It’s Not Personal, It’s Business

I love listening to Brandon Novak’s story. Not because I even knew who he was as a skateboarder or ‘jack…..’; & even though he has seemed to become a certain treatment center pusher, his delivery is so raw & real. He’s perfected the “catchphrases” so well that I find myself quoting them.

He describes how anything that got between him and his ability to get high, had to go. He states that it wasn’t personal, it was just business. His self described:

"non-conformist, defiant by nature, hates authority, I will never conform unless it's my idea……. Because I possess this nature that I know everything…… And everyone else can f. o."

Sounds so very familiar.

When we were driving my son to his first (& only) rehab; the interventionist kept saying that he had to do this surrender thing. I kept thinking, “whatever this surrender thing means; my son will never comply. When he made his first phone call home, I listened with such gratefulness & hope because he was so excited and full of compliments for how wonderful everyone was and how he wanted to open a treatment center like that back home. I was beyond relieved. He had surrendered! I thought.

The rehab turned out to be a bit sketchy and overall he felt like it was a babysitting service with one “kindergarten rehab” class a day. He lasted 9 days after he got home. The worst part is that it seemed to ruin his willingness to go to any rehab even now a year and a half later.

But as I listen to Brandon, I see that willingness is an internal thing. There are other types of rehabs, which I’ve explained and offered to my son; yet the surrender and the willingness just aren’t there.

Am I to judge and shame him for that?

Yesterday I was downtown in my city where the homeless are abundant. I’ve become – in theory – an advocate of these people because of my son being unhoused for over a year now. (Basically since that first rehab). But as I watched them, my old feelings of judgment came crashing to the surface.

They’re dirty.

They’re scary.

They make me uncomfortable.

Why don’t they try harder?

I had to really pull back into what I have learned, mostly from Resurrektion of me and her service of the homeless:

She maintains that it is their right to be unhoused if they choose, and it shouldn’t be illegal to have that choice. I guess the question comes up- where is it legal to be unhoused? On public property is usually where they are at. This makes people so uncomfortable to see that they complain until the city bulldozes them out.

This article explains how:

Some are being forced into making decisions that no one should have to make to survive.
But, survival has to be the priority.
Survival is what gets them through each day.

This post isn’t about homelessness. It’s about giving people who are living differently than WE think they should be living;

The dignity & respect to make their own choices.

It kills me to say that about my son, because those choices obviously increase his chance of death. This fact tears my heart out. I can feel the anxiety welling up inside me even thinking of that possibility. But after 2+ years of intensely studying this phenomenon of addiction, begging, pleading, praying daily for change; plus writing 189 pages of my book; I am almost to the point of my own surrender.

Surrendering to the fate of my beautiful boy. To whatever will & agreement him and God come to, regardless of my desires. 

In other words, I would rather maintain a connection to my boy, than be right. I want him to be the driver of his recovery if he ever chooses that. I want to give him the power to be able to surrender, rather than someone forcing him to surrender. The prison system may just do that, but as we all know, even that is zero guarantees of recovery. People can spend 2 months, 6 months, 4 yrs, & I even heard 8 yrs- the other day, then they get out, use & overdose. This is disheartening and scary, but it is fact.

The power in the surrendering always lies with each person.


“How are you doing?”

“Better than I deserve” as Dave Ramsey would say. Everytime I hear that on the radio, I go into stinkin-thinkin & say to myself” well of course he’s doing well…..he’s rich…..blablabla.

Immediately, I realize I’m breaking the tenth commandment. Mostly though, I think it’s just a lack of gratitude that I’m suffering from- in those moments. Ungrateful for my health, a house, a job, food, my other kids who are doing well, healthy grandkids.

Think about it, when things are (mostly) going our way, our step is lighter, our voice is chipper, & we radiate happiness.

Happiness, because our world is doing everything we want it to. For a moment.

My fav guru says this:

“It’s wonderful whenever you feel life is going well. Perhaps it is all a matter of perspective in how you define the term, “well”.

In the old paradigm, a feeling of wellness often indicated a sense of being within close range to the preferred outcomes and circumstances that define your existence. The downfall to this mentality, of course, was as soon as outcomes or circumstances changed — the one who was doing well didn’t feel so good anymore.

In the new paradigm, the term, “well” indicates a sense of balance with the harmony of life. Such balance and harmony is revealed by going with the current of change instead of opposing or denying it. No matter how ferociously the waves of change have flooded your circumstances, it is your willingness to surrender to the changes at hand as catalysts of spiritual growth and energetic expansion.

Doing well doesn’t necessarily mean life is going your way, or that you even enjoy or understand the process you’re in. It suggests you are doing well in going through life on the immaculate terms of Universal will – no matter how different it seems from the plans you’ve made. This is the heart of surrender.” – Matt Kahn

I know, it’s pretty deep. But it’s that damn word again: surrender..

Surrending your will seems to be the opposite of “going after everything you ever wanted” right? But I think the idea is to surrender your version of what you thought you wanted.

He talks about emotional oneness (his version of emotional wellness) in this video:

‘Destination addiction’ used to be a tongue in cheek cliche. But what Matt is saying (& every other motivational theme- such as THE SECRET) is the same. If you wait to be happy and fulfilled until you have everything you want, you will be waiting forever.

Samhsa defines the 8 dimensions of wellness in a handy chart that I wrote about Here.

At my age, I didn’t anticipate having the worry that I do, but worrying isn’t getting me anywhere. Addiction is getting a 2,3,4-for-one pass by affecting so many in my circle. This makes personal emotional wellness all the more important.

I must become stronger in my journey, so I’m not dependant on the ups and downs of other’s actions to make me feel better. Yes it’s very hard to do when you know one of your kids is “not ok”.😥

One more video hit home for me this week. My sweet daughter gave this to me on a super bad day, I think, knowing I needed to hear the parts about pain. It’s long but very soothing.

Extreme Independence is a Trust Issue

Photo by Word Press

I recently received a text from my 35-year-old  amazingly talented, funny, entrepreneur son who is currently homeless, jobless, IRS sought-after, county police department sought- after, which said:

“Hey, we need to talk. I don’t think we’re on the same page. You seem to have this vision of me that I use drugs; passed out somewhere, on the verge of overdosing. I’ve never been more in control of my drug habit. I only use {twice a day} to stay well, so I don’t get sick. I don’t have a drug problem, I have a money problem”.

“Okaaaaay son. I would love for you to get to a more stable place. Let me know how I can help”.

“See that’s what I’m talking about, you seem to think I’m living more dangerously and out of control than I am.

I’m Fine.

I just need a break with money, to get ahead to get back on my feet”.

Aside from the obvious brain hijacking that years of substance use has caused; this is quite the most INDEPENDENTLY ridiculous statement I’ve heard.

I mean, he’s NOT OK! But I guess that’s just me.🤷‍♀️

I read once that with addicts you have to look at their actions, not their words, and they look TO your actions, not your words. In other words: they lie, and need OUR boundaries to contain those lies.

I think.

Regardless, my son is in deep do-do.

His refusal to get help is maddening at times. I suppose it’s a great lesson in giving someone their right to their journey and having autonomy in their life, but where does that end when they are at risk and unable to act to protect themselves and others?

Although their behavior has proven that they aren’t functioning with rational thinking, involuntarily commitment {to treatment} varies from state to state. It’s a touchy subject bordering on a person’s rights to free will versus their danger to themselves and the community.

Think about it. People who have lost the ability to regulate their need for dangerous substances and furthering their risk to commit crimes to feed their cravings are doing things that we would never let a mentally challenged person do.

I know I’m making them sound like they’re incapable of a rational clear thought. I understand addicts are not high ALL the time. They have moments of clarity in which they understand the mess they’re in. More on that later.

What I really want to talk about is this stubbornness or refusal to get help.

‘Bull-headedness’ as my Poppa would say. I had a counselor tell me once:

“If they refuse help then they can suffer the consequences.”  

This was also the same counselor who compared a bank robber to an addict. “They just do it for the ‘rush’. He said. 

I prefer a more heart-centered approach. When I came upon this article, it rang true for my son. Always the go-to guy. The Leader. The captain went down with the ship but is still holding on to the last rudder. For probably the same reasons he started using drugs. The failure to process trauma Or Trauma BLOCKING  (which can be ANY death, divorce, loss, or even changing schools); has taught him to fear his emotional state without substances. So he is unwilling or flat out scared to go back to that vulnerable out of control person he was before drugs.

This ingrained independence, even in face of devastating conditions such as homelessness, can keep a substance user stuck in the cycle of “Chasing the Dragon”.

I firmly believe that my son is petrified at failing at recovery. He believes since he technically “failed” at life (he didn’t); and has now identified himself as a loser, drug addict, and deadbeat dad;  he’s unwilling to disappoint himself and everyone else again. His hijacked brain has him believing that the ONLY way for him to survive is to keep hustling.

Furthermore, in his mind, the people who he had helped before the sinking of the ship, do not want anything to do with him as an addict, so the bond with the criminals and other addicts is one of acceptance-regardless of the negative circumstances. As he has told me many times, “I have nobody”.

Although Jamila White’s article isn’t geared toward addiction, how many times have we heard that trauma is one of the main causes?

This. Hits. Hard.

The inability to receive support from others is a trauma response.

Your “I don’t need anyone, I’ll just do it all myself” conditioning is a survival tactic. And you needed it to shield your heart from abuse, neglect, betrayal, and disappointment from those who could not or would not be there for you.

From the parent who was absent and abandoned you by choice or the parent who was never home from working three jobs to feed and house you.

From the lovers who offered sexual intimacy but never offered a safe haven that honored your heart.

From the friendships and family who ALWAYS took more than they ever gave.

From all the situations when someone told you “we’re in this together” or “I got you” then abandoned you, leaving you to pick up the pieces when shit got real, leaving you to handle your part and their part, too.

From all the lies and all the betrayals.

You learned along the way that you just couldn’t really trust people. Or that you could trust people, but only up to a certain point.

Extreme-independence IS. A. TRUST. ISSUE.

You learnt: if I don’t put myself in a situation where I rely on someone, I won’t have to be disappointed when they don’t show up for me, or when they drop the ball… because they will ALWAYS drop the ball EVENTUALLY right?

You may even have been intentionally taught this protection strategy by generations of hurt ancestors who came before you.

Extreme-independence is a preemptive strike against heartbreak.

So, you don’t trust anyone.

And you don’t trust yourself, either, to choose people.

To trust is to hope, to trust is to be vulnerable.

“Never again,” you vow.

But no matter how you dress it up and display it proudly to make it seem like this level of independence is what you always wanted to be, in truth it’s your wounded, scarred, broken heart behind a protective brick wall.

Impenetrable. Nothing gets in. No hurt gets in. But no love gets in either.

Fortresses and armor are for those in battle, or who believe the battle is coming.

It’s a trauma response.

The good news is trauma that is acknowledged is trauma that can be healed.

You are worthy of having support.
You are worthy of having true partnership.
You are worthy of love.
You are worthy of having your heart held.
You are worthy to be adored.
You are worthy to be cherished.
You are worthy to have someone say, “You rest. I got this.” And actually deliver on that promise.
You are worthy to receive.
You are worthy to receive.
You are worthy.

You don’t have to earn it.
You don’t have to prove it.
You don’t have to bargain for it.
You don’t have to beg for it.

You are worthy.
Simply because you exist.

-Jamila White, @inspiredjamila
-photo credit: Randy Orange

I believe the best way to help them see that its ok to ask for and receive help is to offer those positive phrases without mentioning what a mess their addiction has caused. They KNOW what they did! Its just too painful for them to face right now. We have to appeal to their sense of human-ness completely separate from their drug use, by not labeling that AS their identification of WHO THEY ARE as a fluctuating human. Shaming and blaming doesn’t seem to help ME want to do better, so I can imagine it’s even worse with them. 

If they can start to believe that they are capable and worthy of achieving a life without drugs, they MIGHT take that first step and reach out. Ultimately, every recovered addict says the same thing: it’s a matter of surrender.

Surrending to the will of something greater than yourself. Surrending to the peace of realizing you might not have all the answers. Surrendering to the relief that someone is willing to meet you with all your demons and walk you out. For a better life. Exposing your vulnerability and being willing to trust the process. Ultimately it’s caring enough about yourself to WANT to get better.