“For no amount of our screaming at the people in charge to change things can change them… the powers bent on waging war against the poor and the young and the “other” will only be moved to kinship when they observe it.”

 

By Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne

People with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are the most discriminated against people in the history of the world.

A psycho is a derogatory term for someone who is psychotic.  Someone who is psychotic is a person suffering from psychosis.  Psychosis is characterized by a disconnection from reality.

That is it, that is all there is to it. A psycho is someone who is experiencing a disconnection from reality.

At first the term was “mad,” then we called them “crazy,” then “insane,” which became “lunacy” or “lunatics,” and then of course “psychosis” or “psychotic.”

As I have shared stories of the ancient days and how people with mental illness were mistreated, a large majority of those mistreatments were towards schizophrenics.

Just as humans have always done, when we do not understand something, we label it as different and persecute those people. But, this is the one group of people that are still left in the darkness. We still do not understand it.

Even though we label it as a medical disease, they still end up locked up behind bars and it is the last group of people in society in which it is still socially acceptable to discriminate against.

In the very ancient times, in the shamanistic cultures they viewed schizophrenics as having a connection to the spirit world. They would train them as to how to use this power, this gift, to connect with their higher self and earn them the title of “healer.”

Eventually as civilizations started to form, governments were created, along with rules, laws, and norms were passed down to keep peace and order.

This was meant to conform to those in power. Schizophrenia then became viewed as different, bizarre, chaotic, and mad. People with this “disorder” were then persecuted, drowned, buried alive, burnt at the stake, locked in institutions, cut off parts of their brain, or highly medicated to control these abnormalities.

So what is schizophrenia? Medically speaking, it is a diagnosis that is characterized by abnormalities in the perception or expression of reality and the sense of the self.

These “abnormalities” are described as hallucinations and delusions.

Hallucinations consist of hearing things that do not appear to be there, and seeing things that do not appear to be present.  Delusions are beliefs that appear “strange” and that only the person diagnosed believes them and they refuse to think differently – hence, refuse to conform.

On a side note, the next version of the DSM is planning on including non-conformity of a mental disorder. They have went from trying to be secretive about these things, to just being quite upfront. If you do not act as we want you to do, then you are sick. And if you are sick, you need to take this drug. But this drug is expensive, so you need this insurance coverage.

However, these descriptions are clinical terms used to help give a diagnosis, which allows for treatment in a society and culture that has agreed upon the best way of treatment of any mental illness is a drug. In the past it was hospitalization in which they never treated the person, but rather abused them and labeled them as insane.

What would happen if we were to actually look deeper into what these “symptoms” include in non-clinical terms, but rather, in terms of the client experiencing them?

The hallucinations are nothing more than an over-sharpening of the senses and experiencing unusual sensations. It can feel like an out-of-body experience and having difficulty deciphering the difference from reality and illusion. Everything tends to flow together as one. The wall never ends, but rather flows together with the flooring. Auditory hallucinations or the “hearing voices” which is so often mocked and ridiculed is a part of being in tune with higher frequencies.

It is scientifically proven that we do not see objects as they are, but rather a transformation and interpretation made by our eyes and mind. The brain filters out what it deems to be unnecessary information. This isn’t new age, make-belief information, this is physics.  Some physicists have estimated that the percentage of light we see on the spectrum is between 1.5 percent and 2.3 percent! That means that there is up to 98-percent of things that we are incapable of seeing.

We communicate daily via invisible radio waves through internet, cell phones, television, and radio. Radio refers to sending energy with waves. Energy is transmitted across the globe without any direct connection. The end result is an announcer speaks into a microphone and the signal travels at the speed of light via radio waves, is received by another signal, and if we tune our radio dial to the right frequency we can hear their voice without any direct connection.

With all this being said, is it possible that if someone has heightened senses to see part of the 98-percent of the world we do not see? Or to hear things at a different frequency in which we are not tuned in? I would say it is almost certain.

Psychosis, such as schizophrenia and mania, has to do with cracking the ego.

The experience is so intense that words can not describe. The ego, also known as the false self, is everything that we thought we knew to be true about ourselves. The reality, as we know it, is breaking right before our eyes. The ego, or mask, is put in place to protect us from danger – but it also is incredibly limiting.

During this experience, you break out of this mask you have been wearing your entire life. You feel an intense amount of energy that takes you to the depths of your soul. Your soul is set free for the first time since you were an infant, which is the reason for such rapid changes. As a part of this, all your senses are incredibly heightened and you start to question everything around you. You ask things such as “Is this real?” “Am I going crazy?” “Did I Die?”

If we are able to resist nothing and allow this experience to continue we will feel other symptoms such as feeling connection and a sense of oneness with the universe. You begin to feel that you are everyone and everything, and they are all you. An intense level of understanding takes over and everything makes sense, you finally see to just “get it.” All the answers to life are in the grasp of your finger tips. Along with the heightened senses of vision and hearing, you also are in tune with those around you almost to the point of feeling their senses, emotions, and thoughts. The sense of time disappears, all that exists is the present moment. All worries seem to disappear as an intense sense of love for everything appears and everything becomes incredibly sacred.  Along with this connection, you also may begin to feel that everything is a test from your creator and you no longer see people in their worldly form, but rather see their souls and see the message they are bringing to you.

As this state of consciousness comes down, it changes everything. Your priorities and values change quite dramatically. It is as though you have been given the answers to all of life’s mysteries and to return to the worldly form can be depressing.

I would like you to now go back and read the last three paragraphs and take them out of context. Just read what this experience of psychosis feels like to the person. Now, instead of saying psychosis refers to cracking of the ego, change the word “psychosis” for “enlightenment.”

“Enlightenment refers to cracking of the ego.” Now read those same three paragraphs describing the sensory experience. It is the exact same thing.

The difference is with enlightenment, people try many ways to achieve this experience through deep meditations, vision quests, soul dances, and psychedelic drugs, etc. Yet, those who are labeled as mentally ill and who have been discriminated against more than any other group of people, tend to have this same experience happen to them naturally. In fact, if you were to experience bipolar mania and explain it to someone the most common response is “I think you need help.”

And by “help,” in our society means to medicate the person so they no longer have these mystical experiences. Now, I do acknowledge that sometimes these hallucinations and delusions can be quite harmful in the sense they are asking people to act violently and they are seeing demons. This is likely due to the either trauma or repressed feelings. It is still a good sign that the person is breaking away from their ego, but they need to be guided by someone with experience so they can get closer to the enlightenment side of the spectrum.

This is the story of the lunatic on the grass:

Every week we would have our team meetings in which we go over treatment plans of the 16 patients in our “Intense psych rehab.”   

I had been off for a while since a huge relapse. I was now back and this was the first treatment meeting I had been to since. My mind was empty and blank. I didn’t know anything to be true for sure, I had given up. Which, as it turns out, was a good thing.

We would have the mental health practitioner present the patients and their goals and progress.

We talk about this new patient, a schizophrenic, and we discuss his goals. It is said that this is a career schizophrenic that goes to hospitals over and over. His goal is to marry Paris Hilton and play golf on the European golf tour.

Well everyone cracks up. The laughing is intense, everyone teases, ridicules, and assasinates his character.

20 mostly privledged white kids in their 20s sitting in this board room with their first psych job determining the fates of these patients.

I am a little intrigued because I love golf. I am terrible at it. However to be outside in nature with the sun for 4 hours I love.

The lessons it taught me was like exercise for my mind. Every shot matters in the same way that every moment matters. If I hit the ball by a tree, then because of that, if I get angry and impulsive, and try to smack it out of the woods, it will likely hit a tree and I’ll be in worse shape. However, if I let my ego down, and chip it out, then I will be better off.

It all adds up, little things matter, have patience, and the only shot that matters is the one in front of you. Swing soft and the ball will go further, nothing is as it seems. Do the opposite of what the ego tells you to do.

You can’t beat nature, go with it. Use your talents, don’t try to be like the other players. Stay within yourself, and be humble.

This is why I loved golf. It was some sort of meditation for me. Those things I learned in golf, could be said for life as well.

I walk upstairs and I see these ratty old shoes hanging over one of the couches.

I look over and there is the guy, the golfer Paris Hilton guy we talked about. He wears the same clothes every day, it is likely all he owns.

He says he’s not sick but he has to take medications. He gets angry if anyone tries to talk to him, about his “illness.”

I just walk by daily for about 2 months. The whole time thinking this guy is a typical schizophrenic so let’s write our notes, get him out of here and go home. Lets get our checks and continue living the lie. I was so embarrassed to be there, after the relapse. I just didn’t want to talk to him. I felt like a fraud.

It was nice outside early that spring so I brought my clubs in one day as I was going golf after work. They were brand new fancy clubs. I tried to act like I was the man, because truly I hated myself at the time and didn’t know why.

Now I know because that was one of my false selves. A mask I was wearing, it wasn’t who I really am. When you run from who your true self is, you suffer.

So at times I talked to him about golf to measure his awareness. He knew a lot so I was surprised. Just person to person talks.

He had started coming down to talk to me more because it was more of a friendship than me just asking him about his “coping skills” and his “goals,” and the bull they teach you to say in school and at these expensive trainings.

He didn’t feel threatened by me or that I was against him, or that I was writing things down in his chart. When patients do that, we are taught to think:

“See they are paranoid.”

However, is that really paranoid? We read their charts and decide who they are without ever getting to know them.

I think lacking trust and not wanting us to write things down is a perfectly normal response based on the circumstances they are usually in. If they say the wrong thing to the wrong person, then its another forced treatment and commitment.

I swung my clubs inside that day. He saw me, and said “Whoah, you got a good swing, not bad.”

He saw my clubs and said ” Hey can I take a swing?”

Now what I was doing here was something that most places would say is inappropriate and me displaying poor boundaries. The people mostly running these places would say that I should be discussing his treatment and goals and his plan. Teaching him the “coping skills” that the book says.

However, no one will talk to you if you don’t build a relationship first. We seem to miss that in mental health.

I think it’s funny that we ask people to tell us everything, and about the worst moments in their lives. When we give nothing. We force releases of information to be signed by court order, and we use the information against them. Then we call the patients non complaint if they refuse.

I wasn’t purposely manipulating a relationship either, I was genuinely talking to him like an equal, without regards to the societal roles we were playing.

So, I said “”yeah, take a swing, let’s see.”

This was the beginning of one of the most deep and profound moments in my life in which my false selves would all die. Was it in a church, in a school, in a huge moment, no. I was about to learn about life from a lifelong schizophrenic at a golf couse. Not quite how I had it dreamt it.

He swung the club and it was one of the nicest swings I had seen in person. I was shocked. Of course that didn’t mean he was a European pro.

I did start to doubt my own pre conceived notions as an “expert.” Could I, the all mighty one be wrong? It brought me back to a time when I was working at the county hospital.

One of the doctors training me said, “You don’t treat the diagnosis, you treat the patient, everyone is different.”

I then went to get support from the program director to take him and anyone else to the driving range. The university where I got my golf lessons, it was close and I was familiar with this place.

I got the ok and so we drive the van to the driving range. We arrive and there is is bunch of young kids with fancy clubs and clothes looking as we walk on the course, a group of mentally ill patients.

They had that look like “Umm I think you guys are lost” or the “Not in our neighborhood” looks.

Here is this schizophrenic guy with 20 year old shoes, long hair, and 10 year old jeans. We had no clubs, except mine. All the course can give him is a 9 iron for kids, which is typically hit about 150 yards by professional golfers. I’m sure they had better clubs to offer. They didn’t want the lunatic ruining their clubs. They didn’t want the lunatic on the grass.

He says ok, he wasn’t arguing. This man is 6’5. The club doesn’t fit him very well but he is just happy to be there as is everyone. He has a 20 year old club used by a kid.

Then there is that moment, the one that changes everything.

He puts the ball down. All these young kids, with their 3000 dollar clubs and their fancy clothes are all chuckling and watching, I am watching, the other patients are watching.

 

He says “Wow, I haven’t swung club in a long time.”

I was so nervous at this point, because I could see all the people watching, and I was watching. I was wondering, was this a delusion? Am I hurting this guy and embarrasing him? I felt my body get tighter. My teeth clenched, heart racing, I could feel it.

 

I look at his face, I watch his eyes, they aren’t schizophrenic eyes. His tongue was tightly wrapped on the outside left side of his mouth. He has this grimace on his face, it was extreme like focus. I look at his feet, they are not schizophrenic feet anymore, they are solid, on the ground, perfect stance. His arms are not schizophrenic arms, the grip is well, but the club does not fit him.

I sense the tenison and the energy as everyone was watching this “freak.” The thing is, he couldn’t sense it. He already knew what we were about to find out. He wasn’t hitting the ball for just him, he was hitting it for me, to give me hope. He was hitting it for the other patients. He was hitting it for the kids watching. The18 to 22 year olds who already have their mind made up, they want to laugh. He was hitting it for them.

 

He hit the ball. It goes well over 175 yards, with a kids 9 iron. The ball flew soo high in the air, like when you watch a pro golfer hit it. It towered over the earth, and the ball was soo beautiful in flight, it was like you see on tv. I could not believe it and you could hear a pin drop. Complete and total silence. Everyone was still.

 

The world stopped, and mine had changed forever. Had the first shot been a miss, no one watches again. The first shot was the key. This wasn’t a ball you could say was just struck well by an amateur. It had the look of a real talented golfer. He hadn’t swung a club in years, he had a girls jr club, and he didn’t have fancy equipment or shoes or a glove. He had a sweatshirt, jeans and those old raggedy shoes.

Then this happened over and over and over again. Eventually people were not whispering anymore. They eventually went back to hitting their balls.

Then more magic happened. At a driving range like this, you see all these golfers hitting all these balls. They all are in flight and all hit well.

There continued to be one ball that towered over the rest and made the others look like little kids.

Then, I started watching the kids, they started swinging and missing, and hitting terrible shots. He’s not supposed to do that. I could barely move. I had been shown the truth yet again. I hit some ok shots, but it didn’t really matter anymore.

 

Then he walked over and started giving me tips on my golf swing and they all worked. I couldn’t believe this. Then I look back, there is 20 kids watching him hit the ball, and watching him teach me. It was that impressive. Of course on the side you had our other patients trippng, laughing, running around. The world had been moved.

 

Then a moment that still tears me up as I write this happened. One kid with extreme courage and bravery comes up and asks him advice on his swing. What courage to do this on front of his shaken peers. Instead of teasing, he came and asked for help.

They had teased and judged, but our guy didn’t care. He said sure, and he loved helping.

Before you knew it you had the schizophrenic giving golf tips to these college golfers. I will never be the same and I knew it when it happened.

I remember getting back to the facility and sitting down. My co workers said “You must really like golf, I’ve never seen you so alive and energized.”

I could not describe what I had just seen and I am still not doing it justice.

All I could say was “yeah I like golf.”

We went again maybe 3 times. We had long talks in the car. He started talking about his life growing up, how he got involved in the system. I started teaching him about schizophrenia.

Eventually, he said to me, “Well I’ve been going to these hospitals and group homes for over 20 years, and no one has ever explained it to me like that. I think I do have that disease, actually maybe they are right.”

I think other people had explained, he hadn’t listened, becasue no one had ever listened to him. He was open, without fear to me.

I only talked to him by chance. I had ignored him for 2 months.

Everyone played a role, the negative mental health practitioner who tried to make a joke of his treatment plan, the great program director. It all played a part.

 

Then I started to listen carefully to what he said when he went on rants instead of just having preconceived notions. I heard him talk about the college he went to.

I decided to look it up, then there it was. I saw a picture of him, clean cut, very well groomed and dressed. He had a 4.0 and was captain of a division 1 golf team. I wanted to be his caddy and get him in tounaments. That never happened.

 

Did he have the talent ot be a pro golfer?, I don’t know, but good enough to make money for sure.

 

My life changed forever, for that first swing was the swing hat changed the world. It came when I had given up on mental health and thought it was a fraud.

Then I realized this wasn’t always a terrible business. Yes there are terrible things that happen, terrible abuse. Horrible things happen. That was not a reason to give up, that was the reason to stay. To stay on the inside and do my best to create change. It is only a fraud if we make it one.

We have the power over every present moment we are in. That will always build on the past moment, much like golf. We can find evil if we look for it.

However as socrates said “Our energy is better spent on focusing on positive future than on the negative past.”

I think ghandi also said that “The best criticism of the bad is the practices of the good.”

Maybe it wasn’t Ghandi, however I know it wasn’t me. Everyone is a human, we are all connected, and we all have things to offer.

If we start to treat people as equals, who deserve respect and love, instead of superiors and inferiors, you start to change.

When you drop everything the ego tells you to truth, magic happens.

When we take that leap, or are forced into it. What we happens is a freedom and beauty that I can’t explain woth words.

My greatest teacher was a “schizophrenic,” that had been committed for over 10 years by the court as crazy. I almost closed myself to him as a teacher because society had labeled him as sick and delusional. That’s how labels destroy.

When we lose the mask, the world becomes beautiful again.

This is my 42 year old cousin Jon tonight, on a respirator, in the ICU barely hanging on.

Gifted people are not those that can act and are good at sports. It is those sensitive, caring, loving people who have been given hate, pain, and abuse their whole lives. Yet they still return with love for the world. They hold the key.

 Currently how our society is set up, is we treat the most caring sensitive souls like garbage. The ones who could save humanity are in psych wards, detox facilities, and  treatment centers. Until we learn to embrace these gifted souls, our problems will continue to mount and destroy us. We embrace the wrong things and this is the result. We are killing  them off. When they become extinct, we will all go away. 
It can be cured. The solution is simple.  Love. Find an addict or someone with “mental illness” and give them pure love today. It will change the world. You won’t see the results, but it will

This pucture is my cousin Jon tonight. This is what an accidental drug overdose looks like. He is on a respirator right now. He is not a celebrity, so people won’t notice. But this happens to people every day and it is an epidemic. 
As a child he was tortured and abused. His stepmother didn’t want him so he was treated that way. His father wanted his wife to be happy so he was beaten and abused. 

Then at 16 everyone said he was “crazy.” He came to live with us and became my hero. He loved us and saved us.  

If Jon makes it out of this, he may never speak to me again or kill me. But at least he will be alive.
This is Jons story.

“The hero, it might be said, is called into being when perception of a need and the recognition of responsibility toward it are backed up by the will to act.” – Mike Alsford

Twelve-Years-Old; Here I am screaming, hitting, kicking, and throwing anything within eyesight. Filled with rage, I only hear the echoes of laughter from my amused audience of family members and a handful of neighborhood kids. It was a show to them, their entertainment for the evening, all while I am crying inside.

“He can not hurt you,” they cackled to each other.

Then the yelling and screaming turned to tears. That was the real pain, I was a hurt and confused teenager and expressing it the only way I knew; with anger and rage. More chatter and laughter from the enthralled crowd intensified my inner torture. While this was outwardly conveyed with more violence and destruction, I am slowly dying on the inside, scared, and lost.

I grabbed a baseball bat. It stopped being funny.

One person in that room saved me from killing myself, or perhaps others in that room. I’ll share exactly how this all transpired at the end of this article.

First, I want to tell you about the story of two boys. The story begins when they are around 7-8 years old. We will call them “Boy A” and “Boy B,” for simplicity.

“Boy A” awakes in the middle of the night with typical late-night hunger and heads to the kitchen to make a sandwich and accidentally cuts his finger on the knife. Scared, he rushes into his father’s room to cry and tell him something is wrong. The father responds by hitting him and telling him that he is, “too fat anyway,” followed by a couple more smacks to the face.

In childhood, we are trying to figure out if the world is safe or unsafe and it is our primary caregivers that give us this message. The message being received is, “you are a bad person, you are overweight, don’t come to me with your problems.” As these regular beatings continue, the neurological pathways are put into place in the developing brain reaffirming his perception of himself and the world. He fears the world, he is not allowed to cry or show emotions, and express how he feels. Everything is stored deep within his subconscious, but he has been trained that it is not OK to be himself.

His mask has been created.

Now, there is “Boy B,” at age 7-8 his father comes home and tosses around the football with him. He teaches him about football as well as life lessons associated with the game; such as being a part of a team, work ethic, discipline, sacrifice, fighting through pain, perseverance, and commitment. His mother offers warmth, kindness, compassion, along with unconditional love and support.

Encouraged to do well in school, treat others with respect, and do the right thing, “Boy B” receives positive reinforcement. He trusts the world, believes in himself, and his life is filled with meaning, purpose, and hope.

Back to “Boy A,” his father decides to get re-married and his new wife wants to start a family of her own. To her, “Boy A” is a reminder of this man’s past life and interrupts with her vision of a happy family. She takes it out on him by abusing him with electrical cords and whipping him with curling irons.

The same message comes around again, “I am a bad person, a jerk, and I am no good. I am getting in the way again.”

Already engrained in his mind and belief system, the same thing comes up again and only deepens his self-perception. During adolescents is when our personality is created as these neurological pathways are created, strengthened, or dropped altogether based on experiences and reactions. The teenager also acts first on emotion rather than on analytical thinking or rationale (due to the natural evolution of the brain) which naturally means more “acting out.” When “Boy A” acts out, everyone’s perception of he being a bad person or jerk is vindicated. Including his own perception of himself.

At the same time, “Boy B” is excelling in school while his parents are putting in extra time communicating with teachers and coaches to ensure their son is growing from child to an adult. The teachers see that they are involved and care about their son, and in turn, spend additional time with their child making sure he is successful. He is applauded for his extra efforts, given awards, and is generally liked by most people. He is free to explore the world on his own, views the world as a safe place, and optimistic about the future. Whenever he is in need, his family is there for him for any advice, assistance, or general support.

And, “Boy B” happens to be naturally gifted in athletics. Along with his revered genetics, he has been raised to work hard, study, and strive for greatness. As he gets older, he begins to receive specialized instruction from the finest coaches around the country. And while he has a burning passion for football and for success, if all fails in college he still has a loving family and community that will forever be supportive.

 

“Boy A” is now growing up with the negative labels connected to his name and any good act is ignored. Like the Hell’s Angles motto, “When we do right nobody remembers, when we do wrong nobody forgets.” Only seeking acceptance he acts goofy, outrageous, and spontaneous. This is the only thing that gets attention, and any type of attention is good for him. A beating is better than nothing at all.

He misses school and gets in different kinds of trouble. As the struggles progress, he becomes more scared, hurt, and alone with nowhere to turn. His father’s disgust for him hasn’t faded, if anything, has intensified. His father destroys gifts the child receives from his biological mother, not allowed to see his mother and is beaten and left outside the house all day on a nearly daily basis.

In school, he has no support. He is in fights, disrupting class, failing grades and the teachers only see a lost cause. Still seeking acceptance, he willingly puts on any mask for approval – the clown, rebel, etc. Anything that grants him the love that every person deserves, the love that he was cheated out of during his childhood.

Looking at the two stories of “Boy A” and “Boy B,” as adults they are souls from two different worlds. People who have been through abuse are living an entirely different reality, how are they supposed to just wake up one day and “just get it?”

This is why we need to look behind the mask.

The adult survivor of child abuse has altered brain chemistry. Early childhood development begins with the primitive structures of the brain known as the limbic system. This deals with emotional learning and survival. Our body has a natural hormone, Cortisol, which is sometimes called the “stress hormone” as it is released to help our body regulate stress. In childhood abuse, the system becomes altered as the child is under chronic stress which constantly sends cortisol throughout the brain and body. At this time, the brain is rapidly developing and the child is dependent on their caregiver for protection – which has significant long-term impacts on these primitive systems. And then as he ages into adolescence and young adulthood, these constant reminders that he is a “bad person” strengthens these already disrupted pathways.

Back to the stories, “Boy B” has graduated high school with honors, receives a football scholarship and has support from friends, family, and his community. He is well-prepared with education, specialized training, financially, and ongoing support and guidance. He succeeds again at the highest level of college football and is dubbed a “real life superhero!” He is strong, athletic, intelligent, handsome, and he pretty good at throwing a football and has a real possibility of becoming a professional athlete.

We call professional athletes, “real life superheroes.” I see it on a daily basis. In fact, just the other night Don Cheadle’s exact words on the Thursday Night Football telecast were, “these guys are real life superheroes.”

Then I watch my son put on his power rangers costume and he hits and punches. From day one we are told there are “good guys” and “bad guys.” We teach them that it is OK for the “good guy” superheroes to punch bad guys. We think it is cute. To me, it has been disturbing to see him enamored with these shows and then fired up to “get the bad guys and punch them.”

So I can bash the system which does no good or I can try to focus on the future. Which is what I am trying to do is to teach him about real life superheroes.

Back to “Boy A.” He escapes the abuse by finding a job and secretly saving money. Once he has enough he drives four hours to his Aunt’s house, which happens to be my home as well. He is confused, lost, lacks acceptance or any belief in himself. He has had a “bad guy” mask tattooed on his skull and has grown to believe that it is true.

Our house is crowded with five children, extended family, neighborhood kids, along with a number of chaotic pets. In the basement lives a 13-year-old child that is incredibly shy, but also remarkably intelligent. This is my older brother, he has basically withdrawn from the world at this point and is also scared and lost.

Then there is a 12-year-old boy who is angry, acting out, constantly in serious trouble, and recently expelled from school – this is me. Then there was another boy, much younger, and painfully terrified of the world, but also very loving – this is my younger brother.

And, now enters “Boy A” into this home. It is a frightening situation to the outsiders in fear that he is going to destroy this home and these kids. They don’t need a “Boy A,” they need a “Boy B.” A Super Hero!

Meanwhile, “Boy B” is excelling in the classroom and setting records on the football field. His fun-loving, down-to-earth, good-humored personality makes him loved my just about anyone who encounters him. He is a good man with true humility. He is not a bad person, we do not get to choose our family and whether or not we receive love and affection – he should not be hated for that. He is an amazing man and is an exceptional role model.

Right now, his biggest concern is where is he going to fall in the NFL Draft? What kind of offense do they run? Will he be able to start right away? Again, to him, these are true worries that create anxiety. It is not his fault, it is just his reality. But in terms of real-life trauma, trials and tribulations, tests of strength, willpower, or character are not likely as significant or battle-tested as “Boy A.”

“Boy B,” could be one of many quarterbacks we see each Sunday, such as Peyton Manning. Great man, good heart, hard-working, and humble. One of the best in the world in the history of his given profession – NFL Quarterback. He is often labeled, “A Hero.” In fact, quite frequently.

In researching a few different studies over the years, athletes and celebrities usually top the list of people we consider “heroes.” Currently, LeBron James tops the lists of a survey of 2,500 people age 16-35. From everything that I have read, seen, and heard, LeBron James seems like a wonderful person with an inspirational story. But a hero?

So, who is “Boy A?” This is my cousin, known to me as Little Jon, although his birth certificate reads Jon Kosiak. He enters this home, goes downstairs to the withdrawn teenager and shows him love and acceptance. He authentically cares about him, spends time with him, listens to his thoughts and interests, and gives him genuine love. He brings him out of his withdrawn sense, talks to him openly and honestly about things, and takes interest in his life. He teaches him not to be afraid of anything and befriends the kid who had all but given up on the world.

By the end of the four years that “Boy A” lived in our home, the withdrawn child is now brave and strong. He goes on to earn a master’s degree, has a family with three children and living an excellent life. He is smart, a good man, and an amazing father. At a moment in his life when he was in greatest need, Little Jon was able to recognize that and willing to act upon it. Not because he felt obliged to do so, but because he wanted to do so. And not because it was difficult, but because it was natural. Little Jon showed him not to fear the world, to love himself, and rise above.

And the younger, scared child is no longer scared. He ends up excelling at sports, receiving scholarships, and now works as a counselor. This is my younger brother. He has been transformed from a terrified child to a fearless leader. He is strong and smart, and at a time in which he needed to toughen up and face the world – Little Jon saw the perceived need, recognized it, and was willing to act.

“Boy B”, Peyton Manning, well he went on to the NFL and is called a “superhero.” He is idolized, loved, adored, and celebrated by people around the globe. He is a great man, with a unique sense of humor, oh and he can throw a football pretty well. But superhero? No.

However, I believe that Little Jon does fit that label. He spent four years in our home and molded us into better people. He was our hero.

And as for myself, well I was the angry little boy. My tendency was to smash things, threaten people, destroy property, and sabotage the entire house. People would either bail or they gave in to my demands in efforts to eradicate my behavior. But, I never was really angry. Anger is just a secondary emotion disguised as many different things – for me, I was sad, lost, and scared. It is an emotional response to an injustice (either perceived or real). That is the response, the rage is the reaction to the response. So the final product may be taking a baseball bat to a mirror, but deep down I felt an injustice creating pain and hurt.

In the opening story, we reached the climax of the action scene. Swinging around the bat, projecting anger, and spreading fear into those who have brought me pain. Then steps in the one person that changed the course of many people’s lives in that moment.

Yep, Little Jon is there. And he refuses to move. This pisses me off to the point that I grab a baseball bat and start smashing and destroying things throughout the house.

The laughter has stopped, the show is over. The bear had been poked one too many times and all hell was about to break loose. And when the bear breaks free of the den, everyone takes off, bails, and hides in the hills.

What would “Boy B” do if they saw something like this? He wouldn’t know what to do. That makes it tough to label him a superhero. We do not know who we are until we see how we handle adversity. When it comes to reading a zone blitz on a 3rd down in a playoff game, sure, Peyton Manning knows how to handle that “adversity.” So we know how he is as a football player. But real adversity, such as the situation above, can not be practiced or coached up.

This is the fight-or-flight system, the most primitive part of the brain. You do not have time to act on logic, you go on instinct, emotional learning, and survival. Nobody else in the room had the necessary tools to defuse the situation, they have not had the intense emotional learning he endured.

Most of the “Boy B’s” of the world have no idea what is going on inside the head of someone who needs love. They have never felt that and that is not their fault and does not make them less of a person. However, stop calling him a hero. If we keep calling him a hero and telling our kids he is the hero, then we have brainwashed them.

Little Jon did know what was going on in my head.

He said, “I am not going anywhere and you need to put the bat down.”

Everyone else is in fear, bailing out, and in full-blown panic. We got these two “messed up” kids about to go at it with a baseball bat and tempers flaring.

The crowd shouts, “Jon!! Jon!! Get out of there!! Leave him alone he is crazy!”

Little Jon did not budge. He said, “Listen, put it down. I know how you are feeling. It is ok Betsy.” (That is what he always called me, “Betsy.”)

I said “I am going to smash your face.”

“No you’re not,” He responded, “You just need love. Give me a hug.”

“No!” I shouted. Then, I started crying.”

The room is empty, everyone is gone into hiding or calling the police – or searching for the “hero.” But, the problem is that the hero was already in the room with me.

“Come here,” Said Jon as he approaches me with a hug.

Complete silence fills the room.

I drop the bat. I hug him and begin to cry and then the floodgates spring open and tears kept flowing. I have no idea what we talked about or what was said. I did not even know why I was so angry on that particular occasion.

But, what I do know is how I felt. Not alone. And loved.

He saw a need, recognized his responsibility, and was willing to act. Just like all other neural circuitry pathways in our brain, these continued heroic actions, develop into a habit, create character, and essentially define the person.

Little Jon has a tendency to bring this feeing to everyone he is around. He gives people that feeling of acceptance and love even though it was never given to him.

He is a true superhero. He is the one we should be telling our kids about, not Batman, not Superman, not Peyton Manning.

But, Little Jon. Jon Kosiak. That’s who I want to teach my kids about. He is a superhero.

It’s time to redefine the definition of a superhero.

Everyone thought Little Jon was a trouble-maker and a bad seed. He is not. He is a good man that gives love, despite the only thing has ever received is abandonment, emotional/physical abuse, pain, and suffering. Prominent motivational speaker/author Wayne Dyer states that the most difficult thing to do in life is to return love for hate. Little Jon exemplifies that without any effort, he does so because it is natural.

By definition, if he instinctively flourishes at man’s most demanding task (returning love for hate), is there any other way to accurately portray and define a superhero?

I Love You Little Jon.

thank you.

The end.

Written by a retired police officer who wishes to remain anonymous.

“Every addiction stems from an attempt to cover up, mask, or alleviate emotional pain. Therefore, the drug war is a systematic policy of locking up people who are in pain, have been abused, abandoned and neglected. They are not being offered treatment, but rather furthering their pain and suffering.”

– Irwin Ozborne



I wanted to be a police officer. I applied, and became one. The city I chose to work for was well-known for its violence. Despite attending a “tough” and “demanding” academy, I was woefully unprepared.


I was excited to work this job. They said, “stay on the south side it will be busy.” A constant array of shootings, stabbings, domestic violence, vehicle pursuits, and assaults of all kinds confirmed this to be true. I was in the front row, seeing it all. I was indeed busy.


As a young officer and a young man, I was taught that drugs are an evil, and we must declare war on them. In the course of my employment I would learn differently. From day one I started my study of human nature, and conducted thousands of informal surveys. Tragedy and trauma were my baptism in this new and strange culture. At the focal point was the issue of drugs, prescribed and not prescribed.


I sought different assignments and got them. I investigated crimes against children; I also conducted domestic violence investigations, missing persons, and a slew of whatever else they threw at you. I was also privileged, in my career, to work among the addicted, the homeless and the mentally ill. I did many things in my career, but I actively sought these groups out. I tended to them, and I arrested them.


My most favored assignment was working and spending time with the mentally ill and addicted. I heard story after story of physical abuse, sexual abuse, trauma of all types, and even abandonment. I talked with prostitutes and listened to their horrid stories. I also spoke with veterans of wars, those of all walks of life, and those who suffered PTSD. Schizophrenia, oppositional defiant disorder, suicidal issues, and personality disorders were prevalent.


 I learned that these people used drugs of all types. And, in the final analysis, they were self-medicating. In these people’s life, and as I started to pull my own mask off, drugs were an out. A moment of not having to endure some form of hideous emotional pain, or a review of their reality.


 Drugs were the medicine, but not the cure. And criminalizing this problem is not the answer.

Police models do not typically take into account any serious mental health model. As I advocated for the mentally ill, I was met with stiff resistance, and all kinds of biases. Again, I was slowly peeling the mask away-it hurt. Far too many people were being invalidated and still are. The police are even invalidated by their own-at all levels.



In the end, what really happened? Well, it was an experience about myself. I learned that it can be a tough thing and a good thing to have to look into the mirror, I had to exercise self-care. The first thing I had to do was chase the suicidal thoughts from my head. Then, as I took off my mask, I had to acknowledge my own PTSD, my own traumas, my own disassociations, and of my inept bonding issues.


This world of sickness had brought me to my knees.

In the end I did it. I pulled off the mask. The world, while not perfect, is now a better place for me. Somedays I wonder if it would have been easier to suppress all this stuff. The answer is no. Please pull of the mask. Life without the mask is better. And, it’s just the beginning.

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“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s laws wrong, it learned to walk without having feet. Funny, it seems to by keeping it’s dreams; it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared. You see you wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from the concrete had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would all celebrate its tenacity. We would all love it’s will to reach the sun. Well, we are the rose – this is the concrete – and these are my damaged petals.”

-Tupac Shakur

This is the first real case, my first time of seeing beyond someone’s mask, this stuck with me and changed my life.

I didn’t do it, I watched someone else do it. My world changed forever. I guess it was my first lesson in how to look past behavior, and see beyond a persons mask.

I’m going to read what you may see in this woman’s record if you are a doctor or nurse or social worker. These are the facts of the case (perceived facts). This is what you will read about if this patient just came into your office, hospital, or group home.

This is also what a judge will see when making important determinations about this persons life. When reviewing this womans case this is what they all see and read.

This is a woman who had her 8 children taken from her, for neglect and abandonment. 2 of them were over 16, one went to group home. So technically 6 for accuracy. The children were abused physically and emotionally. They were also neglected, and tormented psychologically.

She would force the children to kneel down and pray as they cried. She would make them swear she was not drunk. She, however was drunk, and she would threaten to beat them if they told the truth. She would call the kids awful names.

One of the children fell on a beer bottle at age 2 and split her foot wide open. She said it was just a cut and to get over it and put a band aid on it.

Then the 14 year old girl had to drive the 2 year old child to the hospital to get stitched and surgery at one point. There was another time that she fell on one of the children and all the other kids had to all get together and pick her up so he didn’t suffocate the child that she fell on.

They didn’t have much food, the oldest girl cooked ramen noodles outside in freezing temperatures. She would grill them, and that was all they had to eat.

They did not go to school often, and when they did, they had the same clothes on. They were teased and ridiculed. No one said anything. The oldest girl in the family, she was the caretaker of the much younger siblings. She was called names like 4 eyed baboon and Russian half-wit (I still don’t know what that means.)

Where and who was the father? Well he was a doctor actually, a hero to the community. Behind closed doors he hit and abused this drunk lady. One time he had drug her across the room with a belt while she was pregnant and she had a miscarriage. The children saw this type of abuse daily. The oldest girl buried the fetus in the backyard.  This was not the only time this happened. The good doctor was not such a good guy sometimes. However the chart says very little about him. So there is really no way for me to tell. However, there are many reports of physical fights seen by the children.

The father then died of a heart attack at age 40. At this time, the oldest girl was about 12 or 13; Leaving the kids with the drunken mother.  She had a great inheritance that was blown on alcohol the chart says. Most of the children were under 10 years old. There were 3 of them that were older. They are the ones that saw most of this firsthand and were old enough to remember it.

Eventually, the money was wasted; the kids were all taken away. She would call and harass the foster parents, but she never would show up to see the kids and she never really knew them.

The oldest son moved out, he moved in with his girlfriend. The other son went into a group home, then to jail for stealing cars, and then he moved in with his girlfriend and got married young.

The oldest daughter, the one that buried the fetuses, took the kids to hospital, and the one that cooked the ramen noodles, she always kept going back. She kept coming back to this woman who was this “monster” to everyone else and she kept receiving the most abuse. She had a choice, and she chose to always believe in this drunk, she saw something in this drunk that others couldn’t see; she was old enough to make her own decisions. So she spent her life trying to care for this “drunk,” and to save her in some way.

She even blamed herself when she eventually left the family. She felt her leaving the abusive situation is why the other children were taken away. We all know that is not true, but in her reality it was true, causing even more psycholgical distress and torment.

The drunken lady kept abusing and calling this oldest daughter awful names and was awful to her. She did psychological damage to this young lady who only wanted to be loved.  This little girl could not figure out why her mother hated her. She thought something was wrong with her. The things the kids in this family went through was nothing anyone should ever have to go through. I’m only cracking the surface and I don’t think I need to go into more details.

So you read this stuff, and you are thinking what the heck? How am I supposed to be compassionate towards the drunk? She did all this terrible stuff and I am supposed to embrace her? It was her choice to do all this damage! She is the one hurting everyone. She is the evil one, the bad one, correct?  Much like we think of those with mental health issues. They are no good and need to just get over it.

Well, it’s easy to be compassionate towards the Doctor, and the kids. That’s easy to do and they have plenty of people to do that. When you look down on the drunk and criticize, you are only making the problem worse. When you sit on your throne and decide who is good and evil, you are capable of doing great evil, without even thinking of it as evil. That is a very dangerous place to be in for any of us. We feel superior talking like that. However, if  you really want to change the world, then the way to do that is to be compassionate towards the drunk.  It may be hard, but if not you, who? If not now, when?

These are the people that need it the most, it may be hard. I think impossible for some. That is ok and it does not make you a worse or better person. It is actually a  very brave thing to say, “I can not help this person, it bothers me too much.” Then the key is to walk away and find someone who can. However, if you ignore this inability to care for the person. You begin to subconsciously attack, belittle, and blame them. Then you are creating more issues.

Sometimes you can give all the compassion you have, but the person is gone or not ready. Sometimes they are never ready. But we have to still try if we want to change the world. This is the spot where it is done. It is done in the gutters, where no one wants to go.

The world is not changed on the green grass with the sun shining. You have to go to the gutter or the perceived gutter. You usually will never get a thank you, but that’s not why anyone should do this. Never do it for rewards, because with poor intentions, you will fail.

I’m going to finish this ladies story but I want to give some facts first about this disease.

Alcoholism and drug addiction is a disease. There is no argument in the medical community, or in the science communities. There is no one that even debates it, the evidence is overwhelming.

The only ones debating it are those that are in the public and don’t have the information, or are restating things they have heard others say.  There is a time that it is a choice, just like it is a choice to eat a cheeseburger if you have just had a heart attack. The people I am talking about, it is long past that point.  If some of this next stuff you already know, I am sorry, but I am trying to prove my point.

This little story is told by PVD, one of the men who saved my life. I can’t tell it like him, but here is my best effort.

Imagine a 13 year old girl and boy and the boy wants to ask her out. All his friends leave the scene, she is all alone. He is thinking to himself “Here is my shot; I’m going to go ask her out.”

He looks in the mirror, adjusts his hair. He is sweating and his nerves are killing him. He slowly walks over to her. She is sitting there with her pink notebook and pen; it’s a spiral one with one of those flowers on the end of it. He slowly walks up to her and says, “Umm did you hear about the dance coming up this Friday.”

She twirls her hair, and looks down and says “ya.”

He is getting more nervous and scared, but he’s in it now, no going back. He says with his voice trembling, “Umm do you think you may want to go with me.”

She looks at him, then she looks down. She says, “I don’t know, maybe.”

Then as he sweats this out, he says, “well can I call you?”

She looks around, twirls her hair, then she grabs the pen with the flower and opens up her pink notebook starts scribbling on it and hands him her number and says “sure.”

He walks away, goes into the bathroom and screams “YEAH YEAH YEAH.”

Now same exact story, same thing happening. This time, before he asks her out he goes into the bathroom and smokes a joint or takes a shot. Still goes up to her and asks her out and gets her number. The difference here is that he never learned how to deal with the emotion of stress, anxiety, or fear. He never really risked being rejected.

What has happened is that he never really put himself out there. So next time that these emotions come up, what will he do? Same thing as he always does when these tough emotions come up, drink, use or whatever it was. The reason why is because he got a positive outcome, so that is how it starts. Then the mask has begun.

That alone will not cause addiction; it is repeated use and repeated positive outcomes.

Then eventually you start to organize your life around it. There is a genetic component and an environmental component. You can have the gene and never get it. You can have the environment and never get it. It all depends on all these factors coming together. Still you don’t have an addict.

What happens when you drink, is you have a surge of dopamine, the chemical that makes us happy. So let’s say you put a quarter in the gumball machine and get 10 dollars in quarters out of it plus a gumball. That’s a greater than expected reward, so you get a dopamine surge, and your brain is told to remember this because it is good.

Our brain is taught to remember things that feel good for survival, like remembering how good a piece of cake is. It has to feel good so we keep doing it so we keep eating and we stay alive.

That’s what it is supposed to do. Addict’s brains handle dopamine differently and break it down differently.

There were studies in Sweden of twins of alcoholic parents. One was raised in a good “normal” non-drug using home. The other was raised in the same “dysfunctional” home. What do you think the rates of alcoholism were?

They were the same, about 48% of the time they both became alcoholics when the general population was about 2%. How is that possible if it is not a disease with genetics involved?

Now as an addict, you have naturally low dopamine, then you drink or use and you get this surge and your brain says wow!! Remember this and you get high as ever and feel better than ever.

Then the next morning, it crashes, you have no dopamine. Your brain thinks it had a surplus of dopamine so it stops producing as much. Plus you now have guilt from the text or phone call you made, or the money you spent.

More things you don’t want to feel, so you then drink again to get that dopamine. It surges, but not as high, it is never as much as the first time. Then, when it crashes, it crashes more. So eventually you have to drink in order to feel normal. When you do not drink, you do not enjoy life. You need it to even play with your kids, it’s the only way you can feel normal.

There are 2 parts of your brain involved. These two parts are the Pre fontal cortex and mid brain. Pre frontal cortex is the part of your brain that does all the planning and organizing your day and everyday life. Most addicts are bored with everyday life, it’s pointless. So they drink and they can feel ok and be ok with normally boring things.

However, the mid brain supercedes the pre frontal cortex always. That is the part of the brain for survival. That would be like if a tiger came into your bedroom and ran at you, you would say “screw the plans were getting the fuck out of here!”

The midbrain is about survival, fight or flight. Eventually you have in addiction where it crosses that barrier, now you think you need to drink in order to survive. Your brain believes you need this substance or you will die. That is an addict, a cutter, a overeater, or one of many.

It started as a way to mask the pain or run away, however now it has become essential to survive. Remember this when thinking about an addict. Their brain thinks that they need the substance to live. It is like being starving and not being able to have food. That is why you see the behaviors such as the willing to throw everything away and aside for the substance. What they are going through can best be described as torture. That gets better, but yelling at them to get over it is really not the best approach when someone is being tortured.

I also hear people say that no one ever gets better and that people with mental illness and addiction are non-compliant so what is the point. This again is that stigma that I see, because this is simply not true. When someone is first diagnosed with Asthma or Diabetes, the rate that they “relapse” is actually higher in the first year. On average, they have more trips back to the ER that first year. People with cholesterol problems, heart disease, diabetes, and asthma, are actually statistically more non-compliant with treatment than addicts and people with mental health issues.

The 10% that recover is not an accurate number either. This is brand new, all the new science and treatment approaches. We are still trying to convince people to stop locking up mentally ill and addicted people and treat them like human beings. This 10% recovery rate comes from when we were not treating people as humans and did not have all this new information.

Also we don’t consider someone who has a heart condition a “relapse” and we do not shame them for slipping up and having that cheeseburger. The problem is the way we react to people who are going through torture.

Now I want to go back to this drunken lady. What you will NOT read in her chart is that when she was 7 years old, she was babysitting her 5 year old brother. He was run over by a truck and killed. At age 7, the age in which you are gaining self-esteem from the external world. You listen to what the teachers, the parents, and all the older people say. You trust them completely. Whatever is said, you take it as truth and store it in your files. The brain cannot tell what is true and what is not.

So she is a killer, irresponsible, and a bad person. That is in her head. She believes this to be true. What else happened to her was that her mother died of pancreatic cancer, which is very likely from alcoholism. She was 16 when her mother died. Her father was a reported alcoholic.  The reports were he was “not nice.” Now, in my time in this field, this is a phrase that I hear often and usually underneath it is the worst kind of abuse. When the patient says something like “he was mean,” or “not nice,” and won’t talk about it, that usually means they are too scared to even talk about it. It’s scary to me when I hear that.

So what you don’t see in the profile is the abusive father, the alcoholic parents, and the death she was “responsible” for. Can you imagine what that life entailed? We are usually too busy looking at the behavior and not behind the mask.

Then everyone saw the great doctor, but they didn’t see her get beaten and miscarry over and over.  Back in the day you didn’t talk about this stuff, she buried it, found alcohol and crossed the barrier. Then people calling her a monster and a scumbag and looking down on her for “choosing” alcohol over her kids, when inside she hated herself.

Anyone that attempted to get closer to her, she chased them away,  like the oldest daughter who kept coming back.

Because she believed herself to be a monster and a terrible human being, all the time she was going through an internal torture and hiding behind this mask. This girl was suffering from a trauma at age 7 that she never understood. However when it gets put in your head you are wicked, you trust that. Can you imagine a 10 year old girl going to dance class and getting all excited to go to school. Then imagine this girl at 10, traumatized beyond belief, never dealing with the confusion and pain, and then believing it was her.  All the shame and guilt she carried.

She also was one who was extra sensitive by nature. Why do we think that she deserves this and chose this? This was when I really saw the mask formed.

We like to say people get better, and when things get lost, that people go and find them. That there is this “Lost and Found,” and eventually someone comes in and finds them, and helps them find their true selves. That’s not the case, most addicts and mentally ill suffer until we die. We die thinking we are monsters. We are lost, but rarely found. So my continual challenge and message is to go find someone, and bring them back to life. Help them kill their false selves.

This story is one that is a too familiar story you will find in mental health and addiction. We see the behavior, but not what’s behind it, and then we treat the patient like a monster. The sad part is that what is in our head creates how we treat the person, then that creates their reaction to us.

If you treat a patient or a person by their “chart,” and chart can be a literal chart or it can be our snapshot of someone. If we continue to use this as our guide, then I’m afraid no one will ever get better until we can look beyond the mask.

I remember at this woman’s funeral her kids, all adults by now, came in from out of town. I did nothing but watch. They had not been around for years, and I listened as they talked about how she was going to burn in hell, I could just sense the anger in the room as they talked. I was astounded because they never even knew her. They all had gone to foster homes and done well. It must have been hard what they went through, but all that anger. It has to be hard holding onto that.

The oldest daughter, well she was the only one always around while the drunk lady drunk herself to death. This woman continued to care for her mother as she grew old and near death.

No one understood why she kept coming back. What was wrong with her?, was this daughter of hers weak and pathetic?

Also, the second oldest son, he always gave back love and contributed financially to her. This was not understood as well, but they kept doing it. Isn’t this weak and pathertic?

No. This daughter of hers, as I watched, was the strongest person I had ever seen. Not the kind of strength you see with muscles and the way you think of power. It was different, it was with this love that could not, and would not, be broken. She didn’t listen to what people said.

I watched this woman and the love she had for this “monster” and it was life altering every day. Every day people expected her to stop coming around to help, but she didn’t.  Not once. She saw what others couldn’t see.  If you’ve ever seen true power, I’m certain that this is what it looks like. It is an inner strength that cannot be defeated by any army and I was amazed as I watched this woman.

Did she ever get the “I love you and I’m sorry,” from the mother? No she did not. That’s the disease, the shame.  No storybook ending here. She died, they never said goodbye. However I know this, for this old drunk lady, what she got was she finally believed she was worth it.

This woman, the oldest daughter changed the storyline and this old drunk felt loved the last few years of her life. The daughter didn’t see it,  but I did, I saw it in the drunk ladies eyes. For the first time in her life, she knew someone loved her, and that made her think that maybe she was ok. What an enormous gift the daughter gave her and as I watched it unfold, it changed me forever.

I saw this in this drunk ladies eyes as I spent more time watching this relationship.  I think the oldest daughter was right.

The reason that I say that after time I came to the conclusion that this oldest daughter was right, is because the drunk lady was my grandmother.

When I was 9, I wanted a football, I had to have it, I was impulsive and I NEEDED IT. My grandmother was this drunk that everyone hated and was awful and this “monster.”

My grandma saw I needed it. So she went sober that day for the first time in 50 years because she gave me her only 7 dollars for that football. It lasted 4 years, the football, not the sobriety.

That was my grandma, the oldest daughter was my mother. I’d like to say she stayed sober, but she didn’t. She died when I was 11 from what most alcoholics die from. I believe it is a disease of the broken hearted.

However, my mother made her feel ok, and loved, and it got passed on to me.

I will not ever let it go grandma, I am going to keep passing it on. Not until every cage is empty.

Grandma I love you. You are still with me in everything I do.

Mom you’re my hero.

The end.

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“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” – Janis Joplin

 

 

As my mind was returning to consciousness, I had no idea what had just taken place. My eyes were still closed and I felt too weak to open them. Bits and pieces of the previous evening started playing in front of me. The laughs, the good times, and the extra shots of liquor, but also there was a lot of missing scenes from the blackout I had experienced. Suddenly, I am overwhelmed with an unbearable guilt that brings more pain that the physical pain I am trying to withstand.

It is at this point I remember being the “least drunk” and most OK to drive home last night. These scenes start returning to my conscious memory. I remember the curve in the road and then everything goes blank. My heart starts pounding and I am hearing loud machines and voices of strangers around me.

Out of fear and confusion my eyes open to discover I am in the emergency room of a hospital with excruciating pain in every cell of my body. But, again, there is an overwhelming feeling of guilt pressed against my body as I am trying to figure out what happened last night.

“Where is John?” I asked. John was my boyfriend and father of our six-month old child and was also the passenger in my vehicle last night.

Nobody answered.

“Where is John!?” I managed to shout louder.

But the louder I cried, the quieter the room grew. The police officer in the back approached me and took off his cap and with a tear in his eye, he put his hand on my shoulder.

“I’m sorry Holly,” he couldn’t even maintain eye contact, “He didn’t make it. He was ejected from the vehicle and died on impact.”

With so much intoxicants still in my system, I could only hope this was part of the worst nightmare of my life. I yelled, screamed, tried to do anything to escape reality but nothing could be done. I had just killed my boyfriend and my child’s father because I drove drunk and lost control of the vehicle.

Powerless, hopeless, trapped, and unable to escape, I momentarily lost touch with reality.

Once stabilized and deemed safe for discharge from the hospital, I was put into handcuffs and walked to the back of a squad car on sent to the county jail. I sat there in a lifeless form of a body as they took my mug shot and notified me of my charge – homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle.

I only sat two days as my wealthy parents were able to post $5,000 bond. I felt like I had cheated the system as I had a far more severe crime than any of the women in that jail, but I was able to go home due to the condition my parents had money. While I awaited my court date, I felt completely numb and they had checked me into a psychiatric unit but they did not keep me because I was not suicidal. Honestly, the only thing keeping me alive was the fact that I had a six-month old daughter that I was trying to raise the best I could before my judgment date.

I signed the rights over to my parents, knowing that I would be facing prison time in the near future. There are no words that can describe the pain trying to play with your six-month old daughter, knowing she will never know her father and the most crucial parts of her development her mother will be incarcerated. But beyond all of this, all I wanted to do was to apologize to John and his family.

On the day of my sentence, I couldn’t even bare to have words come out of my mouth as the state prosecutor questioned me. All I could repeat that I was sorry and that I feel nothing and only want to make sure my daughter is safe.

At this point, there was nothing anyone could say to me that hurt any more. I have heard it all. My name is on the front page of the paper, I read all the comments on the article, I read the comments on John’s social media pages, along with many hate messages of my own. There was nothing that could be said that could push me down any further.

“The maximum sentence for homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle is twenty-five years in state prison,” the judge looked at me as my heart sank.

He went on and explained the results of the Pre-Sentence Investigation and how I would be better served to be a part of society as opposed to a long prison sentence. Following some more lecturing he handed down my sentence – two years in state prison along with seven years of parole.

As tears rolled down my cheeks and I hugged my parents and kissed my child, I knew how fortunate I was to only be serving two years. But at the same time, I realized that my life was forever changed. My name will always be linked to the word homicide. How will I explain to my daughter when she asks about her father? Every time I apply for a job, this will come up on a background check or a simple Google search and you can see my mug shot.

 

Welcome to the Jungle:

My attorney had pleaded for a lesser sentence and argued that I was not mentally prepared to handle being incarcerated with the general population. Terrified for my life, I was sure my parents would find a way out of this. But, there was nothing anybody could do. The judge informed us that I had taken another person’s life and if I am capable of doing so, then I am capable of living with other criminals.

I was powerless, hopeless, and terrified for my life. For the first time, things were completely out of my control. I had no choice but to fully surrender. And it was this forced surrender that granted me this irony – finding greater freedom while locked behind bars than I had ever experienced in my privileged life in the affluent suburbs.

As I sat alone in my cell, I refused to talk or make eye contact with anyone.

“Welcome to the jungle princess,” said one of the guards as he smiled at me and seemed to be getting joy in my anguish.

For the next two years, nobody used my name. I was always referred to as “Princess” due to my privileged lifestyle outside the prison walls. I would estimate that ninety-percent of the people in that prison were minorities and came from poverty. In those that I got to know, I would argue that 100-percent of them have experienced some sort of trauma or abuse in their life.

And then there was me, the incarcerated princess. I had been sheltered my entire life and had no idea how the rest of the world lived.

Every day, I witnessed the prisoners being abused and ridiculed. Nobody deserves this type of treatment. The guards were untrained, highly judgmental, and abusing their power daily. If anyone saw how they treated the inmates there would be a public uproar.

 

Punishing the Abused:

Since I was a young child, it had been engrained in my mind that prison was the place that the “bad guys” go for committing crimes. It did not take long to realize nobody in this prison was a bad person. Nearly all of them were in there for drug-related charges.

And why did they do drugs? They turned to drugs to escape the trauma and abuse they had suffered their entire lives. What kind of system is this? We are punishing people for being abused without giving them the tools they need.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of all the people serving time in prison for drug offenses, 45-percent were black and 30-percent were white. Yet, the general population is 77-percent white and 13-percent black.

Now the logic, that we are brainwashed by the media would tell us that the reason for this inequality is that black people are committing more crimes and doing more drugs. But the factual studies discredit this racist rhetoric we have been fed our entire lives.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that a greater percentage of white people use alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, hallucinogens, nicotine, methamphetamine, heroin, and all opiates. Yet, blacks are arrested three times as often as whites and the sentences are always more severe.

In fact, the only drug that blacks use at a higher percentage than whites was crack cocaine with a slim margin of 5.0 percent to 3.4 percent, respectively. And, not coincidentally, that is the one drug that receives the higher sentence.

In the past, the ratio was 100:1 for the sentencing of crack/cocaine. This meant your sentence would be 100 times larger for possessing the same amount of crack than if you had the powder cocaine. The “Fair Sentencing Act” reduced this, albeit still not “fair,” as it is not reduced to 17:1.

 

The New Slavery:

However, they did offer people to get diplomas and certificates while incarcerated so they could adjust to the outside world. They granted us opportunities to work and “build skills”. While this seemed like a great opportunity at first, it was brought to my attention that it was an extended form of slavery.

One of my cell mates informed me that we were working for corporations who wanted cheap labor and they set up contracts with the prisons. She explained that America was built into a economic superpower by stealing the land of native Americans and using free labor from slaves stolen from Africa. The greatest exports were tobacco and cotton which were labor intensive and required great amounts of land. After the slaves were freed, the prisons started incarcerating African-Americans for petty crimes for long sentences and corporations would hire them out to work for free.

Slavery never ended, they just got smarter at hiding it from the public.

Here I was among a group of African-Americans that grew up in poverty, were abused, and lived traumatic lives. Then they were arrested for doing the same drugs that people in the suburbs do just as much, yet they were locked up for years and put to work for free to help the rich get richer.

 

Freedom:

When I was released, I went back to being the “privileged, white, stuck-up, greedy, ignorant bitch” as the day I came in. My father would easily be able to get me back into society as if nothing had happened. People were ready to give me opportunities.

And I said no.

I am a convicted felon, a killer. Why should I get to just jump back in as if I did not do this crime? I had to struggle to find places to live, places to work, financial aid for school just like all the other “felons” who only crime they committed was being born into poverty.

John’s family, once accepted me as their own, has disowned me as I took their only son from them. Which I did, I am sorry, but sorry does not bring back their child. As I look into my own daughter’s eyes, I am not sure if I could forgive someone who did that to her – so I get it and I do not blame them. They did not deserve this pain and anguish that I put them through.

My parents hardly speak with me since I was released from prison because I refuse to live their phony existence and I refuse to take the “get out of poverty” free card. They still do not want to hear about my experiences in prison and the lessons I learned about how the rest of the world lives.

I regained custody of my daughter and met a guy from the recovery community that has a son of his own. We are doing fine, working our way back up in society without the handouts we had been accustomed to based on the color of our skin.

We are more free now than ever before. It is highly liberating to be able to see through the lies of society, the lies of our teachers, parents, government, and culture to see the world as it truly is. There is an incredible feeling of inner peace to live without a mask, to be your true self, and enjoy every minute of the people you are with.

I already know the comments that will come from this article. I’ve already seen them all before – I am a criminal, I am a murderer, I am privileged, I am a bitch, I am a slut, I am a terrible person and do not deserve to live. I’ve heard it all. The one comment that I have never agreed with is that I should not have had my child so young – that I do not agree with you. But, go ahead and type it for the world to see, I’ve seen much worse.

Don’t get me wrong, there is not a single day that I wish I could go back in time and bring John back and have our little family again. But each time I try to resist, try to change the past, I start to build those mental prison walls. Freedom comes from accepting the past as it is unconditionally.

We grow up believing we live in a “free country” and proudly proclaim this is the “land of the free and home of the brave.” Yet, we never teach anyone to be free. In fact, we teach everyone to be slaves and go along with the masses – buy this, do that, talk to this person, don’t try that, conform, and be like everyone else.

It is comfortable with the masses and knowing what to expect, but it is not true freedom. Freedom comes from surrender and removing our masks.

So write your comments and judgments, but realize that is just you building your own mask. You have already seen behind my mask, let me seen what is behind yours.

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“You see the giant and the shepherd in the valley and Elah and your eye is drawn to the man with the sword and shield and the glittering armor. But so much of what is beautiful and valuable in the world comes from the shepherd, who has more strength and purpose than we can ever imagine.”
-Malcolm Gladwell

By Cortland Pfeffer       Edited By Irwin Ozborne

I survived a suicide attempt. I also spent years receiving treatment in rehab centers and psychiatric hospitals. However my friend, Joe, did not survive. He spent many years on the streets and in jails before taking his life on February 25, 2010. This is what suicide looks like. This is him after hanging himself.

There is no difference between us, besides our resources and the subsequent treatment we were provided. He grew up in a rough environment including his home, neighborhood, school, friends, and life experiences. I grew up in a family that had money, offered support, and always knowing I had a security blanket if things went astray.

That is how our stories began and unfortunately how one of our stories end. But did it have to end this way?

There is enormous stigma associated with the word “suicide.” People cringe when you even mention the word and immediately change the subject. If we are afraid to talk about it, how on earth do we think we are going to prevent it? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, taking more than 40,000 per year. At this rate, in one decade, we lose 400,000 people to suicide – equivalent to the entire population of Oakland, California.

When someone is suicidal, the typical reaction is “don’t talk like that!” or “that’s not even funny.” Or it turns to simplifying the situation such as, “other people have it worse than you,” or “just snap out of it, things will get better.” Nobody wants to “deal with it” and most people will adamantly refuse to even discuss it. You may even be considered selfish for having those thoughts and leaving close ones behind.

But when suicide does occur, the response is quite the opposite. Suddenly, everyone is there and feels terrible. They did not see the signs, never saw it coming, and can only talk about the amazing qualities of the deceased. It even goes as far as to hear people saying, “why didn’t they just reach out?”

If anyone has ever lost someone to suicide, they know the tremendous amount of pain associated. There may not be a worse feeling in the world. There are so many unanswered questions, “what ifs”, and “Should haves”. In the end, nobody commits suicide because they want to die, they commit suicide because they want the pain to go away.

I was suicidal, Joe committed suicide.

Part of the reason Joe is dead is because of the stigma associated with suicide along with the professionals he worked with that neglected and labeled him. He did not get treated as he deserved.

Joe didn’t have money, my family did. He went to jail and stayed long-term, I went to jail and got bailed out. He stayed in jail, while I was offered treatment instead. His crimes were all non-violent drug possession charges, mine were DUI, assault, and disorderly.

The difference? I had money and resources. Based on the information in the paragraph above, is there any other reason for the difference in penalties?

Joe and I were also born with the same temperament, which is more in tune with others emotions and greater sensitivity. This is neither good nor bad, just the way we were born. This is not to say that being emotional is guaranteed to create issues.

To be on this far end of the spectrum, along with consistently being denied needed support, along with the unhealthy environment is a formula for addiction. They refer to this as the biopsychosocial model. The biology is the genetics, the psychological refers to the emotional neglect and trauma, and the sociological refers to growing up in a broken home, overpopulated schools with minimal resources, poverty, and lack of positive role models.

But to also be denied the needed support on a consistent basis.

Some people are born more sensitive than others, which means they are going to get hurt more easily. Being an extremely sensitive male is vastly unacceptable in this society. It results in repeated invalidation such as “you are overreacting,” “you shouldn’t be feeling that way,” “men don’t cry,” “tough it out,” or “what’s wrong with you?” It also leads to being greatly misunderstood and isolation. The only way to gain acceptance is to create a mask, or a false self, to find a sense of belonging or purpose. People accept you when you wear your mask, which makes it more difficult to remove. But deep inside, we know it is not our true self.

For example, the mask teaches us that men are supposed to act out in anger when they are hurt. When we respond in anger, it is accepted. When we misbehave, we are accepted.

The mask brings us great power to finally feel alive. The more acceptance and connection the mask gains for us, the  more we try to fill these roles. In fact, we start to believe that we are the mask we wear.

Then something bizarre happens. People turn on us for that exact same mask that they once praised. Suddenly you took things too far, you get labeled and judged for the same behaviors that were once glamorized.

This leads to addiction. It can be any substance or activity outside of ourselves that allows an escape from the pain. This can take the form of alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, co-dependency, anger, or any compulsive behavior that lets our soul temporarily come through the cracks in our mask.

Each culture and society has their own version of acceptable masks. But they all serve the same purpose, to escape the pain and hide from any difficult emotion. It grants us temporary relief, which is reinforcing, as it seems quite simple to take a pill, smoke a joint, or drink a beer and the pain instantly vanishes. This creates a pattern of depending on our substance/behavior, believing that we are killing the pain, but in essence we are only adding fuel to the fire. The need for the substance/behavior becomes a matter of life-or-death and we start doing things we normally would never imagine all in an effort to use again and ease the pain. These new behaviors get judged and labeled as being a “bad person” which only adds layers to the mask and we begin to hate the monster we have created.

And that is just it, we hate the monster, the false-self, the mask. We don’t hate ourselves, we hate the mask that we have been wearing.

So, the truth is when we say, “I want to kill myself,” we have it reversed. It is not the “self” that needs to die, it is the “I”. The “I” refers to the ego, the false self, the mask. We need to kill our false self and then the healing can begin.

As Eckhart Tolle states, “The secret of life is to die before you die, and find that there is no death.”  He is referring to the death of the ego, the self-righteous suicide.

No health professional ever reached out to Joe, no one even talked to him, nor did they even know how to approach him. Instead they saw a “criminal” who was “angry” and was misjudged and mislabeled. While I went through the same difficulties, I was referred to as the “patient” that had a “disorder” and only needed proper treatment.

They never got to see beyond his mask. Joe was the most sensitive, caring, loving, and loyal person you could ever meet. However, that was not accepted in his culture so he became the angry, arrogant, drug addict – which is more acceptable.  He wore this mask his entire life, hiding his true self which led to more drugs, crimes, and erratic behavior.

No one in the field ever even dared to think, “This is a genuinely caring kid who has never gotten a chance to show himself.” Because once the label is created, everything you do is attached to that label. They read your chart and a decision is made before the first encounter.

While my rap sheet was for more horrendous, I was considered “a poor sensitive kid that needs someone to love him.” Whereas Joe was considered “unreachable.”

The difference in outcomes is related to how the patients are treated. One of my favorite sayings is, “you can get anyone to tell you their secrets if you love them enough.” Yet, in this field we are told to get the deepest secrets of the client, but not get too close. It doesn’t work that way. I won’t show you what is behind my mask until you show me what is behind yours.

He let me see behind this mask and I let him see behind mine.  And that is how true connections and relationships are built. I know the real Joe, something the “professionals” never took time to do.

Although I received better treatment, Joe was the better man. We shared a special bond and he would always reach out to me at times of need. One time he ended up in jail and had no place to go once released. He called me and we let him stay in our home for a while.  On the first night at dinner, he looked to my wife and said, “this is the best food I’ve ever had.” And he meant it, to him it was everything, while I had become so grown so accustom to these things I had taken them for granted.

Joe had a unique following of people. He loved to love. If he had two dollars to his name, he would spend it on others. He gave just to give, never expecting anything in return. This is what attracted people to Joe, he was pure once you got to see behind his mask.

He also had a son, Anthony, who he loved more than anything. You could see and sense the love these two had for one another. Joe would always say, “I love you buddy” and kiss Anthony. I never saw a man kiss his little boy before, it was admirable. I make sure that I do that with my three-year-old son now and I think of Joe every time.

Anthony never saw the labels of “drug addict,” “bipolar,” or “criminal.” That is the beauty and genius of children, they do not see masks or labels. Anthony only saw him as I did, as an angel. A kind, beautiful human with so much severe pain that nobody knew existed.

His friends started showing up at the house, and I started coming home to see my 10-year-old daughter sitting at home with a bunch of strange men I’ve never met.

After a few warnings we told him he couldn’t stay here if these people kept showing up on their own. He told his friends to wait until he was home, but they refused to listen. That’s the downfall of being so pure, people will take advantage of you. It broke my heart, but we had to remove him from our home for safety of our daughter.

A few months later I received an email that gives me chills just thinking about.

“Joe is dead. He hung himself.”

He didn’t call me this time. Perhaps the pain grew too great that he didn’t want someone to talk him out of it one more time. I had kicked him out, I was his support, and the guilt I carry with me is insurmountable at times.

So, when people ask me why I fight so hard for patients, this is one of the main reasons. If we lived in a just world, Joe would have received the treatment I received and he would be with us today. If we lived in a world guided with love, somebody would have built trust with him, got to know him, and offer the services he needed. But in a world guided by fear, we judge, label, and allow 40,000 cases like Joe happen each year.

People do not go away when they die. Only the false self dies along with the body. Our spirit lives on forever. The things Joe passed on to me, I still carry and pass along to my children. He is with all of us that remember him. He is here right now as long as we let him in.

I love you Joe.

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 “Perhaps the biggest tragedy in our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns.”

By Cortland Pfeffer

A patient of mine from years ago left this note after she committed suicide. I have rewritten it here.

Dear Children- I did not take care of you like children deserve. When other kids were getting ready for school, you were trying to wake me up. You had to walk to the gas station alone,  with change you found scattered around so you could eat. You thought no one loved you and you were bad kids. You missed school and events because you had no one to take you. You got teased at school because you had to wear the same dirty clothes every day. I would be gone for days and you were scared. You would sit up all night wondering what you did wrong. You had no one to teach you anything. You didn’t come home to hugs, love, or even dinner. You never knew what was going to happen. You were never allowed to feel safe in this world. You were so confused when you were taken from me. I remember you screaming for me, with your hands outstretched screaming “Mommy! Mommy! Please don’t let them take Me.!” I saw your hearts break when I walked the other way. Every time the phone rang for the next 10 years you hoped it was me, and you were hurt every time that it wasn’t. I see all the pain you are in. I see the fear, the depression, and the anger. I know the torture I caused in your heart. I know I did this. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. But I understand.

Dear Mother- I know the pain I caused you. You had no one to turn to. It was your dream to be a mother and give love. I ruined your only hope in life. I took and took from you. You sat up crying at night begging God to help me. You didn’t know how to help, because no one took care of you. All you ever wanted was a family. You thought that having a family would take all your pain away. You had to work 2 jobs to replace the things I would steal. Everyone judged you for what I had done. I destroyed your self-confidence. You felt like you failed and you had to leave. I see the guilt in your eyes. I have taken your life from you. I am sorry that this is how you will remember me. But I understand.

Dear Brother- I stole from you, I took your money, your car, and I took all of our parent’s time. This left you with little time with them. You felt ignored and it hurt you. You withdrew from the world and isolated yourself. You had to grow up way to early. You became scared and isolated. I saw that affected your ability to know boundaries and how to have relationships. I see that is all with you still today. I did all of these things. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. But I understand.

Dear Sister- I took all of your toys and hid them. I ruined the toys that you loved the most on purpose. You were just a little girl that wanted love. You didn’t know why I was destroying the family. You saw me and trembled with fear. You couldn’t understand why I stole from mom and dad who had worked so hard. You tried so hard to help. You needed their love to. We missed your dance recitals because I stole the car. Your heart was broken and you didn’t understand how someone you loved so much could do this. You grew up scared. I see your pain, even if you try to hide it. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. But I understand.

Dear Father- You wanted to have a normal family. You took me places and to events all the time.  You hated your job, but you still went every single day to support us. No one loved you when you were a child. You never felt love as an adult. You were lonely. You were afraid to come home. Your marriage was hurt by me. You became depressed, so you drank more. I became an embarrassment to you. My issues robbed you of much of your life. I see the disappointment in your eyes. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. I understand.

I know that this is how I will remember you all.

Dear Brother- I remember going to sporting events together, playing outside, and laughing together. I remember the time you were so scared that dad was going to punish you about the mailbox, so I told him it was me. I remember letting you stay at my house after you had nowhere to go because of your drinking. I remember the not so nice things you tried to do to me. You were scared and lonely just like I was, so I never said anything. I remember coming back from treatment and you telling me how I had ruined everyone’s life. I am sorry you forget about the times I protected you. I was in pain when I did these things, but I understand so are you.

Dear Sister-I remember holding you at night when you were afraid. I remember when you made a mistake and Dad started coming after you. I remember jumping up and doing something worse on purpose so he would punish me instead. I remember you calling me your hero. I remember you clinging to me when we were young for protection. I remember taking you to the park to get away, and teaching you how to do hair. I am sorry that you forgot all of that. I am sorry you are in pain. I understand.

Dear Mother- I remember before it got bad, when you would tuck me in and hug me. It was so safe to be with you. I remember your love. I remember trying to make you happy because you would be so sad. I remember when you couldn’t take it anymore and left, I ran down the street looking for you outside for hours. I remember praying to God that you come back. I cried at night in my bed wishing you would just call me. I promised I wouldn’t be bad anymore. I remember when I told you what dad was doing, how your heart broke. I begged God to protect me. I am sorry you forgot all the good, and I am sorry for your pain, and I understand.

Dear Father- I remember the first time you hit me. You bought me candy so I didn’t tell. When I got older, if I didn’t want to get punished I would watch your “special” movies with you. It made you happy. You cried afterwards. I am sorry for whatever happened to you, to create the person I knew. I see you were in pain. I understand.

Dear children. I love you, I did the best I could. You are angels. I just did not know how to love, and I was scared.

I always wondered if anyone noticed…

Did anyone see when Dad was punching me?

Or when he took me into the room to watch “movies” with him?

Did anyone notice me crying when Mom left, because I was afraid what would happen?

Did God hear me?

Did anyone see what those older boys were doing to me?

Or notice I would be gone for hours as a teenager and come home drunk?

Or that I took the blame to protect you from being punished like I was?

Maybe you did, and you forgot. Maybe you thought it was better me than you.

I kept thinking someone would notice and they would do something. But no one ever did. No teachers, classmates, or anyone. No one spoke up. I guess they didn’t see. Or maybe they thought it was none of their business.

Thank you for telling me I was the bad one, and the problem child. I went to treatment and I got to feel better for a little while.

Until I would come back. No one understood why I would do so well, and when I got out of treatment, I would relapse.

I’m sorry you never could make it to family night at treatment because it was “my issue,” Not yours. That you were “fine.”

Maybe now that I am gone, your problems will be gone.

If you find that you are still in pain with me gone, and start to think maybe you were part of the problem, I am sorry for your pain. But it may be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.

Now that you have to look in the mirror, maybe now you can heal. It is the greatest gift I can give to you.

I used to wonder why God would allow such evil, poverty, and sadness on earth.

Then I realized, he is the one that should probably be asking us why WE ALLOW IT.

He gave us all the resources we need to live here equally. We have enough to end poverty, and help each other. He gave us all the tools we need.

We choose this.

We allow this, not God.

I love you all.

Alcoholism and Addiction are family diseases. Not every case is this extreme. However, the addict is usually the one acting out the dysfunction and is a sign of strength, not weakness.

If you take the strongest one and heal them, and send them back to the dysfunctional system, it will not work.

If we do not start treating the system, we will continue to have an epidemic.

Will you notice? Will you speak up?

Silence is consent.

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In junior high school, I was a painfully shy student. It was to the point I would go through an entire week without peeping a single sound. While it was quite easy to shield my anxiety during most classroom activity, the lunchroom was always my greatest test. How could I possibly hide myself in a crowded cafeteria?

There was always one table in the back of the room which only had about five kids sitting there (the tables sat about 20-30 people).With so many empty seats at the table, it was the perfect spot for someone with severe, debilitating social anxiety.

This group was the outcasts of the school. They wore the same clothes every day, never paid attention in class, didn’t follow the rules, had long straggly hair, and were already experimenting with drugs and alcohol – likely due to their living situations at home. But, they were also different in the sense that they had no desire to fit in with the “cool kids.” They were perfectly content being in their own skin.

They also held different views on the world. They didn’t gossip about other students, blame teachers, or talk bad about the janitorial staff. In fact they talked about how they helped the janitors after school in exchange for being taught how to use certain tools. For it was these kids – the outcasts – who saw the world for how it was, they did not just blindly obey the forces that were trying to socialize them into robots.

“Irwin!” a teacher shouted from across the room, “What are you doing sitting there!?

She shouted as if my life was in imminent danger, sprinting across the room with her arms flailing like she was rescuing a drowning child. Her overly-dramatic antics created a major scene – the exact opposite of what a child with social anxiety desires. But, it was clear, this incident wasn’t about me – it was about her saving a kid from harm. She yanked my shoulder back and with fear in her eyes.

“You don’t have to sit here! Are they making you do this? You can sit somewhere else!”

Embarrassed, I slowly looked at my frantic teacher and then looked back over at the kids at this table. All of them had a look in their eyes as if to say, “It’s OK to leave. We don’t blame you.”

Then I looked back at my teacher and spoke with confidence in my voice for the first time in my life.

“I want to sit here.”

“What!?” She shook her head in disbelief, “You want to sit here? With them!?”

“Yes,” I looked back at them, “I want to sit here.”

She threw her arms up in disbelief as if another child was lost to these terrible monsters. But, my question is where was she as I sat alone in her classroom for a semester? Where was her dire need to save me when she notice the bruises on my arm and cuts on my eye? For it wasn’t about “saving” me, it was about the opportunity to save me in front of a crowd.

 

Over The Rainbow:

This teacher is one of many that take part in the everyday presentation we put on for the world. We wake up in the morning, put on our masks, and then put on a play for the world to see. The thing I enjoyed about this group of kids, they saw behind the phoniness of the world and I felt together we shared a passion to discover the truth.

We celebrate truth-seekers throughout children’s books, films, and stories; yet, when children look to reenact this behavior in “real” life, it is frowned upon.

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is tired of the boring and dull life on the farm in rural Kansas. She is trying to explore and the adults continue to push her away, telling her to “go somewhere you can’t get into any trouble.”

This turned into a breakthrough for Dorothy as she dreamed away of a different life, another dimension, a home void of the displeasures of going through the motions of life. She breaks into singing the classic song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” which describes this desire to go to a place where “dreams that you dare to dream, really can come true.”

But Dorothy is not the only character with this yearning for truth. Alice from Alice in Wonderland, also was in a depressed state of mind in which she couldn’t find the energy to do the things she once loved until chasing a white rabbit down his rabbit hole. In The Little Mermaid, Ariel is criticized and discouraged about seeking life above the sea and searching for a different existence. And Belle from Beauty and the Beast is considered odd because she does not go accept the norms of society.

We are attracted to these tales, because it is our innate desire to seek the truth beyond the mask. Everyone has this desire because it is how we are brought into this world, before it is blocked away from us by the masks we are told to wear.

 

The Twister:

Quite often in the recovery community, you will hear people talk about their absolute worst moment on earth as a “blessing in disguise.” People talk about the point of hitting rock bottom was the time that the fall finally stopped, and gave them the opportunity to get back up.

Frustrated with this existence, Dorothy runs away from home just before gusty winds sweep over the farmland. Her family rushes into the cellar for shelter and locks the doors before Dorothy can make it back home. Finally Dorothy makes it inside the house and tries to seek refuge in her upstairs bedroom. While debris from the twister is whipping around, she is hit with an object and loses consciousness. Before she knows it her entire home and life is being turned upside down and carried away.

This is addiction.

It is important to note that everything in this film is symbolic. Dorothy cannot get in the locked house and is trapped outside in this twister (addiction). Her home represents basic needs and values, and the fact she is locked outside is showing that something is being rejected and she is not receiving these basic needs. Dorothy finally gets in and she is struck in the head by a falling window and knocked unconscious, indicating her state of powerlessness to the twister.

After regaining consciousness, Dorothy peers out the open window as she is doing some soul searching in the midst of her active addiction. She starts seeing happy images of her aunt, uncle, farm hands, and animals. The final object she notices is Miss Gulch – the woman who was trying to take Toto away. Toto is always by her side and always knows what to do, hence, he is her intuition. Miss Gulch is Dorothy’s human shadow – the dark part of our self in which we constantly reject. It is our inner voice telling us we are not good enough. Once she recognizes Miss Gulch, she suddenly transforms into a witch with an evil laugh before Dorothy is brought to the ground by her own fear and confusion. It isn’t until this point that Dorothy recognizes she is engulfed in the twister (addiction).

Then, Bam! The houses crashes and Dorothy has hit rock bottom.

She wakes up and nobody is around. She is all alone in a dark and quiet home. She has no one to talk to and no place to turn. Everything she has ever loved has disappeared. It isn’t until this point that she is to begin the process of recovery and begin a new life.

 

Early Recovery – Journey into the Self:

Dorothy opens the door and the screen lights up in full color for the first time in the film. In the background, the music to “Somewhere over the Rainbow” is playing as she steps outside into a beautiful new existence.

This is early recovery – an inward journey to self-discovery.

We have arrived at that place we dreamed about, the place in which we could be ourselves, and a place in which we were free. We have found our way over the rainbow, without the use of drugs or alcohol for the first time.

Dorothy is first greeted by the Good Witch of the North, Glinda, who looks more like a fairy or angel. This is the part of our recovery in which we start to realize that things aren’t always as they appear. The things we used to view as “old and ugly” can be presented in a new light of majestic beauty.

To Dorothy’s surprise she even comments, “I never heard of beautiful witch before.”

Dorothy is then informed that her house landed on the Wicked Witch of the East, who has been oppressing the munchkins for years. The munchkins are fun-loving people who represent our playful youth in which we love things unconditionally, forgive easily, and live in the present moment. They have been trapped by the destructive part of ourselves (Wicked Witch). Dorothy is treated as a queen by her inner child (munchkins) for finally putting an end to the mask she has been wearing.

While the munchkins view this situation as a miracle, Dorothy claims it was no miracle at all. This is the blessing of rock bottom, the twister, our past mistakes, and the worst parts of our existence typically tend to be the greatest blessing in disguise.

 

Killing the False Self:

When we are young, we are free and loving to the world around us. As we grow, we become socialized into fearing one another and being constantly discouraged to be ourselves. We are domesticated to think a certain way, act a certain way, talk, and behave just like others. This is our mask, also known as the false self.

The Wicked Witch of the East was the mask that was put over our true self, or munchkins. It took a twister, or addiction, which spiraled out of control and had to hit rock bottom before we could finally accidentally kill this false self. And then start all over, reborn, as our true self.

In Dorothy’s journey, this is celebrated to the notorious tune of “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”

In recovery, this is referred to as the “Pink Cloud” phase as life seems quite magical and perfect. However, there are still obstacles and adversity we must face. Dorothy meets her first one with the poof of pinkish-reddish cloud of smoke and is introduced to the Wicked Witch of the West – same character as Miss Gulch.

Dorothy has more shadow work to do, and the Wicked Witch of the West makes it clear that she is going to be her enemy on this journey. The object the Wicked Witch most desires is the Ruby Red Slippers in which Dorothy has recently acquired. Glinda informs Dorothy that “those shoes must be very powerful if the witch wants them so badly.”

This leads to Dorothy’s first longing for “home.” Yet, she is still a lost soul and has no idea where to turn and where to go. She is immediately informed that her best option is to find God, which is symbolically represented in the film as the Wizard of Oz.

Confused, Dorothy questions whether this is a good or bad wizard, to which Glinda replies “He is very good, but also very mysterious.” In order to meet the wizard, she must follow the yellow brick road and never remove her slippers.

The Yellow Brick Road is our spiritual path that we must all take to find our way “home,” or in finding our true spiritual self.

 

Follow the Yellow Brick Road:

While instructed to stay on this path, we soon find out that it is not exactly the destination – in this case the Wizard of Oz – but the journey in which we discover our answers. Dorothy is told that the Wizard of Oz will have all the answers; however, the problem is she was searching for the Wizard when she should have been seeking Oz (the land that surrounds her).

Along her inward journey, she encounters other important aspects of herself – wisdom, compassion, and courage. Once again they are in symbolic form of a scarecrow, tinman, and lion, respectively.

At a fork in the road, Dorothy first encounters the Scarecrow. The Scarecrow talks about not having a brain and it his greatest desire, yet throughout the film he comes up with creative ideas. Next, she meets the Tin Man who yearns to have a heart just to register emotions. Likewise, the Tin Man continues to show compassion throughout the film despite his belief of being heartless. Then finally they encounter the cowardly lion who reveals his secret of lack of courage; although, he too, uses his bravery throughout the journey.

 

Ego Traps:

However, our shadow is never finished with us. The Wicked Witch of the West plays games by luring in the gang off their path. She creates something that is soothing to the eye, yet will put them to sleep and end their journey – poppy fields that cover their path.

This is one example of an ego trap. Each religion has a variation of what is referred to as spiritual warfare. Some refer to it as the angel and the devil on your shoulders; good versus evil; god versus satan; heaven versus hell; the ying and yang; the Cherokee proverb of the two wolves fighting inside of you – one good and one evil – and the one that wins depends on which one you feed; the lessons from karma which state each choice you make determines your future circumstances; and of course the ongoing spiritual battle of the ego/false self versus the soul/true self.

While this battle is ongoing, the ego pulls out all the tricks in the book to regain control. Ego traps are the most effective way to detour you from your path. Some of the most common ego traps include:

  1. Knowing the Path versus Walking the Path: Quite literally in the film, it is clear that their path is to follow the yellow brick road; however, despite this knowledge, they are easily guided off course with the beauty of the Emerald City and the poppy fields which nearly ends their journey.
  2. Feeling Spiritually Superior: Prior to their first meeting with the Wizard of Oz, the Lion is sensing that his lifelong quest for courage is coming soon and he begins singing “If I were King of the Forest” and talks about having others bow down to him. In our spiritual journey, it is easy to fall into this trap of the need to be right about spirituality. As Lao Tzu says “He who knows does not speak. He who speaks does not know.” It feels good to gain insight and recognize these positive changes in our life, but the ego can use this as a trap into believing that it is I (the ego) that is responsible for our advanced spirituality.
  3. Judging Others who are “Less Spiritual”: While this one is not prevalent in the film, it is probably the most common. The notorious quote that I hear often in meetings is “Religion is for people that are afraid to go to hell; spirituality is for people that have already been there.” This gets people excited and can relate, but the religion bashing is stating that we are better than a group of people because our beliefs are right and theirs are wrong – isn’t this the same reason most people get turned away by religion? At the end of the film, Dorothy nearly falls into this ego trap as she explains her awakening. Nobody believes her and they tell her it was all a dream, but she is certain it wasn’t. But, she realizes the trap and says “Anyway, I am glad you are all here and I love you all.” Other examples are when we spend more time in nature, do yoga, eat organic food, stop watching the news, etc., but then start judging and labeling those who still do those things because they are not on our level.
  4. Positivity Mask: Also not in the film, but worth mentioning as this trap involves pretending to be overly positive at all times. Even the most advanced spiritual beings will have their bad days and feel a full range of emotions. When the group first meets the Lion, he is into this trap in a different type of way by trying to scare the crew. Later he confesses his true feelings of lacking courage, which ironically takes a great deal of courage to express how we are truly feeling inside. Just another example the cowardly lion expresses courage throughout the film.

The Church of Oz

The Wizard represents the Western Christian version of God. He is the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, but yet mysterious figure. Whereas Oz, is the name of the entire land in which the majority of the story takes place. The Wizard represents a religious interpretation of God in which he is one powerful creature who is the ruler of the universe; whereas, Oz would represent that God is actually in all things – the trees, fields, color, all characters, etc.

At the door of the Emerald City, the gang starts to notice some peculiar traits of this magical place. Their first impression is dampened when they ring the door bell and are greeted by a crabby man who refuses to serve them because they did not “follow the rules” of knocking on the door instead. Once they knock, he returns with a friendly smile on his face. This is symbolic to the modern-day lifestyle of the church in which you come in on Sunday and everyone greets you with a smile, handshake, and maybe a hug. But, then after leaving for an hour of connection, it is back to competition, resentment, anger, and disgust for each other.

They ask to see Oz, but are told that nobody has ever seen him. He only agrees to do so, once seeing the Ruby Red Slippers on Dorothy’s feet. Here we have this all-powerful being that refuses access at first glance and then changes his mind based on appearance.

This symbolism continues as they group is not granted access until they clean up first. The scarecrow is given new straw to help keep him young, the tinman is treated with being sharpened and new oil to help keep him repaired, and the lion receives a manicure and pedicure to look as externally beautiful as possible before appearing before the magnificent Oz.

This, too, is an ego trap. While it feels good to be well-polished, it is creating a mask/false self. This occurs often when someone goes from poverty into fortune and soon forgets the roots of their struggle.

In their first encounter, Oz is quite harsh to the gang. He refers to the tinman as “clinking clanking piece of junk” and the scarecrow as a “billing bail of fodder” and the lion faints before taking on any insults.

The Wizard eventually makes a deal with them and promises to grant their wishes only after they can prove that they are worthy of his power. They are instructed bring the broomstick of the Witch of the West. The group pleads that this could only be possible if they were to execute her, in which he instructs to “Just go.” This great powerful Oz is asking us to kill one another just so we can prove we are worthy of his help?

Similarly, so many wars are fought over religion and claiming to be doing things in the name of our God. What kind of God are we following in which we create artificial borders, discriminate, judge, hurt, and kill each other? God’s love is unconditional; yet, here this is clearly a condition of proving ourselves worthy of his love and assistance.

 

Shadow Work:

As they are walking through the forest to find the witch, she sends her flying monkeys out to attack them and capture Dorothy. The monkeys represent our mischievous side of our personality, which is why they are protecting the witch (our shadow).

The only way to free ourselves, and return home, is to do shadow work and embrace the deepest darkest fears of our soul. The haunted forest represents the journey into the subconscious, which stores the repressed memories, thoughts, and feelings.

Once at the castle, the witch threatens to kill Toto (intuition). Intuition is soul-guided, it is when our true self is running the ship and guiding our decisions. The Witch (shadow) knows that if we are to remove the intuition, the ego will forever be in control. Dorothy offers to give up all her power (slippers) in exchange for her intuition (Toto). But before this can happen, Toto escapes. Her intuition knows that the only way to survive is to find the other aspects of herself that need shadow work – the Lion (courage), Tinman (compassion), and Scarecrow (wisdom).

Toto leads the crew back to the castle, which literally represents our subconscious mind. The guards are put in place to protect us from releasing these painful memories. And it is here in which the shadow work takes place.

The scarecrow, fearful of not having a brain is the one who develops the plan. This plan includes the Lion leading the way; although quite fearful, courageously states “I’ll do it if it means saving Dorothy….I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there.” It takes true courage to take on the hidden aspects of ourselves.

The climatic scene within the castle comes when the witch sets the scarecrow on fire – his greatest weakness. In an effort to put out the fire, Dorothy throws water on the fire and it subsequently gets on the Witch. To their surprise, the water begins to melt away the witch leading to her demise.

The greatest threat to our true self, the Wicked Witch of the West, could only be defeated by the most basic, purest substance of all – water. The substances that we carry within every cell and makes up the majority of our body is the very purity that we needed to defeat our shadow.

Once she melts away, the guards rejoice that the wicked witch is dead. The guards forgot that what they were protecting this entire time was working against us. This is how repressed thoughts work, they feel they are protecting us, but in reality they are still apart of us and always will be until we face them directly.

The difficulty about shadows, is the more we try to resist them, the more they appear. We cannot run, hide, or drink away these hidden aspects of ourselves.

 

The Power Lies Within:

Upon returning to the Wizard, the group presents the broomstick. The broomstick is symbolic for sweeping away aspects of our self which is why the Wizard required the group to do so.

However, he still refuses to grant their wishes. This time, the group starts to argue with him due to his lack of integrity. This is the beginning of their questioning of the organized religious system and the brainwashing of everything they had been told to be true. They are ready for the awakening process. Of course it is Toto, the intuition, who takes the next step by removing the sheet to reveal that the Wizard is just an old man using a voice projector and a smoke machine to create the effects of “the Wizard.”

Here is their breaking away from organized religion, the Wizard has been exposed. The group is infuriated and demands the gifts of a brain, heart, and courage.

The Wizard affirms that it is all a lie. He then goes on to tell the Scarecrow that everyone has a brain before presenting him with a diploma. Instantaneously the Scarecrow recites a complex mathematical equation. The Wizard then tells the lion that he has disorganized thinking and that he only thinks he lacks courage because he runs away from danger – which he instructs him is actually wisdom. He then explains that the lion has displayed courage and presents him with a medal of honor. The same is done for the Tinman by explaining everyone has a heart and is then presented with a heart-shaped clock.

Next, he needs to fulfill Dorothy’s promise – to send her home. Once we are on the spiritual path we start to have this longing for home. This feeling that there is a greater existence out there and that this life is a temporary placement but eventually we will return to a place we call home.

The Wizards is a big talker and explains how he will fly her home in a hot air balloon. There is a major celebration and spectacle of an event in which he boasts about his great powers one final time. Just as the balloon is ready to take off, Toto hops out of the balloon knowing that Dorothy will follow shortly thereafter.

The balloon sails away and the Wizard says he cannot return as he does not know how to operate the balloon. Hot air balloons represent feelings of social elevation and superiority, fame, or popularity. Toto realizes this is another ego trap and escapes from the situation.

Another panic ensues for a short period of time as Dorothy feels stuck, stranded, and unable to return home. At this point, Glinda returns to their aid. Dorothy starts begging for help before the following exchange:

“Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?” Dorothy pleaded.

“You don’t need help any longer,” Glinda smiled, “You always had the power to go back to Kansas.”

“Then why didn’t you tell her before?” demanded the scarecrow

“Because she wouldn’t have believed me,” said Glinda, “She had to learn it for herself.”

“What have your learned Dorothy?” asked the Tinman.

“I think that it wasn’t enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntee Em. And if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

While her friends found this concept too simple, they were confused as to why they never thought of it earlier. Glinda simply responds:

“No, she had to find it out for herself.”

While the story has to do with Dorothy going back to a physical home, this symbolizes of a peaceful state of mind and redemption of the Self. Home refers to our true self. We all have the power within us to return home at anytime, but just like for Dorothy, it is a journey that we have to figure out on our own.

grinchchristmas

By Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne

“Maybe Christmas is not found in a store, maybe Christmas is about much much more.”

-The Grinch who stole Christmas

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We need the Grinch – We need someone to steal Christmas because we have lost the true meaning.

Christmas has become symbolic of all that is wrong with society, opposite of the original intent to bring out all that is right. Much like the Grinch, whose heart was three sizes too small; our hearts have diminished in size due to the culture of fear, conformity, and consumerism in which we reside.

In order to heal, we must overthrow the King. Yes, we need to kill the Western Christian version of God and change the way we celebrate Christmas.

This year, on Black Friday, I was reminded about the true meaning of life – and with that, the meaning of Christmas. I choose not to celebrate Thanksgiving, but rather honor the Day of Mourning for our Native American brothers and sisters. I surrounded myself in nature and spent time at a cabin in small-town Western Wisconsin. The sights and sounds were serene. It was a true “silent” and “holy” night with no one around, yet I was far from being alone as I was immersed in the picturesque landscape provided by mother earth. And it was here, at the local gas station, in which I re-discovered what the true meaning of Christmas was really about.

Black Friday has become as much part of the holiday season as Thanksgiving and Christmas in the Western world. Families anxiously await the moment the retail stores open for the extraordinary deals, and quickly abandon their feelings of gratitude and “thanks” by indulging on materialistic items.

I find it ironic how we published an article about the foundations of Thanksgiving and were slammed for “ruining Thanksgiving”, and being told “the meaning has changed and it is about being thankful and having gratitude.” While this sounds good in theory, it is not practiced. The day before Thanksgiving is the second biggest drunken night of the year in America – behind only New Year’s Eve. Then we have a phony meal together and cannot even make it a full 24 hours of showing thanks, as Black Friday deals start at 7:00 p.m. or earlier on the “Day of Thanksgiving.” It’s hard for me to buy into the concept of a day of gratitude when it starts with a hangover and before it ends we are ditching our families to wrestle with over others for materialistic items.

This leads to fights, people being trampled, arrests, and even a few deaths all in an effort to purchase “things” to provide for our family for Christmas – in the season of giving. This is what Christmas has become; it is about money, consumerism, and materialism.

The Season of Giving

The United States retail industry generated over three trillion dollars during the holidays in 2013, with the average person spending about $750 for the holiday. Additionally, 33 million real evergreen conifers will be purchased around $35 each for a market of $1.16 billion in Christmas tree sales.

It is estimated, by a United Nations world hunger project, that it would cost approximately $30 billion per year to end world hunger. Think about that. Only $30 billion to end world hunger per year; yet, on the season of giving, Americans will spend $465 billion for our own material possessions. This is not suggesting to abolish Christmas altogether, but if every family reduced their Christmas budget by fifteen-percent ($116.25) and contributed that to a world hunger fund it would meet the United Nations forecasted amount to end world hunger.

Wouldn’t that make a better gift? Wouldn’t that make for a better Christmas story if all the resources in the world were utilized to making a better life for everyone rather than benefiting the few?

In fact, this is how the original story of Santa Claus arose. St. Nicholas was a monk born in the third century. He lived near modern-day Turkey and was admired for his kindness and compassion. Legends suggest that gave away all of his wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. Over the years, we have created a mythical creature to symbolize this monk.

But, instead of going around and donating his wealth to the poor, modern-day Santa Claus runs a foreign sweatshop enslaving people to work around the clock to deliver material items to the richest nations.

Living in a Material World

As a child, I remember this holiday used to be about sharing love, giving, and caring for one another. I have seen this idea evaporate as the years have passed in which I refuse to further participate in this lie. So, this Black Friday, while millions were out searching for bargains, I found my own bargain – peace and tranquility for free. I find the word “bargain” quite ironic when talking about retail prices. One must realize that these really are not as great of deals as advertised.

The markup prices are astronomical. Many United States corporations employ workers in sweatshops overseas in countries like Bangladesh, India, China, Haiti, etc. They pay below minimum wages in deplorable working conditions – typically 14-16 hours per day for seven days per week. It costs pennies to make this material and it gets marked up to allow for enormous profits for the CEO of these corporations. Here are the top ten salaries of the CEOs of retail corporations in America in 2013:

Michael Jeffries, Abercrombie and Fitch $48,069,473

Gregg Steinhafel, Target $19,707,107

Leslie Wexner, Limited Brands $19,230,484

Michael Duke, Walmart Stores $18,131,738

Paul Marciano, Guess $14,399,134

Terry Lundgren, Macy’s $13,840,531

Michael Balmuth, Ross Stores $12,478,239

Gregory Wasson, Walgreens $12,041,058

David Dillon, Kroger $12,024,543

Steven Fishman, Big Lots $11,924,662

Christmas is not a complete lie, we just need to understand that it has to do with symbolism. Santa Claus no longer has anything to do with St. Nicholas or helping the sick and needy. Santa Claus now represents the fat and jolly CEOs listed above as they showcase good but inside they are running sweatshops for elves overseas. The elves also exist, but they don’t do work in the North Pole. The elves symbolize sweatshop workers that get paid nothing to work themselves to death while providing your material possessions. Perhaps the reason they are so small in stature, is because they represent the 10 year olds working 16 hours per day to provide wealth for their respective Santa Claus.

Then to tell children he delivers only to the “good” girls and boys create further separation. Again, it is symbolic, he delivers toys to those who have money and wealth. How do you explain to a child in poverty that he did not get gift this year? By this mythical logic, it would infer that he is a “bad” child because Santa did not bring him gifts.

This tale of Christmas we share is 180-degree difference from the true story of St. Nicholas. He helped those in need, but today we only help those with greed at the hands of the poor.

The concept of sweatshops is industry as it sporadically pops back up in the news. You see, it has never gone away; we just selectively decide when we want to pay attention. It was all over the news in the 1990s with Nike and Gap having 10-13 year old kids working in these shops as slave for their profits. The public outrage led to changes to be made; but once we saw the “great deals” on Black Friday we forget about the torturous conditions it takes to make these items.

Every few years, there is a story on the slave labor that produces the clothes we wear. Then the corporation tells us they have looked into things and have made changes. Yet, just a few years ago a factory collapsed in Bangladesh killing thousands of people and we come to find that Walmart, Gap, Target, etc. were all having clothing made at these factories.

It is a mass marketing scheme and manipulation of people. We have a group of people watching television, listening to the radio, or surfing the internet and the marketers simply pay money for air time and tell people what they need in order to fit in. Once they have these items, then they will be ok. It is based on fear, fear and consumption. A quote from Marilyn Manson says it all:

“Because that’s not the way the media wants to take it and spin it, and turn it into fear, because then you’re watching television, you’re watching the news, you’re being pumped full of fear, there’s floods, there’s AIDS, there’s murder, cut to commercial, “buy the Acura”, “buy the Colgate”, if you have bad breath they’re not going to talk to you, if you have pimples, the girl’s not going to fuck you, and it’s just this campaign of fear, and consumption, and that’s what I think it’s all based on, the whole idea of ‘keep everyone afraid, and they’ll consume.”

The Christian Rebuttal

The real genius-work behind this big façade is the connection with Christianity. This too, stems from fear. We tell our children that if you are good, then you will spend eternity in the clouds with a nice guy, or, if you are bad you will burn in fire with a man with horns. We decide to instill this into our children’s minds when they are impressionable, that way they believe it is true. In connection with Christmas, they are told that if they are good, that a man from the North Pole will fly his reindeer all over the world in less than 24 hours and deliver presents to them.

It is a way to control children by manipulation. It is a cycle that continues from generation to generation. Then your kids go to school, and those that do not participate in this lie will not receive presents, and become the outcasts. So the pressure is put on them by their peers, it is put on by television, and it is put on by society, and by this so called “Christian nation.” They will say,

“What you don’t believe in Jesus? You don’t want to celebrate this man who preached love and acceptance? What kind of person are you?”

My answer is No. Your god is dead. He has to be, in order for us to move forward. This version of God has done more harm than good. This fairy tale version of God has caused fear in children, it has caused wars to be fought, and has caused many secrets which lead to shame. It has caused the manipulation of generations and it is all celebrated on this day. So this version of God needs to die.

As George Carline once eloquently stated:

“Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it, religion has actually convinced people that there’s an INVISIBLE MAN…LIVING IN THE SKY…who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten special things that he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish where he will send to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time…but he loves you.”

“He loves you and HE NEEDS MONEY. He always needs money! He is all powerful, all perfect, all knowing, and all wise. Somehow he just can’t handle money! Religions take in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more.”

Many of the patrons inside the church that stand so faithfully behind their religion that stands for unconditional love and kindness, are the same ones that walk out the church and instantly abandon these teachings. The same people who complain about the poor receiving “handouts” are part of a church that can build a million dollar church without paying a dime in taxes while the poor go on without food or shelter.

In June of 2013, newly appointed pastor of Sango United Methodist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee, reverend Willie Lyle spent four days disguised as a homeless man living on the streets. He wanted to see what it was like to truly live without anything and see who would offer food and assistance. Then, he transformed back into the role as pastor while delivering his sermon and addressed the congregation:

“Too many of us want to serve God one hour each week. That doesn’t cut it. That is not God’s plan.”

Similarly in November of 2013, Mormon bishop David Musselman did a similar experiment by posing as a homeless man outside a Taylorsville, Utah church one Sunday morning. At least five people asked him to leave the church property, some offered money, and some were indifferent. He addressed the congregation stating that his point was not to be so quick to judge one another.

“Many actually went out of their way to purposely ignore me, and they wouldn’t even make eye contact,” he said, “I’d approach them and say, ‘Happy Thanksgiving.’ Many of them I wouldn’t ask for any food or any kind of money, and their inability to even acknowledge me was very surprising.”

Saving Christmas

Spending my Black Friday in this small town it occurred to me how I am forced to conform. It is impossible for me to neglect Christmas; for if I were to not purchase my children presents then they would feel that I do not love them. I was really struggling with this as I pulled up to the gas station and noticed an elderly woman carrying a few turkeys and other groceries in a pull cart. At the time, I thought nothing of the lady or this scene.

However, it did allow me to reflect on some of my religious upbringings from the past. While people literally would put on their “Sunday Best” before walking into church to bow, chant, hug, and love each other; we were really just putting on an show for each other. We all put on our masks and went through the routines. Once walking out of the church, if we were to see an elderly woman such as this, we would be told not to do anything because they were likely trying to scam us out of money, abduct us, or kill us.

This is how extreme the fear-based society has become. We are guided with fear, rather than love; which creates separation, as opposed to our natural instinctual reaction to connect.

This is where spirituality differs from religion. Spirituality is about finding a connection to the world outside of ourselves, finding a sense of purpose and meaning, and living in harmony in the present moment with our surroundings. Spirituality teaches us that we are all one interconnected being and that at our true core there is only unconditional love.

Religion is a type of spirituality. It is meant to offer all of the above. In fact, if you look into the basic teachings of all religions, you will find this exact same message. However, as these messages get misinterpreted throughout the years we have received the opposite message. Religion starts to create separation and judgment which is the opposite of its intent – much like Christmas.

As explained by Don Migeul Ruiz:

There is an old story from India about the God, Brahma, who was alone. Nothing existed but Brahma, and he was completely bored. Brahma decided to play a game, but there was no one to play the game with. So he created a beautiful goddess, Maya, just for the purpose of having fun. Once Maya existed and Brahma told her the purpose of her existence, she said, &Okay, let’s play the most wonderful game, but you do what I tell you to do.& Brahma agreed and following Maya’s instructions, he created the whole universe, the sun and the stars, the moon and the planets. He created life on earth: the animals, the oceans, the atmosphere, everything.

Maya said, &How beautiful is this world of illusion you created. Now I want you to create an animal that is so intelligent and aware that it can appreciate your own creation.& Finally Brahma created humans, and after he finished the creation, he asked Maya when the game was going to start.

&We will start right now,& she said. She took Brahma and cut him into thousands of teeny, tiny pieces. She put a piece inside every human and said, &Now the game begins! I am going to make you forget what you are, and you are going to try and find yourself!& Maya created the Dream and still, even today, Brahma is trying to remember who he is. When you awake from the Dream, you become Brahma again and reclaim your divinity. You now know the trick of Maya and can share the truth with others who are going to wake up too.

This story explains how we are to find ourselves, and find God, in every person we encounter. We don’t do this buy purchasing items at a store, but by helping those in need, and showing unconditional love to each soul we encounter.

As all these thoughts were going through my mind, my friend comes out of the store and starts speaking with the elderly woman. As they continue to chat, I got out of the car to see what was going on. As I approached them, I noticed the woman’s wheel on her pull cart was missing.

“We are giving her a ride home,” my friend told me without asking. She never hesitated, she saw an opportunity and did the right thing without thinking or judging.

We packed her bags into the car and drove her about another mile to her house. It was a very cold day and her bags were awfully heavy. There is no way she would have been able to make it that far on her own. Many people saw her, but no one did anything, which was probably all based out of fear. Fear of a disabled, elderly woman on Thanksgiving.

I was overcome with emotion, and was told by my friend not to talk about it. She said “that is just what we should do, so I do it.”

I thought that is so true and so simple. We should do what we should do. Yet, no one seems to do this and I am not excluding myself. This is the difference between being guided by fear, as opposed to love. As John Lennon said:

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from lie. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”

This is the real meaning of life. This is the real meaning of Christmas. To help, to give, to be with others and to love unconditionally. It doesn’t have to be some big act.

“People who move mountains begin by carrying away small stones.”

Christmas and life is about helping the elderly lady. It is about loving each other on a daily basis. It is about calling your parents, family, and friends and just being there for anyone and everyone. If we treated everyone like they were a piece of God, maybe then we would realize behave differently.

It doesn’t matter what we call our God, it is all the same. It is similar to the story of nine blind men that were all reaching out and touching an elephant. Each of the men were touching a different part of the elephant and describing what they felt. One is touching the elephant’s leg and says “it is a tree”; another is touching its tail and says “it is a rope”; another is touching its trunk and says “it is a snake”; another it touching a tusk and says “It is a spear”; another is touching its body and says “it is a wall”. However, they are all touching the same elephant. Imagine if they all fought and killed each other over this argument. How silly that would be? They are all blind, and they are all right. But they are fighting over their perspective.

The same way we fight wars over who is right about religion. Is it possible we are all right? And we are all wrong?

We are told we need this God in our lives to survive. But, in essences, it is the opposite. For it is this created God that is leading us to killing each other, phony holidays, and self-hatred and destruction. This holiday symbolizes all of the above. In order to survive, we need to remove the mask of God and remove the mask of Christmas.

How the Grinch Saved Christmas

While we like to claim the Grinch stole Christmas, it is clear he did the opposite. He saw the true meaning of Christmas and put an end to the charade. While his means were extreme, by stealing all the presents; he learned that the real meaning of Christmas had nothing to do with exchanging gifts, but exchanging love.

The Grinch was not the bad guy. The Grinch was a revolutionary but was misguided with fear, which led to his acts. But once all the gifts were gone, the masks were removed, everyone lived together in harmony.

For it is Wall Street, Corporations, and organized religions that “stole” Christmas by hijacking the holiday and changing the meaning. It comes from St. Nicholas who gave up all material wealth to help those in need. Yet, after the title was stolen it has turned into a celebration of consumerism and greed.

We need the Grinch to steal back this holiday to help us remember the true meaning.

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By Irwin Ozborne

“If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business.Dr. Gail Dines

A mother comes home after a stressful day at work with many tiny worries racing through her mind. She pulls in the driveway and opens the garage door to see her 16-year-old daughter hanging from the rooftop, lifeless, dead, from suicide. She was too fat, so she developed an eating disorder, then was too skinny and “sick” and eventually she gives her reason in a note that is summed up with the words, “soon the pain will be gone.”

Who is at fault? The parents, counselors, school, bullies at school? Partially, all of the above are to blame. But the greater culprit that allows this to continue is the media and beauty industry.

There is an old parable that explains of a small town that suddenly notices a baby floating down the river and all the people come together to rescue the child. Soon, they discover another baby and another and another all floating down the river. All of the resources of the community are put together to take care of the babies coming down the river but they can not keep up and can not save everyone. Eventually, someone offers the suggestion, “Let’s go upstream and see who is throwing all the babies in the river, then we can stop the problem at its core.” This is where the beauty industry is to blame.

Beauty in Western society has become a serious illness. In fact, you could call it an epidemic. Young women in America are being poisoned daily by corporations, advertisements, television, school, friends, and even family members. From the time they are young, they are engrained with the message “beauty is everything and everything can be obtained with beauty.”

Eighty-One percent of 10-year-old girls have a fear of being fat! Another study by the University of Central Florida showed that nearly 50% of girls, aged three to six, were already concerned about their weight. Nearly half of all fourth-grade girls have begun dieting. And by the time they reach high school, 90% of girls are dieting, while only 10% are actually overweight. But the fear of being fat is gone by the time they hit 17-years-old, because now more than four out of every five girl are “unhappy” with their body (Ross, 2012).

I saw a post that said “54% of women would rather get hit by a truck than be fat.” I laughed at the exaggerated message only to do more research and found out that it was not as far-fetched as I first believed. Thankfully, I have been unable to find any validity to that number, but some of the online posts about this scare me.

“How big is the truck, LOL?”

“How fast is the truck going? Will I get hurt?”

But, according to Radar Systems, nearly half of adolescent girls would rather have cancer, experience the death of a parent, or a nuclear war instead of getting fat. And these numbers are only dealing with weight. We haven’t even dug into the full beauty epidemic.

Actress and makeup artist Eva Devergilis states that every woman that sits in her chair apologizes for the way they look. This includes all ages, race, body types, weight, etc. Every single woman that comes in to see her apologizes for their looks. Why have we placed such an emphasis on beauty and why have we set the standard so high that nobody can be satisfied?

“Being a model is like winning the genetic lottery…Planning to be a model when you grow up is like planning to win the Powerball,” said professional model Cameron Russel, “and those are not pictures of me. They are constructions made by professional makeup artists, photographers, hairstylists and photoshop.”

The amount of time and money women spend in regards to their appearance is keeping them out of developing into a more complete person. As Jason Whitlock wrote in an article in the Kansas City Star, “How many more young girls out there are aspiring to be Beyoncé as compared to Hillary Clinton?”

Beauty is the main form of currency for women in Western culture. If you have beauty, you can have anything. They can not escape it because it is everywhere – television, internet, social media, etc. Their image is observed everywhere, by everyone, including themselves. This leads to beauty and image as the number one priority in the lives of young women and children.

But beauty is not the problem. It is wonderful and should be admired to some extent.  The real culprit of the beauty epidemic is a three-part problem which is controlled by the corporate America and the media (which subsequently profits off corporate America and has no urgency to report anything that opposes their financial interests). It stems from creating 1) the belief that beauty is the most important and powerful thing in the world; 2) this is what beauty looks like; and 3) you do not look like this.

With this system, you will always be stuck at number three. You will constantly be buying products, having surgeries to try to reach the level of beauty defined by corporations. The same corporations, mind you, which are selling you the products. It is a giant marketing scheme. None of it is true.

And women know this. But that is how incredibly powerful the propaganda system works. We know outer beauty is not everything, we know that the images they portray are not possible, but we also know we do not look like that. But at that point, we need to just say “and that is ok.”

  1. Beauty is the most important and powerful thing in the world.

You are told that beauty is the most important thing in the world. If you are not beautiful, you are not important, you are not successful, and you really have no value to the world. This message begins with the media, brainwashes everyone valuable in our lives, and trickles into our brains from the time we are young.

The media (television, films, videos, billboards, magazines, movies, music, newspapers, fashion designers, social media, and other internet sites) bombard us with body images throughout the day. Young children spend around six to seven hours per day enamored with these messages (Brown, JD 2002). Chris Downs and Sheila Harrison found that one out of every 3.8 television commercials portrays a message about attractiveness. They went on to state that the average viewer sees about 14 of these messages a day and more than 5,200 advertisements related to attractiveness each year (Downs, 2011).

By the time the average teenage girl in Western society reaches age 18, she has seen nearly 100,000 television advertisements about the importance of attractiveness. This does not include seeing images on the internet, facebook friends, or other media outlets which account for an additional 5,000 plus images per week! (Wiseman, 2012)

  1. This is what beauty looks like.

The same people shoving this message down our throats are the same people defining beauty. This definition is always changing. Look at the images of “beauty” just in the last century and how much the “ideal body image” continues to change. This is not by accident. They want you to continue to strive for an unachievable goal. Therefore, you are always in the quest for more.

A study showed that women experience an average of 13 negative thoughts about their body each day, while 97% of women admit to having at least one “I hate my body” moment each day. The comparisons damage the minds of nearly all women each day.

And this “ideal image” you see in the media is 23% below that of the average woman in America – 20 years ago this difference was only eight percent. The gap between reality and ideal image is widening by the day, with Vogue’s Gisele Bunchen (5’11, 125 pounds) at 25% below normal body weight.

  1. You do not look like this.

Without directly saying this, this message is implicitly implied. A study showed that observing an image of body image through the media leads women would increase depression and shame while reducing self-esteem and body satisfaction.

And that is the formula they use. Present an image that is unobtainable in which they know will cause women to feel bad and hate how they look. Then repeat the image over and over – as the Hitler propaganda system has proven to work – until they believe it to be true. Then, they will spend their money on your product, watch your programming, and have your surgery.

Oppression only Survives Through Silence

“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”Susan B. Anthony

This is the implicit oppression of women in Western society.  For the majority of our country’s history there has been explicit oppression of women, people of color, homosexuals, mentally ill, and basically anybody who is not a white male. This only survives without anyone speaking out. Then comes the implicit, covert oppression which takes place by subliminally putting messages out through the media that one race, gender, or orientation is inferior.

There is a universally accepted concept that “nobody is perfect.” The concept of being perfect means to be without flaw and to hold all desired qualities and characteristics. So here we have the concept of “perfect” in which the beauty industry teaches us is the ultimate goal to happiness and joy, yet we are also constantly reminded that “nobody is perfect.”  Basically, stating that it is impossible to ever achieve this goal. It becomes a never-ending cycle of self-hatred, followed by seeking external pleasure to fill internal voids.

In reality, the opposite is actually true; which is also the antidote to this epidemic. The idea that nobody is perfect is the biggest lie you have ever been told. The truth is that everybody is perfect. To be perfect means to have all the desired qualities and characteristics – but it never says whose desires. If we can change the train of thought to realize that everything about us is already perfect, there would be no more comparison, and trying to be something we are not. Instead, loving what we already possess and loving everything about everyone else.

This is a concept known as unconditional love. It means to love without condition, without judgment, and to accept completely as it is. This means to not complain, question, or have a desire to change, but to accept perfectly as it is in the present moment.

While the concept seems simple, it is quite difficult. In fact, most people spend their lifetimes trying to achieve unconditional love.  In essence, unconditional love is synonymous with enlightenment.  Both refer to removing labels, judgments, and untruths, and seeing the world as it was presented to us through the lens of our true self. It means removing our mask and seeing the world for how it is, without its mask.