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Guard Rails

I liked this dark house, this dreary building in which relief resided. I was on the doorstep of self-destruction. 

I can pinpoint one life-changing decision that I made mid-separation (MS) that prevented me from entering the front door of self-destruction. This was the darkest time of my life (even more so than when i lost my mom at 18). I was helpless, hopeless, hurting, and and living as a hermit. I wasn’t necessarily suicidal, but I was sure in the deepest, darkest pit I had ever been in.

On both sides of my family we have history of alcoholism. Both of my grandfathers were alcoholics and their deaths were related to their disease. For the non-depressed me, I like an occasional drink. However, the darkest-pit me was another story. Like a rapidly spinning whirlpool, the allure of strong drink was pulling me in very quickly. My ex-wife and I had a cabinet full of some strong stuff. I found myself being irresistibly drawn to that cabinet throughout the day. I needed some sort of help, or else it would have been curtains for me. It wasn’t a night or two of drunkenness I was afraid of. A person can easily recover from that. I knew that had I given in to my desire, my singular alcoholic focus, all bets would have been off long-term. I would have given myself completely to the bottle. I think that would have easily ushered in the possibility -no, probability- of suicide. I was so depressed, I think the complete trajectory of my life would have been altered forever.

During this impossible season of my life, my sister made it a point to call me every week to see how I was doing, to let me vent, to let me cry. For this, I am eternally grateful. During one of these weekly phone calls, without premeditation, I suddenly thought to ask my sister for help. I requested that the next time she called me that she would ask me if I had dumped out all of my alcohol. Every drop. She agreed.

Immediately after hanging up the phone with her, I walked to my favorite cabinet of the house. One by one, my bottles were emptied down the drain.  Vodka, Southern Comfort, gin, and others quickly disappeared.”Why is all the rum gone?” you might ask. Because Captain Jack Sparrow needed it to be completely gone. And, so it was. Every drop. When my sister called the next week, I was able to honestly report to her that all the alcohol was out of my house. 

While the funk and depression that I was in still was there, loud and clear, I was able to function and make some important decisions (moving out of state) without the impeding of alcohol. Had I not made the decision to get rid of the alcohol in my house, I would not have found my way to my life-giving support network in Colorado Springs. I am convinced I would have stayed in my hermit state, alone, and with the lights quickly dimming.

That guard rail that I set up, then, of getting rid of alcohol for a time, made a HUGE difference in my recovery. I needed to set some boundaries in order to protect myself. I also needed the help of my sister to make sure I set up that guard rail. 

So, for you, you might not have the same issue with alcohol that I had. But what does the doorstep to destruction look like for you? Feeling tempted to spend every penny you have to try to make yourself feel better? Do you feel the need to sleep with every woman you encounter to somehow make yourself feel better? What pitfalls can you see before you now, thinking objectively? 

I urge you to talk with someone trusted (heck, if you don’t have a friend in the world to help you, send ME a message!), and brainstorm together things that could potentially wreck your life while your not at your best and brightest. Brainstorm together some ways to eliminate those pitfalls so that you don’t make decisions you’ll regret later. Lay down some strict guard rails, and make sure to have some help, some accountability. 

This whole exercise isn’t a matter of turning you into a prude. It’s not to turn you into a teetotaler. It’s not to make you become a tightwad with your money. It’s to help you protect yourself from yourself during a time when you are your own worst enemy. You’ll thank yourself later. I promise.

For me, now that I’m a few years beyond my divorce, and am now happily married and with a 9-month old son, I’d like to report that I enjoy an occasional drink. Have I changed my guard rails? Oh, you better believe it. But have I gotten rid of them? Heck no. Since I’ve recovered from my divorce and was on the path to becoming a healthy human being, I set a new guard rail up. Again, not to be a killjoy for myself, but to protect myself. I have set for myself a strict drinking limit, whether I’m home or elsewhere. I will not have more than two drinks. Period. Could I handle more? Yeah, for sure. But I don’t even want to go anywhere near that old house called destruction, the place of which I liked to hang out at the doorstep. Am I okay with these guard rails? Yes. I remain in control at all times.

YOUR TURN

***What are some pitfalls you see before you? Do you currently have any guard rails set up for yourself? Do you sense the need for some?*****

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The Red Wheelbarrow – A Creative Reading

This is another example of RANDOM, YET CREATIVE for me. Since high school, this super short and dorky poem has caught my attention. William Carlos Williams wrote this poem about chicken, wheelbarrows, and rain.

More importantly, the making of this video for me was a significant part of my creativity therapy. Enjoy the randomness!

If You Must… (Make a Change)

You’ve probably heard of or maybe even experienced the “Divorce car,” where one or both of the divorcees feel the need to make some major vehicle purchase to prove to themselves and/or the world that they are independent. Or, what about the Divorce/breakup haircut? Or, maybe even the Divorce house? Whatever it is, I’m sure you’ve at least felt first-hand the urge to break free from your past and plow ahead to create your own personal future.

When I got divorced, I made two major decisions which impacted me significantly. Yes, I caved in and bought a Divorce Car (an awesome red and black Jeep Wrangler, to be exact). While I LOVED that vehicle, the monthly payment was much higher than I was previously paying. Yeah, I felt like this four-wheeling, outdoors, cruising machine fit my personality like a glove, it was not a wise or prudent choice to make. Over the course of the following year, I struggled to make my payment and eventually found a way to get out from underneath my fat loan.

Another major choice I made post-divorce (PD), was to move from Illinois to Colorado. I had lost a great job and got divorced within the same week, and I had nobody I could really lean on in the small town I was living in. Although I was in quite a fog, I jotted down in my journal a chart of possible places for me to move. I brainstormed all the pros and cons of each location, but in the end, I made a move to Colorado Springs. Why? What attracted me to the Springs?

Relationships. I had family there, as well as some super close friends who were like an extra set of parents to me. I knew in my mind that I needed a safety net. I was one broken guy who could have gone down some exceptionally destructive paths had I remained alone in Illinois.  I rented a moving van, loaded up my ton o’ crap and my Divorce Car, and moved me and all my broken pieces to the mountain west.

In my three and a half years in Colorado Springs, not only was I blessed to have frequent time with my family and friends, I quickly built the most life-giving relationships I had ever experienced with new friends. Life-giving and life-changing.

Here’s my suggestion. If you are on the back end of a divorce and are feeling the urge to make some sort of major change to your life, weigh your choices as carefully as possible. If you must, IF YOU REALLY, REALLY HAVE TO make some sort of change, I urge you to forget about buying that shiny new vehicle. Don’t dump your money in a mortgage at this time. If you must do something, move. Change locations. Get a fresh start. BUT move to where you will have people you can surround yourself with. Friends. Family. People you can trust.

If you end up NOT moving, still avoid the major cash-sucking choices like getting a car or house. If you do stay put, though, still find a way to connect with some old friends OR make some new ones. Connect with people in your community (the “activities” tab on Craigslist is a great place to start). Join a health club and connect with people there. Walk through the door of that church down the street from you. Find some human beings you can connect with. Don’t give up on these relationships, though, if you don’t find someone or several people to connect with at first. Not everyone will be accepted or understanding of your newly established divorced life. That’s okay. Just find someone who will be willing to listen, willing to accept you, willing to help you move forward. Bottom line – don’t go through your divorce alone, NO MATTER HOW TEMPTING IT MAY BE.

You are a loose cannon, a bomb waiting to go off when you are at such a heightened state of depression post-divorce (PD). Make it a priority of emotional survival to forge meaningful relationships.

YOUR TURN

*****So, have you experienced the Divorce Car? The Divorce House? etc. etc. What was that experience like for you? Did you regret making that decision?

*****How have relationships (aka, a “safety net”) helped you get through your divorce?

Carrion Comfort – Gerrard Manley Hopkins

Here’s another dramatic reading of a poem I put together a couple of years ago. The speaker in the poem discloses how he came so close to despair, but fought back and resisted depression’s strong pull. The speaker also wrestles with the role God may have played in the difficulties he encountered. While the speaker is far from making a solid conclusion about God’s harsh treatment, it seems as though he begins to see that the difficulties he faced were, somehow, for his own good.

I can certainly relate to this. I was on the brink when I was going through my separation and divorce. Despair was the meal du’jour. However, as I have grown through the experience, I have taken note that I have certainly become a stronger, better, smarter, and more compassionate man because of it.

Enjoy!

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

This is my favorite Robert Frost poem. Not only did its message of “keep pushing on, in spite of the darkness you’re in” keep my chin up during the darkest days post-divorce, it was an opportunity for me to find a creative outlet.

This dramatic reading was my first video production ever, and I was glad to find an avenue of enjoyment.

I hope that the words of this poem can inspire you, AND I hope that you can find some sort of creative outlet for yourself as you find yourself in some dark times.