I stay sober in Hollywood with a little help from my friend!

IMG_20150309_183129319This is how it all began…

I knew when I landed in Hollywood something had to happen in me… I had no place left to go! My oceanfront condo and 7,500 square foot home in Florida were tangled in the shit storm I walked away from earlier in the year. My Mercedes, housing, furniture and even clothes were gone! I showed up in Los Angeles with a suitcase and $300.00 in my pocket. The spoiled, entitled Rob was dead. This was a make it or break it moment. Thank God I still had a source of income to survive on or I would have been selling old blood plasma somewhere. I’d finally accepted what I’d created and was determined to crawl out of the pile of dog crap that was my life! Dude…. scary times!

Before I left Betty Ford,  I googled sober living facilities in Los Angeles… no reason to return to Florida… I’d thrown a match on that life along time ago… why return to a pile of ashes… I’m no phoenix! I was 90 days sober and completely lost in life, fortunately, I found La Fuenta Hollywood Recovery Center, a small safe place for me to get focused on living like the rest of the world. The place was great… I wasn’t… I was the same entitled, snot nosed guy I’d always been but they put up with me!

A requirement at La Feunta Hollywood Recovery Center is that every one must attend an AA meeting everyday. I didn’t want to do it but I did… I couldn’t get thrown out or I was totally screwed!

I found my way to the West Hollywood Hayworth (as in Rita) meeting and hated it! There were about 200 muscle bound gay men sitting everywhere laughing and hugging and happy. This experience sucked…. but I stayed… I listened and I returned every week. Eventually, I met an older black man with the biggest smile I’d ever seen and a laugh like a voice from the Lion King…. his name is Don…. I liked this guy… he has been sober 1000 years and everyone at the meeting loved him.

Don and I went to dinner in Chinatown one night and I asked him to be my AA sponsor. He was everything I thought I needed in a sober guide. Fortunately, Don turned me down. He said he had a better person for me and would introduce us at the next meeting. He was completely right! He was able to find a person who matched my needs exactly. I’d found a custom fitted sponsor and at no cost to me!

Don introduced me to Eugene at the next meeting and at that moment my life was beginning to change. Eugene is a white haired guy with latin skin and dark eyes in perfect shape… sorta like a shorter version of George Hamilton. Perfect hair, tan and smile. He was willing to help me work the 12 Steps of AA at a pace I could handle and explain things I’d never bothered to understand in the past. His only requirements were that I call him everyday and meet with him prior to each meeting to discuss how my sobriety was going. This was finally going to work!

First thing he explained to me was a sponsor is an A.A. member. A Sponsor is not a Guru. A Sponsor is not a Savior. A Sponsor is not a Higher Power. A Sponsor is not-God. The Sponsor is not a spiritual guide, spiritual advisor, psychologist, therapist, doctor, psychiatrist, banker, investor, occupational adviser, relationship counselor, pharmacist, drug counselor, and not a recovery counselor — or anything other than an A.A. Member who has found the solution of Alcoholics Anonymous – as a solution to their own problem with alcoholism. The only thing the Sponsor is an expert in – is the Sponsors own alcoholism and the Sponsors personal recovery of alcoholism, using the program of recovery in the book and in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.

What he was and continues to be is an anchor for me when I need one.

Watered down, modern AA has spawned all sorts of new ideas and norms about what sponsorship is. Hollywood has well-defined the slew of AA cliches – the meeting room, the sob stories, the group prayer, and the sponsor who calls you when you’re in trouble. Sorry to say that none of these things have much to do with Alcoholics Anonymous, which was originally nothing more than a series of spiritual actions designed to restore the addict to sanity by accessing the power of God, or Spiritual Power, if you like. It is a way to God – nothing more, or rather, nothing less.

The 12 Steps was the sole program of AA – a rigorous and life-changing set of actions to heal ourselves from deep within. An enormous amount of work is necessary to extract the life-destroying character defects that sabotage all good things in life. The work continues as we make amends to all who we have harmed. We take Steps to prepare us for our new life of purpose, the purpose of helping others who still suffer. If all we did was to sit there in meetings, make some coffee, be the treasurer and pass out sobriety coins, we remain untreated, insane, and a threat to every newcomer who walks through the door. Why suffer? Why struggle through each day when there is a solution?

Sponsorship is very simple. It is one person who has taken Steps and recovered taking another addict through the Steps as they are laid out in the Big Book. That person must be willing to change and grow along spiritual lines. His job as sponsor is to hook me up to God and then get out of the way. Nothing more.

It is not his job to be my friend or to listen to me blab on all night about my feelings or struggles, allowing me to validate myself as some sort of victim. It is definitely not his job to call me. If I want to get better, then it is on me to call him and he’ll tell me what he did. And by the way, my feelings don’t matter. He don’t really care how I feel. Sound harsh? Well, it’s really not so harsh when you think that our pathological focus on ourselves and our feelings, our constant engagement with self-pity is the exact thing preventing us from getting better.

Eugene … thank you for being part of my journey!

 

This is my journey… this is my life!

Rob Cantrell

 

Ever been betrayed? There’s a little bit of Judas in us all…..

“It is not an enemy who taunts me—I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me—I could have hidden from them. Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion and close friend”. Psalm 55:12

One of the darkest times in my life was in the mid-1980s. I’d gone through a bitter divorce and my personal life was in shambles. About a week after the ink was dry on my divorce papers, I received a letter from my best friend explaining he was (and had been) involved with my ex-wife. The letter explained that he hoped it didn’t complicate our friendship, and he hoped we could all sit down over coffee and discuss what had happened. He ended it with some bullshit about not wanting to lose my friendship. Two things came from that letter… my relationship with him would never be repaired and I had a Jesus moment. Like Jesus, I had discovered my own personal Judas. I’ll tell you more about this guy later…

It took a long time for me to get past that betrayal. I can thank Oprah for helping with it…. One day she had Deepak Chopra on and the topic was “When a friend betrays you”… Hello! That’s a topic I tuned in for and learned from it. Deepak is one of my heroes! As he explains it…. betrayal is as toxic to us as Agent Orange… we may or may not fully recover from it.

Nothing grows in a toxic environment. An organism will destroy its own ability to grow. I have discovered over the years that those who undermine and betray are the ones that left me doubting myself, my calling, and worried that I didn’t have what it took to accomplish the task at hand. After dealing personally with a friend’s betrayal, it has led me to some conclusions that I think may help. When betrayal happens, it creates a sense of mistrust, broken hearts, and a cocooning of the human spirit. We have a tendency to close up and not trust with abandonment after betrayal.

Inside the family, betrayal has set up the greatest failure statistics of marriage and child-rearing recorded since time began. Inside the corporate world, it serves to reveal selfish desires. On social media, betrayal can cause undo harm to good reputations, and make heroes out of idiots.

Betrayal is a strong feeling that can be difficult to process. Why? Because the trauma of the betrayal creates fear, shame, secrets, and intensity. These feelings may even mix with love and longing for the person by whom we feel betrayed.

Remember that country song that said “My wife ran off with my best friend and I sure do miss him!”
The song is 100% correct. Many times, people don’t know how to deal with the emotional pain of betrayal because our culture doesn’t encourage reflection and genuine expression of our feelings. We become skillful at distracting ourselves by keeping busy with work in an attempt to shield ourselves from feeling the pain. Or for some, we self-medicate to ease the anxiety, stress, and hurt. How many people end up at the bar drinking to a “somebody done me wrong song”?

The point is you can forgive, or let them go…. but you have to do something … pick one and stick with it!

Forgiving someone after a betrayal is a huge step that must be thoroughly thought out, as well as choosing to let them go. You need to make sure you’re fully committed to your decision because if you’re not it will be a major mistake for you.

To forgive you must fully come to terms with what happened and ultimately forget about it. If you choose to dwell on the betrayal then forgiveness will be impossible. Consider forgiveness to be one of the last and major steps of moving forward with the situation and your life. That is unless you’re unlucky enough to have betrayal rears its ugly head once more.

Maybe you’ve thought it out and this betrayal in particular can’t be forgiven or forgotten. No matter what anyone else says, your decision is totally acceptable. This choice is yours and only yours, but now you have to keep to yourself and move along. Always make sure that you don’t let your decision take control over your life negatively.

For years, I didn’t forgive him. The very mention of his name sent me into a rage. But one day… I let it go. His relationship with my ex ended in disaster… he settled for a woman from a nail salon and he ended up making pies in Mexico for a hotel… even that didn’t work out. I googled him after I heard all this… there he was a bloated guy sitting on a sofa at his 60th birthday party looking like the complete waste of humanity I’d hoped he’d become so long ago… and just as Christ said on the cross… “It is finished”.

Suddenly… it was finished. All of my hatred, hurt and rage from his betrayal left me… Karma stepped in and did what I could not… Thanks Karma!

This is my journey… this is my life
Rob Cantrell

Here’s the real issue with the gay lifestyle….

Somebody needs to say it and it might as well be me!

Anyone that knows me will tell you what you see is exactly what you get… I’ve lived too long and way too hard to make other people comfortable by censoring my life. That simply isn’t going to happen. I learned in the first few decades on this planet that it is impossible to fit in other people’s “boxes”… they can’t do it… and I’m not gonna try. This is me… this is Rob and this is how it is always going to be.

If you have followed me on Facebook for more than 2 minutes and looked at the photos I post, you’ll quickly see what matters to me in life. I’m sober, happy and living a life perfect for me. It’s a journey and

I want the entire world to see it!

But I have an important message ……

If you never read another word I write… please read these! There is no such thing as a “gay lifestyle”! Let me repeat this so even those of you talking on the phone can grasp it …. There is no such thing as a gay lifestyle!

Let’s look just at the term ‘lifestyle’ – what comes to mind when someone is talking about a lifestyle? I think of terms like a healthy lifestyle, a sedentary lifestyle, an active lifestyle, or an extravagant lifestyle – just to name a few. Now what do these examples have in common? They are all based on choices. You can choose to be healthy. You can choose to be sedentary. You can choose to be active. You can choose to live extravagantly.

There is also no such thing as a “Gay Agenda”, at least not in the sense that it has been brought up by those who are suspicious of the gay community as a whole. If there is a gay agenda, it is to have equal rights, to have a job without fear of being fired, just because of one’s sexual orientation, to serve our country without fear of being court-martialed for whom we choose to love, and most importantly, to marry and have the same benefits under the law as heterosexuals do.

The gay community has no desire to recruit children. There is a difference between someone who is gay and a pedophile. Pedophiles are sick bastards that need to be shot in the head on the evening news! You don’t want to get me started on pedophiles. If anything, if we have children of our own, most likely we prefer they grow up straight because from our own personal experience, we know how difficult it is growing up gay, though we do hope that will not always be the case. The gay community as a whole does want children who discover they are gay; to know they are not alone, no matter where they come from. We want them to know that they are not abnormal and they do not have to hate themselves because of their sexual preferences, no matter what those around them might say.

It cannot be beyond comprehension that gay people also have jobs and careers, play and watch sports, socialize, walk our dogs, take exams, celebrate holidays, save for a house, pay the bills, eat, sleep and drink. That gay people live everyday lives too. What is there to misunderstand? Where is this naivety coming from? Too much TV? We can thank television and film for attempts at bringing LGBT lives into mainstream media, though entertaining as they were, they’ve clearly left the unenlightened under a misguided, exaggerated illusion. It’s not all Broke Back Mountain and that fat gay guy on Modern Family. I don’t know any gay people like that in my world!

I note that the dictionary defines heterosexuality as “sexual feeling or behavior directed toward a person or persons of the opposite sex.” The same dictionary defines homosexuality as “sexual desire or behavior directed toward a person or persons of one’s own sex.” I see little difference apart from a gender reference, which both specify equally. There was no mention of this “gay lifestyle.” Clearly some need to get their head out of their asses and even their mind out of the gutter, for that matter… and keep up with the real world. Being gay has no more to do with sex than being heterosexual does. There is nothing unique to the gay community in that regard, we’re just like everyone else.

It’s no great secret: some people are gay. What difference does that make to anybody? What impact does it have on anyone else’s life? These narrow and harmful views are motivated by fear, not understanding. They’re driven by intolerance, not empathy. Nevertheless, they are beliefs held strongly by some, but it would appear they’re on shaky ground. It’s time for a change, and change is coming. And it’s not gay people that need to change. Gay people are not the problem. Being gay isn’t a problem. How those who are gay are perceived and, indeed, treated — that’s the problem. Education will correct these misconceptions and that’s why I feel it’s important that I share with the 40,000 people that actually read this blog. It’s important that those in need of this knowledge become aware that not only are some gay people world-class athletes but indeed, some are doctors, teachers, nurses, politicians, actors, veterinarians, judges, shopkeepers, singers, police officers, astronauts and even substance abuse counselors. The list goes on. We, too, have passion, we, too earn livelihoods, some of us are very career-orientated, and some of us excel in our chosen fields. Again, there’s nothing unique to the gay community in that regard, we’re just like everyone else.

I could not care less if you support or oppose same-sex marriage. I think marriage itself should be outlawed! Nothing good ever came out of mine but a bunch of wonderful kids! The rest of marriage totally sucked for me!

Being gay is not the most important thing in a gay person’s life, but it is important that the world around us, if not accepting of us, at least respects us and allows us the same rights and privileges that everyone else takes for granted.

You be you… I’ll be me and that is exactly how it should be!

This is my journey… this is my life!

Rob Cantrell

 

Why don’t you love me?

It hurts when you have someone in your heart but will never have them in your arms….

Many years ago, my son went to a well-established prep school in Jacksonville, Florida. The year was just starting and I had an appointment to meet the teacher. I also had an opportunity to volunteer for every function … from field trips to science fairs. It had the potential to be a great experience for my father/son relationship. It turned out to be a nightmare.

The teacher was picking up signals I wasn’t sending. She called continuously, scheduled meetings continuously and planned outing for the two of us. I knew she had an attraction to me, and I loved the attention, so I let it continue. One afternoon as I was picking up my son she asked if we could speak… so as usual I agreed. In her classroom she took my hand and announced she was divorcing her husband. She said, “I love him like I love all mankind… but I’m not in love with him”…”this will allow us to finally be together”.

STOP! Let me see if I’ve got this right… the husband loves her but she doesn’t love him…. and she loves me but I don’t love her. There is a lot of love misdirected in this story. Long and the short of it…. she divorced him… I ran from her and everyone ended up single. Love sucks….img_0036

I read an article recently by Paul Hudson, a guy that knows the agony of love gone wrong. He seems to understand my story and what happens to us when a love so right turns out to be so wrong… maybe you can see yourself in some of this…

People who don’t love you can be found in many places. Pick the person in a brand new relationship; they can’t see more than five inches past the face of their new love, let alone far enough to see you pining away in the corner. Pick the girl you’ve been friends with for ages, the one who refers to you as a brother and will never see you as anything else. Pick the boy who flirts with everyone, sleeps with everyone, the one who doesn’t know what he’s looking for and never seems satisfied. He’ll do just fine, too.

This has to be more than a crush, more than just a fleeting attraction. Thinking they look cute when they smile, or letting your imagination momentarily wander when they touch your skin isn’t enough. You must love them with every fiber of your being, from the moment you wake up until the moment you fall asleep, day after heartbroken day. Memorize the rhythm of their voice, the subtle gestures of their hands and each expression of their face, so when you’re asleep and dreaming of a world in which you’re together, it seems real. Feel your soul fracture each morning when you wake up and realize it isn’t. Let the agony, the obsession, consume you. Nothing hurts like loving someone who doesn’t love you back.

Perhaps you think I’m crazy for suggesting anyone let themselves fall into this pit of despair, that I’m an emotional sadist. I assure you I’m not, because eventually something happens to every single person who loves someone who doesn’t love them back: they manage to stop being in love.

img_0029While it takes varying amounts of time, everyone finds their breaking point, that moment when enough becomes enough. It could be the third night you cry yourself to sleep, the fifth time they cancel plans with you to be with someone else, or the eighth night in a row you spend getting drunk alone. It can take months, or even years. But here’s what you’ll have once you get there:

After surviving that kind of ache, you’ll be so much stronger, so much more certain of yourself. You’ll see that all pain (physical, emotional, and metal) is a temporary state of being, not a permanent one. There is always a reason to go on, always a reason to fight for yourself.

Here’s the best part about getting over someone who doesn’t love you: You realize that nobody healed your heartache, that you were able to fix yourself all on your own. And once you’ve proven to yourself that you can recover from that, you won’t be afraid to go looking for love again.

Until you fall in love, you don’t know what it means to live. Well, to beimg_0022 more exact, until you fall in love and have your heart broken, you don’t know what it means to live. Furthermore, until you have your heart broken, you won’t understand what it means to truly love.

As human beings, we learn best from loss. We come to understand the importance and value of both people and things, by losing them. Sure, we can imagine how it must feel to lose a person we love, but until we actually lose, or are at risk of losing, this person, we never fully understand how important he or she is to us.

We learn by losing. We learn when we are beaten by others, when our best efforts aren’t good enough, when we don’t make the cut, and when we fail. Success is no teacher. In fact, success can often do more harm than good — especially when it wasn’t worked for or earned.

But loss… when you lose something, you instantly become aware of the now vacant space in your life that was once filled with something beautiful — even if that something beautiful was only the dream of having that which you now know you won’t have. And it hurts.

Love can teach you just about everything you need to know about life. For example, it can teach you that sometimes no matter how much you love a person, that person simply won’t love you back.

It can teach you that there are many levels to loving and that each and every person loves a little differently. It can also teach you that sometimes you have no choice but to love someone who will never love you as much as you love him or her.

We often talk about unconditional love, as if it were a real thing. The truth is that there is no such thing as unconditional love; we all love conditionally. However, having someone love you back is not one of those necessary conditions.

In fact, we often fall in love and continue to love those who don’t love us back as passionately. We all love that which we can’t have, and if we find someone that doesn’t want us it only makes us more desperate to have that someone.

That’s a bitch, ain’t it? You fall in love with someone who doesn’t love you back and knowing he or she is trying to push you away only makes you want to latch on tighter. img_0011The more that person tells you he or she doesn’t want you, the more your imagination concocts ways of making that person fall for you.

I speak from experience… as people, we are capable of chasing the person we are in love with for years and years on end to no avail. Every time we are turned down, we fall in love a little deeper. Or so we think.

Most of us have a difficult time distinguishing between romantic love and love itself. Romantic love is more a sort of obsession than it is anything else, and it’s romantic love that makes us want that which we can’t have.

Romantic love is what turns our imaginations on high and makes it impossible to start thinking about that one special person. The best part of it all is that we love being in love romantically, no matter how much it hurts.

Being in love with someone who will never love you as much as you love him or her shakes you to your core, but you love it. Don’t get me wrong, it hurts. It hurts a whole lot. At the same time, it makes you feel more alive. It makes you feel more “in the moment.”

It opens you up to a side of life and a side of yourself that you didn’t previously know existed. It’s the sort of pain that you never forget, but at the same time look back at with a sort of fondness and sense of nostalgia.

There’s a fine line between pain and pleasure. Romantic love walks that line. I hate crossing lines.

This is my journey… this is my life.

Rob Cantrell

Cheating Is A Choice…. Not A Mistake!

Revenge? Nah… I’m too lazy for that. I’m gonna sit here and let Karma mess you up!

I am no stranger to wild living and one night stands… I’ve stolen towels and ashtrays from some of the finest Indian owned motels in the south… I’m talking about the classy ones with avocado green shag carpets and velvet paintings of dogs playing poker nailed to the wall. I’ve even seen a room with a framed 8”X10” of Jesus knocking on the door of a house… that one always gave me the creeps. Who decorates those places?

I’ve done a lot of crappy things…. But I never cheated on anyone I was in a committed relationship with… ever! That to me is the unpardonable sin… there is no going back and fixing that. You sleep with someone else … it’s over… have your attorney call mine!

The most insensitive words I’ve ever heard were….. “It didn’t mean anything!” Really? You just destroyed everything we’ve built for 7 ½ minutes with someone that didn’t mean anything to you? Now I’m more than hurt … I’m insulted! It should have been the orgasm to end all orgasms! A holiday should be named after it!

I’ve had my share of cheating spouses… each of them enjoyed a visit from Karma. Karma will handle situations most of us would go to jail for handling! You just have to wait… Karma always comes knocking …. (I love me some Karma!).

I understand so much more now that I’m on the other side of some of the worst relationships in recorded history… I survived and I’m still standing. Maybe I should put all the psychology courses I’ve endured to work…. Maybe I should finally realize there’s a lot to be said for moving on…

I was reading an article written by Jason Fierstein, a psychotherapist in Phoenix that specializes in “cheater” therapy… can you imagine doing that for a living? But I agree with him, so this is what we think about those that can’t keep their clothes on …. they cause damage that long outlast the actual “act” or the act of getting caught! These are fundamentally damaged people that damage others….

The unfortunate thing about being cheated on is that it’s a gift that keeps on giving. As if being cheated on is hard enough, often the negative effects of having been cheated on ripple out into other intimate relationships you may have. If you’ve ever been cheated on, you might want to know about this.

Sometimes, we convince ourselves that we’ve done our grieving or worked through the negative impact of being cheated on. We can get good at convincing ourselves or rationalizing that we’re “over it”, but are we really over it? Once we’re in new relationships, sometimes the after burn of being cheated on plays out with our new partners. Jealousy and suspicion sometimes irrationally creep in our minds, and we can’t shake the idea that will be cheated on again. No matter what our partner says or does, or how much they convince us that they’re not going to do whatever previous partner did to us, it’s still not enough to shake those irrational thoughts. We ruminate and we obsess. In our minds, we think that our new partners are going cheat on us, when they probably won’t. We harbor suspicion and doubt, and then end up acting in ways that push our partners away with that jealousy and doubt. We create what we fear.

You may have convinced yourself that you’ve dealt with being cheated on. Maybe you have, and maybe you haven’t. It’s not enough just to tell yourself that you’ve if you’ve ever been cheated on gotten over it, or that you’ve healed. If you’re still ruminating irrationally in your new relationship that tells me that the work may not be over for you. You may have some unfinished business about being cheated on, so it would behoove you to get some professional help to work on those issues. Often times, there’s a lot of pain, grief, rejection and anger associated with the partner that cheated on us, that we really never got to identify or process when it happened because we were so rattled at the time, or we didn’t want to look at those feelings within us. I know that feeling rejected by your life partner is probably one of the hardest things to deal with, because it cuts so deep personally. If they’ve cheated on you, it may translate for you to mean that you’re flawed, or that you’re not wanted by this person, and that they chose somebody better than you to be with, or at least to sleep with. It really may go to the core of your being, in terms of your confidence, feelings of security, and trust. All those issues are really major things, and if you haven’t looked at those issues in depth, it might be in your benefit so that you allow yourself to be more emotionally available for your future relationships. The past affects us in the present so long as we haven’t dealt with it.

Trust is one of the most precious things to create in a relationship, and once that’s been corrupted, it’s really hard to get it back. It affects us negatively well into our future, when we choose our future partners and when we try to create new intimate relationships. We have to localize our trust issues, and really commit to working on them. We need to clear ourselves out emotionally to be able to learn to trust again. Even if you know your new relationship partner isn’t going to cheat on you or compromise your trust, on an emotional level your heart maybe telling you something different from your head. Your head knows that they’re not going to do anything to you rationally, but irrationally, the heart probably is telling you something else. It’s telling you to watch out for danger, that you could be put in the very situation that you don’t want to be in before.

Naturally, when we’ve been hurt, we want to close up. We shut our doors to someone else, and we push people out. We don’t want to risk being open and vulnerable to someone else, when we’ve been so hurt in the past. This limits our ability to deepen and strengthen our new relationships, as we’re being held back by old ones. If time goes on and you’re continuing to be closed to your vulnerability, your new relationship partner may, in fact, be starting to react against you for that. They may withdraw, or attack, or eventually want to get their needs met from somebody else, thus fulfilling the prophecy you have inadvertently created for yourself. You don’t want that, do you?

It is possible to get past the negative effects of being cheated on. It makes sense, if you want to have another trusting, open relationship with someone else. It’s unfortunate that a lot of people never really work on the issues I just mentioned and remain single and never get into another relationship because they’re terrified of being cheated on again. It may be difficult to work through all of the pain, rejection and grief that’s associated with being cheated on, but in the long run, you’ll have invested in a happier future for yourself.

In my opinion, cheating is a selfish and cowardly act of not considering anyone or anything except your own greed, need, and sexual desires. It’s an immoral way to accomplish something. Consider it stealing or taking something that doesn’t belong to you. Perhaps you’ve been hurt and you want to pay the other person back, or the relationship is no longer what you want. The lack of compassion or respect for the other person is bad enough, but the affects that will carry over to your children, whether you see them or not, is another, which can cause the most damage.

It’s easier and selfish to think that your children will forget about the disruption and sometimes devastation to their life or that it won’t affect them if they don’t know. The fact of the matter is, they will remember and if they didn’t know at the onset, sooner or later they will find out. It may come out in forms you may never care to associate with your actions. You may never realize the destruction to their life or if you do it may be when it’s too late.

Parents repeat the same loving words, they would do anything for their children, and then they cheat without considering any of the ramifications. When you destroy a relationship, take more than a fleeting moment to consider everyone in that relationship. If you aren’t happy, get out of the relationship with your dignity intact and move on respectfully. Consider the emotional aftermath your children will suffer although they may not say a single word to you about it. Look at the statistics of young adults in therapy because a parent cheated. Now, consider those that aren’t in therapy and have to emotionally find their own way around your actions. That selfish act can damage your children for life. Is it worth taking that risk?

Cheaters are going to cheat… it’s a shame they can’t do us a favor and just leave… that’s easier to face and accept for everyone left picking up the pieces.

This is my life… this is my journey!

Rob Cantrell

Love Hurts! Please hit me again …..

“So what’s the glory in leaving… doesn’t anybody ever stay together anymore? If love never lasts forever tell me what’s forever for?” – Billy Gillmore

I’ve never been lucky with love, commitments, relationship, houseplants, recreational drug use or keeping secrets… if you know something terrible… don’t tell me or I’ll put it on the internet!

Do I suck so badly that the cosmos have decided to poo-poo on my love parade or do I simply not understand what love is supposed to do?

To find out I went to the keeper of all secrets big and small …… Google!
I found some “true-dats” I’d over looked for 50 years! Now I’m gonna share them with you!

In 1967, John Lennon wrote a song called, “All You Need is Love.” He also beat both of his wives, abandoned one of his children, verbally abused his gay Jewish manager with homophobic and anti-Semitic slurs, and once had a camera crew film him lying naked in his bed for an entire day.

Thirty-five years later, Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails wrote a song called “Love is Not Enough.” Reznor, despite being famous for his shocking stage performances and his grotesque and disturbing videos, got clean from all drugs and alcohol, married one woman, had two children with her, and then cancelled entire albums and tours so that he could stay home and be a good husband and father.

One of these two men had a clear and realistic understanding of love. One of them did not. One of these men idealized love as the solution to all of his problems. One of them did not. One of these men was probably a narcissistic asshole. One of them was not.

In our culture, many of us idealize love. We see it as some lofty cure-all for all of life’s problems. Our movies and our stories and our history all celebrate it as life’s ultimate goal, the final solution for all of our pain and struggle. And because we idealize love, we overestimate it. As a result, our relationships pay a price.

When we believe that “all we need is love,” then like Lennon, we’re more likely to ignore fundamental values such as respect, humility and commitment towards the people we care about. After all, if love solves everything, then why bother with all the other stuff — all of the hard stuff?

The problem with idealizing love is that it causes us to develop unrealistic expectations about what love actually is and what it can do for us. These unrealistic expectations then sabotage the very relationships we hold dear in the first place.

Love does not equal compatibility… just because you fall in love with someone doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a good partner for you to be with over the long term. Love is an emotional process; compatibility is a logical process. And the two don’t bleed into one another very well. It’s possible to fall in love with somebody who doesn’t treat us well, who makes us feel worse about ourselves, who doesn’t hold the same respect for us as we do for them, or who has such a dysfunctional life themselves that they threaten to bring us down with them.

It’s possible to fall in love with somebody who has different ambitions or life goals that are contradictory to our own, who holds different philosophical beliefs or worldviews that clash with our own sense of reality. It’s possible to fall in love with somebody who sucks for us and our happiness.
When I think of all of the disastrous relationships I’ve had or the ones people have told me about I see all started with one basis of emotion… we felt that “spark” and so we just dove in head first. Forget that he was a born-again Christian alcoholic and she was an acid-dropping bisexual necrophiliac. It just felt right.

And then six months later, when she’s throwing his crap out onto the lawn and he’s praying to Jesus twelve times a day for her salvation, they look around and wonder, “Gee, where did it go wrong?”

The truth is, it went wrong before it even began.

When dating and looking for a partner, you must use not only your heart, but your mind. Yes, you want to find someone who makes your heart flutter and your farts smell like cherry Popsicles. But you also need to evaluate a person’s values, how they treat themselves, how they treat those close to them, their ambitions and their worldviews in general. Because if you fall in love with someone who is incompatible with you…well, as the ski instructor from South Park once said, you’re going to have a bad time.

Love is not always worth sacrificing yourself. One of the defining characteristics of loving someone is that you are able to think outside of yourself and your own needs to help care for another person and their needs as well.

But the question that doesn’t get asked often enough is exactly what are you sacrificing, and is it worth it?
It’s normal for both people to occasionally sacrifice their own desires, their own needs, and their own time for one another. I would argue that this is normal and healthy and a big part of what makes a relationship so great.

But when it comes to sacrificing one’s self-respect, one’s dignity, one’s physical body, one’s ambitions and life purpose, just to be with someone, then that same love becomes problematic. A loving relationship is supposed to supplement our individual identity, not damage it or replace it. If we find ourselves in situations where we’re tolerating disrespectful or abusive behavior, then that’s essentially what we’re doing: we’re allowing our love to consume us and negate us, and if we’re not careful, it will leave us as a shell of the person we once were.

You can fall in love with a wide variety of people throughout the course of your life. You can fall in love with people who are good for you and people who are bad for you. You can fall in love in healthy ways and unhealthy ways. You can fall in love when you’re young and when you’re old. Love is not unique. Love is not special. Love is not scarce.

But your self-respect is. So is your dignity. So is your ability to trust. There can potentially be many loves throughout your life, but once you lose your self-respect, your dignity or your ability to trust, they are very hard to get back.

Love is a wonderful experience. It’s one of the greatest experiences life has to offer. And it is something everyone should aspire to feel and enjoy. But like any other experience, it can be healthy or unhealthy. Like any other experience, it cannot be allowed to define us, our identities or our life purpose. We cannot let it consume us. We cannot sacrifice our identities and self-worth to it. Because the moment we do that, we lose love and we lose ourselves.

Because you need more in life than love. Love is great. Love is necessary. Love is beautiful. But love is not enough. Don’t settle ….

This is my journey … this is my life!
Rob Cantrell

Dating an Addict? Know the facts….

5 Things To Know Before Dating An Addict…

A report from Partnership for Drug Free Kids states there are 23.5 million Americans in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. That means roughly 8% of the U.S. population is getting their act together and living life on life’s terms… bravo! It also means there’s a chance the remaining 92% of the country will end up dating us …. This is where it gets tricky!

I read an article by Dr. David Sack, an authority on addictive behavior, and wanted to share the facts with you on dating an alcoholic or addict…. I’m in recovery and can tell you the facts don’t lie… we’re a complicated lot and will break your heart if you’re not careful… love is blind… it doesn’t have to be stupid!

A history of addiction doesn’t necessarily turn Mr./Mrs. Right into Mr./Mrs. Wrong. In fact, addicts who are solid in their recovery can make excellent partners. I like to think I’m one… We’ve waged a courageous battle, spending a great deal of time working to take care of and improve our lives. But before you put yourself in a position to fall for an addict, there are a few things you need to know:

1. Love does not conquer all.
For anyone considering dating an active addict, it is important to realize that love cannot conquer addiction. Addiction takes priority over everything – you, children, career, financial security, even one’s own freedom. Before diving into a relationship, find out if your prospective partner is actively using drugs or alcohol, or if they display addictive or compulsive patterns in other areas (e.g., gambling, work, sex, food or spending).

If you care about someone in active addiction, help them into treatment and hold off on turning a friendship into more until they’re grounded in their recovery. If they are in recovery, how long have they stayed sober? Are they actively working a program of recovery (e.g., participating in self-help support meetings, counseling or an aftercare program)?

Someone with less than a year sober should stay focused on their recovery program, not dating. This guideline is designed to protect the addict as well as the people they might date. In the earliest stages, most recovering addicts are trying to figure out who they are, what they want and how to be in a healthy relationship. Beyond the first year, the longer someone has maintained their sobriety the more secure you can feel that you’re choosing a partner who is healthy and whole.

2. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease.
An estimated 40 to 60 percent of addicts relapse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Since relapse is always a possibility, addicts and their partners need to stay alert to their triggers and be prepared to get help when warranted. If you’ve struggled with addiction yourself, be extra cautious – your use can trigger their relapse, and their relapse could spell ruin for both of you. Left unaddressed, relapse can set in motion a roller coaster of chaotic break-ups and reunification that in the long run only exacerbates the problem.

The threat of relapse need not deter you from dating someone firmly grounded in their recovery. It is simply a reality you should be aware of. By educating yourself about disease of addiction, you’ll know what to expect and when to ask for help.

3. Recovering addicts need support.
Being a loving partner to a recovering addict requires sensitivity and discretion. For example, you’ll likely need to avoid drinking or using drugs around your partner. If you go to parties or events where alcohol is being served, you may need to leave early or offer additional support.

Even if it’s inconvenient for you, you’ll need to make allowances for your partner to go to meetings or counseling sessions, particularly in stressful times, so that they can continue to prioritize their recovery. Short of a relapse, there still may be times when they fall into old habits, such as withdrawing from friends and family or telling lies. You’ll need to recognize these signs and get involved.

4. You can’t change the past.
Many recovering addicts have done things in the past that result in a criminal record, making it harder to get a job. They may have accrued significant debt, declared bankruptcy or had other financial problems. They may still be working out legal issues and trying to earn their way back into the lives of family and friends. Although these are not necessarily deal-breakers, you need to know that their problems can become your problems. If you can’t accept what was, you may not be the right person to accompany them through what is and what will be.

5. Know (and take care of) yourself.
You can’t change your partner or their past, but you can control yourself. In any relationship, setting and enforcing personal boundaries is an essential skill. When your own boundaries are firmly in place, you protect yourself from being taken down by your loved one’s illness.

There may come a point in the relationship when you need to ask some difficult questions: Why are you attracted to this person? Is it because of who they are and how they treat you, or do you have a history of being attracted to people you can rescue or fix? To avoid codependency, enabling and other problematic patterns, you may need to seek counseling of your own.

If a partner relapses, it can be difficult to know what lines to draw. You don’t want to give up on a person you love – after all, they must be in there somewhere – but if the relationship is making one or both of you sick despite your best efforts, it may be time to leave. No one can tell you when it’s time to call it quits except you.

Dating a recovering addict can be complicated, but most relationships are. So long as you know what to watch out for, work to ensure you’re both getting your needs met in healthy ways and reach out for help if you get in over your head – in other words, take the precautions you’d take in any romantic relationship – a recovering addict can be an excellent friend and partner. I think I am…

This is my journey… this is my life.
Rob Cantrell

Hollywood’s Sidewalk Lady… homeless and alone

“If you see me walking down the street and I start to cry… Walk on by, walk on by” – Dionne Warwick

There is nothing memorable about the corner of Franklin Avenue and Highland Avenue in Hollywood. It’s a miserable place where traffic is heavy and the midday sun unforgiving. The corner is simply ugly. It sits one block off the Walk of Fame and is home to the only gas station in the neighborhood. It’s a place you use to get someplace else… you’d have no reason to stay. Highland and Franklin has two towering structures that can be seen from a distance, the Lowes Hotel and a Methodist Church. The Lowes is a hot spot for travelers and “C” list celebrities… the kind that are on dance shows or Real Housewives of Anywhere… it ain’t Beverly Hills.

I’ve never seen anyone near the Methodist Church. The building is big and ugly with a giant tower attached to it, maybe once it housed a bell or clock to let the neighborhood know the Methodists were open for business. Today, it has the biggest faded billboard of an AIDS ribbon I’ve ever seen. I suspect it was installed 25 years ago when the world was still interested in the disease that killed over 750,000 gay men. Today, the sign seems faded and a symbol of the past. The church, the sign, AIDS are all things no longer in fashion, soon a developer will level the area for something important like an American Apparel Store or maybe a Target.

The things that stand out in my mind about Franklin and Highland are the unbearable heat, inoperable pedestrian crossing signs and the lady by the fence. For a year, I have cursed the corner on my way to hike Runyon Canyon. It delays my schedule and ruins my motivation to climb the mountain. Everything about Highland and Franklin irritates me. Damn traffic in L.A. will it ever lighten up? I know with certainty I will run in place waiting for a light that doesn’t change, and I will dart out into traffic and chance becoming a hit and run statistic. I also know that as I wait for my chance to cheat death… I will look for her across the lanes of traffic curled in a fetal position… still and lifeless.

She is the lady by the fence. She has been in the same spot for a year, curled beneath a bush next to a fence that protects the empty parking lot of the Methodist Church with the faded AIDS ribbon. Day and night she remains under the bush motionless… never facing traffic or the life on Hollywood Boulevard. Her world is the bush and the chain link fence that protects the empty parking lot. Once I saw gardeners trimming the bush with heavy equipment and she never moved. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. How could she handle what was happening to her? My God, the noise… the heat… the filth… did rats crawl on her at night? But as always, the walking light turned green and I had a canyon to hike, so I left her there as I always do never thinking about her again. She was on the other side of the street and I wasn’t going there, someone would help her. The question was when was it going to happen?

An article in the LA Times stated that 13,000 people a month become homeless in Los Angeles… I think most of them are in Hollywood. I walk past a dozen every morning on my way to Starbucks… I smell the pee and step around them on the sidewalk. Homelessness is part of my daily routine on the boulevard of broken dreams. It’s where the dream malfunctions. I’ve learned not to make eye contact or engage in conversation with anyone or I end up walking home without a latte and pissed off. Maybe that’s why I felt such disregard for the lady under the bush… I never saw her face or made eye contact so we had no human connection. She was not my problem, and as long as I remained across the street I was safe.
Everything changed on Yom Kippur

I listened to a message from Rabbi Denise Eger regarding social injustice and I thought of the lady under the bush. Who was she? Was someone looking for her? How did she get there? Was she still breathing? I couldn’t stop thinking about her.

After services, I walked to the corner of Franklin and Highland and there she was… like one hundred times before she was in the same spot under the same bush in the same position. This time I crossed the street and knelt down next to her and asked if she was ok. I wasn’t prepared for her face, it was filthy as I knew it would be, but the color of her eyes were bright blue and alive. She’s a battered little woman in her 50’s, she doesn’t know her name or where her home is… so she stays under the bush where it is safe. She told me she was hungry and just wanted to go home. I wanted to hug her but we were both too afraid for that.

I left her with all the money I had to get food ($4.00), she said she would walk across to the gas station and eat… I know in my heart she would. She’s not an alcoholic or addict working a scam for her next high… I’m a recovering addict … I can spot others like me in a crowd. She’s simply lost in the world.
As I left, I told her I was going to call someone to help her and to not be afraid. She understood and I left her there alone and waiting. As I walked away I called 911 and reported a woman badly injured by a hit and run driver at Highland and Franklin in need of immediate attention. Yes, I lied to the dispatcher because rescue won’t come for the homeless… they don’t matter. I’d do it again!

This morning she’s gone… I don’t know if she will ever remember her name or where her home is or if someone will love and care for her… all I know is it took a year for me to take an action to help her. I’m ashamed of that….

This is my journey… this is my life.
Rob Cantrell

Trust Me …. I’m Sober!

For years, I bounced in and out of drug treatment centers so many times I had the entire process memorized. I’ve heard “tell me about your childhood” and “how does that make you feel” so often the two phrases are permanently seared into my brain! Each time I finished a rehab program I was outraged that my family didn’t trust me on any level. At one point, I was making a high six figure income and was given $20.00 daily to survive on… when my new Mercedes needed gas a family member followed me to the gas station and pay for it. Damn… I hated it! In truth, they had no reason to trust me because I had done everything on earth except Michael Jackson! Drug addicts and alcoholics are like stray dogs… you can’t help but love them on some level. You know you don’t need the hassle they bring into your life, but you love them.

If you have lived with an addict, or with anyone who has betrayed you, and that person tries to regain your trust by consistently being trustworthy, then you may have to learn to trust him again. The fact that he has become trustworthy doesn’t make this any less difficult. Because by now you wonder whether you’ve lost all perspective; if you couldn’t trust the person you thought you knew best, how can you trust anything? How can you trust your own judgment? You grapple with that one for a while. You take a kind of inventory of the people you have trusted: who among them has been always reliable, whose dependability comes and goes, who you would leave your children with.

You realize that most of the people you do trust actually are worthy; and that though you don’t trust the addict, you can trust your friends and yourself. Your trust is like a home. You can sit on the porch and watch the way someone outside behaves, and if you don’t like the behavior, you don’t have to let him in. You can watch him, you can sit there on the porch and tell him that you’re rooting for him and that you hope he gets better, and then you can go inside and close the door. If you’re having a good day, you can blow him kisses before you go in. But you don’t have to invite him in with you. Your home is secure because you have built clear boundaries around it. Some things are allowed, and others are not. It isn’t easy, but it’s simple.

If someone you love is addicted, chances are one of the first things that was damaged in your relationship with them is the trust you had. Long before you lose respect, patience and in some cases love, trust is usually the first to go. You’ve probably lived with the lies, the odd behaviors, the loss of property, theft and endless broken promises and been left with a constant sense of doubt about everything that the addict in your life says and does.

We expect to be able to trust the people we love and it goes without saying that in most relationships, when trust is absent it is difficult to keep moving the relationship forward. Those who have never shared their life with an addict would believe that loving someone without trusting them is the beginning of the end. Granted, it certainly changes the shape of the love you have for the person but if you have loved an addict and understand anything about the addiction they have, you will know that not only is losing trust, inevitable, it also becomes necessary for your protection and emotional stability, as part of surviving the journey of loving an addict.

By no means am I saying it feels at all good or right!

Unfortunately, when you love an addict, many of life’s usual expectations are reversed. Lies are expected, distrust becomes inherent, being let down is common and until a fundamental change is made and recovery is in hand, your expectations don’t usually change. But when a commitment to recovery is made, there is the opportunity for trust to be restored.

The time it takes to trust your loved one again will vary depending on each unique situation. You don’t HAVE to trust again within any set timeline. You don’t HAVE to trust when your addict tells you that you should. Unfortunately in the early days of recovery it may not even be possible to begin to trust as old behaviors can linger even when the addiction is being managed. Often when lies and deceit have been a constant way of life, the habits can be easily fallen back into for reasons we might not understand. When I got sober, I would lie about small, seemingly inconsequential things, because for me the truth had been blurred for so long, and the untruths were so thickly woven into my life, the lies came a lot easier than reality. It took a number of months for me to learn to fully speak the truth, about everything, so that I could begin to rebuild trust piece by piece with my family and friends.

Communication is a critically important tool and this means being able to ask questions and have them answered with honesty, respect and kindness. This is a condition that must be put in place from day one. A willingness to agree to it signals a strong commitment to recovery.

In recovery, allow your loved one to begin to earn your trust but be aware that this is a skill they need to re-develop. You should continue to protect yourself but also observe their commitment to their recovery, look for changes to their lifestyle, friends and choices of entertainment, watch how they behave, listen to what they say, and decide if all of these are aligned with an honest recovery.

You might experience your loved one becoming frustrated that you don’t immediately trust them the minute they set their intentions on recovery. This is common and can seem defensive, causing you to wonder if they protest too much? It is important to have an open conversation about your wish to also have the trust restored but make it clear that for this to happen, you must be allowed the time you need to witness a constant effort to maintain trustworthy actions and behavior and as long as this is evident, you believe that you can begin to trust again.

While the trust is being rebuilt it can be easy to fall into over vigilance. Don’t waste energy trying to make sure your loved one doesn’t relapse or looking for evidence of betrayals. I know this can be difficult but they must learn how to conduct themselves appropriately on their own and your constant intervention will only create a dynamic of control and resentment, which doesn’t create a particularly good start for a relationship in recovery.

This is my journey… this is my life!

Rob Cantrell

Xanax… a prescription to Hell!

“I want a new drug… one that won’t make me sick… one that won’t make me crash my car or make me feel three feet thick” – Huey Lewis

My grandfather took Valium, a benzodiazepine as prescribed by his doctor daily for 10 years. One night while watching the evening news he learned the drug was considered addictive and new warnings had been issued by its manufacture. Alarmed he never took another valium from that day forwarded. His decision cost him his life. For the next three weeks he suffered horrible depression and withdrawal symptoms associated with the drug and committed suicide in the family dining room at 59 years old. It didn’t have to end that way, a medically supervised detoxification could have saved his life and been completed in 3 – 5 days. Sadly, he suffered and died in silence.

For years, I was addicted to Xanax… which is the younger cousin of Valium, and just as dangerous. I was prescribed the drug initially for panic disorders and depression. Like my grandfather, I took the medication as prescribed, and like my grandfather when I tried to stop using it…. my world fell apart.

The effects of Xanax abuse go far beyond the symptoms the drug creates. The real effects of Xanax abuse are seen in what it does to an addict’s life, mind and relationships. Since Xanax – including its generic form, alprazolam – is the most widely-prescribed of the benzodiazepines, it is also the most widely abused of these drugs. And there are hundreds of thousands of people who are suffering the effects of Xanax abuse. Between 2004 and 2010, the number of people who visited emergency rooms who were suffering from the effects of Xanax increased from 46,000 to nearly 125,000.

After opiates (pain killers), Xanax is one of the most popular drugs of abuse. Because one’s body builds up a tolerance to this drug, those who are addicted can reach extraordinary levels of Xanax consumption. For example, a CNN report on Michael Jackson’s death stated that before he died, he was taking ten Xanax a night, which was a reduction from his earlier consumption of 30 – 40 Xanax a night.

A person who is accustomed to taking Xanax may not exhibit signs of being “high” but they may not be able to conceal the other symptoms of Xanax abuse.

You might see a person manifest these symptoms of Xanax abuse:

Suicidality

Thoughts of harming oneself

Depression

Hostility

Hallucinations

Chest pain

Uncontrolled muscle movements

Seizures

Hyperactivity

If you see signs of Xanax abuse and want to help someone get off this drug, you may need to get the person through a medical detox before they can go to rehab. Xanax and other benzodiazepines can require a very careful period of weaning before it is safe to discontinue them. Symptoms like seizures and severe mental disturbances can result if the drug is discontinued without careful support.

A person who has become dependent on this drug – which means they have come to rely on this drug psychologically as well as being physically addicted – will probably need rehabilitation before they can embark on a new, sober life. When a person is addicted, they have found an escape from life’s problems and now they must learn how to have a productive, enjoyable life while also not needing this kind of escape. This normally takes some time and also takes learning sober living skills.

A person who is addicted to a drug will very often feel that life will be unbearable without that drug. This is one of the reasons that an addicted person will fight the idea of rehab. Very often, they are just taking the drug they are addicted to so they will feel “normal,” so they can function in daily life. You take the drug away that they think makes them feel “normal” and they may not believe they can cope with life.

But they can. It takes a thorough, effective drug rehab program.

Recovering from the effects of Xanax abuse is difficult and even dangerous to do alone. Many people must be weaned off Xanax by a physician, sometimes in a medical detox environment. But when they are off the drug, the person will still need to recover from the damage the addiction does to mind, body, spirit and life. This is where the Narconon drug recovery program can help.

This addiction recovery program is drugless, meaning that no drugs are ever prescribed as part of treatment. The focus is on repairing the damage that addiction does, whether that addiction was to Xanax, opiates, alcohol or any other substance of abuse. There are some fifty Narconon recovery facilities around the world. In each one, the program is the same, taking on average eight to ten weeks to complete. The Narconon recovery program is structured so that the individual has tools that help him succeed in life and remain drug-free. The Narconon program not only addresses the debilitating effects of drug abuse on the mind and body, but also resolves why a person turned to drugs in the first place. As a result, a person can graduate from the program into a new life free from drug use.

Narconon is one of many programs available to anyone living in addiction. A quick google search is a perfect beginning to a new life. You’re reading this on the computer now… why not take a minute and do some research of your own? Learn how this and other programs can help someone you care about who is trapped in Xanax addiction.

This is my journey… this is my life.

Rob Cantrell

Stop Apologizing For Everything In Life….

 

“I’m sorry… so sorry… please accept my apology!”… Brenda Lee

With everyone’s every deed made public on the Internet these days, we’ve suddenly all developed a lot more to apologize for. But we haven’t actuallyfda18bbbd9623de7069c95a48b33cc07 gotten any sorrier, so all that means is that the number of fake apologies have gone up. And we’ve started to develop some pretty universal techniques for “apologizing” without really apologizing. One of the popular go-to phrases is “I deeply regret …” It’s such a useful tool in the unapologetic person’s arsenal because it doesn’t require you to admit you did anything wrong. I don’t know if it’s technically correct, but it’s common to send “regrets” to a friend whose loved one has just died, and nobody takes it as an admission that you were responsible for their uncle’s death.

For those who feel that “deeply regret” is admitting too much responsibility, they can upgrade to “mistakes were made,” the highest level of non-apology, used at the highest levels of government. Presidents as diverse as Reagan and Clinton have used the phrase, which one-ups “deeply regret” by not only leaving it open whether they are actually the culprit but existentially questioning whether there even is one.

All agree that mistakes were made, but by whom? God? The universe? Can we ever really know? Isn’t it a waste of taxpayer dollars to launch a special investigation into something that can never really be answered? Shouldn’t we leave it up to the philosophers?

0e413c244463af3d836f0ea4f4ed95c4I wouldn’t think I would have to explain this, but apparently some people require it: You can only apologize for yourself. Maybe there are some gray areas, like apologizing symbolically for a group you are part of, but you sure as hell should not be apologizing for the person you are apologizing to.

This happens all the time, often in a fairly harmless attempt to save a little face, like in a sports discussion. “Jeff, I think a lot of folks misunderstood that statement, and for that I apologize.” Maybe he really meant that folks misunderstood because “I worded things badly” or “I shouldn’t have said X” and thought it would be implied, but he never actually takes anything back, so I don’t know.

But that’s just a bit of language hedging we’re probably all guilty of. Sometimes people are a lot more deliberate about pointing the finger at other people, like the pastor who advised parents to punch their gay children. He later said, “I apologize to anyone I have unintentionally offended. I did not say anything to intentionally offend anyone in the LGBT community … It is unfortunate I was not more careful and deliberate. I can understand how these words could be misunderstood without the context of years of ministering to the people of God at Berean Baptist Church. I have received nothing but notes of appreciation and support from the people within the church.”

Some people use apologies like a get out of jail free card. “I’m sorry if this offends anyone” has sort of turned into a slang phrase that really means, “All right, folks, get ready for the edgy truth I’m about to lay down!” They don’t even intend to deceive you; this is just a new slang use of language, like when people decided to use “bad” to mean “good” or “sick” to mean “awesome.” Unfortunately, not everyone has gotten the memo on the cool kids’ slang these days, so quite often anyone using this kind of language just comes across as a very stupid person trying to trick you.

People apologize ahead of time not only for what they’re going to say, but bbafe3478f5d18d1a2da736c8107a88ealso for what they’re going to do. It’s like when someone gets caught emailing during a meeting and apologized by saying, “It’s going to happen and I’m sorry if it bothers you.” He is just going to keep doing it while they are talking about whatever they are talking about, but he said he was sorry first, so I’m sure they will have to get off his back.

Apologies do not always work at repairing damaged relationships for a reason. The reason is: many people have a misunderstanding of what an apology is and what it is for. And many people avoid offering their apology because of this misunderstanding. For many people apologizing means admitting they are wrong and the other person is right. It’s an attempt to try to restore harmony in the relationship by admitting they are less than and the other person is better.
For other people it is a meaningless word…said to try to make the other person stop being angry. This version of the apology may sometimes work, but it frequently does not because it is more of a manipulation than a sincere way of communicating.

So how do you apologize if you don’t think you did anything wrong?
The apologies that I see repairing a damaged relationship all have some things in common. These apologies are more about acknowledging the other person’s feelings…that they felt hurt and that you regret saying or doing something that felt hurtful. I call this kind of apology “The Reparative Apology”. It is called by that name because it repairs damage to a relationship.
5e3abe45da72e0d244297315e9842b9bThe key thing that makes this apology sincere and work better is this: You are not admitting you are wrong. You are simply noticing that the other person is hurt, and sharing with them that you did not want to cause them pain. And…you regret saying it in such a way that they felt pain. You wish you had said it in a way that was not so painful to them.

The reparative apology is said like this:
1. “I’m sorry I said something so hurtful.”
2. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
3. “I wish I had handled it differently.”

It may not sound like much, but the results are magical. I’ve noticed all three parts of the apology are useful. And I’ve noticed that saying just one or two of the parts don’t work so well. It works best when all three parts are said together, in the order listed above.

You can offer the Reparative Apology just after you said something hurtful or 10 years after you said it. It will repair damage either way.

If you try this apology out, I think you will see it has an impact and success that other apologies lack.
This is my journey… this is my life!
Rob Cantrell

The Subway Men… their eyes tell it all

“Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late” Benjamin Franklin


I see them everyday and I study them. One represents what I never was and the other what I fear most. They’re just two guys on the subway from downtown Los Angeles to North Hollywood.

The first guy is “20 something” with movie star looks. The kind of person, whether you’re straight or gay you have to stare at because he’s perfect. He’s of some kind of Middle Eastern/Greek/ Romanian/Jewish/Italian/just freaking lucky mixture. I figure he’s clerking in a law firm… just waiting to pass the bar. He’s definitely not from money but his kids will be. He gets on at Pershing Square and he sits motionless is his seat with ear buds in place listening…. he never says a word to anyone… he simply listens. His eyes have the innocence of not seeing too much or doing too much with people he’s trying to forget. He knows his time using mass transit is limited, so he waits until we reach Hollywood where he quietly exits in wrinkled khakis and dull, lifeless black dress shoes. The subway won’t be his world, nor the riders his neighbors. Someday a girl will fix him and he’ll be the prized addition to the right family. At that point, his life will become privileged, and the $1.75 subway ride a memory… but it won’t happen today.

As he exits the train I act as if I remember being him. That’s delusional! I was never the beautiful guy… but I wanted to be… at best, I’m marginally above average. My face is a face… nothing remarkable there. I had a nice looking body ( past tense) a great sense of humor and a very distinctive voice. Nothing about me is remarkable other than I have survived a lifetime of self-destruction, battered, bruised and a little worn. That is the reality of my life. It is what it is… period… paragraph… end of story.

The second guy is “50 something” and spends his rides on his iPhone frantically punching the screen to find a life.. He’s 15 pounds over weight and has hair dyed a ridiculous color that comes in a “Just For Men” box. His eyes tell it all …  he’s unemployed and panicking. This wasn’t supposed to happen to him. He attended every seminar… every course… every fund-raiser to prove he was part of the corporate team and they let him go. He’s guilty of the imponderable sin of aging. His youth is gone… and the career that took it is gone too…. I’m gonna bank the kids are grown and the wife is leaving soon. Where did it all go? How did he end up on the subway with those people? A lump forms in his throat and I can see his eyes watering… he stares lost out the window at the tunnel’s darkness. The gun he bought to protect his family is always on his mind.

As he exits the train I want to hug him. I don’t need to insult him with “everything’s gonna get better” or “it could be worse”. I don’t need to say anything at all. Sometimes people don’t need words… they need a hand to hold.

I’ve been the lost guy wandering in the wilderness. I’ve watched it all slip away as I spiraled out of control on drugs and alcohol… I never want to be him again. Yet, I know all I have to do is drink or use and the sadness and sorrow will return with a vengeance taking everything I love with it.

On the days I don’t see them I wonder if the right family finally saved the young guy or if the gun at home completed the ending to the other man’s struggles.

In my life I’ve lived, I’ve loved, I’ve lost, I’ve missed, I’ve trusted, I’ve hurt, I’ve made mistakes, but above all I’ve learned.

This is my journey… this is my life.

Rob Cantrell

I’m sober and so unhappy ….

I thought everything was going to be perfect when I got sober… what happened?

 

Life has very few grey areas. There are distinct colors and hues to life.

Colors are often used to describe recovery stages and life moods in general. For example you hear people say, “I’m feeling blue. Her future looks bright. There are dark clouds brewing, “or “She’s on a pink cloud.”

Some things in life do fall into a grey area, but most things don’t. Pregnancy isn’t a grey area. You can’t be “kind of” pregnant. Either you are or you aren’t. Your pregnancy can make you happy or sad or both at the same time and at different times. You can’t be “kind of” married. Either you are or you aren’t. Being married can be a joy or a burden and often it flips back and forth between the two. You can’t be “kind of” sober. Either you are or you aren’t. Sobriety can be great for you or it can be a suffering or it can go back and forth. And there is no guarantee that sobriety (pregnancy or marriage), will bring only bright colors into your life. The emotions and life conditions of sobriety don’t come in one single color. Living life sober is not always bright or dark; it’s not even grey. In sobriety, some things are brilliant white, some are the darkest of black, some are varying hues of happy pink and others are an unappealing shade of monkey vomit green. At least that’s how sobriety is for me.

It seems that some people feel as if living sober is a grey area. “I only drink on weekends. I only drink beer. I don’t drink to get drunk, I drink to feel better.” It doesn’t matter to me whether you drink or not. It doesn’t matter to me if you only drink on weekends, if you only drink beer or if you only drink (or get drunk) once in a while. It should only matter to YOU if you drink or not, especially if your drinking is creating problems in your life. Your consumption or drinking lifestyle may be a problem if it’s harming other people (the people you love or are responsible for), or if it’s adversely effecting your job, career or education advancement. But it’s still up to YOU if you will drink or not drink. Drinking or NOT drinking is pretty clear.

It’s black and white, there is no “grey area” to sobriety—either you’re sober or you’re not. And even though drinking or not drinking is black and white, neither is right or wrong. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s right or wrong—for YOU.

A peculiar aspect of being clean and sober is that many colors and hues happen (or are felt) simultaneously. For instance, you may be facing the darkest of problems when suddenly an unrelated ray of bright light shines in. This doesn’t melt the colors together into one single grey, each of the colors are felt uniquely. One color may blend into the other, making a dark moment look brighter or the bright, happy moment look muted and a little darker, but I find that I can experience differing emotions at the same time,

I’m sure you do as well. I don’t recall having that ability when I was drunk or drugged out —I was either happy or pissed off, and switching between the two could happen at any moment without warning.

I can also say that I haven’t woken up once with a hangover since the day I stopped drinking. I haven’t once had to apologize for saying or doing something I regret while being drunk. I haven’t once had feelings of shame, guilt or self-loathing due to drinking. Believe me, I’ve said things I needed to apologize for, done some real bonehead things and there are plenty of decisions I’ve made that I have regrets about. But all of those rude statements and bonehead decisions were done with a clear mind. I felt that I was doing the right thing at the time. There’s a lot of things in life that you don’t see the results until a month, six months, a year or 5 years later, but that’s just part of being sober.

What’s my point with all this? Well the emotions and results of living clean and sober aren’t black and white. It isn’t even grey. It’s a wide variety of colors all happening at once. Getting load

ed is a way to try and change the colors you don’t like, but it’s not a very good way. You can attempt to drink your way into a bright spot, but that can easily turn into a dark abyss. When you’re drunk, colors become distorted (and so do people’s appearances). It’s difficult to see and experience the reality of life’s colors through a drunken mind.

I believe there are ways to assist yourself so that your life’s colors won’t be distorted and that you move towards the colors you desire. First, by avoiding or eliminating mind altering substances from your life you will be able to get a truer picture of the colors in your life. Next, having tangible and realistic goals helps you move towards the colors you desire. Every goal may not be accomplished, but the pursuit of a worthwhile goal keeps you in a brighter spot. Finally, stability in life helps. You don’t have to love or even like your job, but if it’s stable, that gives you something solid to stand on. Responsibilities can create stability. If you have children or you’re in a relationship, being responsible to your children (and your partner) can bring stability. Stability and responsibility doesn’t automatically turn your colors brighter, but it can give them clear definition.

Life continues to move along regardless of if you’re drunk or sober. Good things still happen and bad things still happen. Bright spots and dark spots will always come along. A constant grey doesn’t sound all that interesting to me. A wide variety of colors makes life more vibrant. And for me, living as a non-drinker and non-user has allowed me to see, feel and experience many more of life’s colors, even when I’m not all that fond of the color combinations.
This is my journey… this is my life!
Rob Cantrell

Insecurities make you hate people you don’t even know…

“I sure can get phony when I get scared …. I stick my nose up in the air… stony… stony when I get scared!” – Joni Mitchell

Have you ever met someone that instantly made you feel unwelcomed? You can’t quite put your finger on it… but you know you’ll always be guarded around them. Over the past year, I’ve experienced that feeling every time I’m around one particular guy. I see him at social gatherings, my temple and community functions and the reception is always uncomfortable. I realize that I’m the type of person you either instantly like or hate… My personality is over the top and I irritate lots of innocent people.  That being said, this man has made it clear which side of the street he’s standing. After an encounter with him today, I realized maybe I’m not the problem… maybe he has insecurities he hasn’t conquered.

Every person in the world has something he or she is insecure about even if only slightly. I could fill a sports arena with mine and have plenty left for the parking lot. Education has always been so important to me. I believe in part because my father is well educated. He was a school teacher and could talk with authority on almost any topic. I love his ability to reason and make difficult decisions. I’ve spent my entire adult life enrolled in some sort of educational program… but I never felt intellectually adequate. As a dyslexic with ADHD, traditional methods of learning have been a struggle.  I’m a fairly smart guy… I have three college degrees… I’m just racked with insecurities that control my life. When I received my undergraduate degree and first MBA, I didn’t attend the graduations. I felt that if I could get the degrees they were of little value. The pattern followed me into three PhD programs… I was accepted… I did well… I quit. I allowed fear and insecurities to rule my life… untreated depression and substance abuse didn’t help the situation.

After years of personal therapy and even more years strapped to textbooks, I’ve learned a little insecurity is manageable … a lot of it in certain areas can ruin your life. When I got sober I had to face my demons…  For me the only way of ridding myself of insecurity is to put myself out there and live through whatever I fear. Believe me… the process sucks, but I think it holds true for everyone to just do it!

Logically, I understand self-doubt is irrational. Insecurity is irrational. Irrationality has no place in my life. All it does is frustrate me when I don’t get the results I’m hoping for. Those that live an insecure life don’t live a happy life.

I know from experience insecure individuals don’t have the confidence to try their hand at enough things. That’s why they have so much trouble figuring out what they really want to do in life. The only way you can figure out how you should best live your life is by testing things out. You try things until you figure out what does and what doesn’t work for you, calculating the probability that the following test will result in positive experiences. You try, you learn, you draw conclusions and you try again… that’s the only way to live. Those that are insecure hold themselves back from trying new things. The more you’re insecure, the less likely you are to find the ideal life. Personally, I think that’s a stupid tradeoff.

Insecure people live in a world of fear of judgment. The more insecure you are, the more that insecurity weighs on your mind. You think more about it and think less about anything else. You live in fear, hoping that no one notices how flawed you are, even if only in one regard. You’re scared of interacting with people because you don’t want them to see through you. People judge… that’s the way we’re built. The real question is: Why does it matter to you so much? Most people won’t be as upset with your flaw as you imagine to begin with. And those that are, never really matter.

Sadly, they half-ass everything and end up living a half-assed life. Things only matter when we decide they matter. How much they matter depends on how much importance and meaning we give them. Your life is exactly that… the more you put in, the more it means. The less you put in, the less you try and the more you avoid responsibility for your life and your actions, the less meaning your life has.

The insecure can never entirely be themselves… they always hold themselves back. Being insecure doesn’t excuse you from functioning within society. For this reason, they function under a false pretense, pretending to be people they aren’t. They hide their flaws and therefore hide themselves. If you’re insecure about something then either change it or remove it from your thoughts. What you can’t change isn’t worth worrying about. Don’t live your life in a shell. All the fun starts when you jump out of it.

Because they never attempt to be themselves, they never really find themselves or get to know themselves the way they should. Most people don’t know themselves well because they don’t take the time to get to know themselves. The only way to get to know yourself is to live and see what happens… see how you react in certain situations, see what you enjoy and what you dislike, experience the world and find your place in it. If you aren’t honest with the world about who you are then you’ll never find a place in it.

Essentially, insecure people live in a world filled with denial. You’re not perfect, but no one is. The only thing you should be insecure about is being irrational and illogical – everything else is subjective and out of your control. By being insecure, you are telling yourself that you’re not good enough the way you are. That’s a lie. You’re accepting a lie as the truth. That’s the textbook definition of denial.

They miss out on the best things that life has to offer. Insecurity forces you to live less… literally. You do less and worry more, accumulating negative thoughts and missing out on new experiences and memorable moments. Life has so much to offer if you go out there and take what is given to you. You have opportunities to explore and grow as an individual daily. Choosing not to take advantage of it all is a waste of a life. Life is hard enough as it is; take whatever freebies are thrown your way.

I have a feeling the guy I mentioned earlier is never going to call and invite me over for a hamburger. Somehow I’ll survive the rejection…. I won’t be happy about it… but it isn’t my issue… it’s his.

There’s a prayer that says to accept the things you can’t change, change the ones you can and figure out the difference between the two. That sounds like a pretty good plan to me.

This is my journey… this is my life.

Rob Cantrell

L’Shanah Tovah! Happy Rosh Hashanah …. I’m 2 Years Sober

Welcome to the new year….IMG_20150316_211026

On the Jewish calendar it’s 5776! It’s time for celebration, reflection and renewed hope for a sweet year. On the Rob calendar it’s year 2… It has been two years since I began this sober life. Sobriety has its benefits… I have so much to be thankful for this year. Here’s a few things on my list…

First, I don’t know anything about life. I can’t fix anyone’s problems because I don’t have any answers. I say the wrong things… act without thinking and blurt out opinions no one wants to hear. It’s difficult for me to figure out the easier, softer way to do things. All I’ve gotten is older… not wiser! I’m thankful I realize these shortcomings!

For the first time in my life… I’ve been introduced to God. I’ve heard about him my entire life but I’ve never known him. I’ve seen people walk around looking stoned and acting stupid claiming to have a “Jesus” moment. I never did. He scared me so I stayed away. Things changed this year because I’m learning to listen. I’ve found a temple in West Hollywood that accepts everyone. Regardless of any orientation the doors are open and the message is what I need to hear every time I go. The rabbi provides life lessons that apply to me and I’m thankful for her.

God has revealed I’ve wasted a lot of time consumed with guilt over other people’s issues … not his. God is not a scary judge ready to destroy me for some infractions found in a 3,000 year old book. Holy books are written by unholy men… they are translated into languages and like every school paper ever written… get edited before the finished product is read. Holy books are guidelines for living… nothing more. I don’t believe in Santa or that some guy lived in a fish or a woman turned into a pillar of salt. They’re great stories but they are parables used to teach and illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson.  God is so much more than one person’s interpretation… he’s not interested in causing me eternal agony because I’ve lived differently from the blonde upstairs!

I’m learning to accept things I can’t change…. I’m not young… I’m not beautiful… and I will never be on anyone’s “A” list of people to emulate. There are things I wish were different but I’m not willing to make the sacrifices to get them… I’m not going to have a rocking body because I love food and exercise sucks!  I love food more than sex and God knows I love sex! I’m also never going to use the three gym memberships I have to improve the situation. This is my reality and I am completely comfortable with it.

I’m accepting the fact Rob is good enough to be loved. Nothing I’ve done in the past needs to be brought into this moment. I did it… I may or may not have enjoyed it… I survived it.. I’m here… It isn’t. I don’t need to carry a massive bag of crap into every relationship. I’m releasing the past and accepting a love that is perfect for me now. I do not have to defend or explain what my heart feels or wonder why God sent my soulmate. I only have to accept the gift and be thankful for having someone who loves me unconditionally. I don’t want to be known for what I’ve done… I want to be loved for who I am.

My life has certainties that I cherish… I know every morning as the sunrises over the Capital Record building and shines across my balcony Shmuli and Kooli will have me racing to the elevator for a morning pee break. I know at 6:30 a.m., I will get a call from my mom in Florida telling me she had something to tell me but can’t remember what it was…. so, we’ll talk for 20 minutes about nothing. I know I’ll see the homeless guys and working girls on Hollywood Boulevard on the way to Starbucks and we’ll say hello. I know I’ll walk past a 24 hour tattoo shop and consider the tattoo I started a year ago on my butt and never finished because I’m broke. I’m always gonna be broke I might as well finish it! Most vividly, I know I’ll look at the Hollywood sign on my walk home and say thanks to God for letting me live to see it again.

I started my life at a point when most people are preparing for retirement. Addiction takes a lot of things from you… most notably time. I don’t have the luxury of the American dream… I didn’t chose it because I didn’t want it. I have less than I’ve ever owned and more of what makes me happy. That is what I’ve gained in my second year sober… I’ve found happiness. I’m still not young or good looking or rich…. but I’m so very happy.

Bob Dylan wrote the truest word I’ve ever read …

” once I was wadding in fortune and fame
Everything that I dreamed of to get a start in life’s game
But suddenly it happened I lost every dime
But I’m richer by far with a satisfied mind.”

So many things I held to and told myself were mine… were never mine. I know what addiction cost me. I also know I never have to return to anyone or anything that held me down… this is my new year… I plan to live every moment to the best of my ability… I can rest when I’m dead. God, thanks for letting me stick around for 5776… I’m gonna do my best not to waste it!

This is my journey… this is my life!

Rob Cantrell

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