You Can Get Back To Who You Were

On Friday evening, Bill and I went to see Beautiful Boy. Beautiful Boy is about the relationship between a father (David) and a son (Nic); the son begins experimenting with drugs in his early teens, and he becomes addicted to meth. Beautiful Boy is a mash up of the father’s exploration of addiction and writing of his experience as Nic’s father, and the son’s writing of his story while being David’s son.

My personal experience of the movie was emotional from both points; I am a recovering addict and I am a father. As I experienced the telling of the story I found myself identifying mostly with Nic; the truth of his love for his father was evident, and yet the love of the drugs continued to be bigger than a father’s love.

There were a couple of statements in the dialogue that were glaring to me; glaring to the addict in me who is still alive and well; he may not be an addict that is fed currently, but he is an addict that continues to attempt to become strengthened through any type of additive behavior; he waits all of the time. The two statements in the movie brought to me an awareness of the language of awakening that my internal addict listens for, and my addicts reaction to the language of normalcy.

During one of the moments when David and Nic are discussing treatment, David tells Nic, “You can get control of this, and be the person you were before”. My immediate reaction was, “oh my God, that’s the thing, I never want to be the person I was before drugs”, and then the father that I am asked “why, what was wrong with you before drugs?”

The thing is my family and friends remember me as a happy child with a sparkle in my eye. What I remember is always thinking I was separate from everyone and everything; I remember trying to figure out if everyone felt separate and different all of the fucking time, and I remember that I didn’t even know how to ask. How do you describe the feeling of separate and different?

For addicts, for this addict at least, there is no concept of normal. To this day I see what society, television, and relationships present as acceptable; I see the degrees of these presentations, and I either have to settle for or strive for any of those concepts. As a child I never felt that I was enough and I was constantly accused of always wanting more than I deserved. How could I tell the people who were around me that I was always on a razor’s edge of existence? Although I continue to learn to accept what is while striving for what can be, the razor has not dulled; I have simply become acquainted with recognizing it for what it is; life. I will honestly tell you, for this addict, this is the truth, and so is the fact that I think the answer sucks.

The second statement in Beautiful Boy that glared at me was in a scene where Nic was visiting his family; Nic had, at this time, put together a bit over 400 days clean and sober; he was playing on the beach with his little brother; they had not seen each other for a little over 1 year, and Nic asked his brother “is it weird seeing me again after so long?” His little brother said “I thought it would be, but it turns out you are just the same old Nic?” I knew that Nic would be triggered to relapse as soon as his brother said it. How did I know? I knew because the black hole that addiction fills does not like to be compared to who I have always been. You see, who I have always been is the guy on the razor’s edge of existence; please try to understand, I may not have wanted to physically die; however, I set out to kill the feeling of separate and different. It is imposable for those of you comfortable with normalcy to understand my aversion to anything normal.

I cannot state the level of my gratitude for the many years of sobriety that I have; however, the longer I am sober the more I recognize my truth; I never want to be the person that I was before drugs, and I never what to be the same old Ken. I may understand David, but I really understand Nic;  love is stronger than addiction; however, for those who are suffering from addiction, disease, or depression, I beg of you to allow us to let go of who we always were; I promise you that no one who is suffering wants to go back to the days before while fighting to get to the days after.

Peace All



Healing Shores

My favorite of the Christian resurrection stories is the story when Jesus met his disciples on the shore.  The disciples, who had been fishermen prior to Jesus’ calling them to ministry, had returned to fishing after the crucifixion, and they were not having much success in their new “old” way of life; in the story someone from the shore yelled out to them, “cast your net from the other side of the vessel” and not thinking that it would do any good, the disciples followed the direction anyway, and when they did they could barely pull the net from the sea because there were so many fish.  But, this is not the part of the story that I love.

The disciples figured out that the man calling from the shore was Jesus; he was appearing to them yet again after his resurrection, and they jumped from the fishing boat and joined him on the shore.  Jesus took some of the fish that they had caught and made breakfast for them.  Although there are many lessons in this story my favorite part comes after breakfast when Jesus has a conversation with Peter.  Remember, prior to the crucifixion, Jesus had told Peter that he (Peter) would deny him (Jesus) three times before morning; Peter who was very sure of his faith was incensed that Jesus would think so; yet, as the story goes, Peter did deny the Christ three times in the last night of Jesus’ life; Peter’s guilt made him blind in understanding the value of the resurrection.

Jesus saw Peter’s guilt and he asked him.  “Peter, do you love me?” and Peter replied, “Yes Lord”, and Jesus said “feed my sheep”.  Jesus then asked Peter again, “Peter do you love me?” and Peter again answered, “Yes Lord”, and Jesus said, “tend my sheep”, and then a third time Jesus said to Peter, “Peter do you love me” and in a distraught sort of way Peter answered a third time, “You know that I love you lord” and Jesus replied for the final time, “then feed my sheep.”

It is within this story that Jesus makes it perfectly clear that he is giving all of mankind permission to be healed.  I like the concept of healing so much more than the idea of forgiveness; in healing there is a sense of “I own this outcome” and in forgiveness it is so much more about giving the other person all of my power, both in being the cause of my “sin” and in getting past that “sin”. Jesus did not ask Peter to explain himself; Jesus’ purpose was not to cause Peter greater guilt, but instead to help Peter to understand that he could release himself from his guilt, simply by understanding his priority of love of himself and others.

This is not to say that Peter did not fail.  Of course Peter failed. But Jesus was not one to focus on failure. And I don’t think that Jesus asks his followers to focus on failure either; I am convinced that Jesus’ message is one of “moving on to the better you.”  If the better “me” were the norm, than spiritual growth would not be necessary; and yet this statement does not mean that I am broken or unworthy, it simply means that like all children I must grow.  Peter grew in his ministry with the knowledge that he had failed and yet he had also moved on; my hope is that Peter would then be able to allow his students the same freedom.  My question is, can I afford the people in my life a chance to heal?

The trick it seems is in understanding that there is still a truth to the pain caused by poor action.  I must realize that I have affected someone by my actions, and I must take ownership and command of that action. In the 12 Steps this action is taken when I admit to harm, and then seek out those whom I have harmed in order to make amends.  Making amends gives me the ability to move on; but, and this is a big caveat, I must not create further problems when cleaning up the first problem.

Peter may have felt the need to deny his failure but Christ did not support that need; instead Christ offered Peter three opportunities to profess his love; the same amount of times that Peter had denied him. When we encounter those whom we have harmed, we cannot expect for them to give us Jesus’ understanding; however, we can approach them with Jesus’ acceptance of ourselves and of them; more importantly we can give them as many opportunities to profess their love to us as we feel they have harmed us.

In the past couple of weeks the power of healing has been a bright spot in understanding for me.  C.S. Lewis once wrote, and I paraphrase, “just because one has discovered that they are on the wrong path, does not mean that they are now where they want to be.” In other words, if I am driving to a destination north of my home and I enter the highway going south and drive for some miles it will take more than my recognition of my mistake to amend those miles once I turn the car around.  It is in the journey back toward my original location that healing takes place; of course unlike a physical journey such as and errant car ride, a spiritual journey probably will never take one back to the origination point; the importance of this is, give yourself, and others, the time to heal from their error, and in that time not only will all parties heal they will also find the destination of forgiveness.

The story on the shore helps us to understand that our wrong actions do not create us; however, our reactions to our wrong actions do. We are offered the opportunity to feel our guilt, own our “sin”, and make corrective actions. Jesus basically said feed those who may have harmed you and give them the occasion to remember that they love you. Most of us do not feel harmed by random people on the street; we merely react to those people based on a hurt that we carry with us. Healing from our hurts, and allowing others to heal from their hurts will give us a much smoother ride once we realize that we were driving south and our destination was in the north.

Peace All.

Painfull Sobriety; Healing Sobriety

Bill and I have been watching a sitcom called “Mom”; there are multiple protagonist in the show, most of whom are recovering addicts/alcoholics.  For the most part the characters are humorous and they create a homogenized vision of the life of an addict.  In other words, this show is a sitcom, depth of character building should not be expected.  However, in the last two weeks one of the lead characters has “fallen from” the proverbial wagon.

Allison Janney plays the role of the mother (Bonnie), and in her role she is the reluctant recovering addict.  In the early episodes she was  portrayed as being a wise-ass, smart-mouth, yet lovable woman.  She has been surprisingly effective in letting the viewers in on her reluctant yet workable sober existence.  At least until her back injury.  To keep the “fall” from being too large for this purpose let me summarize for you; she tweaked her back, she went to the doctor, she told the doctor that she had an addiction issue, the doctor gave her a look of miss-understanding, and then he wrote her a prescription for pain killers.  Of course, as television and movies go, she began the dance of lies and deceit.  The first episode of her fall was entirely comic book predictable.  But then everything changed.

The writers began to get real as they began to delve into her fall, and the writers hit it on the head. They didn’t make Bonnie play both sides of the field for very long, and I am so very happy that the they did not go for the laugh; instead they went for the heart; as Bonnie’s daughter Christy (played by Anna Faris) remains obtuse to her lies, Bonnie spirals down the rabbit hole pretty quickly.  When Bonnie is confronted by Christy and all of her AA support group friends she runs away.  The show depicted this “running away” in a physical manner, she literally ran from the people who love her, and in the end only Christy chased her into a corner.  It was at this point in the episode that my heart broke, as Bonnie climbed atop a jungle gym in the park, and Christy is forced to make the healthy decision of walking away.

I don’t know if others will grasp the emotional journey that this took me on; obviously you will not grasp it in exactly the way that I did, but I felt Christy walking away in both the loved and the beloved side of the story.  Christy chose sobriety and health over her mother’s return to insanity; Bonnie chose her love of the addiction over her daughter and grandchildren;  I felt the force of both of those decisions in tandem.  Addiction is not a simple physical, psychological, or spiritual thing.  Addiction is all encompassing.  Addiction requires the undivided attention of everyone that it touches and yet addiction is patient enough to wait to receive that attention.

There are times that I have forgotten that addiction does not require an outside force, such as alcohol.  Addiction comes from within, addiction is not alcohol, or cocaine, or sex, addiction is the human soul’s desire to feel.  The desire sometimes is to feel anything and at other times the sole desire is to feel nothing.  The catalyst  for the escape then becomes the accused; in the case of Bonnie the accused became the prescription pills and by the end of the episode it was the alcohol that she consumed prior to her DUI.

Bonnie was the reluctant sober person because she did not play the role of someone finding her healing from within.  Yes, I know that I am pontificating about a sitcom; however, I am also well aware that I am verbalizing the truth of every addict that I have known, myself included.  Removing the accused from one’s life does not create a sober person; filling the empty space with another fashionable addiction does not bring about healing.  I hope that I will never be 100% satisfied in my own skin; I cannot comprehend the idea of that satisfaction.  In the stead of 100% satisfaction, I would rather be aware that I am free to make the decision to change.  The newly sober me of 28 years ago is but a distant memory; hell the me of 28 days ago is a memory; it is my journey to journey; it is not my journey to remain static.

I have not had to deny myself the use of drugs or alcohol in many years, but I have given myself permission to be the very best me that I know every day and in every minute, and in doing so I have not desired drugs or alcohol enough to use them.  I have wanted “out” and I have stayed “in”. One time, not that many years past,  while driving to work on a beautiful spring day, when my prayer life was good, my home life amazing, and my job going well the voice in my head told me that it is all a lie, and that I might as well create an automobile accident and die.  Thankfully I could laugh out-loud that day and take it as a reminder; gently goes the journey, where one is allowed to heal; forgiveness may not be the goal, yet forgiveness will be the destination; forgiveness of people, places, and things, and most importantly oneself, because my friends believe me when I tell you that in my many years of this sober journey, it is myself that I have had to forgive most often.

Peace All