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HerbyBell

Sins of the Fathers

By | Emotional Intelligence, Spirituality in Addiction Recovery | 8 Comments

“The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!” – Rumi

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I had the recent privilege of attending a “Soul Retreat Gathering” hosted by The Hero’s Journey Foundation . It was held at a wonderful place called, Anubhuti Retreat Center in Novato, California.

The long weekend was fashioned after a “Soul Tavern” where in the tradition of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey work, we gathered to invest time for renewal and discovery for the next phases of our lives. A space to, “Renew intentions that bring us more fully alive and reactivate our capacity to make ourselves useful in this ordinary world.”

What made it especially meaningful for me is that my oldest son, Tyler attended with me. Our family chose names for Christmas gifts last year and I picked Ty. I thought it would be nice to do something different together and when the weekend experience came onto my radar, I secured two places in…The Tavern.

Neither Ty or I knew exactly what to expect and as was pointed out on the introductory evening by the facilitator and master storyteller, Michael Mervosh, what we expected probably would not occur and what we came for was not for our individual selves. Something else would happen.

Michael was right and what did occur, another gift of my recovery and life-time.

Intergenerational Wounds–Sins of the Fathers

My story has carried with it the trauma and the wounds of both my namesake, maternal grandfather and my father committing suicide when I was a baby and then young boy, respectively. While I don’t really think we humans completely “let go” of central themes and issues in these life times, we can lessen and soften their impacts on our here and now living through the choices we make.

Somehow as Providence would have it, I found it necessary years ago to leave my family after nearly 20 years of marriage through divorce and the confusion of my addiction. A choice I regret, but convinced at the time, the right thing to do. Ever since, and increasingly as the years pass, I have felt as if I perpetuated the sins of my fathers on to my sons via my own inner tug-of-war of abandonment and survival.

The Tavern–and Tyler–offered up a different interpretation of the story for me to consider. During the course of our work over the weekend, Tyler pointed out, “Dad, you’ve got an agenda here”, and he was right. I wanted Ty to have a way of getting at the inner struggles of what…I was projecting onto him, my own abandonment issues. I wanted to say to him again how utterly sorry I am for not having the strength and good integrated health to stay with the family, with him, his brothers and Mom and work through it.

Getting At It and the Gift of My Son

At one point Tyler was poised to leave the event provoked by my often awkward effort to “get at” the work. I have a strong tendency to bring Court Jester energy to gatherings with complete abandon, something that makes Ty and most others very uncomfortable. The combination of my largely unconscious antics, but mostly Ty’s willingness to “stay with the process and work through it” led to our breakthrough.

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The gift to me from my gentle and caring son, Tyler through The Tavern is that the sins of my fathers are not mine. Ty showed me through his graciousness and patience that I can give the “sins of the fathers” and their illusory burden back to my Dads, and while Ty may have some of his own individual work to do, he has given my sins–back to me. He made it clear that we can accept what has happened and be present with and for each other and Live for today.

While something still and always will live in me to try to protect and “save” my sons, the truth is that Tyler is his own man on his own Hero’s Journey and an admirable and accomplished journey it is.

I have eternal gratitude to the The Hero’s Journey Foundation and especially my son, Tyler who showed up in a place he wouldn’t have chosen for himself and stayed in that place until its gifts could be received with gratitude. You can’t find a better man.

I love you, Ty. Thank you, my beautiful son.

AO50-Summer-14

Active, Sober and Well

By | Addiction, Addiction Prevention, Addiction Recovery | 17 Comments

Active, Sober and Well

I love the old song by the band, Faces entitled, Ooh La La. The song laments, “I wish I knew what I know now, when I was younger, I wish I knew what I know now, when I was stronger.” Relax and listen–and I’ll be surprised if you don’t agree it’s a toe tapper and a nostalgic reminder for all of us:

“Ooh La La” by Faces

I never thought I’d be contributing to magazines entitled, Active Over 50 much less articles discussing addiction–when I was younger either. But..Ooh la la and how lucky can a guy get?

I was privileged recently to talk about addiction recovery and wellness, and what has made it last–for me–via this article in the online and print magazine, ActiveOver50.com. Here’s the article:

Pretty Lucky Guy

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What Top Recovery Blogs Say About Sobriety

By | Addiction Recovery, Recovery Advocacy, Sober Lifestyles | 2 Comments

 

Top Recovery Blogs Chime in on Sobriety

Bill Dinker of The Discovery Place

Bill Dinker of The Discovery Place

Sobriety and addiction recovery are “experiments of one” and slightly different for each of us endeavoring to get–and stay well. All paths and approaches have more similarities than differences as pointed out by Bill Dinker of The Discovery Place in this very informative post surveying top recovery blogs including RHC.

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Moving From Sick Care to Health Care | The New Addiction Treatment Paradigm

By | Addiction, Addiction Prevention, Addiction Recovery, Addiction Treatment | 10 Comments

Addiction Treatment | From Sick Care to Health Care

I had the recent privilege of attending the 2nd Annual David E. Smith, M.D. Addiction Symposium in San Francisco. The event attracted addiction treatment professionals from all over the nation. We listened to seasoned clinicians and cutting edge thought leaders in addiction science and treatment on topics ranging from pharmacotherapy to spirituality. If I were to sum it all up in a nutshell, the common thread was that we actually are moving from sick care to health care with addiction treatment leading the way.

It’s All About Brain Health, Any Questions?

Good health starts with brain health.

Good health starts with brain health.

Time and time again I heard ultra credible, mainstream people saying that addiction treatment is all about brain health and brain health is all about ensuring the essential nutrients of eating, exercising, thinking, feeling and sleeping well.

Something inside stood up and cheered as I heard for example, the addiction psychiatrist and trend setter, Daniel Amen, M.D. say things like, “Why is psychiatry the only discipline that doesn’t ever look at the brain–the organ it is treating?” and, “Why do I get recommendations for a colonoscopy but never for a non invasive brain scan when brain health is what it’s ALL about?”

Each talk surveyed the literature and as pointed out, the research gets edited and updated about every twenty minutes. But the bottom line was this; every vetted approach works a little bit, however if people are not practicing the good brain health practices of eating, exercising, mindfulness and sleep–fogettaboutit’.

What’s really changed in the way people think and talk about addiction treatment is that we’re getting calls to action–and I mean seriously–people standing up in solidarity and declaring we cannot practice addiction treatment in the compartmentalized, symptom suppression way we’ve been trying for decades. Rings a Herby Bell in my, “experience of one” in addiction recovery…Yes!

Monetize Wellness: NOW

I love my squishy brain...

I love my squishy brain…

As I sit here between thoughts and squeeze my palm sized, squishy brain the Amen Clinics distributes as marketing tools, I realize we really are on the brink of commitment to delivering a new paradigm of healthcare because we’re learning how to market and monetize wellness.

Yeah, there are a lot of fancy ways to get into the practices of this new paradigm–healthcare–and it takes what it takes. How about a “single photon emission tomography scan” or better known as the SPECT scan? A test that takes a snapshot of how the brain is working to determine what practices of–you guessed it; eating, exercising, thinking, feeling and sleeping well will best serve that brain.

So what about all the other high powered, high tech, biochemical/mechanical approaches that we’re so used to hearing about “curing” us? Fantastic stuff all of which can be used for the far end of the sick care spectrum when indicated. But for the remaining 85% plus of the population, let’s evangelize the brain health basics up the yin-yang and develop services and practices that offer healthcare to the masses, shall we?

Live Long and Drop Dead

What we’ve learned the hard way, (and another refreshing, repeated point stressed at the symposium) is the longer people are in addiction treatment, the better. Another way to think about it is that people need to stay in healthcare for life, because nobody gets out alive. How we facilitate this current inconvenient truth remains in the storming and forming phases, but people, we have ignition!

As more people are taught by doctors, (Latin; to teach) to take on the “experiment of one” by practicing good brain health, my mentor and colleague, Mark Sisson‘s adage makes more and more sense; “Live long and drop dead.”

Take a hands-on approach to taking care of your brain

Take a hands-on approach to taking care of your brain

Okay, so while we’re still in the interim space of being sold on the idea that one’s gotta have symptoms before learning to take care of oneself with good brain health practices, it’s an important step toward a better way to be the self-regulating and self-healing humans we already are.

Here’s to the time when we all realize that symptoms are an indication we have not been “in” or practicing healthcare–a time when we’re all taking a hands-on approach to eating, exercising, thinking, feeling and sleeping well–as matters of fact and practice.

A special thanks to Dr. David Smith who has been writing, saying and practicing all of the above for decades and who will be an upcoming guest interview on Sober Conversations. My deepest gratitude to you, Dr. Smith for all of the gifts bestowed upon so many at your symposium. I look forward to learning more from you very soon.

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Advocacy with Anonymity? | Our Challenge in the 21st Century

By | Addiction Recovery, Recovery Advocacy | 12 Comments

 

We stood at the turning point…

Addiction is inarguably America’s number 1 public health challenge, here and now. We’re living in a day-and-age when combined addiction and brain sciences continue to dot every “i” and cross every “t” in answering the former perennial questions about addiction’s causes, its development and risk factors. We know what works in treatment and that addiction is a chronic illness requiring lifetime care. We get it in a critical mass way. As a result we’re posing new questions about such things as advocacy with anonymity and how to bust a long overdue and effective move with advocacy, while honoring the time tested practice of anonymity.

Lisa Frederiksen of BreakingTheCycles.com

Lisa Frederiksen of BreakingTheCycles.com

Recently, in an effort to evoke some much needed community and kitchen table conversation about addiction, my colleague, Lisa Frederiksen of BreakingTheCycles.com and I co-presented a public screening and discussion of The Anonymous People. The director of the feature documentary, Greg Williams, has done a masterful job of engaging viewers to understand the history of addiction and the reasons it has mirrored the controversy and trajectories of other human rights issues in the U.S., including the charged and opinion provoking, HIV/AIDS movement. Greg used the HIV/AIDS issue as an example of a well learned lesson how advocacy can be a powerful change agent. In fact, advocacy is the only thing that has delivered any sustainable social and cultural change in our society.

Our well attended gathering was held in the community room of a downtown library and had a kind of “town hall meeting” feel to it. A wide cross section of the community was there including millennials to octogenarians, and addiction professionals/specialists to everyday folks from all corners of life. The common denominator in the room may have been articulated like this, “I deeply care about this issue personally, professionally, for my family and for my community and I want to know more about how I can help.” People spoke to the issue of anonymity vs. advocacy from every perspective and concern imaginable.

Advocacy with Anonymity

First things first…anonymity is defined as:

“Having no outstanding, individual, or unusual features; unremarkable or impersonal.”

In the context of addiction recovery and in the literature of AA–here’s how it maps:

“The principle of anonymity was established to assure a safe place for people to recover and keep focused on their primary purpose of helping [others] to recover.”

And advocacy’s definition:

“Public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.”

While the two terms or “energies” seem to be at odds with one another, our recent gathering allowed a clearer understanding of both/and, rather than either/or to emerge. Advocacy with anonymity requires an informed approach that upholds the sanctity of both domains.

There are many good reasons to practice anonymity in addiction recovery at the personal and institutional levels. From maintaining personal/family privacy to keeping organizations apolitical and free from any cultural ideology, anonymity can be a very good idea. Personal advocacy honors anonymity in this way; I may be inspired to advocate for recovery–to communicate openly and transparently about my own recovery or even Recovery at large, while honoring the privacy of other individuals and organizations associated with that recovery.

The most important thing to consider is to be mindful of the intention and languaging of the communication in an effort to change minds and hearts for the purpose of helping other people. Recovery advocacy is not to be confused with personal gain, economic or egocentric pursuits and it should not interfere in any way with personal recovery or that of another. To learn more about effective communication skills for recovery advocacy visit, FacesAndVoicesOfRecovery.org and ManyFaces1Voice.org where you’ll find this very good brochure.

The Challenge of the Century

There are also many good reasons to advocate publicly for addiction recovery. Things are lining up in mutually beneficial ways in an effort to heighten awareness about the good news of addiction recovery in the 21st Century. Individuals from every station of life, IE, those in the 3 out of 4 of our suffering families are beginning to stand up in dignified ways to speak to the urgency of the issue. As Kristen Johnston puts it in The Anonymous People, “Whether we want to admit this or not, this is our black plague.” And as Faces and Voices of Recovery says, “By our silence we let others define us.”

Here are just a few things to consider regarding the practical benefits of effective recovery advocacy:

  • The combined costs of addiction is estimated at 600 billion dollars per year, (loss of productivity, treatment, incarceration, associated illnesses, etc.) much of which due to misinformation, stigma and shame
  • Consider our children and grandchildren and the future multigenerational social and psychological implications
  • Harness the untapped creative resources and skills of an estimated 25 million Americans and their families who have addiction
  • Incorporate mind, body, spirit wellness into all of health care delivery systems, IE, recovery advocacy is health advocacy
  • Heighten awareness about the interrelatedness of all things for more peace, productivity and joy in the world

Advocacy and Where the Rubber Meets the Road

What can you bring to the conversation?

What can you bring to the conversation?

As addiction recovery advocacy “sinks in” in an entrepreneurially and socially conscious way to be, it can lead to things like building an infrastructure for sustained wellness–wellness being the goal of addiction recovery.

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area’s, Silicon Valley. It’s no secret that we have 34-and-counting billionaires worth over an estimated 300 billion dollars right here, right now. These people and families experience just as much incidence of addiction as any other of the, “3 out of 4 families affected” statistic stated above.

It seems like everyday I’m reading another headline or article like this one: In Silicon Valley, Some Entrepreneurs Seek Social Change. It reflects a move toward conscious capitalism and while people are interested in building individual wealth, more and more are realizing what their wealth can do to leave a legacy of goodness for generations to come.

Clearly then, 21st Century recovery advocacy is an important part of informing and inspiring people who possess some of the most powerful ways and means of affecting change in this increasingly more conscious capitalistic system. Money and the business/entrepreneurial acumen to create economic engines for the well-being for millions of others requires incentive and a plan. Energy grows where our intention and attention goes.

Business as Usual is Over

Finally, we did not come all of this way to sit by idly. Do what you’re moved to do in the way of advocacy–and in the way only you can do it–and let’s leave a healthier legacy for which we can all be proud. As social and business entrepreneur, recovery advocate and CEO of WeFaceItTogether.org, Kevin Kirby reminds us, “When it comes to drug and alcohol addiction, business as usual is over.”

Bottom line, all of it is a call to wellness. Yes, advocacy with anonymity. Let’s Roll.