“I can’t beat it.”

Last night Val and I rented Manchester by the Sea. Let me first clarify things by saying, I know and understand the issues around Casey Affleck and his treatment of women and that I wanted to watch the movie from the viewpoint of what I could learn as a person and a writer.  It delivered well on both fronts.

Affleck plays a janitor whose brother dies of Congestive Heart Failure. The remainder of the movie reveals the ghosts from his own past as he faces his brother’s death and the care required for his teenage nephew.

(spoilers below)

You spend the movie rooting for Affleck to have a change of heart, that he’ll embrace the kid and stand in as his father.  In the end, he can only do what he knows.  He runs back to Boston and lets his nephew be adopted by family friends, even though he finds an apartment with an extra room incase the kid wants to visit on the weekend.

In their emotional final dinner together, Affleck tells the kid:

“I can’t beat it.”

When we face down grief and trauma, our response is often the same.

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Time freezes.

To avoid the pain we jump around. We think about the past or the future to avoid the present. We do whatever we can to not live in the moment. We check out.

Our smartphones become our pacifiers.

There are conversations floating in the air begging for our engagement and the effort is just to hard. We’re emotionally and physically spent.

We just can’t beat it.

I’ve recently taken small steps to combat this.  Every morning, before leaving for work, I pray with Carter if he’s the only one awake. If everyone is up, we all pray together.  It is a moment he looks forward to now.

I carry an index card in my wallet with three statements on it:

Find Joy Every Day/ No More Wall/ I am My Own Husband and Father

I’d been missing out on the joy around me, living behind an emotional wall, and feeling like I could only measure my worth as a father against those men I knew around me.

Everything, I realized, was wrong.

Joy is there, if you take a moment to see it. The Wall can come down if you take the emotional effort to work through it.

You can be the mother, father, husband or wife you want to be regardless of anything in the past or present. You can take a positive effort to shape the future and create your own identity.

You can create You.

This isn’t easy but it is part of my new journey. I hope you’ll join me and I know, one day at a time, things can change for all of us.

 

4 Things I Learned From Watching an Intervention Marathon

Two months back my wife and I gave up cable.  Carter and Aiden had their select shows they watched on Netflix or Hulu. We spent even less time flipping through channels.  After talking about it, we decided it was a monthly expense we could do without.

So, this requires us to work like Carter and Aiden and find shows available on the streaming services.  One of our favorites is A & E’s Intervention. If you are not familiar with it, the show is a documentary that follows an addict around and ends with a surprise intervention and the family trying to convince the addict to go to treatment.

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Photo Credit: Norto via Compfight cc

Every episode is set up the same. You have an Intro, Biography, Dramatic Addict Footage, Intervention, and Post Intervention follow-up. As the show progresses, you see how deep some of these people are in their addictions and, if you do some research, you find out that not every one is a success story.  Some end up losing their lives in their struggles.

As as writer, and father, I am fascinated by what finally convinces the addicts to go to treatment. After watching about 98,154 episodes, I think I’ve seen some patterns. Here are four things I’ve learned from Intervention:

1/Learn to Process Tragedy– Every addict has a catalyst.  No one wakes up one morning with the desire to try heroin for the first time without any reason. Some of the episodes had horrific back stories.  So many were molested or lost friends and loved ones to crime or accidents. One of the hardest things we do in life is process tragedy.

What happens when you break?  Do you have somewhere to fall? Someone to call? Friends? Family? Faith?

2/Set Boundaries– Co-dependency is present in almost every episode of the show.  It is rare to have an addict out on an island with the rest of the family looking away. Spouses and family members hook their happiness on the addict’s happiness and the cycle spirals out of control.

This year Val and I have determined to have more discipline in this house.  It is so easy to let your kids run the place.  If they understand cause and effect and that they have limits, it will help improve things in the future.

3/Fathers are Important- If I had a dollar for every episode where an addict said they would go to treatment because their father cried/showed emotion at the intervention, I’d be set. When was the last time, as a dad, you showed and told your kids that you loved them? They remember everything and they need it, especially coming from fathers.

4/Believe Your Kids- In many of the episodes where the addict was molested, they went and told their parents who then did nothing about it.  The parents either brushed it off in ignorance or told their kids they were lying.  If your child comes to you with something as horrific as a molestation claim, why would you not handle it?

If you haven’t seen the show, be sure to check it out and, soon, you’ll find yourself making these lists like me.  And if you, or anyone you know are dealing with addiction, please get help.  You are worth it.

~Matt