Television and movies are full of addicted characters. “House” was about an opiate addict, played wonderfully by Hugh Laurie. The new “Kevin Can Wait,” stars the very talented Kevin James as a lovable junk food junkie. The character is seen to have just a “weight problem” that dieting should take care of, but not if you have a real addiction to food. In real life he’d have a high risk of heart disease and depression. The reality is, addicts are usually full of shame and act out to cover it. Family members usually have no idea what’s really bothering the person, so they sometimes seek out an addiction professional who specializes in family work.
TV sitcoms really should create more therapist characters to treat their addicted characters. Of course therapy would have to fail in the end, to keep the characters interesting. That would be TV Logic, not Real Life Logic.
I am an addiction family therapist. You have to love theater to do it, due to the extraordinary amount of drama. The seeds of my career began when I was a boy, watching my battling parents argue all the time. There would be a few days of peace, then something would set off an explosion and create a conflict that would last for several days. I always took a ring-side seat. I wanted to understand what was going on. It was also a great way to begin learning about alcoholism, which my father had.
My favorite cartoon strip about the hazards of childhood is “Peanuts.” The luckless but loveable Charlie Brown is a brilliantly devised character and relatable to most of us because we all can feel like a victim. Lucy is his supercilious, irritating gal-pal. I had a Charlie Brown part and a Lucy part of me. Seeing the world from my Charlie Brown part, I was sad about my parents’ conflicted marriage; they could never seem to get along.
Fortunately my Lucy persona would rise inside of me and I would become their secret psychologist: my grand plan was to help them find happiness together. I had to figure them out first, of course.
Quietly, never attracting their attention, I studied them for hours on end, trying to find the key that would save them from the living hell of their tortured relationship. It was a childish, absurd proposal to suppose I could untangle their marital problems. I’m sure that early desire was my impetus to become a marriage and family therapist.
A trained, experienced relationship therapist can work wonders, but I had no chance then to confer happiness on my parents. Even a therapist can’t create happiness, but can often find a door or bridge so others can find it, with the assistance of grace.
Psychology attracted me because it was the new young science that might finally solve the puzzles of our human condition. I believed we did need something to unravel our myriad of maladies, so I ventured into the world of Freud and Jung. Two more different doctors of the mind there could not be. Freud embraced atheism and Jung slid away from Papa Sigmund into mysticism and the “alchemic view of the soul.” I came to prefer Freud, though I’m a theist, probably preferring him because of the strong father figure he represented.
Beyond explaining the problems of human beings, I searched for meaning and truth in a wide range of literary forms, including poetry, plays, novels, philosophy and spirituality. Most recently I found Confessions by St. Augustine. Augustine rigorously analyzed himself and the human condition in that great work, concluding the human race was badly flawed but redeemable. He put himself at the very top of the Absurd Humans List.
“O Lord God, grant us peace, for Thou hast granted us all things,” he pleaded for all of us. He saw that we get into absurd situations rather routinely, which takes away our peace of mind.
I was on a treatment team helping a female heroin addict, a young lady in residential treatment. She had not used drugs for eight days, had detoxed and was just starting to get her appetite back. She was very anxious about the family session with her parents in a few days. She made me promise I wouldn’t tell them about her last drug binge. I made her promise that she would be honest about everything else. I felt I had made a good bargain because usually honesty is the hardest lesson to learn in pre-recovery.
You may have a partner, parent, child or some other relative whom you think has a problem with a substance or behavior, but they don’t think so. What you want to know is, “How can I help them?” You may be the only person in your family who thinks there’s a problem. You may feel very alone. But don’t lose hope! Because Grace and Mercy abound in the world, if you keep looking and asking questions you’ll eventually figure out what you should do.
When I’m in session with an addict or an addict’s family, if the Gift of Grace is with us it will be a successful experience for them, because Grace is a God-given nsystem leading to human connectivity. Only good can flow out of what happens. As the therapist, all I really have to do is follow my prayerful intuition, or, if you will, the Holy Spirit.
The most painful thing about our self-destructive nature as human beings is, we tend to do the same things over and over again expecting different results. If you’re in Twelve-Step Recovery you have probably heard that before.
Grace is a much-traveled spiritual force. I invite you to look it up and research it. Briefly, its’ history began roughly 5,500 years ago, from a mysterious language out of which all languages are thought to have come, the Proto-Indo-European. The phrase from which we get “grace” is a verb form, “to favor.” It’s a special force or spirit that “sings, praises or announces.”
Fortunately for us the universe abounds with two marvelous forces, Grace and Mercy. The universe also contains large galaxies of The Absurd, upon which occur massive tidal waves of absurdities flowing from human behavior since The Creation.
This spirit of Grace enters the stage of our lives unexpectedly, unscripted, as it wills, and it rewrites the plot of our lives in our favor. I’ve seen it happen many times and I want to share how that can happen. The pages ahead are sprinkled with stories of lives that have been either touched lightly by Grace or pinched by The Absurd.
Our lives can feel like both a tragedy and a comedy. A few therapy sessions can reduce the pain of a harsh pinch in the rump from The Absurd. More therapy can even build a bridge to Grace, helping the client find renewed hope and meaning.
Grace soothes our wounds, while The Absurd causes us to laugh at life and ourselves. Both can be medicinal and help us to keep trudging The Road of Happy Destiny.