Sunday, February 24, 2013

soul mining with an uncertain smile

image credit.... ddmag

Peeling the skin back from my eyes, I felt surprised
that the time on the clock was the time I usually retired
to the place where I cleared my head of you;
but just for today, i think I'll lie here and dream of you.
I've got you under my skin where the rain can't get in,
but if the sweat pours out, just shout I'll try to SWIM AND pull you out.
A howling wind blows the litter as the rain flows,
As street lamps pour orange coloured shapes through your window,
a broken soul stares from a pair of watering eyes,
uncertain emotions force in an uncertain smile...
.. matt johnson(the the)

i find myself entering a familiar yet precarious chapter in my life. my nature is very much geared towards program and process development. in my early 20's, i found passion (and pain) in the collaborative creation and formation of an after-hours club in chicago. i certainly say collaborative here because i fully believe that nothing that is done is done alone and in no way did i participate in any of these things alone. the club became quite popular in chicago and lasted about 10 years, although my life and my nature didn't allow me to be involved that long at all. disease, death (it was the 1980's) and drug addiction kept me tied to a post like a sad and lonely pit bull, barking at almost every one who tried to get near.

i then found myself in colorado without much direction and consuming a lotta liquor. my uncle asked me to help him with a travel agency he started with his college roommate.  i knew absolutely nothing about travel (which was so like my uncle) but i took the gig and helped steer it from a 250,000 a year venue to an enterprise ringing in 17M annually.  my desire to continue and my instability due to alcohol consumption, the trauma and fatigue in 12 years of waiting ot die of aids, i let go of that project with no takeaway

the next offering to my appetite for creativity was a gay men's meth treatment program during my 3rd year in recovery. i researched for a curriculum, advocated in hiv circles for grant approval, networked with recovery communities  to build some capacity and delivered. i realized once the program had launched that the MH needs  of the implementation were above my skill set. after discussing my concerns in-house, found my trust breached and i shut down from the onslaught of shame-based trauma triggers. 

i have embarked on the quiet development of a meth treatment program in a suburb. it is going smoothly, albeit a more quiet kick-off than i am accustomed. but it is having some impact on a few individuals. and it is having some calming effect on my obsession with creating. 

and now i stand before an opportunity that meets all the criteria. and in the back of my mind, i circle around disappointment and loss. let down. betrayal. disposal. failure. and as i write all of this down, it occurs to me that all these years and these events had led me to believe that actions (either mine or that of others') had led me here, but i am now getting the sense that it is my own nature that is at the core of my situations. it is the palpable and ironic reality that what excites me just might hurt me as well. it might be that if i find myself in sweet spots in my life which include engaging in my passion that it might also be concluded that the likelihood of the other side of passion being involved is very high.  hopefully  i have begun to move beyond some intelligence and intuition towards a semblance of wisdom.

Wisdom is the judicious application of knowledge. It is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgments and actions in keeping with this understanding. It often requires control of one's emotional reactions (the "passions") so that universal principles, reason and knowledge prevail to determine one's actions. Wisdom is also the comprehension of what is true coupled with optimum judgment as to action

i have been swimming in 80's reflection these last months. matt johnson and the the are a shining beacon from those days. their sound was a jazz/rock/electronica crossover to say the least, with  lyrics that  feel like poetry, and i love them sitll. as i write i sit here on this snowy snowy sunday morning doing some soul mining with an uncertain smile- but certainly a smile none-the-less.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


image credit..
love the moss on stone above- it seems a metaphor for the work i am engaging in right now.

Heaven, is the whole of our hearts
And Heaven don't tear you apart
Yeah, Heaven, is the whole of our hearts
And Heaven don't tear you apart

There's too many kings 
Wanna hold you down
And a world at the window
 Gone underground

There's a hole in the sky
 Where the sun don't shine
And a clock on the wall
 And it counts my time
... Psychedelic Furs

forgive me if i repeat myself, but i am a little agog with all the change in my work life. i can't say they are happening because of anything i have done, but i can not say that my efforts have had nothing to do with this evolution as well. 
during the majority of last spring and summer, i had some goals aroung bringing some change to the culture at my workplace and i was independently taking some actions to develop a peer support culture within our treatment home with the intention of moving it in the direction of becoming a recovery oriented system of care (rosc). the process seemed to get stalled in late fall and i found myself feeling some disappointment and some frustration with the lack of progress. 

but recently i have been officially asked to pick up the reins of that had been laid down and infuse some life and nourishment once again into that direction. plus, our team has decided to work towards a grant to support this work and i am putting energy towards helping to design a framework for peer support services to sprout as organically as we are able to envision. 

i remember sharing with friends last year that somehow i had stumbled into what i might call a dream job. being able to envision, create, and infuse culture change and recovery into a largely dinosaured organization is something that represents the 4th dimension mentioned on pg 25 of the AA book- "We have found much of heaven and have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed."

i offer this today as an exercise in gratitude. the tests that will follow- including my ability to follow through, to perform to expectation, and to support recovery and the people i am working leave room for concentrated effort. indeed, i am offered opportunities daily to review my past interactions and re-evaluate some relationships, responsibilities, and acquaintances i had thought i'd left behind. none-the-less, i am so very grateful to have my heart and my mind engaged like this right now. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Katie Couric's Emotional Interview with Robert DeNiro

recently i saw one of the most relevant discussions about modern culture of which i have seen recently in the media. the impact i felt was due to the embedded passion and emotionality that emerged as the cast of a recenlty released film about life and mental health displayed by some of the male cast members and the director of "silver linings playbook" i have my own experience with mental health- both myself and in my family as well as in my work. i took my mother to see the movie and she was a little taken aback at first, but then totally sucked in by it gentle candor and inclusivity. she leaned over and whispered "this is so personal" and "what a hard story to tell".

the film's director david o russel is quoted as saying in an interview with

"You have to have those disturbing moments that let you know that the movie isn’t fooling around. And that the emotions are real, and that the people are real, and you want to be able to feel as much of that pain as you can in a real way. The movie is filled with heartbreaking moments, I think, and there’s some very painful ones when he bottoms out. You know, where Jennifer slaps him and what follows is this manic episode of anger and anguish with his parents. In romantic movies terms, it’s like she rang his bell but given his situation, it was a bell he wasn’t prepared for. He had all this baggage he wasn’t willing to let go of, and it became this catastrophe in the household. It was important to Bob and Jacki, but especially to Bob that we see this family moment. What I love most about that is how the family goes through this horrible trauma, and when the cop leaves, they’re just standing there, wiping their bloody noses and ears, in their pajamas, all traumatized, but you can already feel in the quietness of it, the love that’s knitting itself back together. It feels very poignant to me, like they’re in it together no matter what. They’re sticking together."

for the interview pertaining to Silver Linings Playbook start at 18:25

Friday, February 1, 2013

new order

image credit... john baldessari

  "Blue Monday"

How does it feel
To treat me like you do
When you've laid laid your hands upon me
And told me who you are

I thought I was mistaken
I thought I heard your words
Tell me how do I feel
Tell me now how do I feel

Those who came before me
Lived through their vocations
From the past until completion
They will turn away no more

And I still find it so hard
To say what I need to say
But I'm quite sure that you'll tell me
Just how I should feel today

I see a ship in the harbor
I can and shall obey
But if it wasn't for your misfortunes
I'd be a heavenly person today

And I thought I was mistaken
And I thought I heard you speak
Tell me how do I feel
Tell me now how should I feel

i am just finishing a week of satisfaction surveys at my workplace. it has been both an exhausting and exhilarating week. i have had some incredible help from client volunteers and my hope is that their efforts have helped them as much as they have helped our organization. 

my understanding is that there has not been client involvement like this at our establishment in a very long time. my impression is that it has been a welcome change. there was a lot more healthy and positive verbal exchange in our hallways and waiting rooms than i can recall in the few years i have been around.

substance treatment has long had a very deep stigmatized and punitive edge to it. it usually comes about when a person has demonstrated the inability to modify their behaviors on their own volition. shame and disappointment are the very first of many self-criticisms that pull up their moving trucks and unpack their bags. and just like cockroaches or other vermin, there are many friends and family members that soon show up to add to the humiliation and defeat upon the foundation laid. 

traditionally, our workplace has reflected this punitive aspect. probationers, street-walkers, sex workers, addicts turned thieves, traumatized persons trapped in numbness make up a good portion of our daily participants. at least that is how they appear when they first enter our doors. it is our task to help the remember that they are and can still be much more than a few pigeon-holed labels. 

in a rather "medical model" tradition we have treated them with something and sent them on their way, expecting that they will find the other components necessary to remember their higher purpose outside our purview. our workplace has carried on with this belief for a very long time.

but with new leadership, along with healthcare reform, substance abuse and mental health parity, and a burgeoning national grass roots social movement, our society and medical community is learning and incorporating the idea of recovery (and more universally- change) requires more than just treatment. it involves support along a few fronts- ergo recovery support services. and my workplace is following suit.

the inclusion of clients in our current satisfaction survey hopefully represents a much larger philosophical shift within our walls. out of necessity (and some honest desire) we are looking to stronger outcomes, healthier practices, and more trauma-informed care. we have not become experts at recovery, only well informed about treatment. our schooling has not ended.

this week has ushered in another possibility which involves my daily work focus and activities. a very poignant piece of my story resides here- last summer, as i initiated the peer based recovery support services concept, i fantasized about the amazing possibility of implementing such a facet to a large public hospital clinic setting. then life continued to seesaw as is it's custom, and i let go of that fantasy. but here i am sitting in my chair, contemplating a misplaced idea, and feeling hesitant to embrace excitement. 

i only hope i can learn to let go of fear someday.. 

i felt silly on this friday evening and thought it appropriate to post my favorite cover version of this anthem of my eighties.

but for you hardcore traditionalists, here is a remix of the undeniable classic from new order but a 90's release on a cd appropriately titled "substance abuse" remixed by dmc.

 "let's have some fun- shall we?"