Posts Tagged ‘suicide’

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Life lessons from my coffee pot

August 18, 2010

I never know where the next lesson in life will come from. 

Today’s was from my coffee maker that occasionally malfunctions by letting grounds clog up the drip passage then overflow onto the counter.  Sometimes, like this morning, I switch the coffee maker on and go attend to other tasks in a different room.  Unknowingly leaving the pot to overflow onto the counter, into the drawers and cupboards below, and all over the floor.

"It just happens"

When I discover the mess, which of course then alters my morning routine considerably, I find the first place my mind goes is blame.  “If Procter-Silex could only build a reliable coffee maker!  Inept bastards”! 

Or get agitated at my family for having chosen the drawer beneath the coffee maker as the stationary drawer for the household, which of course now is all stained by spilled coffee.  Then come the mental images of hurling the coffee pot at the wall to show how unjustly I have just been treated by Procter-Silex, my family, Maxwell House, and of course the coffee pot itself.

Then, thankfully, only seconds later, I catch myself.  How is it anyone’s fault?  Does this sort of thing not just happen from time to time in any of our lives?  And how long really will it take to clean it up?  5 minutes at best?  Can I not do that?  Am I prepared to surrender my serenity over spilled coffee?  Will I even remember this mishap in a month, a year, 10 years from now?

I then proceeded to ask myself, “Instead of feeding my anger, what small thing can I do right now to improve this situation”?  To which I answer, “Unplug the coffee maker and put it in the sink for cleaning”.  So I do, and what happens?  Life is immediately much better.  In fact, gratitude begins to well up that I do have a coffee pot and sink, and this mishap isn’t sending me into a rage or out drinking.  Gratitude begins to displace anger and I begin to laugh.

It wasn’t 5 minutes before the entire mess is cleaned and a fresh pot of coffee is now brewing.  And best of all, I have this clear image of how blessed I am to have recovered to the point where these little incidents don’t send me around the bend anymore.  And that lights come on quickly that expose the unrecovered parts of my thinking, the ones that tried to immediately blame and self-pity over the malfunctioned coffee pot.

And let me tell you, the first cup from the next pot of fresh brew was amazing!

Simple, unexpected signposts in life that tell me I am on a better path than I was before.  And deep feelings of gratitude that show themselves in new behaviours and thinking patterns.  And the icing on the cake, joy and serenity return within moments.

Life is way better on the path of recovery.

Ciao.

Chaz

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We don’t need to understand pain

July 31, 2010

I used to make painful moments and circumstances in life far more painful by expecting to understand the pain.  I rarely do that anymore.  Pain is inevitable in life.  It just happens.  Nobody is exempt.  We choose whether or not we want to turn it into suffering by complicating it.

I used to complicate pain all the time by reading deep meaning into it while it was happening.  Even though this never helped.  I would want to know all the reasons why.  I would want instant clarity.  I felt an injustice was done on me if God or someone didn’t deliver clarity of reason to me right away.

Today, “it just happens” and eventually passes.  It goes away in time, every time.  So I am more prone to just grit my teeth, focus on something else positive, and let it pass.  The amazing thing is that some clarity or lesson usually follows at some point shortly thereafter.  I “let” more be revealed rather than “expect” it.

And if pain is getting me down, I have the secret weapon of surrender.  I turn it over.  Let go, let God.

Life is way better.

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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Reminded of the emotional rollercoaster

October 10, 2009

 Remember the pain and utter disorientation when you found out about the betrayal?  Remember forgetting that it was actually real, emotional rollercoasterfeeling content for a moment, then realizing it was indeed real and feeling the pain over again?

Remember repeating this cycle over and over and over?  Remember the high highs and low lows?

Remember falling asleep and waking up thinking that maybe your shattered life was just a bad dream… then realizing it wasn’t?

Remember hearing some inspiring input or teaching and then feeling good for a moment?  Thinking there just may be some hope of hanging onto what you were so afraid to lose?  Then only hours or days later, that hope fades and the despair and pain return?

Remember the anger? The fear? The embarrassment?

I do.  Not often anymore though.  Thank God.

But today, years after life turned around significantly, I saw a brief scene in a movie where a young lady had just found out she had been betrayed by her boyfriend who was now sleeping with a friend of hers.  She was hysterical.  A short while later, when the initial sting subsided, she resolved to live the best and happiest single life… just as her mother did.  But the resolve seemed only veneer-thin.  She sounded as if she were trying to convince herself that she was OK.

It so reminded me of the moments of reprieve when the pain and confusion subsided and the clouds felt like they began to break.  I began to think there might be hope.  Sometimes it would last for days.  Then, the clouds would start to move in again.  The sky slowly darkened and depression, pain, and despair moved in again.  “I knew the good feelings and hope wouldn’t last”, I would tell myself.

Unfortunately, for about 2 years, I was right.  The pain came and went.  I was on the rollercoaster.  For the first year, my separated wife did not even commit to whether or not she was going for divorce.  She kept the other man in the shadows.  We all suspected but had little proof.  It was torture.  Today, I momentarily relived this rollercoaster by seeing this scene in the movie.

Today, it seldom happens and if it does, it never lasts.  Today, when the dark clouds move in, I say, “Ok, fine.  But I know that this too will pass so I will just ride it out”.  Today, I re-direct my thoughts to gratitude for what I do have.  Today, I turn over my pain rather than try to fight it by myself.  Today, I get in the company of people who have travelled the journey before me and are willing to walk beside me when the clouds move in.

Man, was I a mess during those days.  My thinking was all wrong.  It led me to fixation with suicide.  So glad I never took a step farther.  So glad I made it through and can now carry the message of survival and recovery to others.

There was a day when I felt there was no future.  Today, I love the present and am hopeful of the future.

These little reminders help me see how far I have come since those dark days not too many years ago.

Gratefully,

Chaz

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And you may ask yourself-well…how did I get here?

September 20, 2009

david byrne talking heads once in a lifetimeHow’d we end up so messed up that we drank and basically went nuts?  I have often wondered.

How many futile thought patterns and attitudes have we learned from literature and entertainment?  How much did we glean from watching movies, television, reading books, and listening to music and end up training ourselves through sheer repetition and familiarity painful and toxic thought habits like:

vengeance?

self-pity?

expectations of love relationships?

These few things alone are enough to drive anyone to drink or drug.  Remember the old Charles Bronson movie series, Death Wish?  Where the main character played by Bronson becomes a vigilante and seeks out and kills those who wronged him?  Or what about the age-old tale of the Count of Monte Cristo?  Or the 1990’s movie series, Die Hard? What about all the old Clint Eastwood cowboy movies where he exacts vengeance and kills the whole town?

Did all of these and many, many more through suggestion, repetition, and familiarity not teach us to be vengeful?  Did these kinds of experiences and conditioning not suggest to us that violence was a viable alternative?  How deeply did these messages get programmed into our subconscious?

Then when we suffered injustices, people were surprised at our level of anger and perhaps our threats or violent retaliations?

What about how we reacted when we got our heart broken… and fell into deep self-pity?  Were we not just living out what so much popular music programmed into us? 

I remember the old Chicago song when I was a kid… “If you leave me now, you’ll take away the biggest part of me”.  And I ended up buying into stuff like this when my wife left and ended up a self-pitying disaster.  Now surely there would have been pain regardless, but somehow my thinking made it into something far more complex and painful than it actually was.

Or what about the fait de compli of all self-pitying, unrealistic expectation love songs of all time?  Michael Bolton’s “How am I supposed to live without you”?  Oh please!  With expectations like this programmed into our psyche… no wonder we went nuts, drank, drugged, and fell for the self-pity gig to the degree we did.  Depression and misery were just waiting for us.  And these are only 2 songs!  Am sure literally thousands more affected us and set us up for failure.

How did we get here?  Well… from what I see…. we programmed a lot of crap into our thinking.  “Entertainment” had a lot to do with it.

Glad to say, am programming much of it out and better stuff in.  Life is amazing today.  I am wiser in my choice of things I let permeate my thinking.

Ciao.

Chaz

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Emotional reasoning

April 15, 2009

Emotional reasoning…. simply put, “I feel this way, therefore it is this way”.

girl-in-painI am glad that today, I no longer believe this as much as I used to.  I no longer let my unreliable, inaccurate feelings convince the rest of me that reality is meaningfully reflected by my feelings.

I borrow this phrase from the practice of “Cognitive Behaviour Therapy”.  Which is psychobabble for “Learning to think differently”.

I am glad to have come accross a few methods that have served as tracks to run on that have helped me re-shape my thinking.  New thinking in turn reshapes my feelings.  And also helps me believe on a very genuine level that just because I feel a certain way, it does not mean that reality or truth is indeed that way.

More often than not, I have found that I am able to push through the tough feelings when they show up.  And show up they do.  More often than not, I can take a “ya, ya, whatever” attitude and just continue on and let the feelings do as they wish.  It is hard, it is agonizing sometimes.  But it gets easier and I always feel better in a short while.

After I push through, and the positive feelings follow, I always wonder what it was I felt bad about in the first place.  Which further convinces me that the feelings were unreliable in the first place.

I post this because I had an agonizing day this way.  I had some things to accomplish and the feelings were all over me.  As dark and hurtful as I can remember in a long time.  I wanted to quit and say just screw everything and take the day off.  I didn’t.  And now, a mere 3 hours later, lots has been accomplished and I am energized to face the next thing on the list.

Had I emotionally reasoned that the day would be as crappy as it started out feeling like it was, I would never be at this point sharing this and feeling good.

The 12 steps of AA are a big part of what has taught me this.  So is the work I do with my shrink.  So is what I learn from my faith.  So is what I learn from the likes of Dr. Phil.  So is what I learn from my fellow bloggers.  Using what I learn, not just talking or thinking about it, but actually DOING is what makes the difference for me.

Pressing through even when everything in me is in emotional agony and wants to quit.

It does work, and life does get better.

Ciao.

Chaz

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Why don’t we stop drinking? Others can.

March 27, 2009

“I’ don’t know why I started drinking, I just know that when I drank, I felt better”.

This was the first definition of my drinking problem that made any sense to me.  It was shared by another alcoholic when I was in early sobriety.alcohilic-yuppie1

As alcoholics, we tend to complicate things, including our reasons for drinking.  May I strongly suggest that the detailed reasons are not likely to be today’s business?  Time will reveal to us more and more reasons why/how we got to where we got to.

It wasnt long for me until  more factors revealed themselves as to why I do not stop when I start.

alcoholic-momThese reasons matter less than the fact that we are simply in this position today.  And if we are to ever discover the reasons why we do not stop, we need to first stop and begin to get sane enough to work on our stuff, and stop the damage and pain.

Borrowing someone else’s simple definition is a great place to start.  It was for me.