19 February 2017

Making amends in ACOA

The Ninth Step of ACOA says, “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

When a person does a 12 Step program, every step feels like a new weight of the world has been placed on your shoulder. Step Nine is no exception to this rule. In fact, for me it was not only a difficult step to take but also a very scary one.

The hard part for me was that I could justify all my actions because it was a matter of survival. Not only emotional and spiritual survival but also physical survival. There were times I lied to save myself from physical harm. There were times I lied because I didn’t want someone else harmed – namely my mother.

Some things no matter how much I tried to justify it were wrong. Mom used to hide money under a corner of the carpet. Part was for household emergencies. There’s no doubt in my mind she was the financial wizard of our home, but when alcohol ruled the roost, that money was her private stash to buy her booze without anyone knowing it. I used to steal that money. How many emergencies happened that could have been avoided if I left that money alone. Sure, I probably stopped her from getting drunk a couple of times but it never stopped her entirely.

When I began to work these steps, both of my parents were dead, so I couldn’t make amends to them but I could make amends to my brothers. None of my three brothers accepted my amends, in fact, one said that I spend to much time thinking about the past. With the past I had, it is hard to act like nothing ever happened.

In fact, it wasn’t till late in 2015 that my oldest brother sent me an e-mail and said that he regretted no doing more to get me out of the terror that I endured. That was his word not mine – terror. After my brother’s death, I felt an uneasy silence from the one brother I have had contact with.

He e-mailed me on my birthday, with a beautiful passive aggressive message that ended with “At least I was man enough to let go of the past.” I wonder if he could have let it go, if he was my age when everything happened. For me, I tried letting it go and it nearly killed me by trying suicide. I tried letting it go by falling into a bottle and then some drugs – it didn’t work.

I had to look it square in the eyes and acknowledge it and come to the understanding that I was a kid. I was a kid, even when I was 30 years old, because I never dealt with the past. I was a kid who had no control, yet my alcoholic parents had control over me.

My point being that as an ACOA we learn to keep the secrets – no matter how bad they are. It becomes our family crest – a badge of honour. To grow, to stop the rage that has built up over many years, to finally become free from our childhood, is by doing the 9th Step. To do it with no justifications, just humility and with honesty to say what was done wasn’t right and I’m sorry for hurting you.

27 January 2017

Inconceivable Denial

Sometimes we can't deny what has happened.  No matter how hard we try, the truth remains.  By denying  this fact, we can't find an end and with no end we can't find a new beginning.


Inconceivable Denial

can’t look away
can’t walk away
but… that’s all it can be
its inconceivable
everything that has
passed us by

but I wonder
what would happen
if… just if…
we had just one day
death… or life
who’s to judge

it would be a future
where no one
could venture safely
and hearts would be
broken… as well as healed
it’s a lonely world

where right and wrong
would become one
so night and day
would no longer matter
and the end… would be…
a new beginning to…
a new end…

14 January 2017

Year one ends with cancer

My first year in England is nearing an end in a fashion I didn’t really want. It was two years ago, that I was leaving a hospital for the last time before I returned to work. In no time at all I regained my strength and the depression of hospitals and clinics left me.

Now instead of returning to work I am leaving work. And instead of being out of work for two months, I’ll be unemployed for at least three months. And for the first time in my life, I’ll go from caretaker to patient.

Two years ago, when I got sick and was told something is wrong, my worst fear was that it was cancer. In fact one of the reasons I avoided doctors for so long was that fear. I almost felt a sense of excitement and relief when I found out it was my heart and not cancer. That’s right. I was happy to learn my heart was the problem and it wasn’t cancer.

Fast forward two years, my heart is strong and healthy. My stamina and endurance is back, but now I have been diagnosed with cancer. Cancer of the tonsil… a form of throat cancer. Actually, it couldn’t happen in a better way.

My heart surgery showed me how strong I was mentally and how I could cope on my own, with keeping appointments and managing my medications. When I first left the hospital I was taking over a dozen different medications that were given at different times of the day and night.

I also have witnessed what cancer can do to others, so I feel halfway prepared for what lies ahead. The good news about it is that the cancer was caught early. The oncologist said, “there is no evidence that it has spread.” So, while I’ll have chemo, once a week for seven weeks, it won’t be as bad as it could have been. And during this time I’ll also be having six weeks of radiation therapy.

A new adventure in my life. One that I have said in the past that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy is now part of my life. The advantage for me, which at times makes me very grateful and other times makes me feel sad, is that I won’t be doing this on my own.

I have a strong wife, who already has shown her talents for being a great caretaker. Besides being loving and concerned, she is showing her ability to be strong and strict and not letting me become a victim.

All in all, a new walk in my life. A new challenge and a new adventure. One I wish I didn’t have to experience but now that it is upon me I’ll attack it with all I got and defeat it. Cancer may be in me, it may be a part of me, but it will never be me.

16 October 2016

Remembering the good

How does a person, any person deal with grief? Can everything be placed in an organized folder in our mind and dealt with in a day? Or a week? Or a month? No one has an answer and no one can give an accurate way to deal with grief.

I recently lost a brother and while we weren’t close, it still has affected me. Memories of the past, which are few and fantasies of what could have been.

I do believe in the old saying of never speaking ill of the dead. I have no need to do that. Read my books or past thoughts from previous writings and you will know everything that has happened.

After 40 years and now one death, it is time to remember some good things. Not to belittle Mike’s contributions to my life but with our age difference we really didn’t share many good times together.

Mike served America in the Vietnam War. I was 10 years old while he was there. I don’t remember letters he wrote or what I may have written to him. I do remember when he had a leave and decided to visit Australia, instead of returning home. I never really thought about it to just now but even then we did our best to stay away from home.

Anyway, while there he found that prices were really cheap and he mailed home – piece by piece – a state of the art stereo. I remember my dad setting it up and I played with it. That’s right, a valuable stereo and I was playing with it. I remember making recordings with his reel to reel recorder. Roughly six months later, when Mike’s tour of duty was over and he returned home… he saw first hand how much I enjoyed playing with his stereo. He never shamed me or made me feel guilty about playing with this valuable piece of machinery.

Within a week, he brought home some wood and plywood and made a beautiful cabinet for it all and he let me help, as much as I could anyway. I did get to stain quite a bit of it.

Mike was home for just about a year when I asked him if he would be my confirmation sponsor. As I knelt at the altar and the priest came in front of me, I could feel Mike place his hand on my shoulder. I was so proud to have him as my sponsor. He was a war hero… at least in my eyes… and here he was saying he would guide me in the ways of the church.

After Mike settled back in and went back to being a citizen with a full-time job, he invited me to go on a fishing trip with some of his work colleagues. It was deep sea fishing and though I didn’t catch anything it was a trip that opened my eyes. It was a father-son gathering. Mike didn’t have any children, yet there was enough of an age difference that for the first time I saw that we weren’t your typical brother relationship. And in reality, for most of my childhood, Mike was more of a dad to me than a brother.

And at times he even spoiled me. When he returned from Vietnam, he had brought home three boomerangs that he purchased in Australia. They were gorgeous. Hand carved, with art work engraved in them. Being a kid, I begged and begged to have one. And Mike eventually gave me one… which as a kid, I never really appreciated. I promptly took it outside and began playing with it, watching it fall to the asphalt on the empty parking lots where I tried to perfect the art of throwing it, until finally it just shattered into pieces.

Mike flew on helicopters while in Vietnam and got to meet many celebrities doing USO shows. He once sent me home a flyer for an upcoming show featuring a half dozen baseball players. He got everyone of the players to autograph it. Two of the players I remember till this day – Tug McGraw and Denny McClain. It was a very valuable piece of Americana – which as a kid I never truly appreciated. Looking back at it now, it is quite an honour to think that while flying in a helicopter, in what were very stressful times, he thought of me.

How truly sad, that as brothers, all of us, we were never mature enough to realize that what happened wasn’t my fault, or his fault, or anyone of our faults. Our parents were alcoholics, whose destructive behaviours affected us for the majority of our lives.

I wonder how many people have died filled with shame and guilt for things which they had no power over? As alcoholics, my mom was out of control, my dad was out of control, and they were in control of me. And while, my brothers were able to physically escape, I do believe my parents were in control of them as well…

The end of a fantasy

When I decided to move to England, I realized that I finally was burying a dream that I had for over 30 years. That dream was for my family, my brothers and myself, to be reunited. I thought about it for quite awhile and I came to the conclusion that reunification was never going to happen.

All of us had spent our entire lives in America and nothing to date has brought us together… so why did I have a dream that we could some day become a close family? This was the ultimate delusional fantasy of mine.

I spent over 20 years living in Nebraska and I had brothers travel through the state and relatively close to where I lived, yet they couldn’t find the time to stop in for a visit. In fact, during a phone call that took place over a decade ago, my one brother even said that, “We didn’t have the time.” So my time is worth less… so I am worth less… I am worthless.

These are the feelings I have had with my brothers for a majority of my life. Sadly, this defined most of my life. My self-destructive behaviours. My anti-social habits from alcohol and drugs which brought me comfort for many years until finally it too couldn’t bury the pain within.

So, I packed my bags and moved to England. I left behind a daughter, a couple of step-kids, four grandchildren, numerous friends and little else. I didn’t feel any guilt or homesickness when it came to leaving my brothers, their wives, and their children. The fact is, I didn’t know any of them.

Out of my three brothers, I could say I was close to one. I use the word “close” very loosely. I have met his two daughters. Once when they were 5 to 7 years old and then when they were in their 20s. This “close” brother I had seen twice in the last 30 years.

It only took eight months of me living in England to see that this dream died forever. My oldest brother, Mike, passed away at the age of 69. It did bother me… it did affect me… but not to the point where my life stopped.

What hurt the most was that I had no idea who my brother was. I had no idea what kind of husband he was or what kind of dad was he to his two sons? With that said, I really don’t need to know the answer. I wasn’t a part of his life for over 30 years why try and act like it was something different?

I did have one final e-mail from him shortly before I left America. I never opened it… that is… until he was dead. It amazed me. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t responding like my older brother, instead he spoke like a person who understood where I came from and he even apologized for not doing anything to help me as a child. To help me get away from the terror that was our parents.

I didn’t even feel any guilt for not opening that e-mail sooner. Those last eight months of Mike’s life, he probably wondered what I thought of that note and why I never answered it. To me, it worked out exactly the way our Higher Powers wanted it to. I spent most of my life, chasing my brothers waiting for some kind of recognition. Mike spent his last eight month’s waiting for a reply that never came.

I believe Mike was in a part of his life where he wanted to make amends, to rebuild bridges, and maybe somehow my dream became his as well. While reunification between myself and my three brothers will never take place in this lifetime, there is still hope for the next life.

I didn’t go to the funeral… I could of went. I flown across the pond enough to know that I could have been there the day before the funeral and pay my final respects… but why? Again, we had no life together when he was alive, so I’m not going to pretend it was all good just because he died.

Without my presence, reunification couldn’t even take place during death… and I feel really good and at peace with that. The 26th of October 1980, will live forever in our family history. It was the last time all four of us brothers were together at the same time. The reason? My dad’s funeral. Just two months short of 36 years, that Mike, Ray, Rich, and Dave walked together.

RIP Mike