Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Avery’s Hotel California

Photo taken May 5, 2014

My delightful 3-year-old granddaughter is a forceful, bright, engaging, intelligent, and imaginative little girl. Because she is so young, everyone who plays with her is either her brother’s or sister’s ages, 7 and 10, or adults. So when kids come to play, Avery is so excited and happy, her little eyes brighten with glee and she asks, “Wanna play in my room?”

Her room is her favorite place to play. Under the canopy bed is a room all its own, complete with a small table, lamp, and couch. A book shelf filled with books and miscellaneous toys, a doll house, puzzles, games, a basket of stuffed animals, and a glider (for grandma) are all so inviting to anybody who wants to “play” in Avery’s room 

But once you enter Avery’s room, you are commanded to play whatever Avery wants to play. We celebrated Avery’s 3rd birthday at her house last September where several people attended, two of whom were young neighbor girls who were enticed into playing in Avery’s bedroom. Once there, though, the little girls found they couldn’t leave. They fell victim to Avery’s guilt trip, and that kept them captive for quite a while.

As I climbed the stairs to her room, I noticed the two of them playing with Avery. Avery told me nonchalantly that they were playing house and promptly closed the door in my face while the two little girls who, I believe, are between the ages of 7 and 9, begged with their eyes to be let out.

I smiled wickedly and ran downstairs. I too, have been “captivated” by Avery as we play, “picnic” and “park” and “Dora” – among other games. We also read books in her “house,” the space under her bed. Leaving her bedroom is an assault against Avery who thinks that once you enter her boudoir you must play for a significant period of time before you’re allowed to leave. Nobody is quite sure how long that time is though. Once there, Avery believes she is in charge of whomever enters her room for as long as she wants them to stay.

Her little friends didn’t know that all they had to say was, “It’s time to go downstairs for (whatever),” and they would have been let go. Somehow Miley slipped out unnoticed, but Savannah was left to her own devices. After a while, it was time for cake, so I opened the door and Savannah let out a huge sigh of relief, “Finally! I can escape!”

Thursday, April 16, 2015

How Alcoholism Affects Loved Ones

Originally posted on Yahoo August 5, 2008, later posted on and then removed from Persona Paper

(All stories with names changed came from various Alanon meetings.)

Linda scrambles to finish the dishes after dinner and quickly dresses her children in warm fall jackets. She rushes outside to a spot behind the bushes and bends low, embracing and shushing her four babies who by now are so accustomed to hiding, they know the routine.

Daddy's car pulls into the driveway. He ambles into the house and walks directly to the refrigerator. He opens a beer and gulps it down. One can after another finds its way to the mound of empty cans piling up on the floor next to the recliner.

In their position behind the bushes, Mom and kids watch Daddy pop open each can and flip through the channels. Nobody moves in the bushes until Mom gives the signal. She knows how long it takes her husband to pass out in front of the television. Once again she has successfully managed to avoid the beatings and emotional torture she and her children have been suffering for years.

Linda's children are only four of the millions of children whose parents are alcoholics. She wonders if staying with her husband will build character in her children or if leaving him will be more painful for them. She wonders how many of them will become alcoholics themselves.

Jerry's wife, Amber, has blessed her husband with a child. Sadly, Cassie's facial deformities announce her disability, fetal alcohol syndrome. Amber is pregnant again – with Cassie's sister. Amber admits she drinks too much, but says she can't handle the stress in her life without a couple of glasses of wine each day. Unfortunately "a couple" to Amber is actually four to six to anybody who counts.

Literature from a variety of sources on fetal alcohol syndrome recommends that pregnant woman drink no alcoholic beverages whatsoever. Many alcoholics refuse to admit they have problems, though, so denial feeds into the continued problem. Though she feels guilty, Amber will continue to drink. The more she drinks, the worse she feels. The worse she feels, the more she drinks.

Unaware of the cycle that revolves around her, she sinks deeper and deeper into depression, oblivious to the fact that alcohol itself is a depressant. What she doesn't know is that she is also a candidate for breast cancer.

Resources such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Alanon, Alateen, therapy, hospital admission, rehabilitation centers, and prescription drugs exist to help the alcoholics and their family members deal with the effects of alcoholism. All the while, through whatever help they hope will work, loved ones wait for their alcoholic to hit bottom.

"Hitting bottom" is a phrase used to indicate the moment when the alcoholic suddenly discovers he needs to change, the moment when he finally admits he is an alcoholic. Bottom, it turns out, is different for everybody.

Forcing the alcoholic to hit bottom, without clinical support, can result in disaster. And support groups admonish people who try to reform the alcoholic without help from a knowledgeable therapist. What loved ones learn is that people can change only themselves and only if they want to change.

At one open AA meeting many years ago a former alcoholic defined his moment. While shaving and combing his hair in the bathroom mirror he saw, in the reflection, a miniature tuxedo hanging on the shower rod behind him. The suit belonged to his young son who was to be a ring bearer in a wedding that day. Having already lost one family due to his addiction, this father decided in that moment that he was not going to lose another family. From that moment on, he never had another drink.

Friends and family members pray for moments like that. They ask when their alcoholic loved ones will experience their own epiphanies. The emotional torment loved ones endure becomes unbearable.

For all the pain and suffering the alcoholic inflicts upon his or her family and friends, however, no greater pain is felt than that which the alcoholic inflicts upon him-or herself.

Despite efforts made by loved ones, despite fervent prayers to help the alcoholic, despite all of the resources available to people addicted to alcohol, alcoholics sometimes die, leaving in their wake sadness, confusion, destitution, loss, chaos, and unresolved anger. Most of them will never know how much they were truly loved.

The best anyone who loves an alcoholic can do is to change the way he or she responds to the alcoholic. Repeated arguments manifest in the form of a hideous dance where one partner follows the other in predictable and exasperating patterns. Change the pattern and the response changes.

Hating the disease but loving the alcoholic places loved ones in a different frame of mind. Loved ones must learn how to draw boundaries and be firm about not allowing unacceptable behavior.

The effects alcohol has on the entire family are often devastating, but compassion and a commitment to forgive even seemingly unforgivable behavior lifts a burden from the minds and hearts of the people who love their alcoholics the most.

Forgiveness is a choice. It doesn't absolve the alcoholic from past behavior and it doesn't erase memories loved ones will never forget, but it allows the soul to free itself from the misery it has been carrying around and it changes the dynamics of the relationship.

"Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry - all forms of fear - are cause by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.” (Eckhart Tolle)

photo courtesy of MindExpansi0n on Morguefile

Monday, April 6, 2015

When Other People Think You’re Crazy

One year my dear sister-friend, Nancy, and I went on a trip to Brown County, Indiana. We stayed in a lovely hotel on the main strip of a quaint town that sold everything from handmade candles to uniquely designed socks. Because so many artistic shops dotted the streets along that little town, seeing everything required us to move slowly and savor every moment.

One day, as Nancy and I stopped at one shop, we sat on an outdoor set of chairs to take in the view and watch the activity on the street. But something caught my eye – something I’d never seen before.

“What IS that?” I asked Nancy, as we both leaned forward, looking toward the ground.

“I don’t know.” Nancy looked as curious as I did. “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

As we peered into the unknown, I got out my camera and tried to get a good picture of it so I could look it up later. I even got down to ground level so I could examine our new find. Though we didn’t know what was happening behind us, a man from inside the shop had been watching us and, noting our bent-over stance, offered assistance.

Very casually, from inside the doorway, the man's voice interrupted our conversation with the words, “It's a sidewalk.” After several bursts of laughter, we discovered that the little critter crawling on the sidewalk was an inchworm. Apparently neither Nancy or I were well versed in bug science.