Family

We don’t get to choose our parents—the moms and dads who are supposed to guide us and love us. And some of us wind up with parents who clearly should never have had children. But, if we can, we should find a way to forgive them. I did this by understanding that my mom and dad never had the skills they needed to be better parents, and I focused more on what they did right—like let me know I was loved. I also encouraged my own kids to do this, and as a result, they too know they were greatly loved as children and always will be.

Still, like most parents, I wish I could go back in time and make up for the things I didn’t do right, especially when it comes to my son. My work with teenagers taught me what I didn’t know how to do as a father with a young boy (and later a young man), but he survived with his mother’s help and loves me today. My wife may not have been able to fully make up for my lack of parenting and neglect, but the job she did raising our children was quite remarkable, considering I could be like a child myself at times—although my immaturity did help in some situations.

My humor and antics made my kids laugh and helped cushion the blow of having a father who drank. But that doesn’t change the fact that, like me, they sometimes had to make the best of their family situation while growing up. But I’m living proof that it’s possible to become a better parent and make up for what we didn’t do right when our children were young. And I promise to continue doing this until my last breath.

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Overcoming Obsessive Thinking

The word obsess comes from the Latin word obsidere, one meaning of which is “to besiege.” Being someone who has, at times, obsessed over something, I can say that if we’re not careful, thoughts can besiege our minds, take us out of the present moment, and rob us of any enjoyment we might otherwise experience. In my drinking days, I often obsessed about one thing or another, and depending on what it was, I could find myself filled with such emotions as resentment, anger, self-pity, or anxiety. This was always wasted time on my part; I never looked for solutions if there was a problem. And nothing I obsessed over was ever as bad as I originally thought it was. But mostly, I simply could not stop thinking about something once it became ingrained in my thought processes.

Fortunately, I learned how to turn these types of thoughts around, so to speak. Whatever it was I started to obsess about, with practice, I was able to keep it to a minimum and eventually stop thinking about it altogether. The practice I speak of was to literally redirect my thoughts to something else, something fun, or telling myself how pointless it was to keep thinking about it. And I often talked to someone about whatever I was obsessing over. It took time to break free of obsessive thinking, but it was never as bad as the days when all I could think about was getting drunk. That obsessiveness almost always led to the same conclusion: my mind besieged with worry, distress, and often hopelessness after a night out drinking.

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