A Public Apology To Anyone Hurt By An Alcoholic Like Me
If there is one thing, I’ve perfected it would have to be my ability to single handily destroy every holiday memory with my alcoholism and drug addiction. My kids didn’t deserve that or my parents or anyone I ever loved… but to say I’m sorry seems so inadequate… so dismissive of someone else’s life.
John McMahon is a man in recovery who posted his apology to the people he’s harmed as a sort of amends and by doing so, put actions to two meaningless words… “I’m sorry”.
I want to do the same using his wisdom as a guide…. So to my kids, parents, friends, lovers and casual acquaintances.
I’m sorry to those I’ve hurt the most …
… for the things I did, for the hurt I caused, for the love I killed and for the hope I crushed.
It would be easy to say that I didn’t mean to hurt anyone—I didn’t. It would be easy to say that I wasn’t a bad man, or a violent man or a wicked man or so many other things. The problem is that I did all of this stuff when I was drunk or when I needed a drink.
Maybe I wasn’t a violent man, but that didn’t stop me from shouting, threatening and terrifying my family. For that, I am deeply ashamed, and I make no excuses. Maybe I wasn’t an unfaithful man, but that didn’t stop me from choosing drugs and alcohol over anyone or anything else. Again I have to say that I am deeply ashamed.
I’m sorry to those I’ve betrayed, every day…
There are the big betrayals that damage a relationship to its core, but the things that crush the life out of the relationship are the smaller things, the everyday deceptions; the continual lies that destroy any sense of trust — that essential commodity for a successful relationship. Looking back now I lied, often, very often. I considered myself an honest man but I lied to protect my drinking, I lied to avoid arguments, I lied to get out the house to go for a drink, I lied about whether I had been drinking, about how much I had been drinking.
And I lied to protect my lies. I didn’t lie about everything, but I did lie about drinking, and I’m ashamed.
I would promise to be home at a particular time, but I wouldn’t arrive till much later, sometimes days later. I pledged to clean up the house, that I had messed up in my drunkenness, but I found some money in my pocket and went off drinking.
I promised to go to the store and come straight back but didn’t return until the following day. I promised to get home without drinking and staggered in drunk.
And during all these betrayals I would ask my wife, “Don’t you trust me?” Looking back on these incidents now, I find it hard to believe that I was the one who did all these things — but I was, and I did.
I’m sorry to those I burdened financially…
I stole money from our household budget. In my need for alcohol, I used the checkbook as a license to print money. I bounced checks all over town and in many bars to get booze.
In the middle of a bender I had no regard for anyone but myself and how I felt at that moment. The inevitable result was that we were always short of money and ultimately deeply in debt. I wish that I could return to that time and change it all but obviously, I can’t. However, I do offer my unreserved apologies to everyone who was hurt by my drinking and for all that I did during that time.
I’m sorry on behalf of all alcoholics …
… to all the people out there who are being and have been hurt by the behavior of an alcoholic. I am so sorry that we hurt you — no buts, no excuses!
I hope that some part of this helps to heal some of the hurts that we have caused, or contributes to repair some of the trust and love that we have destroyed.
It would be easy for you to dismiss this article as “just words.” After all, who could blame you, you have probably heard all the promises and apologies that I indeed made, plenty of times.
However, it doesn’t just end with words. This is part of me trying to make amends. Another part of my amends is helping alcoholics to change, and they can and do. There is hope.
This is my journey… this is my life.
God… I wish I was beautiful or at least good enough…
I’ve never been “that guy”… the one with the striking face or gorgeous butt or any other physical attribute I feel will make me Hollywood sexy. I have great legs and amazing teeth… but I bought the teeth in Beverly Hills so they might not count. Too often, I glance in a mirror, and nothing good comes from it. I’m too fat… I’m too old… I’m too short… I’m too ethnic… I’m just “too”…
The truth is I’m a blessed man. I’m recovering from a lifetime of drug and alcohol abuse; I have someone who loves me as much as I do him and a couple of dogs that adore us both. My family, especially my parents have never turned their backs on me, even in the darkest of days. I’ve traveled around the world and have more education than nearly everyone I’ve ever known. But with all the things I’ve overcome and accomplished and enjoyed…. I’m still Rob. The guy who never felt good enough or smart enough or validated.
Look… I know all the happy crap that is supposed to make me feel better about me. I’ve read, written, preached and sometimes believed the messages about being “good enough”, but when the room goes dark, and it’s just me at the end of the day… Rob is still the insecure guy he’s always been facing life on life’s terms…
Sometimes, I get stuck in my head and allow my inner critic to tear completely apart my self-esteem until I hate myself too much to do anything except play Joni Mitchell songs and seek the next educational degree that’s gonna fix me. The other day, while I was beating myself up over something I can’t even recall at the moment, I read a comment from someone on Facebook who mentioned my honesty about addiction was helpful to them…. those few words from a stranger helped me more than they will ever know. For a fleeting moment, I felt validated.
Lately, I’ve been trying harder to catch myself when I feel a non-serving, self-depreciating thought coming on… While my self-acceptance journey is on-going, I spend a lot of time attempting to learn from others on how not to be so mean to myself… Madison Sonnier is a writer who seems to look at life clearly, so I want to share what I’ve learned from something she wrote:
The people you compare yourself to compare themselves to other people too.
We all compare ourselves to other people, and I can assure you that the people who seem to have it all do not. When you look at other people through a lens of compassion and understanding rather than judgment and jealousy, you are better able to see them for what they are—human beings. They are beautifully imperfect human beings going through the same universal challenges that we all go through.
Your mind can be a very convincing liar.
I saw a quote once that said, “Don’t believe everything you think.” That quote completely altered the way I react when a painful or discouraging thought goes through my mind. Thoughts are just thoughts, and it’s unhealthy and exhausting to give so much power to the negative ones.
There is more right with you than wrong with you.
Until you stop breathing, there’s more right with you than wrong with you.
As someone who sometimes tends to zoom in on all my perceived flaws, it helps to remember that there are lots of things I like about myself too—like the fact that I’m alive and breathing and able to pave new paths whenever I choose.
You need to love the most when you feel you deserve it the least.
This was a recent epiphany of mine, although I’m sure it’s been said many times before. I find that it is most difficult to accept love and understanding from others when I’m in a state of anger, shame, anxiety, or depression.
You have to accept fully and make peace with the “now” before you can reach and feel satisfied with the “later.”
One thing I’ve learned about making changes and reaching for the next rung on the ladder is that you cannot fully feel satisfied with where you’re going until you can accept, acknowledge, and appreciate where you are. Embrace and make peace with where you are, and your journey toward something new will feel much more peaceful, rewarding, and satisfying.
Focus on progress rather than perfection and on how far you’ve come rather than on how far you have left to go.
One of the biggest causes of self-loathing is the hell-bent need to “get it right.” We strive for perfection and success, and when we fall short, we feel less than and worthless. What we don’t seem to realize is that striving for success and being willing to put ourselves out there is an accomplishment in itself, regardless of how many times we fail. Instead of berating yourself for messing up and stumbling backward, give yourself a pat on the back for trying, making progress, and coming as far as you have.
You can’t hate your way into loving yourself.
Telling yourself what a failure you are won’t make you any more successful. Telling yourself, you’re not living up to your full potential won’t help you reach a higher potential. Telling yourself, you’re worthless and unlovable won’t make you feel any more worthy or lovable. I know it sounds almost annoyingly simple, but the only way to achieve self-love is to love yourself—regardless of who you are and where you stand and even if you know you want to change.
Look, I have five decades of experience in self-loathing and imperfections. It’s time to let things go I can’t change and change what I can… this is me… this is now, and this is all I have to work with today. I’m going to make this work.
This is my journey… this is my life.
This is how I found God …
One day, I sat down and wrote everything I’d learned about God. The list was honest and complete. It started with “God is love” … “God will take me to heaven” … “God hears my prayers” … all of the things I’d been taught to believe. Once I’d written the superfluous checklist… I got honest and wrote what I felt from all those sermons about God.
- God is scary
- God is going to send me to hell
- God is going to punish me
- God expects me to follow a list of rules or pay the consequences
- God thinks I’m unworthy
- God is making a list, and I’ll have to answer for everything I’ve ever done
- God wants complete and total adoration
- God expects me to apologize for everything I’ve done every day until I die and then there is going to be a meeting in his office
- God expects me to believe every word ever written in the Bible because he inspired it
My interpretation of God sounded more like a terrorist than a loving creator. “Do what I say or I’m going to torture you for all eternity” This was a “damned if I do … damned if I don’t” proposition.
For some reason, I grabbed another piece of paper and made a list of what I needed from a creator or higher power or a God… the following is what I came up with…
- I wanted a friend
- I wanted something I could lean on in times of troubles
- I wanted to feel loved
- I wanted a “father-like” figure
- I wanted to live without fear
- I wanted help in this life
- I wanted to feel peace at the time I die
- I wanted to know it’s o.k. to be Rob…..
Then it dawned on me… what I learned about God as a kid was someone else’s list. It was no more inspired by God than my list. That list was someone else’s interpretation of God. It isn’t wrong … it isn’t right… it is simply their list. I wouldn’t go to the grocery store with someone else’s shopping list for my house, why was I trying to retrofit my life with someone else’s beliefs? No wonder I couldn’t find God… I was looking for someone else’s.
Good people are so quick to tell me what’s in this portion of the Bible or the Quran or that section of the Torah, and they use the books to justify their beliefs… I think it is wonderful that holy books are written and inspire people to follow a life path. These texts are guides, just like the GPS in your car. Follow the message spoken and you’ll get where you’re going. The books were written to provide They weren’t created to harm people. help when help is needed. Holy books are guides for living. If the GPS says, “Warning accident ahead,” I can interpret that to mean “ I will be destroyed if I don’t flash my lights to warn others of imminent death and run in another direction… or I can proceed with caution. The choice is mine.
I have found the God of my understanding, and he is not expecting me to do anything other than to be the best “Rob” I can be while I’m here. He (because I think God is a guy) wants me to work on me… not MJ or you or the blonde hoochie woman who lives upstairs. I’ve got a full-time job navigating through life without using what time I have left like an Uber driver picking up converts along the way. My God created the world and me, he doesn’t need me to promote him like Mary Kaye Cosmetics or Amway. I don’t need to tell five people… so they can tell five people… so they can tell five people… he doesn’t need my help.
To be honest with you… God is not preparing a mansion for me on a hill, next to a river on a street paved with gold for my next life… he’s also not issuing pink Cadillacs for those who recruited the largest number of people in this life. I don’t want it, and he knows it. What he is doing is helping me here and now and one day when this life is over… he will reunite me with my grandmother and everyone I’ve ever loved… that is my definition of heaven created by the God of my understanding. Believe in whatever brings peace into your life and if you haven’t found it from the God of your childhood…. Grab a piece of paper and start over.
You are smart enough to think for yourself and figure this one out …. Do it now!
This is my journey… this is my life!
When a child sees domestic violence… he is changed forever!
As a child, I spent the summers with my grandparents; their home was a safe and loving place that I dearly loved. My grandfather “took the cure”, which is a southern expression for someone who stopped drinking alcohol and replaced it with religion, so there was never any liquor in their Chattanooga, Tennessee home.
When I was about 7 years old, I remember awakening one night to a woman screaming and beating on the front door. My grandparents opened the door to a woman covered in blood begging for help. She said her husband had beaten her in a drunken rage and “this time” she knew he was going to kill her. I remember the puddling blood dripping from her face onto my grandparents doorway and the terrorized woman. It was the most horrible thing I’d ever seen. Where was all the blood coming from?
I remember my grandmother telling me to get a towel from the bathroom and her handing it to the woman. I don’t remember my grandparents calling the police, but I do remember a policeman arriving and the woman begging for help. I also remember the very drunk man stumbling and swaying in the yard.
What I remember most is the police officer doing nothing to help that woman. He told her to stop provoking her husband to anger and to apologize to him and my grandparents for disturbing them. He also told her to clean the blood off “the nice lady’s” steps and go home. I remember the woman on her knees crying trying to clean her blood off the painted doorway of my grandmother’s home and I remember my grandmother stopping her.
My most vivid memory was the horror on the woman’s face as her drunk husband pulled her back to their house by the arm, as the policeman and my grandparents watched in disgust. I never saw those people again, yet I have never forgotten that night.
Domestic Violence and Battered Wife Syndrome
The number of incidents of domestic violence is staggering. It is estimated that physical violence occurs in about four to six million relationships each year in the U. S. A full quarter of American women will experience abuse in their lifetimes. Worldwide, at least one-third of women have been beaten, raped, or abused, and the perpetrator is often a member of her own family.
Domestic violence affects families from affluent communities and those from poor ones, the educated and non-educated, varying ethnicities, and those who are heterosexual and homosexual. In short, this is a problem that affects families just like yours. The chances are great that you know someone who has been abused by a spouse, partner, boyfriend, or girlfriend, or that you have known this violence.
One of the reasons why domestic violence is so devastating is that it affects the entire family. When there are children involved, they are also victims. Even when they are not physically harmed, they are damaged by the abuse. This is referred to as “secondary domestic violence,” which is extremely detrimental to children’s development. When one parent is being abused, she/he is typically not able to give her/his children the help and support they need. The children, then, are left to handle the emotions and pain on their own. An abusive parent tends to be much less affectionate, available, and supportive than parents in non-abusive households. Also, studies suggest that parents who are abused are more punitive and aggressive towards their children. Not only do children witness abuse, but they have no one to help them.
There are four characteristics of battered women’s syndrome:
The woman believes she is at fault
She is afraid for her life or those of her children
She does not place blame on the abuser
She believes the abuser is both “omnipresent” and “omniscient”
The American Psychological Association classifies battered women’s syndrome as a subgroup of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Women can recover from situations like this and get out of unsafe relationships. It is vitally important for the health and safety of entire families to get out to a safe place and turn to local services for help in recovery. Be assured that you can recover, you can save your children from a similar fate, and you can go on to live a happy and healthy life.
Healing from Abuse
How do you heal from abuse? How do you put your body, heart, and soul back together? First, you need to be out of the situation that has hurt you. It is not possible to heal when you are still being harmed, whether physically, emotionally, or sexually. For instance, if you are in a relationship in which your partner is abusing you, you will not be able to move on if the conditions remain the same. Nor is it possible for children to recover when they regularly see their father beating their mother or their mother berating their father. Leaving a relationship is difficult; perhaps harder, in many ways, than staying. But it is essential to your well-being.
Likewise, if you are an adult survivor of child abuse, you need to be in the right mental space to confront your past. You need to look at what happened and process it in a healthy way. This does not mean, however, that you need to relive any traumatic incidents; the residue of the trauma can be cleared from you with the help of a practitioner without recalling any trauma. Many times, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and physical ailments get in the way, and you may need to deal with these immediate problems and get help to get them under control before you confront the deeper issues that caused these problems. Once you are in the right frame of mind, then your journey can begin.
If you are currently in an abusive situation, or if you know someone who is, please get help immediately. Your body’s safety is at stake, and your spirit is in danger. You deserve to live a life free of fear and shame. You deserve a life of truth and healing.
I hope that woman survived. I’ll never know.
This is my journey… this is my life.
The Real Reason Your Relationship is Falling Apart
Years ago, I married someone who speaks nine languages, fluently. I, on the other hand, speak “American,” I’m not exactly stupid… I have two master degrees, a PhD. in abnormal psychology underway, I’m writing my third thesis and a couple of people, other than my parents, feel I might have something to say worth hearing. Regardless of my accomplishments, I was no match for this woman. She’s in the top 1% for intelligence on the planet. In reality, I could not compete, nor could I bring anything to the table she didn’t already know… it was like living with “Google”. As long as the sex was great we were great, but eventually, we grew bored with one another and wasted years we’ll never get back.
In the throes of a hot romance, we eloped to the Bahamas and married at sunset on a sandy beach…. Just the two of us. It could have been perfect, but it wasn’t. My mother never cared for the woman, because she saw her as an opportunist, and to be truthful, the woman never liked my mom, so there was no love lost.
When I came home and announced what we’d done, my mother looked me in the eyes and said, “this woman will outgrow you!” Those were the most insulting words ever spoken to me. They were also completely right! She did outgrow me, and I was totally bored with her. It was like a tea leaf prophecy; the future is seen before it’s lived. It was what it was…. nothing would change it.
This is normal, expected and makes complete sense. If you continue to grow, you’ll continue to outgrow things. However, as we get older and especially after we’ve been working for a while, growing stops being the norm. We fall into a routine and so do the same activities over and over again. We watch the same type of shows. See the same group of friends.
Think back to your past year. How much of it was similar to the year before? If everything around you remains constant, it is a clear sign that you’re not growing. And in the words of an American journalist, Gail Sheehy, “If we don’t grow, we aren’t living.”
Now, we all grow in different ways. Just because I outgrew eating out every meal doesn’t mean eating out is a bad thing. It just means that for me and in the direction I’m growing, sitting in 730 restaurants a year just don’t fit anymore. It’s like size 3 shoes, middle school and partying until 6 am. There is nothing wrong with these things; I just outgrew them.
Growth, if you think back to your adolescent years, is not always easy or fun. Unfortunately, this still holds true even in adulthood. When I hear everyone talk about the Oscars or the big game, I feel like I missed out. When I see people partying or dancing in the Hollywood world I call home; I want to jump in. In these moments, I find it helpful to remember my reasons for stopping these activities and the exciting things that have filled its place (like MJ).
One of the hardest things to accept is that if you continue to grow, you will outgrow people close to you… your friends… your family… even your spouse.
The only way for you to authentically stay close to these people is to:
Shrink when you are with them,
Help them grow with you or
Fully accept who they are and understand their influence on you.
By shrinking, I refer to behaving in a way that no longer works for you. . Unfortunately, as you get older, you’ll find fewer people who continue to grow, and you’ll find that you are shrinking more often to fit in. The danger of situationally shrinking is that it will stunt your growth especially if you need to do it often. Find ways to balance this and refuel your energy by seeking out and spending time with people who value growth.
Another way to maintain your relationships while still growing is to help proactively those around you to grow. You can do this at work or home. The drawback is change only happens when the other person wants to change not when you want them to change. If they’re not open to growing, they are entitled to that decision. Don’t let your good intentions fall short and resist becoming a snob.
A third way to stay with the great people you love even if you’re growing at various rates is to accept them fully for who they are while keeping in mind the consequences of growing at different speeds.
When you outgrow someone else, your interests begin to differ and your personal outlook and philosophy on life and views on how to live it starts to change. Since life strategies influence behavior, you may find that you’ll gravitate towards different and sometimes opposing activities. Most of your fringe or weak relationships end here because you and the other person won’t be willing to put in the effort to keep the relationship.
In your stronger relationships, compromise tends to happen. You may shrink, or the other person may grow or both. Typically, if the commitment is one-sided for too long, that could strain and eventually end the relationship. Now if both sides stop to grow, the relationship might stay intact, but other areas in your life might begin to suffer. No one said life would be easy.
Look at your life… have you been growing, shrinking or staying the same? If you’re growing but feeling guilty because you’re leaving things you once treasured behind, don’t feel bad about it. It’s part of living a fulfilled life and a natural consequence of growth. If you’re not growing, what are you going to do about it?
Don’t waste another moment… we’re only dancing here for a short while.
This is my journey… this is my life.
Manny’s message of recovery worked for me!
I am the poster child for substance use disorders. That is the new and improved name for “alcoholic and drug addict” (DSM-5). For years, I’d battled an addiction to prescription drugs and couldn’t find a path to freedom. I was physically dependent on drugs and psychologically addicted to the effects drugs created. It was hell… Addiction is the worst job on earth! You are on call 24/7, never get a day off, there are no vacations… no holidays. Addiction does not care if you are sick or if you have plans… none of these are in your “employment contract.” Ask anyone who’s been there!
An estimated $780,000 was invested in my recovery. I’ve been detoxed, prayed over, rehabbed, saved, baptized, exorcised, new aged and given up on. Finally, something clicked, and I want to share it with you. I’d like to take credit for my recovery, but I’m not that smart of a guy. Fortunately, I met a guy who has it together, and I learned from him. His name is Manny Rodriguez, founder of La Fuente Hollywood Treatment Center.
A recent article I read reminded me of Manny and the key to my recovery. There are only four things needed to regain your life … Manny said it… I believed it and today, I’m clean and sober.
This is my summation of Manny Rodriguez’s message of hope and the Mayo article that supports it.
I hope it helps you ….
The prognosis of substance use disorders is the same for everyone… you will live with it, or you will die from it. There are no exceptions. Think of addiction the same way you see Type II diabetes. You can live a very long life with diabetes, you can be productive, successful, and enjoy everything life has to offer, or you can lose your vision, kidney functions, limbs and eventually lapse into a coma and die. It’s your decision… live with it or die from it. Understanding the disease and how to live with it is the key to a longer life.
The most common approach to recovery is natural recovery. Natural recovery is a recovery that occurs without treatment or support groups (NIAAA, 2012). When people recognize the cost of their addiction exceeds the benefits, and correct this, they become the “heroes” of addiction recovery. We don’t hear about these folks too often… because doing it without help doesn’t always work However, we can learn a great deal from them. Specifically, the four key ingredients in any successful recovery process. These are humility, motivation, sustained effort and the restoration of meaning and purpose.
Four key ingredients to recovery from addiction
At the most basic level, recovery is about humility. Some people independently solve their addiction problem (natural recovery). Others ask for help. In both cases, it is a humbling experience to face the reality of dependency. This humility extends to treatment professionals as well. To quote the famous French surgeon, Ambroise Pare (c. 1510-1590), “I bandaged him, and God healed him.” Treatment professionals can point the way. However, each person’s recovery is ultimately a personal triumph and victory.
Professional treatment for addiction is the path of last resort. Think about it for a moment. At its most basic level, treatment involves asking for help. Ordinarily, we don’t ask for help until faced with the realization we need some! An analogy might make this more sensible. Suppose you want to drive your car to an unfamiliar location. Perhaps you never visited this destination before. Do you immediately drive to a gas station and ask for directions? Or, do you first attempt to navigate there on your own?
Until we realize we are lost, we do not consider pulling over and asking for directions. Of course, different people will arrive at this conclusion more quickly than others. Some people are fiercely independent. The notion of asking for help is akin to admitting defeat. Other people are more prone to pull over and ask for directions at the first hint of trouble. The same is true with recovery from addiction. By the time people come in for treatment, they have usually attempted to recover on their own. They’ve reached their individual tolerance level for “being lost” and decided they could use some “navigational” help.
Treatment is a type of navigational help. Let’s continue with the previous example. When we pull over and ask for directions, we don’t expect someone to jump into our car and drive us to our destination! Sure, we’ve asked for help. Hopefully, we received some helpful directions. Nonetheless, we still have to drive ourselves to the desired location. This is true of addictions recovery. Ultimately, everyone must drive themselves down the road to recovery. Therefore, even with “navigational help,” recovery still involves natural recovery.
But wait, you say. Does natural recovery mean that people addicted to heroin or alcohol stopped on their own? Is there more of these “natural recovery” folks than people who complete addictions treatment? Yes and Yes. Heroin use is a classic example. Many Vietnam veterans were addicted to heroin when they returned home. Public health officials were concerned about this. What if they didn’t seek treatment? Would there be a devastating surge in heroin use? None of these outcomes occurred. Most heroin-using veterans simply quit on their own. How did they do it? The short answer is natural recovery. Of course, not all veterans fully recovered. Some developed other addictions when they gave up heroin. Others only partially gave up heroin.
Smoking is a more familiar example. If you have been around since the 1960s or 1970s, your experience will confirm the following facts. Tens of millions of Americans have quit smoking. Very few of them sought treatment or attended a support group. How many rehabs are you aware of for quitting smoking? If quitting smoking were easy, these results would not surprise us. Most people recognize that quitting smoking is quite difficult. Almost everyone who quits smoking does this without specialized help or treatment. It may take a handful of serious attempts to succeed finally.
A similar result has been found for alcohol. There are individuals who stopped or reduced their alcohol use have done so on their own. Unless you are a student of addictions research, you might not know there are so many of these successful quitters and moderators. Indeed, it would be quite unusual to hear someone say, “I used to have a really bad drinking problem. You might have even called me an alcoholic. But you know, I just cleaned up my act on my own. Now I don’t think about it much anymore.” It’s quite sensible that someone wouldn’t advertise these facts about themselves. Unfortunately, this silence means most people are unaware of the ways people recover from addiction without help.
A second crucial ingredient is motivation. During interviews with others in recovering, a common theme was found. The need to change finally became important enough. In other words, the benefits of change outweighed the costs of remaining addicted. This realization provided sufficient motivation to make needed changes. People who succeeded in natural recovery were able to evaluate the costs and benefits of their addiction accurately. Not all individuals appear to be able to do so. This is where treatment can be very helpful. Treatment can help people take an honest, hard look at their situation. This helps them to evaluate the costs and benefits more accurately. This will then provide the motivation to make needed changes.
- Sustained effort
The third key ingredient to successful recovery is a sustained effort. Whether you recover on your own or with treatment, recovery requires a sustained effort. Sustained effort is needed to persevere through the initial periods of discomfort. This lesson is clear from smokers who quit. People who successfully quit smoking spend a substantial amount of time preparing to change. They experience varying degrees of discomfort getting through the transitional period from smoker to smoke-free. Many people who do not succeed in their first recovery effort under-estimated how much effort it would involve.
- Restore meaning and purpose to life
Finally, it is necessary to restore meaning and purpose to your life. At some point, it will become evident that your world revolved around your addiction. To succeed in recovery, something else must fill that void. At the onset, build your recovery around things that give your life meaning and purpose. This might mean spending more time with your kids. Whatever it is, begin to recognize and enjoy the benefits of your freedom from addiction.
We know these four ingredients are common ingredients of successful recovery. However, we also know there is no single, correct path to recovery. Expect to find your road to recovery. Seek information and input. Then consider carefully what makes the most sense for you. Go ahead, try it. If it doesn’t work, try something different. A common expression is very fitting. “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” Realize that very few people are successful with just one attempt. Assume that there are many different roads to recovery just as there are many different people. Never give up. This is your life… your chance… find what works and hold on for an amazing adventure!
Manny Rodriguez is a very insightful man… he’s taken his message to those still suffering in addiction, and it works!
Thank you, Manny!
This is my journey… this is my life!
Rob Cantrell, MBA, MA, LAADC, ICAADC, PhD Candidate
You’re a pig and totally screwed me over… why did I let you go?
I’ve never done anything in moderation… I don’t understand how it works and don’t care to find out. That goes for everything… do it to the extreme or just stay on the porch. My romances are at the front of the line when it comes to all or nothing moments. Most have started and ended with such intensity they seemed destined for the history books. As bad as the break – up periods were I usually got sucked back into them because I didn’t want to be alone… or I thought I could make it work next time. I was wrong 100% of the time…
Recently, I was listening to Sade and felt the need to get sucked onto memory lane over someone who totally screwed me to the wall and left me to rot ( due to a court order, I am no longer mentioning names!!). But I will mention, Paul Hudson, a writer who seems smarter than me when it comes to realizing good lovin’ gone bad is really just lovin’ gone. Let it go and get on with it. I’m going to sum up what I’ve learned from him… because I’ve had a hard time making love work!
So what is it with romance? The sex is never that great… or it isn’t worth putting up with so much unhappiness to have it! Do we miss the person when they’re gone or what we remember about life with them? Are people capable of missing anything or anyone? Or are we only missing our interpretation and memory of that thing or person? It sounds like the same thing, but it’s not. In essence, we aren’t capable of missing or loving anyone for the exact person he or she is. Instead, we are only capable of loving and appreciating people and things for who or what we understand them to be.
People judge — we all do. It’s the way we were built, and it will never, ever change. By judging, we create a set of beliefs that we have about an individual. As the relationship grows, we tweak.
Sometimes, however, our interpretations of that person are way off the mark — which is one reason people fall out of love. They fall out of love with the person they thought they knew because they’ve grown to understand the person who exists — and it’s not the same person.
People interpret, then recollect and slightly alter their memory of that person before again interpreting that memory of that particular individual. People are fricking complicated. Sometimes the way we remember someone is very similar to the person he or she is — or, at the very least, once was.
But we like to romanticize. We like to focus in on the way someone made us feel rather than the way he or she acted and treated us. By doing so, we focus in on those strong, pleasant emotions and allow them to cloud our entire memory of an individual.
Again, sometimes this memory is right on the mark. Sometimes we have every reason to miss someone. Unfortunately, the opposite is just as likely to be true. Sometimes you don’t miss the person but instead, miss the idea of him or her. This person treated you like shit, but you can only remember the good times.
You miss having someone in your life — it’s completely understandable. People don’t like to be alone. Yes, some of us manage much better than others, but it’s just about always due to necessity. No one chooses to be entirely alone unless he or she has some psychological issues. Sure, we all like to be alone from time to time, but only from time to time. Inevitably, we’ll get lonely and want to have someone in our lives to share our lives. It’s completely natural and nothing at all to be ashamed of.
What you should be ashamed of is allowing yourself to miss people who treated you like garbage. They may have been incredibly nice to you on special occasions, but life isn’t full of special occasions. If it were, then there would cease to be a need for the term. If you’re missing someone who would constantly hurt you because he or she simply did not care, then you need to take a step back, take some time to get reacquainted with your reality.
You cannot allow yourself to be all right with being used and mistreated. You simply can’t allow it. You only miss this person when you feel alone. There’s a very easy way to differentiate between true love and everything else we confuse to be love. People miss someone from their past when they are lonely or sad.
The same people look into their past for someone to lean on when they need someone to lean on but have no one to turn to. That’s not love — that’s you grasping at straws. When life is difficult, we never want to be alone because having someone in our lives would make things easier.
As human beings, we’re always interested in making things easier. This isn’t real love. It’s loneliness stretching our imaginations and allowing us to dwell on memories that are more interpretation and less actual reality. If you seem to only miss someone during the hard times, then try not to be fooled into believing you miss him or her.
On the other hand, if you can miss someone even during your happiest moments, then you have a true reason for missing that individual. If you look at your life and all the happiness you feel, and the first thing that comes to mind is, “If only she (or he) were here to experience this with me…” then there can be no argument; you love this person.
You don’t miss the person you were with; you miss the person you were when you were with him or her. When we reach back into our past and remember past lovers, the experiences we had together, the feelings we felt, the memories we created… we aren’t so much thinking about the person we were with but rather a person we were when we were with him or her.
People are self-absorbed. It’s our nature. It shouldn’t be shunned but should be embraced, better understood and a bit better controlled. We don’t remember the person we once loved because it isn’t possible. We never directly interact with people; we interact with our interpretations of them.
And our interpretations are very malleable. We reach back and make changes to the way we understand people and things, as well as how we feel about them. Regardless of all of this, the fact remains that the things and people we believe matter most are the things and people who affected us in the biggest way.
This is something many people overlook: We remember the way people affected us and not the people themselves. Sure, we remember the things they did that made us feel the way we felt, but in reality, we are honing in on the resulting emotions, not the causal actions.
With that being said, what we are missing isn’t so much the individual as it is the reality that having that individual in our lives allowed for. We miss the way we felt and the people we became when we were with him or her. We miss the people we were because they were better versions of the people we are now.
This may be almost entirely the result of nostalgia, but nevertheless, it is the reality we live in — regardless of whether or not we realize it or accept it. People are capable of loving the same individual forever. We are capable of missing him or her and capable of understanding what we managed to lose or give up on. This is rarely the case.
More often than not, we are exhausting ourselves emotionally on individuals who don’t deserve our attention. Learn the difference, and your life will lead you in a much brighter direction.
This is my journey… this is my life.
After I fail… what will I do?
Fear has never motivated me. I’ve been controlled, consumed and held prisoner by it. When I moved to Hollywood, I had everything in the world to fear. I was a stranger in a strange land with no money, friends, safety net or connections. I had no job, car or any earthly possessions. I was starting over at a time in life when most people are kicking back and coasting with the new sports car and trophy wife/husband/lover. As usual, my timing sucked, but this was my last chance to get it together. I knew when I failed (not if), I didn’t have anything to leave behind in Los Angeles when the plane took off for Florida with me on it. Janis Joplin was right, “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose!”. I had nothing to lose in L.A. and no reason to return to Jacksonville, Florida to pick up the nothing I left there….
Even today, I wake up afraid. I’m afraid of death and loss and not finding acceptance from people I’ve never really liked or wanted to be like… I still fear the unknown. The difference between now and days passed is I’m no longer living in vodka or prescription bottles trying to escape fear. I am going to fail. That is a reality. So, today I spend probably too much time online seeing how other people are facing the dreaded “F” word… and as usual, I found some information that makes sense to me. If I’m able to step back and take me out of the equation for a few seconds, I can normally work through most problems in my life. Recently, I read an article by Tim Brownson that explained fear in a way I understand… this is what I’ve figured out….
If you’re like me, there’s been MANY times you’ve been afraid to do something, or afraid to take chances, because you were afraid you’re going to fail. What would your childhood self say if he/she saw all the opportunities you missed out on, and all the dreams you gave up on because you weren’t willing to take a chance? But what would your childhood self say if he/she could get a look at the choices you’ve made?
Sometimes playing it safe is the easiest choice in life, but in return, you’re forced to live your life knowing you settle for not truly knowing what was out there, not knowing what you could have done with your life, and, most importantly, not having the chance to learn or grow.
We’ve all had times where we’ve given up on dreams, not gone after something, or not taken a chance, all because we were afraid of that dreaded question:
“What if I fail?”
We Aren’t Meant To Fear Failure
But what about when we were children; we dreamed of perfection, we were ambitious, and we only dreamed big dreams about how we could change the world.
As children, we didn’t even once think about the possibility of failure… we just think about helping others, making people happy, and making amazing ourselves with what we accomplish.
Whether it was learning to walk, swim, ride a bike; whatever.
We went after what we wanted relentlessly, only focusing on our goals and objectives, and on turning the outcomes in our mind into a reality.
We did whatever we had to do, no matter how many obstacles got in our way, to get to the finish
And you know what’s even more amazing?
We ALWAYS accomplished our goals without exception.
Failure Never Even Entered Our Minds
As children, and a trait you’ll find in successful adults, you’ll notice that they build an image in their mind, and focus on pursuing it relentlessly without even paying attention to the obstacles, and every time we experienced a “failure”, we just ignored it, and kept on moving in the direction of the star we were shooting at.
We dreamed of settling for nothing less than the best for ourselves; we didn’t even think of the words “no” or “can’t”, and we just kept moving forward
Why We Began To Fear Failure
Like anything else, we were taught to look at the world a certain way as we grew up.
And for most of us, rather than hearing:
“You learned to walk, swim, ride a bike, and achieve every single goal you set for yourself because you kept going in the face of adversity; failure is just a natural part of learning as you try something you’ve never done before and move toward your goals.”
Most of us hear:
“You failed; that’s automatically something negative; you suffered a bad outcome… failure is something you want to avoid at all costs.”
Most of us only fear failure because someone else taught it to us to.
We learn and grow through our challenges naturally, without even looking at them as “challenges”, but rather “steps” to realizing the images we build in our wonderful imaginations, and we just keep going after our dreams until they’re reality… we don’t even see a loss until someone teaches us to when we’re older; we only see achievement and gain.
Failure Is Critical To Winning
One thing you’ll notice if you study ANYONE who’s become successful is that far more failures always preceded their successes.
All the world’s most successful people have one thing in common:
They never stopped dreaming or focusing on a goal the same way they did when learning to walk, swim, or ride a bike.
And the funny thing is, as we get older, that desire to dream bigger, to imagine achieving something incredible, and to do something great for people stays present in all of us, but it gets squashed by all the crap that gets put into our heads about failure being a bad thing, rather than a learning experience.
Learning To Look At Failure The Right Way
Whether it was James Dyson doing 5,126 failed prototypes before he got it right, Thomas Edison with 10,000 failed attempts to invent the light bulb, or Walt Disney going bankrupt twice before he achieved his first success, none of these great achievements would have changed our world had it not been for failure.
Here is the truth about failure:
Failure = learning.
They are the same thing.
If we, as children, are born with all the tools to dream, imagine, and achieve every goal we set for ourselves, and we learn and grow through our challenges, and we amaze the world with what we’re capable of.
We’ve got hidden skills and talents; all of us… but the only way they’re going to be brought out is if we us this natural formula for success we’re all born with.
And the best part is I don’t even have to teach you anything; you already used this formula to walk and talk, so you just need to use it as an adult; it’s that simple!
Speaking from personal experiences, the most meaningful learning experiences in my life came out of failures.
If I hadn’t failed, I’d still be the same, and I’d never have learned or grew.
I would never have been presented with challenges, and I’d never have shown myself and the world what I was truly capable of.
I’d have never gotten that sense of achievement and self-confidence that only comes from knowing I did something I thought was impossible, all because I had the guts and faith to believe in myself, just like you should in yourself.
This is my journey… this is my life.
I’m not perfect…I have made mistakes and I’ve hurt people
I get bored quickly with people who have decided to stop killing themselves with drugs, alcohol, food, cigarettes, online porn, sex or anything else that takes over a life and then suddenly become experts on everything…
The minute someone gives me a list of “10 things that will change my life” …. I’m gone! These people don’t have the answers to anything… they have opinions. Too often, they want to show me how to be like the “new them”! Chances are I didn’t like the old them, and I don’t want to know how to be like them now…
I am a recovering alcoholic/addict… I have figured very few things out other than if I want to live I have to stay away from drugs and alcohol. That did not require a list. That required change.
I have made every mistake on earth and haven’t learned a lot from most of them other than my choices in life have beaten the crap out of me on more than one occasion.
Recently, I read an article on mistakes that hit home and didn’t require me to do too much other than trace them … face them and erase them. I can do that! Here’s my take on what I read about mistakes… maybe it will help you if you’re dealing with too much baggage….
You might have been conditioned during childhood to hide your mistakes so that nobody else could criticize, judge or embarrass you for making it. On the surface, this might make you feel a little better. However, below the surface the mistake you made will eat you up with guilt. More often than not, when you make a mistake, psychologically the best thing for you to do is to admit that you made the mistake and took full responsibility for resolving things. Not only will this gain you the respect of your peers, but it will also give you peace of mind.
You made a mistake, and now you are responsible for fixing things and learning from your experience so that you can do better next time. This is how things should be. However, often people won’t admit their mistakes, and they certainly won’t learn from their experience. And as a result, they keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again until critical lessons are finally learned.
Being at peace with your mistakes means that you are comfortable with your mistake and ready to learn what you can from your experience. However, to reach this place in your life, you must take to heart a few things.
First of all remember that the path to your goals is naturally riddled with mistakes; with errors of judgment; with unforeseen circumstances, and with miscalculated decisions. This is just a natural part of life. We’re not perfect, and that’s a fact. Nobody is perfect and everybody will make mistakes. They are what makes life interesting and fun. In fact, the bigger mistakes you end up making, the bigger the lessons you will learn, and the more you will grow as a result, which will provide you with a greater array of life experience and wisdom.
It is, however, important to remember that you are not your mistakes. Mistakes are what you do, and not who you are. You must not get this mixed up.
Secondly, when you make a mistake, it’s important to realize that you are in fact making progress. Mistakes are not a step back, but rather a side-step that will help you to see the path ahead with greater clarity as you keep moving forward. They are there to help you and to help balance you along your journey towards your desired outcomes.
Success is a result of ongoing failure and mistakes. Nobody has achieved anything worthwhile in this world without failing greatly and making a ridiculous amount of mistakes along the way. Your journey will be no different. Therefore, be at peace with that, and accept that mistakes are simply a natural part of life.
Shift Your Perspective About Mistakes
Stop viewing mistakes as something that’s negative and hurtful. Instead, begin viewing mistakes as opportunities to reevaluate the path you are taking towards your goals.
Is it possible that a mistake could help you find a short-cut that you previously overlooked? Or maybe it’s possible it might allow you to learn an important skill that will be vital for your future as you make progress along your journey. In fact, if anything, mistakes are a perfect opportunity to grow stronger and more resilient.
Resilience is something that will help you to keep pushing forward despite the obstacles and setbacks in your way. And the more mistakes you make, the more resilient you will become, as long as you proactively learn from these mistakes and adapt your approach accordingly.
Mistakes are also opportunities to correct your behavior. Maybe what you’re doing isn’t going to work out long-term. Therefore, the mistake you made today might very well alert you to this problem. Correct it, and you will be in a much more advantageous position in the future.
Mistakes present opportunities to analyze your decisions. Sometimes the decision you make might be out of line with the goals you want to achieve. A mistake will alert you to the fact that you are on the wrong path. Therefore, use it to redirect yourself back onto the right path.
When you make mistakes, they do two things well. For starters, they should indicate to you that you are in fact challenging yourself. Whenever you challenge yourself, this means that you’re growing and learning something new. Mistakes also indicate that there is room for improvement. And this is a very positive sign. If there was no room for growth or improvement, then what’s the point of doing anything at all. We would be where we want to be, and life would be stagnant. Hope for improvement provides us with something to work towards — something to strive for that will reward us for our efforts.
Finally, you must come to understand that mistakes are simply a part of the learning process — they are forms of practice and training that we do on a daily basis in preparation for the attainment of our big objective.
Like a boxer who trains every day for a big fight, you are also training every day to achieve that big goal. And like a boxer you will get hit and fall. In fact, you may even slip numerous times and fall flat on your face.
Yes, you made a mistake, but you also got up and kept moving forward. Your eyes are on the big goal, and not on the mistake; you made at the moment. Yes, of course, embrace the mistake and learn from it, but don’t let it discourage you from the big picture you are working towards.
Be Careful While Making Mistakes
When you make a mistake, it’s important that you don’t fall into the trap of trying to justify your mistake. Mistakes must be embraced not justified or rationalized. Unless you take ownership of your mistakes, you will never truly learn the lessons you must master to move forward in this area of your life.
It’s also dangerous to ignore any mistakes you make. Your mistakes are like signposts that help angle you in the right direction. By ignoring these sign-posts, you are risking getting side-tracked. And the longer it takes you to realize this, the more effort it will eventually take to get yourself back on the right track in the future.
On the surface mistakes don’t feel good. As a kid you were probably taught that mistakes were bad, however as an adult you must never indulge in self-pity or by feeling regretful that you made a mistake. This kind of behavior is never helpful and will only hurt your growth and development in the long-term.
When you make a mistake, it’s critical that you refrain from blaming others and even blaming yourself for the mistake. Just take responsibility for it, do something about it, learn from it, and move on.
Finally, realize that you are wasting your time when you begin complaining about your mistake or making excuses for it. This defensive-minded behavior is natural for most people. However, it cannot be natural for you. Quit complaining or making excuses. Instead, gain feedback about the mistake and make your observations that will help you to learn from this experience to improve your decisions and actions in the future.
This is my journey… this is my life.
I’m alone tonight… but I’m far from lonely
The noise outside my Hollywood apartment tonight is maddening…. For hours police helicopters have circled this high-rise with spotlights shining, every dog in the neighborhood is barking and I can hear neighbors cursing from balconies as if yelling at animals 12 floors below is going to change anything…
This is no different from any other night with the exception I just can’t block it out. I used to hate 2:00 a.m. because I was so lonely. I’d look out from my Florida condo at the TV blue windows of other sad souls awake in the middle of the night and want to reach out to them. That was a miserable period in my life, I cursed the moon for taunting me and the sun for bringing another day. I don’t live that way anymore, because I’ve experienced a new way to live, and for once I know the difference between being alone and being lonely.
The stereotypes that often come with leading a single life are generally categorized into one group: loneliness. It is so often assumed that those who have not yet found that special person who makes the world a little brighter are experience those god-awful waves of loneliness. In reality, there is a magnificent difference between being lonely and being alone. Being lonely is that kind of aching that resonates in your chest. That dull, constant feeling that follows you around all day long. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing or whom you’re with, it’s impossible to shake that feeling. Typically, these feelings are most prominent after recently losing that person who made your world a little brighter.
Being lonely comes with so many side effects: memories, insomnia, and confusion. Loneliness encapsulates the best parts of your life and forces you to notice their profound absence. Loneliness makes you wonder why—why you? Why can’t you catch a break, why haven’t you had a simple stroke of luck? Loneliness is that prominent, gaping hole in your life that just can’t seem to be filled regardless of what you do. Loneliness is the 3am thoughts that haunt your dreams. Loneliness is that song on the radio that you have to turn off the second it comes on.
But being alone is a different situation completely. Being alone is a state of being; loneliness is a state of mind. When you’re alone you’re forced to realize all the things you don’t have, sure, but you’re also forced to realize all the things about yourself that you couldn’t when you spent your days memorizing someone else. Being alone is taking the time to really think about what you want from someone the next time around, because you are going to do everything in your power that you never suffer from that lonely disease again. Being alone is sitting under a tree for an afternoon and reading a book, and enjoying every single minute of it. Being alone is doing things by yourself, but also doing them for yourself.
Of course, there are those times when being alone crosses paths with being lonely. It’s those times that you’re shopping for a new dress by yourself and you can’t help but notice that couple on the corner of the street. Their happiness radiates, and you remember the days when that used to be you. For a brief moment that dull feeling aches in your chest, but it doesn’t stay. Being alone can be the most empowering experience of your life. If you let the loneliness consume you, you’re going to lose that rare chance to figure yourself out. You can always find company in yourself. Loneliness is going to try to force you to find that company with another person. Everyone has a place in the world, though, and yours shouldn’t be inside someone else. Being alone is an art; embrace it. Now, if the helicopters, dogs and neighbors would shut up… I could go to sleep!
This is my journey… this is my life!
Am I an alcoholic or do I have an alcohol use disorder?
So am I an alcoholic or do I have an alcohol use disorder?
If you think you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, there are a few questions you can answer and find out what medical experts know regarding substance use disorder, formally known as alcoholism and drug addiction.
New research has found that alcohol use disorder (AUD) is an often untreated epidemic in the United States. Do you have an alcohol use disorder? There are 11 symptoms you should understand.
Globally, alcohol use disorder is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders and leading causes of sickness and death. In the United States, alcohol use disorders and binge drinking have increased in recent years. Unfortunately, only 19.8 percent of adults with a lifetime alcohol use disorder ever seek treatment or ask for help.
The skyrocketing increase in alcohol consumption by American women is considered to be the driving force behind the nationwide escalation of binge drinking. Across the nation, binge drinking among women increased more than seven times the rate among men.
So how is alcohol use disorder diagnosed?
There is a book used in the medical community called the “DSM-5”, (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition) for diagnosing alcohol use disorder. Read the following symptoms and note any you have experienced over the past 12 months. You might be surprised what you learn.
The Eleven Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder
Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.
Craving or a strong desire or urge to use alcohol.
Recurrent alcohol use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol.
Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use.
Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by alcohol.
Tolerance, as defined by either of the following: a) A need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect b) A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol.
Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following: a) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol or b) Alcohol is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
The presence of at least 2 of these symptoms indicates an alcohol use disorder (AUD). The severity of an AUD is graded mild, moderate, or severe:
Mild: The presence of 2 to 3 symptoms.
Moderate: The presence of 4 to 5 symptoms.
Severe: The presence of 6 or more symptoms.
Conclusion: If You Meet 2 of the 11 Criteria for AUD, Reach Out and Ask for Help
Alcohol abuse has the potential to destroy people’s lives. Hopefully, raising awareness of the eleven symptoms for diagnosing alcohol use disorders will lead more individuals to seek help if they have two or more of the eleven symptoms listed above. Please remember alcohol and substance use disorders are not a sin or a nasty habit or a moral issue… substance use disorder is a disease. Help is as close as your computer… www.recovery.org is the perfect place to start… it’s free and filled with useful information.
This is my journey… this is my life.
What does it mean to hit “rock bottom” with drugs and alcohol?
Tonight, MJ & I went to the 58th Annual Grammy Awards, actually we went to the front of the line with other people trying to get a ticket for the show or, at least, see a celebrity. The glamour and glitz of living in Tinsel Town can’t be described in a few short paragraphs… it’s like no other city in the world. Even for those on the outside looking in, there is no place I’d rather be. Everything about the night and our lives for that matter reflect the choices we’ve made together. Our worlds could not be more different, but together life is an incredible adventure, a type many people only see on TV.
After dinner downtown, we took the subway back to our Hollywood apartment and saw the other side of life. For 20 minutes a man screamed on the subway train about someone he loved, people moved, and people gasped and people fidgeted with iPhones to look occupied and unconcerned. They succeeded.
As we approached our street just off Hollywood Boulevard, we watched a man light a meth pipe. Within seconds, the man flew into a violent rage and violently beat storefront windows until he collapsed on the sidewalk. Exhausted and psychotic, the man once again began smoking the pipe slumped against the wall next to a famous person’s star. No one stopped or attempted to help him because there was nothing we could do. He was violent, psychotic and under the influence of crystal meth. The police and paramedics in Hollywood have no interest in a drug-addled crazy man on the boulevard… there are hundreds of them. What makes him special? Take a number …. no one cares!
The reality of addiction is only a small percentage of addicts will end up homeless and psychotic like the man I’ve mentioned. Most have jobs, families, friends and may even live in your home. To tell someone abusing drugs and alcohol that they will end up in the gutter or worse in the gutter under some guy selling themselves for drugs is useless. No one wants to listen, and they won’t believe it if you tell them. Let it go… that isn’t your job to preach to them. Realize they are battling a disease, not a nasty habit. Their lives are just as shattered and empty as the man beating storefront windows in Hollywood.
Imagine addiction, be it drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling or smoking as an elevator in a tall building. You can get off on any floor you wish. There is no reason to take it to the basement, even the basement at Macy’s is full of stuff no one wants… so why go there?
Chances are you’ve heard of the phrase “rock bottom” a time or two in life. Maybe you’ve had a friend who hit rock bottom, or you’ve been there yourself. To hit rock bottom means that someone has ended up in a very sad place in life; perhaps the lowest point that person could go. When it comes to alcoholism or drug addiction, rock bottom could be a near-death experience, legal trouble, or the loss of a partner or children. It could also mean experiencing a mental or emotional breakdown. Either way, rock bottom is a terrible place to be.
One good thing about hitting rock bottom is that it frequently serves as a huge wake-up call to get some professional help. I remember a couple of “rock bottoms” in my life where I finally admitted I could not live without drugs and alcohol, and that I needed some serious help. Good news is that I did finally reach out for help and began a journey of healing and recovery from several things. It had taken many, many tries before I was able to get off the addiction elevator but I finally walked out and thank God… haven’t looked back in 3 years. It was nothing I did on my own… I sought help… I listened and I accepted a life that is working for me.
If you feel as if you are at rock bottom, or close, seriously consider reaching out for help. You can do so in a variety of ways, including calling around to get yourself into some counseling, attending a 12 Step recovery group, getting into a rehab, and more. There are some online support forums… just google “addiction help” and you’ll find several which are fantastic for learning and engaging with others, but you may also need some face to face help. Keep that in mind.
Being at such a low spot in life’s hard. You may feel hopeless, useless, and think that you’re just a failure with no future. I assure you these feelings are temporary, as you can begin a journey to get through your current situation and feel better down the road. I will tell you it will require you to do some things differently, and it will require effort on your part, but the result will be so worth it! Take it from someone who has been there.
Your rock bottom is simply the beginning of a new and beautiful life that you can create one day at a time.
This is my journey… this is my life.
This is why I love my dad…
I hate funerals… not because of the passing of a person from this life to the next, that’s simply part of the package deal when you’re born. There has to be an exit strategy, or we’d all be stuck carrying on the same conversations at the same miserable jobs with people we honestly would never associate with outside of work.
What I hate most about funerals is people pour their hearts out about how much someone meant to them or provided for them or changed their life. Seems a little late when the host of honor has left the building. They didn’t hear it, and no one in the audience wants to hear it… say what you need to say while the person is around to hear the message.
Here’s my message to my dad…
My dad is the kind of guy that has gone through life unnoticed. I’ve never heard anyone say a bad thing about him… anyone. I’ve never seen him smoke or drink or act inappropriately. Wait… I take that back; I remember as a kid, a guy at a Volkswagon dealership overcharged him for a repair and when my dad complained the man made some smart ass remark and dad punched him in the face… bam! Right in the face… at Tom Bush Volkswagen in front of God and everyone! At 6 years old … that was cool!
My dad comes from a long line of nice people. They work hard… they stay on the same job for 30 years… they buy homes, have children, vote, and enjoy quiet lives. These are the types of people that don’t look for problems, so problems don’t look for them. It’s a real life with good results for those who finish the race. For those people, nice things are told about them at their funerals.
My dad was a high school dropout who lied about his age and entered the army as a teenager. At 21, he was out of the military and back in high school getting his diploma. Upon graduation, his father offered to buy him a gas station or help him through college. My dad knew life would be better with an education, so with a wife and two kids, he entered MTSU and started building a life… that’s when I came into the picture.
My dad always provided for his family. He never made a lot of money, in America, school teachers are financially punished for educating the next generation of success stories. I won’t get started on the disparities in fair and just wages, especially when it comes to teachers other than to say it sucks!
Dad always worked two jobs; he taught high school during the day and the GED program for adults at the community college at night. Every summer he would leave Florida to work on his master’s degree at Western Carolina. That took years to finish, but he did.
In my lifetime, my dad has been a teacher, a janitor, a pest control man, a security guard at a grocery store, a Gideon, a sports announcer, a Sunday school teacher and a decent guy.
Each morning, he would get up early make breakfast for me, kiss me on the forehead and tell me I was his “little buddy.” He washed every item of clothing I ever owned, hung it on hangers or put it away. On Tuesday nights, he would bring me a donut he picked up at a little place on 103rd Street on the way to teach night school. In a world of uncertainties and variables, he was my constant.
In high school, we were always together. He was a history teacher and football announcer. He was at the dances, fundraisers, swim meets ( yes, I was a swimmer), senior prom, senior trip, field trips… he was always there. It was during my teenage years I realized people genuinely liked him. I understood why… he was a decent man.
For years, I was no one’s idea of a dream son. I have crashed and self-destructed so often and so severely there is no reason I’m still alive. During those days, the stability that I grew up with remained with me and waited for my return to life. My dad calmly and patiently stood near and picked me up, brushed me off and waited to see if I would make it. Finally, it happened. I got clean and sober, and he was there.
I owe him an enormous amount of love and respect because he deserves it.
Thank you, Dad!
I love you,
Your Little Buddy…
It’s Valentines Day…. love yourself!
I love the feeling of being in love or falling in love or thinking about love. I’m normally not happy when the “love buzz” ends and I’m stuck with yet another mistake or as Madonna calls it a “substitute for love.” My first Valentine’s Day in L.A. was spent with a friend at some swanky little bistro that held about 20 people. It was cramped and overpriced with candles and that stupid red glittery confetti people put on tables at parties. I hate that stuff… it’s like “oh, look! There’s festive shit slung everywhere… this is going to be a great night!”
What I remember about that night is paying too much for a “lovers meal” created by Chef Blah-Blah and looking at all of the Malibu Barbie & Ken looking couples wearing too much cologne and laughing too much and too loudly. No one in the room seemed at ease in the environment… and I was feeding off their anxiety. I’d given up on love so long before that meal that someone should have picked up my tap as an act of loser charity.
My friend is one of those guys who is lucky in life… he’s a wealthy doctor, drives a BMW, owns a loft in downtown LA with an amazing view and looks like an underwear model. We both have enjoyed pampered lives… he worked on his and I got lucky and fell out of the right woman at birth. It doesn’t matter how you get to a place as long as you get there …
My friend was freshly out of a relationship and about to dive back into it with the same person. That never works for me… I tend to throw a match on things and watch them burn. No one has ever asked me back for a repeat performance. What does that say about them? Hmm?
On the subway home that night I wondered what other “single” horny people could do on Valentine’s Day alone…. This is what I came up with….
Valentine’s Day is usually a day to spend an exorbitant amount of money on gifts that typically cost half the price the other 364 days of the year: flowers, candy and even dinner prices get tripled because of all the suckers going all out on every Valentine’s Day purchase. Since you don’t have to worry about spending half your mortgage on gifts that don’t make it to the end of the week, take half of that money and spend it on yourself. Buy that guy gear you’ve been eyeing since before Christmas, splurge on a new wardrobe or just drop it all on a guilty pleasure like a massage. Be your own Valentine. Do whatever the hell you want. Declare it a “Me Day” and go out and have fun. No one will even notice. They are all too busy crying and whining because they are not in — or sometimes because they are in — a relationship.
Have A Party
You were invited to a couple of parties but respectfully declined because all the festivities would include couples. Why not go for a little while anyway? Drink and eat on another guy’s dime and still leave with time to go out and hit a couple of bars after the party hits the wall. You never know — a few single women could also be in attendance, upping your chances of getting a little box of chocolates of your own on V-Day (yes, that was supposed to sound perverted). You could also hit a bar, go to a show or anywhere else where other single people are hanging out.
Do nothing at all. Being single on Valentine’s Day is the one time you’re allowed a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card to spending money on sports tickets or a headbanger band in a crappy part of town and extracurricular activities your imaginary girlfriend would probably disapprove of. Just stay home, veg out on the couch, fart, and be glad you’re not dropping a couple of bills on overcooked steak and watered-down drinks. You can go out next weekend and rub all the money you saved in your hitched friends’ faces.
Tear it up with your buds
Men always have at least one or two single friends. It’s just the law. They’ll be spending Valentine’s Day alone as well. Spend the night with the other guys who don’t have a significant other. Don’t settle for the typical night; make it a colossal night. Go for dinner, drinks, to a bar or even for just a night of gambling at someone’s house. Blow off some steam and forget all about the love-and-hearts crap. You also don’t have to worry about any of the holiday talk creeping into the conversation unless it’s: “Man, am I glad I don’t have to waste time on that Valentine’s junk.”
Do the usual
It’s Valentine’s Day. Alone. Big. Farking. Deal. Just because it’s a day that everyone else is celebrating doesn’t mean you’ve got to observe and celebrate. Just pretend it’s an average day: go to work, go to lunch, go for after-work drinks, flip on a Netflix movie and do all the things you’d do on a normal, boring day. It only lasts 24 hours, and you spend the majority of that time in bed or at work. It will all be over soon.
There’re lots more you can do if you’re going to spend Valentine’s Day alone…
This is my journey… this is my life!
Kooli … the peeing pug
When I got to Hollywood, I had nothing. I also didn’t have any problem finding an apartment because a guy with a pug is almost considered a safe bet. Neither of us looked like we were going to bring the bar home at closing time. However, I have done that in the past!
Things were looking up for me. New place… new life… a new chance to start over. Things were not that rosy for Shmuli, the pug. Realizing he needed a friend as much as I did, I went to the only source I knew to solve his problem…. Craigslist! Did I mention I’m always broke, so Craigslist is like Macy’s for me.
One day, I found the solution… An ad for a 6-month-old pug about 30 miles from my apartment. The terms were perfect, bring $300.00 in cash and leave with the dog. There were no papers, no certifications, no food or bowl or collar or name… just come and get it!
What is it about pugs? People put them on the “reduced for quick sale” table and hope someone will take the things. At least, that’s what I’ve experienced.
MJ & I drove for what seemed an eternity in Los Angeles traffic to buy Shmuli a new friend… so if he turned out to be the Tasmanian devil and it utterly despised me… I didn’t care… I was buying that dog.
Dude.. I was not prepared for my future!
The GPS sent us to a forgettable neighborhood on an ugly street and an even uglier house. It was one of those 1940s one story places with a crappy chain link fence and a gate with a huge aluminum “G” on it… I suppose the “G” family lived there in the past.
Everything about the place sucked. As I got to the gate, an Asian woman met me at her “G” spot and asked for the money then said she’d be right back. There was no meet and greet… this was a “no return” dog, and she wasn’t interested in conversation. This felt like the old days when you had to go to the shitty neighborhood to buy weed from a guy who kept it under his couch… I was having flashbacks.
In a few minutes, the woman returned with the cutest dog I’d ever seen. My dog Shmuli is cute because he’s so ugly… this dog was cute because he was cute. The woman explained it was left in the yard by a previous tenant who was deported back to China. It was never allowed in the house and would run away if given an opportunity. She didn’t like dogs and especially this one because it would not heed to her commands. The look in her eye told me she felt sorry for me… the look in Shmuli’s eye (he only has one) was excitement.
On the sidewalk, in front of the ugly house, Shmuli had made a friend. I’d never seen my pug actually excited about anything. This was a monumental moment and I didn’t care how untrained the dog was … I wasn’t going to break Shmuli’s heart!
Realizing this beast had no name I had to come up with something cool… Shmuli is named after my cool Rabbi in Jacksonville, Florida… Rabbi Shmuli Novack, a guy of great importance in my life. I thought it only fitting to name the new dog, “Kooli”… it rhymed with Shmuli, and I thought both he and the Rabbi were cool. I have a hard time thinkng too far out of the box!
This is where all the cuteness ends… I’d just purchased the Anti-Christ and moved it into my apartment.
First, Kooli is not a puppy… he is a midget! He’s like Verne Troyer, the actor who played Mini-Me… you have no idea how old he is and it doesn’t matter because you just can’t help wanting to pick him up and hold him.
I’ve learned that a dog will pee on things to mark its territory or find its way home or leave a message for other dogs that they are new in town and love long walks on the beach and have no sexually transmitted diseases… so “let’s meet and see where it goes”. Pee is like Facebook or Match.com for dogs… it’s the polite thing to do. Poop, on the other hand, is just rude. Poop is poop, and that’s all I’ve got to say about that.
When we got Kooli home he peed on everything in the place……….. everything! There was nothing I could do to stop the dog from raising a leg and baptizing everything on the 8th floor of our apartment. I tried a trainer, books, YouTube videos, crate training, Pavlovian therapy, diapers, pull-up pug pee pants, pads, shock collar, scheduled outdoor pee breaks to the same spot and a vet. Nothing and I mean nothing was going to fix this dog. Yelling didn’t help, and praising didn’t help anything.
What made the situation worse is it only peed on my stuff. I’m not exaggerating … ONLY my stuff! If I got up from the sofa, it peed on my cushion, if I got out of bed, it peed on my pillow, if I ate in front of the table, it peed on the coffee table. One day I was walking into my home office, and the dog was in my chair attempting to pee on my computer keyboard. How much pee can a pug possibly hold… the thing is like a camel!
Kooli never lets me out of his sight. I’m convinced he thinks I’m going to steal something. The dog not only keeps me under 24-hour surveillance, but he also has to touch me. No matter where I am some part of his body must be touching mine. It’s creepy and drives me nuts.
I finally took Kooli to a Hollywood Pet Nephrologist (kidney doctor) to see if he could help and learned a few things. There was nothing physically wrong with Kooli other than the fact he’s deaf. His lack of hearing explained why he never seemed offended by the profanity I spewed at him. It also explained why he always felt a need to touch me. Touching was his way of sensing my reactions. It was his Helen Keller moment. I also learned Kooli has no sense of smell.
The doctor broke an ammonia ampule in front of him; the kind used when people faint and got no response. I’m sure if he could smell he’d appreciate the hell he’s created around him…
Kooli doesn’t hate me. Kooli has made some bizarre bond with me and is sending out his message that we’re some team. He’s never quite sure what is going on around him, but he wants me to know that he’s there, and he plans on staying no matter what life throws at us. I get it now… I still hate it, but I get it.
I am a damaged person; I know there are many others out there reading this. We seem always to find one another and are drawn to each others experiences, seeking understanding and hope. We get each other, and the joys and travails of our lives, a secret, unacknowledged world. We have secret codes, winks, and shrugs. They all say the same thing: I know. I met one at the gym the other day, he smiled at me and shook his head. I knew.
Kooli is a damaged soul traveling in a world he doesn’t understand… but for some reason, he identifies with me. He knows when I’m upset or happy or lonely. Kooli is Kooli… nothing more and nothing less. There’s a certain comfort in imperfections… they don’t always smell like a bed of roses… but eventually, you realize nothing that’s going to last forever does.
I better buy some Febreze at the store today.
This is my journey… This is my life.
You’re never gonna love me … are you?
I was at dinner tonight listening to an attractive woman tell me about her birthday. It was a week of celebration with friends and family and some guy she chose to call her boyfriend. They’d been dating for nearly a year, and the relationship was going nowhere. She clearly wanted something she would never find with that man and hadn’t suffered enough yet to walk away…
What is it about the unobtainable that makes us want it so badly?
There are certain people to whom you’re attracted who are just plain toxic, regardless of whether you’re dating or just hooking up.
There’s an insatiable irresistibility about these people, in the way that they are close enough to you just to be out of reach.
It’s like you are constantly grasping for the threads of hope they dangle in front of you, whether intentional or not, but you somehow still find your fingers slipping into thin air.
You fall flat on your face, and it’s not the first time you’ve done it, nor the last.
You love seeing this person’s name light up on your phone. You would do anything to see him or her genuine smile. You crave the way he or she looks at you when you’re alone together.
But, you’re looking into his or her eyes, and you’re not quite getting the reflection you want.
There’s a disconnect, a sense of distance that tells you he or she isn’t quite present with you and never will be, despite how badly you want him or her to be.
He or she can say you’re beautiful, and you want to believe it because the words reach a part of you that makes you ache with both pleasure and pain.
A part of you seeks the pain this person gives you. It’s a twisted cycle of going back and forth to this person, and you can’t stop yourself from returning because of all the possibilities you convince yourself await.
“Maybe, this time, will be different,” you tell yourself with willful naiveté. You know better, but you turn a blind eye, anyway.
The issue in being the one who always gets hurt is rationality takes the backseat in driving your decisions. You know perfectly well what is happening, what the consequences will be and why it’s not good for you.
I love the words James Taylor wrote about this very topic
“Do me wrong, do me right
Tell me lies, but hold me tight
Save your good-byes for the morning light
But don’t let me be lonely tonight…”
You’re well aware there’s a difference between someone who treats you like a priority and someone who treats you as an option.
Usually, rationality does eventually win, but often, it takes a while to get there. Your emotions trump the bald truth screaming in your face because you give in too easily to your desire to wrap your arms around his or her neck again.
I suppose this can be perceived as weak and emotionally immature, and to an extent, it is.
We’re told never to settle for less than we deserve. So, why do we do it? Does giving in to temptation and giving up some of our power to someone who doesn’t regard us as high as we deserve to make us lesser?
Perhaps, it just makes us all the more human to be foolish, hopeful, vulnerable and stubborn, all at once.
We purposely won’t listen to our friends’ advice, acutely aware of the damages that will arrive after that long-anticipated, most likely drunken, kiss. All we want is for them to want us, too.
Getting hurt is one of the most intimate experiences you can have with someone else. It happens to even the strongest among us because we all have feelings and memories of which we are reluctant to let go.
But, I realize that while you may not be able to control how you feel, you do have control over how you allow yourself to be treated.
As much as we’d like to believe people would change for us, they, realistically, never will. It’s important we recognize and accept that.
There’s only so much you can tolerate, and part of the solution is figuring out your limits and what you ultimately want for yourself. It’s not easy when you find yourself slipping back into old, familiar patterns. But, in the end, your happiness is in your hands.
Some people, no matter how much we are drawn to them, are not worth that sacrifice.
This is my journey… this is my life!
Your life seems perfect… but there must be more to living than a mortgage and a lawn to mow…
Many people believe that if they just collect a house, a spouse, a car, and 2.5 children, everything will be “perfect.” Life has a checklist. You check each item off, you get to be happy and old for a couple decades, and then you die.
But life doesn’t work that way. Problems don’t go away — they change and evolve. Today’s perfection becomes tomorrow’s swampy cesspool of shit, and the quicker we accept that the point of life is progress and not perfection, the sooner we can all order a pizza and go home.
Perfection is an ideal. It’s something that is approached but never reached. Whatever your conception of “perfect” is in your pretty little head, it is, in itself, an imperfect conception.
There is no perfect. There is only what you wish in your head.
We don’t get to decide what perfection is. We don’t know. All we can know is what is better or worse than what is now. And even then we’re often wrong.
When we let go of our conception of what is perfect and what “should” be, we relieve ourselves of the stress and frustration of living up to some unobtainable standard. And usually this standard isn’t even ours! It’s a standard we adopted from other people.
Accepting imperfection is hard because it forces us to accept that we have to live with things we don’t like. We don’t want to give that up. But life will never conform to all of our desires. Ever. And we will always be wrong about something, in some way. Ironically, it’s the acceptance of this that allows us to be happy with it, allowing us to appreciate the flaws in ourselves and in others. And that, my friends, is a good thing.
Blaming the world for our problems is the easy way out. It’s tempting and it can even be satisfying. We’re the victims and we get to be all emotional and indignant at all of the terrible injustices that have been inflicted upon us. We wallow in our imagined victimhood so as to make ourselves feel unique and special in ways in which we never got to feel unique and special anywhere else.
But our problems are not unique. And we are not special.
The beauty of accepting the imperfection of your own knowledge is that you can no longer be certain that you’re not to blame for your own problems. Are you really late because of traffic? Or could you have left earlier? Is your ex really a selfish asshole? Or were you manipulative and overly demanding towards him? Is it really the incompetence of your manager that lost you your promotion? Or was there something more you could have done?
The truth is usually somewhere around “both,” — although it varies from situation to situation. But the point is that you can only fix your own imperfections and not the imperfections of others. So you may as well get to work on them.
Sure, shit happens. It’s not your fault a drunk driver hit you and you lost your leg to a botched surgery. But it’s your responsibility to recover from that loss, both physically and emotionally. So get recovering.
Blaming others for the problems in your life may give you a smidgen of short-term relief, but ultimately it implies something entirely insidious: that you are incapable of controlling your own fate. And that’s the most depressing assumption of all to live with.
This is my journey … this is my life!
Somethings you just can’t fix…
Since I’ve gotten sober, there have been many things for which I’ve come to terms. You don’t spend decades of your life self-destructing and not cause damage along the way. For the most part, I’ve been able to start over by picking myself up from the ashes of my past. I’ve accepted I’ve wasted more money than most people will ever see in a lifetime on things that didn’t matter and on people that no longer matter. I’ve accepted that I never reached those life plans I made in my youth. I’ve accepted I’ve lost credibility and respect from people in my previous life. I’ve accepted that my life choices today have alienated people in ways I knew they eventually would. In reality, people aren’t nearly as progressive and accepting as I hoped when I finally came to understand “life on life’s” terms.
What I have never been able to accept is the damage I caused my children as an active addict. There’s no need to disclose or relive the events of having a drunk in the house. It’s pretty clear the wreckage addiction causes in the lives of families, and it continues even if the addict gets sober, lives a long healthy life and dies of old age. Children of alcoholics and addicts carry deep seeded wounds that will forever shape their world. They look at personal relationships in unhealthy ways because that is all they have ever known. They do not trust, nor are they able to identify and establish healthy relationships for themselves. These children are victims.
I know my kids love me, and I love them. I also know that each has suffered because of me. I realize each has justifiable anger and resentments towards me. I also realize they would have been better off without me in their lives until I was able to get the help I needed to help myself.
As I was leaving rehab, I made a veiled attempt to apologize to two of my children for the damages caused and the lifetime of embarrassment they endured. One child said, “Please stop dragging us into your world”… the other said, “Seriously, that’s it… you’re sorry?” I realized the damage was done… it was deep, and it was permanent.
To this day, I can’t undo it. I have to realize I am the cause of a lot of anger and mistrust from kids whose greatest misfortune was being born to me. What I can do is respect them and allow them space to grow and heal. I caused harm in their lives, but I cannot fix it. They’ll have to do that on their own. Hopefully, their children won’t experience similar lives.
The organization Adult Children of Alcoholics has outlined what life is like for survivors:
Many of us found that we had several characteristics in common as a result of being brought up in an alcoholic or dysfunctional household. We had come to feel isolated and uneasy with other people, especially authority figures. To protect ourselves, we became people-pleasers, even though we lost our own identities in the process. All the same we would mistake any personal criticism as a threat. We either became alcoholics (or practiced other addictive behavior) ourselves, or married them, or both. Failing that, we found other compulsive personalities, such as a workaholic, to fulfill our sick need for abandonment.
We lived life from the standpoint of victims. Having an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, we preferred to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. We got guilt feelings when we stood up for ourselves rather than giving in to others. Thus, we became reactors, rather than actors, letting others take the initiative. We were dependent personalities, terrified of abandonment, willing to do almost anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to be abandoned emotionally. Yet we kept choosing insecure relationships because they matched our childhood relationship with alcoholic or dysfunctional parents.
These symptoms of the family disease of alcoholism or other dysfunction made us “co-victims”, those who take on the characteristics of the disease without necessarily ever taking a drink. We learned to keep our feelings down as children and kept them buried as adults. As a result of this conditioning, we confused love with pity, tending to love those we could rescue. Even more self-defeating, we became addicted to excitement in all our affairs, preferring constant upset to workable relationships.
This is a description, not an indictment.
Jacquelyn Kennedy Onassis made a statement that has pierced my heart; she said: “: “if you fail at being a parent, nothing else matters.” I think Jackie knew what she was talking about…
This is my journey… this is my life.