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Showing posts with label addictions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label addictions. Show all posts

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Stop lights versus flashing yellow lights

Time and time again when I've run across (and gotten to know) people who have engaged in or are engaging in 'reckless' or 'destructive' behavior, I've discovered, learned or been told that they have been the subject of a significant trauma in their life.

I've known alcoholics and drug addicts who were abused (sexual and otherwise) at a young age, I've run across others who unexpectedly lost a close family member at a young age and have struggled.  I myself was sexually abused at a young age and at times made poor decisions likely tying back to that.  But I digress.  A friend of mine explained in simple terms what animates such a person.   Stop signs (lights) vs. a flashing yellow light.

Imagine being at a busy intersection and running into a stop light.  Well, unless we want to risk a ticket and/or an accident, we will almost always stop and wait for the light to turn green before we proceed.  Now imagine that intersection having a flashing yellow light--which means proceed with caution.  Most of the time we will proceed with caution, but there will be that time or two in which our impatience at the seeming endless procession of traffic will eventually wear our patience thin such that we 'just go' and in the process cut off someone (and occasionally cause an accident).   If shown a video of what happened we may be shocked at our behavior, but at the time the other cars seemed 'far enough away'.  In short, something in our mind and heart disabled usually good judgment.  Now to the person behind us who by virtue of their position realizes that he or she isn't going anyway, our poor judgment seems puzzling.   He or she wasn't quite in our shoes as he/she didn't have to make the turning decision yet. To him or her, how could we have missed the obvious traffic that was approaching us as we were deciding make the turn.  In short, our poor decision-making seems puzzling as it was 'obvious' to them that we shouldn't turn at that point.

In a way, that sort of describes those with hangups, addictions, and addictive tendencies.  To those around them: Isn't the destructive nature of an addict's behavior obvious?   I mean anyone can see that it is foolishness to cash your paycheck and head to the casino.  It's foolishness and dangerous to risk injecting or snorting that dose of heroine.  It's ridiculousness to go to the strip club and give away our hard earned money to the dancer who shows positive attention (at a price).   I believe many people with hangups like these at one point did see a stop sign (light) when hearing about or thinking about that type of destructive behavior.  But, imagine an unimaginable: Your life being turned on its head by a harsh or unexpected trauma.  While, we'd all like to think that after facing tragedy or traumas that we'd keep our wits, our good judgment, our wisdom, the truth is we can't really say for sure until we are in the situation. 

Imagine being a kid or a young adult if our parent(s) do(es) all the right things to be stay healthy, but end up being struck down tragically by sudden illness or an accident.  While we might not say it, but in the back of our mind, we are likely to think, wow, why bother taking care of yourself as you could end up just like them. 


Imagine being taken advantage by ones you are taught to trust as a kid.  After that, it could be hard to believe that those who are supposed to have our best interest in mind actually do.  

In a way, instead of the distinct decisiveness and firmness of a stop light, such events could lead us to question the stop light, maybe if it is truly even there.  Such events could cause us to see the stop light as more of a proceed with caution or flashing yellow light.  In a way, such events could cause us to question what is passed off a given.  In a way, such events could cause us to wonder if making the choice we are expected to (waiting for the light to turn) will matter anyway.

Anyway, I just thought I'd share what someone told me once and how I received it.  I'm hoping that others might take a little of what I share and find it useful.  But, either way, I march on with my blog.

-- Rich

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Why do we do hurt each other?

Last Sunday as part of Pastor Wedel's service, he made a really simple, but often overlooked point. HURTING PEOPLE HURT OTHERS.          *(This was written when Harold Wedel was the head pastor of Harvester Church of the Nazarene in early 2015. It was also written as my dad was dying.  I only hope he finds the peace that eluded him in life.  He passed away May 1, 2015).

Sometimes, we are so caught up in our own lives, our own fears, our own addictions, our own demons that we fail to see how we are affecting those around us.   The story I tell below is not to cry over spilled milk, bash my dad or ask for pity.  Instead it is a cautionary tale about how we hurt each other when we are hurting and how if we don't deal with our own demons, they can and will affect others.  So, please read it in that regard.

With my daughter, every dollar I spend on myself, friends or someone whom I'm dating, I have to weigh it in my heart: is that a dollar that I am depriving Olivia (or some other deserving soul) the benefit of?   My focus here will be my dad's alcoholism as that is the closest example to home, but in another it could be drugs, things, food, etc.


My dad apparently had/has demons that he has never really shared with his children. I only know this as I have heard bits and pieces from family members over the years of his early years. I don't know much about his foster family and I know even less about his family of origin. However, I do know this, whatever demons he had/has, he took them into a marriage with my mom and into his marriage family.

When he was sober, he could be mean, resentful, controlling. I think this was out of fear largely.  When he was drunk, he was much more friendly, but also less reliable. His sickness lead to the following:

  1.  Proceeds from his paychecks going to watering holes and 'friends' of different sorts at those places.  This meant that his kids often went without.  I'm not talking about not being able to do little league or other activities,  I'm talking even more basic: eating not as healthy food, wearing beat up or torn clothes, birthdays and Christmas being generally disappointing (and embarrassing) and being promised all nature of things and rarely getting any of them.
  2. He would disappear for hours and on one occasion that I remember for days.  I would at first be glad that he was not there to fight with my mom, but then I got scared he wasn't going to come back.
  3. His kids being open to predatory types.  I think you know what I mean, so I won't elaborate.
  4. Verbal and physical abuse of my mom and his kids.
He's never owned up to his alcoholism except to say, "I went to the bars so I wouldn't have to deal with your mother.  He never has come clean on much.  He never really has opened up about his family of origin, why he was in foster care, etc.  He is a shell of his former self today and God has given me the grace to forgive him and the willingness the see him in his later days despite it all.  I look at him and see a pitiful soul.  I think to myself, I need to share the Gospel with him, but there is a part of me that thinks he'll just be ignorant about it and what's the use?

On some level, I think he might have known that he was hurting my mom and his kids, but on some level he was in a deep state of denial.  He drank, justified it by a 'tough home life' and seem to think he could control it.  From what little I know instead of dealing with his early and pervasive demons/hurts, he decided to try to medicate them away daily and when he couldn't do that he was a difficult/controlling person to be around.  Even to the point of putting his others and his kids down, to elevate himself comparatively.

In other words, he was a hurting person, who hurt others.   Sometimes purposefully and sometimes just unwittingly selfishly.  He only stopped drinking at a later point when the Dr. told him in no uncertain terms that if he continued that way he'd be headed to the grave.  But, that's another point.

My brother Bill, God rest his soul, never overcame the hurt/demons that he endured in his childhood.  His passing was a wakeup call to me, that hurts do not go away on their own.  God used a terrible circumstance to give me a new life.  In other words, HOPE.

The takeaway from this post is this: 
  1. What are we doing to deal with our fears, concerns, angst, worries?
  2. Are we dealing with them in a healthy way: talking with our Heavenly Father aka prayer, venting to friends, journaling, counseling, talking to our ministers, support groups, 
  3. Are we dealing with them in an unhealthy way: drinking, drugs, gambling, compulsive overeating/shopping, etc?
  4. How are we treating those around us?  Not how we think we are, but how actually we are.
  5. As long as we have air to breath, there is always hope.  Just as lungs can repair themselves from years of abuse smoking, God can help us repair broken lives and broken relationships.

This video below is more profound since he passed away in May 1, 2015.  Even if a parent is not the 'perfect' parent, they are your parent.