Sunday, July 26, 2015

Pep Talk: "Don't Forget To Close The Gate!"

A devoted family member was the last to see beloved billiards’ buddy before he walked through doors to a month-long rehabilitation program. The 51-year-old’s parting thought was chilling. “You’ve finally been able to flush the family turd down the toilet.”

That untruthful statement speaks powerfully to the impact thoughts about self rule our lives. Beloved billiards’ buddy had been sober for 11 days, had not had anxiety attacks and had begun to eat more nutritiously. All positive steps. However, for anybody trying to break free from addiction or other debilitating challenges, too often resigned to a back seat in nurturing a negative image of oneself.

We know it’s true. If we constantly berate ourselves transformation is difficult, if not impossible. It’s a fundamental question always asked during live Pep Talk presentations: “Victims of the circumstances or students of the experiences?” Our choice, choose wisely.

Three things stand out in this, so far, three-week journey with beloved billiards’ buddy. It started with a visit to the Mile High City, realization of how serious the addiction issues were, a return to his Midwestern hometown, detox and now rehabilitation.

First, kudos to the dedicated doctors, nurses and social workers dealing with the mentally ill and addicted on a daily basis. This is not an easy job. Patience, empathy, tough love and encouragement are necessary ingredients to serve in an environment where the afflicted struggle mightily emotionally and physically.

Second, our nation’s HIPPA laws can be a barrier to care. Beloved billiards’ buddy was initially checked into a short-term detox center. Withdrawing from years of alcohol, methadone and Xanax abuse had the expected result: seizures. One seizure led to a fall, transport to a hospital for stitches above the eye and then subsequent transfer to a second hospital for recovery. Because of HIPPA regulations, concerned family and friends, your scribe included, could not find beloved billiards’ buddy for almost three days. Also, important meetings concerning future care were conducted without a loved one of sound mind present. There has to be a better way.

Third, in contacting recovery programs in the major metropolitan area where beloved billiards’ buddy resides, it became apparent there is room for expansion of Victory’s A Stronger Cord wellness movement. No programs offer the fitness, relationship building and community service trio ASC provides to those fighting addiction. Opportunity is knocking for ASC to serve beyond the Mile High City.

I had stepped away briefly into the muggy Midwestern noontime heat when beloved billiards’ buddy delivered, to a sibling, the “flush” final thoughts. Upon learning of the comment, it took me to something previously read about the Culver MIlitary Academy in Indiana. During graduation ceremonies its cadets shake hands with the headmaster and then walk through an arch with a gate. It’s symbolic for walking toward their future but it’s about the past too. The headmaster always shouts, “Don’t forget to close the gate.”

It’s a lesson for beloved billiards’ buddy and each of us. Past experiences? We have to let ‘em go. We gotta close the gate!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pep Talk: "The Necessary Additive"

A friend of mine, Billy Mac from Hackensack, loves to suggest, “The greatest form of motivation is encouragement.” The definition of the word has always fascinated me. Encouragement. Defined as, “To give hope and confidence to.”

That has been the point of a daily phone call to the Midwest, to beloved billiards’ buddy. Last week’s Pep Talk was dedicated to him and the hope that he, and all of us, would limit the space in our lives reserved for self-limiting beliefs.

But I can’t speak to the 51-year-old directly. It’s through friendly operators at the respected detox center where he currently resides. They take messages and pass them along. The nature and wilderness-loving dude could call if he desires. So far, understandable considering he’s in the belly of the beast called withdrawal, there’s been no conversations.

Doesn’t matter. What does matter is beloved billiards’ buddy had the courage to step away from alcohol, methadone and Xanax addiction and enter rehab. Self-limiting beliefs that have shackled and limited life’s possibilities, at least temporarily, cast aside.

“Coming off Methadone, alcohol and Xanax at the same time?” wondered a seasoned chaplain at the Denver Rescue Mission with extensive experience in this field. “That might be the toughest to whip.”

Many of the guys Victory’s A Stronger Cord wellness movement works with on a daily basis in the Mission’s New Life Program get wide-eyed when hearing about the journey beloved billiards’ buddy is currently on. They’ve been there. It ain’t pretty.

Ever been there? Of course you have. We all have memories of when family, friend or self courageously placed thy face in the fan of adversity and leaped into the great unknown called the future. At that point we can only encourage. We can give hope and confidence to those cherished but mired in the muck of addiction to self-limiting belief.

Recently a friend told a story about auto racing. The story of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s an annual race in France. What was fascinating were two important rules: “There are no pitstops allowed in the first hour of the race,” offered the race enthusiast. “The thinking is, if there’s something wrong with your car that soon it’s not deserved of being in the race.” He continued, “And, after the first hour, with every pitstop, the driver must turn the ignition off.”

Organizers of the prestigious Formula One race, now in it’s 83rd year, want car and driver under the greatest duress possible. Only the strong survive. It’s where beloved billiards’ buddy finds himself right now, under great duress. We don’t have to look too far in America today to find similar stressful situations from addiction, illness, job loss, divorce, poverty, gangs, homelessness or other social ills plaguing our country.

What to do? 

This week pour encouragement into someone’s emotional fuel tank. Who knows, it might be the necessary additive offering them hope and confidence to keep pressing the ignition switch and finish the race under a checkered flag despite current conditions.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Pep Talk: "Fight It Off!"

“I have a problem with self-limiting beliefs” admitted a good buddy at our Friday morning men’s fellowship where we challenge one another to grow stronger in faith. “I’m trying to work on that a lot these days.”

After muttering, “Amen”, rather loudly, a thought came crashing into cranium. “He ain’t alone.”  Most of us can certainly relate. We have moments in life when self-limiting beliefs are tougher to break than, despite recent good play, the Rockies streak of lousy baseball. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

At the top of this list? A simple dude from Missouri who writes these weekly Pep Talks. We fight the good fight between self-limiting and courage. Ya know, the ability to, as I like to emphasize in live presentations, “Put fear and self-doubt aside and allow wonderment to win.”

I think of beloved billiards buddy. The 51-year-old visited this past week from the Midwest. Times have not been easy for this interesting dude. Self-limiting beliefs are abundant. So too, addictions: beer, methadone, Xanax, poor diet and feeling sorry for self. Playing the victim card often. Yikes. 

We had an interesting week. Tons of fun and lots of serious discussions. A real highlight? Tuesday. Denver folks who watch television news  probably heard the story of 86-year-old Dottie Moore. The personable woman with dementia wandered away - so we thought - from a Denver-area assisted living facility. Dottie is the mother of a cherished woman. A “sista from another mista.” 

Beloved billiards buddy, currently thrashing away in the deep end of despair, happens to be  a nature lover. Loves to take walks in the woods near his Midwest home. Suddenly, beloved billiards buddy, despite having drank probably six beers by 10am, came to life like a champ when informed we were joining the search for Dottie - we found her safe! -and would need to tramp around nearby woods. A spark came to his face. For a moment, beloved billiards buddy rose above the storm raging within. Can you relate? Know somebody?

There were many other joy-centered times too. A smile would crease his face and happiness would pierce his soul. Beloved billiards buddy tells funny jokes. My favorite can’t be repeated in this space. Trust me, it’s good. The billiard sharp-shooter’s good lunch company. During our visit, he met many of your scribe’s friends in the addiction recovery world. Dudes with similar stories.

When the youngest of three incredible siblings, after a long train ride, first landed in the Mile High, a high priority was playing pool. Two knuckleheads. We love to shoot pool together. He’s a good stick. Sometimes I can hold my own.

It’s a bond we share. I hope we can begin to share other bonds too. Like a bond to encourage one another to try like heck to keep the percentage of self-limiting belief to a minimum.

For each of us, it’s our biggest enemy wherever roaming. Home, work and community. This week? Fight it off!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Pep Talk: "What Needs To Be Done"

Dawn had broken, but little light was available in Vail, Colorado. Birds began their early-morning chirp, seemingly encouraging the sun to keep climbing and appear above the massive and picturesque Gore Range just to the east. Delivery trucks stirred noise and fumes as cherished family and friends slept after a festive night celebrating our nation’s 239th birthday. 

The cranium kept going back to one thing. A statue. A symbol of America at its best. A sentry watching the town’s famous “Covered Bridge.” But also, symbolically watching us, current residents and stewards of the American way. It’s a statue honoring those who served our country in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II. 

For this simple dude, the ten-foot tall soldier, with skis over right shoulder and weapon strapped to upper back, powerfully moves the Missouri marrow. The soldier’s determined look and purposeful march are constant reminders to a comment read recently in the Denver Post. From a veteran still alive – there aren’t many left - from that terrible war: “We just had to do what needed to be done.”

Amen to that, buddy.

Fascination with the 10th began more than 20 years ago. A neighbor had been a member. “Pajama John”, known to water his lawn while still in sleepwear, would speak in reverent tones of service and sacrifice on skis.

The 10th Mountain was inspired by what happened to Soviet troops in November 1939. They were defeated by Finnish troops on skis protecting their homeland. The incident caught global attention and the heart of Charles Minot Dole, founder of the American national ski patrol. He pestered the War Department - now Department of Defense - to form a similar unit in the US Army. We needed troops, like Finland’s, who were experts in fighting during winter and in mountainous terrain. The 10th Mountain Division was born. Dole, who recruited expert skiers to the unit, had a spirit resonating: “I just had to do what needed to be done.”

Another member of the 10th, Pete Seibert, is known as the founder of Vail. The Massachusetts native trained at the Army’s Camp Hale, near the yet-to-be-formed Colorado town. The expert skier served in the division which helped defeat Nazi Germany and, after the conflict, returned to the area and led the charge to create the ski resort he had envisioned. Seibert oozed a “Do what needs to be done” spirit. 

What about us?

Maybe it has to do with family, work or community? It’s what Victory’s A Stronger Cord wellness project envisions. Sure, it starts with a workout, but it’s about better fitness, relationships and communities. ASC’s Knuckleheads are just trying to do what needs to be done in a nation hampered by too many isolated, unfit and stressed folks.

As Americans, let’s never allow our World War II veteran’s spirit of courage, ingenuity and commitment to fade. We owe them that much. Look around, take action and just do what needs to be done.

Let their spirit be your guide. Good luck!

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