Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lessons Learned - My Perpetual Recovery

My recovery has been debated, scrutinized and frowned upon. The evolution of my theory has been due to a unique set of circumstances. Bipolar disorder, ADD, substance abuse, 9 years of professional football, constant reflection, an unquiet mind and reaching the age of 46 with no kids and never being married. Throw in a caring brother, a recovering sister and an open dialogue with a pair of loyal, loving (and often frustrated)  parents......you only touch the tip of the iceburg.


The 8th and 9th steps in the 12 Step Recovery* Program read as follows:


#8 - Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

# 9 - Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

I've come to find that the lists and amends' are never ending. And if done correctly, our recovery is perpetual. It's a life long process. A process where we teach ourselves to 'watch our minds'. We must be highly aware of how our brain works. How it can malfunction and throw us into a bad space. A space where we forget. We forget that WE are in control of this journey. A journey which is never easy nor ever predictable. Our recovery will take a lot of effort. But it's do-able, so please never stop fighting.

The Mirror Approach

I do need to note that I strongly disagree with the 9th steps' "except when to do so would injure them or others."....... Nonsense.........People need to be held accountable. One of the main reasons why there are low percentages of recovery(and high percentages of relapse/suicide) is that those that have raised/coached/influenced  us (i.e. family, friends, co-workers) either don't know what they've done or have chosen to only show 'support' in the recovery process. A one-way approach that makes those recovering cringe every time they (we) hear the all too familiar tones, contexts and verbiage that spun us out in the first place. In order to achieve true recovery, true remorse will need to be shown by all parties. And if done correctly, pain will be involved. That being said, each and every recovery will be unique and will have to treated as such. To forgive/forget the many years of drama will take a monumental team effort. It will require a full family recovery. JMHO

In the end, though, the recovery process is our choice. And it's eventual success or failure hinges strictly on our ability to embrace the program and choose to recover. HOWEVER, I simply want to let everyone know that simply because those in our inner circles might be 'hurt' if we address certain issues............Tough shit.

Making amends, seeking forgiveness (psychologically, scientifically- i.e. through religion, prayer, meditation) is not for those we forgive and or make amends with. It's for us. It's for us to clear our conscience, take a deep breath and move on. A method to quiet our kaleidoscopic mind in order to keep moving forward. The path  to true 'recovery' includes honest reflection and acknowlegement; the two main componants of denial.

As mentioned earlier, the 9th step is where we reach out and make amends to those we've 'hurt'. The following was derived from an open letter I sent to a couple members of the band, Lake Trout. I haven't had contact with these cats in over 6 years, so I decided it was time to reach out. And by the way, I've been 'recovering' for 9 years.

Growth is painful......and thank God for pain

As you know, everything happens for a reason. It wasn’t until just recently I've finally begun to feel comfortable with the man in the mirror. It was 1998. I had just bought into a record label that was in charge of launching the band Lake Trout, a local Baltimore rock group. With a sound shaped by their roots in jazz, LT wanted to take their sound to the next level. I was looking to fulfill dream of owning a label. Our relationship would eventually be broken and never reconciled. Countless mistakes, falsehoods, sleepless nights and misunderstandings would lead to our demise. The record business, any business for that matter, is tough racket. They (we) were young and green. We used to lift glasses to “total world domination by the year 2000”. It would never happen. Not for the lack of effort or passion, but the band wasn’t ready sonically, mentally or financially. And I just simply wasn’t ready. If I knew then what I know now (which I didn’t), they most likely never would of made it out of Baltimore, MD. I definitely would have done it differently (if I even did it all). Chalk this one up for humility ….as in “The road to success is paved w/ humiliation”.

We had fun though….some more than others. ; )

When I met the LT boys, they were young, impressionable and looking for leadership. I knew they looked up to me. I can vividly recall their respect when we first were introduced......their awe. Whenever I arrived to the studio....to their house....to their shows……….they would say "Yes! Greg’s here!”

Unfortunately I wasn't in a space (nor wanted) to accept the responsibility of being a leader. My main desire was to just "fit in"… to be one of the boys. I wanted to meet people that ‘understood” me. I learned a great lesson(other than I'm allergic to alcohol/drugs) - that power is lost when you expose your weaknesses. And when you party like I did, you’re destined to make mistakes. My vulnerability was exposed.

A great example of this is in the movie, 24 Hr Party People - The history of the Brit rave scene, the rise and fall of Factory Records. Factory was the record label that produced the Happy Mondays and Joy Division (who eventually morphed into New Order after lead singer Ian Curtis’ tragic suicide). I want to note that even though my label may have had much less success than Factory Records, we partied twice as hard). LMFAO

As I starting hanging out w/ more people in the entertainment business, I got the vibe they (the biz) were on another level mentally. Traveling to France, Italy and Iceland to promote my label, I met a bunch of interesting people. I loved the scene, but my partying and eventual behavior led to a dead end. As they say “drugs didn’t kill Elvis Presley, rock and roll killed Elvis Presley.” And it almost killed me.

During this period of my life, I constantly felt I was missing something. Constantly searching, I would always be followed cloud of boredom and emptiness. Musicians seemed to draw on pain in order to create their art, hence my interest. Most of the people in the record business are intelligent, interesting and forward thinking. But if you’re not paying attention (which I wasn’t), finances (companies) can get out of hand very quickly. I had the tendency to go into business with an open mind, open check book and open heart….trusting everyone. I would never take the time to understand the “nuts and bolts” of a business before writing a check. The late nights and excess would lead to the loss of respect and the eventual demise of the Lake Trout project.

Lessons learned

Holding onto my past and not wanting to let go. Throughout my entire life, in my mind, I felt that I was never appreciated and always misunderstood. And only due to my current enlightenment, thanks in part to an aggressive and much needed de-construction of ego, have I realized that it was an existence in which I created for myself.

The constant loop of negative dialogue never would allow me to accept my role on this earth...........which is to lead. And now, through my perpetual recovery, I'm finally taking THE lead.

To inform those that are looking for answers.

To comfort those that have been tricked to think they were 'crazy'.

And to lead all those that want to recover ......to recovery itself.

Fact is, squeezing life for all it was worth and thinking we could control the outcome simply doesn’t work.

I’ve had to let go in order to gain control in my life……….and Lake Trout had a lot to do with it.

* For those that are familiar w/ the 12 step program, I'd like to stress that the content in this blog is to be read knowing that steps 1-7 have been completed.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Riding The Wave

 What do we do when our secret weapon turns on us for the first time? Our optimism, our energy, our zest for life dissipates like fresh rain on hot pavement.

When BP newbies, those diagnosed, friends and family members, experience the downside of bipolar disorder, the main concern is that 'the funk' is permanent. The most important thing to know about 'the shift' is that it's temporary.

 "It too shall pass".......remember this.

With all the information available on the web, in book stores, local libraries and support groups, I suggest all those affected to research the endless data. By understanding the roots of bipolar disorder, we can all take note of the triggers that push us outside of our productive space.

Please be patient. Go out of your way to do the things you love. For me it's listening to music, writing, working out, coaching and hitting golf balls(when my body permits it). r

Force yourself to get out of your house. Make a phone call to an old friend. Put on the music that you love. Make an effort to 'shake off the funk' by staying active with a good diet. We are what we eat. We are what we think.

It's been over 14 years since I was first diagnosed with Bipolar II. And within every bout with depression, I try to find the silver lining. Our 'gift' gives us the ability to be creative, tap into endless energy and whistle while we work. However there comes a time when our mind, body, and spirit must rest.

Stay positive, strive to know thyself and keep fighting the fight.........every day.

You can do it............I'm fighting as you read this blog today.



GM
 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bipolar Disorder - Respect the Gift

After 12 yrs of dealing with BP, I've finally come to terms with the power of BiPolar Disorder. I'd been in denial for a good part of those years, not wanting to let go. Trying to control it. Own it. Make it work. My on again off again love affair w/ drugs and alcohol led me down a path of destruction that was totally avoidable. Yes, I was 'misunderstood', constantly searching for "The Why". I would ride the highs and fightkickscratch through the severe lows. Once the sun peaked through my black cloud of depression, I always allow amnesics to set in. "That wasn't that bad". And off I went. Back to my old ways. I loved when my brain would 'burn'. When I could put a pen to my journal and sizzle. Whether it be a movie premise, business idea, conceptualizing an event or designing a space. Optimistic. Eager to test my limits. Trial and much error. The rage to master. It must've been terrifying to my loved ones to see me spin out of control. Tough. I'm going for it. I'm OK. Let's go.

Sometimes slowly but always surely, I would find myself in the same rut as before. What happened? What was I thinking? The fact was that I didn't respect BiPolar Disorder. The disease. The Gift. Much like a finely tuned race car, BP must be maintained. Managed. A cerebral garden that needs to be kept. We need to have a support system in place. The inner drive(will) to carry on. The ability to fight. The willingness to accept the truth about our illness - that it is real. And in time, this truth(the why) will set you free.

I'm very grateful for the way my friends/family have handled my journey. We really find out who our true friends are during the tough times. I know we all love our mania. But I've found that as each high and low pass, I prefer to stay just slightly left of center(hypo). And this achieved by staying on top of your meds. Making a point to exercise. A healthy diet and an open mind.

Keep on keepin on - GM