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6527212 August 28, 2013

Colorful Approaches to Recovering Addiction

“But I'm not a saint yet. I'm an alcoholic. I'm a drug addict. I'm homosexual. I'm a genius.” ― Truman Capote, Music for Chameleons

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6527212 June 29, 2009

Runaway Lisa: An Aberration Story (Part 2)


...awareness is an absolutely necessary factor in breaking destructive parenting cycles that are handed down to us from our parents.



Welcome back to the ongoing story of Lisa Morguess. Go here for Part 1 of Runaway Lisa: An Aberration Story.
Your first marriage resulted in an abusive situation. How old were you when you married? Were the issues in the marriage, or the dynamic that developed, related to the those that led you to runaway from home as a teen?

I was 19 when I married my first husband, and he was 21. He was the boyfriend I had run away with. The abuse actually started pretty soon after we began living together, but by then I felt pretty trapped; I was far away from a home I couldn’t bear to return to anyway. It is pretty typical, too, for people who grow up in abusive families to see abuse as normal. I grew up watching my father abuse my mother, and being abused myself by both of my parents as well as my mother’s boyfriends and my older brother, so abuse seemed like a normal part of existence, sadly.

When you are in an abusive relationship with a boyfriend/husband, the dynamic is a little different, though. There tend to be enough periods of calm that you hang on to this hope, this belief, that the periods of calm are reality, and the awful periods are aberrations, if you will. Every time he smacked me around, I tried to believe that it would never happen again.

Then, too, there is the typical modus operandi of the abuser: to slowly but surely take away just about every bit of self-esteem and self-respect of their abused. The physical abuse is horrible, but the emotional abuse is more insidious and has much deeper and longer-lasting effects.

My husband was a drug addict and an alcoholic. When we were teenagers, we partied together. I did my share of drinking and getting high. . .but by the time we got married (even before I turned 19) I got to a point where I realized how dangerously we were living and I wanted no part of the drugs and partying anymore (and, in fact, I haven’t touched an illicit drug since then, in over 23 years). He led me to believe that he felt the same way, but it wasn’t long before I realized that he was still doing all of it on the sly, and it became a recurring nightmare of an issue throughout our 12-year marriage. He would tell me that I was the one with the problem. “My drinking wouldn’t be a problem if you didn’t have a problem with it,” he would tell me. “It’s your fault I hit you,” he would tell me. “You bring out the worst in me, you make me do that,” he would say.” “Nobody else would ever put up with you. Nobody even likes you. Everyone says behind your back that you’re nothing but a bitch,” he would say to me. “You’re crazy,” he would tell me. “YOU need help,” he would say. After you’ve heard those things enough times, you begin to believe them.

So, in a nutshell, I would say that his alcohol and drug addiction played a big part in the abuse and the general issues in our marriage. I think he was just naturally a very controlling person, too, and I think now, looking back, that he would have been abusive to anybody he was in a relationship with--not just me. When he and I got together, I was so young and needy, and he clearly wanted somebody to rescue. I think he got off on that whole damsel in distress thing. So he saved me from my family and then his own demons took over. And although I was victimized by him, I grew up, and he never really did--when he died at the age of 33, he was the same exact person he had been at 18. And I think the more I “grew up,” the more determined he was to keep me under his thumb.

How did you find the courage to leave such a destructive relationship and move on?

There are a couple factors that came into play in my finally getting out of the relationship. The first one was our son. We struggled with infertility for the better part of our marriage, and didn’t end up having a child until we had been married for 10 years. After Kevin was born, I realized that it was one thing to put up with that kind of destructive life when it was just me, but it’s a whole different story when there is a child involved. And having grown up watching the horrors of abuse and alcoholism with my own parents, I didn’t want my son to grow up with that. To my knowledge, my husband never abused Kevin, but Kevin certainly witnessed a lot of ugliness. By the time Kevin was born, I think I knew in my heart that the marriage was never going to make it. . .but it’s another matter to find one’s way out of something like that. I tried to get my husband to go to counseling with me--he refused, time and time again (after all, I was the one with the problems, according to him). I begged him to enter rehab--he wouldn’t, even after he finally admitted to me that he was addicted to cocaine. I gave him ultimatums, even leaving him once, only to be coaxed back with empty promises.

The impetus for my finally leaving for good was two-fold: the friendship I had with a guy I worked with at a law firm began to develop into something more than a friendship. I was committed to making my marriage work for far longer than I ever should have; the marriage was over--in every aspect--long before I actually filed papers. Without going into a lot of detail for the sake of privacy, I’ll just say that Michael allowed me to believe, finally, that somebody actually could not only put up with me, but love me, and treat me with kindness, respect, and dignity. That’s an incredibly strong motivator.

The final straw came one evening when my husband grabbed our two-year-old son and disappeared with him overnight. He was clearly on a binge. I was frantic all night, not having any idea where they were. My husband called me from payphones throughout the night, screaming obscenities at me. He returned home with our son the following morning, and I went to see an attorney that day to draw up divorce papers.

What did you learn about yourself though the ordeal? Looking back, do you believe it was part of a unique circuitous path you had to follow to find the great place where you eventually landed?

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned about myself throughout everything is that I am strong. I feel weak at times--who doesn’t? But I’m a survivor. I’ve survived some really terrible things, and I am not only here, but thriving and happy. At the risk of tempting fate by saying so, I feel like I can survive just about anything.

As far as it all being a circuitous path I had to follow to get to where I am now. . . I’m not so sure. I’m sure under different circumstances and with different choices, I could have landed in a good place much sooner than I did. But I will say that the struggles I’ve faced and overcome have certainly made me more appreciative and grateful for my life as it is now. Not a day goes by that I don’t consciously take a moment to reflect and acknowledge how fortunate I am.

How did you meet your current husband? Was it difficult to trust again after such a devastating first marriage?

As I said, I met Michael at work. I had been working as a paralegal for a small law firm for several years, and we hired this guy as a law clerk who was awaiting his bar results. He passed the bar and was given an associate attorney position with the firm. He and I hit it off immediately and became friends--just friends. We were friends for a year and a half before it developed into something more than that.
Yes, it was very difficult to trust again after my first marriage. I had been lied to so much, for so long, and in so many ways. . .yeah, trust was a big issue for a long time when Michael and I got together. And the first couple years of our marriage were rough, in large part because of my “baggage.” We’ve worked very hard to make this marriage work, and it’s all paid off a hundred times over. Michael is my best friend in the world, and in spite of the challenges our family is now facing, I love my life, and I feel like this is the happiness I was waiting for for so long.

You have six kids now! Did you always want to have such a large family?

I never dreamed I would have this many kids! I will say, though, that I loved being pregnant so much the first time, that when Kevin was born I instantly decided that I’d love to have ten kids! With my first marriage falling apart the way it did, though, I got to a point where I had to accept that I might never have another child. Then Michael and I got married, and he was eager to be a dad (and he took on the role of dad to Kevin from the get-go, even making vows to Kevin at our wedding).

We never set out to have six kids. I think early on, we talked about having a total of three kids (including Kevin). By the time Michael and I got married, we were both already approaching our mid-thirties, so we didn’t feel we should wait too long to get started on expanding our family. So Joey was born a couple weeks shy of our first wedding anniversary. When Joey was about 18 months old, we were ready to try for a third, and we got one of the biggest surprises of our lives: twins! Even after four kids, we weren’t sure if we felt “done,” and it’s funny because I still remember having this long, serious discussion when the twins were about 16 months old: should we have another, or shouldn’t we? We agreed to wait until the twins turned two to make a decision, but a couple weeks later I found out that I was already pregnant. So Lilah was born shortly after the twins turned two, and then when Lilah was a year old, I became pregnant again, with Finn (so obviously we were still open to having another, although he was a surprise, in more ways than one).

Your youngest son has Down syndrome. How has your family had to adjust to ensure he is well cared for and given the attention he needs?

We did not find out that Finn has Down syndrome until after he was born, and it was quite a devastating shock, probably made worse by the fact that he was a planned home birth and had to be rushed to the hospital when he was less than a day old and had major surgery the day after he was born and then spent two weeks in the NICU. I think the adjustment our family has had to make concerning Finn has been much more of an emotional adjustment than a logistical one. When you are expecting a baby, you have expectations of what that baby is going to be like, and on some level, you map out his life even before he’s born - you imagine him learning to walk, talk, going to school, playing baseball, learning to drive a car, growing up, going to college, getting married, and having children of his own. When you receive a diagnosis like Down syndrome, a lot of your dreams and expectations are shattered . . . and a lot of them you might think are shattered but really aren’t at all. So there was a whole grief process that I went through; I grieved for the baby I thought I was going to have. It never interfered with my love for and acceptance of Finn - I’ve felt this fierce love and protection for him since he was born - but it’s a process of accepting a new reality. My husband didn’t have as tough a time as I did with the diagnosis - maybe because he worked with people with various disabilities for many years, so it didn’t seem so foreign and frightening to him, maybe because he’s just a much more laid back, accepting person, I don’t know. The kids have been very accepting, and honestly, the youngest kids still don’t really understand what Down syndrome is, and I don’t think they feel like Finn is “different” in any way - he’s just their baby brother.

Practically speaking, there haven’t been a whole lot of adjustments to be made. Finn’s a baby - not even a year old yet, so for the most part, he just does what babies do. He’s had a couple of surgeries, and he has a physical therapist who comes over once a week to help him achieve his gross motor skills, but other than that, he doesn’t require any more specialized care or attention than any other baby. I’m sure that as he gets older, we’ll have to make more adjustments as his needs change, but it’s a gradual process.

How did your experiences as a runaway, and as a partner in an abusive marriage, prepare you for the stress involved in having such a large family, including a set of twins and a child with a disability?

Like I said: I’m a survivor. Every challenge I’ve overcome and every heartbreak I’ve lived through has shown me that I’m made of pretty tough stuff. Having a large family, having twins, having a child with a disability. . . those are all big challenges, but they’re also things that enrich my life to a much greater degree than the challenges they present.

Do you believe that your teen and young adult experiences will help you be a better parent to your kids, particularly as teens?

I think those experiences have definitely made me more aware--and awareness is an absolutely necessary factor in breaking destructive parenting cycles that are handed down to us from our parents. That said, I fail sometimes. I fall short of being the parent I want to be, the parent my kids deserve. And at those times when I know I’ve failed, I think about what my experiences as a young person were, and how I felt, and I endeavor to be accountable, make amends to my kids, and purposefully parent them in a positive manner.

When you ran away from home as a teen, did you ever imagine that your life would one day be filled with so much love?

No, I never imagined it. I spent the better part of my life--into my thirties, waiting for happiness to find me, and believing it never would. And it wasn’t until my first marriage fell apart that I realized that happiness doesn’t find anyone, you have to make your own happiness.

Now, I truly feel like I’m living the life I always wanted to have, even with all the challenges we face as a family.
_______________________
Come back on July 3rd for Part 3 of Lisa's story.

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6527212 May 12, 2009

Gasping for Air: An Aberration Story

Now I focus on the wonderful gift of just being alive and it has changed my life.

I've always thought that drowning, basically smothering in water, would be the worst way to die. At least if I burn to death, I can still scream. I can open my mouth in a wide and agonizing circle and let my animal nature escape for one last moment full of blaze and glory. For me, suffocation brings to mind all the metaphors of a life not fully lived ... squelched, under a thumb, in a box, misunderstood, twisted and prodded and poked into molds often created by culture, society, dysfunctional families, caustic or abusive relationships, and even religion.

A long-suffering loneliness sits deep within those who feel unable to express their individuality. Like those who suffer from serious respiratory illnesses, they often grasp at whatever they can find--to just breathe. It's this suffocation of life that frightens me the most; in my circuitous head, such a condition represents a tragedy worse than death. We will all experience death, a natural progression of biology, but some of us will fail to experience or celebrate our distinctiveness. In the end, death isn't always the real catastrophe.

And so--me and my new friend, Max Kai, are here to suggest that you can't just sit back and wait for someone to pry your lips open, punch you in chest, and get that sucker going. It takes personal bravery and determination to bust through the walls of suck life builds around us.

With all these metaphors swirling in my head, coupled with my own chronic allergy-related coughing thing that chokes me up from time to time, I can't imagine how folks like Max must feel. Max has Pulmonary Fibrosis, a lung disorder characterized by a progressive scarring--known as fibrosis--and deterioration of the lungs, which slowly robs its victims of their ability to breathe. Approximately 128,000 Americans suffer from Pulmonary Fibrosis, and an estimated 48,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. It claims the lives of 40,000 people each year--the same number as breast cancer. There are currently no effective treatments or a cure for Pulmonary Fibrosis.

One thing I particularly admire about my new friend Max is his intensely positive attitude in the face of such a suffocating disease. He's lived through the sad outcomes of seeing the glass half full but was ultimately able to tap into the overwhelming positives he still has. For Max, the turning point came when a close friend suggested that he study the Japanese martial art of Aikido.

Aikido was developed by Morihei Ueshiba as a synthesis of his martial studies, philosophy, and religious beliefs. Aikido is often translated as the Way of unifying (with) life energy or as the Way of harmonious spirit. While I'm about as far away as one can get from being a martial arts expert, this small amount of information about Aikido suggests that a its powerfully combined focus on physical, philosophical, and religious balance can only result in great outcomes.

You struggle with pulmonary fibrosis. Can you explain what it is and how it impacts your health?

Pulmonary Fibrosis is newly understood. It's basically an autoimmune disease that impacts the ability of the lungs to function properly. Over time, the lungs deteriorate and you essentially strangle to death.

When and how were you diagnosed?

I was basically born with this thing. At nine years old, I was diagnosed with asthma. The disease evolved throughout my life, as did knowledge about it, until I finally received a correct diagnosis.

How did you cope as your life progressed?

So little was known about it when I was younger. It screwed up my life in a real bad way--mentally, physically, and emotionally. When I got older I found drugs and alcohol. WOW! Speed and coke helped me to breath, and the alcohol helped me come down from the high. With that said, I lost both my kids and my marriage. It was a sad way of life that took me through many years of hell.

Has your struggle with pulmonary fibrosis changed your view of yourself and life in general?

Well, after all my struggles and negative thinking, I finally came to a realization. I thought, "What the hell? I can still breathe!" Now I focus on the wonderful gift of just being alive and it has changed my life.

You are into martial arts. Tell us about that.

After having a stroke, I stopped self medicating. Then I got a doctor who prescribed Singulair and Advair which, in my opinion are both killers (might as well have coke). About this time, my friend of 11 years, Ruth suggested that I try Aikido. I took the plunge at her Dojo and got a green belt and now go at my own pace. My doctor always says, "Max, you're dead and don't know it." I love that message. I've been at this for five years now with no alcohol or drugs. I feel great!

How have martial arts helped you cope with your health challenges and with life in general?

Aikido keeps me amazingly focused on the positives around me. It gives me positive, achievable physical and psychological goals.

Does a less than perfect health profile have to keep us from accomplishing our goals? How do you keep moving forward?

To those who live in Fear, DON'T FEAR! I'm alive because I want to be alive! Believe me, I know fear very, very well. Once I got used to it, it dropped away, and its power over me was gone. No more doctors -- all gone for me. And I must stress me because I chose a holistic health approach. My Aikido partner Ruth got me involved in Waiora. Seolite and the other nutrition products are helping me.

Things get easier when you decide to take control of your own life. Remember the movie, Highlander? There can be only one! You're the One! Don't let anything stand it your way.

What would you say is your life motto, and why?

"YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE" - Ian Fleming. It means that you only live twice. Once when you are born and once when you look death in the face. These are the words I live by. I will not waste my days trying to prolong them! I shall use my time.

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6527212 February 16, 2009

Psychotic Break: An Aberration Story

I have more empathy for the suffering of others and for the mentally ill, who are not bad or scary people ...

Are you depressed today? Did someone stab you in the back? OMG, are you addicted to coffee? So ... if you don't get a break, or have a vacation soon, you're going to lose your @#$!x& mind, right?

Wrong!

Norman Vincent Peale's book, The Power of Positive Thinking, written in 1952, was the first to teach me a thing or two about the power of positive thinking. I read it in the 80's. In the 90's, Tony Robbins emerged, saying that the way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives. Using strong words out of context can create an unintended, negative mindset. This insidious drama queen language, in itself, can be damaging. And now we have Rhonda Byrne's The Secret! When are we all finally going to get it?

Lost in both our blatant and more subtle negativity, we often forget that there are people out there who actually have a real disease called depression, and are in jeopardy of losing their minds on any given day. Heck, some people actually grew up in neighborhoods where people were stabbed every now and then. When we take their words are we downplaying the seriousness of their history and/or ongoing struggle? Does it make their experiences somehow less severe, and therefore worth a bit less attention from those of us lucky enough to simply be a little down from time to time?

And it's not about political correctness. It's about language, and the powerful messages we feed ourselves--mental loops that influence our emotional programming.

I often wonder who those truly depressed, mind-losing, struggling people are. Surely they aren't my neighbor, the soccer mom with the fake nails in line at the grocery store, or my co-worker who just got promoted. They must be tucked away somewhere having problems or trying to recover.

Wrong again ...

The more I come to appreciate that normal is a farce, I realize that these people are all around me, at times weaving in and out of my life on a daily basis. Maybe you are one of them. If not, are they listening to you talk about your so-called depression, and your emotional stab wounds, wondering if you actually know what those words mean? If you have experienced some of these serious issues, hopefully you've come to appreciate the words you use to describe your life, being careful to avoid those that should be reserved for the emergence or re-emergence of those heart-wrenching challenges you manage to keep at bay.

Liimu does just that. She's a young consultant with a bright smile and quick wit. If you met her for coffee, or crossed her path at the grocery store with her three young children, you'd never guess that she once dropped acid and lost her #$#%x@ mind. She has joined the Aberration Nation. Her name is Liimu and she's an alcoholic ... she's also your neighbor.

Your past includes a psychotic break and time spent institutionalized. Can you tel
l us what happened?

I was 24, and was finishing up my final year of college. Over the Christmas break, I went to see my boyfriend in New Mexico. We met in Las Vegas, and then for some reason, he thought it would be a good idea for us to drop acid before we made the 17 hour drive back to New Mexico.

Flash forward two months: I wake up hearing voices. I swear I can communicate with my cat without opening my mouth. I can think “come here” and he come s prancing into the room. I start writing letters like crazy, all the while showing up wherever, whenever I please. I miss appointments I've had for months and sit for exams without opening a single book. When my mom finally comes looking for me, she tells me we were going to see a doctor. We go to the mental health clinic on campus. They lock me in the ward, only releasing me to have an occasional cigarette.

When I was locked up, my mom visited daily. Every time she came, I had my bags packed and ready by the door. Every day, I was told I could not leave; they didn’t know when I’d be released. What was supposed to be a couple days’ stay turned into a five weeks of lock down. I finally agreed to go to rehab, and was released. I found out later that if I hadn’t agreed to the rehab program, they would have sent me to a long-term facility where my chances of getting out would have been slim to none.

Like myself, you were raised in a dysfunctional home. How did that environment bear out on your mental health as a teenager and young adult?

There were so many ways that have a dysfunctional home played out for me, the most impact probably being that I was raised in an alcoholic home. I didn’t learn any real coping mechanisms, and certainly didn’t learn that it was okay to be different, or to have feelings, or to be scared or sad. You just put on a good, strong front and muscled through, or you gave in entirely and were a complete loser drunk. So, although I finally realized I was a drunk and had to get sober, I put on a brave face for many years. It was that pressure, in part, that led to my breakdown. I have to be careful about that to this day.

You’ve said that being institutionalized changes a person forever. How so?

When someone else says, “If I don’t get a vacation soon, I’m gonna have a breakdown,” they don’t really mean it. For me, it's truly a deep-rooted fear. In the same way that a person is changed forever by the experience of seeing a violent crime or losing a loved one or becoming a parent, a person is changed forever by losing his or her mind. Suddenly, the idea that the mind is a thing that can be lost takes on new meaning. I'm always aware now of where that line is and how close I am to it. I know what lies on the other side of sanity.

Can you describe your mental break?

I was completely removed from reality. Until I entered the mental institution, it wasn’t scary at all. I had this overwhelming sense of calm, actually. Like I was completely in tune with the energy of the Universe. But, once I got locked up, it was a whole different story. If you’ve ever seen one of those movies from the 1950's where they show a funhouse with scary looking faces flying in and out of the camera, and people laughing and screaming at the same time while the room is spinning around and around--it was sort of like that, only scarier. I remember at one point (during a drug-induced, fitful sleep), dreaming that I was literally standing at the gates of Hell, facing the Devil Himself. When I woke, I felt like I had very narrowly escaped Hell.

You recovered from your psychotic episode, and went on to finish college and begin a successful career. How were you able to walk away from such deep pain and mental disarray? How are you now?

For me, it was a simple process of recovery--not easy, but simple. I surrendered to my alcoholism and addiction, and began to work the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Soon after, I developed my own understanding of a Higher Power and since then, it has been easy.

Were there any particular individuals who influenced your recovery, or was it ultimately a case of, “I will survive?” Did it take a combination?

Each person is unique. What are the key success factors in your ongoing mental health? My sponsors, my mother, my therapist, my husband, and my female friends have all been instrumental. The key success factor in my ongoing mental health is my commitment to recovery--in all the ways it manifests in my life, whether it's workshops, recovery programs, friendships, therapy, exercise, etc. My commitment is to improving myself, and improving my relationship with God. As long as what I do is fundamentally based on one or both of those priorities, I’m doing fine.

Having grown up in the shadow of mental illness, how much of your own issues do you attribute to nature versus nurture? How does one stop the vicious cycle of familial dysfunction? Is it possible?

I definitely believe that it's possible to break the cycle, though for me it's impossible to deny that I had it in my blood (my father and mother were both alcoholics). What I hope to pass on to my children is how to recover, so that if they are afflicted with the disease of alcoholism, they will know there is a solution. I also think there is a line between teetering-on-the-edge-of and full-blown addiction, and for some people, that is where environment plays a role. In my case, I've had an addictive personality from as far back as I can remember.

Looking back, can you tell us if and how your experience being institutionalized, and the associated struggles, have changed you for the better? What are the positives you’ve found in yourself and in others as a result of your unique life?

I don’t take anything for granted. My commitment to recovery is strengthened by how much is at stake for me. I have more empathy for the suffering of others and for the mentally ill, who are not bad or scary people, they are just ill and need help. I have a complete awe and love for my Higher Power for having taken me to the depths and brought me back again. That’s what it took for me to fully accept my alcoholism and recover. And ever since then, I have been committed to serving God and others.

When I start to feel sorry for myself, I immediately look for ways to be of service to others. That’s the quickest way to get over anything that is causing me pain.

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6527212 January 20, 2009

Alcoholism: An Aberration Story

"... I'm truly grateful for the tough but profound life changing experience I've lived through."

A great guy I knew in college lived by the motto, Everything in Moderation. Curiously, he seemed to mention this to me quite a bit. He likely knew about the addiction I'd developed at the time; it nearly did me in. Mine was an odd sort of obsession but none-the-less powerful. It completely striped away what little self-esteem I had, and led me to some extremely dark and lonely places. All these years later, I joke at times, saying that coffee is my only addiction. (Lots of people seem to say that these days.) The truth is that many of us live in jeopardy of developing obsessions, cravings, and life-threatening addictions, and there's nothing funny about it.

This week marks Tyrone Patrick Fahey's tenth anniversary of sobriety. Although he's been healthy for a decade now, Tyrone was not as fortunate as some in fighting the aberration called addiction. Life put him on a long, destructive journey that none of us would ever wish to take. He tried over 100 times to get off his own personal train of destruction. He failed and failed and failed and failed. But he did not give up. Now Tyrone is free and can celebrate the gifts that come with such a convoluted path. He hopes to make a difference by sharing the methodology he developed to halt his train of alcoholic misery and settle into a healthy, happy existence. He chronicles his unique and courageous story in One Man's Take on Beating Alcoholism.

According to Tyrone (who lives in Australia), 48 people die on US roads daily due to drunk driving. He points out that if the US were losing troops abroad at that rate, there would be a national uproar demanding action. Tyrone questions what has happened to us a whole. "Where are our priorities?" he asks. Have we gone soft on the issue of alcoholism now that nearly every US college campus seems to be a drunken party where it's actually cool to suck alcohol out of a stranger's germ-infested belly button while everyone cheers? Trust me, I'm certainly no party pooper but I ultimately decided that my wise college friend got it right. You decide.

Your battle with alcoholism has been a particularly tough one. Can you give us a synopsis of how alcohol abuse impacted your life?

Missed opportunities, loss of girlfriend/fiance, frequent bar room brawls, loss of respect of others, car accidents, loss of driving license, missing work, associating with dark characters often found in Pubs across Australia and the manipulation tactics employed by these predatory criminals. At the end of the day, I found myself alone, unhappy, broke, unemployed, hungry, and without abode. Suicide kept making its way onto my mental list of options.

You've said that it took you at least 100 false starts to overcome alcoholism. Tell us what finally brought success. Was it a particular program, a particular mindset, both, etc.?

Since I'd spent years in denial, my first step was to admit that I was an alcoholic. Secondly, I realized that I had to take responsibility. I had to take control of my mind and disable the awful thoughts of continued drinking. Verbalization, visualization, prayer, and belief in a better life (as described in detail in my book) lifted me out the quagmire. This was accompanied by two major discoveries. One was that I actually chose to be an alcoholic prior to my birth in order to experience the process of overcoming the disease, which allowed for personal development and spiritual growth not otherwise available to a nonalcoholic. The second revelation was that we are Spiritual Beings having a Human experience, and not the other way around. This provided me with an overview or perspective that has given me a greater universal understanding and clarity. The result has been an ability to handle life and its occasional woes with a lot more ease.

Many of us struggle over how to embrace our past mistakes and struggles. How have you learned to accept yourself, and blend the negatives with the positives in such a way that enables you to be proud of who you are and have hope for the future?

Yes, I have accepted and lovingly embraced my cloudy past as it has helped form the person I am today. Sometimes in order to find out what you want to be, you have to find out what you don't want to be. I can't change the past, but without alcohol I can steer and direct my life as opposed to life dictating terms to me. I'm not too sure if pride is a word I wish to use here, but I know what you're getting at. I think I'm more amazed at the resilience of the Human Spirit over adversity more than anything else. When the Spirit is acknowledged and activated, there are no mountains that can't be conquered!

Alcoholism is one of the most widely discussed addictions. Do you think there are misconceptions regarding alcohol abuse? Does everything have the right idea about what causes it, how it begins, etc.?

Absolutely! Most people think that an alcoholic is the old man who lives under the bridge, wearing a heavy overcoat with a bottle of cheap cherry in his hand. In reality, he's also a Judge, a Police Officer, the Postman, your neighbor, your brother and sisters. Most people think that it's luck of the draw genetically if we are born into an alcoholic family. This often gives one the opportunity to blame others for their alcoholism. my book includes a self test. Many people find it disturbing when they realize that they fit the profile of an alcoholic. They are usually horrified and indignant. A mirror has been held up and they don't like what they see. I encounter this reaction quite a bit but it can be the beginning of change if one can accept this disease and move out of denial. These aren't the people that I'm looking to assist. These are people that are happy to continue in their ways but got ambushed in the cross-fire of a quiz! Messages to 'wake up" arrive in many forms but it falls back to the individual to run with it or not. As always, it has to be an individual decision to seek change. It's tough to change your life from a practicing alcoholic to a nonpracticing alcoholic but I think it's even harder to maintain that awful lifestyle of continuing self degradation and misery.

Aberration Nation is all about getting past our misconceptions about what is normal. Was there a time in your life when you felt that normal was beyond your reach? How do you feel about that concept now?

I know exactly what you mean Penelope! As I was descending the the slippery greasy pole of alcoholism, I noticed that my bunch of keys (house, car, work, etc.) had diminished to none! This was reflective of how I was viewed as unreliable and irresponsible by those around me. I was locked out of the normalcy of life. I couldn't be trusted with a simple set of keys!

I just counted sixteen keys on my bunch now .... thank God!

You've developed ways to reach out to others as a result of your experience. Can you tell us about that and how it has helped heal your own life?

I now believe that the best way to help re-enforce one's ongoing war against alcoholism is to help those other with the disease. My book was written primarily for those who are currently caught in the jaws of alcoholism. It speaks to how to best beat it off for once and all. The book gives a simple yet highly effective method in overcoming the disease. It has also been written for those who are already walking down the road to recovery with the aim to further boost their resolve. It also gives nonalcoholics insight into the mind of the alcoholic. Alcoholic Army is an online community that serves as an extension of the book. It's a site where members can anonymously share stories of hope, help and humor which is supported by a unique promotion system based on the amount of months off the booze (i.e 1 month is a Lance Corporal through to 100 months for a General.) The concepts of discipline, solidarity and sense of belonging allow the Troopers to empower themselves as they traverse along the road of recovery. A monthly news letter goes out as well. I've also created this for self serving reasons in that it helps keep my resolve at an optimum level. There are back stops that I've included in the program because I've known many people who resumed drinking after many years of abstinence only to succumb to a horrible end. I would rather die right here and now than resume that lifestyle. The thought of that lifestyle turns my stomach but I've seen some great souls falter and refuse to be counted in their numbers. Eternal vigilance IS the price of freedom here.

I've developed a strong belief that moderation in just about everything is a good way to stay healthy. At least in the US, drinking seems to be glorified by college students more than ever these days. Do you share the fear that this could lead to increased alcoholism down the road, or do you think what's happening is nothing new?

One person is killed every 30 minutes on US roads due to a drunk driver. If the US Military was losing a soldier, sailor, air-man or marine every half an hour, there would be a national uproar demanding action! That's like losing a platoon of soldiers every day! Yet the carnage on the roads continues. What kind of world are we leaving behind for our kids and their kids? Will we wake up in time? The world looks to the US to lead the way. Now would be a good time to get tougher on drink driving as the figures indicate that the numbers are continuing to increase. Last year 30,000,000--yes 30 million--people in the US took to the road while over the legal alcohol limit
That is a staggering figure!

The twists and turns of life don't always allow us to follow a straight and narrow path to fulfillment. Do you feel that the tough road your life took was in some way necessary to bring you to this point? In other words, do you ultimately see value in the struggle that seemed inevitable?

100% Penelope! The old saying that What doesn't kill you will only make you stronger springs to mind here. Fortunately, I'm now in a position to say that I'm truly grateful for the tough but profound life changing experience I've lived through. It's been worth the struggle but my greatest hope is that it hasn't all been for nothing. I hope that others can learn from my experiences.

If you could choose a motto for your life, what would that be?

Death before dishonor!



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