Week 23 & Mental Health

I could hear it in her voice when she said hello. How are you? I was returning my daughters call from 30 minutes earlier. Olivia is an addictions counselor and she moved up north at the beginning of January to do this. One of the young men she has been working with for quite awhile had committed suicide the day before. She was hurt and she was sad. One of the deals about being a parent is that when your kid hurts, you hurt. I never asked his name so I know I’ll sound clinical when I call him “her client”. Her client was a 23-year-old male addict who struggled with his addictions. We talked about him for awhile and the progress he was seemingly making but that progress can disappear quickly with an incident or set back. I have always been proud of Olivia for choosing Social work  and I commend her and all Social Workers for what they do and what they contribute to  our society. I knew when she became a Social Worker that this day would happen and unfortunately it will happen again. I know my daughter well and if we have Social Workers then I am very glad she is one of them. She’s awesome at her job and we need people in this line of work who care about people, society and their belief that they can and will make a change. She’s been doing this since she was in Junior High when she and some friends put on a fundraiser at school to help the victims of the disastrous tsunami of 2004.In a few years, in between grade 11 and 12 her and her friend Emily would spend their summer in Mozambique, working in an orphanage for children who had AIDS or had lost their parents to AIDS. I was hurting for my daughter but at the same time I knew there was no one better suited for this work than she is. I’m flying up to see her this Thursday for the weekend and I know we’ll discuss this more.

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The unfortunate thing is she will see this again. I have spent 25 years in the rooms of recovery and I have seen too many suicides. One is too many. I’ve seen more than that. Most of us, in recovery or not in recovery, have been touched sometime in our life, by suicide. It’s a human condition. I don’t judge anyone who has committed suicide and contrary to some others I don’t believe it’s a selfish act. My pal, Tim M committed suicide on an Easter Sunday at his home. Tim and I came into the rooms together about 1 week apart.  We even had the same sponsor. I had no idea Tim was even close to this. There were no signs, no cry for help, it was his final act. It happened a year and a half after we first met. So often the people left behind ask why and what could I have done? Nothing could be done. The signs are often camouflaged by an outward appearance that is a lie. I feel for these people who do not see an alternative. Imagine the desperation and hopelessness someone feels when suicide, to them, is their best option. I don’t believe it’s a selfish act nor do I believe there is a lot of thought into the ones left behind. It’s an act of insanity and sadly it’s temporary insanity. I have heard the phrase so many times, “a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. I hold hope that the person contemplating suicide will have a moment of clarity and get to an emergency room where a temporary commitment can be enforced and hopefully there can begin something new and different that offers them hope.

 

This video of a famous Ali speech is a must watch and at only 3:21,why not? This is not about boxing or about sports. This is about something far higher than that.It’s so good!

 

The song this week is from Coldplay

 

The quote this week is :

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.
Rumi

Week 6 & Conscious Contact

Last weekend I was on silent retreat  ,west of Caroline Alberta, at Sanctum Retreat Center.

There were 29 men who attended and the retreat was a 12 step retreat although Sanctum itself holds many retreats for many groups or organizations. It’s a beautiful center with great facilities and rooms and the food itself is definitely a spiritual experience. Check them out.

I love the silent retreat. I might pick it up to a 2 a year pace this year and get in a summer retreat also. It is an excellent opportunity to de-stress, rest, reflect and think ,or a number of other things you might want to do with the time. This year I enjoyed the silence, read a book I have wanted to read and got a good start on another book. With 29 men the silence is huge and it’s far more noticeable with that many men around than if there were just a handful. Saturday night I went into the dining hall to have a cup of tea and read my book. After about 15 minutes I realized the room was quite busy so I looked up, and counted 13 men in the room. Some men were snacking on an orange or an apple, some men were having a coffee or tea and some were just sitting. One table had 3 men sitting together, but not a word was spoken. That was a very cool moment. Everyone has their own private room at the retreat ,which was small, but very comfortable with a small table to write on if you wished to. The silence is in effect from dinner on Friday to lunch on Sunday. There was guided meditations on Friday night, Saturday morning and Saturday night and Sunday morning. Nothing is mandatory and all of it is up to the individual. I highly recommend taking it all in though if you ever choose to go on retreat. It was like getting my battery pack recharged! There are many types of retreats and retreats centers everywhere and I suggest it to anyone to take an opportunity and retreat; even if you only do it once.

The following is from Andrew Holecek who completed a 3 year Zen retreat and is the author of Dream Yoga.

 

Retreat is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage to stop and face one’s mind so directly. But if you want to be unconditionally happy, which is one way to talk about enlightenment, there is no other way. Sooner or later you have to relate to your mind instead of from it. Otherwise you will forever be held captive by the contents of your mind, shackling yourself to every shiny thought that pops up,a prisoner of your own making.

To be truly free, to cut the shackles, you have to block all the conventional exits and be with yourself, retreat into yourself. Once the initial hurdles are crossed and the mind begins to settle in retreat, the benefits unfold. The mind sharpens and the heart opens. Stability and equanimity develop. Kindness and compassion blossom. The world softens because you soften. Discipline, patience and accommodation mature.”

 

I had a nice chat today with my good friend Dan who lives in Kelowna. He sent me, via Facebook, the funeral card from our old friend Ivor Lundin who was killed in an industrial accident on Okanagan Lake on Monday the 30th. Ivor ran a boom boat on the lake pushing logs into the mill. He went down with his boat that night. Rest In Peace Ivor.

 

What a wild Super Bowl game! Congrats to Tom Brady who, like him or not , has to be the best QB ever. He deserves all the records he set. It pains me to say it but he is great! Looks like hockey and the NHL are now front and center for me until baseball season begins.

 

The song this week is from one of my favourites, The Felice Brothers. Their journey began in the NYC subway system where they played for change and now they tour the country. Painting pictures for my mind with their lyrics. I would love to see these guys live and I will, first chance I get. This is the title song from their latest album, Life In The Dark

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The quote this week is from Richard Rohr

“You have to find some way to not become a cynical or negative person, a person who keeps walking around and opening your eyes in the outside world but inside you close down, a person who stops expecting tomorrow to be better than today. “

 

 

Thanks for stopping by and I hope I’ll see you next week………….

Week 2 , Sobriety Continued & Change

My first post of 2017! Unfortunately I was unable to post last week.

Around this time every year, I have take time to reflect on my past year and the many years that have passed since 1993. This past Saturday, the 7th of January, I was 24 years clean and sober. I can not help but think back on my life and how different it has become for me. I am so far away from the person who drank alcoholically everyday that I recall certain painful and damaging events to reminiscence and remind myself how much gratitude I have for the life I have today. For me this second chance at life has been a rebirth. I always think of the first verse to John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High when I’m thinking of my rebirth.

He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Coming home to a place he’d never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door

The gift I have received from my Higher Power is so great, it can be overwhelming at times. The gift is this rebirth; this do-over that I have been Graced with. One, that in a different lifetime, I never knew was available to me. Not all my days were bad prior to January 7th 1993 but with a few exceptions, like the birth of my children, the best day I had back then would still be worse than my worst day today. It was never what was going on around me but what was going on inside me that was so damaging. These past 24 years have been exceptionally great and gratifying. Not so much because of outside changes but because I changed. I have a new perspective on life and I continue to allow it to change. I came to believe in a power greater than myself and I do my best to turn my will and my life (my thoughts and my actions) over to the care of that power everyday.  Today it’s not about what life owes me but it’s about what I owe life.I’m no longer a bystander watching my life pass by but I am fully engaged in every moment. I do not have to control every outcome or situation in my life and this has certainly been healthier and less stressful because I am leaving the heavy lifting to my Higher Power. I have a peace of mind today instead of an anxious mind. I have an ability to accept an outcome instead of continue to battle a decision. For any of you who have ever coached kids or been coached you have said or heard the words “Leave it all on the field “or “give everything you have” or “leave it all on the ice” and if you do that then the outcome is irrelevant because you tried your hardest. Well this is kind of how I try to live. I do my best in my actions and after that I have to leave the results up to my Higher Power. I do the footwork and leave the results to something much more powerful than I. My 12 Step Fellowship and Program never once gave me the promise or thought that they would teach me how to not drink.What they did promise was they could teach me how to live. That promise has been fulfilled over and over and I am not sure I can ever pay back my debt. These past 24 years have been amazing and I’m grateful to everyone who has played a part in my recovery.

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I believe it’s never too late for me or for you to change our lives. It’s never too early either. I have heard people say I’m too old to change and I have heard people say I’m young; I have lots of time to change. We need to be honest with ourselves if we want to change and I find these two statements to be very opportunistic for us to lie to ourselves. I had to get very honest with myself 24 years ago. I had to admit I had a fear of change. I had to admit that I had so many resentments that were blocking me from the sunlight. What was worse was my fear of living without my resentments. All I had to change was everything. Everyone has the ability to change. They might not have the willingness but everyone has the ability. Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness, these are the keys required for personal change. Not everyone I know believes in God and although I find God to be essential for my change and growth, the lack of belief in God shouldn’t hold anyone back from making the changes necessary to live a complete and rewarding life. Identify the changes you want to make and start today.

 

 

I’m going to change gears and tell a little story about the youths in my neighborhood. I keep seeing a meme on Facebook that shows some teens carrying shovels in a snowstorm and the meme asks “where have these people gone?” And it goes on to berate them for their video games,texting, etcetera etcetera etcetera. It get’s tiresome listening to people complain about kids texting and gaming. It reminds me of my dad telling me I was wasting my time in the pool hall and wasting my money on pinball machines. Last week I was sick and was man down for a few days and my sidewalk was covered in a few inches of snow and some was now hard-packed from being trampled on. We live on a large corner lot and our sidewalk is a chore at the best of times. I found the kids with the shovels! I went to my community page on Facebook and said “does anyone know a kid in the neighborhood who wants to make $20 shoveling a large corner lot sidewalk”. I had 3 responses within 10 minutes and I gave the work to the first kid who responded. I texted my address and I also said this is a large corner lot and I need it taken down to the concrete. His only response was “it pays $20 right?” A real nice 17-year-old showed up and went to work in minus 26 weather. 30 minutes later it was done and done very well. He gave me his cell number in case I needed him again. So those kids are out there we just need to know how to reach them.

 

Changing gears again it’s over to football.We’re down to the Divisional Playoffs in NFL which leaves 8 teams vying for the Super Bowl. Games on Saturday will see Seattle vs. Atlanta and Houston vs. New England. On Sunday we have 2 more great matchups with Pittsburgh vs. Kansas City and Green Bay vs. Dallas. I’m predicting a Seattle/New England Super Bowl. But regardless there should be 4 very good games this weekend.

 

The song this week is from the Dexys Album Dexys Do Irish Country and Soul and the song is titled Carrickfergus

 

 

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Kevin Rowland with bandmates on the album cover

Most of you will know the Dexys as Dexys Midnight Runners and their very well known song Come On Eileen.  I’m a huge fan of the band and even more so of Kevin Rowland. Although Kevin was born in England both of his parents were Irish and in this album he pays great tribute to his parents.I would love to see these guys but they play about 1 gig a year.

 

The quote this week is from Norman Vincent Peale.

 

Change your thoughts and you change your world.

 

I appreciate you reading this far and I hope I will see you again next week………..

 

Honesty,Authenticity and Week 47

Last week was the first week outside of vacation time that I didn’t post my blog since I have started writing it. I didn’t post on purpose. I took the week off from posting. I was busy with work, had a friends funeral Thursday and my aunt’s funeral Friday and I was just too wore out to come to the keyboard and write. When I write I need to commit to being honest and sincere when I post something and last week I had zero desire to talk about funerals. I didn’t feel like opening up at the time. Prior to arriving at the door of 12 Step recovery my life was lived dishonestly and I was never sincere. I was afraid you might not like me if you saw me for what I was. Or worse, for what I thought I was. There never was a time that I was totally comfortable with who I was. I was never really too comfortable in my own skin. It wasn’t always like that. I was always self conscious but I got by okay, had good friends and had a lot of fun. My times in Kelowna were pretty great although a bit reckless and far too carefree for my parents. I didn’t hurt anyone on purpose but I really didn’t care about anyone but myself and a small group of guys I hung out with. But much later, in my final 3 years of drinking I was never honest about anything or with anyone and never with myself.  I would lie for no reason at all except that telling the truth seemed so foreign to me. The lying to myself and the hiding, the hiding of my true self from everyone, was what the alcohol allowed me to pull off. In those final 3 years of drinking I was dishonest with everyone I met. Sometimes the dishonesty was about big things but most often it was minor. “Will you be there at 7?” Yes would be my answer but no would be my action. “Can you take care of _____?” Yes would be my answer but no would be my action. “How’re you doing?” Fine would be my answer, even though I was slowly dying. If I ever would have told someone what was going on maybe someone could have helped me sooner. But I couldn’t get honest. I couldn’t tell anyone how it was for me because I had a real fear that without alcohol I wouldn’t make it through a day. That my whole world would crash and burn and I would melt away. Little did I know at that time that it was already burning and I was the only one who didn’t see it.

So I didn’t post last week because I demand of myself to be honest, sincere and authentic and for the first time since starting this blog I didn’t want to be that guy, for everyone to read, to see. I didn’t want to discuss what was going on and to not discuss it, to write a blog post without mentioning it, to me wouldn’t have sat right. I have been quite open about my life, thoughts and feelings when writing this blog. I’ve had a couple of friends ask me if I am ever scared to be open or to let people see so much and my answer is conclusive; no I am not. You either like me or you don’t like me and today I am very comfortable with either of your choices. A few people who I am close with have heard me say this:

I become invulnerable when I become totally vulnerable

Last week I was just emotionally spent! Had nothing left in the tank for anyone else.I just tried to keep my own head above water and that was taking all the energy I had. And I think I succeeded.

The funerals were for my friend Terry who I wrote about on October 13 in my Week 41 post and the other was for my Aunt Louise, my father’s sister, who passed on at 89 years of age.

I will continue to be as honest, sincere and authentic as I possibly can and always strive to be better at doing this all the time. I also like to surround myself with people that can be authentic and vulnerable. I have quite a few friends inside and outside the 12 Step communities that exhibit these traits and they are remarkable people to be around. I believe remarkable is a good thing for a person to strive to become.

The song this week is from the band Divine Fits and it’s a Bruce Springsteen song titled, Hungry Heart

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Album Cover

 

The quote this week is from a thought leader who I like to watch and read the past couple of years. Simon Sinek can be found largely on YouTube and LinkedIn and has written many books and has been featured on Ted.com.

“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it. …”

 

Thanks for dropping by and I hope you’ll check in next week……….

Week 32

Three of us men from my 12 step group were having coffee Tuesday evening and the topic quickly got around to “lack of sleep”. One of them hadn’t been sleeping well and this had been going on for about 2 weeks. We’re all under a lot of stress in Calgary at this time. The Energy industry, which drives this city, is in dire straights and the unemployment rate in Calgary is at a high level, never before seen here. Many friends are out of work and many of those who aren’t wonder when they will be. So there’s a lot of negative energy in this city right now and I don’t like to be one to add more. And I won’t. I refuse to do it. So our friend hasn’t been sleeping well because of all the over thinking of negative issues. I reminded my younger friend that we choose what we think about. He smirked and smiled immediately as he knew where this conversation was going to go. It’s gratitude that creates my positive thoughts. It’s my lack of gratitude that creates my negative thoughts. So as I was saying, I reminded my friend that we choose what we think. He smirked because he knew he was going to hear me say something he had heard me say many times before. “You might not be responsible for the first thought that enters your head but you are responsible for every thought that follows!”. Our conversation continued down this path and we talked about thought, choices, perception and gratitude for about 20 minutes longer before breaking up and heading home. I don’t know if he immediately changed his thinking but we certainly gave him something to think about – hahaha.

I alone, determine what thoughts I will feed and what thoughts I will not. This is my choice. This is your choice. You might not be responsible for the first thought that enters your head but you are responsible for every thought that follows. I will readily admit that I have negative thoughts and that I have them every day. But I refuse to feed them or entertain them. I am able to recognize them, banish them and move on. I spent too many years beating myself up and I refuse to be the subject of self annihilation today. Thoughts come in waves, but I choose which wave to surf. Take care and mind what you think about. You’re worth far more than you think you are.

Hey how about those Toronto Blue Jays? Looking good and actually holding top spot in the AL East today. The Jays have been looking good every game with a few miscues every now and then. Even in recent losses they have played well. A couple of key injuries might affect them in the next week, so here’s hoping Pillar and Bautista get back into the line-up soon. I wished the Mariners were doing better too but they are still in a Wild Card hunt! People ask me why the Mariners? Many people forget that the Calgary Cannons, now defunct, were AAA baseball and an affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Over 400 major leaguers wore a Cannons jersey including Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez and Danny Tartabull. The Cannons are why I’m a Mariners fan.

 

The song this week is from Father John Misty who is a staple of the folk scene today and if touring is work then Father John Misty works hard. He was with the Fleet Foxes from 2008-2012 but thrives when he is solo. This song is titled “Son of a Ladiesman” and I hope you enjoy Father John Misty, as much as I have and do.

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The quote this week is from Barbara de Angelis

 

“We don’t develop courage by being happy every day. We develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity. “
Barbara de Angelis

 

Thanks for dropping by …I hope you’ll check it out again next week