Stop “fixing” people … they aren’t broken and it’s not your job!

For some reason, people always want to fix me. They all have the perfect plan for my life… All I have to do is follow these simple steps or watch a video or listen to the message on an eight CD boxed set and my life will be perfect…

Don’t I want a happier more fulfilled life? Don’t I want to walk down streets of gold and sit next to a river where milk and honey are flowing everywhere? Don’t I want to get fix?

Actually, no…. I do not want to get fixed because I’m not broken.

You can’t change anyone without his or her permission and it’s rude to try. You either accept people for who they are or do not associate with them. This is an impossible task too many people try to take on in their relationships and in their friendships. Trying to mold people into the way you wish they were is inherently disastrous.

People are exactly who they are, and despite your opinion, they will continue to live this way. How many times have people gotten into relationships with the thought “I can make them into a better person; I can save them”? How well does this work? I bet more often than not, this blew up in their faces. Implementing change within ourselves is hard enough and trying to change the way someone else behaves is even harder.

When you truly know and love somebody it can be frustrating watching them throw away all their potential, but this is NOT your problem, it is theirs. You can only express your opinion on the situation; you cannot force it down their throats. This is something they must personally accept and consciously work towards. You forcing your beliefs down their throats is only going to cause resentment and manifest an opposite effect.

Showing someone the error of their ways is a much more difficult task than most people realize. All you can do is show them the information and let them interpret it in their own way. The decision to change must come from the other person. This is the only way they will make an effort to change their actions.

If you are committed to helping someone make changes in their life you need to understand what it is they truly want. The best way to handle this is not to project your own ideas onto them but rather let them come to you for the help. It is a completely different scenario when someone seeks out your help. Ask them what you can do to help them make these positive changes in their life. This gives them control of their own change and as a result they will feel internally motivated. All you can do is make the conditions right in order to help someone change.

When it comes down to it, we can’t do anything to make anyone see what we want him or her to see. You cannot change the people around you, but you can change the people that you choose to be around. Do not make the mistake of wasting your precious time trying to fix something about someone they do not seem to have a problem with.

If you have someone in your life that is making poor choices that are affecting you, it is in your best interest to not associate with them. You both have the right to make your own decisions. Ultimately, the greatest thing we can do to others is to accept them for who they are and the path of life they wish to embark on.

The key thing to remember is that you can’t change people; they must want to change for themselves… and quite frankly, they might be on the path that leads them exactly where they need to go. Maybe we should stay out of the way and let them find their own path.

This is my journey… this is my life!

Rob Cantrell

Not all drug treatment programs are the same… find the one that works for you.

I’ve spent decades of my life trying to find sobriety. The pattern was always the same… it never varied once… I’d find myself:

  1. addicted to drugs and alcohol

  2. check into rehab

  3. suffer through detox

  4. stay for 30, 60 or 90 days

  5. come home

  6. relapse

I couldn’t break free from the thing that was killing me. Was I constitutionally incapable of getting and remaining sober? Was it my destiny to die like millions before me of a disease that is 100% treatable?

The answer to these self-defeating questions is a resounding no!

My problem was I never actually got sober in drug rehab. I got detoxified on lots of occasions and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars doing it…. but I never got sober.

This problem is common for people seeking a life free from drug and alcohol addiction. I sought a solution, but I didn’t seek the right solution for me.

Treatment centers are as varied as the cars you see on a freeway… they will get you from point “A” to point “B” … but they don’t all accommodate your needs. Think of it like this, if I go to Home Depot for lumber, I’m more likely to successfully get it home in a Toyota truck over a VW convertible. The same holds true with recovery programs… you have to find one that will get you home safely.

Every addiction story is as unique as you are. You need a treatment solution that fits your needs and your situation. You need a rehab program that treats you as an individual and specializes in your areas of concern. For most of us, searching for rehab treatment is an overwhelming process. A yellow pages or Internet search can return thousands of results from a variety of locations. You may have a difficult time finding reliable reports or explanations of treatment through online searches.

Studies have proven that inpatient rehab facilities are the most effective and medically sound way to treat addiction. The first phase of inpatient rehab often includes detox. During detox, the patient is slowly weaned off their substance of abuse. Because the body has become accustomed to specific levels of drugs or alcohol, withdrawal symptoms may occur as the substance leaves the body. These withdrawal symptoms can be very severe, and even life-threatening. As a result, detox should be medically supervised in a professional facility. Those suffering from behavioral addictions, such as to gambling or sex, generally do not undergo a detox period.

Residential treatment programs come in a variety of types. There are holistic programs that approach treatment from a whole-body perspective, incorporating various natural therapies to promote overall health and contentment. Gender-specific rehab programs offer care for women or men only, allowing each gender to focus on their recovery without distractions from the opposite sex and to address certain issues that are particular to their gender. Teen rehab programs address the unique challenges of teens in recovery, and religious rehab programs incorporate various religious philosophies into their treatment models.

Statistically, the longer a patient remains in rehab, the greater the chance they won’t suffer a relapse when they return home.

A few years ago, I realized what was happening in my own recovery. I’d just finished a 90-day program in the California desert, and as before, I knew I was destined for a relapse. Fortunately, I took an action that saved my life.

Before I left Palm Springs, I contacted La Fuente Hollywood Treatment Center (lafuentehollywood.com), a facility in Hollywood that specialized in issues relevant to my life.  There I was able to focus on life issues that repeatedly caused me to stumble and return to addiction. The program allowed me to realize I was not alone in my struggles. I’ve always said, I got clean in Palm Springs… but I got sober in Hollywood.

If I’d only known how to seek treatment in the beginning my journey could have been so much easier!

Substance abuse recovery programs are not a “one size fits all” process. If you’re living in active addiction, find the program that will address your needs. Mine was found at La Fuente Hollywood Treatment Center. Yours is out there waiting… maybe it’s time to make a call….

Don’t waste another minute of your life.

This is my journey… this is my life.

Rob Cantrell

The problem with life is we think we have more time…

Last night was an amazing night in Hollywood… MJ and I walked to the Hollywood Bowl for the concert of the year. Maroon 5, Sam Smith, The Weeknd, Demi Lovato, Calvin Harris and others played to celebrate the message “We Can Survive”. An important message for everyone living with cancer.

17,000 people danced and sang under a full Southern California moon. The excitement and hope the performers brought to the stage gave every person in the crowd a sense or immortality. It was a night to remember!

On the walk home, we saw it…. Just beyond the yellow police tape that blocked Franklin Avenue and the entrance to our building were the remnants of a BMW and Cadillac, so damaged it was impossible to distinguish the make and models of the cars. I’ve never seen anything like it. Nothing survived the impact…. not the BMW… not the Cadillac nor anyone in them. Twenty minutes earlier, these people were on their feet dancing and singing about “survival”, now they’re gone. They didn’t survive the ride home.

All Night. I wondered if there was anything they left unsaid or undone in their lives… had they said “I’m sorry” or “I appreciate you” or “I love you” to the people in their lives? Was there anything left undone by the people that loved them? Did they wait too long and just never got around to saying what was deep inside their hearts?

Lori Deschene is the creator of a spiritual website and I believe is finding a better meaning in life by living in the moment. She asks the same questions I do and seems to be finding answers in her life by looking within instead of around her. I think she’s right.

Most of us are really good at finding reasons to wait. We wait to call good friends we miss because we assume we’ll have plenty of time. We wait to tell people how we really feel because we hope it will someday feel safer. We wait to forgive the people who’ve hurt us because we believe they should reach out first.

We wait to apologize for the things we’ve done because we feel too stubborn or ashamed to admit fault. If we’re not careful, we can spend our whole lives making excuses, holding off until a better time, only to eventually realize that time never came.

It sounds morbid to acknowledge that our days here limited, and it’s scary to realize that none of us can ever know how many we have. But we can know that in our final moments, it’s unlikely we’ll say, “I wish I waited longer,” or “I wish I stayed angry longer,” or “I wish I played it safe longer.” Most of us will get to the end of our lives and say, “I’m sorry.” “I forgive you.” Or, “I love you.”

Of course, there’s another option: We can say those things right now.

We can appreciate the people we love in action instead of distracting ourselves with everyday worries. We can be brave in expressing our thoughts and feelings instead of over-analyzing and talking ourselves out of it. We can decide for ourselves what truly matters and honor it while we have the chance.

This is our chance to live and love. This moment is our only guaranteed opportunity to be thoughtful, compassionate, understanding, forgiving, and kind to the people we value.

It might be terrifying. It might require humility. It might seem like it’s not a priority. We owe it to ourselves to acknowledge it is, and to do something about it instead of building up reasons to regret.

This morning, I called my parents and thanked them for never giving up on me… I called my kids and told them I loved them and respected their choices in life. I called my friend Anita and thanked her for keeping me alive until I could get help. I called Manny Rodriguez of La Fuente Hollywood Treatment Center and let him know I love him and how his life is an example for anyone in recovery. Lastly, I told MJ how much he means to me.

What have you been meaning to do or say—and what are you waiting for? This is my journey… this is my life!

Rob Cantrell

How do I find purpose in my life?

Last night, I heard a message on life’s purpose from Rabbi Denise Eger at Congregation Kol Ami, West Hollywood’s Reform Synagogue. What I enjoy most about her delivery is she never presents a “how to do it” sermon complete with a “5 easy steps” list of things to do for a better life. She addresses real world issues and believes the audience is smart enough to find the right path. Her method works for me… I’m not an idiot… I just need guidance… point me in the right direction and I’ll get there.

The message I received was to recognize God or a High Power or the Universe has a plan to help each of us on life’s journey… our part of the process is to hear, accept and put it to work. It might not be earth-shattering, but it will bring inner peace. In truth, that’s all I’m looking for today… a satisfied mind!

Some people measure success by the wealth they’ve accumulated, the power they’ve attained, or the status they’ve achieved. Yet, even though they’ve reached success beyond their wildest dreams, they still have an empty feeling — something is missing from their life. Purpose.

In order to fill that void and be completely fulfilled in life, their soul may be searching for something more.

Here are a few scenarios that describe this emptiness:

Lonely at the top. I was obsessed with making it to the top. When I arrived, however, I learned that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I now realize that my continual pursuit of advancement seriously compromised my ability to spend quality time with my family and build meaningful relationships with friends.

Enough is never enough. One of the ways I kept score in life was to compare my toys to my neighbors’ toys.  It felt good for a while, but each “high” just didn’t last. I now know better. I realized that if I’m not careful, the game of life can become an obsession — there will always be people with more and less than I have.

Sold my soul. I would have given anything to be a success. I lied, cheated, and sold my soul to the devil. I understand now that although I’ve obtained fame and fortune, people don’t like or respect me. Knowing what I’ve done, I find it hard to live with myself, and others seem to agree.

All work and no play. I was always the first person in the office and the last one to leave. While my business life has been a roaring success, my personal life has been a disaster. I realize there’s got to be more to life. Balance matters, and I must be the one to make it happen.

Pleased everyone except myself. I never made a move without first seeking the approval of my friends and family. They’re happy, but I’m miserable. I now appreciate that my opinion matters too, and counting on others to make up my mind for me is just a cop-out. After all, it’s my life and I own it.

Lived in the future rather than the present. I spent much of my life thinking about what I was going to do tomorrow. Now that I’m older, I’ve come face-to-face with the reality that my days won’t go on forever; I wish I had learned to savor every special moment as it happened.

If any of these scenarios sound familiar to you, it may be time for a course correction.

Living Life with a Purpose

Although everyone is different, there are common threads that bind a life with purpose.

Live by your beliefs and values. People who live a life of purpose have core beliefs and values that influence their decisions, shape their day-to-day actions, and determine their short- and long-term priorities. They place significant value on being a person of high integrity and in earning the trust and respect of others. The result is that they live with a clear conscience and spend more time listening to their inner voice than being influenced by others.

I was in a 20-year relationship with the most dishonest person I’ve ever known. Hotel rooms and dinners at fine restaurants we’re continuously “comped” over “unacceptable conditions” brought to management. It was wrong on every level, but by allowing it to continue, I compromised my values for something I wasn’t… a thief!

Feel content. People who live a life of purpose have an inner peace. They’re satisfied with what they have and who they are. To them, the grass is greener on their own side of the fence. As the saying goes, “The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.”

Make a difference. People who live a life of purpose make a meaningful difference in someone else’s life. They do things for others without expectation of personal gain, serve as exemplary role models, and gain as much satisfaction witnessing the success of others as witnessing their own. As the old proverb says, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”

I guess what I learned from last night’s sermon is to live in the moment. People who live a life of purpose cherish every moment and seek to live life without regret. They take joy in the experiences that life gives and don’t worry about keeping score. Dr. Seuss may have said it best, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

Dr. Seuss is a pretty smart guy!

This is my Journey…. This is my life.

Rob Cantrell

So, you can’t get sober… Maybe eTherapy and a sober coach might make it easier.

Have you ever thought, “I will never be able to live like a normal person?” … I certainly have and I hated the fact I could not control my use for drugs and alcohol. I hated the traditional methods used in trying to get clean and sober even more! The process is always the same… go to rehab…. detox…. go to meetings… relapse… start all over again. The reality is that there’s a 97% failure rate for anyone trying to fix the problem alone… and not much better success rates once a 30-day rehab is completed.

Why does it happen? Why can some people get it while others fall flat on their faces for another go around of relapse? Maybe the answer is the methods used to get sober don’t work for everyone… maybe it’s time to consider online therapy and life coaching to help you get your life back?

The following is an outline of what eTherapy and Life Coaching offers:

Online Therapy

Online therapy, often referred to as “eTherapy” is a new version of counseling and therapy services that are offered over the internet, through email and even on chat. Potential clients will speak directly to psychology experts in order to seek treatment for varying emotional problems and mental health issues as well as general concerns. Since online therapy can be done confidentially, a person does not have to worry about sharing personal information or identifying information that can harm their life or career.

Conditions Qualified for Online Therapy

Online therapy is not restricted to one area of psychology. In fact, online therapy works similar to an office therapy session – only this time it is done when it is convenient for you. Online therapy covers an array of issues that plague most of us sometimes in life…. these therapies include, but not limited to:

  • Addiction

  • Anger

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

  • Relationship Issues

  • Stress

  • Panic Attacks

The Benefits of Online Therapy

Online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy and it is even more beneficial for patients who:

  • Cannot drive to a therapist’s office

  • Have anxiety or embarrassment about seeking therapy

  • Cannot take time off to visit a therapist

  • Travel a lot

  • Live in a different country

  • Cannot get to a therapist’s office due to a mental or physical reason

  • Are too depressed and under-motivated to leave their home

  • Have small children who they cannot find care for

Common Limitations

Though there are numerous benefits to online therapy, there are a few limitations that are important to note. An online therapist will want to provide you with accurate, reliable online therapy, but you have to be able to operate a computer in order to receive it. Online therapy requires frequent access to a computer, the ability to type and an internet connection. Though an eTherapist keeps your information confidential and secure, using a public computer to use online therapy can severely lower your personal security.

Most importantly, if you are suffering from severe depression or you have thoughts of harming yourself or others please visit the closest emergency room facility to seek emergency treatment.

Life Coaching

Sobriety doesn’t end with rehab. For a person to stay sober, they are signing up for a life of challenges and heavy goals ahead of them. Often when individuals exit therapy or treatment they are left on their own and left to overcome the challenge of sobriety single-handedly. A sober coach can eliminate the need to go at sobriety alone by providing a recovering individual with the steps needed in order to remain sober for the rest of their lives. Throughout each step a sober coach will help an individual overcome those challenges and even get back on track with their lives for a full, healthy recovery.

Why Life Coaching?

When a person gets sober, they are receiving a new chance and a new life. Things will seem newer and life will almost feel as though it just began. Right after getting sober a person has a lot of decisions about what to do with their new life. Though this is exciting, it is also chaotic and can cause anxiety, which may lead to substance abuse yet again. Without the right support pillars in place, a person can fall quickly back into substance abuse. Therefore, having someone who can assist them and even structure their day-to-day lives is important for recovery.

Building up Life Skills

The biggest job for a sobriety coach is helping a person pick up new life skills that they never knew they had. By helping an individual revisit themselves and strengthen themselves from within, they are less likely to return to substance abuse in the future. In fact, most individuals will come out of sobriety coaching feeling empowered, have a higher self-esteem and even motivation to go out and do something with their new life.

Multiple Stage Coaching

Sobriety coaching does not just happen immediately following rehabilitation. Instead, it follows a person throughout the different stages of sobriety to help the individual stay sober. These stages can include:

  • Getting a job

  • Attending meetings

  • Leaving residential treatment care facilities

  • Moving into a new home

  • Recovering from relapse

How Often Should a Person Receive Sobriety Coaching?

Initially, experts recommend seeing a sobriety coach at least three times per week for at least one hour per session. This will allow the individual and the coach to get to know one another and establish a solid ground for goals, weaknesses and sobriety risks. As time goes on a coach will dictate how often a person needs to be seen and coaches are always available for emergency service if need be.

A life sobriety coach can help you on your road to sobriety. Most coaches have faced the challenges of sobriety themselves which makes them the perfect companion for overcoming the hurdles associated with sobriety. By having the support of the right individual, your future of sobriety will be long and rewarding.

If you’ve tried traditional methods and nothing seems to work… why not try eTherapy and life coaching? There is no single path to sobriety … what’s important is that you find a method that works for you. You don’t have to struggle with help as close as your computer…

This is my journey…. This is my life.

Rob Cantrell

Hotels and one night stands are my speed… give me a place I can leave!

“You don’t look like my type, but I guess you’ll do” … Third rate romance, low rent rendezvous…

“Everyone looks good at closing time!” I’m not sure about that… I think the better quote is “last night’s “10” is this morning’s “3””. I’ve never been able to make a relationship last “forever”… considering some of my choices, the Ebola virus would be better than “forever”. I won’t get started on that… the last time I did I was sued and made to pick up dog poop at a homeless dog shelter.

This being said I have to ask myself why am I drawn to hookups and one night stands (yes, someone actually spends the night!) over a committed relationship… so, I went looking for answers. Unfortunately, all I got was similar opinions…  Alexia LaFata is a writer from Boston and she and I should probably meet ‘cause we certainly think alike…

So, what’s the difference in a hookup and a date?

The best analogy I can think of is the difference between an enlisted member of the Navy and a Navy SEAL. As men, we have two very distinct sets of standards. Generally speaking, the “hookup” standard is anywhere from a tick to a massive chasm lower than the “dating” standard. Want my body tonight? If you’re reasonably attractive, not a total bore/annoyance, and interested, you can make it happen. It’s no commitment, so there’s no need to delve too deeply into it. Many, many girls can pass the “hookup” standard.

However, dating means commitment. Dating carries a tremendous opportunity cost for the sexually active single male. You are throwing away an unknown amount of pussy, of unknown quality. It’s like telling a game show contestant not to take the mystery box. Experience tells you that the prize inside is going to disappoint, but it’ll all be worth it that one time when the box has tickets to Hawaii in it. Similarly, your experience tells you that most drunken random sexual partners will range from “mediocre” to “above average,” but the fantasy of going home with the double-jointed gymnast overpowers that.

So if a man can find sexual satisfaction while single, the cost-benefit analysis of a relationship is pretty uneven. In order for the perceived benefits to outweigh the perceived costs, the girl in question needs to be an absolute no-brainer. Meeting the bare-minimum hookup standard isn’t good enough. You’ve got to be a total package. Physical attractiveness, intelligence, sense of humor, core values, etc. Sexual compatibility is huge, too.

Just because you meet the hookup standard doesn’t necessarily mean you meet the dating standard. It’s unfortunate, but true.

The problem is, most women don’t operate this way. The gap between “hookup-worthy” and “couple-worthy” is usually a lot smaller. From my experience, if a girl is willing to sleep with you then she’s at least curious about a possible relationship. If things are going well and you’re seeing each other regularly (even if it is only for sex), she takes this as a sign that you want to see her, and things are progressing. Even though there is a better-than-average chance that it’s just a sign you want to act like naked Velcro for a few minutes.

No one is ever on the same page if “hookups” become a regular part of life…

Why make life harder?

Casual hookups are so draining on your emotional resources. They’re supposed to have no boundaries (because they’re “casual”), but then weird unspoken boundaries pop up that you’re just supposed to know. A whole new social code emerges once you’ve hooked up. And if you don’t know the code, you look stupid.

Let’s say you hooked up with a guy you weren’t particularly into, yet he was very into you. If you see him at a party and he tries to talk or initiate another hookup, what do you do?

Obviously, you can reject his advances, but if you’re a half-decent person, you’ll probably feel bad turning someone down who has feelings for you, even if, to you, the hookup didn’t mean anything.

This could go the other way, too. If, at that same party, you see a guy whom you hooked up with who ended up not being into you, you have to ignore him and act like you’re fine — all to avoid seeming too crazy, too emotional, or any of the other ridiculous stereotypes that plague women.

“Communication, just normal talking, is considered clingy and too intimate, so nothing important is ever discussed,” a friend of mine recently lamented about the aftermath of casual hookups. “You just spend every second over analyzing because no one will ever be able to validate your thoughts.”

It’s true. Was the hookup a one-time thing, or will you hook up again next weekend? What happens if one of you develops feelings for the other? We’re only human, so it’s normal for feelings and the curiosity of “something more” to arise out of sexual activity.

Can nothing happen at all because this is supposed to be “casual”? Who defines whether or not this was casual anyway?

You better not text him to ask about any of this, either, because you can’t communicate outside of a weekend night. If you do, you’re clingy; you’re crazy; you’re breaking the code.

I don’t have the energy to think about any of this. Casual hookups offer no closure in any sense of the word, and nobody ever knows how to behave. Well, just because sex was involved doesn’t mean we have to stop treating each other like regular people.

The act of hooking up itself is so intimate that I’m surprised how frequently we do it with people we don’t fully trust.

We grant people access to ourselves, literally, and we give them free rein to roam our most private, personal parts. Fluids are exchanged. Orifices are filled. In the heat of the moment, secrets are disclosed and real intimacy is cultivated.

I’m not saying that having random sex is wrong, but I am saying that engaging in casual hookups means you must accept the extraneous shit that comes with being at your most vulnerable, for a fleeting evening, with another person who may end up sucking.

I mean, even though you’ve talked and laughed and sweated in sheets together, you don’t really know this person, so how would you know what he or she is actually like? You wouldn’t.

Despite all of this, though, everybody knows somebody who would rather have tons of casual sex than get into a relationship of any kind, ever.

It’s like wanting a relationship or any semblance of exclusivity automatically makes you some kind of uptight Stepford. Relationships are exhausting. Relationships are limiting. Relationships are too much work. Blah, blah, blah.

Honestly, I’d rather have a relationship over a series of awkward, fumbly, how-do-we-proceed-now casual hookups. Relationships are not these exhausting second-day jobs that everyone makes them out to be.

With relationships, you don’t have to worry about any of the stupidity that you worry about with casual hookups.

There’s no worrying about whether or not your feelings are returned, no worrying about whether or not you can communicate your thoughts. Feelings are returned, and you can communicate anything.

Also, the sex is better, 100 percent of the time. That’s the beauty of trust, comfort and openness.

Playing games might seem fun in the moment, but they’ll only leave you feeling sad later. I’d rather be sure that when I text something flirty to the guy I like, he won’t ignore me and leave me feeling oddly embarrassed. I’d rather know that he’ll respond positively, and maybe invite me over to watch a movie and eat pizza.

I’d rather not pretend to take a really long time figuring out what kind of sandwich I want in the dining hall to avoid making eye contact.

I just want to order my sandwich, pay for it and move on with my day without faking my way through a conversation that really just involves me wondering if you like me or if I even like you or if we’re going to hookup again this weekend or if you remember that oddly shaped tattoo on my butt… and if you do, can you please forget about it?

Is this so much to ask?

This is my journey…. This is my life.

Rob Cantrell

Honey… that dog is ugly and stupid!

I want to tell you about Shmuli… because he’s so important to me. When we found each other nothing in life was going right. I was in the throes of the most contested, divorce in modern history… the marriage was a mistake from day one, and got worse for 20 years. Friends had formed alliances, lawyers were living well off our hatred, and my son was bouncing between our house and beach condo in a haphazard shared custody arrangement.

One day, he called from his mother’s house to tell me she’d gotten him a dog. I was enraged but I kept cool. After he told me all about it … I calmly said… “Well…. That’s great! But the greater news is now you have two new puppies! I got you one too!” My son screamed with excitement and wanted details… what kind… what was its name… when could he see it… where did I get it? I told him to just wait until he got home the next day and it would still be a surprise!

My son was thrilled…. I was screwed!

It was 6:00 pm on a Saturday night and I had no dog! I only knew of one pet store at Jacksonville Beach and it would close in 30 minutes! Crap…. This was bad!

Jacksonville, Florida has a straight shot from town to the beach. It is an endless stretch of road called Beach Boulevard. There are hundreds of nameless shopping centers on 14.96 miles of ugly… all look the same… none are memorable except for one. Just before you cross the intercoastal waterway bridge you’ll see a giant dancing red dog on a sidewalk waving a sign promoting a “puppy sale”. It doesn’t matter how hot or cold or dry or wet it is on Beach Boulevard some kid is always dancing in the dog costume. I’ve always wondered how anyone could do it for more than 30 minutes in the Jacksonville heat… but someone always did.

When I arrived, the big red dog was walking across the parking lot with its big red head in a teenager’s hand. Inside the costume was a teen soaking wet with sweat. He didn’t acknowledge me as we walked inside the air conditioned shop. He was a tall black kid forced to perform by his mother, the shop’s owner and tough boss. Something told me he would not be carrying on the family business.

The shop was spotless with young girls changing shredded newspapers from the bottom of cages. Across the “puppy showroom” were Plexiglas cages with multiple puppies jumping and barking … each was perfectly groomed and take home ready.

The owner ran a tight ship and her kids made sure mama was happy… what I’ve failed to mention is mama is a loud woman. The minute I walked in the door… I could hear her snapping orders in a lingo only people in the south understand. This woman had a PhD in it. If she yelled, “Hey! Honey… I ain’t gonna tell you again!” one time …. she yelled it 50! This woman didn’t play….
I had five minutes to buy a dog before that place closed…. This woman was not going to mess with me, so I had to move fast!

In the far corner of the shop, near the dog food was a dog alone in an enclosed cage. It was past that cute puppy stage and had entered the goofy teenage years. Its tongue was hanging out and one eye looked deformed. It was probably the ugliest dog I’d ever seen.

Above the cage was a sign that read “70% off!!!!” Wow… I’ve heard of a mark down but why 70% and why all the exclamation marks?

As I’m studying this dog a voice comes rolling across the store that yelled, “Honey…. You don’t want that dog… he’s ugly and stupid!”

She was exactly right… he was ugly … I mean seriously ugly.
I was shattered by the woman’s words….” He’s ugly and stupid?” Those words cut to my soul! He looked up at me with his tongue hanging out and just stared … he didn’t know he was ugly… or that no one wanted him. He didn’t know people were talking about his imperfections or that he was discounted to the point he was nearly free. He didn’t know he was removed from the other puppies because he wasn’t good enough…. He simply didn’t know.

Dear G-d …. That dog was me!

After a minute, I looked at the woman and said…. “You’re right, he’s ugly and probably stupid…. but honey, so am I! … I’ll take him”. She said, “You’ll regret it… you can’t bring him back!”
No one wanted him and no one wanted me. We were perfect for each other.
The first thing I had to do was name him. What could I possibly name the ugliest dog on earth? The thing instantly loved me…. I thought of “shadow” or “Velcro” or “cling” because he wouldn’t leave my side. I decided to let my son name him because he was my negotiating chip to keep him in my life. That was a disaster.

My son instantly hated the dog! It had raging diarrhea… one eye was closed and yellow puss was pouring out… its tongue was hanging and it was uncontrollably hyper. This was the dog from hell! My son not only wouldn’t name it … he wouldn’t pet it or go near it. I was screwed again!

I named the dog Shmuli after the only calming factor in my life at that time. Shmuli Novack is a rabbi in Jacksonville who changed my life. He focused on the good in people and discounted their frailties. He didn’t have much and he wasn’t looking for much. What he had was inner peace. That was something I couldn’t find… he recognized my self destruction and approached me with love. My drinking was so out of control that one day he said, “Rob, it will make me very sad to deliver your eulogy and I know I’m going to do it very soon”. Soon after that I left for rehab and got my life back.

Shmuli (the dog) is partially blind and dumb as a box of rocks. He doesn’t look any better than the day I got him… he doesn’t do tricks… or entertain me. He doesn’t do a thing notable other than expect me to take him out four times a day to poop and remind me to buy food.

Shmuli loves me. During my drunken days at the beach, Shmuli waited for me. When I was in rehab Shmuli waited for me. Today, if things are going wrong, Shmuli is waiting for me. There is nothing I have done or will ever do that will cause Shmuli not to love me.

Shmuli is ugly and stupid by the world’s standards, but he’s a savior by mine! Shmuli …. You rock!

This is my journey… this is my life!

Rob Cantrell