This is a go fund me that will be a lot of fun to follow on social if it happens. I need 1000 people to do $10 apiece. At least that’s what I think is doable. Thanks in advance for all your love and support and generosity.
This is a go fund me that will be a lot of fun to follow on social if it happens. I need 1000 people to do $10 apiece. At least that’s what I think is doable. Thanks in advance for all your love and support and generosity.
I’ve always been an athletic individual. Growing up I was a competitive age group swimmer through high school. I played football, am a current single-digit handicap golfer as well as an avid skier. Like many of you, I have reached the age where I consider myself to have more yesterdays than tomorrows. I have also become creative on how I maintain my athleticism. During my drinking days, my first wife claimed I was captain of the all signup team. I was famous for signing up for local 5 and 10k races as well as the occasional triathlon. Sometimes I started the races I signed up for but most of the time I never even considered picking up my race packet or bib number. Things changed when I started getting sober. The day that journey began is September 3, 2004. Ever since that day, day in day out, I have been making progress on living a sober life.
For the first couple of years of my recovery journey I traded one addiction for another. I started training for and actually competing in triathlons throughout the Midwest. In five years, I completed five half-Ironman triathlons’, at least 6 half marathons and Olympic distance triathlons, in addition to countless 10k’s, 5k’s, and sprint distance triathlons. I realize now this was what they would call a healthy addiction trade for a negative addiction… One that would have killed me. The evidence remaining from my triathlon exuberance is daily low back, knee, and hip pain. Oh well I guess this is where they came up with I’d rather feel pain than nothing at all!!
I met my 2nd wife in a triathlon club at our local gym. When we first met, I was still off-limits, but once I became available it did not take long for the two of us to begin our courtship. (Read Big Engines) Being athletic really does bring a lot of positivity into one’s life.
We learned many lessons both as individuals and as a couple as a result of our mutual interest in triathlons as well as our shared competitiveness. There’s also something very spiritual and empowering about finishing such a monumental effort successfully. I could never imagine doing a full Ironman distance triathlon… My body simply would not take it. I realize now what rare air I also occupy as a finisher of not only one but five ½ Ironman triathlons. While they have left their physical toll, accomplishing these tasks is one of the things that not only kept me sober during the first few years of my effort but I am proud as fuck that I did that stuff! I lead to a lot of happiness in my life. A good number of the participants in these triathlons or multi-sport races in general, tend to be very type-A personalities. That is to say they appear to be the kind of people that think they can control more than they really can. There are of course people from all walks of life that compete in multi-sport athletics. For me, most inspirational of the stories are not the recovering alcoholics but rather the people with physical disabilities. They literally have to put forth twice the effort as those of us without physical disabilities. One such story is of Rick and Dick Hoyt. They are a father and son from Maryland. When Little Rick was born the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and as a result has spent his entire life in a wheelchair. When he was a little boy he was able to communicate to his father that he wanted to go running. He felt like he was flying when his dad put them in what would come to be called a baby jogger. Funny how something’s happened…. As the years progressed Rick and Dick completed 5k’s, 10k’s 1/2 marathons, marathons and triathlons all over the United States. They built up quite a fan base around the country as they traveled competing in these multi-sport events.
I’ve included a link to a video of their story below. There are a lot of Rick and Dick Hoyt video’s but this is the one I like best. For years, the Rick and Dick Hoyt story and this video, provided inspiration and motivation for me to not only to finish my athletic endeavors but also accomplish some of the more difficult days in day out tasks of adult life. I watch this video over and over, beaming to myself how proud I was to be a father exhibiting the same characteristics with my children as this “CEO of Dad’s” was living out with his own paraplegic son.
It was when I was with my daughter at the “Blue Park” one afternoon I began to see things differently.
Some of you may know what I’m talking about when I mention the “Little Tykes” plastic push car a lot of kids enjoy when their parents push them down the sidewalk. I get the biggest kick out of this. These little kids really think because they have their hands on a plastic steering wheel, they’re actually driving and in control of the car as it goes down the sidewalk. These little ones are totally unable to bridge the gap between a parent’s hand on the handle behind them and an actual car engine in the street.
Then it occurred to me! For all these years I considered myself to be Dick Hoyt pushing his son through life with the wisdom, knowledge, and pride my daughters are unable to find anywhere else. How wrong I was and conceited I was. It occurred to me that we are all just like little kids in the plastic push car, thinking we’re in control. The fact of the matter is we have no idea what God’s plan is for our lives, and it is indeed His hand on the plastic handle. Is it not all of us that have had our “umbilical cord” wrapped around our “neck…?” Restricting blood flow to the most important parts of us. It is God pushing us through the triathlon of life. I believe it is this childlike trust that God desires us to have, pure and unquestioning, just like the little kid with his hands on the wheel. And here is a little wisdom from Papa Jerry to pull the whole thing together for us…
My wife and I separated during the Summer of 2018. Looking back I can see it coming from miles away. At the time, it shocked both of us. I don’t want to speak for my wife, but we have agreed on this much. Kimley was the one that started the actual separation ball rolling on May 22, 2018. I had just landed from a weekend in Washington D.C., lobbying Congress on behalf of the National Cannabis Industry Association. Wifey and I are advocates/cannprenuers for cannabis and all the possibilities it offers humanity. I digress… The week before, we celebrated our 10th anniversary. We made it a week-long affair with special dates, outfits, and dinners, culminating in a concert at Wrigley Field. There is a new concert venue at Wrigley Field and we saw one of our favorite bands that Friday night, capping off the week and getting ready for an exciting week of bi-costal cannabis networking and business development. Candidly, I was suffering from delusions of grandeur that we were to be the next cannabis “power couple.” Looking back I can see how hubristic this was, not to mention, cheesey as fuck. My weekend of hobnobbing in our nation’s capital turned into a night in GW Hospital emergency room with cyclical vomiting, recovery the next 36 hours alone in a lonely AirBnB, and finally a phone call from our business partner that just about blew the whole enterprise to pieces. I switched my flight to return home and regroup, things had clearly gone off the rails. My flight was cancelled and I had to spend another night in D.C. Uhg!
When I landed and turned on my phone, there was a message from wifey that was sitting in my inbox just a bit differently enough that I knew this was going to be big. When I listened to the message, I could hear it in her voice. She was scared and did NOT want to be leaving the message she was about to leave, knowing that the return call would be a tipping point from which we could not return. She simply asked me to give her a call when I got in my Uber home. Her voice was cracking and she was holding back her tears, which would have let me know the true nature of her call without needing to return the message. As I realized how my life was unfolding, in real time, it became clear to me, whatever was going to come next, needed to happen.
When I returned her message and we were on the line, wifey wasted no time. She knew that this message needed to be delivered band aid style. Continuing down the concourse at Midway Airport pulling my standard issue carry-on roller bag, she claimed “Rob… you have always said you love me enough to let me go, I need you to let me go now.” Right away, I committed to myself and to my family, I was going to be a man of my word and honor what I had always told my wife. At that moment, I was somehow able to own the fact that whatever was going on in our marriage/family/business, I owned half of it and I would take my licks. If I really loved this woman, I needed to do what she was asking of me. This was the love test of my life. What sacrifices was I willing to make to save myself and my family?
Tougher still than those moments in the airport, were the moments when picking up my girls at school that same day and telling them that their family had just been blown up… again. We all have the worst days of our life list, this was definitely one of my top three worst days ever.
Now, I am not going to go into the whole Summer of 2018 process right now. Rather I want to focus on one of the major lessons I learned from that fateful Summer. Given our individual upbringings, wifey and I have learned over the years we are both prone to engaging in codependent behavior. The best definition of codependency I have heard is “self love deficit disorder.” I cannot remember where I heard this but if I could, I would give credit. This perspective has helped save my ass several times as I walk, sometimes crawl through the rough patches of the relationships that are most important to me. In these dark moments of feeling unloved, I would rather point fingers and claim “you all want to leave me….” which ultimately leads to the abandonment I fear most. This simple explanation of an incredibly complex topic is what I use to get back to the headspace that says, “this is something I need to handle myself and not blame anyone else for my ‘icky’ feeling.” The cliche of “you need to love yourself before you can be loved by anyone else really is a universal truth.
A big foundational part of my process is talk therapy. I have been engaged in talk therapy in one form or another for the past 17 years. When I was married to my first wife, we saw an excellent therapist that also ended up counseling us on how to divorce and co-parent for the benefit of our daughters. Doug is his name and it is nothing short of amazing the way he has helped shepherd my family through some of our darkest hours. Doug not only was my therapist during my 1st marriage and subsequent divorce, he was my current wifes’ MS in Psychology professor, as well as my first wifes’ husbands’ counselor when he was married the first time. In addition to being our facilitator for co-parenting and our current marriage counselor Doug is also wfey, myself and the girls work through some mental health issues in our family. I love Doug and am going to give him the best eulogy ever!
While Doug is a vital part in my own personal mental health, he is not my personal therapist. For about 12 years I saw a female therapist that helped me immensely. There came a moment however when I realized that I needed a new counselor… maybe it was when I realized that she was actually a bit of a man hater…meh. As I started my search for a new therapist, I simply went and asked for a referral from someone that looked as if they “had what I wanted…” I asked Tom, as I had known him for my entire recovery career and I knew that he indeed did have what I wanted for my own life. He gave me the name of a therapist he had seen over the last 20 years and while he had not been to see her in some time, he thought very highly of her and would go back if he thought he needed a tune up.
I immediately called Leslie and set up our first appointment. Keep in mind the genesis of this relationship predates my “separation Summer” by about 6 months or so. Leslie and I hit it off swell right away. She sees a lot of children. I think it is this part of Leslie’s practice expertise I feel most comfortable. I knew right away I was lucky to have discovered her, Leslie was exactly what I needed. Within the first couple weeks and after several emergency phone sessions in between our scheduled face to face meetings, she asked if I had ever been to see a psychiatrist. She thought I was experiencing something called “flooding.” I had been to a psychiatrist once in about 2005 for an ADHD diagnosis but never continued with treatments after I determined that the pharmaceutical prescriptions they gave me were worse than the disease I was trying to manage. It is really dangerous to give a recovering addict a prescription that is in the same class of drugs as cocaine. I am pleased to report though, my second visit to a physiatrist resulted in a successful bipolar/PTSD diagnosis. Truthfully, I had wondered to myself if I was bipolar for years. Knowing that the way I was feeling and acting had a name and it could be managed was a huge relief.
It cannot be overstated as to how comforting it was for me to get the news I was bipolar and had PTSD. I have viewed myself as a 1%er for a while, but not the kind that the momentary zeitgeist tells us is the type to be despised. I am a member of the 1% club that has saved their own asses. It is sad but true, long term sobriety is elusive to most that attempt recovery. The success rates for addicts achieving 5, 10, 15 years of sobriety are frustratingly low. Alcohol and it’s related issues kill about 2.8 million people each year. Having licked this beast, I felt supremely confident and humbled at the same time to be charged with taming this beast as well.
Two things I have learned over the years as a result of attending talk therapy are, 1) therapy sessions are meant to be a safe place to discuss tough topics and 2) through these dialogues, a new perspective is born that allows me to tame my demons in bite sized pieces.
In the very next session with Leslie after my diagnosis, she laid it on me. She looked me square in the face and said “you have a big engine… not only do you need to learn how to handle your own engine, but you need to stop letting other people have the keys to your engine and you need to immediately stop driving your wife’s engine.”
I almost immediately knew what she was referring to and the metaphor she was trying to make. I am extremely physically attracted to my wife. More now than when we met, it is like she truly has found the fountain of youth. She is also humble enough to not dress like she knows this and has something to prove. I remind her that if she were a car, she would be a Ferrari, who has a Ferrari and keeps it in the garage? Let’s get out and run that thing!!! I’ll drive!!!!
One of the most comforting things that I have been told by my general practitioner is “there is no such thing as a grown up…period.” His words not mine. So I asked, “what does that make those of us that are fully grown?” He replied, “fifteen year olds.” He is gruff and has more yesterdays than tomorrows so I let it end there but I understood what he was talking about.
What does this all mean for me and my marriage? Well, let’s start with a question we can all answer. What happens when you give a 15 year old boy the keys to a Ferrari? I can tell you this 15 year old boy drove ‘his’ Ferrari right into the ditch as it overheated from not keeping up with proper maintenance and driving her too hard. I deserved what I got. What in the world was I doing driving wifey’s Ferrari anyway? As I see it, I felt my own big engine “party bus” was not adequate. Wifey and I both have big engines and thought it would be fun to go for a joy ride behind the wheel of each other’s “engines.” This was a big mistake. These are high performance engines that need to be operated by the people charged with their daily upkeep. Anything else could be dangerous to the driver.
Let’s be honest, my “big engined party bus” looks like a lot of fun to a woman like my wife. And a super sexy “Ferrari engine” is also irresistible to a fast tracked 15 year old boy such as myself. But the bottom line is that I need to be driving my own “engine.” So we spent the Summer of 2018 learning how to drive our own engines again. Over the course of those months, we came to learn a couple things. First is there is no greater thrill than driving your own “engine” through life. Nobody knows that engine like you do and you will always feel safer driving your own engine. Second, it is really scary when you are in the passenger seat of your own “engine” and the driver is operating things in a manner you know is not right. It feels suffocating and out of control… because it is. Day in day out, we all need to remember to drive our own damn engines.
If you are struggling, call a drunk.
This may seem like odd advice, but it could be just the thing that gets you through this pandemic. Recovering from addiction is a lot like sheltering in place. Ultimately we are all responsible for our own health…physical, mental and spiritual health. Think BODY MIND SPIRIT. It takes all three to enjoy the full benefits of recovery. When I started my recovery journey, someone told me “this really is not that hard, all you have to change is everything…” So when the Shelter in Place order came down from states across the nation, this alcoholic knew he had the skills to pay the bills. Everything is going to change!
As a group, we alcoholics have some special “skills” we have learned to get through and thrive during tough times. Changing everything is what I needed to do to save my own life 15 years ago. It took several years for me to realize that I alone was my biggest problem and that not only was no one else to blame for my predicaments, but I was indeed the only one who could dig myself out of the hole in which the disease of alcoholism put me. I see a lot of similarities between our nation and an alcoholic. An intervention is the event that starts many alcoholic/addicts on the road to recovery. An intervention is generally what takes place before the addict goes off to rehab for 28 days. During these intervention meetings, family and friends “surprise” the addict when they walk into a room set up for just such an event. There is always a recovery professional in attendance to make sure things stay on track as much as possible. One by one, people read a statement describing how they have been affected by this person’s addiction and behavior. This is very painful and emotional for all involved and the reality is no one knows how it will turn out at the end of the day. Sometimes the addict will go along with their loved ones and go to rehab and take their medicine, however, many times this is not the case. Addicts are well known for not being able to see what is so clear to everyone else. It is apparent to me that we are in the same situation as a nation.
At this moment, we are being asked to look at ourselves and make some big changes. Mother Earth, Universe, God, seem to be saying we have taken things too far and this entity has invited us to a global intervention. Are we going to take our medicine and start to get better or are we going to go on and continue to act like a bunch of assholes? There are some of us who have taken this medicine before and are actually very well prepared for times such as these. As I mentioned, when I got sober, I needed to change everything. Of course I had no idea what this meant at the time and thought it was a joke, but then EVERYTHING changed. I learned through this process that things did get better… different but better, and I started living a “normal” life.
Today more than ever this seems to be a healthy perspective to get our lives back on track. The states are all going to reopen their economies as they see appropriate. What if we looked at restarting our individual lives in much the same way the states are starting their economies. I have decided not to worry about the specific machinations around how politicians and business leaders are going to reopen the economy. Maybe in much the same way governors have decided to not look to the feds for help. People need to be aware of certain timelines of course, but anything happening outside the four walls that make up my home, is a distant 2nd in importance. More importantly, I am going to “reopen” the inside of myself. What do I need to adjust and improve about myself so that I can make the highest contribution possible when things get “moving” again? Think about that for a moment. What if everyone just stopped watching the news? There is nothing new or important on the cable news channels. Just turn them off. Then commit to 30 minutes of media consumption per day. That is all you need in order to find out when you are going back to work, and whether or not your elected officials have decided to open up the local economy again. What else do you need to know about the outside world? Everything else you need to prepare for the re-opening is already between your ears.
This is tough psychological work though and most people are just too scared to go down their own personal rabbit hole. I don’t blame anyone for this. While I knew I was an alcoholic from the time I was 16 and also knew I was going to have to do something about it, I did not start working at getting sober until two weeks before my oldest biological daughter was born. When I was hired as a financial advisor at UBS, the manager who hired me said… “I think I am looking at someone who has taken a little longer to grow up than most.” Wow! He hit the nail on the head. I still am not grown up…it is comforting to me then when my Dr. told me “there is no such thing as adults.” What a relief…although there are some grown ups that are more mature than others.
I have heard reports from people first hand as well as from the little news that I do watch that people are finding themselves waking up at 3:00 am, frightened, and not able to go back to sleep. Folks are finding this time to be actually very scary. When people’s minds begin to race, thoughts can go off into some incredibly dark places, even without a pandemic. As I have worked to stay sober, I have learned over the years that in order for me to get to the next plateau of my life’s journey, I need to go through the darkness. The first time I truly encountered the darkness, it was awful. There were parts of myself which I killed with alcohol, drugs, sex, and other distractions. When those distractions went away, I was left alone with my own thoughts. FUCK!!! In 1654, Pascal wrote his famous quote “All of humankind’s problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Let that sink in nice and deep for a minute and then think about it later. There may have never been a better time to hear these words than right now. I have learned whatever dark thoughts I have at 3:00 a.m., I need to write them down and talk about them later with my sponsor or someone else that I trust to hold my secrets. However, there is at least one person in my life who knows everything, or else I am still prone to play games with the fragmented version of myself that I have put into the world. It feels impossible to not believe in the pain that has fallen on you in the middle of the night. It feels so real that it must be your reality. I am here to report all those fears you feel at 3:00 a.m. are False Evidence Appearing Real (FEAR). The reality is you are safe at home in your bed, be grateful. The reality is that you have a small studio apartment for which you can pay rent, be grateful. The reality is you have a bed with sheets and a blanket, be grateful. The reality is you have food within an arm’s reach, be grateful. The reality is your children are sleeping in their rooms, be grateful. I have found it is indeed gratitude which gets me to a place where I can be quiet. This has ended up being the greatest gift I have ever given myself. The ability to sit still in a room alone and quietly is a powerful skill to posses and it is in short supply.
During the Summer of 2018, my wife and I executed what we called a “hard reset” for our marriage. From Memorial Day to Labor Day we lived apart and had very limited interactions. This was absolutely the toughest thing I have ever had to work through. There were two keys to my individual success and therefore the success of the marriage. First, I never pointed the finger at anyone else unless I was standing in front of a mirror. Second, whenever I awoke at 3:00 am or had a similar event during the day, I had to sit with the fear and figure out where it was coming from within me. 99% of the time it is an implicit memory from my childhood. I saw my therapist twice a week for most of the summer and she took a lot of calls from me when I was struggling with what I later discovered was “flooding.” At the end of the day though, the responsibility for getting better is always on my shoulders, and only I will know to what level I have done the work, as honestly as possible. I have received a corresponding amount of contentment in my life after these dark stretches. When the darkness comes, it’s not so dark any longer. Heck sometimes what used to be complete darkness, is now beautiful twilight. Crises make reputations. If you know someone with long term success in recovery and are struggling yourself, reach out to them and ask for help. “Old-Timers” love being of service, and it is what keeps this alcoholic sober. I would strongly recommend that if your mind is like a dangerous neighborhood, never go in there alone.
You are good at something. If you are lucky, you know what this something is. If you are even luckier, you have figured out a way to make money and support yourself doing what you are good at and maybe even love. This is easier said than done… but then again, not really. Let’s say you are really good at putting your fist in your mouth or maybe you would be a great magician for kids birthday parties. My mom is really good at needlepoint stitching, she could start craft seminars at senior living homes and not only find it financially rewarding, but also experience personal fulfillment. I just pulled these two examples out of my ass and there are probably better analogies to make. For example, if you are a good writer, then you should be a blogger – seems over-used nowadays. For myself, I have known for a very long time what I wanted to do but there was a delta that took me several years to learn how to bridge. I will make a long story short. I have wanted to be a commodities trader ever since I was in the 6th grade. I know that this sounds silly, but it is indeed true. My best friend’s dad was a local in the U.S. Treasury Bond futures pit during the 80’s. He brought me and my friend to the trading floor for a field trip, and from the moment I stepped on that floor I was hooked. The energy immediately sucked me in and a day has hardly ever passed when I did not make an effort to look up the prices of futures contracts in the newspaper or online. What has prevented me from being able to be successful at this for long stretches of time was my mental health and lack of emotional discipline.
For the last several years, having realized what was lacking from my traders tool kit, my “one thing” has been improving my mental health and emotional discipline. First and most importantly, I need to say thank you to my wife. I would never have been able to focus on my mental health without my wife’s 100% love and support in every way. Now as things become more high def and I can see what I need to do to accomplish my goal, it is time to execute trades with the emotional skill and improved mental health I have acquired for myself. Now I have every tool in the tool box I believe I need. I stay open to learning new things all the time. But there is one story I tell myself day in and day out that gets me to a place where I can regain my focus on my one thing, if I am taken off course.
I heard a story a long time ago which I have held onto as a guide for my life to discover my one thing. Many years ago a single mother and her son had been in a terrible car accident. As a result of the accident, the boy had his left arm amputated at the age of 3. There is no other group of people I admire more than single mothers. They simply are the greatest heros out there… day in and day out. Over the years the accident had created a very strong bond between mother and son. Shared adversity creates solidarity. This mom was always a great example of how to roll with the punches life throws at us. As a result, the boy never saw himself as a victim… he understood that this was his life and accepted the fact he only had one arm, plain and simple.
As a result of the example this mom set for her son, when he got older, like most active healthy little boys, he wanted to play a sport. Needless to say, this made mom nervous. She did not want to expose her son to the cruelty the world shows those of us with disabilities. She just knew there would be other parents and kids who would not be kind to her son. Being a smart as fuck mom, she saw this as an opportunity to teach her son how to handle the douche bags of the world.
It took some time but after a couple weeks of discussion and thought between mother and son, the boy decided that he was going to start karate. Of the five sports they were considering, this was the mom’s least favorite option. However, being the confident woman she was, she supported her son 100% and kept her fears to herself.
When they went to the dojo for the first time, the instructor was very excited to have this young boy joining the group. He actually looked a little like Mr Myagi from Karate Kid. After that first day of karate practice, the boy was a bit discouraged. He shared with his mom that the instructor was only going to teach him one move. Not two…. nothing. Only one move, day in day out, over the next six months. Three days per week and more during the summer, this young boy practiced and perfected the one move his teacher had given him. After six months, the boy had become the best in the class at this one move and had one every sparring match he fought. This had an amazing impact on both the boy’s confidence as well as the mom. It was at the six month mark that the teacher wanted to enter the boy into a regional karate tournament. While the boy had indeed beaten all of his classmates sparring, mom was still very apprehensive about letting her son enter such a high profile event. She of course knew she could not say no.
The tournament came, on the edge of the mat before his first match, the teacher reminded the boy that he indeed was the best at his one move that he had ever seen. All the boy needed to do was execute his move like he had learned, and to TRUST this was all he needed. The mental gymnastics this requires is way above the paygrade of most young boys this age though this young man was able to master his mind and move forward.
The boy won the first match… and then the second. This phenomenal young boy made it all the way to the championship round. Never before had a kid with no left arm made it this far in the tournament. The tournament venue was packed with spectators. Everyone stuck around to see this boy with one arm in the championship round. Needless to say the mother and son had never been more nervous. The teacher reminded the boy that he was the best at his move and to stay focused and block anything else out of his mind. The boy of course went into the ring and executed his move flawlessly… AND WON THE WHOLE FUCKING TOURNAMENT!!! After the noise had died down and the boy accepted his trophy, he asked his instructor how he could have been so confident and trusting that he would win the tournament. The answer was a total surprise to both the mother and son. He explained in detail how the only way to counter the move that the boy had learned, was to GRAB HIS LEFT ARM!!! The boy understood the concept immediately, and the mom started to cry and hug the instructor. Finding your one thing and becoming the best, is the only way to enjoy success on every level. It will open up not only financial opportunities in business, but have hugely positive effects on relationships as well as physical health. Staying focused on that one thing will clear away the noise of everything else distracting me. My path has become clearer as I continue to focus on my one thing. Day in and day out I practice my process and trust that those around me will do the same. Finding that one thing may feel like an impossible task, and that you would never be able to make a career out of it seems just plain outlandish. Nonsense, don’t listen to the maddening crowd, know your heart and get to that one move where if you execute perfectly, will make you unbeatable in every way. DIDO