Serving Tea –
I had heard the story many times before. As he started talking I already knew how it ended. He’s an addict. He’s been one for almost as long as he can remember and will be one until he dies. The victory of an addict is not to stop being one but learning how to live life clean as one. He wasn’t living free, some of his old acquaintances had become recent friends.
The big three ways an addict stays away from relapse is a clean (drug, alcohol-free) place to live, a permanent job, and supportive friends. None of them are simple to attain and maintain but in my experience with addicts, the one which is the hardest to do is stay around supportive people. The reason this is so difficult for the addict is that oftentimes their addiction has hurt or destroyed the healthy relationships with family and friends which leave them with other addicts and pushers to be around when they are released from jail or a rehab center. It’s also hard to make new or mend relationships when at first you’re only sober moment to moment, hour by hour.
Wisdom tells us that we cannot stop negative people, negative thoughts coming into our lives and minds. However, we don’t have to stay or take up residence. We can choose to make our lives a priority, take care of ourselves so we can one day take care of others.
“You cannot stop negative thoughts from coming in the door of you mind, but you do not have to serve them tea.” #ZenProverb
Take Care –
Yesterday, during my second lecture at a Rehabilitation Center, a young man challenged me about the ideas and skills I was teaching about getting and staying clean of alcohol and drugs. It started as fidgeting in his seat and then he couldn’t keep his thoughts quiet! He mumbled something out loud and I heard but didn’t understand. I looked at him and asked him what he said. I was interested in a dialogue but he was only interested in telling me how wrong I was about addicts and the ongoing journey to sobriety.
I was careful not to feel attacked nor make him feel on the defensive as I tried to help him understand why what I was saying was true. Others in the group started speaking up and telling the young man he needed to listen. I thanked the others for their support but asked them to let me speak to him so he wouldn’t feel the group of forty or so guys was against him. Unfortunately, the young man was done speaking and listening. My last words to him were; “I’d really like to talk to you about this after we’re done with the lecture.” He put his head down and when we were done he rushed out of the room. I looked for him as I was leaving but couldn’t find him.
This was the young man’s first time in a Rehab Center. He was struggling with admitting he was an addict, putting his past behind him, coming to grips with the truth that addiction is a life long battle. His thoughts, I am sure, swirled between surrender and control, acceptance and resistance, freedom and slavery.
People who have lived with addiction will tell you that the temptation to use begins in the mind, subtle thoughts start gnawing at you and soon, if they are not checked, you are neck-deep in things you said you’d never do again.
Wisdom teaches us that our thoughts and our words are to be guarded zealously for from them springs our destiny.
This morning one of my lectures at a rehabilitation clinic was double booked which gave me a free hour until it was time for the second lecture. I needed to pick up a few items at a store so I decided this was a good time. I parked and went inside. Entering the store, through sliding glass doors, an employee was crossing in front of the doors and underestimated how much time she had until we occupied the same space. When it became obvious we were headed to a collision course we altered our current paths. We side-stepped each other and when we did a case for glasses the employee was carrying dropped from her hand and went bouncing on the floor. “Excuse me. I’m sorry.” I said. She replied it was ok and picked up her case. “Good thing you had that case!” I chirped “It sure was!” she said smiling and we parted ways.
Walking through the store and collecting the items on my mental shopping list I thought about the employee and her glasses case. One of the phrases I use when speaking to groups about healthy children and families is called; “Protective Factors.”
Protective factors are conditions or attributes in individuals, families, communities, or the larger society that, when present, mitigate or eliminate risk in families and communities that, when present, increase the health and well-being of children and families. (https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=protective%20factors)
Protective Factors shape the way we see the world, dictate a lot of our behaviors and coping abilities. The fewer protective factors the more hostile the world looks and this shapes our lives, who we are, in the deepest part of us.
The second lecture went well. Part of my presentation is to ask; “How many of the attendees come from families where drugs and alcohol were abused, physical violence, negligence, abandonment was part of their childhood?” It’s always humbling to see how many raise their hands. We then talk about how our past can determine the way we see the world, how we think and make decisions in the present. I spend the rest of the lecture, hopefully, helping them see how to begin to build protective factors into their and their family’s lives.
I teach three groups of men who are housed in an intensive rehabilitation facility for drugs and alcohol. The time I spend with them isn’t nearly long enough but I make the best of the time I have given to me. My focus is on two subjects; the first is their choice to stay clean or relapse will determine their destiny and the second is their choice to be sober determines their family’s destiny.
This morning, in a session, we were discussing these issues when it dawned on a man in the group that his kids were at a highly significant risk of doing drugs because of his own history of drug use. Before I could get the words out of my mouth, he said rather loudly; “Don’t say it!” I paused for a moment and then relayed the statistics of kids whose parents use drugs and their likelihood to follow the same path.
I then told the men; “This doesn’t mean your children will become alcoholic or drug addicts. You can make the right choice, lead your family away from this toxic lifestyle. Let them be your motivation to get clean and stay clean. Do it for you and do it for them.”
Too often we see our decisions in a bubble. We forget, like a stone thrown in a still pond, our choices ripple in all directions impacting all who are near and dear to us. If we took in to consideration the power of our actions and inaction perhaps we’d choose more wisely.