Hey… why does my life suck with out drugs?

Does living sober really suck?

For me, the answer is YES. Does my life suck? NO. Please allow me to expand on these answers. I liked getting drunk, smoking pot, doing narcotics and taking a hand full of pills. I liked getting high. Knowing that I will never catch a buzz again sucks. Knowing that I will never drink again sucks.

At 2 years sober, I can honestly say that many areas of my life are far better and I don’t ever want to go back to drinking. I respect myself and my body more. I respect my mind and my willpower more. I have closer friendships. I don’t have unnecessary debt and unnecessary drama in my life.

The areas of my life that still suck are things like: frustration at self-imposed limitations, loneliness, boredom or depression. These thoughts and feelings are often a result of thinking that drinking would make me popular, have no limitations and take away the boredom and loneliness. I see others drink socially and they appear to have what I desire. My thoughts like to tempt me into drinking again. But I know that drinking will not fix my problems, cure my depression or relieve self-pity. It would just make things worse.

Not ever being able to get high, buzzed or drunk again sucks, however, the rest of my life doesn’t suck. This is a very strange position to be in.
I’m touching on this subject because I have been asked this question by quite a few people. I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of people I have met through this blog. I have discovered that there are a lot of brilliant, intelligent and wise drunks in the world. They are smart, caring people who just drink too much for their own good. These people have confirmed my belief that: All drunks are not jerks. Some are actually pretty damn smart.

Give me a miserable day sober over the life I left behind any day of the week…

Unfortunately, when many former drinkers go through the grieving process over the loss of their old friend, the bottle, some never get past the anger stage. It is a very real loss. The drink has been their friend for many years and one they could count on. When the whole world turned against them, the bottle never let them down. It was always there ready for the good times, the celebrations, the parties, as well as the sad, mad, and lonely times, too.
Finally their old friend let them down – they got in trouble with the cops, lost a job or career, almost lost their family, or the doctors told them they had to stop drinking – whatever the reason, the circumstances of their life brought them to the point where they made a decision to say “so long” to the bottle.

The Stages of Grieving

Whether they realized it or not, they began the stages of grieving — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — the same stages most people go through when they have a great loss in their lives or have been told they have a terminal illness…
First comes the denial — it’s really not that big a deal, I’ve always said I could quit anytime — and then the anger and depression when they realize just how much that had come to depend on their old friend alcohol.
Many make it through the process to the final stage — accepting the loss, learning and growing through the experience, and moving on.

Abstinent, But Miserable

Some never make it. It’s sad to see them, sometimes many years later, still stuck in their anger, bitterness, and resentment at having to make the change in their lives.
You even see them in the 12-step rooms – been in the program for years and years and their lives seem to be a constant unmanageable struggle. All those years and they have no more of a spiritual awakening than they did the first time they walked into the room.

What Is a Dry Drunk?
“Dry Drunk” has been described as “A condition of returning to one’s old alcoholic thinking and behavior without actually having taken a drink.” Or as one wise old drunk put it, if a horse thief goes into A.A. what you can end up with is a sober horse thief. Or a personal favorite: you can take the rum out of the fruit cake, but you’ve still got a fruit cake!
Those who quit drinking but are still angry about it, wind up living miserable lives and usually make everyone else around them miserable too. If it has been said once in an Al-Anon meeting, it has been whispered thousands of times, “I almost wish he would go back to drinking.”

Okay, I Don’t Like It, Now What?

The simple answer to that question is to find something that you do like, but that is not always as easy as it sounds.
There is a theory that in order to fully recover from the effects of alcoholism, the alcoholic must replace the obsessive behaviors in his life with their spiritual opposites. Frankly, there are those who believe that without such spiritual help from a power greater than themselves, true recovery is impossible.

The A.A. program has championed this theory for many years to millions of “hopeless drunks” who are now living happy and sober lives. It’s hard to argue with that record of success.But beyond the spiritual side of recovery, there are other steps that can be taken to help make life fun again, without alcohol:

Develop a hobby. Take up gardening, start or expand a collection, build something, go fishing, or learn how to develop your own web pages! Try to find some activity to fill those leisure hours that you used to spend drinking.

Get healthy. All those years of drinking probably took some toll on your physical health. Join the YMCA, take up an exercise program or jogging, or play a sport. Get on some kind of regular (daily) improvement routine.
Improve your mind. It’s never too late to learn new things. Get a library card, take a continuing education class, improve your job skills, or go on Facebook.

Spend time with your family. Maybe you can’t replace all those times that you neglected your wife and children while you were in the bars, but you can make a new start. Take your wife out to her favorite place, take the kids or grandchildren to the park, or start a project in which the entire family can participate.
Life doesn’t have to be a miserable experience just because you quit drinking. There’s a whole world out there for you to explore and learn about.

This is my journey … this is my life
Rob Cantrell

Yesterday wasn’t so great… believe me… I was there!

I don’t have a clue as to how anything in life is supposed to work. I have no answers to any problems and I don’t know the path anyone should be walking. I only know what I’m doing now is  bringing me happiness . 

I have no glamour shot to share of my life in Jacksonville, Florida. It completely sucked. Some people have the ability to fall apart quietly and fly under the radar long enough to get their life together … then they return fresh and new. Not me … I was going out like a rock star…. a sad, washed up, old rock star that hadn’t had a hit in forever.

I want to share two examples, I was living in a very nice oceanfront condo development with 16 other successful “40 something” professionals… (so my behavior was not well hidden). One day, I was walking home from a beachfront Irish pub when a new white Range Rover pulled up and a blonde woman instructed me to get in… so I did… man… did I have an awakening!  For 6 long oceanfront blocks “the blonde upstairs” told me off… she said I was destroying everything I’d loved and worked to accomplish. She let me know how I looked and how I sounded…. she told the truth.

I hated that bitch for it! I wasn’t out of control… I was creative and expressive. If she didn’t want to bring the entire bar back to the Jacuzzi at 3:00 a.m. to get naked don’t blame me! 

I was so offended by this woman’s words that I decided I would make her a character in my dog’s life and post her on social media… I turned her into “that blonde slut upstairs that Shmuli hates!” Have you ever heard of her?

The reality is that she was 100% correct.

The second example occurred during my last year on the skids … I knew a couple that I considered the lowest form of human life. They were friendly and always polite… but lived like the king and queen of a trailer park! There was nothing these two people wouldn’t do or openly discuss… often with photos … do you understand what I’m saying here?

As I fell apart and my social circle shrank … I found myself in their company more and more… I became them! Eventually, even they didn’t want anything to do with me… Dear God! I had been rejected by the scummiest people in North Florida! Something had to change! Fortunately, it did!

Anytime I reminisce about enjoying a margarita on my oceanfront balcony… I remember these less than lovely memories and know I can’t do it …

We all constantly live in the present and make many choices about our futures because of the past. This is unavoidable. You can only read these words now because your mind relates to past experience with these words. All learning and knowledge rely on continually referencing the past, and many wise decisions about the future are created through recalling what has or hasn’t worked before. You only recognize a friend in the street because you reference a past connection with them. In this way, you use the past well.

But doing things because ‘it’s always been that way’ might be a mistake. Tradition may be useful or it may prevent progress, depending on how useful it is. Personally, you have an emotional relationship to past events that steers you helpfully or unhelpfully in the present.

I talk about ‘having baggage’ or ‘needing to move on’, having to ‘put the past behind me’ or ‘find closure’ when talking about my past… But what do these metaphors actually mean and how can I really ‘let go’ and ‘move on’?

Reviewing past happy times is a great thing to do. I highly recommend it; but with a caveat. It’s less healthy if:

  • The past is always used as a way of highlighting how terrible the present is by contrast.

  • We live in the past to such an extent that the opportunities in the present are missed. For instance, when we don’t even give a potential new partner a chance because how could they ever match up to our perfect former lover!

What does it mean to live fully in the present moment? It means that your awareness is completely centered on the here and now. You are not worrying about the future or thinking about the past. When you live in the present, you are living where life is happening. The past and future are illusions, they don’t exist. As the saying goes “tomorrow never comes”. Tomorrow is only a concept, tomorrow is always waiting to come around the corner, but around that corner are shadows, never to have light shed upon, because time is always now.

If you’re not living in the present, you’re living in illusion. That seems to a be a pretty good reason to live in the present, doesn’t it? But how often are we worrying about things that have yet to come, how often do we beat ourselves up for mistakes that we’ve made, no matter how much time has passed? The answer is too much.

Not only will living in the present have a dramatic effect on your emotional well-being, but it can also impact your physical health. It’s long been known that the amount of mental stress you carry can have a detrimental impact on your health. If you’re living in the present, you’re living in acceptance. You’re accepting life as it is now, not as how you wish it would have been. When you’re living in acceptance, you realize everything is complete as it is. You can forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made, and you can have peace in your heart knowing that everything that should happen will.

This is my journey … this is my life!

Rob Cantrell

Sometimes good people aren’t good together… and some relationships are total crap!

“When the heartache is over… I know I won’t be missing you” – Tina Turner

I have been in more relationships than should be admissible by law in any country. I seem to follow a pattern that has worked with a 100% failure rate. The practice includes several steps that I have mastered and hopefully, will never use again. To begin with… I enter every relationship as damaged goods. I am always just ending my last one and am carrying so much emotional and mental baggage that I can hardly function.

If the person I’m “courting” is equally damaged … that’s a home run. Together, we can feed off the lies, betrayals, injustices and abuses caused by our last loves. It’s perfect! Together… we can wallow in the belief that we’re… “just people that love too much”. “This time, it’s gonna last… this time, it’s forever”. Please!

To be honest, I could never love anyone as much as I loved drugs and alcohol. They had been part of my life for 30 years… I wasn’t about to let romance break us up! Besides these people didn’t seem to mind staying out all night at clubs or getting naked in a Jacuzzi just before dawn. I was exciting and nothing like their last significant other. I presented myself as a bad boy, and damaged people always want to “fix” the bad boy. Unfortunately, you can’t “fix” a bad boy and if he does comply with your demands … the challenge is gone. There’s nothing exciting in that… time to move on!

It’s easy to develop a connection with a co-worker or a schoolmate or someone who’s always there…even when they’re not adding any real value to our lives. And it’s even easier to stay in those relationships. That’s because old relationships are convenient, and starting new relationships is difficult… it requires work. But so does anything worth holding on to.

We’ve all held on to someone who didn’t deserve to be there. Most of us still have someone in our lives who continually drains us: Someone who doesn’t add value. Someone who isn’t supportive. Someone who takes and takes and takes without giving back to the relationship. Someone who contributes very little and prevents us from growing. Someone who constantly plays the victim. Dear God! I’m exhausted just writing about them …

But victims become victimizers. And these people are dangerous. They keep us from feeling fulfilled. They keep us from living meaningful lives. Over time, these negative relationships become part of our identity—they define us, they become who we are.

Fortunately, this needn’t be the case. Several actions can be taken to rid ourselves of negative relationships.

First, you can attempt to fix the relationship. This is obviously the preferable solution (albeit not always possible or worthwhile). People change over time, and so do relationships. You can change how your relationship works… be it marriage, friendship, or family…  without completely ditching the relationship.

Listen to Rob… just sit down with the person who’s draining the vitality from your life and explain to them what must change for your relationship to work. Explain that you need them to be more supportive, that you need them to participate in your growth, that they are important to you, but the relationship in its current state does not make you happy. Explain that you’re not attempting to change them as a person; you only want to change how your relationship works.This sounds great on paper … but by the time you’ve reached this point, you’ve emotionally detached from the entire situation… (am I right?). But try it anyway.

Finally, ask them what they’d like to change about the relationship. Ask them how you can add more value. Listen attentively, act accordingly.

Most importantly, always have an escape clause… if you’re unable to change the relationship, you can end it altogether. This is incredibly difficult, but it applies to any relationship: family, friends, lovers, coworkers, acquaintances. If someone is doing nothing but draining your life, it’s perfectly acceptable to tell them “This relationship is no longer right for me, so I must end it… I must move on.” 

It’s OK to move on. You owe it to yourself to move on. You owe it to yourself to be happy with the relationships you have. You are in control. Moving on is sometimes the only way to develop new, empowering relationships.

When I released the past, I was able to accept a love that is perfect for me now. I am so thankful I took an action to start living my life with someone for the right reasons…

This is my journey… this is my life!

Rob Cantrell

Fear told me … “I’m too old… I’m too stupid… I’m not important!” … Fear’s a bitch!

Fear can be stronger than glue in keeping you stuck in many ways. Fear also allows you to become a “Door Mat” for GQQF3345everyone to walk on… I was a Door Mat for most of my life. Most Door Mats please everyone because they’re scared of not getting approval. Fear of loneliness also motivates staying a Door Mat. Fear kept me stuck in DoorMatville for many years on many levels. Often I didn’t even know what scared me but I was afraid to rock the boat and risk losing people I thought I needed.

A few years ago, I bought a Range Rover that I didn’t want and couldn’t afford from a friend because he needed to sell it in order to buy a new one. I hated that enormous box of a vehicle… it drank too much gas… cost too much to repair and broke down continuously. But I couldn’t say no … so I bought it and as I knew would happen … it used too much gas… cost too much to repair and broke down continuously. Who’s fault was it that I own a car I didn’t want … mine.  

Even irrational fear can make sense to an insecure person.

Looking back, I realize that fear controlled me, as it does for many people. When you make your decisions based on avoiding things that scare you, you aren’t in control of your life. Fear is. As I considered leaving DoorMatville, I realized how little control I gave myself. Stepping out made me face my fears and gave me back control. It was scary. But, I realized that sacrificing my joy in life by letting fear control my decisions was scarier.

 When you do something that scares you, you take the reins of your life.

face1I took those reins when I began to say “no” to people. Once I did it the fear turned into feeling empowered. When I saw that terrible things didn’t happen, it became easier to turn down requests. The more things I did that scared me, the less fear kept me stuck. I was still afraid and still get scared about doing certain things. But my courage is stronger and fear controls me less.

The best example of this was when I landed in Los Angeles with nothing but a suitcase and a few dollars in the bank.

Courage doesn’t mean you’re never scared. But it helps you control your response to what scares you.

I no longer get irrational about the outcome of something I’m scared of and know that in most cases I can handle the results, even if I don’t like that. Knowing that makes it worth taking risks and pushing through fear instead of letting it paralyze me from going after what I want or slowing me down too much. I can keep it all in perspective now since I’m in control!

Rationally, I know that failure is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s an inevitable part of life and even a necessary step toward success and innovation.

Irrationally, I still fear failure. And I know I’m not alone.

At some point or another, almost all of us have experienced nagging self-doubt, made negative comparisons between ourselves and those around us, or felt like we’re not talented, smart, or disciplined enough to reach our goals.

The irony is that these fears tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies.  Research has shown a connection between the fear of failure and procrastination. That means that the more anxiety we feel about failing the reach our goals, the less likely we are to take action toward achieving them.  It’s a completely irrational reaction, but – as anyone who has experienced this kind of paralysis can tell you – it’s a hard one to resist.

What can we do overcome fear of failure?

There are a lot of articles out there on the subject, but most end up being variations of 0807bennoe3_474x6001the same cliches we’ve heard all our lives. For the record, it is not at all helpful to tell someone who fears failure to “think positively” or “be more assertive”. If it were that easy we wouldn’t be googling “how to overcome fear of failure” in the first place!

Today, I tried to keep fear in it’s proper perspective. I’m learning to face it by externalizing it. Keeping it deep within Rob is a dangerous place to be. No matter what it is … I’m writing a “pros” & “cons” list with the fear on the top of the page. If the “pros” outweigh the “cons” I realize the fear has no place in my head or my life and I ignore it and move on.

As I mentioned, I was horrified about moving to Los Angeles. The “cons” told me that I would fail… I would be laughed at and homeless on the street unable to support myself. The “pros” said I could find an apartment, finish a degree, make friends, find love again …. be happy. Fortunately, I let the fear of failure go and I am so happy I did!

This is my journey … this is my life!

Rob

Stop keeping track of the mistakes you’ve made … It’s time to forgive yourself!

Forgiving myself of the things I’ve done wrong is a full-time job …. believe me… I’ve done a lot of things wrong! So much guilt… so many regrets!

I think of regrets like this…

Let’s pretend on the day we’re born we’re issued a Hefty trash bag … into it we put every regret, hurt, disappointment, embarrassment and guilt. Before we know it … the bag is full and heavy and a misery to carry. Yet every minute of every day… we’re walking around with this bag of crap that is breaking us. It would be so easy to put it down and walk away… but we don’t… we hold on tightly to something that is holding us back… a bunch of crap. If we put it down we may have to open the bag and exam what’s in it… that might be difficult…. so we keep the crap neatly bundled in the bag and never enjoy being totally free. Wow … what a sad ending.

My example is silly but does make a point.,,, nothing in our past has to control us.

Do you have regrets? Do you wish you could go back in time and change things that happened? Do you need to learn how to forgive yourself?

If there’s a moment in your mind …  something that you remember that you wish you could erase… you’re not alone. None of us are perfect and although we have the power to recognize our flaws, it’s not often that we can actually let them go. Instead, we tend to hold on to the burdens we create for ourselves through our actions, struggling to carry them as we go through life. As regret settles in, the past becomes attached to our existence in the present and without the power to go back and change our behavior for the better we can be left feeling truly powerless.

Often, it seems as though the hardest person to forgive is you. Think about it… how many people do you forgive on a daily basis? You’re probably ready to forgive your children when they misbehave or your spouse when you have a quarrel. I have a pug named Kooli that pees on everything I own… and I forgive him!

Most of us can even forgive strangers, like the driver who cuts in front of you on your way to work, or the person who takes the machine you have signed out at the gym. These people get the best of us, even when we can’t wipe our own slates clean.

If you’re stuck in the past reliving your mistakes, you aren’t really living. We must overcome our mistakes by learning from them. But that learning can’t happen when you’ve got a quarrel, a breakup, an episode, or a mistake on replay in your mind. Even if you’re able to look back on the incident with 20/20 vision, you can’t actually move forward until you learn how to forgive yourself.

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

We can’t change the past and it doesn’t really matter because we don’t live there anymore. What we can do is trace the things from the past that are causing us stress … face them as best we can and erase them.

It’s like the contents of that Hefty trash bag… once you know what’s in it you can do something with it or set it at the curb where it belongs….

This is my journey… this is my life.

Rob

Addiction and Recovery in the Gay Community …

Walk down Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood on any given night and you will be instantly drawn to its energy. Clubs are packed beyond capacity and beautiful patrons wait in lines on the sidewalks. Perfectly proportioned young men dance in thongs on table tops or go go stations while spectators force dollar bills in their crotches. This is the nightlife baby…

This is daily life in the party communities across America. Regardless of whether gay, straight or mixed clubs are always energized by sex, drugs and music. Young and old, gay and straight some escape the allure of the night and don’t fall prey to the addictions found there… others are not so lucky.

There is no evidence that sexual orientation affects an individual’s mental health or physical chances of developing addiction. However, gay, lesbian and transgenders are more likely to experience certain risk factors worth noting…

Family history – If addiction runs in your family, you are more likely to develop a substance abuse problem. This is a risk factor that impacts both gay and straight individuals.

Environment – A person’s home environment plays a large factor in motivating or not motivating a person to try drugs or alcohol. Job stress, money struggles or an unstable family life can all contribute to substance abuse. A homophobic community or a family that doesn’t accept an alternative sexual identity can cause low self-image and long-lasting guilt. Many adult LGBT individuals outwardly reject the “values” of these conservative communities, embracing an alternative lifestyle that may include heavy drinking and drug use.

Mental health- Co-occurring mental health issues can contribute to a person’s chances of developing addiction. While anti-gay propaganda portrays homosexuality as a curable mental illness, there is no evidence to back this up. Attempts at conversion therapy or the suppression of homosexuality do not increase in heterosexual feelings but rather increase feelings of shame and anxiety about an individual’s natural sexual identity. These feelings can cause depression and other psychological issues that can cause a person to turn to drugs to cope.

Social life- How a person interacts with their peers can influence his or her susceptibility to addiction. Being harassed at a young age can lead to isolation, depression and low self-esteem. When politicians, religious leaders and popular media portray LGBT individuals as less than worthy of basic human rights, it affects how they see themselves. This added stress influences the likelihood of turning to drugs as a method of coping.

The reality is this … the gay community centers around bars or clubs. Older LGBT individuals and couples often drink more and use more drugs than their straight counterparts to fit in with the community. Statistics show that crystal meth is used by 40% of club goers across the country. That percentage is higher in gay men.

Know what you need when you need it …… 

LGBT individuals often face judgment at hospitals and doctor’s offices making them less likely to seek treatment for drug addiction.

Because of their unique place in American society, gay men always benefit from drug addiction treatment programs that are geared specifically for them. Unfortunately, with exception of facilities located in large cities with considerable GLBT communities, few such treatment facilities currently exist. Instead, gay men seeking drug rehab are best served by addiction treatment facilities that understand their special needs and often “programs within the program” that are designed to address gay-specific issues.

Think of it this way … If I am going to move across country, a truck will be my best option for a successful move. A Buick is an option and it may get me there… but the probability of success is certainly less. Why take the chance on failure? 

It is important to ask the admission personnel at any drug rehab facility a few simple questions:

Are there any members of the treatment staff who are gay, or have experience treating homosexuals in recovery?

Does the facility see a considerable number of gay men and women come through the program?

Are there counseling sessions designed to meet the needs of the gay addicts?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes” then this facility is likely to be an appropriate choice for treatment. It is important to find a facility that is accepting of everyone’s sexuality – and more importantly will be able to knowledgeably address the root causes of addiction in gay men during counseling.

If you or someone you love is suffering with addiction… there is hope.

This is my journey… this is my life.

Rob

Couldn’t you just love me… like you love cocaine?

555056_516317078420684_1779609803_nAsk anyone that has ever loved an addict or alcoholic and they’ll tell you how powerless they are over that person’s addiction.

Only one relationship matters to an addict: the relationship with their drug. All of their decisions are based on their need for the drug; they see nothing but the drug and don’t even realize that that’s all they see. Even as their lives are caving in around them, they continue to believe they’re in control and that they don’t have a problem.

As much as “choosing” drugs isn’t really a choice, it also isn’t personal. Drugs don’t matter more than you, they matter more than everything  –  career, reputation, financial stability, religion, even food, water and the basics needed for survival. The addict isn’t trying to hurt you; they are trying to fill a need, just as if your breathing was offensive to someone else you’d be powerless to stop.

Ask anyone whose wallet has been emptied, credit cards maxed out or jewelry stolen…  and they’ll tell you nothing they tried worked in keeping an active addict or alcoholic away from the fix they needed.

In reality, you can’t solve an addicts problems for them. Lecturing, blaming and criticizing will only push them closer to their drug. But you can’t stand to hear the lies and empty promises or worry about their future (and yours) any longer, either. So what can you do?

First, you must understand, you don’t have control over the addict, but you do have influence. What you do have control over is your life. You did not cause their addiction… you can not cure it and as painful as it is… you can not save them. What you must do is save yourself. Your life and those of your family members have value and must be protected.

Alcoholics and addicts lie. Firstly, they lie to themselves. They are in denial and their minds refuse to see what they are doing to themselves. Maybe one part of them knows that they are addicts, but the drug has such a powerful grip on their minds and bodies, they continue to destroy themselves and others.

Alcoholics and addicts can’t control themselves. The drugs they are using (alcohol is a drug) have taken over their lives. Addictions are physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. They are all-consuming. Addicts are lost in their own private hell; a swirling mass of dark energy — thick and heavy and always fatal. Addiction is a terminal disease.

People who have never had problems with addictions can’t comprehend this. They say things like: “Why don’t they just quit?”  Well, if it were that easy, many of the world’s problems would be solved. But it isn’t.

It takes great strength and courage to overcome addictions to powerful drugs like alcohol, cocaine and heroin. Usually, the addict has to hit rock bottom before taking action to stop. Many addicts never stop. They just die.

The sad thing is that an addict does not see that they do have a choice. At all times, we all have choices, even when we think that we don’t. We may not like our choices, but we have them. The addict can always choose not to use. That is not an attractive option for the addict because their body, mind and emotions are screaming for the drug.

Good intentions will kill an addict every time. By enabling a person to use… you are killing them. Enabling can work in different ways, but basically it’s when a person or a group shields another from the consequences of their inappropriate behavior. Silence can be enabling. If someone is doing something wrong, and you know it is wrong and you say nothing, you are enabling the other person’s behavior. You are part of the problem.

Be aware, the enabler may also be in denial, which means they are lying to themselves and others. There is a dysfunctional dance going on between the addict and the enabler. As always, the first step in making lasting life change is awareness.  Ask yourself this: Am I enabling this person’s behavior?

Many people suffering with addiction are rescued through an intervention, an ultimatum or a refusal to enable that leads addicts to take the first step into recovery. Whether the addict takes the opportunity to get better or not, you must take control of your life. Do the things you love and go to Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meetings to get educated about the disease. A loved one in active addiction damages every facet of family life. No one escapes unaffected.

Addicts can get better and they need your support to do so  –  but it’s the kind of support that involves clear boundaries to protect yourself and to avoid enabling, honest communication of love and concern, and assistance from professionals trained in treating addiction.

If someone you know is suffering with addiction there is help. Don’t let your good intentions put them in an early grave.

I have been this drug addict … This is my journey … this is my life.

Rob

The Children of Addiction Suffer Most ….

My grandmother was a wise woman. She said, “If a person fails at being a parent… nothing else they do will ever really matter.” She was so right.

I desperately wanted to be the “cool” parent…. the one that was a “friend” … not a dad. I was neither and truthfully might be the worst parent my kids could have possibly had. I brought nothing but uncertainty and anguish into their lives. Addiction damages everything it touches … our homeonline dating was often a battle field and they were the casualties of a disease I couldn’t control. In reality, they would have been infinitely better off without me in the picture. Anyone raised in an alcoholic/addict home knows the carnage and turmoil of daily life. It’s a nightmare for every member of the family.

I know with certainty that my children love me. They are grateful for the changes in my life since I’ve found sobriety. Today, we are defining healthy boundaries that are loving and safe and are moving forward with our lives. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to be in their lives.

One misconception that many alcoholics and addicts seem to have is that their drinking or substance abuse is not affecting anyone else. Many times they will make statements like, “I’m not hurting anyone but myself!”

In reality, children raised by substance abusing parents have characteristics that will continue to damage them long after the addicted parent is out of the picture …

  • Have to Guess What Normal Is
    Because they did not have a example to follow from their childhood and never experienced “normal” family relationships, adult children of alcoholics and addicts may have to guess at what it means to be normal. They sometimes can’t tell good role models from bad ones. Some are not comfortable around family because they don’t know what to do or how to react.
  • Judge Themselves Without Mercy
    Many adult children of alcoholics or addicts find it difficult to give themselves a break. They do not feel adequate, and feel that they are never good enough. They may have little self-worth and low self-esteem and can develop deep feelings of inadequacy.
  • Take Themselves Too Seriously
    Because they judge themselves too harshly, some adult children of alcoholics may take themselves very seriously. They can become depressed or anxious because they have never learned how to lighten up on themselves. They can get very angry with themselves when they make a mistake.
  • Have Difficulty With Intimate Relationships
    In order to have an intimate relationship, one must be willing to look to another person for interdependence, emotional attachment, or fulfillment of your needs. Because of trust issues or lack of self-esteem, adult children of addicts may not be able to let themselves do that. They don’t allow themselves to get close to others.
  • Have Trust Issues
    After growing up in an atmosphere where denial, lying and keeping secrets was the norm, adult children of alcoholics can develop serious trust problems. All the broken promises of the past tell them that trusting someone will backfire on them in the future.
  • Feel They Are Different
    Many children who grow up with an addicted parent find themselves thinking they are different from other people and not good enough. Consequently, they avoid social situations and have difficulty making friends. They can tend to isolate themselves as a result.
  • Can Become Super Responsible
    Perhaps to avoid criticism or the anger of their alcoholic parent, many children from alcoholic homes become super responsible or perfectionists. They can become overachievers or workaholics. On the other hand, they can also go in the opposite direction, becoming very irresponsible members of society.

As a counselor, I see these characteristics in clients, as well as, my own children. Fortunately, there is hope and help for anyone suffering. Organizations such as Adult Children of Alcoholics (www.adultchildren.org) offer vast amounts of information on how to live life on life’s terms. Anyone can access the information for free online.

I can’t change the damage that I brought into my family’s lives, but I can direct them to sources that may improve their lives.  If someone you know is suffering with addiction … there is hope.

This is my journey… this is my life!

Rob

To escape fear… you have to go through it… not around!

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Years ago, I was at the office and looked down at my hand and saw a red dot. I was convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that I had contracted AIDS or cancer or Ebola or what ever that disease was I’d heard about on National Public Radio that morning driving to work.

I knew that it was going to be a horribly shameful and agonizing death. I also knew that if anyone found out that I had the illness I’d be ostracized and quarantined from society. Dude… this death was going to be as horrible as anything that happened to Jesus or those in the Holocaust . It sucked to be me…

Every single day for the next 18 months I obsessed about the red dot. The red dot controlled me… it was an ever-present secret that was there to destroy me. I was so afraid of the red dot that I would not go to the doctor to have it checked. There was no blood or lab work, CAT scans or surgery because I couldn’t face the reality of the red dot. I didn’t need a second opinion because I wasn’t getting a first one. Don’t make the dot angry and it won’t kill…

Then one day I was talking to my mother and looked at her hand and there it was … a red dot! Damn! It must be contagious…

Immediately… I asked her what it was and I will never forget what she said…. “it’s a red dot!” “Everyone has them… you were born with one on your hand I think…”

Suddenly, every fear I had about the red dot was gone… 18 months of my life had been dedicated to dying instead of living. Cancer is real… AIDS is real… Ebola is real… the red dot is nothing!

Knowledge is power… fear is not…

Getting sober is one of the most terrifying acts an addict will ever attempt…   more terrifying than shooting unknown and potentially lethal chemicals into your veins, more terrifying than robbing depraved drug dealers or engaging in unprotected sex with strangers or endangering the ones you love in order to obtain your next high. It seems insane, and that is only because it truly is. While we are using we are so out of our minds that the true terror of certain situations does not even faze us. However, the concept of putting down our favored substance and facing reality sends most active addicts running for the hills.

  1. Fear of the unknown.

What we don’t know scares us. Moving to a new city, maybe even a new state, unsure as to how we’re going to support ourselves, all of these uncertainties combine to leave us with a gaping pit of fear deep in our stomachs. While the concept of a higher power is one that will need to be addressed eventually in order to maintain sobriety, calling on faith can prove exceptionally beneficial when addressing this fear. Trusting that everything will work out exactly the way it is supposed to will do you much more good than living in the fear of something inevitable.

  1. Fear of failure.

You may believe that relapsing is equivalent to failing. Fortunately, this is not the case. Although relapse is never necessary and can always be avoided, if it does happen to you the option to pick yourself back up and persist is always available. The only way you may “fail” yourself is if you throw in the towel entirely – so no matter what, don’t give up!

  1. Fear of reality.

The reality is, life is difficult sometimes. There are taxes and bills to pay, adult responsibilities to take care of, and unfortunate events that may transpire at any time. But reality is often, and more frequently, absolutely beautiful. If you numb reality with drugs and alcohol you will never experience the awe-inspiring beauty of life. And no problem is so big that you will be unable to handle it.

  1. Fear of becoming a lame prude.

People that don’t drink and don’t do drugs are lame prudes, right? Actually, people who are not actively drinking alcoholically and slowly (or rapidly) killing themselves with excessive drug use are pretty cool. Wetting your pants and punching strangers in the face is not where it’s at – neither is sitting alone in your basement and constantly shooting heroin till you pass out. Sober people tend to be exceedingly happy people. Why not give yourself a chance to find out?

  1. Fear of growing up.

The responsibilities of adulthood can be frightening, especially if you have successfully evaded them for years. If you are considering getting sober, it is time to man up in all regards and begin paying your bills again. Growing up does not mean ceasing to have fun. It simply means being responsible and taking care of yourself.

Fear is a horrible emotion … there is no reason to allow it to control your life… there is hope for everyone caught in the throes of addiction! But first you must reach out…

This is my journey … this is my life

Rob

High School …… sober and unafraid!

057It’s shocking what life can do … tomorrow is my high school reunion and I don’t even remember the kid that was class president so many decades ago… so many crashes … so many burns. How did I survive life for this long?

Like a lot of people, I get to feel inadequate several times a week.  A sense of not quite being up to par.  Disappointing, even.  You hear about people who have performed better, earned more, got more friends, seen more of the world, slept better, slept with better lovers, argued less, looked more appealing…and the list goes on.  Superhuman beings, who seem to attract success.  Or,  the ones that get on quietly with life and put temperamental, irritating people like me to shame. They are just better. Of course it’s possible to learn stuff from everyone we meet, even if it is how not to do things.

I’m not a particularly driven or focused person.  I just like to run with stuff, but I would like to plan better. I have never been one of those that work a seven-day week and gets a kick out of it. Writing is my thing and constantly seeking useless information. The more I learn… the less I know. The main element that  makes me feel inadequate in the face of people who are ‘better’ is something I have come to recognize as fear.  I used to label it anxiety, shyness, stress, tiredness, lots of things, frustration, resentment, bitterness – depending on my mood – but in the end it comes down to fear. Fear of not being able to pay the bills. Fear of getting ill. Fear of losing people.  Fear of being judged, or of not getting approval.  Always on the scary roller coaster. I used to drink or get stoned to push back the fear, but now it is here in all its sober glory. Just like a 3-D movie.

Someone mentioned to me a while ago the concept of giving myself permission to feel fear. Why wasn’t I giving myself permission not to be afraid?  What was the worst that could happen if I stopped being fearful? Why did I have to control everything on the planet? Who made me so important? Those are valid questions … once I thought about it, I realized … I’m not that important and neither are the things I fear. In fact, at this point in time I am trying really hard to believe in a new sober way forward, using the ‘give yourself permission’ criteria.  It’s OK  for me to change my mind about something I once believed in, because I have learned a better way. It’s OK to feel fear and do it anyway. It’s OK not to live like “everyone” (it’s never everyone) else is because it isn’t right for me. Above all, I don’t have to change the world. God made it and he can handle it.

Like many people, I would guess, I try to be ‘good’; grateful and kind.  I don’t always manage it because I am human. It’s OK not to be perfect, however.  No one else is, after all. Not everyone will approve of my life choices. It’s OK not to be liked by every single person in the world.  No one else is, after all. Sometimes it is hard to recognize that someone I really want to like me is never going to, but actually that is OK too. There will always be people who argue and people who agree.  That is life.

I’m sober … I’m happy and I am so grateful to still be here! Bring on that high school reunion …

Changing people, places & things in sobriety…

I am no stranger to drug rehab… I’ve “rehabbed” with the rich and famous and the hopelessly52749b827c495c9a39fa9bae10a08417 unemployed. I’ve  made pottery, watercolors and origami birds in drug treatment centers from Florida to California. In fact, one ashtray I “created” cost about $70,000. It’s a shame I don’t smoke. Going to drug or alcohol treatment is one of those things that you really only want to do once so it is very important that you find a treatment facility that will work for you and specialize in your needs. However, for some, even the rehab that seems to have everything, doesn’t work.

Statistically, for every 100 people who enter a drug and alcohol treatment center only 3 people will succeed and live a life free from the bondage of addiction. Think about that … 97 people will relapse and return to active addiction. When rehab doesn’t work there can be many different reasons and few options. One problem for many is that their stay in rehab was simply not long enough. They work well for detox but are not long enough to help some stay clean once they leave treatment. Sobriety requires a commitment to living a different type of life and that is too hard for some who return to their old and toxic environment.

As an addict, I shared my drug of choice with friends. Whether I was using alcohol, a prescription drug, or illegal drugs, I shared the experience. Misery really does love company. Some of my “friends” got me into using in the first place… others I found along the way. Regardless of how I came together with those friends, recovery depended on us going our separate ways.

Battling an addiction is one of the most difficult things you will do in your life, if not the6233e49004a06b4ad578cd8842a03dff most difficult. By keeping friends around who still use, I was setting myself up for failure. Even without them around, I am tempted to use again. With them still in my life, my temptations multiplied. Some of them actively tried to get me to use again because it helped to validate their addiction… even those using friends who were not actively antagonizing me still represented a temptation.

Leaving your friends will not be easy. Especially if you have using friends whom you have known for years, cutting them out of your life can rack you with guilt. Even if one of your friends has been with you since childhood, if they are using, you must leave them behind. You can try your best to get this friend to join you on your journey of recovery, but only they can make that decision. If they refuse to stop using, they will only hold you back.

If your recovery took a wrong turn, there’s only one way back: trying again. Relapse is disheartening but it doesn’t have to be tragic. What is tragic is that millions of people never seek help at all and endure a lifetime of suffering. Equally tragic are those who go to treatment, relapse and decide a life of sobriety must not be possible for them. Recovery is not a way of life reserved for the select few; it is possible for anyone who refuses to give up on themselves.

Rob

The mother of an addict tells it like it is …. (coming soon)

c285e7c6f06177db077ea2c10b0f5c08I’m excited that my mom is going to contribute to my blog in the upcoming days. No one has ever had to wonder what she thinks … believe me … the woman has no filters. She tells everything as she sees it and then a little more. After decades of dealing with me … she deserves to be heard. Hopefully, her words will benefit someone still suffering.

Her life was no magic carpet ride while I was in the depths of my addiction. If interested, I hope you’ll join the blog and ask her how she survived a dysfunctional family. If you or someone you know is living with an addict or alcoholic… there is hope.

Rob

No pill is gonna cure my ills…

IMG_20150302_160237077I knew with certainty that I was a teen alcoholic, not the kind that wrecked cars, slapped girls or wanted to fight.. I wanted to dance all night and pass out on your couch… after I spent hours hugging everyone and letting the world know “I love you, man” … I’m an irritating drunk.  Why did it take me 30 years to figure out no one likes “that guy”? Honestly, he’s a lonely guy to be …

At 16, my wisdom teeth were removed by a dentist that was also a friend of the family. I left his office that day with a prescription for 90 Fiorinal #3 (butalbital & codeine) with three refills. I believe somewhere between the first and second dose I realized I would never go a day again without painkillers… I loved them … I loved everything about them …. and I would do anything necessary to get them. For the next 30 years, every second of every day was devoted to getting and taking prescription drugs.

Anyone who is an addict or alcoholic will tell you maintaining a drug habit is the 5D3FF105-7A84-4115-9363-CE2F6029F001hardest job on earth. It does not take a day off … it does not care that you are physically and emotionally sick… it does not give a damn about your kids or family. You will do whatever is necessary to keep it under control. The nauseating part is watching your soul die a little more every day as you do things you never dreamed you’d be capable of doing. It is a nightmare that ends in one of two ways … recovery or death. Those are the only options. It is black or white. There is no grey.

I believe my first moment of clarity was when I learned addiction is a disease. It is not a sin or the devil controlling a person or a weakness of character. It is a sickness. Nothing more … nothing less. People that have the disease aren’t bad people needing to act “good”. We are sick people needing to get “better”.

I have to think of it this way…

If I’m a diabetic … I have a disease that if not controlled will kill me. I will always have the disease. If I am aware that I am a diabetic and I eat a box of Moon Pies and wash it down with 2 liters of Mountain Dew… I’ve screwed up. If I go into a sugar coma as a result of my action and die … I am responsible for my death. It’s not my responsibility that I was a diabetic. I didn’t ask for it.  It was my responsibility not to eat the Moon Pies and Mountain Dew. That’s all I have to do is realize there is a wonderful life if I’m willing to be a part of it … I want to dive head first into that life! I want to live without the “Moon Pies” that used to control me…

No one has to suffer from addiction alone. There is help available … you just have to reach out. I’d love to hear from you…

This is my journey… this is my life

Rob Cantrell

This is my life … This is my journey

IMG_20150309_183129319I’ve spent a lifetime self-destructing in very public ways. I’m hoping others will learn what it was like, what happened and what it is like now for me. It isn’t necessary to completely lose it all before saying … “this is where the madness ends”. Life is about more than breathing… it’s about feeling alive. Here starts the blog journey…

My “crash and burn” moment happened September 2013.  I was living in an oceanfront condo in Florida with a pug named Shmuli and not much else. I had destroyed my latest marriage and everything else that crossed my path…. no more wife, no more money, no more kids, no more friends…. just me, the pug, a Mercedes Benz and my best friend Anita! I thank God for Anita!

On September 29th, 2013 (my daughter’s birthday) I decided to do something I had not done in years. I picked up the phone and dialed my parents for help. My options were to get help or commit suicide. Something was going to happen and it was going to happen that day. I could not exist as I was for another 24 hours. Fortunately, my mother answered the phone and made arrangements for me to enter long term treatment. Anita packed a suitcase and my father and I flew off to Rancho Mirage, California where I began the process of recovery…

I’ve often said that “I’ve done everything except Micheal Jackson!” … early on I learned how to smoke, drink, drug and even steal ashtrays from hotel rooms where I committed adultery! My life is what it is and I make no apologies for it. My closets are empty by design… once I realized I had nothing to hide… I had nothing to fear…. I was free!

This blog is not about the past … I don’t live there any more …  it’s about living every moment that I’m given and hopefully contributing to others that struggle with addiction.

Feel free to ask me any question and I’ll answer it honestly as possible.

This is how my sober life began …