I Finally Got Even


Once upon a time there was a little boy. Although his family was poor, life was good and he enjoyed his life. His Mother and Father did not get along well, but he did not notice much.

One day his Daddy ran away, leaving a note that read, “I’m gone for good. Don’t try to find me”. The little boy did not understand. He was very sad and became even more confused when his Mommy told him, “You’re now the man of the house. You gonna have to take care of your little Brother”.

After getting divorced his Mother was not around much, even though the little boy and his brother lived with her. His Father never came around. Mom was either working or going out with boyfriends all the time. The parade of different men confused the boy.

A man the boy did not like became his stepfather when he was ten. Mother said, “_____ has asked me to marry him and I’ve said yes. Is that okay with you?” So badly, the boy wanted to say, “No, he is a bad man.” but instead because he loved his mother and wanted her to be happy he replied, “It’s okay”.

Life for the boy and his brother worsened. His new “Father” was mean and treated the two boys as just being in the way. He got angry about the smallest thing and dished out painful physical punishment almost daily. The boys lived in fear and were made to work long hours every day after school, on weekends and during the summer.

The boy was growing up to be a man. Just before he was sixteen the new “Dad” drew back his hand to hit the now teenaged boy. Having had enough, in great anger the boy said “Go, ahead. I’ll stomp you until you’re a grease spot”. He meant it and would have tried to hurt the stepfather as badly has he could have.. Fortunately the older man saw that, never touched him again, but threw the boy out on the street to fend for himself three weeks later.

The teenager was homeless. With money enough for only two nights in a motel, he called the birth Father he barely knew saying, “I have no place to go. Can I come stay with you?” His Daddy said “yes”. And there he lived for a year while he and his Dad made the best peace they could.

Usually adult males who are unable to make emotional connections with the women they choose to be intimate with are frozen in time, unable to allow themselves to love for fear that the loved one will abandon them. If the first woman they passionately loved, the mother, was not true to her bond of love, then how can they trust that their partner will be true to love. Often in their adult relationships these men act out again and again to test their partner’s love. While the rejected adolescent boy imagines that he can no longer receive his mother’s love because he is not worthy, as a grown man he may act out in ways that are unworthy and yet demand of the woman in his life that she offer him unconditional love. This testing does not heal the wound of the past, it merely reenacts it, for ultimately the woman will become weary of being tested and end the relationship, thus reenacting the abandonment. This drama confirms for many men that they cannot put their trust in love. They decide that it is better to put their faith in being powerful, in being dominant.” Bell Hooks

A walk though the majority of his adult life shows the boy became like the description above. How could he have known the effects of surviving childhood would have so much to do with shaping his life? If we are born without the colors of life already painted, then it is childhood where the adult we become gets colored in.

I was that boy and I am that man. My gratitude overflows that in recent times I have been able to let go of most of it. And I finally got even with my evil stepfather; I became happy in spite of him!

You know all that sympathy that you feel
for an abused child who suffers
without a good mom or dad to love and care for them?
Well, they don’t stay children forever.
No one magically becomes an adult the day they turn eighteen.
Some people grow up sooner, many grow up later.
Some never really do.
…just remember that some people in this world
are older versions of those same kids we cry for.
Ashly Lorenzana

Image by Ruby Blossom

Extremes of Despair and Gladness


I wish some of my past could be erased; those parts I dislike most. Some were done to me, but many are things I did to others. It’s a hundred times harder to forgive myself than it is find forgiveness for another. My ability to let go beating myself up has improved a lot since I began successfully disputing my own BS a few years ago, but it’s still challenging, especially in a ‘down’ time.

Everyone messes up. Me, you, the neighbors, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, King David, the Buddha, everybody.

It’s important to acknowledge mistakes, feel appropriate remorse, and learn from them so they don’t happen again. But most people keep beating themselves up way past the point of usefulness: they’re unfairly self-critical.

For most people, that inner critic is continually yammering away, looking for something, anything, to find fault with. It magnifies small failings into big ones, punishes you over and over for things long past, ignores the larger context, and doesn’t credit you for your efforts to make amends.

Therefore, you really need your inner protector to stick up for you: to put your weaknesses and misdeeds in perspective, to highlight your many good qualities surrounding your lapses, to encourage you to keep getting back on the high road even if you’ve gone down the low one, and – frankly – to tell that inner critic to Shut Up.

The only wholesome purpose of guilt, shame, or remorse is learning – not punishment! – so that you don’t mess up in that way again. Anything past the point of learning is just needless suffering. Plus excessive guilt, etc., actually gets in the way of you contributing to others and helping make this world a better place, by undermining your energy, mood, confidence, and sense of worth. Author and neuropsychologist Dr. Rich Hanson http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/the-art-of-self-forgiveness

My gratitude is never stronger than when I come back to the ‘real world’ after a bout of cycling depression. If I am willing to get in the ring with the big “D.” and fight it things get better faster than if I just wait for it to pass.

There is darkness inside all of us… that part of our soul that is irreparably damaged by the very trials and tribulations of life. We are what we are because of it, or perhaps in spite of it. Some use it as a shield to hide behind, others as an excuse to do unconscionable things. But, truly, the darkness is simply a piece of the whole, neither good nor evil unless you make it so. Jenna Maclaine

There is no doubt that I appreciate contentment more than many people. Existing within a world of depression’s darkness and shadow even for a short time makes every breathe more precious when the lightness of ‘normal’ returns. You won’t hear many whines for I know it is the down times that ultimately make being alive so cherished. The wider the gap between the extremes of despair and gladness, the better I can bear the former and more I am grateful for the latter. Oh, what a difference a day makes!

I now see how owning our story
and loving ourselves through that process
is the bravest thing that we will ever do.
Brene Brown

My Lost Years


The piece below is a perspective written generally about being a the late teens or 20-something. Yet, “lost years” can be any age. For many in recovery, what began in those young years became bad habits that matured well into middle age. Some never “recover”.

You’re missing something. You’re watching everything pass you by and it’s making you anxious but you’re not quite sure how to catch up. A small part of you doesn’t even want to catch up. You’ve become comfortable in your complacency, comfortable in your own mistakes. Your slip ups have become some kind of solace. They’re yours to keep. Flaws have become some sick substitute for a relationship and you take them to bed with you.

You’re too young to be completely happy. You’re currently living your lost years and even though it’s taking you down, you’re not ready for the alternative. Something that no one likes to admit is that it sort of feels good to screw up. You don’t think you know exactly what you’re doing? You can pretend to be naive to spare everyone else’s feelings but let’s not get confused: you’re in control here. Every step of the way.

That is, until you’re not. The thing about being a mess is that you eventually do lose control. The self-destructive spiral you’ve been orchestrating gets ripped away from you and put in the hands of something much bigger. Then you’re screwed. Then you’re going to be saying “…Take me back to the land of stability and normalcy! I’m done living my lost years. Now I just would like to be found!”

Your life is precarious. When you were in high school and college, you treated your mortality like it was a crappy purse. You stomped on it, broke a strap, let a vodka bottle spill out and ruin the leather. You did all of this believing it would all be repaired while you were sleeping, and it usually was. You reach a point, however, when the leather stays torn, when the piece of crap bag becomes beaten beyond repair. Simply put, you have to take a more proactive role in maintaining your happiness and well-being. You’re not just someone watching their own life from afar. You’re in it now. And if you don’t take care of it, it will fall to pieces.

This is how someone becomes the person they want to be. They make changes. They stop taking those pills, clutching those drinks, and start deleting those numbers in their phone that might as well be daggers. They take responsibility for themselves. This might sound so minor but something you all must know by now is that we’re often our own worst enemy. We can’t blame something on a lack of self-awareness. We’re all aware, which makes it that much harder when we see ourselves making the same mistakes. We often wonder why we do the things we do. But we already know why. Knowing and doing are two different things though. I know that x, y, and z make me unhappy but I guess, in the end, I just don’t care enough to make changes. You can’t force yourself to care. You need to reach a point where you DO care which can take a long time.

But once you do reach it, there’s no going back. Being a broken mess is a blast at 19 but once you’re old enough to know better and start to make those necessary changes, returning to that state will feel awful. That’s something to actually mourn. There’s a certain kind of beauty with being reckless with your body and mind. Closing the chapter on that and actively becoming the person you’re going to be feels great but it’s also a tad bittersweet. Sometimes you want to go back to being the person you were before all the bad stuff happened, but you know that’s impossible. So you just bid adieu to that time and look towards your future. (FYI, it looks super bright.) By Ryan O’Connell http://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/how-to-become-the-person-you-want-to-be/

When I compare where I am today to just ten years ago it amazes me who much has happened. Old deeply ingrained habits seem distant now and boy, am I grateful. While I never had to fight off substance abuse, my compulsions were still just as damaging, if not to me, certainly to some of those around me. I regret that, but am grateful I am no longer leaving a path filled with regrets.

Never look back unless
you are planning to go that way.
Henry David Thoreau

The Pain that Motivates Us to Change

2012-07-18_14-47-53_200-1EDITForgive yourself for everything that was and start living for tomorrow. Create the destiny that you truly know you’re capable of.

The power to create the best you and the best life possible for tomorrow is in this moment. You can find the strength within to use the key of forgiveness to let go of the past and move into the future with a new perspective and an abundant appreciation for this fresh start. You have the opportunity to create an outcome for your life that’s of your choosing.

This is true no matter what your current situation. Say, for instance, you’re aware that you’re an alcoholic, a drug addict, a compulsive gambler, or an abusive person, but you’ve decided that you don’t want that. Forgive yourself by accepting that you’re capable of making changes, and then take control. Use the power of your mind to say:

I’m strong. I do deserve a new start. It’s okay to be me. It’s okay to have had my experiences. I accept that this is how I’ve lived, and I’m aware of how it has affected me. I forgive myself now for living that life, and I choose to never go back to it. I will break the patterns and cycles of the past.

You’re not letting yourself off the hook and telling yourself that it’s okay to be an alcoholic, a drug addict, a compulsive gambler, or an abusive person. You’re not giving yourself permission to do any of that again, believing it doesn’t matter. What you are doing is letting yourself know that the past is over and it’s okay for you to have experienced what you did because you learned your lesson. Now that it’s completely understood, you’re never going back there again. You’re not going to repeat these patterns. You’ve changed, and it’s okay to move on.

You can be happy with yourself. You can enjoy peace because you choose to no longer be controlled by your ego. It’s okay to be you. It’s good to love and forgive yourself for everything that was and start living for tomorrow. Create the destiny that you truly know you’re capable of.

You can become the person you want to be. You can change—if you do the work. Even if you’ve been very negative and hurtful, you can choose to transform and not be like that any longer. You can become a committed, honest, loving, compassionate individual; you never have to go back and re-create negativity in your life or the lives of others. Tell yourself:

I no longer live in that mind-set. I no longer think those thoughts. I’m no longer controlled by my ego’s presence. I forgive myself for negative choices of the past by living in honesty today. I now choose to live in truth.

What does it mean to live in truth? It means to live honestly at all levels. It’s not just about what you say; it’s about thoughts, actions, and the way you live. This involves authenticity—to live in alignment with who you know your true self to be. What you’ll receive is very empowering. You become free to live and explore the truth of who you really are as you move toward the future. You’re at liberty to change, develop, and go further in you own life within your own true spirit and mind. Excerpted from The Keys: Open the Door to True Empowerment and Infinite Possibilities by Denise Marek and Sharon Quirt. ©2009 (Hay House) http://www.healyourlife.com/author-denise-marek/2010/03/wisdom/personal-growth/put-past-mistakes-behind-you

I am a living example that lasting change in attitude and true desire for change can be permanently life altering. In more ways that I could ever fully explain, practicing what is included in the article above works. I am grateful it does!

We change our behavior
when the pain of staying the same
becomes greater than the pain of changing.
Consequences give us the pain
that motivates us to change.
Henry Cloud

The Truth About Yourself

Psy“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves” is the 4th step used in anonymous recovery groups for compulsions that range from alcohol, narcotics and gambling to overeating, workaholic behavior and the recovery group I am active in, Codependence Anonymous.

The first time I encountered the words “searching and fearless moral inventory” they spooked me (more than that… they scared the crap out of me!). The fear was of the unknown for so much of my past behavior was buried so deep within me I was not even sure what all was there. I felt deeply ashamed, but was uncertain exactly why.

The majority of people never get involved in a 12 step recovery group, but EVERYONE could benefit from doing a 4th step (Inventory) and the following 5th step that boils down to Admitted …the exact nature of our wrongs.

Going through the inventory and admission process then beginning to let go of the regret we poison our self with is one of the best self-care efforts that can be made. Yet, most don’t do it for the very reason I didn’t for decades: fear and not wanting to face the truth. My personal experience was I had previously made a mountain out of a molehill. Yes, inventory and admission was difficult for me but far, far easier than I had imagined. The good I got from the process was and continues to be life changing.

Many newcomers to the Steps feel dismayed when they first see this (5th) Step. It’s bad enough, they think, that the 4th Step requires them to beat themselves up for all the bad things they’ve done . . . but now the 5th Step says they must shame themselves before someone else so he can beat them up, too! How can I do that? they ask. What purpose could such torture possibly serve?

Such doubt and dismay are understandable, even reasonable, given such mistaken ideas about the nature of the Steps. It’s important to understand that the 5th Step is not about wallowing in guilt and shame over our past behavior. Instead, it is a practical and effective means of reconciling ourselves with the past and finally putting guilt and shame behind us where it belongs. It’s also a critical step toward restoring our battered sense of honor and self-respect.

We will never really be at peace with ourselves until we are completely, whole-heartedly okay with who we are-and that includes being okay with who we were and what we have done in the past.

Only by revealing who we really are can we become the same person on the outside as we are on the inside. http://serenityweb.com/?page_id=70

From my vantage point there are two ways of getting to the process outlined in the 4th and 5th step of recovery: 1) great need and courage or 2) great pain that allows us to do nothing else. Most people, including me, take the plunge for the second reason that is outlined well in the quote “When the pain to stay the same exceeds the pain to change, we change”.

Today I think of each of the 12 steps kind of like having a cavity in a tooth filled. Until I do, what is wrong with me will continue to get worse and worse, hurting more and more as time goes on. While getting a filling is not my idea of fun, it’s not that bad either. Same is true for the steps. Not painless, but far less so than I originally though. Getting to feel better about life and myself makes it worthwhile just like a trip to the dentist is.

My gratitude today is for all the goodness and positive growth that has come my way since getting into Codependence Anonymous ( http://coda.org/ ) six years ago. Saying it has been “life changing” is vastly inadequate to describe the personal renaissance and growth that has come. To CoDA and my brothers and sisters in recovery I say thank you with a humble mind and grateful heart.

If you do not tell the truth about yourself
you cannot tell it about other people.
Virginia Woolf

Courage Enough To Step Through My Fear

afraidoflove2What a dichotomy it is to want to be loved, yet fearful of it beyond explanation. Such a condition is called “love avoidance” and it’s a dysfunction I know for my own. It’s a form of “love addiction” and feels like slowly starving even though there is food within reach.

Dr. Janice Caudill wrote, Love avoidance is the systematic putting up of walls in a relationship to prevent feeling emotionally overwhelmed by another person. Consequently, it prevents true intimacy. It can be described as a form of emotional anorexia.

First hand I know love avoidants are romantics. Thirsting for love they spend a lot of time thinking about love and imagining being loved. However, when love arrives in not too long a time the walls begin to go up against it. Sounds crazy doesn’t it. A love avoidant looks for love constantly but runs away when it finds him or her. That the lunacy I lived with for far too long.

Love entered in my heart one day
A sad, unwelcome guest.
But when it begged that it might stay
I let it stay and rest

It broke my nights with sorrowing
It filled my heart with fears
And, when my soul was prone to sing,
It filled my eyes with tears.

But…now that it has gone its way,
I miss the dear ole pain.
And, sometimes, in the night I pray
That Love might come again.
J. California Cooper

Many wounded adults actually avoid love, becoming restless around persons who might provide genuine care and nurturing. In these cases, the closer the adult comes to obtaining the reality of love, the more they will push their partners away. This move, becoming avoidant and trying to create emotional distance within the relationship, is fueled by a fear of intimacy. Some love avoidants push away love as a test to see if their partner will continue to love them even when they are acting disagreeable or unpleasant. This behavior is a result of the conditional and irregular love the wounded adult experienced as children from their caregivers.

The struggle for the love avoidant is that he/she, like anyone else, wants to feel love and closeness. Regardless of what the past emotional, physical and/or sexual wounds might be, there is still an intrinsic desire for the security and affection and healing that comes from love.

For most love avoidants, they are very good at beginning relationships, but horrible at keeping and maintaining a relationship. There is a lot of pulling in and pushing out – pulling in their love interest and then once the connection happens and the relationship becomes deeper, they push their partner away. Douglas Dobberfuhl

It’s said that knowing is half the battle. Today my love avoidant tendencies are not nearly as pronounced as they once were. A good therapist, growing awareness of my habits and consistent work to amend them has made a remarkable difference in my life. Am I cured? Heck no; never will be completely. But I am deeply grateful for the more open heart that lives within me today. It has been a hard-fought battle against myself, but today I have courage enough to step through my fear and let love in.

Of all the events of my life,
inclusive of its afflictions,
nothing has humbled me
so much as your love.
Elizabeth Barrett to Robert Browning

A New Way to Remember

My dysfunctions have been with me all of my adult life. However, conditions like depression, compulsion and trauma from childhood were not clearly known to me until the last ten years.  When I began to ask “why” particular behaviors came over me in certain circumstances and situations, a true effort to educate myself started. In trying to understand some of my actions, I read book after book after book.

My studies were primarily two-fold: 1) about human behavior and why we do the things we do 2) about religion and how spirituality affects a person. Over several years I became fairly well-educated in the realm of psychology and generally knowledgeable about the origins of a wide number of religions and the spiritual practices that grew out of them. After all this time I was smarter and quite a bit kinder to others, but inside I was not a whole lot better.

Of particular attraction to me were some of the basic tenants of Buddhism. There I found direction about learning to live a better life contained within the “Eightfold Noble Path”.


This on top of the “Ten Commandments” of Christianity became a sort of roadmap for improving the quality my existence. Other teachings of Buddha helped me as well such as I was not my thoughts and how my constantly chattering mind can at times create insane lines of thinking. Having these insights made me more knowledgeable and I did get better, just not enough to overcome my demons.

…The problems of the mind cannot be solved on the level of the mind. Once you have understood the basic dysfunction there isn’t really much else that you need to learn or understand. Studying the complexities of the mind may make you a good psychologist, but doing so won’t take you beyond the mind, just as the study of madness isn’t enough to create sanity… From the second chapter of Eckhart Tolle’s “Power of Now”

What Tolle wrote explains well the dilemma I ended up lost within. Alone, I could not fix myself. I needed help. In some ways I wish I could say that realization came to me easily, but it didn’t. It took the ending of a marriage I did not want to be over and coming to face to face with the reasons why that were my responsibility. What I came to know is all of my romantic relationships had suffered because of childhood issues that had never been dealt with. It was like being hit in the head with a ‘two by four” that brought me to my knees determined to recover.

When the pain to stay the same, exceeded the pain to change, I sought help and truly began to grow and change. There is nothing particularly admirable about it. I simply felt I had no other choice.

Today life is pretty darn good and certainly better than ever before. Am I “fixed”? No, far from it. But I am a lot better and as the months pass, I continue to grow. The past is past, but I recall it differently today as containing my greatest lessons.  With true positive anticipation and hope for the future, I am grateful to be where I am!

Forgiving does not erase the bitter past.
A healed memory is not a deleted memory.
Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget
creates a new way to remember.
We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.
Lewis B. Smedes

The True Condition of Your Heart

Many people believe their life story is more unique than that of many others. For some the belief comes from great sadness they have endured. For others the feeling is rooted in challenges over come. Some people see success as their defining elements. There are those who use heartbreak suffered as a sizeable part of their self-definition. Ultimately, we are all one of a kind who has never been before and never will be again. Genetics, environment, circumstances, happenings and the time we live within conspire to mold us uniquely.

Stepping back and trying to find and admit what has shaped me, I find sadness and a desire to be loved are two of my sizeable drivers. There is also depression has been a defining element in my life. Learning to see the difference between sadness and depression was a huge step forward.

In plain terms, I see sadness ranging from simple momentary unhappiness to long-term grief and sorrow. On the other hand depression is a sense of gloominess or dejection that has no specific source, although one usually tries to hang it on something or someone. Depression may come and go, but it never fully passes.

For some reason I have yet to fully understand, being sad and feeling depressed became friends of mine. Unhappy moods became like my favorite ratty clothes: well-known, familiar and comfortably worn just right. I became contented and safe (I thought) in being a “brooding and complicated man”. It was a large part of how I defined myself and found dark comfort from something familiar. I learned how seductive depression, sadness and bad moods can be.

I was ruled by negative feelings such as “oh, poor me”, “I am not loved enough”, “I had a difficult childhood”, “I was abused”, “I’ve had a difficult life”, “I’m not happy”, “I deserve better” and a litany of other self-told excuses. Lost in the darkness I was unhappy and not in control (which I long worked hard to hide). There were true reasons to be angry, sorrowful and grief-stricken, but I had never worked through them. It took getting to middle age to do that. Until then the darkness from the unresolved only got darker.

For me, getting better was not about strength or determination. Instead it took surrender. Until I allowed my negative mid-set to overtake me completely and to topple under the sudden weight of it all, there were no answers to be found. At first it felt smothering to let my feelings overcome me.  But like diving into deep water, I first sank then surfaced, began to breathe and then swim to keep myself afloat and moving forward little by little.

I’ve learned to be aware, yet patient with myself to work though things. Sometimes it takes days, weeks or even months for the full picture to come into focus, long after the initial sting of the pain surfacing is gone. If I remain open without becoming obsessed with a particular issue, the best path always seems to present itself eventually. Whatever comes, I acknowledge it, accept it and make some sort of peace with it. I am grateful for that learned ability and the many who helped me come to practice it.

I say that trials and tests locate a person.
In other words they determine where you are spiritually.
They reveal the true condition of your heart.
How you react under pressure is how the real you reacts.
John Bevere