A distance maker called bullying

It takes no strength to be a bully. That said, to call those who bully, villains or bad people, misses the mark entirely. Hold people accountable, certainly. But accountability does not mean compassion has no role.  When possible, it does. Very much so. 

Bullying itself is a distance maker as far as I’m concerned. A way of keeping people backed off. Distance makers, as I’ve been bold enough to name them, consist of some behavior, attribute, environmental reality, that keeps people at a distance. Distance makers come in many forms. A former colleague of mine who dealt with a weight challenge told me that some folks put on weight as a way of keeping people away. 

It was pondering that observation that led me to recognize the presence of distance makers and the sizable repertoire of distance makers alive and well in the human family. In short, distance makers, healthy or not in form, are meant to protect us, keep us safe.

Distance makers are everywhere. Yelling, nastiness, sarcasm, name calling, threats, all forms of violence. I can attest to the fact some perfumes and colognes are distance makers. The first time I smelled musk I thought the end of the world had come.

I had a spectacular dance teacher at the Joffrey School of Ballet named Perry Brunson. He taught, Men’s Class. In all my time as a dancer I never met anyone who could teach Men’s Class as brilliantly as Mr. Brunson. On top of that, he was a nice man. A nice man who, before each class, dipped himself into a vat of English Leather, a cologne capable of repulsing anyone who got within a yard of the man.  That said, Mr. Brunson was no bully. He was, in truth, a lovely man, and a teacher I remember with gratitude and great fondness.

Back to bullying. Bullying does not take strength, in my view. I’ve heard some theorize that some bullies are, underneath, cowards. I don’t agree. To call a bully a coward is to inflict judgement, and judgement, when applied in the arena of understanding human beings, distorts reality. 

It may very well be true that many bullies live with fear, a primary antecedent to the bullying in some cases, I would think. But to engage in bullying behavior, while managing fear, is anything but an act of cowardice. In truth, it takes strength to manage both at the same time. And, of course, when you bully, you run the very real risk of someone striking back. Such moments can result in some tough emotional quagmires that can often be worked through, with therapy. 

I’ll tell you now, the therapist who guided me through the end of my first marriage, getting shot, the suicide of my mother and my daughter’s suicide attempt is a New York-based certified social worker.

Bullying is a distance maker. As long as it is present, no human-to-human connection can be a healthy one.

A matter of allegiance

There is little I value more in someone than kindness. Few things move me more than witnessing or learning about real acts of kindness.

Kind is defined in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary as “having or showing a gentle nature and a desire to help others : wanting and liking to do good things and to bring happiness to others.” The definition is incomplete. Kind is also having or showing a gentle nature and a desire to help yourself by being kind to yourself; wanting and liking to do good things and bring happiness to your life as well as to the lives of others.

I was in the sauna  at my local YMCA recently when I heard a conversation going on just outside the door. One person was offering a helpful suggestion to another person who’d been dealing with a painful condition for some time. Hearing the kindness and compassion in the voice of the one offering support coupled with the heartfelt emotional tones of appreciation in the voice of the one receiving the support brought me to tears. There are many things I love about life, moments like these are among my favorites.

Like you, I’ve witnessed acts of kindness and cruelty. Never too much of the former, always too much of the latter. As a writer I instinctively pay close attention to the world I live in. One component of that world is the interaction between people, their patterns of thought and emotion, the multitude of ways in which they interact with and treat each other, as well as the ways in which they interact with and treat themselves. It is not possible to have a healthy relationship with life absent a healthy relationship with self.  It is not possible to have a healthy relationship with self without an allegiance to honesty.

Now, if I told you I’ve always had a healthy relationship with my life my nose would respond with a vigorous Pinocchio response and make a sizeable hole in the monitor’s screen. So, I won’t lie to you. I won’t lie to you because, one, I am committed to living an honest life, and, two, I’m rather fond of my monitor.

It would be understandable if you’re wondering how an essay that starts off talking about kindness has somehow meandered its way to honesty and dishonesty. It’s done so because I believe when dishonesty is one of life’s underpinnings, acts of kindness are often self-serving, designed to make an impression or illicit a particular response. There are times apparent acts of kindness are rooted in unhealthy antecedents which, by their nature, are destructive. To the person offering the “kindness” and to the person receiving it.

This brings me back to allegiance. Is it healthy or misplaced? That’s the question.  For years dishonesty was an underpinning of my life because my allegiance was to alcohol and drugs. In short, to addiction. When anyone is caught in the addiction web – a web that can include addiction to food, work, sex, shopping, etc. – life becomes about protecting the addiction rather than protecting the life. A lifestyle like this leaves nothing  in its wake but carnage.  A carnage that includes the destruction of relationships, friendships, families, children, jobs, careers, education, hopes, dreams, and, life. I could name many – some of whom I loved and love still – who are dead because of  addiction. I know some today who will no doubt add to these numbers unless they shift allegiance from addiction to self.

Stepping out from behind the dishonesty mask is a scary. It is also the first step in reclaiming – or for the first time claiming – the right to one’s self. For me, the thought of reaching the end of my life still entrenched in the addiction web and hidden behind the dishonesty mask was far scarier – it also made me blisteringly angry. First, I would die without ever  fully living life as myself, and, second, those that wounded me would’ve had control of my choices right up to the moment of my death.  They don’t deserve that kind of power.

And then there is this: I know no kindness greater than saving a life, including one’s own. As I said, there is little I value more in someone than kindness and few things move me more than witnessing or learning about real acts of kindness, including those that are self-inflicted.

Call me sinner, call me man

Call me sinner. Call me man. Call me a human being doing best he can. Nothing always easy about the lifting veil to change. New beginnings, new muscles, or old ones long unused being called on again. It’s down to the pen from here on out. Words against violence I must write, many of them. Violence. Been done to me and I done to others, men and women; this crazy sickness besetting so many, all only getting sicker in their silence.

I ask no favors. I ask no sympathy. Will any of this be easy? No. But easier than living nothing, of that you can be sure. Men and women, boys and girls, all walks of life need to know that there is no difference between the alcoholic-addict clinging to the porcelain throne swearing he or she will never use again and the wrenched-up sobbing man or woman swearing they’ll never strike their family member again. In both moments both people are being honest, both can pass a polygraph with flying colors (never known flying colors to do shit for anyone). But both are wrong. Without treatment there will be more using and more violence. The diseases of both are bigger and stronger than anyone’s will power. Will power is not enough. We are talking about two real diseases, addiction and violence; I know this to be true because I’ve had both.

There is no healthy reason on planet earth to surrender decision making to addiction and there is no healthy reason on planet earth to be violent to another person, family or stranger, not unless you are defending your life.

I don’t know how many years I have left in life. I am two strides from 60. I do know that I can’t undo my past and undo the wounds I’ve inflicted on others, particularly my first wife, a woman who will always live full length in my heart and soul. I do know that I can, even with just the written word, maybe, just maybe, help others.

For those on the out-of-control addiction and out-of-control violence fronts it is time to surrender to the reality you are grappling with and get help. You are not responsible for the sickness, you are for those you hurt while you are sick and you are responsible for your recovery. You need and, more importantly, deserve help – professional help. It took me years of treatment to get well on the violence and addiction fronts. It will likely take you years to get well too. But, it is time well spent. It is a blessing, a tears of joy blessing, to be forever freed of the urge to use and the urge to strike.

For those on the receiving end of these behaviors…there is no healthy reason for you to stay around. I’d go through getting shot in the head 10 times over to both spare my wife the hell I put her through and the hell of losing her I put me through. But here’s the thing, her leaving me on February 12, 1981 was her last gift to me. It was my bottom on that front. It is what sent me into therapy where I worked with all my might for years, where I held no one but me accountable for my behavior.

When my time comes, if I know it is coming, I’d like to be able to close my eyes that last time knowing I did all I could to make amends, help others, breathe love and kindness into the world, add some peace.

Now soon I move and the focus will be writing, and doing so honestly,  and as courageously as I can.

Peace.

No Bigotry in Addiction

I was in a conversation about the insanity of the disease of addiction which, of course, includes alcoholism. The conversation was with a group of friends who, like me, are in recovery. One fellow said, “Oh yeah. I remember driving drunk one time and crashing into all these trees.  I immediately realized I needed to cut back on my driving.” We all laughed because we all recognized how severely the disease of addiction mangles our thinking. The same holds true for Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen and the far too many like them, including me. When we are using we are tenaciously insistent that the responsibility for the problems and tragedies in our lives are the fault of anyone and anything other than us. Not true.

The reality of addiction guarantees that unless someone gets sober, in other words, gets well, their story never ends with the words, and they lived happily ever after.

Recent reports say Lindsay Lohan feels she is being picked on (Note to Lindsay: Don’t steal necklaces and when you are wrong, promptly admit it) and Charlie Sheen’s life continues to disintegrate.

The truth is there is no bigotry in addiction. Addiction doesn’t give a rat’s ass whether you’re rich and famous, poor, employed or unemployed, tall, short, fat, skinny; it doesn’t give a rat’s ass what your skin color is or what religion you are or what country you’re from. It has only one goal, to kill everyone it sinks its teeth into and, while it’s doing the killing, destroy and mangle every component of the person’s life.

Lohan’s enemy is not the system and Sheen’s enemy is not CBS; their enemy is addiction and as long as addiction – too often helped by its enabler-elves – can keep them blaming everyone but addiction, their stories along with stories of far too many like them will not end and they lived happily ever after.

Special Favors Threaten Lindsay Lohan’s Life

If news reports that Lindsay Lohan is receiving special favors in jail are true her already at-risk life is even more at risk. I say if because if there is anything I am sure of, it is the penchant of some members of the media to close-dance with rumor rather than spend time in the world of reality. The latter being something someone facing the challenge of addiction must do if they want to stay alive –and free.

Anything that gives someone facing the disease of addiction the message that they do not have to deal with reality is, in short, life threatening.  Like cancer and other diseases, addiction doesn’t give a rat’s ass if the person it has hold of is famous. Addiction knows no bigotry. It simply destroys everything in its path.

One news report claiming Ms. Lohan is getting special visiting privileges says that whenever she leaves her cell everyone else is placed in lockdown. Another report says she has been given a special room with a TV, hospital bed, and a dresser for her clothes. If any of these reports are true, Ms. Lohan is being put in real danger. In order for an addict-alcoholic, like me for instance, to get well, they must fully experience the damage the addiction is inflicting on their life. To spare someone this experience is to empower the addiction and put the person at greater risk.

Ms. Lohan is not her fame, she is not her looks, she is not her addiction. She is a human being who, unless she fully experiences the damage be inflicted on her by addiction, is, in a word, doomed. 

For those who continue to use the story never ends with, they lived happily ever after.  For the most part the media doesn’t give a damn about Ms. Lohan.  In fact, you can be sure some members of the media would love it if she died from an overdose of some kind because oh my the papers they would sell, the ratings they’d get.

Ms. Lohan, like anyone facing the challenge of addiction, is in a fight for her life. If those who love her give a damn, they will allow her to fully experience jail, and not seek to create an abbreviated version of the experience. After she is released, she should go right into treatment, her father should get his self-serving ass off the talk show circuit, and those who love her should show their love by supporting all things sobriety.

Ms. Lohan deserves to get well. And she deserves  people around her who empower her, not the addiction.

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