Jesus, Alcoholic. . .

(Bill Wilson, AA’s  co-founder was born November 26, 1895 . I’m reposting this in his memory. Forever grateful, friend!)

 

That’s what I say most Sundays. I say it in a church basement, as my turn comes up to identify myself to the group of alcoholics gathered there to “share our experience, strength and hope” with one another.

It’s an act of trust and of humility. But more than anything, though, is an act of self-acceptance.

When my father died at the age of forty seven in a car accident in 1979, the impact of that tragedy affected me more than I understood, or was able to accept, at the time. It happened while on a return trip to Cuba, a decade after we had gone into exile. Suddenly a joyful event turned dark, it’s devastating shadow following me back to the States where I would only deal with it in the only way I found worked: I self-medicated, using drugs and alcohol, for the next few years to ease the pain and also to cope with a life that suddenly had stopped making sense.

There are many men and women that lose a loved one in an equally arbitrary and horrific way. Some in even worse conditions. Most of these folks learn to live with the pain and can carry on with their lives without resorting to the method I used. I reacted that way simply because I am an alcoholic, and as my late sponsor used to say “alcoholics drink.” I had used alcohol before to numb the pain, to celebrate an occasion — sometimes a very trivial one — or to cope with uncomfortable situations. I was mostly unaware that this was going on. But I certainly developed a relationship with booze from an early (and awkward) age that served and protected me. Continue reading

Running With The Buddha

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I started running regularly the day after my last birthday, the fifty sixth. The track where I run is a few miles from home, next to the Hudson, across from the magnificent New York City skyline. It’s a place I’ve come to love since I discovered it a few months ago.

Most times when I run, I listen to music. I now carry my entire collection on my phone, a miracle of modern-day electronics. There are songs in it, that, even though I’ve owned my whole adult life and I’ve listened to hundreds of times, I’ve rediscovered and come to more deeply appreciate as I run and sweat and breathe around this cushioned quarter mile. Music mixes well with just about everything.

Recently, however, I’ve begun listening to podcasts by Tara Brach while I run. Ms. Brach is teacher of Buddhist meditation, “with an emphasis on vipassana (mindfulness or insight) meditation.” Her soothing voice and insightful talks have been a pleasant companion on the last couple of weeks. I get the sense that the mind and the heart open up when the body is pushed to it’s limits. Healing, insightful words seem most welcomed. Continue reading

Healing And Enlightment Via Podcasts

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I had never heard of Tara Brach until today. She’s a “leading western teacher of Buddhist meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening. She has practiced and taught meditation for over 35 years, with an emphasis on vipassana (mindfulness or insight) meditation.”

I have a feeling this is the beginning of a long term relationship. You can never have too many teachers.

I listened to this podcast — instead of my usual musical soundtrack — while running today, and felt it was a healing balm washing over me. It’s titled Alchemy of Wise Effort. Namaste.

Uh-oh, Ritalin Is Not The Answer?

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I’ve been married to two women who had been diagnosed with A.D.D. One of them dealt with the symptoms by taking a small (prescribed) dosage of Ritalin. A couple of other members of my extended family have also relied on either Ritalin or Adderall over the years to better manage their focusing difficulties.

This from WebMD:

The symptoms of ADHD include inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity. These are traits that most children display at some point or another. But to establish a diagnosis of ADHD, sometimes referred to as ADD, the symptoms should be inappropriate for the child’s age.

and also this:

Toddlers and preschoolers with ADHD tend to be constantly in motion, jumping on furniture, and having difficulty participating in sedentary group activities. For instance, they may have trouble listening to a story.

School-age children display similar behavior but with less frequency. They are unable to remain seated, squirm a lot, fidget, or talk excessively.

In today’s New York Times, L. Alan Sroufe professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development, cautions about the practice of prescribing Ritalin and Adderall as a long-term solution to deal with A.D.D. in children and young adults in a sobering reassessment:

THREE million children in this country take drugs for problems in focusing. Toward the end of last year, many of their parents were deeply alarmed because there was a shortage of drugs like Ritalin and Adderall that they considered absolutely essential to their children’s functioning.

But are these drugs really helping children? Should we really keep expanding the number of prescriptions filled?

In 30 years there has been a twentyfold increase in the consumption of drugs for attention-deficit disorder.

As a psychologist who has been studying the development of troubled children for more than 40 years, I believe we should be asking why we rely so heavily on these drugs.

My son has shown some of the same symptoms associated with A.D.D. He is too young to be formally diagnosed, since some of these are common to most young children. Until now, I feared that medication was the inevitable solution. Now, I’m not so sure. There may not be a magic cure. That may not be that bad.

The rest of the Times opinion piece is here.

So I Started Running. . .

the day after my fifty six birthday. It was a suggestion made by my doctor that I thought was just plain crazy when he first told me.

I’m in generally good health. Except hypertension I’ve had for a number of years, which is controlled by medication — a little pill I take each morning. During my last visit, Doctor Siraj said that the only thing one could do about hypertension was prevent it from getting worse. Kinda sucks. Not being able to eliminate it. “But,” he said, “if you elevate your heart rate regularly, you have an advantage.” I told him that I walked regularly. He told me I needed to do more.

I remembered running as a teenager and enjoying it. At school, it seemed I could run forever without tiring or running out of breadth. But I had stopped, as soon as I started running after certain other things in life. Or away from them.

“Try it. If you don’t like it, you can always try a Zoomba class.” Said the doctor. He didn’t really say that. I made it up. It sounded like a funny thing he should’ve said.

So I checked with my friend Jerry, a lifetime runner who’s the fittest guy I know. I wanted to know some of the basics. “You need good running shoes,” he said. “And reflective gear if you’re running at night.” Jerry told me that running on the street — over asphalt — was preferable to running on the sidewalk. “Concrete,” he said, ” was ten times denser than asphalt.” I don’t really know if this is true, but it explained to me one of the possible reasons all those idiots run on the street, when there’s a perfectly safe sidewalk just a few feet away.

“You must do it three to four times a week,” said Gigi, my friend and masseuse, “if you are serious about it.” I think Gigi is fitter than Jerry. I think Jerry would agree.

“And you must break a sweat,” she added. “If you sweat, you’re doing it.”

It’s been about a month and a-half and — except for a stretch of a few cold low to mid-twenties days — I’ve kept up with it, breaking a sweat regularly and feeling pretty good about the whole endeavor. The music I listen to while I run makes it better. It’s been a long time since I was a teenager (about forty years) and I can’t run for more that quarter mile without slowing down to a walking pace until life re-enters my body and I can run for another stretch. But, hey, me likes it! Much to my surprise.

Yesterday, I invested in a decent pair of running shoes. The weather was warm enough to go out and break them in. I don’t even know if that’s the correct lingo, the breaking them in part, but I enjoyed running late at night, nice music playing in my ears and breaking a sweat. I especially enjoyed running past the liquor store where I bought the last pint of rum I drank almost twenty nine years ago, next month. I was a sober runner, I thought.

Next week I’m going out shopping for a pair of running tights. The kind with the reflective stripes running down the side. I’m no longer running away from something. Or after anything. I am just a runner, building stamina, clearing my head and strengthening my heart. And sweating.

“I could’a been a contender.”

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I found this Psychology Today article by Abby Ellin on the subject of aspirational hell when I googled the “On The Waterfront” quote. Please read it.

I have never written a best-selling book.

I have never won a Pulitzer.

I have never reported for 60 Minutes, won a gold medal in gymnastics, or thanked my parents and God as Barbara Streisand handed me my Oscar for Best Actress/Writer/Director.

I do not have a Ph.D. or J.D. Nor, for that matter, did I spend my undergraduate years frolicking amid the ivied walls of Harvard or Yale.

I have only one home, a one-bedroom in New York City. No Tuscan villa. No French chateau. No yurt in Sonoma.

In sum, I am not living the life I expected—the life of, say, Diane Sawyer, Julia Roberts, or better yet, Barack Obama. And this bothers me.

A lot.

There’s more…