The 12 Steps

“Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by continuous or periodic: impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial.”   asam.org

I think you already knew from today’s title that “The 12 Steps” refers to the Alcoholics Anonymous program for overcoming alcohol addiction. Many recovery organizations are modeled after it, and there are other programs that use alternative strategies to support people who are struggling to control their drinking instead of their drinking controlling them.

Talk. They hear you. Most parents have already discussed drinking, drugs, sex, smoking and other things that people use and abuse to help cope with their internal and external struggles.  It’s even more important to speak up if addiction runs in the family. It certainly does in mine. You might want to remember that perfectionism, bulimia, multi-tasking workaholic behaviors, gaming, and other actions are also our attempt to curb or numb things that hurt, scare us, or feel out of control.

What’s strange is that sometimes, the very thing we turn to can quickly make us feel…hurt, scared, or out of control. Making healthy alternatives available to ourselves and our family can help circumvent this cycle with better ways to cope with these feelings. I’m sure you can think of a great list, including what we learned last week at the end of our Stress Test questions.

If you are at Step One with alcohol, click here and begin the first day of the rest of your life. If you are unsure, click here and do some self-investigation. Alcohol abuse is not the same thing as being an alcoholic. Using prescription medication post-surgery is not the same as abusing it because of addiction to opioids. I’m by no means a “tea”totaller, but understanding what you do and why you do it is important for us and our families.

As addicts or alcoholics,

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Proverbs 20:1
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whoever is deceived by it is not wise.”

The Forgetful Files is a safe, supportive space exploring different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation by offering your unique perspective!

How Stressed Are You?

Stress is a normal part of being human. It fluctuates over the course of a purposeful, creative day. But if we don’t pay attention, it’s possible to slip into a state of chronic stress, paving the way for health and relationship problems.

Awareness is the first step. Take the short quiz, see if anything looks familiar, and get your scores back. Knowledge is power…and leads to actionable steps for peace.

Please enter your email:

1. Do you do experience headaches, muscle tension, or sweaty palms? Do you discover yourself grinding your teeth, holding your breath or trembling?

 
 
 
 

2. Do you become impatient with delays or interruptions? Do you hate waiting?

 
 
 
 

3. Do you have to win at games to enjoy yourself? Are you very competitive?

 
 
 
 

4. Do you speed up to beat the red light? Do other drivers frequently annoy you?

 
 
 
 

5. Are you unlikely to ask for help with a problem?

 
 
 
 

6. Do you have the habit of doing more than one thing at a time? Is multi-tasking the norm?

 
 
 
 

7. Do you act angry, irritated, moody or get accused of over-reacting?

 
 
 
 

8. Do you put off or cancel time for hobbies or time for yourself?

 
 
 
 

9. Do you talk quickly or rush conversations? Do you do other tasks while on speaker phone?

 
 
 
 

10. Do you have trouble calming down after something has upset you?

 
 
 
 

11. Do you feel overwhelmed, pessimistic, worried, or have racing thoughts?

 
 
 
 

12. Do you juggle deadlines or a lot of responsibilities in your work, family, or school?

 
 
 
 

If a Gun Walks Onto Campus

Before the beginning of a school year, a mandatory meeting is held that covers the idea of what to do if a gun walks onto campus. Everyone from cafeteria workers to the janitor attends. Not halfway through the meeting, many are in tears. It’s inconceivable that a teacher might end up taking a life to protect themselves and their students.

The burden on school staff to maintain “a safe and secure environment” for students is heavy and unsung.

I imagine that people train to become teachers because they have the gift of teaching. Of leading young minds to new places and rejoicing with them over the growth of a school year. They certainly don’t become teachers to get rich or because they like job security.

What other profession receives a yearly “pink slip” along with the assurance that “very likely” they will be rehired in two months? But no promises. What other profession balances Common Core, administration, gangs, parents, class sizes increases, grades, students, budgets, politics, sex, standardized testing, religion, cell phones, puberty, attitudes, drugs, feelings, sports, and glitter glue? You know, sometimes in a single day.

It’s something no one wants to consider and unfortunately, many communities have already experienced. I don’t believe anyone decides to go into the teaching profession thinking they will also act as a body guard. Or worse. Because what if the gunman is also one of the students you teach?

Where are the days we only worried about earthquakes, pop quizzes, and whether our outfits were cool?

Today’s message is short and to the point: hug your kids. Thank your teachers.

Read this first. Can you even?

What schools are working with: training.

Should teachers be armed? The debate.

What kids may be thinking about it: view.

Resources that teachers use: words for processing it.

Are the schools ready? Is yours?

Psalm 141:10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by in safety.

The Forgetful Files is a safe, supportive space exploring different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation by offering your unique perspective!

Vaping, School, and Your Kid

You know what I hate? Feeling naive.

If my girlfriend knows something I don’t know, she fills me in so that I can be as cool as she is.

If my kid knows something I don’t know, he hides behind a bowl of cereal, hoping no questions are asked before he runs off to school. Or in the case of my own brilliant and sarcastic child, he puts it in plain view and laughs at me for being naive.

Which, let me repeat myself, I hate.

Today I am advocating, once again, family conversation. The kind where the parent has to open a door, yank technology away from little Johnny, and ask some hard questions while remaining a calm, open-minded good listener. Like Ghandi. Or maybe Don Corleone.

He isn’t going to volunteer to have this conversation. Your education will be inadequate and you will glance into his room one day and notice the sweet little plants in his windowsill and think to yourself what a great parent you are that your kid knows about gardening and ambiance.

Little Johnny is growing pot. In his room. It’s so much cheaper than the dealer down the street, and organic, too.

Mom won’t figure it out. She is busy chasing toddlers. Or paychecks. Whichever.

As a parent, I died just a little when it was voted “legal” here in California because everyone interpreted that to mean “safe”. Pot shops opened up, serving a glamorous variety of goods.  Smoking a joint or a cigarette is just so pedestrian now…what’s a kid to do?

Enter vaping.

My contacts tell me that vaping has been the cool experience of choice in the school lavatories for the last year or two. Most kids are vaping socially, meaning there’s a party in the bathroom, and these kids are not really engaging their brains at the time – which, I suppose, is the whole point.

  1. It is illegal to have marijuana or nicotine in any form if you are under the age of 21
  2. but it’s the easiest form of both for kids to access
  3. and, the kids are pretty comfortable trying it and feel that a puff won’t hurt them.

Not the way popping a pill might, or drinking a shot of liquor might. And here’s why: because the industry says so, that’s why.

As you will notice during the picture time of this presentation, vaping is marketed to youth. Although the packaging is clear about what is in the product you are buying, this is the first thing thrown into the nearest trashcan. The vape pens are sleek little packages or covered in cute cartoon figures and the cartridges that you put into them come in fun flavors from bubble gum to gummy bear.

You won’t see this kind of marketing on prescription medication or alcohol. Not even on cigarettes. The potent thc content now on the market is scientifically engineered. This is not your mama’s pot. But the industry is going to make sure it’s your child’s.

Getting the rechargeable battery-powered pens is not too difficult. But this doesn’t matter because you can walk into the school bathroom during lunch and help yourself to the party pen being passed around. If I saw one in my kid’s room, it might register as another random piece of technology or a charger pack of some kind. It could be a pen or a highlighter. The different cartridges (“carts”) full of flavorful fillings can be purchased for $20 in the store, or conveniently at school for $30. I can see myself now, spotting some vape juice, “Oh, look, little Johnny is into essential oils!”

Vaping leaves a faint scent around you for only a few minutes as it dissipates. (“Wait, little Johnny likes scented candles now?”) Kids sometimes exhale into empty gatorade bottles and cap them tightly to contain the tell-tale smoke. Either way, you can walk into a classroom ten minutes later and no one will smell it on you. My kid can get high at school all day long and not be noticed.

“Why?” I asked certain knowledgable high schoolers, “Why would you want to smoke at all?”

They hadn’t really thought about that question. I had plenty more. Why would you pass around a communal anything and put it in your mouth? Do you know which product is inside it? Or what strength?

“Hey!” calls a friend from the little group huddled in the bathroom, “Try this! You just press the button and inhale.” Many kids caught vaping are just trying it.

“But I didn’t know what it was. It was just one puff. They’re my friends. It didn’t look like it was hurting them. What’s the big deal?

Well, for originality, ask the group if anyone there wishes they could quit.

There’s one who might be brave enough to confide in you. Nicotine is addictive. Sometimes they will tell you that they began vaping in order to stop smoking cigarettes. Ask how that plan is going. And the kid vaping alone in the bathroom stall? He’s not going to share.

(And this is where you might one-up your kid and mention you know that “dabbing” is not just a dance move.)

From the time a student leaves his house until the time a student returns home, the school has a certain level of responsibility for behavior. Whether my kid sells carts off campus or just delivered money from the sales, whether he took one puff at a friend’s house or bragged about it on social media, there are civic consequences. There are words like “suspended” “expelled” or “police” involved.

The burden on school staff to maintain “a safe and secure environment” for students is heavy and unsung. Next week we go further into it.

Our kids are in over their heads. They’re being advertised to and presented with something they know little about and understand even less. Vaping is touted as “safe smoking” and it’s clearly not. We need to have some conversations.

So I am here to fill you in and start you off. And you and I will be cool together.

(Resources are included via text links. Click em.)

Picture Time:

Sunset Sherbert. Delish.

Because you always wanted to smoke a strawberry. Admit it.

Now you know how to spell “Shwifty Sticks”. You’re welcome.

I CAN. NOT. EVEN.

The Forgetful Files is a safe, supportive space exploring different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation by offering your unique perspective!

There Be Bullies

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.

This month, we are focussing on issues in the school system (and this means any school system: homeschooling, charters, etc are not exempt) that are prevalent, insidious and hard for us to talk about with our kids.

Bullying has been around since Cain and Abel, but if Eve had given them smart phones I think they could have avoided going out into the field altogether and Cain could have ruined his brother from the comfort of his couch.

What this means for today’s kids is a perceived power imbalance (which is what sells technology in the first place) so magnified that the result, more times than we want to look at, is death. Death of an idea, death of self-worth, death of a child. Please stop right now and call, text, message, hug, or high-five a kid. It doesn’t have to be your kid. And you don’t need a reason. Every kid needs that little ping of positivity because – people listen up – we are fighting an undercover avalanche of insidious bullying.

And you count. I’ll wait while you send it….

According to my many teacher friends, schools are educating kids about proper web use and ethics. They know it’s hard for some kids to admit to being bullied, so it’s discussed regularly in the classroom. Some teachers have an app that can check a kid’s iPad at a moments notice to see if it’s being used appropriately. They have counselors, social workers, and technology staff and partner with police and programs for nonviolence and peace. The message they are sending out is: “Bullying is not right. Everyone deserves a safe place to be in school.”

But of course, there’s a flip side: how do you distinguish between bully behavior and normal, age-appropriate immaturity, or even teasing between two children who both think it’s funny? The “bully” label is easily triggered in students and parents alike and they expect dramatic reactive steps on the part of school staff, regardless of the circumstances. (Here’s my fun story on that.)

Usually a quick, real-time intervention by the teacher, having kids apologize or just a stern talking-to, resolves many incidents. Seasoned teachers definitely know the difference and they also know their students personalities.

But the teacher is not you, the parent. (Unless of course you are homeschooling like Eve was and we are praying for you. Get yourself a favorite aunt who will take your kid for ice cream and have this conversation.)

You, the parent, should also be using real-time intervention by talking to your kids about when they were bullied and also when they bullied someone else. The answers are perhaps not so important as the process of opening the discussion. We all have to find ways to get along on the planet and this is a good place to practice the conversation. Earn their honesty by trusting them to find solutions along with you. Suggest ways they can hand out those little pings of positivity, too.

Conversation Prompts:

  1. Technology is just a tool and you control the “off” button. No one can access you via technology unless you allow them to. Others can block you, too, if you lose their trust.
  2. Bullying can be physical, emotional, or verbal. Harassment or intimidation via technology is called cyberbullying. Look up your school policy on it and read it together.
  3. Make an action plan as a family. Consider and act out scenarios where you are the target, the witness, and the bully in turn. How do you feel? What can you say? What will you do?
  4. Restorative Circles will give you the dialogue you need, and here is the other side of that with examples.
  5. Find resources on stopbullying.gov.
  6. Find more resources from the national PTA here.

“Love your enemies as yourself” Lev. 19:18

The Forgetful Files is a safe, supportive space exploring different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation by offering your unique perspective!