easily replace the glasses by then.  My daughter is in my life and tells me she loves me every time I see her.  The ring can be replaced too.

Today is a beautiful day.  The final round of the Masters Tournament starts soon.  I will see my kids tonight.  I love my wife, and I am healthy.

Ciao.

Chaz

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No dread, no regret, no resent

March 24, 2010

My mantra for the past few weeks has been, “Just for today, I will not dread, regret, resent”.  What an amazing few weeks it has been!

I simply resolved at the beginning and throughout each day, to avoid wherever possible these three pitfalls of thinking.  Any time my mind migrated there, I would simply immediately redirect to something positive.  I would not join in the internal dialogue in my head that would say things like,

“Man, today is going to be a tough day”, (dread)

“You really should have chosen a career as __________ “, (regret)

“I really hate that guy”, (resent)

You get the picture, I am sure.  I simply found myself drifting into these thought paths more than I cared to and to no practical end.  I was the only one who was hurt when I did.  Well, initially anyway.  Then I would hurt others by my behaviour that resulted from the emotional funk from dreading, resenting, and regretting.

And who am I to question God as to why the path I took was not the right one for me?  How do I know I am not exactly where I need to be and can be of most value to myself, God, my family, and humanity?

Who’s to say that if one of the things I regret not doing would not have been my undoing?  Who’s to say that if my ‘ship came in’ the way my thoughts felt it should have, that I wouldn’t have sunk it?

Life is amazing today.  As long as I remain in today and grateful for everything.

There is no place for dread, regret, or resentment in a life that, as Don Draper puts it, “Moves in only one direction, forward”.

Ciao.

Chaz