To my blog readers. I am doing well and I hope to start blogging again next month. I’ll explain in a new post. I can see when my blog traffic is down, and it is. But I hope to change that this year. Take care. Darryl S. Duke
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.
It seems that quite a few people today, with apparent insecurities about themselves, act as though they have a very high sense of self-esteem. I first noticed this through the arrogant and often outlandish behaviors some of the teenagers I worked with displayed. Although it is, of course, understandable for young people to act in such ways due to insecurities, seeing older people behave like that made me wonder if they really had a true sense of self-worth. I was actually able to talk to my teenagers about their behaviors and my own as a young man, and while many of them admitted to feeling insecure, only a few said they had low self-esteem. This wasn’t much of a surprise, as it was hard to get them to admit certain things about themselves sometimes. After pressing them a bit more, I’d end with the question, “Can you look in a mirror and say ‘I love you’ to yourself and mean it?” This usually made them laugh, but almost all of them would say they could. I would rarely challenge them any further on the issue. I knew time would tell if they were being honest, not just with me, but with themselves. But since then, I’ve talked to people of all ages about the type of behaviors I see today, and I’ve figured out something very important.
Starting in the eighties, changes began taking place in many of our movies, TV shows, magazines, songs, and commercials, and over time, as these changes kept becoming more extreme, they caused two generations of people to display a sense of vanity and self-importance that belies their true insecurity.
First, look at how our movies and TV shows became more extreme. Not only has there been a continual increase in the amount of crime, violence, sex, and drug use shown, but in some cases, these things have actually been made to look glamorous. Also, think about how music has changed. Little by little, more songs came out with lyrics that basically glorified sex and violence and made the pursuit of money and fame seem like the all-important goal that everyone should have. Then there are the TV commercials that few could argue haven’t become more extreme. Although they’ve always been a way for businesses to advertise in clever ways and thus increase sales, they have used a lot more science and psychology over the past several years. Studies show they have the ability to affect people of all ages, making them think they won’t stack up unless they use, wear, or own a certain product. Don’t believe me? Take a look around the next time you’re out and about.
Unfortunately, these extreme (and, I must add, often negative) changes don’t stop there. Our video games have become increasingly more violent and now project a level of realism that can’t be psychologically good for anyone who plays them all the time. Then, of course, there’s the Internet. Although many good things can be found when browsing the World Wide Web, it’s certainly an outlet for extremes of all kinds. From pornography and violence to really outlandish behavior, the Internet became a way for people to watch almost anything they want and express themselves any way they want. Again, there are many good things on it—positive videos to help others and even instructional videos to help people learn how to do a number of different things. But we rarely hear about the good things found on the web. The bad things, sadly, often include the erratic, attention-seeking behavior of people who want (and sometimes need) to feel like someone special. It seems that the bar has been raised to encourage us to be something we’re not. And it has been lowered for academic achievement and family values. Add in the news media and its persistent bombardment of us with awful events, and perhaps you can better understand why we have, in effect, become a desensitized nation and why some people act the way they do.
Although everything I’ve talked about can and does have an adverse effect on us as a society, our youth seem to be affected the most. Young people have become more desensitized due to these extreme changes, and while many show good manners, do well in school, and have career goals they’re willing to work toward, some display behaviors that at one time simply weren’t acceptable. Sadly, still others act out in bizarre ways in hopes of reaching some form of perceived stardom. And while I’m sure the attention they get makes them feel good about themselves, this feeling can be fleeting, and I have yet to see proof that these types of behavior build a true sense of confidence and self-esteem in anyone. I have, however, seen proof that trying to be a better person than before can open up the door to the type of self-love we need to be happy with who we are.
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.
“If you’re reading this something must have caught your attention—and maybe there’s even a reason for it? My hopes are that whatever the reason, the words alcoholic and god don’t deter you from reading the entire book. This is because my story isn’t about alcoholism and addiction and has nothing to do with the God of the Bible. In its most basic form, this is a story of change through growth, both spiritual and personal, and how it helps us become more confident in ourselves, to love ourselves, and to finally be happy with who we are.” —Darryl Duke
“Is there a god?” and “Why are we here?” are questions I’ve heard answers to many times throughout my life. Some came from people of faith who said there was a God and that we’re here to do his will, while others came from people without faith who said there isn’t a god and that life is what you make out of it.
Although I was never religious, I guess I always believed there was some kind of god who helps us in our lives and never worried about anyone’s answers until I was forty-one years old. That’s when, with everything going good in my life and me being happier than at any other time I could remember, I started doubting this belief and soon found myself feeling sad and afraid. One morning in particular, while feeling depressed and unimportant, I began wondering about my purpose in life, and it occurred to me that maybe there wasn’t a god. A fear like I have never experienced before came over me, and I began to feel empty inside. With help, I was able to overcome the fear I felt, and the emptiness would go away. But over the next few years, the doubts in my belief would still sometimes surface and make me feel afraid. Finally, one day while full of doubt and fear, I decided to seek reassurance that there was some kind of god and a purpose to our lives. Now, at forty-four years old, although I’m still not entirely sure why we’re here, I try to believe that something created life and the universe for a reason, and I talk to it in the shower.
Through that time, I found that reading nonreligious books on what others believed about a god and our purpose in life would bring me some relief from the fear I felt. But because none of those books gave me the total reassurance I was looking for, I eventually turned to science to try to find some kind of proof that there was a god. Several things I read actually caused more doubt and fear when it raised the question, “If there isn’t a god, does life still have meaning?” However, as I continued my search and acquired more knowledge about life and the universe, that question was replaced by these: “Does a creator help us in our lives? And, if so, will it help me end the doubts I have and overcome my fears?” And now, with those questions slowly being answered, not only do I believe more in the possibility of a creator, but I also believe more in myself.
I wonder sometimes, though, if this need for reassurance really did start three years ago, or if it actually began the morning of April 27, 1996. That’s when, hung over and on the verge of losing my family, I decided to get sober and prayed to whatever god I thought there might be for help. When I drank, my life would slowly get out of control, and no matter how much heartache, sadness, or worry this would bring, I couldn’t stay sober on my own. Once, when I was thirty, I even asked a former drinking buddy for help, because I knew he had been sober for a while. He told me that the reason he no longer wanted to drink was because of a more spiritual lifestyle he now tried to live. He also told me there was a possibility that I was an alcoholic and that maybe spirituality was the answer for me too. I tried it. But after only eight months, I decided to drink again—why? Did God let me down? Or did I let myself down? Maybe I just wasn’t ready to quit and live like my friend did. But after several more years of drinking, and more heartache, came that frightening morning when I knew I couldn’t go on living the way I was.
Today, no matter how unfavorable my current circumstances are, I try to believe that everything will be all right and remain grateful for what’s good in my life. And I also have a lot more confidence in myself now than I had before. I do wonder, though, what’s been different this time than when I tried to stay sober before. Has some kind of god finally decided to help me now that I’m trying to lead a more spiritual life? Or have those things come about because of my own ability to create them? My hopes are that the answers to these questions will unfold as I write this book and try to achieve other things I want in life. For example, I want to try to love people even if I don’t like them. I want to keep growing spiritually and as a person, and become less fearful and insecure. I also want to be OK with not having all the answers to life and enjoy it even more. And finally, if there is something to explain our lives after we die, I want it to help me explain to you why I’m searching for reassurance and purpose.
So, if you’re like me and don’t believe in the God of the Bible or a devil or hell, then read on. And if you’ve also been searching for something more in life, then please read on.
This isn’t an autobiography, but it does contain the parts of my life that helped shape who I am and filled me with the hopes and beliefs I have so far—ones that make me realize that although my journey from fear to belief in myself has been a long one, it’s far from over as I set out to find my purpose.