Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New Blog Post on Shame at the Heroes in Recovery Site

Just a quick post to let you know that I have a new blog up over at the Heroes in Recovery website. It's entitled "SHAME: It Can't Survive Being Shared." If you get a chance, go over to the Heroes site and give it a read. Also, feel free to leave comments on the blog and give it a star rating (if you click on that fifth star, it makes me super happy).

Here's a brief excerpt from the blog:

"But shame robs us of worthiness. It tries to convince us that people will think less of us simply because of our situation. And it very frequently prevents people who need treatment for their substance abuse or mental health problems from seeking it. We need to fix that, not only as individuals but also as a society."

You can find the full blog post at this link:

http://www.heroesinrecovery.com/blog/2014/08/25/shame-cant-survive-shared/

Peace.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Three Years Ago Today

One of the best changes that has occurred to me over the last couple of years is the ability to (usually) live in the moment. I don't--okay, I try not to--look off into the future, and I sure as hell don't dwell on the past (anymore). But as I've said before, sometimes it can be beneficial to look back at certain events just to gauge the progress that's been made.

Which brings me to today's post.

As my wife and I were getting ready to head out to a barbecue a few minutes ago, I looked at the calendar and realized that today is August 23rd. Seeing that date jogged my memory--or at least what's left of it--so I had to sit down and write this short post before we left the house.

Three years ago today my son left for residential rehab at Michael's House in Palm Springs, California. I discussed that event the day it happened in a blog post entitled "A New Journey Begins."

I believe with all my soul that my son's time at Michael's House and his subsequent stay at a sober living house in Palm Springs were the two key things that led to his recovery. Did he have some slip-ups after he got home from California? Yes. But I still believe that the treatment and knowledge he received out there eventually sunk in--and stuck.

Living in Michigan and putting your son on a plane to a treatment facility in California isn't easy. When we did that, my wife and I took a leap of faith and put our trust in others. And we are grateful every day that we did.

"None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith." --Paulo Coelho

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hello, Huffington Post

The last 36 hours or so have been pretty crazy, and I'm running on fumes. So this will be relatively short.

Yesterday my wife and I woke up before dawn to drive our younger son to Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as he gets ready to start his freshman year. Almost three hours there, unloading, setting up the room, lunch, the convocation, then almost three hours home. It was a long but memorable day.

Then I got home and found out that the blog at the Huffington Post had published one of my posts. It's a modified version of a blog I posted here earlier. Here's the link to the Huffington Post version:


How did this happen?

The other day I had received an email from the Huffington Post with the subject line "An Invitation from HuffPost." When I opened the email, I was shocked to read this:

"Welcome! You've been invited to join the HuffPost blogger community. Please click the link below to learn more and set up your account."

I had one of those "Is this a scam?" moments, but clicked the link and followed through with the process. I submitted the blog post on Wednesday evening, and by Thursday afternoon it was live. Needless to say, I was thrilled.

To add some icing on the cake, I submitted another blog post around lunch time today. Within 30 minutes, the second post was live on the Huffington Post site, too. Again, it's a modified version of a post that originally appeared here. But the message is one I want to get out far and wide. Here's the link to the HuffPo version:

"Depression and Addiction: We Must Break the Stigmas"

I'm hoping all of this is really happening and that it's not the prednisone I'm taking (for a pinched nerve in my back) making me imagine things.

To recap:

*My younger son started college yesterday.

*My older son is more than two years clean and sober.

*And the Huffington Post has published two of my blog posts in the span of less than 24 hours.

I am stunned and full of gratitude.

Now I just need a job.

Peace.

My first Huffington Post blog post was featured on their Mental Health page this morning.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

College Bound

It seems like only yesterday that I was blogging about my younger son graduating from the Leelanau School. But in reality it was 74 days ago, summer has flown by, and fall is almost upon us. So tonight we will load up the SUV, and tomorrow morning my wife and I will take our "baby" to Aquinas College--a small school with a gorgeous campus in Grand Rapids, Michigan--so he can start the next phase of his life.

As some of you know, I didn't go away to college. Neither did my siblings. Or my mom and dad. Or my older son. So this whole "heading off to college" thing is completely foreign to me. Luckily, for the past two years we've had the experience of having our son away at boarding school, so him transitioning to a dorm environment away from home--and us to "empty nesters"--shouldn't be a problem. The academics, I'm not so sure about. But I'm doing my best to let go of the worry and keep the faith.

Like a lot of kids his age, my son doesn't know yet what he wants to do when he grows up. He's a late bloomer, so that's perfectly fine. One class he's taking that he's really excited about is Japanese. He's a big fan of anime (Japanese animated productions) and has expressed an interest in studying in Japan. If that were to happen, that would be badass. We'll have to wait and see.

I suppose sending your child off to college for the first time is never easy; especially when it's your youngest. It's a little more challenging for me because I'm still unemployed (eight months and counting...ugh) and keep thinking about the money aspect. But my wife constantly tells me, "It'll be okay," so I'll assume that she's right and we'll see how things go.

Just a few short years ago I really couldn't envision a time when my older son would be more than two years clean and sober and my younger son would be college bound. I'm not exactly sure how we got to the place we are today, but I'm grateful as can be that the stars, planets, and universe finally aligned. I will not take these days for granted and will enjoy every little moment as much as I possibly can.

Needless to say, I am proud as hell of both my boys.

Peace.

"And you may ask yourself, 'Well...How did I get here?'" --Talking Heads

"I do not understand the mystery of grace--only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us." --Anne Lamott

P.S. Here's a video that shows the beauty of the Aquinas College campus.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bucket Lists

Over the years I've heard so much about bucket lists. You know, those lists of experiences or achievements that someone wants to accomplish before they "kick the bucket." But do many people really write out such lists?  Personally, I think I know of one person who might have an actual bucket list. I myself had never given any thought to making such a list. Until recently.

I was incredibly moved by the story of Kristina Chesterman, a 21-year-old California nursing student who was killed by a drunk driver last September. While cleaning out her room, Kristina's parents came across her bucket list. Her family has vowed to fulfill as many items on that list as they can as a tribute to Kristina. Not only that, friends and total strangers from around the world have offered to help fulfill the list, too. That really touched my heart. It also made me think I might be a little behind on making my own list.

I'm going to be 53 years old in a few weeks--before I did the math I thought I was going to be 54, so yay for me...I gained an extra year--and have been thinking lately about things I've always wanted to do but haven't done yet. Yesterday I decided I was going to write out an actual list.

Two things immediately came to mind, and they now occupy the top two spots on my bucket list. These may seem like trivial things, but I don't think there are any rules about bucket list items having to be monumental events. (Hell, maybe there are. Should I Google it?)

In any case, here's my bucket list so far:

1. See a baseball game at Fenway Park.

2. Travel outside of North America with my wife.

Pretty impressive, huh?

Regarding #1: My dad, who's been gone for about a year-and-a-half now, idolized Boston Red Sox right fielder Ted Williams. I grew up hearing story after story about "Teddy Ballgame" and how he was the greatest hitter who ever lived. The first (and only) book my dad bought me was The Science of Hitting by Ted Williams. I was a Little Leaguer at the time and I think he thought that book was going to turn me into some kind of baseball phenom. (Note: It didn't. Total number of home runs I hit during my five years of Little League? One.)

After all those years of hearing about "The Splendid Splinter," I bought into the Williams hype (I even have a Ted Williams bobblehead on my mantel) and developed this strange connection to the Red Sox. And Fenway Park. I've wanted to go there for years now, but have never done it. By putting it at #1 on my list, I figure I pretty much have to do it now. Hopefully Fenway sticks around long enough for me to get my butt into one of its seats.

Regarding #2: This might sound crazy for someone my age, but I've never been outside of North America. We never traveled much when I was growing up. A car trip here, a car trip there. I think Pennsylvania was the farthest I ever got. As an adult, I've been to California a couple times, New York, Florida, Texas, and several other states. (While attending my brother-in-law's wedding, which was held in New York, just a few miles from Connecticut, I woke up early one morning and drove to Connecticut to get a newspaper...just so I could say I've been to Connecticut.)

I've also traveled in Canada, albeit almost exclusively in Ontario. (My wife and I ventured into Quebec briefly one night to see a friend's musical performance.) Anyway, I want to go on a vacation with my wife to somewhere outside of the only continent I've ever seen. It doesn't have to be far. Hawaii--even though it's part of the United States--would count. So would Puerto Rico. Europe? Shut the front door. That would be amazing (although completely out of our budget). I just want to get off this giant land mass I seem to be stuck on.

So that's my bucket list so far. I'm a pretty simple person, so I don't know how much I'll be adding to this list in the days/weeks/years to come. And the list will only consist of things I can control. So there will never be stuff on there like "See my sons get married" or "Become a grandfather." Because, quite frankly, that stuff isn't up to me. (Geez...maybe I should start a separate "wish list"?)

I'm almost 53 and my bucket list contains a whopping two items. This should be a piece of cake, right?

Maybe I need to become more adventurous. Or not. We shall see.

Peace.

"Just do it." --Nike, Inc.

P.S. Do you have a bucket list? I'm just curious. Maybe I'm the odd man out here.

The actual list. (Serious question: Where does one keep something like this??)

Bucket list inspiration from my dad.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rest in Peace, Robin Williams

Yesterday's tragic news about the suicide of Robin Williams--a man who was afflicted with both addiction and depression--was hard to hear.

So many people suffer from mental illness, yet it is still highly stigmatized in our society. Addiction, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc., are still the big elephants in the room that people don't want to talk about. That needs to change.

My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by Robin Williams's death; especially his family. They lost someone who meant the world to them much, much too soon.

If you haven't read it already--or maybe even if you have--please read my blog post from back in May entitled "Depression and Addiction: We Must Break the Stigmas." 

Peace.

"Get help. I did. Be a resurrection story, in the wild non-denominational sense." --Anne Lamott

P.S. If you or someone you love is suffering from a mental illness and needs help, here is a great list of resources from To Write Love on Her Arms. And if you or someone you love is suffering specifically from addiction, call the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids' Helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373).

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Tough Day Put into Perspective

Yesterday was a tough day.

As you may recall, back in February I wrote a blog post about wanting to find a job that I'm passionate about. "After spending a lot of years working just to get a paycheck, I think I owe it to myself to follow my heart now," I said. Little did I know just how hard following my heart would be.

But last month I interviewed for a job that would've totally fulfilled my passion requirements. It was a position with an organization that I'm truly passionate about and believe in 100 percent. They do amazing things for people. I was incredibly confident that I could land this job and thought I did great in the interview. When I left their offices that day I was pretty damn optimistic.

This feeling was kind of new to me, at least when it comes to employment opportunities. For a lot of years, I lacked confidence in myself when it came to work-related things. I tend to be a perfectionist--not as much now as I used to be--and I found it hard to believe that I had talent and skills people appreciated. I was, by far, my harshest critic.

So I was proud of myself and of how I felt after the interview. I interviewed with three different people simultaneously and spent more than two hours answering questions and talking about myself. Surprisingly, when it was over I didn't second guess a single thing I said. In my mind, I nailed it.

Yesterday I talked to the person doing the hiring. They hired someone else.

When I hung up the phone, I felt all kinds of emotions: disappointment, shock, inadequacy, etc. I wasn't bitter, though. I respect the organization's decision and hope the person they hired turns out to be exactly what they were looking for, because I want the organization to continue to succeed and move forward.

I think my youngest sister put it best when she replied to my email that told her I didn't get the job:

"I think I know how much you wanted it… Mentally, you seemed to be there already, so it’s almost like someone took it away from you."

Yahtzee!

Mentally, I was already there. In fact, I plead guilty to the charge of being a little over confident. But after so many years of not having a whole lot of confidence in myself, feeling good about myself was a pleasant change of pace. And I think now that I'd rather have a little too much confidence than not enough (or none at all).

So, yeah, yesterday was tough. So was last night. My wife took my younger son and a friend to the mall last night and I was home alone feeling pretty low. I called my wife and asked her if she could stop at the grocery store on the way home. "What do you want?" she asked. "Don't judge me," I told her. Then I asked her to pick me up a jar of Nutella and some Nilla Wafers. Yes, this is what I "drowned my sorrows" in last night (while lying in bed, no less):


Today is a new day and when I woke up I still felt some disappointment. But several things are helping me work through that disappointment and move on.

First of all, I know deep down in my heart that I did the absolute best I could've done in that job interview. I did nail it. I just happened to run up against a candidate with more experience in some very specific areas. While that sucks for me, I totally "get" it and wish nothing but the best for the person who beat me out. And for the organization. They made the decision that they felt was best for them and I respect that.

But above everything else, a little bit of reflection on my life is helping me ease through the sadness.

I didn't get a job I really wanted, but:

*My older son is more than two years clean and sober, working full-time, and is a tremendous young man.

*My younger son leaves for college in less than two weeks, is maturing more every day, and is a tremendous young man.

*My amazing wife continues to be more supportive than I could've ever imagined and still puts up with me after more than 26 years.

When I look at those three things above, I come to this conclusion: Yes, I am unemployed. But, damn...I am incredibly blessed.

I will continue to keep my faith and hope alive, and maybe my higher power (are you listening Anne Lamott????) will send that perfect job my way. Or maybe she won't, and I'll have to suck it up and go back to working just for a paycheck. In any case, I will continue to be grateful for the blessings that have been bestowed on me.

Peace.

"I don't know what obstacles you are facing in your life right now. But whatever they are doesn't matter. What does matter is that your life can change if you're willing to look at failure differently. You have the potential to overcome any problems, mistakes, or misfortunes. All you have to do is learn to fail forward." --John C. Maxwell (from his book Failing Forward: How to Make the Most of Your Mistakes)

P.S. When I woke up this morning and scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, I came across this image that someone had posted. I found it rather appropriate after the events of yesterday. And it made me chuckle. Maybe some of you can relate to it, too. :)


P.P.S. If anyone out there thinks they might want to hire me, feel free to check out my LinkedIn profile. (#ShamlessPlug)