Life is so full of twists and turns, un-anticipated obstacles and those we can see ahead. There are challenges and there are joys, there are falls and there are opportunities that can lift us up and/or we lift ourselves up. What is it about this process though that can become so un-welcomed, even feared? Why is this process often perceived to be a burden? I admittedly have tired of having to pick myself up again and again. I have resented the fact that sometimes it has taken a lot of hard work to keep my head above water. Yet that's where it is, that is just the way it is - now what? It's that work within the twists and turns that lifts me higher, and higher, and empowers me to know how to do it during the next challenge. That work brings a sense of freedom, capability, an opportunity to gain wisdom, and experience that serves not just me but others too. That has a lot of value! And truth be told I was never promised that life would not have twists and turns, obstacles and challenges. I have been told though that life will have joys, and that in order to receive joy I must be open to it, seek joy, appreciate it and create some joy too.
In the world of addiction, times of joy can be very fleeting or perceived to be non-existent. We hear often that many are waiting for the next shoe to drop, the next relapse, unable to trust a loved one, unable to stop the worry, unable to get off the roller coaster. And this is how joy becomes a far distant concept ... Not only distant, but unattainable. Oh can you feel the stress of that? We anticipate not the good, but the ongoing pain of the past and project it right into the future ... and we follow this imagined future. However the problem is that we are in the present day and our souls know this. And that's why it feels so uncomfortable. Any day really is the only day truly available to us, and the discomfort of imagining a scary future is the signal that we're going where we really don't belong. We belong to this day with all its twists and turns, some we choose and some we don't, some we can control and many we can not. In my experience, I do know that playing the role of god and foretelling a painful future has brought me nothing but pain. As I move into anticipated fear, I am the creator of this pain. Good to know! Because if I am the creator of that pain, I can also be the creator of joy!
My beloved cat Max is so sick. He is 15 and has been my buddy all this time. Despite medication and care, his little body is weakening. I have often scared myself anticipating his continued deterioration, his death and all the pain I'm going to feel when that happens. When I accept the way of this, its natural process and my own process however that looks (and sometimes it doesn't look so pretty!), I can honor the grief. I also notice that this anticipation of pain disallows me from appreciating his life right here and right now! There are undoubtedly twists and turns of life, challenges, obstacles and things that we may wish wouldn't be happening. But, when I stop fearing it all and stop insisting it all go away or go my way in my time, I take care of the moments of grief and remember the moments of joy and create some too. I brush my dear Max, pet him, coo at him, speak with him, give him treats, refresh his water, look in his eyes, I appreciate that right now he is living, and so am I. I am living love. The love replaces the fear. And so it goes. It is a process of deliberate choice and application. But to stay in fear is a disservice to us both. It is a disservice to life today, to love today and to love eternal.
How important is it then that replacing our fears with love and coming back into this day gets done, and done for and with our loved ones who suffer? For if they do not know how to do this for themselves, we can do it and create a space to love them as they are. This kind of love will naturally uplift us because our truest nature is love - to be it, share it, to give it away ... not to get it back, just to give it, to be love itself. I have thought it is the experience of God through us, the experience of God within us to embody this kind of love. And sometimes it is going to take the deliberate choice and work to get to that place of unconditional love - a love without conditions, even the conditions of insanity. Who would I be without all those stories of the future? Right here, right now, a heart full of love, being love itself. I would see that each of us is this love despite the twists and turns, and because of them. Feel the love that you are, feel it lift your heart and send it out to the other hearts of love that may have forgotten who they are too. Re-Member, Re-Connect to Love (with you and with them). Drugs don't win here. Love does!
From my heart to yours, may there be peace ... and joy,
I was out with some friends, who have heard only a very small bit of my story of loving a child with an addiction, when that moment arrived. That awkward moment. We were out in nature, remarking how beautiful the landscape is, and basking in the great news of her daughter graduating from college, landing an excellent internship that will support her plans for med school next year. She's moving into her own apartment with a friend. Life is amazing. And then onto the next child who had a successful school year and is enjoying family life before beginning her summer job. Lots to share, lots to really celebrate, lots to fill my heart with gratitude for my friend and her joys. One remarks what great kids they are. What great parenting. And then the quick rationalization about luck. Was that for me?
Then it happens ... the awkward silence. There's someone else in this group with a child who is not being asked about in detail. And that someone is me. The child is my son. Sure, one of my intentions is to focus on my friend and her good news. And finally I do have some good news to share! But, still ... I thought my news would be judged, that there would be that air of pity, or risk the conversation just dead ending. Here's the thing though. It's not that they didn't ask about my son. It's that I struggled with the thought that they would judge my good news as a little weak in comparison, and that I would somehow make this exchange even more awkward. It had nothing to do with them or their stories!
What I understand is that these friends care about me and don't want to "make me feel bad" by asking about my son and risking that it might shift me from pleasant times to maybe not so pleasant. And maybe they're not in the place to shift into what could possibly be a sticky conversation, or they're just not sure if I would welcome it, or maybe they don't even know how to bring up a sensitive subject. We were after all out having fun. Oh, my goodness ... look at all the stories in my mind!
When I'm not in all of these stories and believing in comparisons or judgment, what happens? I am so full of love and gratitude that my friend is enjoying her children, that she has a sense of security about the current state of their lives. I choose to not share so we can all just enjoy her story. And I am full of gratitude, not caught up in any comparisons (theirs or my own). I have a child I love so much and can celebrate that he lives and his life has purpose (what that all means who knows, but I know it does!). He has courage, he is resourceful, he loves, he smiles and brings laughter, his growing wisdom is remarkable, his life experience is profound, he has graduated many life schools and his job is living and learning and growing and achieving. Isn't that what we're all doing? Other than all those stories, I am in a state of celebration. I celebrate those moments of connection with him, and the most important moments of all - when I get to love him without conditions, without stories. That's my work. To turn these stories around and return to love.
And, later on in our little gathering, I didn't wait to be asked about my son, I share my news because it feels right for me. I want to share myself with people who care about me, and who I care about. Maybe another time it might not feel right or necessary to share, but this time it did. Whatever the story might be, whatever the news may be, I choose to share love (spoken or not).
From my heart to yours,
I’m sure if you’re reading this it’s because you may love someone who is addicted and you fear for their life. With addiction we see our loved one, but we can barely recognize them, or they’ve become someone so changed by addiction doing things they never would have done otherwise. They’re physically living, but not quite here, and we fear them dying. This is what is called Ambiguous Grief. Of course we know that at some time, some way or another, we all will die. Is it hard to hear that? Consider also that some how we grow up fearing death, and we fear it even more when we love someone whose substance use and behavior is so risky that it really could result in death. It’s a reality that is hard to come to terms with. Which brings us to grieving the living, grieving lost dreams, grieving the way we used to be, grieving many things. Yet, it is not like the conventional death, there are no casseroles or memorial services, there are no condolence cards and it can make us feel very alone, even resentful.
But and unfortunately, we are not alone at all. We share this grief among millions of others who also love someone who is addicted. We hear statements like “they died too young”, “children shouldn’t die before their parents”, “they shouldn’t have died, and not like that” … yet it all happens in its own time and we did not get a vote on it, nor in the way it happens, and we are left to grieve it. In that grieving, it is possible and common to experience anger and guilt, so many deep emotions. Many have commented about their addicted loved one that “they should just get it over with and die already, put us all out of our misery”, being said out of pain and fearing the long road of struggle when loving someone through their addiction. I invite you to bring your attention to the comments above in quotes: none of them are the whole truth are they? Why? Because notice again: It is in fact a reality that people do die at all ages, parents do outlive their children, death happens for a variety of logical reasons, and we can and do speak out of pain words that when calmer we would not have spoken. But when we’re in that mindset, we feel even worse and then can might condemn ourselves for saying certain comments or just not handling it well. Please forgive it and know it is normal. Give yourself compassion. It consumes a lot of energy to grieve and like addiction, we can say and do things that in other circumstances we wouldn’t. Please be willing to know that your love is safe and continuous. Even addiction can not have the power of the love in you, the love that you are, and the love that your loved one is too. Those painful thoughts and words do not change the love either. So, how does one handle grief that can be so pervasive and overwhelming?
1. Allow your grief
Allow your emotions. If you need to make time to vent, to cry, yell, drop to the floor then do that. It’s no secret (at the very least to you) so don’t keep it a secret. It’s perfectly ok to state that you’re grieving, having an “off” day (and consider that it’s not off as your emotions are valid – it is grief). Sure it’s ideal that people will acknowledge and support you, but that might not happen. It’s your grief and you can be with yourself and take care of you, and without their acknowledgement. Be true to yourself, do not run from or try to numb your grief. Honor it. And honor others to be as they are. They understand, acknowledge, support you or they don’t. Find someone else to talk to if necessary. If no one else at any given time, use a journal or paper to write out your thoughts and emotions to express your grief.
2. Take your time.
Grieving is a process, and it takes time. That is just the way of it. When mixed with conscious choices and effort, the experiences in our daily lives can shift, as well as our emotions. We eventually can find ourselves back in our routines and choosing life and even joy. And if not, it may be time for professional intervention. Do not let your grief continue without your care and attention. When doing so, and it’s not changing, get help.
3. Get support
Find people who can support you and listen while you speak of your grief, speak about your loved one, your memories, your confusion. Request their silent listening. Often people just want to know how to help and feel awkward not knowing, so help you and help them by honestly requesting what you need. Keep looking until you find those people. Take yourself to support groups where they do understand because they share similar circumstances. (Al-anon, Nar-anon, Parents of Addicted Loved Ones, NAMI, etc)
Your loved one is under the layers of addiction but that doesn’t mean they are gone. They can always be found in your heart, at least. Remember the love shared and savor it. Addiction does not change that kind of love, and it does not change good memories. Cherish those positive memories, record them in a journal, create a scrapbook of photos, whatever you can to hold your memories dear so you can remember times that filled your heart with love and joy. That was real too!
5. Your loved one is not their disease
Even though their behavior, appearance, attitudes and words can be hurtful or significantly different, they are still a person. They are a person and not a problem. They still need love and consider that beyond the addiction, they also want to love. Disconnection is part of the disease. So stay connected to your heart and love. At the very least, send it silently out to reach your loved one whether you know where they are or not. Of course it’s normal to still feel anger, frustration, or blame toward the person, but understanding the illness can divert some of those feelings.
6. Be open to change
Life and circumstances have changed, yet most likely you did not ask for any of it. You are now at a place to make a deliberate choice to change your perspective, and in doing so, change the relationship with your loved one. It may be very hard to accept the choices of your loved one and how they are living. Still, you can connect with love, honest communication and skills when educated and supported through and because of addiction. This perspective can not only help you in relationship with your addicted loved one, but in all relationships. Be open to changing your perspective and inviting some joy and into your life, this will help keep you more balanced and available to meet life and its challenges (and its joys too). Be open to allowing some joy and gratitude also.
Consider ways to honor your loved one’s life by choosing life and choosing joy in their honor. My son told me “Mom please make yourself happy. I really want you to be happy, and I can’t do that for you. I’ll make it or I won’t, but I want you to do that for me, and do that for you.” I understood the reality of the disease and that my son could not possibly take on the task of my happiness when he could not do that for himself. Though we can feel happier around people and situations, happiness is an inside job. We can’t do it for another, and another can’t do it for us. At some point, our deliberate choice to choose life and joy may present itself. When we choose this, we are better able to actually connect with our loved one and to ourselves.
Without doubt, you will need to be educated about addiction and it’s manifestations that might very well show up. You will need to take care of your emotional, physical and spiritual state. You will need to focus on your own recovery, you will need to learn a different and more effective way of communicating with your loved one, you will need to develop a plan, and practice much like the way your loved one must to sustain recovery. You will need to make difficult choices to choose life, to choose joy and self-care so you are available to love in such a way that can be helpful to your loved one, and yourself. The choice may be challenging at times especially during crisis. Remember, your emotions are valid and you will need to take care of yourself with compassion. Of course, you may continue to experience the grief because the nature of addiction is that there is risk, but as long as there is breath there is hope.
As you take care of your grief in this way, you may begin to notice that the grief is no longer consuming your days, and there will be more and more moments where grief can co-exist with the peace, love and joy you are creating despite of and because of addiction. And surely, there may be more and more moments that you are now identifying with peace, love and joy and not even aware of the grief. Know that nothing remains the same through out time. Notice the natural ebb and flow. As in nature, sometimes the tide is in and sometimes it is out. As it will be with your grief. Allow for the tides to come in and re-connect to life and love. This lights the way for you and lights a path for your loved one to find you too. And always love remains!
From my heart to yours,
To be or not to be ... that is the question? Well, I've got another pressing one here too ... What do I do when I really don't know in what direction to turn? Breathe ... and welcome ... allow ... notice without attaching to the story, the labels, the interpretations ... breathe ... welcome ... notice ... breathe again ... notice the moment with the five senses or however many are available ... breathe into the present moment ... release the need for an answer ... silence ... listen ... allow ... welcome it all. I am being done, present, receiving, patient, calm.
Oh sure, we've heard these suggestions to just breathe, right? maybe even tried them, but. But what? Still don't know? Not working? It's the thinking and believing that something else is needed, that knowing is needed, that doing something right now is needed. But, oh the stress of insisting and expecting the knowing and the divine invitation, message and maybe lesson is to allow the not knowing. It is the expectation that is the issue that takes us completely away from calm, presence, of the ability to get still and just listen. That's where inspiration comes. That's where the ideas percolate. That's where the seeds of peace are planted and grow. In that moment, there is no need to know. Notice that it's not a need like breathing if life as we know it is to continue. The need becomes being with it as is. Arguing with it certainly isn't helping is it?
In the not knowing and in the stillness, you may be presented with other possibilities. Invite calm and love into your heart. Invite and welcome not knowing. How liberating it can be to release that illusion of control. Come into your own business in that moment and then the next one and the one after that. There is a power that is at work, there are people who are making their own choices and none of that is your business. It doesn't mean your helpless. It means your clearer to get calm, inspired and make choices from that place, not a stressed out place. And, for me I can say it sure takes practice.
So what is my business, after all? What do I do when I don't know what to do? My business can be to: breathe, release control, consider a kind response, journal ideas, pray, consider if and how I will communicate, seek trusting supports, do something healthy and nurturing, offer but not insist another receive, invite, listen, try to understand, *question my fears and concerns, seek to understand, notice and let the things I can not control just be which certainly helps to let go and get out of God's business and another's very path in life, especially when I am not invited. They too, like all of it, are God's business. They too may be being moved and used for a purpose I simply can not know, and one that is far beyond my ability to imagine or assume I know what is best or better. But when I go there, I leave myself and wander deeper into fear, assumption and expectation - ouch!
What do I do when I don't know what to do? Breathe, wait, just be and let it be, trust, get open to possibility. My experience of this is inspiration and being moved rather than trying to manipulate and control. Part of the flow, flowing, adapting, adjusting, available, present. A much more peaceful place to consider choices. A re-connection to love itself. It begins with me each and every time. What is your business? It surely becomes clearer if and when we bring our awareness to and practice getting out of another's and out of God's business, and listen for a kinder and more effective way. I can't take care of the future until I take care of this moment. And that's the only one I've got right in front of me. Breathing in, I breathe into this moment. Breathing out, I am here.
Wishing you peace.
As much as I try to surrender and to be comfortable in not knowing, I continually plan! I'm planning visits with my son in December, continuing education for January, classes and curriculum, and all the mundane too (when I'll vacuum, what I'll cook, where and when do I bike, etc). Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with all these plans spinning me around and around. Will my son be available in December, can I afford to pay for the education, do I have the students and their interest, what in the world will I cook? I then notice the discomfort of not knowing, actually not knowing a lot! And I notice I'm not surrendering to possibilities or opportunities, inspiration and divine guidance. I have just surrendered to stress!
It's also so easy to share my thoughts about the directions of my children's lives. After all, they introduced the topic. But did they invite the conversation? Not really. So, if I'm completely honest (and this seems to make life so much easier!), my thoughts are really my suggestions and opinions. And with a bit more honesty, I never asked them if my suggestions and opinions were welcomed. I did not even get a clear invitation in the form of "Hey Mom, what do you think?". Hmmmm, good stuff to consider. After the fact, it can be uncomfortable to impart my wisdom on someone who wants to live life their own way. Who made me boss of their life anyway? No one. Well, someone, and that someone is me. It just doesn't work.
Living in clarity, honesty, awareness of hidden motives and the awareness of how easy it is to be in someone else's business are some of the main cornerstones to my inner peace. That peace is my business. It has a ripple effect throughout my life and in all my relationships. But, all this planning and attaching to outcomes is stressful. It's the attachment, the need to know how it will unfold that becomes stressful. It just doesn't work. Without needing to know how my life plans will look in the future, it becomes so much more fun, curious and intriguing to plan and welcome whatever may come. And, it may not look like my plans at all. That has happened a great many times! The other thing that has happened a great many times, is I get something that is far better for my own evolution, my growth, my wisdom and experience. That too has a ripple effect. It may be due to a very difficult struggle, but I can honestly say that I have been shown and divinely inspired to greater understandings and being moved by grace.
As for my children, what could I possibly know of their life plans and how their lives should unfold? The things I had planned with them and for them look entirely different, or don't exist. It seem truest of all to say that they have their own lives and it will look however it is going to look. Divine Business. And, more truth be told, it's certainly teaching me to respect their freedom to choose and live life their way (and I've been in places where it looked like dying in their way too). Divine Business again. I really don't want that kind of power to wield about life and death issues. I can barely plan a week's menu and have it unfold dependably.
So, what if the dreaming and planning can have space and time to unfold as it's going to be. It's going to be anyway. I could try to control it and experience tons of stress, or I can get moved and move as it unfolds. Sure there are words, actions, invitations I can offer when it's a mutual agreement, when I'm staying in my own business. It's a really fine line sometimes. But it is a kinder and more peaceful line to walk. My suggestions and opinions get welcomed and adopted as another's, or not. Reality. It's not the plan! Arguing with that is never going to change how things actually are, and it all is going to change as that seems to be the natural way. Non-attachment to my way and my time leaves a whole lot more possibility, and a whole lot more freedom. It is there that trust is grown, trust that all unfolds with or without me, that to dive into another's business especially when uninvited and not welcomed is a sure recipe for suffering - mine and another's. Can I just plan to approach life plans differently? Yes, because peace is more enjoyable than thinking I know how my life is supposed to be and thinking how another's life is supposed to be. Life will show me the way and the future can unfold as I take care of life, in the present, now, just today, just this moment.
Other thought provoking quotes by Joseph Campbell:
The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.
Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.
I understand disgust and anger ... addiction is a horrible disease and it affects all areas of life and society. However, it is with understanding and compassion that we will have some inner peace to be pro-active and effective, and NOT add to our inner turmoil and spread it out into the world. It is NOT to condone or turn a blind eye at all, but to reflect for ourselves and be a reflection for others that there may be another way. And there is. It just takes a departure from the way we usually think and do, it takes inner work and a broad perspective to address reality as it is, as it is, not the way we think it should be. We can question what we're believing and find the kind of truth that sets us free to be that other way. Anger and blameful attitudes aren't going to attract others to listen to us. It is going to repel them and the cycle of disease and abuse continues, in us, in them, and in the world. When does it stop?
So, of course there's anger and all sorts of emotions, but the invitation is to work through them so we can change the course of this disease wherever and whenever possible. And sometimes there are going to be things that are just not within our control.
All people come to their own realizations in their own time, and in their own way, and sometimes they don't. This IS the way of it. It always has been, and it always will be. The point is to be responsible for our own realizations and get unstuck so we're not part of that blindness and paralysis. I call that "my recovery".
Notice ... When we believe "they" are violent" how easy it is to return violence at least mentally with our judgments and condemnation and insistence that they "get it and change". But, they're not and they won't until and if they do. It's like a snake that injects poison into our veins. The snakes do what snakes do, and we carry the poison around and spread it through our veins running around in circles arguing with the reality that the snake shouldn't have done that. But that's what the snake did, and it may again, it's a snake! And when it feels the need to bite it will. It is the nature of things. People are the same way.
We all have the capacity to live out of fear, to avoid, project scary images onto an unknowable future, regret the past, and be scared to make a difficult choice. That fear, when we believe it, is going to make us act. That becomes our reality, and that is the way it is going to play out in us, from us and into the world. It is cause and effect each and every time. And fear will tell us that this is never going to stop. But it can, and it has to stop in our own lives, in our own minds, or we don't stand a chance to create something different in our lives or the world. We remain contributors of fear, stay disgusted, tell someone they're the ones who need to get informed and change, that they should stop enabling, etc. Well, they can't when they believe they should. They are living in fear! They can't because believing the fear does no allow them to see another way! If you believed you had to protect your child, would you? If you don't believe it, you won't. If you believe "protection" means they face their own consequences, then that's the outcome. See what I mean? Cause and effect. This IS the human condition, for us all, it is not an us vs. them. We're all in this together, but it is going to take each one of us to be the change we want to see in the world.
We can take care of our own beliefs and attitudes to get out of our own fear,disgust, anger, resentment, guilt, worry so we are the way to compassion, peace, more effective action, improved communication and change. It has to start somewhere. We have great choice to be the example and show another way. One way is to live in anger, another way is to approach issues with understanding and peace and be a more powerful influence. I know for me, I feel more powerful and effective when acting out of peace and peacefully. I also hear peace far more clearly than anger. Anger serves, it is completely normal, and anger can show us the way to another way. It can show us to a different way that works, and a way that inspires.
I used to live out of anger. It was painful insisting the world and people be the way I expect them to be. Well they weren't and I made my own heart and world suffer because of my unresolved anger, the lack of understanding, the lack of forgiveness. It was just painful!
They should or shouldn't? Not until they do or they don't. You really don't get a vote on what they do or don't. So, the ball is in your court, it's back to you where it always lands to consider what you're believing, how you're reacting, and how it could be when you're more peaceful. My anger made everything difficult. Peace makes a way, it clears a path to possibility. Let there be peace on earth, let it begin with me. How about for you?
To peace! With love, Joanne
I had a most fulfilling and profound Inquiry last night with a few parents. We questioned the thought: "They (my child) should make healthy friends". Well, that is good advice. I mean who wants our children hanging out with "friends" who will feed them drugs, expose them to risky situations, condone or join their addiction, right?
But when we question the thought that they should make healthy friends (when in reality they are not!), what we come to realize, and what they may have told us, is that they feel understood and accepted by the friends they have. They fit in. Their shame is not a burning pit of pain in them, and can continue to be avoided in the groups and activities of their current lives. That's a very big deal! To be accepted and understood, not more shame heaped upon the shame they already have that they should and must change. Many times they already know this. It's a very tough way of living. It's lonely and desperate. And equally as desperate to get the next fix even when they know they should stop. For me, this is a very important concept to understand, and accept. And when I do, it makes a lot of room for compassion, for love, as is, without conditions. Because there is deep understanding of the reality of things, a movement towards what is with clarity not the confusion of control.
Let's be honest though, we'd be happier if they hung out with healthy friends because then they'd be healthier ... and so might we, right? Not necessarily true though. This thought that we know what they should do (except they're not doing it) is putting us in direct opposition with the way things actually are in reality at this time. The problem is that they can't (until and if they ever can and will). They will do it for themselves, and certainly not for us. So how does it feel to impose this kind of pressure onto their lives so that we can find relief? It is confusing at best because we simply can not control another human being. There's an energy to this controlling and fixing that says "you're not good enough as you are". It's not to condone the addiction! It's to say that we may be pushing them away because we don't fully understand or accept them. And, they're getting that acceptance somewhere else, somewhere else where they don't feel the pressure that they must change, they don't have to make anyone else happy, they're around people who get it and meet them where they are, as they are. That's a tall order for us parents though isn't it? Yes, it surely is, and that is the invitation to notice what we do with all our advice and energy when they're not meeting our standards ... more separation, more hurt upon the hurt. So, how instead can we try to meet them as they are, stay present and not in the fear of what if's and future images and just offer kind love without fixing and control?
Notice....just keep noticing with an open heart, and open mind, invite that compassion of understanding. It's not about condoning, or changing them. It's about seeing things as they really are, under the layers of fear. Notice, if you had to make new friends, would it be easy? How do you do it, where are these new friends, how do you form a bond with a new acquaintance? Is there a relationship in your life that isn't as healthy as you'd like it to be? How easy is it for you to change that one, or let it go? If you're like me, you may be realizing it is not so easy. It takes a lot of guts, effort and courage, time and skill to walk away from some friends and find new ones. Is this really what we're asking our kids to do? It's a pretty tall order isn't it? Understanding this helps.
Notice also...what kind of healthy friend are you to yourself? Do you fully accept you as you are, treat yourself in healthy ways, nurture your healthier activities, put yourself around other healthy friends, go to meetings regularly to meet new friends and invite them out to bond with them? How easy would it be if you had to start doing something that challenges the isolation, the fears, the moods, the stories we all have running through our minds that we don't want exposed to new and healthy acquaintances? I mean who would want to hang out with us if we did that, right? Not so easy. Yet this is what we ask of our children. Just notice. Understanding with compassion helps.
And notice too...what kind of healthy "friend" are we offering our child? One who says "I understand how very difficult this must be for you, and I accept you. I love you as is, always. You don't have to change for me and I'm going to really try not to try to control and change you. I'm here if or when you want to create some change in your life. I trust there's ways to do that. I love you now, and I'll love you then. So, if or whenever you're ready, I'm here for you. Or is it this kind of "friend"? Is there blame, a need for them to take care of you and suffering in agony when they don't (can't), the one who is so full of fear that we see only pain and miss the opportunity to be with our child as is for as long as is, to send love, not fix or change, just send love or offer a warm hug, a sandwich, a bottle of water? Is it a friend who contributes to the insanity or meets it with understanding, a clearer mind and more effective choices? Just notice and meet all this with understanding. Give it some love and acceptance and know that if or when, you can take steps to be a friend to yourself, and to others.
Notice, in this place of truly unconditional love, there is acceptance and understanding. And it does not mean we would engage in violence and support using. That's not kind. It means we love them because we understand. And we may understand that since we can't control or change them, we let them be and offer them our kindness, not our fear and control and giving things we know in our heart just isn't helping. We allow their life's journey, and start taking care of our own, and offering support not fixing. We're loving ourselves because we understand that unless and until we do, we will suffer even more and continue to control and fix someone we can't. And, who knows what kind of power and change this can inspire in our relationships. My experience is it makes a whole lot more room for connection. And it feels a whole lot kinder, peaceful and fulfilling than the emptiness and fear of disconnection.
So, how can you be a friend to yourself today? Let's all send some friendly energy to our child, to everyone's child. We are all children in a way trying to figure out the next step in this journey of life. It's not an us/them. It is a we, and it begins with each of us to create more space for this unconditional love we talk about. A space where there is understanding and acceptance. A space where love thrives.
Wishing you and your family peace.
It started out just great. Another phone call with my son sharing the events of the day. I was so happy, so thankful because I know it's fleeting. Isn't everything? My son's addiction has caused many days of unknowns and fear. Is he alive? Where is he lying dead without identification? What else can I do? He needs to do more to beat this! The imagination knows no bounds. Either do drugs! They're not selective, they love anyone who's going to use. And they're so generous too! They love to give more and more and will make themselves available to anyone who seeks them. It is so easy to blame them, blame the addiction, blame someone or something. Something has to be responsible for this insanity, right? I just can't put a finger on one particular thing, it's such an enormous issue. I think I need to point the finger of blame somewhere so that something will finally change and relieve these struggles. But, all fingers eventually lead back to me anyway. It's my recovery, it's my imagination, it's my experience of it all and it's got to be my intention to take care of what I can. This blame does me no favors. I could think it might inspire my actions but really I don't need blame to act, and it surely doesn't feel good to be in the energy of blame. However, until I get mentally clear, I am stuck!
I started out thinking (and believing) my son is stuck in resentments: bringing up the past again, blaming me, self-pity. That phone call, like many others, took a nose dive. There goes my happiness, again. Just like that! Definitely time for Inquiry! He's stuck in resentments? Is it true? I'm not even sure he's so stuck. It's a phone call that started out just fine. I didn't think he was stuck then. How do I react when I believe he's stuck and blaming me? I can surely see where I am stuck. As soon as he blames me for that one thing that triggers me, I am stuck in attaching it to a string of stories and even more thoughts: he should stop talking about it, stop bringing it up, focus on now and not the past, on and on and on and on. Back on the roller coaster and it's a wild ride! Whose blaming whom? Yes, I am. There's plenty to go around. But, I'm the only one who can take care of mine.
So I do. He blames me for sending him to a therapeutic boarding school. Really though, was he? Who would I be without that thought that is wreaking havoc in my internal and external world? In the stillness of looking for the truth and questioning all this, he didn't blame me. If I just stay in the present, I see he's talking about his experience. I also see that when he's talking about his regrets, I go into self-blame. Ouch. The almost immediate reaction is to turn this off, stop this conversation, we've already had it so many times before. I go into defending my decision way back then, I interrupt so I can teach him and change his mind. As Bryon Katie says, "Defense is the first act of war." Boom! Way, way off! Control, trying to change someone else, blame. It hurts because all I really wanted was to connect with him and let him know I love him. That can never happen when I'm trying to change him, and not listening (to him or to a clearer me). It's all so enlightening, lightening, light coming into dark places. When you know the truth, it sets you free. Yes, it really does!
What happens when I do start really listening ... to truth? Who would I be without all these stories, without all this blame? PEACE! I become available with compassion that of course he, like all of us, have things we wish went a different way. We've been touched by circumstances and we get confused. I am now connected with him. I can be still and listen. I can hear that he's upset because I'm not listening and not understanding that he's just trying to explain why he feels lousy. I now can listen to the fears I have about this becoming an "enabling conversation". In that, I open up to observing me and my thoughts. I can stay on the phone and in this conversation until I'm moved naturally to remain available or not. It will unfold. It might give me more thoughts to question, but on that call, I'm on it with him and with me. Not wasting precious time in blame. Through it all, I become a kinder listener. I'm hearing his story, his story and my love to hear it. In that place, I can also hear any more thoughts and stories for me to take to Inquiry, because peace is far more preferred to the war.
Even deeper, in this self blame and with more Inquiry, I come to see that at the time of that decision to send my son to a therapeutic boarding school, I really did do the best I could. It was with great resistance and fear that he would not survive the years until graduation, much less graduate. I believed we were in a downward spiral and the costs would be too great to not intervene. The threat of arrest and expulsion loomed, the threat of unchecked substance use and peer involvement complicated matters, and I did the best I could with a motive to give this boy a chance of a different way. No blame, we were all doing the best we could at the time. That is really how it goes all the time. More peace, forgiveness.
So, when my son talks about the complications and confusion of that school, I can absolutely understand him! What's not to listen to? I get it! I can now listen in silence without feeling threatened and speak my truth. Yes, son, I understand. I hope I get another chance to practice this. I sure need the practice. With a clearer mind and a softer heart through Inquiry, the game is LOVE.
On another phone call with my son, thinking "Here we go again, his recovery plan isn't solid enough. He's not thinking rationally. He needs to have this, do that (but he's not!)." And I'm not feeling comfortable or agreeing to what his plan is. Why? Because I think I'm the one who knows what is best for him, because I know what a good recovery plan is, and what will work for him. Really? When did I become God? When was I put in charge of my son's life to dictate the days and plans for his life? First of all, he's an adult. It would be easy to say I could do that when he was a child, but that's not quite true either, is it? I could parent and provide directions, but truth be told life changed dramatically and I didn't know even then!
Well, the most effective way I know how to meet confusion and come to a deeper understanding is with Inquiry doing The Work. Truly, a gift from God! Is it true he doesn't have a recovery plan? Is it true I want him to have a community of other people in recovery and remission? Is it true he should focus on one thing at a time for his "better" recovery? Oh, how easy it would be to think I'm right, to easily say yes, yes and yes! But, no none of these beliefs are even true!! Here's why...
He does have a recovery plan, and the most important thing to realize and accept (that really comes from this deeper understanding I'm talking about here and through Inquiry) is it is HIS recovery plan. He's not asking for my advice, not even my feedback. In fact, he's not asking me for anything. He called me which indicates he's trusting me to tell me his plans, share his experience, and his frustrations. BUT, when I believe I know what he has or doesn't have, I can't be there for him, or for me in the way I really want! That disconnect is what really hurts! I care deeply and what is most important to me, if I could get out of my own way, is that I care more to be that trusted person who he can share his stories with, to listen to him deeply and connected with him, silent, available, just loving him and not trying to change him. Then, what is real and true is that I'm curious about his plan, his goals, his newfound determination and can hear that this individual I'm calling my son and saying I love is full of potential, his own dreams, ability, designing a plan that is his own and one that he can better pursue because it is his own. My experience of him, of many and myself, is we like to talk about our plans, hear ourselves, whittle it down into more doable actions. But, I can't get to any of this when I'm worrying, and when I'm the one who knows what is best for him. Clearly, I didn't even know what is best for me on that phone call. Now I do!
So, doing The Work has shown me so kindly, so clearly the truth and what I can do instead of arrogance, instead of separating from my son, and opening up to the truth that I don't get a vote on another's path in life, even if they invite me in. Isn't that really between him and God? Yes, a very clear yes! And, I don't want to waste time and showing up as love. I don't want to miss out on being with my son, hearing his voice and another phone call. So when I also get with God and truth, and I am and will, this is my recovery plan:
Listen; Ask my son to tell me more because I would love to know more about him and not waste time in this illusion of who he is or supposed to be; Acknowledge that he really does have good ideas; Encourage him; Realize I'm not being asked for advice and not share my unsolicited advice; Notice any fear in me and repeat the above (take care of my thoughts and fears after being present with him); Thank him for calling me (I'm so thankful! He's alive and reaching out to me!); Write these instructions on poster board for what seems to be a necessary reminder for me to stop and really listen; Be the one I want to be, be the one who can be trusted to be available and offer love (not the kind with assumptions and expectations as that is so self-serving and not love); Trust that every part of his life has served and will continue to serve. And if it includes a relapse, even death, it will serve. Back to one moment, one day, one me with more clarity and a recovery plan that feels more effective and kinder. It all serves to come to these truths. I may not like it or feel entirely at peace with it yet, but there's space for this truth and so there's freedom and ability to meet my son where he is, and how he is, and just love him there, right there. And me too! Or else, I stay in confusion and stress. No thank you. There's another way, and it feels like unconditional love.
Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet? One Belief At A Time Worksheet?
What are these? What's the difference? How do I use these worksheets anyway? These worksheets are tools to identify the thoughts, that when believed, are causing our stress. We use these worksheets to guide our inquiry and do The Work without scrambling for the thoughts and circling in and around our stories, staying in stress mode. I love both of them. The Worksheets help me to sit quietly and guide me through Inquiry. Doing Inquiry with The Work first invites us to get still, ready to contemplate, and begin to identify our stories and the individual thoughts that are behind our stress.
For me, The Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet (The JYN) really nails down the thoughts. This is my go to, especially when my stress is intense, my suffering is deep and the story (and me believing it!) is strong. The JYN asks me to identify the situation, get right in it, identify a moment in time when I believed these thoughts and then start writing. No need to rush. Writing the worksheets is also meditation, it's an integral part of The Work. Here's a place to begin and a place to show us the next step, the next thought, a place to sit safely and effectively to undo our stories, and answer the next question. It's brilliant, gentle and complete. It can also show us the ways, the how to give ourselves the things that would bring us more peace, more kindness and more happiness.
The JYN captures so many thoughts: What is it that really bothers us? What was the offense? The judgment? What do we want instead? What should happen to bring us back to balance, freedom, peace, happy? What is it that we think we need? Just blow off steam, get real, get down and dirty. And, what is it we don't want to experience again? Even if we have recurring thoughts about the past or future, and not quite in the reality of our day, it's showing up. Why not sit with it? Let it have its time and release. It's been a lot easier for me to do that than to fight it or not accept that these thoughts do show up. The worksheets and The Work help to manage it all, to understand it all. After all, if we believe our thoughts, it becomes our reality. I love that The Work shows me a way to a kinder reality.
The JYN is stacked to guide us through the muck. Each question has its own nuance. If I have some pain, The JYN, a facilitator and I, have a date. I get so much from being facilitated and have found I can get stiller and more present when someone holds the space, and guides me as a compassionate witness. As client or facilitator, The Work is going to work.
Now for the One Belief At A Time Worksheet (The OBAT)...Awesome to take one thought at a time, to self-facilitate and capture thoughts, and answers on paper. Even if self-facilitated, any thought from The JYN can be put on The OBAT and taken to Inquiry. If there's a random thought just lurking in the shadows, there's The OBAT. On the go? Want a quick inquiry to clear the mind a bit? There's The OBAT. Also, when I use The OBAT, there could be an invitation to then use The JYN. Hmmmm, imagine realizing the story got deeper, a little bit more complicated...Yeah, it could happen.
We're fully supported with both of these worksheets, and with The Work. Bring them to The Helpline on thework.com, bring them to self-facilitation, or bring them to a facilitator. I'd love to support you to find your own freedom, and experience using these worksheets to do that.
From my Heart to Yours, Working for Peace and Love
Weeds or Wishes ?