Christmas sucks… There’s nothing merry about it!

img_5259I have a difficult time with the holidays. I’ve never been able to enjoy them to the levels I see at the mall or on TV. My world just doesn’t revolve around perfection… I accept it because I know spring is on its way and no one expects anything from me during that glorious time of year. The stress of December is difficult for many people, and I think there are a lot of reasons for it. While getting a haircut today, I read an article by Lara Rutherford-Morrison in Lifestyle Magazine that sorta put a face on holiday gloom. I thought I’d mention some of it on my blog.

If you’re looking ahead to the approaching holidays and feeling more dread than cheer, you may find yourself wondering, “What causes the holiday blues? Why am I feeling more ‘Bah humbug!’ than ‘Holly jolly’?” In the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, everything from holiday TV specials to music to advertisements is telling us to be happy; one holiday classic insists “It’s the most wonderful time of the year… It’s the hap-happiest season of all!” But for many, this demand to be joyful only emphasizes the depression and anxiety that frequently crops up this time of year. In addition to feelings of sadness, anxiety, and irritability, people with the “holiday blues” can experience a number of physical symptoms, including headaches, stomach problems, and sleeplessness.

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The holidays can trigger depression for a number of reasons. It’s important to note, however, that some people’s depression during the winter has nothing to do with the holidays, but rather with the season itself. According to American Family Physician, about five percent of Americans experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the autumn and winter, a condition that can cause fatigue and feelings of depression. Women, young people, and those with a history of depression are most at risk for SAD, and living far away from the equator (and therefore having less light in the winter) is a factor, too. If you think you may be suffering from SAD, talk to your doctor; light therapy can be a simple, effective treatment for the disorder.

Although dark skies can contribute to the holiday blues, there are a variety of other factors that can make your holidays less than merry:

Perhaps the biggest catalyst for the winter blues is simply the monumental amount of pressure that we tend to put on ourselves to have perfect, cookie cutter holidays. Throughout the season, the media bombards us with images of perfect family gatherings, free of conflict; people exchanging profoundly meaningful gifts that they’ll cherish forever; and everything that’s bad in the world melting away in under the awesome power of the “holiday spirit.”

I need to tell you the truth… it’s all bullshit! No matter how much people try to orchestrate holidays to look like Norman Rockwell paintings, the world will continue to be an imperfect place. By putting too much pressure on ourselves to have “perfect” holidays or to recreate the holidays of our childhoods, we set ourselves up to fail when things don’t turn out the way we want them to.

That isn’t to say that we should all just give up and expect the holidays to be awful, but it may be helpful to have more open, flexible ideas of what good holidays might look like. If, for example, you have a history of family conflict, maybe a good Christmas doesn’t mean having the whole family sitting in perfect harmony around a crackling fire. Maybe it means getting through the day with as little conflict as possible, and treating yourself to a separate celebration with friends or indulging yourself by relaxing with a book on your own. Allow your holidays to be their own thing, regardless of what you see on TV or in other people’s lives.

5D3FF105-7A84-4115-9363-CE2F6029F001The holidays can be particularly difficult for people who are feeling lonely… because they can’t be with their families, because of a breakup, because of the loss of a loved one, or any other reason that they may feel isolated or alone. If you can, seek out opportunities to be with others, like going to a friend’s house for Christmas or participating in a community event. I want to encourage people to be active, rather than passive, when it comes to loneliness during the holidays. If you’re going to be alone, make a plan…  when you feel in control of your experience, that alone makes you feel better. That may mean that you volunteer, go on vacation, or simply decide to stay home and cook a feast for yourself. The key is that you decide what you’re going to do.

If you decide to do absolutely nothing…. Enjoy every minute of it!

Merry Christmas!

This is my journey… this is my life.

Rob Cantrell

Read this before you do it…

Dear Self,

If you’re reading this, I assume you are struggling to quiet the voice in your head that says you can, or should, drink or use… That you’re not really an addict or alcoholic, or even if you are, it’s not that bad. That it’s just for tonight, you’re an adult and can make your own decisions, and are perfectly capable of enjoying a drink or two, or five or seven, and be perfectly fine overall… besides, it’s your life anyway.

Or, maybe you’re upset. Maybe something bad has happened, or you are afraid might happen soon. Maybe something stressful is going on. Maybe you’re overwhelmed and anxious, and the voice is telling you that you are being ridiculous to “deny yourself” any longer.

Maybe you’re happy and relaxed, and something in your brain is piping up louder and louder. If you’re this happy and relaxed now, a couple of drinks would make that feeling even better. Right? Isn’t that how it works?

Whatever the situation going on, there is always an excuse that we can come up with to drink, if we try hard enough to create it.

Just do this for me (for you), just this once, please.

Just wait until tomorrow.

Just do this for me (for you), just this once, please, when you want to drink

It’s just for today.

You chose to quit drinking, and you have the complete freedom to choose to drink again at any point.

The reason that you haven’t is because you accepted the truth that once you take that first drink, all bets are off. You came to the conclusion that for you, it is no longer worth the risk.

You may not feel that way now, or today. I get that. I’m not asking you to do this forever, but please just hang on for another day. That’s all I ask.

Love,
Me

I read these words on Christmas Day and wished I’d recited them before the 20 Christmas mornings I ruined by being stoned or hungover. Before the ruined birthday parties, school open houses, disastrous family vacations and 13 trips to rehab. Today is Christmas morning and it is silent in my home. I had the right to destroy holidays where lifelong memories are made. I did not have the right to destroy my children’s.

This is Christmas morning and the silence is deafening. No one is calling me up for favors, and there are no future plans to be made.

This is Christmas morning… and I am sober.

This is my journey… This is my life.

Rob Cantrell

It’s okay to love again… but know what you’re doing

700D44A9-D476-41FD-9E79-2A7121472E55Some people walk away from love and easily rebound…. not me! I fall apart and feel like my life has ended. Why is love so hard? We meet someone who becomes our world and then everything falls apart. The dreams and hopes of a future are gone leaving only memories of what seemed so perfect. We get our hearts shattered into a million pieces and we become bitter. We swear we will never go through anything else like that again. Why take the chance?

tumblr_mwoztfturg1r51oypo3_1280Our last relationship ruined our entire perspective of what love is actually supposed to look like. We convince ourselves we won’t be ready to ever put ourselves through that kind of pain again, so instead we’ll just write off the idea of love completely. We’ll listen to every song recorded by Adelle and believe every word was written for us. We use a failed, unhappy relationship as an excuse to not be happy in a new one, and it is self-sabotaging at it’s finest.

After you’ve been hurt you relearn how to stand on your own two feet again. The biggest downfall of being so good at being on your own is you no longer desire affection from anybody else. You stop noticing when someone is making a genuine effort because you’ve adopted the habit of ignoring it all together. When you have the chance to make a 3c6c7d195bdcabc2c45b967f1318c90cconnection, you’ve already staged every way it could go wrong before it even has a fighting chance. You hide behind your emotions with a mask that you’re not ready to take off yet. Honestly, you can’t imagine the idea of sharing your life with anyone, because you know how it ends. There’s no way you’ll allow yourself to be the dumbass who gets their heart broken again. You trick yourself into believing you’re the heartbreaker, that’s how you’ll avoid getting yours broken.
But, the truth is breaking someone else’s heart won’t protect yours from getting broken.

Having a broken heart does not mean that you are broken. There’s actually a certain strength that comes along with letting yourself be vulnerable after being hurt, and it’s beautiful in its own broken way.

If there’s one thing we all need to stop doing, it’s waiting around for someone else to show up and change our lives. Just be the person you’ve been waiting for. At the end of the day, you have two choices in love… one is to accept someone just as they are and the other is to walk away.Awesome-Love-Art
Why is it when you find love again… you keep comparing it the one that broke your heart last time?

It goes something like this…
You’re falling in love again. But you just can’t help but feel like you’re doing something wrong. Physically and (almost entirely) mentally you were ready. Then why do you find yourself slipping back into the realms of the life you once lived? The life you had with someone else. A life you once loved just as much as you love your new life. You left that life because it ended. u202_COME-TO-ME-Lady-s-Portrait-Painting-HelenaWierzbickiIt burned you and left you out to dry. So why can’t you stop thinking about it? You’ve found someone who is nothing like the last one. You made sure this time, you gave yourself to someone who supports and guides you. But there’s this burning itch in your mind that keeps reminding you of what you had before. It will lie to you and tell you it wasn’t so bad, that you even miss those times. It’s all the little things that you’ll remember in those times. The quiet mornings over breakfast. The late nights taking a taxi across town for ramen noodles in the rain. You’ll remember those times when you’re cuddled up with your new love and “that” song comes on from long ago. It will hit you like a hurricane and flood your mind with turmoil. Wait why am I even thinking of this right now? How could I do this to them? They don’t deserve the second guesses and what-ifs. It feels like you’ve cheated. It feels like your mind is unfaithful. But it’s not, you don’t want that anymore. You want your new life with your new love. So why is this happening? Relax, it’s human nature. You spent months, years, maybe even decades with that person. They were once a part of you and in one way or another, has defined who you are today. So yes, you will think of them at some point. They will pop up on your timeline. You will come across old pictures of you two and wonder where they are today. If you weren’t doing this at all, I would argue that would be an issue.
FP-collagefaces1Remember, you need to deal with your past as you navigate your future. Use each of these times as a teachable moment. Maybe the memories you are making with your new love remind you of your old love, but they are better. Use these times to compare how you once felt and how now you are that much more sure of the choice you made. You are where you are with your new love because your last love gave you the opportunity to move on. So stop drowning yourself in sadness because your old love makes appearances in your thoughts. You’ve got to release the past and accept a love that is perfect for you now.

This is my journey… this is my life.

Rob Cantrell

I don’t know how to grieve this loss?

2feb43b301a1b200a37a2e1f8adf7de1 (1)There are things I can’t understand and others that break my heart like… why are the women at the corner bakery so angry at the world each morning as I wait in line for espresso and pastries? Why do the 3 gorgeous Israeli models outside the Dead Sea cosmetics shop on Lincoln Avenue single me out of the crowd as the only person in need of a $1,200 tube of “crème de something”? I pass the shop twice a day and am convinced a lesser man would have taken offense or bought the product just to prove he could… I’m broke and believe a cheap bronzer from Walgreen is all I need to look good. Hell, the president bathes in the stuff, and he’s a zillionaire.

There are things so painful the thought of them shatter my heart… like Sundays at 4:00 p.m., a time when a court order mandated the return of my daughter after weekend visits or an Ivar Avenue sidewalk in Hollywood where I once saw the most beautiful smile on earth. That smile later shattered my heart so deeply, I’ve never recovered. Each time my plane approaches Los Angeles, and I look across the city towards the Hollywood sign, tears fill my eyes and a lump in my throat nearly takes my breath. If the flight lands at dusk on Sunday… I’m emotionally spent for the rest of the day. Maybe these things wreck my soul because I was unable to control the moments in my life each represents. Both control me in ways I can’t express. In my life trouble moves on too slowly and pleasure leaves too fast.

678baafe7f90d9bee1e961086152344eThese things pale in comparison to the greatest mystery of all… death. I remember everything I’ve been taught about a higher power and a glorious life to come for those who believe in religious teaching. I’ve bounced from every religion on the planet and still cannot grasp how a person, vibrant and alive one moment disappears the next. What is the meaning behind any of it? I’ve never found comfort in words of encouragement at funerals or by well-meaning friends who tell me the deceased is in a better place. There are times when silence is all that is needed.

I’m at a stage of life where I am experiencing the death of people I know and love. I’ve buried two ex-wives who divorced me long before they died and quite frankly hated me. At my first wife’s funeral, I was seated next to four of her ex-husbands. I remember sitting with the other men she’d married and thinking I was in the perfect Saturday Night Live skit. There was no sadness or sense of loss from any of us. There was nothing to say or words of encouragement only an obligation to attend. Her sixth husband was grief-stricken to the point of collapse. I wanted to go to him and say something profound or hug him, but nothing I would have said or done would have changed the reality of his loss, so I signed the guest book along with everyone else at left.

The death of my next wife absolutely stunned me. She was young, educated, and a survivor of a horrible four-year marriage to me. At 41, she fell dead of an aneurysm in her living room leaving a 9-year-old daughter and the plans she made for a promising life. I had acted so badly during the divorce, her family contacted me and made it clear I was not welcomed at the funeral, nor would any gesture of condolence be accepted. I respected their wishes and did not attend.ab1855360208ec67ddd2725a734f767e

When my grandfather died many years ago from suicide following an attempt to kick a 20-year valium habit, I felt such deep sorrow. Not for his death or decision to end his life but for the enormous emotional pain that caused him to shoot himself at the dining room table. As a recovering addict, I know the physical, mental and emotional stages of withdrawal from benzodiazepines and the agony associated with it. Even at his funeral all I could think of was how alone he must have felt in the final minutes of his life.

When my half brother died from liver failure following a lifetime of chronic alcoholism, I felt nothing. His death mirrored his life, and neither were pretty. To be honest, I hated everything about him and the life he chose to live. I looked at him as an embarrassment to the family and a name I never mentioned. At his funeral, a storefront evangelical preacher was rambling on about “Brother David” and glory and angels opening the gates of heaven. At one point during the service, his long-time drunken ex-girlfriend leaned over to me and whispered, ” damn, I don’t know who he’s talking about, but I sure would’ve loved to meet him!” I will never forget the look on my mother’s face standing on the beach as a wooden box with his ashes were pulled from a black velvet bag. Written in gold lettering was all that remained on her son, “David Mark Cantrell.” She was emotionally destroyed as she watched as a hippie swam out into the Atlantic and scattered his ashes. A group of family and friends stood on the shore throwing daisies in the tide as someone sang an instantly forgettable song while strumming a guitar. There was no peace in his death or comfort for his mother… it was merely the end.

My grandmother’s death destroyed me. She was the safe haven I needed as a child and loved every moment we shared. I remember holding her as she took her last breath at the age of 93. It wasn’t remarkable or profound… it was simply over. A life that had survived a depression, world wars, youth and old age had ended, and I was there to share it. I never once cried for her. I cried for me and the immeasurable loss I was experiencing because her life was over. Gone was my childhood and unconditional love. Her life ended with a shallow exhale, and it was over. It felt like I was being crushed by the weight of the world. “Impossible,” I thought. It’s impossible that people actually suffer this kind of pain and survive to tell the tale. So this is what grief felt like.ae694743ca8ec3cc73b1e58bcbf3cbc7

Now I understood why denial is the first stage of grief. How could you endure this kind of agony if you had to face the force of its full frontal attack? When you think of grief, you think about a great loss. Death of a loved one, news of your terminal illness, and the loss of your home from the violent winds of a tornado are all acceptable events to grieve about. I can understand how any of these events bring a person to their knees. I understand why people grieve over these losses.

There is no healing without grief and no grief without pain.
To stop yourself from grieving because it’s against the rules or because you think it shouldn’t hurt so much leaves you emotionally stunted and numb.
Not only will you never know free, spontaneous joy, but you’ll also be floored when you suffer a major loss that won’t be contained in your makeshift prison.
Stop it! Don’t tell yourself you’re fine when you feel grief inside your body. You’re not fine. Don’t think you don’t deserve to grieve. Your loss is real, and it must be honored. Forget about what you were told about sucking it up. You can do that after you’ve mourned. So feel it. Feel it through and through. Grieve until you feel the pain wash away from your body, revealing a stronger, wiser, and more capable you. There’s nothing too trivial.

f552e1da080eeb31ef65e2942e398679If you’re like me, no one bothered to tell you how to grieve… this is what I believe about the grieving process… The first thing you need to do is name your loss and give yourself permission to grieve it. Mourning just to mourn isn’t helpful. Remember that the purpose of grief is to heal you from the pain of loss, and it can’t do that if it doesn’t know what to repair. Even when you feel grief inside you, don’t begin the grieving process until you’ve identified your loss. You’ve trained yourself well to deny your pain, so you’ll feel very confused about the origin of the pain. Meditations are great for this… the process allows you to open your mind, heart, and spirit and find the source of your pain.

For example, I wasn’t grieving over the loss of my grandmother. Months before her death, she’d suffered a major stroke which erased her memory of anyone she knew or ever loved. Within 6 months, she was in a vegetative state unable to do anything. I was grieving the loss of the experiences of I shared with her and my childhood and every detail that goes with it.

We can’t honestly understand death. Sometimes there is no right answer to “Why?”… The “why question” is not helpful. It’s a trap. Get out of it. Drop the thought. It may float by once in a while. Just acknowledge it then let it pass. Move your awareness to your heart, get grounded and rest.

I think most importantly is to not put a time limit on your pain. This is your process.0e413c244463af3d836f0ea4f4ed95c4 All time estimates are arbitrary. You will heal when you heal and not a second beforehand. Grief is not just a series of events, or stages or timelines. Our society places enormous pressure on us to get over a loss, to get through the grief. But how long do you grieve for a husband of 50 years? A teenager killed in a car accident? A 4-year-old child? A year? Five years? Forever? The loss happens in time, in fact in a moment, but its aftermath lasts a lifetime.

I understand how hard it is to watch someone you love slipping away. The pain is excruciating, the feeling of devastation unmatched by anything you have ever known. Losing a loved one is one of the hardest experiences any of us will have to face, but there are some things you can do to make it easier on yourself and those around you. Allow yourself to grieve. You can’t ignore it or run away from it. It will subside, but you must go through the various stages.
Don’t feel guilty because you are continuing to live. You are not responsible for what has happened. Accept that some things are out of your hands.
Let the dying know it’s okay to leave… that you will be all right without them. You’ll miss them for the rest of your life, but you would not want them to stay if it continues their suffering.

Don’t feel guilty if you find yourself preparing for your loved one’s death. But it does help prepare you for the inevitable and is nature’s defense against deep pain. If your loved one is still living, say what you want to say now, while there’s still time. You may even have something to say or something to do for your loved one. Do it fearlessly. Let your loved one die with an open heart… yours.e6fb318de4f19fc2b3e5d7e193523ab5

To the best of your ability, try to accept what is happening and the way it is happening. As difficult as it may be to understand and accept, dying is a part of life. Take care of yourself and let others support you. Seek help from a therapist, a support group, your religion, or whatever else comforts and strengthens you.

Above all, be gentle with yourself. Those whom we’ve loved and who have loved us in return will live on in our hearts and our minds.

This is my journey… this is my life.

Rob Cantrell

South Beach… where your dream lover is just a click away…

porn4She lives somewhere between the 20th & 33rd floors of my building and rarely leaves the grounds of the Flamingo Resort. A few years ago, she was an “A” lister’s essential for a night in South Beach or a yacht afterparty harbored in Biscayne Bay. But alas, those nights of glamor and overindulgence are gone. What remains is a caricature of youth and beauty created by a plastic surgeon who should be imprisoned. My God, she paid dearly for perfection and was destroyed in the process.

I have no idea her name and have never seen her eyes, she wears those massive Versace sunglasses only Jewish women wear on South Beach. I assume she is somewhere between 35 and 50. It is impossible to even guess accurately because she has done as so many before have done… gone under the knife to stop the aging process. She stands about 5’5″ but her clear heeled platform shoes push her over 6 feet. At a quick glance, she could pass for a 1972 version of Cher with jet black waist length hair extensions and deep tan. Like so many men and women in Miami Beach, she’s had a Brazilian butt lift which in itself would seem enormous even by Kardashian standards … but then she turns and you see them… breasts so large they defy gravity. Even in Hollywood, where I lived with adult film stars nothing compares to her. I was told she works in fetish films now and the implants have a staggering combined weight of 46 lbs which restrict her ability to walk more than a short distance without sitting.

So daily, I see her sitting in the lobby of the glass towers we call home waiting and texting with the eraser end of a pencil. The 3-inch talons she has as nails prevent her from using the CZ encrusted iPhone which is her lifeline. On a few occasions, I’ve heard her screaming hysterically in Spanish (I think) to someone who I assumed missed an appointed. This is one mean bitch. Watching her rise from the lobby sofa is almost painful. She holds to an arm of the sofa and pulls her self up. Once standing, she gathers her composure like a high fashion runway model and glides to the automatic glass doors, exits the building and retrieves her next client at the resorts security checkpoint. She says nothing. She merely points to the waiting man and he is ushered into the Flamingo Resort.

porn8The men are always black and as huge as NFL players. Their identities are hidden by ball caps and aviator glasses. Most wear hoodies for added protection from the paparazzi. These men never drive. They arrive like so many do in South Beach by Rolls, Bentleys or Escalades with windows as black as night. Drivers quickly open doors and drive away. In silence the stallions and the woman head to the elevator. No one enters with them out of fear and respect. Somewhere above the city skyline and white beaches of South Beach, a fantasy is fulfilled and another month’s rent is paid. This is South Beach… a tropical destination where souls are lost 30 minutes at a time.

Every city on earth has “street-trade”, men, and women selling their services behind dumpsters, parked cars or cheap motels. Everyone knows that. Miami certainly has its share. What sets South Beach apart is the number of gorgeous Barbies and Kens who work in the adult entertainment industry. They swarm the 5 Star resorts on Collins Avenue and Ocean Drive in their spare time for a massage or to visit a client for an hour or so. These perfectly sculpted celebrities depend on the internet to keep them bankable. In Hollywood, an adult film star has restrictions imposed by laws demanding the use of condoms and union regulations that prevent top pay for a day’s work. Miami doesn’t have any of those limitations.

Today, Miami boasts a multibillion-dollar adult film industry which has ranked it as the top producer of erotica in the nation. Why? Because unlike Hollywood and Van Nuys Miami remains unregulated by laws governing the industry. Sex sells and in Miami it is sold at a much higher profit margin. Much has changed in the porn industry from the days of Linda Lovelace, John Holmes, and Harry Reems. No longer do performers produce hundreds of “action scenes” for little pay only to be spliced into 1,000s of films creating millions for a studio or production company.

porn7In 2018, the average Miami adult film actor generates on average $64,000 annually from studio work and hundreds of thousands more in escort appearances and live pay to play sessions from home computers. In some of the seediest sections of Miami/Dade County warehouses and rundown buildings are now sexual wonderland. These are the stages of desire where men and women pay $1000’s to watch an actor play out fantasies in backgrounds that look like classrooms, locker rooms, churches, saunas, luxury bubble baths, barns and even doctor examine rooms. With a credit card and home computer, you can tell your dream lover to do anything you command. Welcome to the new age of sexual satisfaction… as long as you’ve got credit… your wish is their command.

There are over 3,400 male adult film actors using a single studio address on Lincoln Road, which is a drop in the bucket considering there are 13 studios in the same block. Twice the number of female actors share the same locations. If you want it … you will find it.

Beauty is a fickle bitch and the camera is unforgiving. Those who work in the industry recognize human flaws are unforgivable and spend every second improving their assets. Go to any gym or plastic surgeon in south beach and plan on waiting in line for service. These enhanced Barbie and Kens realize in order to make money you have to spend money. Dolly Parton said it best… “it costs a lot of money to look this cheap”.

So what does it take to make it naked? As with everything in my life… I turned to Google for the answers. If you’ve gotten this far into this article you might as well know the facts… here goes. The average male and female performer are the same height as the average American man and woman: 5’10″ and 5’5″ respectively. However, porn stars are quite a bit lighter. At 117 pounds, the average female performer is a considerable 48 pounds under the national average for women, and the average male, at 167.5 pounds, weighs 27 pounds less than the national average for men. porn3

Apart from differences in the average heights and weights of performers, race seemed to make pretty much no difference to any of the other averaged stats. For instance, the data shows that the average age of a woman when she gets into porn is 19 years old—and it has been for the last 40 years—and that’s the case for all women, regardless of race. Men have been progressively getting into the business at a younger age, though: in the 1970s their average debut age was 29, but now it’s 22. Porn stars of both genders have also been progressively retiring earlier: in the ‘70s, men stayed in porn for an average of twelve years, and women for nine. Now men on average quit after 2 years, and women after three.

Sometimes when I hear people railing against porn, declaring it as the downfall of society, a poison infecting masculine minds and demeaning female ones, I wonder what kind of porn they’re talking about. To me, porn seems a lot like sport. I don’t mean the sex in it looks like a sporting activity (maybe it sometimes does, but that’s a separate point), but rather that there are as many types of sex in porn as there are forms of sport. Take synchronized swimming. This could be seen as lesbian porn, or ‘solo scenes’, in which women casually masturbate for your viewing pleasure. Next, consider a vigorous game of badminton: this might be your standard boy-girl scene. Pretty vanilla stuff, with maybe a dose of anal sex thrown in if the match is really heated. How about a gory mixed martial arts fight? That would be comparable to a 10-man midget gangbang, maybe. They’re all sports, all types of sexual activity, but they differ wildly in who’s involved and what they’re doing with, or to, each other.

So when I hear somebody claim that porn is ‘degrading’, I can’t help but ask: which porn? Is an anal scene involving three men and one woman more or less degrading than a scene in which three women have sex with strap-ons? How about a solo scene in which a woman appears alone? And if they’re equally degrading because they’re all part of the same industry, is homemade porn that couples sell on their own personal websites part of the same monster? Much like sport, or violence in films, or cruelty to animals, I don’t think you can really drill down into the topic on an intellectually respectable level until you’ve strictly defined your terms.

porn9Just in case “porn” comes up on Jeopardy sometime here’s some interesting facts… of the 100 most prolific porn stars of all time (that is, the ones who have starred in the most films), 96 are men. Next, the ten most prolific male performers, on average, have slept on-screen with 1,013 different women each (45 a year for an average career length of 22.4 years). Whereas the ten most prolific women on average have slept with 148 different men (8 a year for an average career length of 17.7 years). Nina Hartley, for instance, who made her porn debut in 1984 and has starred in more porn flicks than any other woman on earth (938), has slept with 199 different men on film. Tom Byron, on the other hand, who has more film credits than any other man (2,549), and who made his debut only two years earlier than Hartley, has slept with over five times more people of the opposite gender than her: 1,127 different women. Men in porn… in an almost absurd parody of the masculine stereotype… really get around.

Now that I think about it… this may be information you don’t need at any time in your life.

porn16It’s not easy for a man to break into porn and join the ranks of the top woodsmen, mind you. To do it, you usually have to bring a woman into the industry or know a guy who knows a guy. It’s much easier for women to get into the skin business. However, according to some anti-pornography websites, the majority of women who try porn get the hell out of it right away. Who could blame them?

I’ve never known an adult film actor and yes, I know quite a few… who even enjoy sex. I’ve never met a female actor who wasn’t a lesbian and most male actors are only “gay for pay”. Ain’t it strange how money changes everything?

Finally… I had to ask the question: “How many people work as webcam models in South Florida or the state? In truth, there’s no telling, although hundreds likely work at least part-time. It’s not a category that shows up in labor statistics, and streaming companies don’t make their stats public, although at any given time on numerous internet sites, hundreds of models appear live. But the industry trend line clearly points up.
Last week, two cam sites ranked among the top 50 most visited in the United States: LiveJasmin at No. 40, ahead of sites such as Zillow, Apple and Bank of America, and Chaturbate at No. 47. That’s according to the Amazon-owned website Alexa, which tracks web traffic.porn13

About 2,000 people signed up to attend Cam Con, (think Comicon for pretty naked people), a 40 percent increase from the previous year, according to organizers.
At the SLS Hotel on South Beach, Cam Con has rented out the entire property and is being joined for the first time by Inked Con and Cannabis Con, which promote tattoos and weed — two other industries that have been in the process of burnishing once-seedy reputations. Adult star Stormy Daniels… yes, the one embroiling a certain president in a scandal is scheduled to appear at the Neon Night Swim Soiree at Hyde Beach.

At XBiz Miami at the Mondrian South Beach hotel, scheduled events include a “Booze-n-Buns” poolside mixer, models-only “speed networking” sessions, and panels about cryptocurrency, tackling cyber bullies, video editing techniques and lessons on organizing business records and finances. All of it topped off by a “Cam Model Olympics” competition and an awards night at the swank Liv nightclub at the Fontainebleau Hotel.
While old-school downloads and video clips still dominate the internet sex business, the social media age is also reshaping porn allowing customers to more directly interact with performers. With reality stars and celebrities interacting with fans endlessly on social media, cam clients also want to build relationships, if even virtual ones, with their adult entertainers.

Offering more personal interaction in the sex business can raise risks for some models… bullying is common, but some customers also can be downright scary. This month, Miami prosecutors charged a wannabe rapper named Michael Belanger, 39, with stalking after he allegedly terrorized a cam model he met through Chatstar, a service that allows adult entertainers to exchange messages and calls with fans without revealing their real contact info.porn15

Even though the unidentified cam girl blocked Belanger, he continued emailing her daily and even showed up at her condo, police said. Even after a court issued a restraining order, he assumed the identity “George Costanza” on Camsoda and OnlyFans.com to keep contacting and professing his love for her. Belanger, of Plantation, has pleaded not guilty.

Webcams have been around since the mid-1990s. But in the early years, the adult entertainment industry was dominated by large production companies like Vivid Entertainment and Wicked Pictures that signed up stars, shot their films and promoted them at industry events and strip clubs. But the same economic downtown that shrank the 401Ks of America’s office workers a decade ago also gutted large porn production companies.
In the aftermath, many performers had no choice except to go independent and into webcam work and with that came the rise of websites such as YouPorn and Pornhub, which generally earn money from advertising while letting people watch X-rated video clips for free. Couple that with cheaper everything internet connections, smartphones, web camera equipment and a proliferation of streaming websites, and many webcam “stars” were born. In actuality, a model might even be your neighbor, though you wouldn’t know it unless you were trolling for sex services online. Most models work from home. My neighbor on the 31st floor, originally from Russia, began camming two years ago to supplement her job as a ballroom dance teacher in South Florida (she occasionally shows off her steps for viewers). She works for a few hours every night, after her classes. Her niche: online fetishes, sometimes dressing in rubber and latex outfits, armed with gloves, whips, handcuffs, chains, and masks.

porn12Day or night, at any hour and across a dizzying array of sites, models of every shape, age and ethnicity perform all sorts of acts for group audiences, most of them I refuse to mention because the acts gross me out. Private, one-on-one chats cost extra. The tactics to maximize profits might even include raffles one model recently offered tickets for 99 tokens (about $100), with the winner getting a dinner date via Skype.
But for all the strange fetish fixations that can be found in the digital world, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the live cam trade is the large share of viewers who say they want to watch models just doing everyday things: folding laundry, sun tanning, maybe some homework. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in sociology to guess what’s going on. There’s a lot of lonely people out there and camming provides a safe outlet for them to be able to interact.

Social media has finally created an antisocial society where no one gets hurt or even touched. On a human level, everything about adult entertainment is tragic… for the actor and consumer.

So as night settles on Miami Beach and I look at the 100s of TV blue windows in high rises along the shore and across the bay and I wonder which are making money on the lonely hearts tuned in just to be recognized by someone unobtainable and beautiful. Then I take the dogs out and see them… Barbies and Kens and average Joes… never interacting until the webcams and credit cards bring them together… and deep inside I know… everything that glitters isn’t gold and no one gets love for free… Sex sells everything. It’s a sad world beyond my front door…

This is my journey… this is my life.

Rob Cantrell

Neither wants to be the first to say goodbye…

2feb43b301a1b200a37a2e1f8adf7de1 (1)

“Lord knows it’s only me that I’m deceiving
When it comes to saying goodbye
That’s a simple word that I just cannot say” – Gladys Knight

Why do relationships end? How is it possible for two people who’ve shared everything from hikes in the mountains surrounding Malibu to hugs at 3:00 A.M. during Hollywood thunderstorms return to being strangers? Why do we only remember the good moments… like looking back as you walk into the elevator to see them looking at you as you leave? Why do we remember venues filled with 1,000s of people and only remember the smile once you found each other? Why do we remember so vividly the moment we met them and the hope and meaning that brief encounter held for us. Why do we relive the songs, places, seasons, smells and adventures we shared with them as though each was a spiritual experience? Why did it all end when neither one of you wanted to be the first to say goodbye?

Clearly, these are questions I’ve asked and experiences relevant to my life… but we’ve all been there. The more significant problem is why do relations end leaving us with shattered hearts and forever changed? We never remember the pig cheated on us… and was living double lives. We never remember the moments of pain when we realized nothing was as it seemed. 86b434de04c50e5cc4ca8a8312ca26ffReality is a bitch. I think Streisand said it better than anyone when she sang, “what’s too painful to remember… we simply choose to forget”. God knows my head went looking for sand anytime I didn’t want to see the truth. Ostracizing was my go-to card for a lot of years. I probably still run from reality but to a lesser degree these days.

Recently, I read an article on the “stages of breakup” after reliving a relationship in my head for the past month. This is pretty close to reality in my life… so, I’m sharing it!

If you’ve ever been through a bad breakup, you know the struggle is real. For the weeks (or possibly months, if it was a bad one) that follow, life can be rough, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t believe me? Just look around. Most people you see have all gone through the pain of a breakup at least once before. They survived it and moved on with their lives, so you can too. Because once you make it through these brutally honest phases of life after a breakup, not only will you feel better, but you’ll be stronger, too.

That all sounds great, but when you’re still very much in your heartbreak, it’s not that helpful. However, having an idea of what to expect can shine the light on where you are in the mourning process and how soon you’ll be ready to rebound. And while, admittedly, every post-relationship experience is a bit different and on its timeline, there are various paths that we all go on, so you don’t have to go through this experience entirely blind. Here are the post-breakup phases that we pretty much all go through.

The Black Hole Phase

678baafe7f90d9bee1e961086152344eOh man, this is a rough phase. It happens immediately after the split when everything feels like darkness and despair. This phase is the “stay on the couch and shove food and booze into your mouth and Netflix into your eyeholes” phase. There will be a lot of crying and a lot of imagining your life spent alone surrounded by pugs. (Full disclosure, that’s pretty much my dream scenario, so you know, different strokes for different folks.) All you can think about is everything you will miss about your ex, but also, everything that makes them fundamentally the devil incarnate. It’s a complicated phase. While the pain in the black hole may feel like it will swallow you up forever, it won’t. Just give it time, and be compassionate with yourself. It’s normal to mourn.

The “Friendtervention” Phase

cecfb5098344f885726c097b5d39c348Eventually, your friends are going to have enough of this black hole phase and step in because, for one thing, they can’t stand to see you hurt, but also they kind of always thought your ex wasn’t good enough for you, and it’s time that you realize it. They will pry you off the sofa and reintroduce you to your long lost friends: soap and clean clothes. It’s time to see the sun again and get some vitamin D (literally and possibly figuratively, if you know what I am sayin’…).

While every part of you wants to go back home and become one with the sofa again while finishing your Shameless marathon (you didn’t love it the first time you tried to watch it, but now you realize it’s freakin’ genius). There is a part of you that is grateful to your friends for getting you out of the house again.

The Boredom Phase

After the black cloud finally lifts, you realize that, yes, you are going to get through this. This breakup isn’t going to break you. Yeah, you’re still sad, but you’re up and moving and ready to start engaging in life again. But also, you’re so bored. The days are so long! Where did all these extra hours come from? You begin to realize how much time just being in a relationship filled. Being single is full of possibility and freedom, but being new to singledom can make you think it’s pretty boring! So you enter…

The New Routine Phase

Well, you can’t just sit around bored all the time, right? So, it’s time to do all the things you never had time to do before and make a new routine for yourself! One thing humans are generally good at is filling up our time. Before you know it, your new routine has filled your schedule, and you’re back to being stressed about never having a moment to relax. So that’s progress, I guess.

The Lingering Mourning And Relapse Phase

e6fb318de4f19fc2b3e5d7e193523ab5By keeping busy, you’ve started to feel a lot better. Being productive works! So maybe it’s time to go ahead and get productive about getting closure from the relationship. Time to purge social media and give your ex all their stuff back. You’re moving on and moving up! What started as a purge turns into a spiral, and instead of just hitting block you deep-dived on their Insta and followed those tags into deeper and darker water.

Suddenly, you hear the siren song of the sofa calling to you for another emotional setback. Go ahead and indulge in it. Part of recovery is relapsing. But next time, just hit “block” and keep it moving.

The Moving On, For Real This Time Phase

Eventually, those emotional relapses get shorter, less intense, and best of all, less frequent. In their place is a feeling of acceptance (and even some eagerness) to get back out there see what possibilities await. That’s the sign you’ve been waiting for; it’s finally happening… you are officially healing, and you are stronger than you ever knew. Congratulations, you’ve made it to the light at the end of the breakup tunnel!

Remember, it’s easy to give up hope after a bad breakup when it feels like love is dead forever, but give it time… and ice cream… and remember my blog is here with the answers to absolutely nothing… so remain strong!

This is my journey… this is my life.

Rob Cantrell

Stop being who you aren’t and you’ll discover you.

e44661f621e0b1dbf312dc799f480fa2Have you ever wanted to leave everything and walk away? Have you ever wanted to leave the people, commitments, obligations, relationships, and mountains of stuff you’ve acquired while creating a lifestyle you hate? Have you ever felt completely alone in a room on 20 people? Have you ever had the same conversation repeatedly and knew exactly when to laugh as someone told that meaningless story about their kids? Or when to act enraged when someone is bitching about rude service in a restaurant? Have you ever dreamed of leaving a job you hate and holidays you’ve shared with people you deep down despise? To never again listen to the endless religious, political and NFL views you don’t agree from people who bore you. To never buy crap to support someone’s kid’s activities or pitch in for someone’s baby shower, birthday, bar mitzvah. To not feel obligated to attend anything which requires a gift or money. To not be asked to do community-based work so you can give back to a community you never liked. To not feel less than or exposed or talked about behind your back by toxic people. To walk away from relationships you never wanted in the first place… to leave no forwarding address or email or phone number… to walk away from believing “maybe one day” towards “one day is now” and making it happen.

I did it. I walked away and never looked back. It was the moment my life began to have meaning. It was when I found the authentic “Rob”.

I have been a very blessed man. I’ve traveled around the world, lived in dream homes and have owned some amazing European cars. Money was never an issue in my life and I lived accordingly. I remember watching the economic collapse for years on the evening news with no empathy because it wasn’t part of my world. I wasn’t fabulously rich but I was comfortably above upper middle class.

c3d72fd973c23a7018df5610f19eab09Do not believe any of the bull shit about money not buying happiness…. that statement was made by a poor person. Money most certainly will buy everything a person needs to live a happy life. What it will not buy is inner peace or quiet that feeling at 3:00 A.M. when you realize nothing is working in your life or the wave of sadness that comes over you as you think back in time when you still believed in truth, hope and tomorrow. The realization of the compromises you’ve made and what you’ve lost. I’ve always hated 3:00 A.M. for what it made me see in the darkness.

I don’t think it’s possible to love anything until you love yourself…. and I will assure you I hated me. I remember the morning I called my parents for help in getting into treatment for my drinking and drug addictions. I’d decided if they didn’t answer the phone I was going to jump off the oceanfront condo and simply end the mess I’d created. I had no intention of leaving a note explaining anything to anyone. 30 years of addiction and alcoholism had finally won. Fortunately, my mother answered my call and I’m here today because of it. Thank God for her!

Please understand my comfortable lifestyle was a gift from very hard working people. I did nothing to create any of it. My mother and the mother of my son are brilliant businesswomen who know how to make money. These women are to be credited for allowing me to live very comfortably for decades. But I hated the life I’d been given and resent it. I was so lost in my addictions… death would have been a relief. I hated everything about me and to be honest so did anyone who knew me.

5e49ef2c4f17f7c8c8b2b3167fa7d421When I got out of rehab in California I knew I’d return to a life I hated if I returned to Florida. So with no money, I started over in Hollywood, California and put my past behind me. I was terrified. No one was going to hire a middle-aged, overly educated recovering drug addict who had never done anything with his life. I was approaching 50 years old in a town where beautiful people are has-beens at 24. I had nothing but a dog, $300.00 in the bank and an AARP card. Holy shit! I was screwed!

Hollywood, California is where my life began and I was so grateful for every second of it. Gone were the maids, Mercedes and oceanfront condos. In their place was a city bus schedule, grocery cart and food from the Dollar Store. Never once did I regret leaving the people, places, and things I’d grown to hate. No one knew me or my past or expect anything from me. For the first time in my life I was at peace at 3:00 A.M. I had no idea what the future held but I was thankful for the moment and knew it would take only one drink or drug to destroy it.

Those days were filled with exploration and self-discovery. I realized I would never be able to actually live a full life until I faced the pain and trauma I desperately tried hide. All the trauma of my childhood..the damage I’d done to my children and wives and any relationship I tried to build. All of the lies that kept me imprisoned for decades. Everything I’d sabotaged so publically. I had a 49-year-old onion that needed a lot of peeling.

f50340a391e8dd40e141dcccbf31830bWe all say that we have accepted ourselves and our lives the way they are but actually, we don’t. Self-acceptance is very important in making the journey of life brighter and happier. It is vital to accept whoever, whatever, wherever you are. Self-acceptance is definitely the process of befriending the unconditioned self… the part of you that is more than just your name, your failures or your successes.

Accept yourself the way you are first, and then try to work on your faults to improve yourself. Stop uselessly criticising yourself. Once you find some time from your schedule to look within, you will find that you have a number of strengths and weaknesses in yourself. Accept them because both represent who you are.

People often say, “I cannot change” or ” this is my basic nature.” But lack of self-acceptance eventually leads to a lot of anxiety and mental turmoil. Nothing external gives the desired happiness and peace. The ability to think in the right direction is lost and gradually the person finds himself surrounded by darkness and unrest. This is because people don’t accept “now.” Self-acceptance can act as a major tool in paving the way for further improvement and advancement. Also, this way we can safeguard ourselves from the clutches of sadness and despair. To look inside and accept and love the person you are is the greatest gift you can give yourself and others.

Today, nothing in my life is perfect and it simply doesn’t matter. I’ve hurt so many people in the past and have done my best to make amends to them to the best of my ability. Many people will never forgive me for the harm I caused in their lives. I realize it and will respect them by loving them from a distance knowing we may never speak again. The greatest amends is living a changed life.

Once I decided to stop being who I wasn’t… I was able to become who I am.

This is my journey… this is my life.

Rob Cantrell

 

The boy and the Polaroid picture….

f50340a391e8dd40e141dcccbf31830bI’ve always questioned the motives behind a person who after decades wants to tell the world about some sexual wrong done to them by someone famous or dead. The dead can’t defend themselves, and the famous usually are Teflon coated, so nothing sticks. Such doubt and speculation are cast on the “victim.” What financial gain is the person expecting? What 5 minutes of fame is worth the public crucifixion they will face? Anyone remember Monica Lewinski and her blue dress? The woman also had a line of upscale purses she tried to market, but no one seems to want to walk around with a Lewinski on their shoulder. The court of public opinion is vicious and unforgiving.

Watching as Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein were exposed as serial rapists on the evening news feelings came rushing back to me. Feelings I thought I’d buried long ago. Seeing the victims, arms linked unitedly to tell their stories and a nation united in support made me relive my childhood experiences over and over, each time I saw the men’s faces. On the one hand, I was living vicariously through the women who bravely recalled the events of assault, rape, threats, and humiliation. On the other, I was angry my story was unheard, and my rapists escaped justice as publicly as Cosby and Weinstein. In truth, they never will because I chose to let them roam free to rape again. I intended to die with a very dark secret and carry it to the grave. When I got sober, I realized I had to face some dark and scary places for the first time if I was ever going to be free of the past. It wasn’t until I became a substance abuse counselor with a client who described his life as a survivor of childhood rape did I realize I was not alone. Unknowingly, a person who came to me for help with addiction was helping me in return.

I urge you to stop reading this if you are offended by details of a sexual nature. This is my story, and I will tell it as it happened. The only reason I am providing this information is so the other 15.8 million American men alive today who have carried the weight of acts perpetrated upon them by adults will realize they are not alone. There is help and hope for all of us.

As I’ve said this is what happened in my life… every bump… scrape and bruise you are about to read are mine. I will assure you it was horrible. I can’t relate to terms such as, fondled, inappropriately touched, sexually suggestive behavior, violated, assaulted or molested. I was raped. In every sense of the word by two seasoned pedophiles, NOT two gay men, but two sadistic pedophiles who destroyed my life. My story follows the standard guidelines pedophiles use to lure children into their grasps…. friendship, trust, seduction, control, threats, and blackmail. Pedophiles hone these skills as sharply as a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon’s scalpel. Removed are a child’s innocence, trust, self-worth, esteem, sense of identity and security. This seems like a lot of work just to get laid, doesn’t it? It is. What must be understood is sex is not the reason pedophiles rape children…. the sexual gratification comes from taking complete power and control away from a child. Sex is nothing more than an act. So, if you’re 1 of the 15.8 million other American men who has lived it, keep reading.

This is my story…

2f013713da437dc3fa97e746d9defbdeI was around 10 years old when two old men bought the house next to ours in Avondale, a historic neighborhood in Jacksonville, Florida. I remember watching movers carrying boxes into the home owned initially by the Cummer family, (Cummer Museum & Gardens). As a kid, the house fascinated me because years prior, barges carried the massive structure in sections down the St. Johns River from it’s original location to where it stands today. I was dying to go inside just to see how it was reconnected once it hit my neighborhood. Unfortunately… I got my chance.

Once the movers left, I was lured by the men to climb a ladder and check for leaves in the home’s gutters. I was offered $100 for the job, and I jumped at the opportunity. Please realize the times and the cash. A 10-year-old in the mid-1970s being offered $100 to do anything wasn’t a possibility in my world. Now, I realize it was bait. Within one hour, I was raped by two old men and a single Polaroid photograph taken which sealed my fate.

For the next four years, those men blackmailed me with the Polaroid, threatening to show it to my friends, teachers, parents, neighbors, TV stations… even my grandparents. In those days, my parents taught evening courses at a community college four nights a week and never returned home until 10:30 pm. I was a latchkey kid… which made it easy for the rapists to merely pick up the phone and order me to come to them, so I did. I was more fearful and ashamed of the Polaroid than I was of rape. Over the course of 100s of rapes, I was able to disassociate my mind from what was happening to my body. I lived in fear of a ringing telephone. 40 years have passed, and still, I must force myself to answer phones due to flashbacks. I have lived without a house phone for years. This is why.

What saved me from those two men was nothing I did, or anyone did for me…. it was just5e49ef2c4f17f7c8c8b2b3167fa7d421 time. I had grown out of the prepubescent child they craved and into a teenager. In other words… they didn’t want me! My freedom came in a single phone call one evening, and I remember it like it happened this morning. One of the men said, “Hey, don’t ever come here again… with all this Anita Bryant shit going on we don’t want you here. I burned the Polaroid, so there is no evidence you’ve ever been in our house.” Then he hung up. As unceremoniously at that. There was no closure or sense of validation… no apologies or therapy or punishment or restitution. There was nothing. Pubic hair saved me. I wasn’t good enough to rape any longer. Damn! How was I supposed to process any of it? I had Stockholm syndrome and felt I’d done something wrong to the two rapists who ruined my life. I remember hanging up the phone in shock and disbelief the photo was destroyed. For decades, I was unable to open mail in fear the Polaroid was in it. Even today, Keith opens the mail at our place, or it would sit in the box until we move. This is an area I’m still trying to overcome.

Within months of the phone call, the two monsters moved leaving the carnage of what they’d done to me in the past. It was my responsibility to hide the memories of four years and try to forget any of it happened. I did a miserable job with that task. I had no coping skills or anyone to help me with any of the trauma. It also laid the groundwork for a lifetime of alcoholism, drug addiction, disastrous marriages, self-destruction, fear, guilt, shame and an inability to trust or develop healthy relationships with anyone. For the sake of power and control, two very twisted souls destroyed mine… and quietly moved on to the next victim. I have no idea what happened to those men, who they raped after me or where they went. I don’t need or want to know. I do know the universe always takes care of itself if we get out of the way. I choose to believe it kicked the living shit out of those two turds! I have peace with that.

62ffa561a64b740f6daa4d773e9fd2f4I want it understood I am not looking for revenge or compensation or a few moments of shock value reactions. Nothing can be done to erase the past or the events in it. I don’t live there anymore. If anything, I would like them to answer a single question. Why me? I wasn’t athletic or good looking or anything more than forgettable. Why did you decide I wasn’t worth having a childhood? Why didn’t you just kill me instead of forcing me to live with the scars and memories? Was that your final act of control knowing I would destroy what remained of me for the rest of my life?

Well, it didn’t work. I sought help, and you did not destroy me!

To anyone who has been victimized by rape and assault, there is help for you, too. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, online.rainn.org y rainn.org) in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. I made the call, and it changed my life.

I have no words of wisdom or comfort to anyone who has survived childhood sexual abuse other than it was not your fault. Do as I did and call RAINN… it’s free.

cropped-img_20150316_204549To those two men who shattered my life so long again… Fuck You!

I survived!

This is my journey… this is my life

Rob Cantrell

Help me understand grief… please!

There are things I can’t understand and things that break my heart, like… Why are the 3 women at the corner bakery so angry each morning as 20 people wait in line for espresso and pastries?  Why do the 3 gorgeous Israeli models outside the Dead Sea cosmetics shop single me out of the crowd as the only person in need of a $1,200 tube of “creme de something”? I pass the shop twice a day and am convinced a lesser man would have taken offense or bought the product just to prove he could… I’m broke and believe a medium grade bronzer from Walgreen’s is all I need to look good. Hell, the president bathes in the stuff, and he’s a zillionaire.

634143886a009285d0d3922a7f0ffcd6There are things so painful the thought of them shatter my heart. Such as Sundays at 4:00 pm or an Ivar Avenue sidewalk in Hollywood where I once saw the most beautiful smile on earth. Each time my plane approaches Los Angeles, and I look across the city, I’m filled with sadness.  If the flight lands at dusk on Sunday… I’m emotionally spent for the rest of the day. Maybe these things wreck my soul because I was unable to control the moments in my life each represents. One was joyous… one was not. Both control me in ways I can’t express in words. In my life trouble moves on too slowly and pleasure leaves too fast.

These things pale in comparison to the greatest mystery of all… death. I remember everything I’ve been taught about a higher power and the glorious life to come for those who believe in ancient teaching. I’ve bounced from every religion on the planet and still cannot grasp how a person, vibrant and alive one moment disappears the next. What is the meaning behind any of it? I’ve never found comfort in words of encouragement at funerals or by well-meaning friends who tell me the deceased is in a better place. There are times when silence is all that is needed.

0d728763a6112d942cf5c82c44ca1f78I’m at a stage of life where I am experiencing the death of people I know and love. I’ve buried two ex-wives who divorced me long before they died and quite frankly hated me. One funeral I attended along with her other ex-husbands and felt nothing but amazement at the number of affluent mourners and expensive cars outside the cathedral where her service was held. I remember sitting with the three other men who she married and thinking it could be a comedy skit on Saturday Night Live. There was no sadness or sense of loss only an obligation to attend. Her fifth husband was actually grief-stricken to the point of collapse. I wanted to go to him and say something profound or hug him, but nothing I would have said or done would have changed the reality of his loss, so I signed the guest book along with everyone else at left.

The death of my next wife absolutely stunned me. She was young, educated, and a survivor of a horrible four-year marriage to me. At 41, she fell dead of an aneurysm in her living room leaving a 9-year-old daughter and the plans she had for a promising life. I had acted so badly during the divorce, her family contacted me and made it clear I was not welcomed at the funeral, nor would any gesture of condolence be accepted. I respected their wished and did not attend.

When my grandfather died many years ago from suicide following an attempt to kick a 20-year valium habit, I felt such deep sorrow. Not for his death or decision to end his life but for the enormous emotional pain that caused him to shoot himself at the dining room table. As a recovering addict, I know the physical, mental and emotional stages of withdrawal from benzodiazepines and the agony associated with it. Even at his funeral all I could think of was how alone he must have felt in the final minutes of his life.

373fb7ae18504b7b7ffa28b373ac8dba (1)When my half brother died from liver failure following a lifetime of chronic alcoholism, I felt nothing. His death mirrored his life, and neither were pretty. To be honest, I hated everything about him and the life he chose to live. I looked at him as an embarrassment to the family and a name never to be mentioned. At his funeral, some storefront evangelical preacher was rambling on about “Brother David” and glory and angels opening the gates of heaven. At one point during the service, his long-time drunken ex-girlfriend leaned over to me and whispered, ” damn, I don’t know who he’s talking about, but I sure would have loved to have met him!” I will never forget the look on my mother’s face standing on the beach as a wooden box containing his ashes were pulled from a black velvet bag. Written in gold lettering was all that remained on her son, “David Mark Cantrell.” She was destroyed emotionally as a hippie swam out into the Atlantic and disposed of him. A group of family and friends stood on the shore throwing daisies in the tide as someone sang an instantly forgettable song while strumming a guitar. There was no peace in his death or comfort for his mother… it was merely the end.

My grandmother’s death destroyed me. She was the safe haven I needed as a child and I loved every moment we shared. I remember holding her as she took her last breath at the age of 93. It wasn’t remarkable or profound… it was simply over. A life that had survived a depression, world wars, youth and old age had ended, and I was there to share it. I never once cried for her. I cried for me and the immeasurable loss I was experiencing because she was gone… Gone was my childhood and unconditional love. Her life ended with a shallow exhale, and it was over. Witnessing it felt like I was being crushed by the weight of the world. “Impossible,” I thought. It’s impossible people actually suffer this kind of pain and survive to tell the tale. So this is what grief felt like.cf9c3dc234035e12d15e7aea993827bc

Now I understood why denial is the first stage of grief. How could you endure this kind of agony if you had to face the force of its full frontal attack? When you think of grief, you think about a great loss. Death of a loved one, news of your terminal illness, and the loss of your home from the violent winds of a tornado are all acceptable events to grieve about. I can understand how any of the above can bring a person to their knees. I expect people to grieve over these losses.

What I refuse to understand is the grief I feel over the smaller losses.  The falling out you had with a good friend, the passing of your family hamster, and losing an heirloom, you’ve had for two decades… all examples of small losses that are too silly to deserve our grief.

There is no healing without grief and no grief without pain.
To stop yourself from grieving because it’s against the rules or because you think it shouldn’t hurt so much leaves you emotionally stunted and numb.
Not only will you never know free, spontaneous joy, but you’ll also be floored when you suffer a major loss that won’t be contained in your makeshift prison.

Stop it! Don’t tell yourself you’re fine when you feel grief inside your body. You’re not fine. Don’t think that you don’t deserve to grieve. Your loss is real, and it must be honored. Forget about what you were told about sucking it up. You can do that after you’ve mourned. So feel it. Feel it through and through. Grieve until you feel the pain wash away from your body, revealing a stronger, wiser, and more capable you. There’s nothing too trivial.

If you’re like me, no one bothered to tell you how to grieve. I hope this will help.

The first thing you need to do is name your loss and give yourself permission to grieve it. Mourning just to mourn isn’t helpful. Remember that the purpose of grief is to heal you from the pain of loss, and it can’t do that if it doesn’t know what to repair. Even when you feel grief inside you, don’t begin the grieving process until you’ve identified your loss. You’ve trained yourself well to deny your pain, so you’ll feel very confused about the origin of the pain. Meditations are great for this… the process allows you open your mind, heart, and spirit and find the source of your pain.

For example, I wasn’t grieving over the loss of my grandmother. Months before her death, she’d suffered a major stroke which erased her memory of anyone she knew or ever loved. Within 6 months, she was in a vegetative state unable to do anything.   I was grieving the loss of the experiences of I shared with her and my childhood and every detail that goes with it.e752c7ad1b709135a67e01ab5934a353

We can’t honestly understand death. Sometimes there is no right answer to “Why?” That “why question” is not helpful. It’s a trap. Get out of it. Drop the thought. It may float by once in a while. Just acknowledge it then let it pass. Move your awareness to your heart, get grounded and rest.

I think most importantly is to not but a time limit on your pain. This is your process. All time estimates are arbitrary. You will heal when you heal and not a second beforehand. Grief is not just a series of events, or stages or timelines. Our Society places enormous pressure on us to get over a loss, to get through the grief. But how long do you grieve for a husband of fifty years? A teenager killed in a car accident? A four-year-old child? A year? Five years? Forever? The loss happens in time, in fact in a moment, but its aftermath lasts a lifetime.

I understand how hard it is for you to watch someone you love slipping away. The pain is excruciating, the feeling of devastation unmatched by anything you have ever known. Losing a loved one is one of the hardest experiences any of us will have to face, but there are some things that you can do to make it easier on yourself and those around you. Allow yourself to grieve. You can’t ignore it or run away from it. Eventually, it will catch up with you. Grief is a necessary part of the healing process. It will subside, but you must go through the various stages.

Don’t feel guilty because you are continuing to live. You are not responsible for what has happened. Accept that some things are out of your hands.
Let the dying know that it’s okay to leave-that you will be all right without them. You’ll miss them for the rest of your life, but you would not want them to stay if it continues their suffering.

Don’t feel guilty if you find yourself preparing for your loved one’s death. But it does help prepare you for the inevitable and is nature’s defense against deep pain. If your loved one is still living, say what you want to say now, while there’s still time. You may even have something to say or something to do for your loved one. “Do it fearlessly,” one patient told me. Let your loved one die with an open heart-yours.

To the best of your ability, try to accept what is happening and the way it is happening. As difficult as it may be to understand and accept, dying is a part of life.Take care of yourself and let others support you. Seek help from a therapist, a support group, your religion, or whatever else comforts and strengthens you. Try to stick to some kind of regular routine, especially during this very stressful and upsetting period. Believe it or not, it will help normalize your life and make you feel better.

Above all, be gentle with yourself. It really will get better with time, although you may not believe it right now. Time heals all wounds, and although your loved one will no longer be physically present, you will always retain the love you have shared with that person. Those whom we’ve loved and who have loved you in return will still live on in our hearts and our minds.

This is my journey… this is my life.

Rob Cantrell

Love is Love

I have spent the past few years in self-discovery… the first thing  I did was get sober. Once that was taken care of everything else started falling into place. I let go of all of the people and things that I believed represented me. It was all an illusion.

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Once I was able to clearly look at my life, I realized it was time to live it. People have praised me for “coming out” … I didn’t “come out” … I just became Rob. There was no need for me to make an announcement about anything happening in my life. I was a miserable, unhealthy man for many years… today, I’ve let that go. I am free to love who I choose and have no reason to explain it to anyone. Love is Love… I release the past and accept a love that is perfect for me now. I wrote this for my partner, Keith who showed me the meaning of love.

 

Love is Love

We walk the fine line
Between insanity and love
Love is love
Isn’t it?
We are told
We are sinful
Impure
Disgraceful
But what of the people
Who cast us aside
Turn their backs on us
Treat us with their cold whispers and burning hot stares
Like we are a knife
Straight into the heart of the bible
And the “holy ghost.”
What God would toss out his own “children” just for who they love Jesus hung out with 12 guys and a hooker… Isn’t he more like me than the people doing things in his name?
Love is love.
We are the ones in the pouring rain
Who dance and laugh and smile
Even though sometimes it seems
That the world is against us.
we are different
unique
beautiful; we stand strong
against the names
the pain
love is love
but hate is hate
what is left
for those who feel both
and yet neither?
We play their little games
Living in their world where
Laws and rules
That are supposedly in the best interest
Of the people
Bind us to ourselves
We can cry, feel, dream
We can love, care, support each other
Just like the next person
Who may be classified as “normal”
We are not the devil
We are not the problem
We are hope
We are human
Love is love

 Love is want. Love is need. Love is impossibly imperfect.
Love always pays the bills on time but forgets your anniversary. It gets you frozen yogurt on the way home but leaves it in the car. It doesn’t write you poems or give romantic speeches, but when you’re sad, it suddenly says that one right thing. It rarely thinks to buy you flowers but always thinks to plug your phone into the charger at night.

Love tries.

Love is forgiving. Love lets you get away with a lot. It grants forgiveness before you ask but often makes you say sorry anyway because it’s good for you to be humble. Love knows it will hurt you too. Love fails, time and again, but believes every next minute is a new chance to get it right.

Love is forgetful.

It forgets old words and old wounds… and even when it remembers, it also remembers to stay kind. Love has the worst fight of your life with you and then, right after, shares a Diet Coke and splits a cold pizza. It will leave the last Pop Tart for you.

Love understands your weaknesses.

It doesn’t mock that you are scared of driving on highways or you get cranky if you’re hungry. It knows you have to drink your cappuccinos really, really hot. It will expect you will complain about your burnt tongue later. Love will be patient as you cut the tags off every shirt you wear because they scratch your neck unbearably. It will be quiet when you don’t feel like talking. It will laugh uproariously at your lame jokes during a party to save you from embarrassment.

Love is loyal.

IMG_20150316_204549Love is your cheerleader. It believes in you. It goes along with your crazy ideas of writing a book, becoming a chef, launching an art business and tries its best to help you achieve your visions. It will edit poorly written first chapters, eat inedible crème brûlée and gasp amazedly at your blobs of paint on canvas. It doesn’t hold it against you when you fail. It encourages you. But because you need it sometimes, it will tell you to stop when you are being insufferable and cut short your pity party.

Love changes perceptions of beauty.

Love is fond of love handles and stretch marks. Love strokes your grey hair and remarks how distinguished it makes you look. Love sings, “I like big butts and I cannot lie” to your widening derriere. It knows that wrinkles and crow feet are a testament to a life lived together. Love teaches you to find the ordinary, extraordinary.

Love is not a substitute for reality.

It doesn’t ask you to live in a more fantastic version of it because love lives real life. And in real life, love knows, there are good days and bad days. And a whole slew of mediocre ones. Love gets through all of them, sometimes with style and pizzazz, other times with angst and bitterness. But it gets through.

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Love flips your idea of humanity upside down.

You think you know people, and then you see what they will do for love’s sake, how far they will stretch the limits of themselves to care for the one they love, and it makes you swallow, hard. Love will make you witness divinity.

Love is fluid.

It changes with time in its expression and manifestation. It will be a spark, a raging fire, or flutters in your gut one day. Years later, it will be a steady burning ember, a sense of stability as solid as a rock and all flutters can usually be attributed to indigestion. Love will bring you Tums before you ask.

Love doesn’t always make you happy.

But it makes you better. Happy too, but also unhappy. Because love knows that its central function in your life is to help you grow. Growth hurts. Every day, love changes you to become a version of yourself you didn’t know existed. Expanded. Stretched somehow.
Love doesn’t ‘break’ your heart. It splits it open so that more of what you need can enter.

Love is a choice. IMG_0303

You make that choice every single day, every single minute. Love is sacrifice, compromise, tolerance and a whole bunch of other scary words. It wants to leave you sometimes, but it always remains. It wants to kill you sometimes but then imagines the subsequent loneliness. It turns away from you only to turn back again. It buries itself into the very core of you, so you don’t know where it begins or ends.

Love is a paradox.

It is awkward and graceful. It is forced and natural, kind of terrible and absolutely hilarious. It is restful. It is wild. It is hurtful and healing. It is gentle and harsh. It is confusion and clarity. It strengthens you and makes you vulnerable. It ties you down and helps you fly. It is as rare as a pearl and as common as breathing.

Love is fierce.

It is very often decidedly mundane, mind-numbingly ordinary and easy to overlook, but still, if you know how to look at it, it’s really quite astonishing. Love is beautiful, it is necessary, and if you allow it, instinctual, but it is never what you think it will be.

It is always much, much more.

This is my journey… this is my life.

Rob Cantrell

Wanna find happiness… Stop being who you aren’t

5D3FF105-7A84-4115-9363-CE2F6029F001I remember walking on Fountain Avenue in Hollywood and my phone rang, as usual it was my mom who called every 20 minutes to report some event she’d seen on FOX News or to find out if I heard “so and so” died, got divorced, had cancer, was in rehab, was missing or God knows what 10 minutes before she called me. I always knew when she was going to take a conversation to the lowest common denominator because the call always went like this: “I’m gonna tell you something in complete confidence and you have to promise not to tell it”, then she would drop a bomb on me and hang up. The topics always involve someone being a slut, gay, drug addict or alcoholic. Those are the things that caused them to die, get cancer, go to rehab or wind up missing. I guess that’s how great stories begin with sex, drugs, and illness. For some reason, the phone call I received that March morning involved none of the tantalizing gossip I was expecting. Instead, she made a statement that has become the mission statement of my life. At that point, I’d been sober 6 months and was agonizing over the thought of returning to life in Jacksonville, Florida.

First let me say there is nothing wrong with Jacksonville, Florida. It’s a city with friendly people, great food, and southern culture. It is also where I should have received an award for greatest public display of self-destruction.  The only thing I hadn’t done in that town was have sex with Michael Jackson. For once in my life, I was in shock by my mom’s next statement. She said, “Rob you’re not an idiot. The only things you need to do is stop looking for happiness in a place you never found it and simply stop being who you aren’t!” Wow! At that moment I had an epiphany that changed my life. At that moment, I set myself free to find me exactly where I was and that was in Hollywood, California. My life has never been the same since that moment.700D44A9-D476-41FD-9E79-2A7121472E55

I’ve heard the statement “just be yourself” so much. It sounds like an amazing thing to do, and I have wished many times that I could just do that. What I’ve wondered, though, is what in the world does that mean? What if someone is a jerk to other people? Is it okay for them to just be themselves and go on being a jerk to everyone? How about people who are fearful of being around others and live a hermit-like life, avoiding people?

In my quest for answers, I’ve found that it is very much possible to just be yourself. The person who is a jerk to others and the person who is afraid of social situations are, in actuality, not being themselves. Their real self is just being covered up with conditioned, fear-based thinking. Our true self is who we really are when we let go of all of the stories, labels, and judgments that we have placed upon ourselves. It is who we naturally are without the masks and pretentiousness. It is who we really are when we let fall to the floor the cloak of other people’s stuff that we have taken on. Everything else that we claim to be when we say, “This is who I am!” is only a story.

Below are some steps that have helped me in uncovering my real nature, which is that being outside of the accumulated thoughts and beliefs that I have collected over a lifetime.

1. Get in touch with your inner child.

If you ever watch small kids, you will notice just how free they are and how little they care about what other people think of them. They are happy and in the moment. They are their true natures. They have not yet been socialized to “fit in” to a society that squashes that. They don’t care if people think that they are silly while they dance in the front yard for all of the neighbors to see. Children are just pure love and light. If you really want to get in touch with your inner child, become freer. Play, have fun, enjoy the moment, do cartwheels in the front yard. We play roles to fit into society and we suppress our true nature out of fear of what others think. If you find yourself worried about being judged, remember that is merely just the socialized you, not the real you.

2. Become more aware of your thoughts.

You may be shocked by the number of negative thoughts that run through your mind on any given day. After so long, our reality begins to take shape based on all of these conditioned thinking patterns. Become more aware of the quality of your thinking. Allow yourself to sit quietly every morning before starting your day for just five to ten minutes. Yes, thoughts will come and go, but just allow them to do that without getting attached to them. Just observe them. When you are finished, continue observing the mind throughout your day.

2d478fd56de7ef32705cb2ff0953ec13We have so many unconscious beliefs that we have taken on over the years that were probably handed down to us from somebody else, and that we believed to be who we are. Becoming more aware of the quality of your thoughts, letting go of the old beliefs, and becoming more present can help in revealing your true nature. We are all so much more than those old negative thinking patterns would ever allow us to believe.

3. Follow your intuition.

This is probably one of the most important factors in being yourself. I ignored my intuition for the longest time because I felt so obligated to others. Their happiness was more important than my own. I will tell you this, from my own personal experience: When you start following the little nudges and urges that you get, you will have hopped on the magic carpet ride of awesomeness. It doesn’t mean that you will never have bumps in the road again, but when you are in alignment with your soul, you will always be steered in the best possible direction.

How do any of these things help you to just be yourself? Because they help you to be in alignment with your true nature. Your authentic self is the real you that is beyond all of those conditioned beliefs and thinking patterns that you have accumulated throughout your life.

While it is important to love and accept yourself for where we are at the moment, looking back now, I see that I suppressed my true nature in order to please others and to fit in. I began going within and doing spiritual study and practice in my late forties, and have since become more aware of how much I was identified with my victim story, how I would play roles depending on who I was with, and just how much I cared about other people’s perceptions of me. I had lost touch with my natural self and stuffed it away in a box. Whenever I would notice myself getting attached to the stories and labels in my head or would catch myself playing roles with others, I would just breathe and relax into the moment without any labels or judgments.

It was a challenge because I cared so much about being accepted by others. So I would ask myself, “How would I act right now if I had no cares of what others thought of me?” I realized that who I naturally am without anything else added is perfectly okay.

When you let go of the old ways of thinking, follow your bliss, and do what you love, you begin to align with happiness and peace. These are all indicators that you are connected with your true nature. You are then allowing your real self to shine forth in all its glory.

This is my journey… this is my life.

Rob Cantrell

Depression is a kind of tired sleep won’t fix.

Every time I turn on the TV I see an advertisement for depression and medications to cure it. You would think it would no longer exist considering there’s a pill to make it go away…. just see your doctor and be happy forever more. I wish it actually worked that way, but it doesn’t. I read an article by Dan Scotti recently that made me wonder are people depressed or just sad. 3ae9980e0575f7ebad3dc04448db5f30 It bothers me when some of my friends tell me they’re depressed. It’s not that I’m unsympathetic to whatever they may be dealing with, and it may be true that they are truly depressed — and not just sad, but when I hear the word “depression,” I think of a debilitating disorder that takes too many lives. I think of my grandfather’s lifeless body on the dining room floor after losing his battle with depression at the hands of a self-inflicted gunshot. Hearing the word get thrown around so frequently makes me worry for people whose far-reaching symptoms could go unmedicated or unnoticed. They may hear that everyone around them is “depressed” and decline to get help, believing their feelings are widespread and routine. But they’re not.    I’ve known my friends for a long time. And while it’s true that some of them may very well be unsatisfied with different areas of their lives, I have a suspicion that none of them are depressed in a literal sense. Depression is more serious. Depression holds a great number of people back from just enjoying life. It’s more than just a bad day accompanied by a night spent tortured in a smoky bar somewhere. But that’s what’s difficult about depression: It’s a concept that’s far from easy to understand.  Many people who aren’t depressed use the word to justify feelings of sadness and anguish and many individuals who are depressed don’t realize they’re depressed until it’s too late and something drastic has happened. For many people, however, the line between sadness and depression can be blurred. Depression isn’t just a term to be used lightly; it’s a clinical disorder, and it is often fatal. Sure, sadness is a symptom of depression, but in reality, the two are not one and the same. And anyone who’s been affected by it – or knows someone who’s been affected by it – would surely attest to that.                                                                                            

Out of respect to those who deal with real depression on a daily basis, I’m writing this to set the two apart. Although many of us have bad days – and I mean awful days, days that make you want to crawl into a hole – few people are dealing with actual depression. For instance, whenever you hear people say that they’ve been feeling “kinda depressed lately,” chances are they’re falling victim to an unfortunate choice of words. According to Guy Winch, a psychologist, and author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts,  “Depression is an abnormal emotional state, a mental illness that affects our thinking, emotions, perceptions and behaviors in pervasive and chronic ways.”  In other words, depression — and the pervasive sadness that is involved with depression — doesn’t naturally come and go from day to day. People who are truly depressed don’t feel sad every few weeks when they find themselves in a slump. Depression is day-in and day-out. Additionally, Winch says that depression can often rear its ugly face for no reason. There’s no trigger. (On the other hand, “situational depression” is also a type of depression, and it often follows traumatic life events — a divorce, a death in the family, a physical illness.)  And often, depression can afflict someone as a result of trauma. Often, people who have a family history of major depression can become depressed themselves after a life change — an event that may be easier for others to over come.                                 

Winch writes of clinical depression, “People’s lives on paper might be totally fine — they would even admit this is true — and yet they still feel horrible”.  This is why depression becomes such a suffocating condition to deal with. People battling depression may not know why they’re depressed; they just know that they are. They may feel guilty for being depressed when their lives seem otherwise in order.  

 So if you think you may be dealing with something serious like depression, ask yourself what, in particular, is making you unhappy. If you can identify the different aspects of your life that are making you dissatisfied, try to improve these areas. If you change your situation and are still unhappy, you may be clinically depressed. Winch also explains that depression has lower “thresholds.” If you’re depressed, you’re “more impatient… quicker to anger and get frustrated, quicker to break down, and it takes you longer to bounce back from everything.”  It’s never simple for people with depression to “snap out of it,” as they’re often told — and, as Winch notes, this usually makes things worse. In a post for LiveScience after the suicide of actor Robin Williams, health editor Karen Rowan highlights additional symptoms of depression, via the Mayo Clinic: “loss of interest and pleasure in normal activities, irritability, agitation or restlessness, lower sex drive, decreased concentration, insomnia or excessive sleeping and chronic fatigue and lethargy.”               

If you feel like you’re experiencing something more pervasive than general sadness, make sure to see a physician before letting it get any worse. Often, people battling depression may become apathetic about their emotional state and accept it as “the new normal.” This is a mistake. It’s important to remember that, while depression can strike at any time, it’s never too late to address. And if you hear your friends mention depression, even in casual conversation, make sure to ask them what they’re dealing with. But don’t ignore it. The more awareness that’s spread about what depression truly is, the less it will be misunderstood. If you are depressed and want to seek treatment, there are plenty of websites, hotlines and other forms of professional help you can go to. Please do not wait to get the help you need…

This is my journey… this is my life.

Rob Cantrell

 

Stay single… you’re less likely to catch herpes and you’ll save money…

a7f0936b781d2052c9ccd7f78d5c3db3I 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.

700D44A9-D476-41FD-9E79-2A7121472E55My 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 for 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 img_0015typically 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.

Veg 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

img_9926Men 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!

Rob Cantrell

 

Damn! I hate being gay! What is Internalized Homophobia?

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People often preach their own sins…. Find a recovering alcoholic or addict and you’ll find a person dedicated to preaching against drugs and alcohol. The same goes for abortion, smoking or anything else a person is unable to accept themselves.

Internalized homophobia not only destroys the person battling self-hatred, in the case of the 49 people violently murdered in Orlando, it destroys everything seen as a threat or temptation. Homosexuality cannot be prayed away or should be… it cannot be unlearned or hidden, nor should it be. The following explains what homophobia is and why it is so destructive. These are the views of Revel & Riot, an online source, and need to be understood by everyone.

You were just recently told by a friend to “deal with your internalized homophobia.”

You force your partner to stay in the closet with you.

You feel contempt or disgust towards LGBTQ people who don’t “blend in.”

You can’t come out, even in safe communities and settings.

You’ve tried to change your sexual orientation through conversion therapy, prayer, or medical treatment.

You cannot have emotionally intimate or romantic relationships, even though you desire it.

You think about committing suicide because of your sexuality.

These are just a few of the many signs of internalized homophobia, an issue that affects the vast majority of LGBQ individuals and belongs at the forefront of the fight for justice and equality. Working to overcome it can lead to immensely positive results such as emotional and physical well-being, a stronger more active political movement, and a more compassionate world.

THE DEFINITION

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Simply put, internalized homophobia happens when LGBTQ individuals are subjected to society’s negative perceptions, intolerance, and stigmas towards LGBTQ people, and as a result, turn those ideas inward believing they are true.

It has been defined as ‘the gay person’s direction of negative social attitudes toward the self, leading to a devaluation of the self and resultant internal conflicts and poor self-regard.’ (Meyer and Dean, 1998).

Or as “the self-hatred that occurs as a result of being a socially stigmatized person.” (Locke, 1998).

PROBLEMS WITH THE TERM

Many LGBTQ people do not relate to the expression “internalized homophobia” and as a result, end up rejecting the idea before thoroughly examining its meaning. The word “internalized” presents the first barrier. “The concept suggests weakness rather than the resilience demonstrated by lesbians and gay men and keeps the focus away from the structures of inequality and oppression.” (Williamson, I., 2000) The word “homophobia” is the next complication – a confusing and seemingly illogical possibility. How can someone who identifies as LGBTQ also have feelings of dislike, fear, and disgust towards themselves? So what can we do about the fact that the combination of words “internalized” and “homophobia” feel unrelatable for so many LGBQs?

Researchers have suggested that using ‘heterosexism, ‘self-prejudice,’ and ‘homonegativity,’ in addition to the widely accepted term “internalized homophobia,” can help to add depth to our comprehension of the true meaning of the issue.

WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?

Internalized homophobia is a concept much more nuanced than it’s simple definition would suggest. It is clear that the word “homophobia” in this context, is misleading – the over clear idea that it is individual acts of fear and ignorance diverts our attention from the much more pervasive systemic oppression that is at the root of the problem. The hateful and intolerant behavior of those closest to us often has the most profound impact (parents, church community, peers, partners). While they should be held responsible as individuals, the real culprit is an aggressive heterosexist society that is defining what is “normal,” and therefore what is “right” and “wrong,” through laws, policy, culture, education, health care, religion and family life. This systemic oppression is meant to enforce the gender binary, marginalize LGBTQ people, and keep heterosexual people and their relationships in a position of dominance and privilege.

When we see that homophobia is a result of this larger system, we see that it is institutional; that it is impossible to exist outside of it; that the real definition of it is so much more than the dictionary simplicity of “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals;” that the root structure is vast, affecting every aspect of life and culture. All of these factors make dismantling heterosexism extremely complicated, and uprooting internalized homophobia even more so.

WHAT DOES INTERNALIZED HOMOPHOBIA LOOK LIKE?

HOW DO I KNOW IF I SUFFER FROM IT?

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A few scales have been developed by psychiatrists and researchers to measure internalized homophobia so Ross and Rosser’s “Four Dimensions.” This includes the examination of four key areas of a person’s LGBTQ identity: public identification as being gay, the perception of stigma associated with being gay, the degree of social comfort with other gay men and beliefs regarding the religious or moral acceptability of homosexuality. Another example is the IHP scale, developed by psychiatrists Meyer and Dean, which includes an extensive list of questions designed to be self-administered. While these levels might be useful on a preliminary level, we must also consider the issue well beyond the categories set forth by the psychological establishment and remember that the question of whether or not you suffer from internalized homophobia is one that is best answered by yourself. The manifestation of internalized homophobia, as well as the extent to which LGBTQ people suffer from it, is as varied and layered as our identities, which makes recognizing it a complicated process. Below we do our best to explore many possible expressions and outcomes of internalized homophobia.

Secrecy / Dishonesty

‘The awareness of stigma that surrounds homosexuality leads the experience to become an extremely negative one; shame and secrecy, silence and self-awareness, a strong sense of differentness – and of peculiarity – pervades the consciousness.’ (Plumer,1996). The role of secrecy and dishonesty in cases of internalized homophobia is significant. Some examples include:

  • Denial – ranging from aggressive and hateful behavior to denying yourself the life and love you desire;
  • Lying to yourself about attraction and sexuality;
  • The inability to “come out” if you want to, and if you can safely. (see more about “coming out below);
  • Being selectively “out” (see “coming out” below);
  • Secret relationships;
  • Forcing others to keep secrets or remain in the closet;
  • Lying by omission

The emotional havoc that secrecy and dishonesty can create for an individual varies. While burdened with the symptoms of internalized homophobia it is difficult to have a clear perspective of the harm we do to ourselves. This is why it’s often due to an accusation of a loved one that we are compelled to explore the concept in the first place.

Horizontal Oppression

Also known as horizontal hostility or lateral violence, horizontal oppression is one of the most damaging results of internalized homophobia. It functions as a cycle of abuse and happens when an LGBTQ person, subjected to homophobia / biphobia / heteronormativity, begins to discriminate against other LGBTQ people, thereby colluding with and perpetuation heterosexism. Horizontal oppression can be found amongst women (horizontal misogyny) and people of the same racial group (horizontal racism) and in just about every type of oppressed minority group. It destabilizes movements for justice and equality and keeps us fighting amongst ourselves rather than focusing on the big picture issue of institutionalized oppression.

Horizontal oppression can manifest as anything from:

  • Deeply closeted politicians, religious leaders and “powerful” people who advocate and lobby against the LGBTQ community
  • Feeling disgusted towards other LGBTQ people who don’t express themselves in a heteronormative way
  • Excessive judgment of other LGBTQ people
  • Anger and resentment toward other LGBTQ people for being out, or proud of their identity
  • Transphobia, gender policing, shaming or harming LGBTQ individuals who do not fit into the gender binary
  • Anger or embarrassment that other LGBTQ people “represent” you
  • Believing that the movement for justice is a single-issue endeavor (usually marriage equality), and failing to remember that LGBTQ people come from every type of background, often facing multiple, interconnected forms of oppression such as racism, cisgenderism, ableism, classism, sexism, etc.

To combat horizontal oppression, we must:

  • Respect the diversity of the LGBTQ community
  • Remember that outspoken, visible LGBTQ people have been at the forefront of the LGBTQ rights movement from the very beginning, and continue to face the most violence and discrimination
  • Credit visibility as one of the key factors in the progress of the LGBTQ equality movement
  • See that policing the gender expression of LGBTQ individuals is a form of transphobia and heteronormative violence.
  • Be aware of the ways that we collude with heterosexism and therefore harm LGBQ people

Problems with Coming Out

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In Beyond the Closet; The Transformation of Gay and Lesbian Life, being in the closet is described as a “life-shaping pattern of concealment.” Being closeted is linked with high anxiety, low self-esteem, increased risk for suicide and general lack of fulfillment. Much of the LGBTQ discussion about honesty centers on coming out. While it’s not an internalized homophobia cure-all, it is more often than not, a step forward, and can be an incredibly empowering act for most LGBTQ people. It relieves the pressure of having to live a life of secrecy; it is an act of self-love and recognition.

But coming out can also be dangerous. Being honest about your LGBTQ identity can result in violence, rejection, loss of home, loss of employment. We unequivocally advocate for an approach that minimizes harm to the person coming out. The key is to recognize the truth of what kind of harm you’re facing and weigh the balance of your emotional and physical safety with your emotional and physical needs. What is more damaging – to face the disapproval of a parent, or to lose your partner? To lose your home or manage the stress of leading a double life?

When a person expresses fear or reluctance about coming out, many “out” LGBTQ people have strong reactions, judgments, and painful memories. George Chauncey, professor of history and author of Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture and the making of the Gay Male World, discusses ‘the image of the closet’ and the judgment heaped on those who would not, or could not come out of it.

“Before Stonewall (let alone World War II), it is often said, gay people lived in a closet that kept them isolated, invisible, and vulnerable to anti-gay ideology. While it was difficult to imagine the closet as anything other than a prison, we often blame people in the past for not having had the courage to break out of it . . . , or we condescendingly assume they had internalized the common hatred of homosexuality and thought they deserved to be there. Even at our most charitable, we often imagine that people in the closet kept their gayness hidden not only from hostile straight people, but from other gay people as well, and, possibly, from themselves.”

Many critics of the you-must-come-out-of-the-closet doctrine argue that not only does it diminish the worth of the LGBTQ lives from the past when it was not safe to be out, but over time it has homogenized the LGBTQ timeline into a 3 step process (in the closet, preparation to come out, out), and, as philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler argues in Imitation and Gender Insubordination, the in/out metaphor creates an over-simplified binary: in = dark, regressive, marginal, false; out = illuminating, freeing, true.

We know that things are never as simple as that, and shaming those who remain in the closet is a mutation of heterosexist oppression. Also, as many studies have shown, internalized homophobia may never be completely overcome, and therefore may continue to affect LGBTQ individuals long after “coming out.” It is true that coming out to important people in your life may indicate that you’ve overcome personal shame and self-devaluation associated with being LGBTQ. But, a lack of outness should not be taken to indicate the opposite and therefore, should not be seen as the primary symptom of internalized homophobia (Eliason & Schope, 2007).

Mental and Physical Health Issues

Depression / Anxiety / Self Esteem Issues / Self-harm / Suicide / Substance Abuse / Eating Disorders

Chronic stress has extremely negative consequences for the human body, such as, but certainly not limited to, sleeplessness, depression, anxiety disorders, increased susceptibility to illness, heart disease, and high blood pressure. LGBTQ people, and in general, any minority or oppressed group, are likely to suffer additionally from what’s known as “minority stress,” a direct cause of internalized homophobia. “Minority stress,” arises from specific, negative events in a person’s life, as well as the whole of the minority person’s experience in the dominant, oppressive society. So, everything from fearing a family member’s judgment, to hearing homophobic slurs at school, to being the victim of a hate crime, to pressure to come out of the closet, to not being able to get married (and therefore claim access to the over 1,000 legal protections and benefits that come with marriage licenses) can contribute to “minority stress.”

As a result of this immense and insidious stress, many LGBTQ people develop more severe health problems, and often (due to internalized homophobia) do not seek (or, due to homophobia, are not provided with) the medical attention they need. And so the self-perpetuating cycle of suffering continues.

Many academic and medical studies have linked the existence of internalized homophobia to other health issues and behaviors meant to punish or control the physical body, such as suicide, excessively risky sexual behavior, substance abuse and eating disorders, particularly in those who are lacking the proper support structures, community, and coping mechanisms. It is more difficult still to quantify the unconscious effects of internalized homophobia, especially within those who reject the possibility of it. But while we wait for more studies and analysis from the medical communities, it is imperative that we shine a light on this issue, which is harming so many LGBTQ people, and injuring even more around us.

Inability to have intimacy, emotionally or physically

Internalized homophobia is directly connected to many adverse outcomes in both romantic and non-romantic relationships. Examples can include but are in no way limited to:

  • Low self-esteem / negative self-view that can lead to avoiding substantial relationships or others avoiding you
  • Dishonesty, which can prevent or destroy trust between friends and family
  • Secrecy, which contributes to anxiety and a lack of self-worth, which can then be internalized by partners and friends
  • Horizontal oppression (see section above on this topic)
  • Perpetual lack of satisfaction from emotional and/or physical intimacy
  • Verbal or physical abuse within friendships and romantic relationships
  • Deep shame about sexual experiences
  • Ambivalence, loneliness, isolation
  • Inability to have emotionally intimate sexual encounters
  • Preventing yourself from having sex even if you desire it

At the core of the prevailing stigma surrounding being LGBTQ are false notions that LGBTQ people are not capable of intimacy and maintaining lasting and healthy relationships (Meyer & Dean, 1998). The anxiety, shame, and devaluation of LGBTQ people that is inherent to internalized homophobia are likely to be most overtly manifested in interpersonal relationships with other LGBTQ individuals, creating intimacy-related problems in many forms. Empirical evidence supports these theoretical claims. Concerning romantic relationships, psychiatrists Meyer and Dean showed in a study that gay men with higher levels of internalized homophobia were less likely to be in intimate relationships, and when they were in relationships, they were more liable to report problems with their partners than gay men with lower levels of internalized homophobia. Similarly, in Ross and Rosser (1996) conducted a study showing that among gay and bisexual men, internalized homophobia was negatively associated with relationship quality and the length of individuals’ longest relationships. There are endless stories about love lost and relationships of all forms destroyed over the issue of internalized homophobia. For more reading on the topic, check out the references section of this article.

THE NEGATIVE IMPACTS OF INTERNALIZED HOMOPHOBIA

On the self

Internalized homophobia can prevent us from leading fulfilling lives. It can keep us in a place of perpetual shame, stress, and anxiety. It can keep us from having close relationships with people, or ruin the relationships we do have. It can lead us down a path of bitterness, anger, and loneliness. It can prevent us from coming out of the closet and allowing ourselves the opportunity to be seen and loved for who we are. It can prevent us from ever experiencing love with another person. It can contribute to long-term illness, mental health problems, substance abuse, and self-harm.

On others

Internalized homophobia, when left unchecked or unexamined can harm people around the suffering individual. It can lead to judgmental and hurtful outbursts. It can break the trust between friends and family. It can cause years of heartbreak and struggle with romantic relationships, and it can lead people to positions of power to make decisions that harm other LGBTQ people on a large scale. It can provoke shame, anxiety, and stress, and impact the health of others.

On the movement

When left to dominate a person’s psyche unconsciously, internalized homophobia can perpetuate violence, intolerance, and discrimination. Most significantly, it takes the focus away from the true culprit, the main source of pain and struggle – which is heterosexism, enforced heteronormativity, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia – by keeping us shortsighted and fighting amongst ourselves.

WHY ARE WE ALL IMPACTED SO DIFFERENTLY?

Despite the few shared experiences that LGBTQ people share, we are a group that reflects the diversity of all human beings on this earth. And every detail of a life, large or small can affect the way that internalized homophobia takes hold. For example, studies have shown that those who realize early in life that they are LGBTQ are often more prone to severe internalized homophobia; they do not typically have the support of a community or access to information about their identities to adequately shield themselves from parental ignorance or a homophobic society. By contrast, it is common for people living in regions with LGBTQ equality to experience very little internalized homophobia if, unaware of their sexuality in youth, they realize they are LGBTQ in adulthood.

Internalized homophobia is impacted by every aspect of identity, such as religion, race, class, geography, gender identity, family, friends, partners, as well as all of the prejudices we carry. Additionally, many LGBTQ people experience intersecting oppression, such as racism, transphobia, misogyny, and ableism, and thus are also vulnerable to multiple forms of internalized oppression.

While it would be impossible to describe everyone’s experience, recognizing commonalities, asking questions, and considering the feedback from our peers is a major step in getting a clearer picture of ourselves. An inevitable problem of people so long repressed into invisibility is lack of representation, and due to this, internalize homophobia has an even greater ability to take hold in a person’s psyche.

HOW CAN IT BE OVERCOME?

Think critically about how internalized homophobia could be impacting your life, rather than rejecting the notion outright.

Read more about internalized homophobia. While this topic has less written about it than say, coming out, there is still a lot of information out there, especially moving personal accounts.

Community –  building a support network is essential. The compassion of other LGBTQ people and straight allies can be tremendously healing. Others who are at a different stage in the process can often offer valuable insight and solidarity.

Learn about the history of the LGBTQ rights movement.  Find role models in the struggle. See all of the different identities and human beings it took to effect progress towards equality and justice.

Find an LGBTQ active therapist, counselor or psychologist who can guide you through the reparative process.

Get away from toxic influences. This one can often be the most difficult. Typically, toxic influences include major players in our lives, such as family, religion, and friends.

If your religion is not accepting, consider leaving the church even for a time, or find a new church. If you refuse to leave, educate yourself. Refine your arguments. Learn about whether or not your religion truly teaches the immorality of gays, or if it is the interpretation of your religious leader. However, if your religious doctrine is perpetually in conflict with your identity, you may find the commitment more damaging than rewarding.

Clarify your perspectives by talking to friends and allies. Heterosexism and fear can skew our idea of the threats we honestly face. For example, a person with an open-minded family, LGBTQ friends, and enlightened teachers might still be overcome by crippling fear and internalized homophobia. Work to determine where you stand.

Practice self-awareness. Be aware of your negative reactions, critical self-talk, and judgment of others. Each time you do it examines the source.

If you can do it safely, come out of the closet. While it has the potential to be painful and most certainly will be repetitive and exhausting, this step can be immensely rewarding.

Try to overcome your fear of rejection.

Remember that internalized homophobia is not coming from inside of you. You are not sick, and you don’t need to be cured. It was forced upon you, in a suffocating and violent way by a homophobic society. If you have been accused of having it, or if you wonder about yourself, don’t feel guilty or shameful, just take the steps, one by one, to free yourself of this weight that keeps us all down. 

This is my journey… this is my life!

Rob Cantrell

You’ll never get sober until you understand what’s causing you to relapse

f50340a391e8dd40e141dcccbf31830bIt is estimated that for every 100 people who enter a treatment program for alcohol and drug abuse, only three will be clean and sober one year after treatment. That means 97 out of 100 people fail at living life without drugs and alcohol and return to active addiction. Many never make it back to treatment and die from their addictions. Many people have turned to 12 Step programs such as AA or NA or become active in churches, temples or mosques only to find themselves failing at a life free from addiction.

Why do so many people fail at living a life free from the bondage of drugs and alcohol? Maybe drugs and alcohol aren’t the only problems. Maybe the true culprit is something overlooked and until it is addressed the problem with addiction never goes away. 79% of people battling addictions face what is medically termed, a “dual diagnosis”. It is real and must be dealt with at the same time as substance abuse treatment for any true success in recovery….

What is a dual diagnosis?

Here are 10 things you need to know about addiction and dual diagnosis…

Dual diagnosis is not a rare phenomenon – Some studies indicate that as many as 79% of those with a drug or alcohol addiction also have some form of mental illness

Dual diagnosis comes in many forms – Any combination of mental illness (including anxiety disorder, depression, etc.) and addiction (alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, etc.) can qualify an individual as a dual diagnosis patient. As one can imagine, the possibilities are almost endless.

Dual diagnoses are difficult to treat – One of the things that make dual diagnoses so difficult to treat is that it is hard to know where certain symptoms are coming from. For example, if a dual diagnosis patient is suffering from depression, there’s no way to know initially whether the drug addiction or the individual’s mental illness is causing the problem. Depression is a symptom of many things, so the challenge is on the medical professional to find the cause and treat it.

Those with dual diagnoses are high-risk patients – Coping with mental illness is difficult enough, but when you factor in complications from addiction, it’s easy to understand the high suicide rate and violent tendencies of those with dual diagnosis.

Those with mental illness are more susceptible to addiction – Again, those coping with mental illness are at risk for addiction. Those who suffer from bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and other conditions are likely to see their casual drug use or drinking quickly escalate to an addiction.

Many drug rehab facilities are not equipped to handle dual diagnosis patients – As you’ve already learned, dual diagnosis is a complicated issue. Only those facilities with a532fd9a3dda947d23b2fb2382cc63792 psychiatric staff and an emphasis on dual diagnosis are actually equipped to help these individuals with their recovery.

The best dual diagnosis programs provide integrated treatment – Treating both the mental illness at the same time, all under “one roof”, has been a very successful method of therapy for the dual diagnosis patient.

Dual diagnosis treatment may take longer to complete – There is no “quick fix” for drug or alcohol rehab, but when you factor in the care and patience required to treat mental illness, you have a situation that may have to be extended by months and perhaps even years.

Good dual diagnosis programs move at a pace that’s comfortable for the individual – Because of the mental illness component; you must move dual diagnosis rehab along at a pace that the individual feels comfortable with.

If you or someone you know has a dual diagnosis, contact www.dualdiagnosis.org, www.recovery.com, or ask your family doctor for a referral to an addiction specialist for help.

There is no “one size fits all” method in recovery. Find what works for you.

This is my journey; this is my life.

Rob Cantrell

A substance abusing parent has got to go… handle it!

My greatest regret in life was being present in my children’s lives while I was actively using drugs and alcohol. No child deserves to live in a home where a parent is under the influence, and although my kids have seen the changes in my life, nothing vanishes the past. Children are born white canvas’ and every experience changes them. The psychological damage caused by substance abuse in a child’s life does not simply go away. The scars remain with them the rest of their lives.f50340a391e8dd40e141dcccbf31830b

A person abusing substances will never leave his home even though he is destroying everything within it.  Understanding this is critical for anyone dealing with a substance-abusing family member. Children deserve protection and exposing them to life with an active alcoholic/addict is abuse. If you fail at being a parent… nothing else you do will really ever matter.

“Dad’s an addict.” “Mom’s going to rehab.” These are not easy conversations to have with a child, even one that has long been aware that there’s a problem.

As children learn to fend for themselves to survive, unpredictability and chaos become the norm in addicted homes. Lack of consistent discipline can produce deficits in self-control and personal responsibility, or conversely, over-control or hyper-vigilance. Children may even feel that their parent’s drug problem — and the subsequent breakup of the family or removal of the child from the home that sometimes ensues — is their fault.

Their emotions run a confusing gamut. At once resentful of and loyal to their addicted parent, children are reluctant to open up and share long-held family secrets, even if they desperately want the support. They may have a strong self-preservation instinct, but at the same time, they’re not sure if they deserve to take care of their own needs when their parent is spiraling out of control. The conflicting feelings continue as children get a glimmer of hope when their parent promises to quit even though they’ve repeatedly been disappointed.

In this impossible situation, what can parents, caretakers or other adults say to their children? How do they explain the wreckage of addiction to someone who, at a young age, has already been overexposed to some of the darkest potentialities of life?

Time the Conversation. A conversation about a parent’s addiction is best had when there are no distractions, and the situation is relatively calm. If possible, bring it up when there is a plan in place to get help for the addicted parent. Explain that there’s a problem, and you’re taking steps to improve the situation. Talk about what will change (e.g., Mom or Dad will go to rehab, or one parent may move out if separating or divorcing). Repeat the conversation as often as needed so that the child feels comfortable having an ongoing dialogue.

Keep It Age-Appropriate. The language you use and the level of detail you provide depend on the age and maturity of the child. Break the issues down as simply and directly as possible, and finish with a message of hope.

Get Educated. Educate yourself about the disease of addiction so you are in a position to answer any questions the child may have. If you don’t know the answer, work on finding one together.

Acknowledge the Impact. Rather than skirt around the impact a parent’s addiction has had, validate the child’s experience. Apologize for the pain inflicted on the child and asked open-ended questions about how they’ve been feeling.

Put Things Into Perspective. Children from addicted homes tend to idealize other families without realizing they have struggles of their own. Help them understand that they are not alone; in fact, millions of children are in the same situation. They are normal kids thrust into an unhealthy home environment who are doing their best to cope with an extremely stressful situation.

Teach the Seven Cs. According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, children need to know the “Seven Cs of Addiction”:

I didn’t Cause it.

I can’t Cure it.

I can’t Control it.

I can Care for myself

By Communicating my feelings,

Making healthy Choices, and

By Celebrating myself.

Find Additional Sources of Support. Just as the addicted parent needs treatment and support to get well, children need to know there are resources available to help them process their emotions. If they don’t feel comfortable talking with a parent or relative, they can reach out to a teacher, counselor, child or family therapist, religious leader or support group such as Alateen.

The toughest topics are often the most important to broach with children. For each day that a child lives with an addict, the damage is being done. And while not every child will fall prey to addiction or other emotional or behavioral disorders, they need honest discussion and support to beat the odds.

You can’t save an addict or alcoholic unwilling to accept help. You can only save yourself… and you are obligated to save the child in your care….

This is my journey… This is my life.

Rob Cantrell

Passover is for those who won’t be held down anymore…

I’d like to explain what Passover means to me.

The eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan. It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. And, by following the rituals of Passover, we have the ability to relive and experience the true freedom that our ancestors gained. It is a time of remembering the past and celebrating the present. Okay, that’s the textbook definition…. Now let me tell you what it really means…

Passover is not only for Jewish people… it is for anyone who has made a change in their life. Passover was for me the day I decided not to commit suicide and reached out for help. It was for me the day I got off the couch in a drunken stupor and realized I wasn’t living… I was barely surviving. Passover was for me the day I walked onto a plane for California and walked away from the misery of the past. Passover is my holiday, and I am celebrating it with the people I love in a place I love. Passover brought me home… a place I never thought I’d find.

Letting go of the past is easier said than done. So many of us are hung up on our past — in the love we felt we had but lost, on past behaviour that has created a particular pattern in our life that is unhealthy or the opportunity that we missed out on. But, we also know it’s an unproductive space to dwell in… not only because it leads nowhere, but because it might hold you back from a better future. Maybe even from your destiny.

The thing is, it takes courage to admit something’s not working. It takes, even more, courage to admit that you sometimes can’t force it to work. In our society, quitting is seen as such a negative. We say things like “never give up,” or “try, try again.” But sometimes it is a matter of being honest with yourself, acknowledging the truth of the situation (and being honest about what you want) and giving yourself permission to try something different; to rewrite your script!

This isn’t just about our relationships with others; this is about the relationship with ourselves. Our past can be like a full suitcase that’s packed too tight — full of past issues and hurt. It gets so heavy, we find it hard to lug around. It weighs us down, so we no longer travel and experience beautiful destinations. What we need to do is unpack, discard some things, pack others away in their proper place in our closet and then set out on new adventures with a lighter load.

But why is this so hard?! Maybe it’s not just the fear of quitting. Doing the same thing is also the safe and easy choice. It’s easier to stay in a job you hate than look for a new one. Or to keep going in the relationship, you’re in than face the daunting prospect of dating, heartbreak, and unrequited love! Even when your present misery is debilitating, there can be a strange comfort and familiarity to it. But, while that kind of suffering is slowly eroding, the fear of doing something new, fixing the old behavior, and of actually trying is a more dramatic concern that can be paralyzing.

The thing is, what you’re most afraid of is rarely the thing that happens to you. For me, embracing The Fear and moving on from the past is one of the bravest, most vital things we can do as humans. When I look back at my life to date, those are the moments I’m most proud. And, you know what? They also far outweigh the failures or key learnings, as I like to call them. If I have a regret, it’s that I sometimes didn’t move on sooner, once I recognized something wasn’t working. But you have to allow your heart to catch up to your head sometimes, too.

The courage to take that leap of faith into a different future, even when you’re feeling vulnerable and insecure, has not only shaped my character but my life too. It isn’t always easy, and there are times when we all latch on to the status quo and decide to coast for a bit. The thing is, the great moments in life, the ones that transform and empower, are the ones when we break free and move on.

For every woman ever called a whore or paid less money than the man at the desk next to you… Passover is for you. For every black child called a “nigger” and openly hated by people, you don’t even know… Passover is for you. For the person in an abusive relationship afraid to leave… Passover is for you. For the child sexually violated in the middle of the night… Passover is for you. For every gay man called a “faggot” or refused civil rights enjoyed by heterosexuals across America… Passover is for you. For the homeless, the prostitutes and the drug addicted… Passover is for you.

Passover is for anyone who stands up and says, “No more! I will not allow this to continue in my life… Today is the day I walk towards freedom!”

Happy Passover from my heart to yours…

This is my journey… this is my life!

Rob Cantrell

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.

Rob Cantrell

God… I wish I was beautiful or at least good enough…

c3d72fd973c23a7018df5610f19eab09I’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.

Rob Cantrell5ee1406998cf1da789f5f8595c51df49

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.

  1. God is scary
  2. God is going to send me to hell
  3. God is going to punish me
  4. God expects me to follow a list of rules or pay the consequences
  5. God thinks I’m unworthy
  6. God is making a list, and I’ll have to answer for everything I’ve ever done
  7. God wants complete and total adoration
  8. 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
  9. God expects me to believe every word ever written in the Bible because he inspires 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…

  1. I wanted a friend
  2. I wanted something I could lean on in times of troubles
  3. I wanted to feel loved
  4. I wanted a “father-like” figure
  5. I wanted to live without fear
  6. I wanted help in this life
  7. I wanted to feel peace at the time I die
  8. 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 or set out to find your way, and the books will still help when help is needed. That is why they were created… not to harm you … but to guide you. 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!

Rob Cantrell