Sunday, November 27, 2011

reflecting the lights

To dispel darkness and usher in new day,
To light up the path leading towards glow;
There is celebration marked along the way
Of perfumed oils, lamps and delicacy stow.
The Festival of Lights brightens the East,
To reflect in jocund spirit Occident love;
It symbolizes time for triumph and feast,
Day by night that is blessed from above.
Call it what you may or celebrate whenever,
Give it form of will or meaning filled a-new,
It epitomizes the victory of peace over sever,
And regenerates space for all that is ever true.
Spelling the onset of winter, frost and cold,
Bringing on the warmth of glow and light,
All festivities center on creating fresh mold,
Awaiting with discrimination, end of night.
Harkening the forces of prosperity and joy,
Calling upon the auspiciousness of deed,
Festivities strengthen deep faith to destroy,
Forces of evil and hate, to harmony cede.
Designed around the need to retrace intent,
To question and analyze with mental rites,
May the universe unfold in genuine assent,
To spread felicity during the Festival of Lights.

after the tryptophan of the few days off in november wanes, the swing of the winter axis takes place. it is the celebration of lights that is my north american holiday. it coincides with the winter solstice which is the shortest day of the year and accordingly the longest night. the lights that symbolize this may very well be an attempt to light that darkest part of our year with the sunlight of spirit.

"...and the time came
when the risk it took to remain
in a tightly closed bud
became infinitely more painful
than the risk it took to blossom." (Anais Nin)

it occurred to me today in a meeting that the emotions that stir in me around the holidays are very much paralleled  to the decorations that i unpack each year to adorn my mantle, windows, and doors.  my memories are nudged from slumber as i dust off mementos from previous winters and i connect to a deeper part of self. the very fact that i have my own symbols of light and sparkle speak volumes to the idea that the energy that swirls at this time of year is very close to my center. and my culture has taught me to collect sparkle during the longest dark to remind me that there is light in the world.

"Shall we liken Christmas to the web in a loom? There are many weavers, who work into the pattern the experience of their lives. When one generation goes, another comes to take up the weft where it has been dropped. The pattern changes as the mind changes, yet never begins quite anew. At first, we are not sure that we discern the pattern, but at last we see that, unknown to the weavers themselves, something has taken shape before our eyes, and that they have made something
very beautiful, something which compels our understanding."
- Earl W. Count, 4,000 Years of Christmas

Monday, November 21, 2011

j edgar- a meandering stream

i have been mulling over what i might write about the film j. edgar. i saw it on sunday afternoon and was fairly gobsmacked for some reason. it has taken a day or so for me to ascertain what that might be about. the film is like a mountain stream in late august. it flows gently from here to there and back again. there are no visible rapids and what surprises exist are due more to the invisible depths than what is evident to the eye. that makes sense because john edgar hoover was much more than met the eye. he lived a dual-storyline his entire career. eastwood seems to mirror this with the tale that he spins rolling back and forth between the decades and the insanity( or do i mean drive?)that became hoover at the last years of his life. leonardo is sublimely eloquent. his expression of this historic character is loving and studied, directing me to both understand and empathize with j edgar's duality. as he dons the makeup that is the elder g i man, it is seamlessly natural to forget who is the actor. perhaps i gush a little too much here, but i honestly can't remember a performance that took my breath away quite like dicaprio's hoover. it was really like my first slice of rhubarb pie- both sweet and tangy with both of those seeming dominant.

what is there to say about armie hammer. he again has cashed in on his blue blood demeanor to present a 1920's poof, who only needs a green carnation to complete the stereotype. the tension between the two actors seems real, as does the overly cautious and entangled relationship that they boarded to ride together as j edgar shaped a federal bureau of investigation for america. typically i don't like blondes, but somehow he stirs something in me that finds his silver spoon aesthetic not only endearing but attractive.

and when these two characters reach a tipping point in their relationship, i was achingly reminded what it was like to be closeted. there is such a struggle between fear and desire.  i don't know how true to history this story is. i should care, but frankly i don't. i do understand that here is another tortured gay couple's story being played out on the big screen as directed by a heterosexual man. to pretend that lgbt love was without strife seems ignorant. to pretend that our predecessors were flawless is childlike and denialist. gay lives were taut and tenuous most of the time.  clint's position is one of not assuming too much. he believes they loved each other. he believes they feared detection. he implies others knew about them. he insists the viewers find empathy or not. he insists we think about it.

i wish there were more gay directors who could be as deft with telling our stories as mr. eastwood and mr. lee. lgbt culture is indebted to these men. they respect without much embellishment. and they let viewers make their own opinions. i felt pride in seeing gay men love- even if it wasn't wholesome, because i know we love. and i know we have tasted tragedy. i also know we have lost and we have won. both sides of this truth are evident in this storytelling. it gently rolls to and fro and a love seems to whisper in the breeze

as a post script- judy dench again shines here. she is understated, yet supports much of the first hour of the film. her most powerful line for me- "no son of mine will be a daffodil" embodies the stigma the stigma that homosexuals endured for the 1st 3/4 of the 20th century.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

evolution of recovery.. beyond the status quo

˜The concept of recovery capital reflects a shift in focus from the pathology of addiction to a focus on the internal and external assets required to initiate and sustain long-term recovery from alcohol and other drug problems.... 
Steve Gumbley

i spent yesterday at a training presented by afr and attc. its focus was a concept named (rosc) recovery oriented systems of care. its focus is that of the changing face of addiction treatment coinciding with the seismic shift called healthcare reform.

the presentation seemed validating in many ways with a shift in focus from treatment to recovery. and modifying my approach to my work to fit into this model should not require decades of reconstruction. and that is a major issue, really. the industry of drug and alcohol treatment will need to make drastic changes to stay afloat with this federally mandated tsunami called reform.

the beauty of the concept is that the patient/client gets the benefit. there is a longer view of the support that a person seeking recovery will have access. the time involved in recovery shifts from the classic (without evidence) 28 days and 90 days to 3 years for a stronger possibility of long-term recovery.

steve gumbley (the current board president of favor) presented in the afternoon segment. he shared some of his story of 25 years with recovery and discussed the idea of public responsibility with such a personal journey. this was a concept i had not considered thus far, although it is not too far from my own philosophy.
i am sharing the slides here. a couple of things that i take from this day are 1) in 3 months of treatment we may very well see a client only about 10 hours. this seems like a cruel joke with regard to the change that is expected from the client. 2) that treatment might really only be a triage, and that recovery support pathways are where the real work is done. 3) that mental health, physical health, emotional health are all involved in a person's recovery and need to be tended if they are to grow. 4) providers, counselors, nurses, physicians might be more effective if they were to expand a client's recovery capital as much as possible before releasing them from care.

as a person living in recovery, i am acutely aware that my recovery involves three levels of sobriety- physical sobriety, emotional sobriety, and spiritual sobriety. it makes sense that that treatment providers generally take this concept to a higher (pun intended) level. we need to address all these areas to assure our clients a better chance at a healthier recovery.

if you work in treatment, you definitely need to know about these concepts as this is the direction that samhsa has the money going. if you are in recovery, or seeking recovery, please consider these concepts. they are completely designed with people in recovery at the table. the language of recovery is changing and the business of treatment is evolving. no doubt it is way overdue... a million thanks to the obama administration for moving beyond the status quo.

Recovery Frameworks Steve G Nov2011 Recovery Management Steve G Nov2011 Recovery and Treatment_Steve G_Nov2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

return to oz

image credit... jasper goodall

He said is this the return to Oz?
The grass is dead
The gold is brown
And the sky has claws
There's a wind-up man
Walking round and round
What once was Emerald City's
Now a crystal town

It's three o'clock in the morning
You get a phonecall
From the queen with a hundred heads
She says that they're all dead
She tried the last one on
Couldn't speak, fell off
And now she just a'wanders the halls
Thinking nothing
Thinking nothing at all
(lyrics.. scissor sisters)

today i talked with someone who is in the middle of the insanity of cravings. she has been substance free for about 2 months and has found herself adrift in her own emotions. the waves of feelings were visibly crashing upon her self-esteem. she seemed worn out from the pitching side to side that she must have been feeling.

i felt unequipped to console her in her process. one can't continue to pick a scab if one wants it to heal without scar. but this message may not have been heard. there is not much ease in sharing logic with someone who is wearing their "emotional" outfit.

i recognized the combination of frustration and fear that she wore. it didn't fit, but it looked familiar on her. she ended our chat abruptly and escaped as quickly as she could.

yet again, i understand that i am not the great and powerful oz.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

this isn't everything you are

image credit ... nicolas urquiza

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

this has been a week of uncomfortable situations. last week i reached out to an ailing acquaintance who has recently become homeless. i offered to give them a place to stay while they found housing. it turns out they heard me offer to let them move in with me. it's a subtle but crucial difference and i have to clarify.

another colleague is undergoing hep-c treatment. her emotions are in turmoil and she seems scattered and crazy. it could be that she is over-reacting and misreading all sorts of situations. it is very painful for me to be near her and i have decided to withdraw. i always struggle with the boundaries i set for myself, because having boundaries is a very new thing in my life.

i put together a thank-you dinner for the volunteers at the rally. i got 10 rsvp's and then only one of them showed up. i sat in the restaurant on friday evening with a couple of friends at a big empty table. it was a challenge not to personalize this. i believe there is something to be learned around this.

i am headed into a very busy time for me. i do catering work with private chefs and i have 13 functions scheduled in addition to my full time job. and i am to be in philadelphia for 5 days in december. i am supposed to stay with friends while i attend a 12 step conference. i am now having second thoughts and am considering getting a hotel. it's money i hadn't planned to spend.

i am still waiting to hear from the bank regarding my home loan. it's been several months. the state of not-knowing is very strange. it's unsettling and requires faith. faith is something i claim to channel, but sometimes it feels as if the breaker is short-circuiting.

these are all situations i would rather not be walking through. and i think i have felt really craggy because they are all happening together. each day has been me taking the time to gently talk myself off the ceiling as i keep  floating off the ground.

a friend i have known through my sobriety has gone back out now 2x in the last year. i heard he went out last weekend. i called him and offered to help in some way if he felt that were possible. he talks about his struggle with his sober life being enough. this resonates with me as i trudge through my own quest for emotional sobriety.

Keeping up all night
And the night before
And you've lost count of drinks and time
And your friends keep calling but we're sick
And there's strangers everywhere
Don't kill love now
Don't kill love
Don't kill love now
Don't kill love

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ed Sheeran - Wonderwall Acoustic - Oasis Cover

ed sheeren is so very "yes" in my world these days.. he's a wonderwall

and all the roads we have to walk are winding
and all the lights that lead the way are blinding.....

words and melody.. oasis

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Todd Rundgren Medley: I'm So Proud / Ooh Baby Baby / La La Means I Love ...

this version is approaching 39 years old. somehow, it seems to carry magic in its wake. todd rundgren was an amazing live performer and artist. although this cut is a medley, i think it draws you in..

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Friday, November 4, 2011

brotherly love

Reaching Out
I made it into this Program because someone else worked their Twelfth Step on me. Someone passed it on to me. Someone was out there after they got clean and sober, caring about others. I need to never, ever forget that. Had they simply gone on with their lives and forgotten about people like me who were still out there using and suffering, I wouldn't be here today. My gratitude begins with that fact. It is with that gratitude in mind that I reach out to others, especially the newcomers. I need to have them in my life. That is where my spirituality begins.
For me, spirituality comes from caring about others. I have found that the more I focus on improving the quality of the lives of others, the less I am into myself and my will. I feel a freedom and peace from within. The gifts I am beginning to receive in my life are greater than I could have ever imagined.
Something else I have done is that I have forgiven myself. I have forgiven myself for being an addict. I have forgiven myself for all the damage I did to my life, to my physical health, and to my career and finances. But most of all, I have forgiven myself for all of the horrible, negative and unloving things I have felt about myself. It was not until I offered and accepted my own forgiveness, that I was truly able to grow in my sobriety.. 
From CA's Faith, Hope, and Courage

i thought about the quote about forgiveness today. i met a young man who has been spinning out of control with meth and other things for a few years now. he appeared after he found out that he had tested negative for hiv yet again. he truly seemed disappointed- almost hurt- that he had not made the club. he was telling his story around several guys who are hiv positive and i think it really had them scratching their heads. i have learned that the concept of bug-chaser, or trying to get the virus is very real. and i would venture to say that much of it is in direct response to how these men feel about themselves. often it stems around their sexual preferences and the self judgement and societal judgement. men have enmeshed connection to their sexual prowess with their self worth. we often feel validation through sexual activity. so when we seek validation, but it is cancelled out by our judgement of the activity, it creates inner turmoil. confusion, drama, and self punishment. needless to say it was a rich afternoon. 

all in all though, it was a day of starts and stops. i guess they are all that way, but today did seem clunkier than usual somehow. i do believe that things are moving and that feels good. i haven't heard about my house loan, which is odd, but surrender is the sane choice here. i booked my flight to philadelphia in december for the roundup. my good friend alex moved there about a month ago and won 2 free registrations for the conference, so it gives me a reason to get outa town. i can certainly use some time away. i have been doing day or weekend jaunts in my lovely home state, but i haven't gotten on a plane in about a year, so it certainly is time. i have never been to philly either, so i am getting a bit stoked.

i could really do with an infusion of my own recovery, and so this will allow me the chance to not be a caregiver for few days. i'm not complaining here. i am just saying. i'm ready to experience a little different kind of brotherly love.

i heard this song on groove salad on somafm. i find it tickling and wonderful. i will be looking further into shantel.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


image credit... pieter heinket

"The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind." -- Kahlil Gibran

i have been working as a counselor for a few years now. it is not the samo samo thing at all, really. i mean, most of the people i encounter are stuck somewhere in their lives. many have been stuck for a very long time. what i am learning about my work is that it continues to be more about helping them see that there may be another way, and not necessarily about helping them find it.

in someways, it seems that if they can actually "see" that there is another way, or a way out, they will muster the where-with-all to journey forward and do things a little differently.

but as humans, we are definitely creatures of habit. this being true, we without fail love our own pain and discomfort. if stuck, we have probably been numb to our own pain for some time and have forgotten that it it even hurts. often, not hurting is more frightening than hurting.

it continues to be fascinating to me- this process of education and counsel. there are definitely successes as well as distinctive misses. there is a mosh pit of unclarity sometimes around boundaries, professionalism, and my own human-ness. this doesn't appear often, but it does appear. people who are in flux or stuck are often rife with drama. and drama is compelling for me. it makes life interesting. it makes the days go by. and i am comfortable with drama, because i grew up with so much near by.

i have let myself forget once or twice that i am on my own journey. those i work with are on a journey, too. part of the work is allowing these two arcs to play themselves out without trying to steer. oh this is without doubt part of the work. 

these days, it is my fashion to discuss the infusion of loving-kindness meditation when working with others. this concept resonates with me because it is frothy with empathy. we breathe in loving kindness for ourselves when we are struggling, and conversely we breathe out loving kindness for the others in the world who are also suffering  as we do. this exercise seems to have the power to remove fear and the "victim" mentality and replace it with inclusion and connected-ness. 

Loving-kindness is a meditation practice, which brings about positive attitudinal changes as it systematically develops the quality of 'loving-acceptance'. It acts, as it were, as a form of self-psychotherapy, a way of healing the troubled mind to free it from its pain and confusion. Of all Buddhist meditations, loving-kindness has the immediate benefit of sweetening and changing old habituated negative patterns of mind.... reprinted from

“The only reason we don't open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don't feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else's eyes. ”
Pema Chödrön