Milestones | Celebrate them, let them go and keep moving

 

It has been a heady graduation weekend for me. The ceremony. The podium experience as I received my BA degree in Counseling and Psychology. Fellowship with family and friends. Posting of photos. The euphoria of it all. Yet, I need to close this now. I have been told before that today’s breakthroughs are tomorrow’s ego trips. Yet, I also acknowledge, as my resident tutor 😉 has taught me, that milestones ought to be celebrated. The key thing is not to remain there.

So, today, we move on.

Graduation day was more than a milestone for me. It was an acknowledgement of a past in the present and gateway to a hopeful future. My past is a blend of beautiful, sad, painful, mundane memories. On Saturday, I bowed in deep gratitude and in awe of the grace of God. I chose to suspend, not forget, but suspend the pains of the journey on the day.  Those memories go beyond my Daystar experience. It has been my whole life quest.

The awards, Dean’s and Vice-Chancellor’s, were a pleasant surprise. A really pleasant surprise. The most beautiful realization is the freedom of living a day at a time during my stay at Daystar which was not geared towards obtaining awards or recognition. I am a shy guy. I momentarily battled with the idea of having to receive the awards during the graduation ceremony. I recalled how I once dropped out of a walking race (It was a thing then) when I realized I was lying second with a lap to go. I saw myself on the podium receiving the silver medal. I panicked and dropped out of the race.

Being with family and friends on Saturday and sharing intimately, though in a small way, about what it has been like completing a 4-year bachelor’s degree in a span of almost 30 years (I was in USIU in 1990) was humbling. And this was not in a space of regret or wishing it could have been different. I am grateful for the abundant grace, my loving wife and several lecturers who let me express myself in class beyond the course outline requirements. My classroom experience was a healing journey toward the promise of not regretting the past nor wishing to shut the door on it. I dedicate my honors listing to these lecturers. And those hugs from some of my teachers after stepping off the podium on Saturday were just the life-giving affirmation that I can do the next thing…whatever that is.

I yearn for people seeing themselves as whole beings regardless of the circumstances of their lives. Nowhere has this yearning been fed than as a class rep of several classes. Being a class rep has been my truest call to ministry and class WhatsApp groups have been my pulpit.  I have truly cherished and grown from the experience. To my fellow students, thank you. I may have been over 20 years older than a majority of you but you helped me in several ways: in how to study, how to parent my son including giving me lessons on how pocket money is dispensed, and how not to talk about his dating life. To you, for letting me meddle in your lives, do I dedicate the VC’s Award.

To our new VC, Prof Laban Peter Ayiro, I was skeptical about change coming to Daystar. You have only been around for only four months and I am tempted kuingia box of trusting that change is really possible.  I even penned an article about my skepticism. You have talked of caring as a value. You have listened to us when we have risked to speak up. Keep katiaring us and creating the space for healing and thriving to take place. Please.

I am coming back because I am inspired by the promise of a transformed Daystar.

To my sweetheart, you let me be me. You expressed concerns where you needed to and you provided extra tuition for classes that were not even your preserve. During the crisis, we battled individually, yet together. It was the one time I felt so helpless in our marriage. The woundedness was real. And then Saturday happened. And a lot more in the recent past. It was a kind of affirmation that if you are going through something, keep going. I love you loads.

To my son, who got all the mushaino I promised not to wear at my graduation, you have been the SI Unit of my growth as a father – in role, identity and authority. You have kept me going and in one instance, I chose not to cheat in a CAT because I was afraid of what you would think if you found out. It was not about honesty, integrity or anything like that. You have been my wing-man bila you knowing. You’ve taught me what unconditional forgiveness and reconciliation looks like. It’s sometimes a brutally slow process. I’ll keep the mushaino to keep remembering.

To my family, this is testament of God’s faithfulness. You had several questions for me and I did not always have answers for you. The ultimate answer was and is to keep moving. It will all make sense eventually. Maybe. But we keep moving.

To my fellow road trippers on the recovery journey, you helped birth this dream of going back to school through your promise to love me until I learn to love myself. In 2001, I think, I shared the desire to go back to school. It was certainly not straightforward. Several false starts later, here we are before we are halfway through, I believe.

Here’s to more miracles, a day at a time.

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 #Parenteen

Khalil Gibran on Children

Initially written and submitted on 10th October 2014 for a short story non-fiction competition

Early 2013, the calls from both my son and his mum started coming in quicker succession than before.

“Please speak to your son, he is getting increasingly unruly. He is growing horns. Speak to your son!”

“What did he do this time?

“You ask him for the details!

“Kwani kulienda aje?” I would ask HRH at our regular meet up on Sunday morning as we went to dad’s church, as he called it.

“Hakuna.”

This exchange was typical, with each one trading accusations and no one willing to offer any information.

“Mum, amekataa kunipea food.”

“Mum amenifungia nje.”

“Kwani I have become his mboch so that he can report my mistakes all the time? Ebu talk to him. He needs to realize I am his mother and he is not going to get anywhere that kind of behaviour.”

I would share my frustration in my Teen parents’ class, usually via long emails. Very often, I would get no replies.

Finally, one parent replied. He reckoned that perhaps the person who needed to effect the change was me. I was slightly resentful because I felt he was making me the scapegoat of a problem that was not really mine. After all, wasn’t I the one in this parenting class? Wasn’t I the bold one who’d taken the road less travelled of present day baby daddies?

A part of his reply read:

“Chris, you probably need to transform from being a Sunday entertainment buddy to being with you son longer. Consider living with him.”

What I heard, though, was proposing proposal to reconcile with his mum. This would be kinda a big issue given that we had now been apart fourteen years.

At some point, his mum wanted to have him stay with me, where I lived in Eastlands, have him commute daily to and from school as a form of punishment for his disrespect towards her. But, travelling to and from Ongata Rongai daily is hardly a commute. It’s more of a road trip.

Roogz’s mother saw Roogz’ actions as DELIBERATELY designed to make her life experience a living hell. On the other hand, whilst appreciating the predicament she was in, I could see the futility of such an action.

I had been a problematic teenager myself and coming to terms with my adolescent past had meant gaining awareness of the impact of my not-so-nice actions towards my mother.

I, nevertheless, initiated Project Hero Dad and promptly called a conference. I was going to be the all important solution-provider.

My tripartite meeting was an anti-climax. No one spoke or thanked me for my visionary action. I saw and felt two people desperately crying out for help, clarity and direction. And rather than join them, I was the one to offer leadership.

It dawned on me that I would be the one to move. To Ongata Rongai.

Shudder!

The prospective move was fraught with doubts, uncertainties and conversations back and forth as his mum and I got our intentions and motives tested and refined and several times, altogether invalidated.

Armed with a resolved past and three years of taking and facilitating parenting classes at Mavuno church, I felt I was more than up to the task of having HRH with me and starting the journey towards a problem free adulthood.

Life then did what it does amidst major turning points. It happened.

HRH’s mum changed her mind about me staying with him when she heard that I would be the one moving house nearer to HRH’s school. He would be sitting his KCPE paper in November 2013. That my script was not driven by a desire to punish his derelictions did not sit well with her and she withdrew her ‘offer’ to have me stay with my son.

I had been demoted at work through a restructured progamme. My salary was significantly reduced and I honestly considered accepting the withdrawal of the ‘offer’ to stay with my son.

My ‘Board of Trustees’ unanimously decreed that moving in with Roogz was a matter of life and death. It had to happen.

Shudder! SHUDDER!

Getting Real

All my parenting class lessons seemed to go out of the window when the move eventually happened in September 2013. Initially, I chose to observe us living together so that we could find our bearings. A life coach pal of mine had informed me that the top three stressors in a person’s life are:

  1. Career Change
  2. Moving house
  3. Death of a loved one

I seemed to be experiencing the first two and perhaps all three, because of the demotion and the fact that I shifting from a house that I had lived in for twenty years, and solo for the last fifteen, and I was moving in with another human being who was dependent on me for his livelihood.

The loved one whose death I experienced was me, me who had lived alone for over a decade. I would need to refill my gas cylinder after only four years.

There was minimal TV which meant little distraction for HRH from his studies. I still kept all the DVDs I had acquired over time, which made for great alternative entertainment. And because I was ‘observing’, I couldn’t make any drastic rules except to stack away the R rated movies and series.

It was awkward discerning what was or wasn’t R rated because – and this sounds weird – I just couldn’t tell whether or not the boy was a boy or a young man.

Keeping it Real

It quickly dawned on HRH and I that this move was not exactly what we had in mind; we were not entering a space of eternal happiness, joy and freedom.

I could sense his great expectations of his Sunday entertainment buddy/dad 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year were rapidly dwindling when I imposed rules, sanctions and discipline.

My romantic excursions of evenings of exchanging war stories, talking about girls and sex, giving sound, wise, profound, deep and meaningful fatherly advice about life also rapidly faded.

He often gave me is-that-even-a-question look when I’d ask if he really really had to eat.

What if we could stretch the gas usage to about two years, half the time it took the last one to run out?

This parenting experience was beginning to look like work. Or worse, like life.

He wouldn’t join me at church, citing exhaustion of being in school all of six days. This did not make sense to me because we used to meet at 8.30 am every Sunday mornings after he’d attended the 7.00am mass.

Distorted Reality

He scored an A- in KCPE. We were spared the agony of looking for a school and he got a place at a national boarding secondary school.

Secondary school brought a new set of issues and frustrations to consider. He wouldn’t do his holiday homework despite the awareness of sure punishment and failure in the opener exam based on the homework.

I talked, ranted, and consulted my peers and other parents. And I lashed out at HRH. And the homework would still not get done.

I was relating to my son in only one way; that of BEING HIS FATHER. That his job description was to make me happy and look good, That when he has refused to accept my very wise – and rather frequent – counsel on the importance of doing his homework, house chores, I would get angry, read him the riot act, and yet the chores and homework would remain undone. I started avoiding him by coming home late so I may not act out on the violent feelings. And when I was at home, I became a grouch.

Despite the drama I was puzzled by the inexplicable sadness and emptiness when school reopened.

Reality Restored

I resolved to work on myself before the next holiday and obtain clarity of my actions and reactions. I figured perhaps, there could be a different way of relating with my son. I could have one of His Royal Highness BEING MY SON. The onus was now on me, rather than on him, to create a great relationship by being myself. He did not have to obedient, hard working or diligent for me to function as his father. I was now inspired to be the source of love in our relationship. I relaxed.

Heck, I also don’t like doing homework and house chores. Completing these, is now in service e of being a great dad.

It is now just over a year since HRH Roogz, my 14 year old son going on 30, and I moved in together, making me a full time parent, a part time entertainment buddy.

More than that, my son is truly a reason for me to go on. There are many ways of activating this relationship.

This adventure is certainly a work in progress, a working process.

It is not true that teens are the reason animals kill their young

 

I, the Interventionist

Intervention Aspects

Recently, I got a phone call from yet another distraught mother whose sixteen year old son is being discharged from his second stint in rehab this coming weekend. She was referred by a mutual acquaintance.

She wanted me to meet with him upon discharge to guide him along the path of recovery. Fair enough.

However, I suggested that I meet with her and her husband, before the said discharge, to set a foundation of family support and chart a recovery plan for all concerned. Again fair enough. In fact, she acknowledged that it sounded like a really novel idea. She would call me to set the appointment after consulting her husband.

She called back a couple of days later to set the appointment and I then informed her that I charge for the service. Her reaction to the fact that I charge for consultation and how much I would charge them was familiar. She was shocked that I even charge for the service

My reaction was different.

This time.

I kept quiet. I listened to her rant about my charging to help people. I was silently fighting an inner urge to tear down the picture she was painting of how bad I looked with every word she spoke. I was so tempted to offer a free service, let alone a discounted one.

Like I have done several times before.

I was tempted to feel guilty about charging a fee for the message of hope, possibility and freedom around addictions that I do that I spread through my work.

As I have done several times before.

She later communicated via a text message that upon consultation with her husband they would not be able to continue working with me.  I sent a polite acknowledgement thanking her for considering working with me and wished them all the best with their son. I really meant it.

She neither asked for a discount or a free service. I chose not to offer these of my own volition. Not this time anyway. I have done that several times as I set up my referral and interventions business. Mainly out of the distorted belief that what I offer is not a professional service. Yet from the number of enquiries and referrals I receive I am convinced it is a much needed service.

I have now come to believe that her reaction and indeed similar initial reactions from several family members that I have met in the past year of setting up the interventions agency,  is really an indictment of addiction rather than what I have to offer.

What I offer is borne primarily, and perhaps unsurprisingly so, of personal experience. When I commenced my recovery journey over 16 years ago, my family was not involved mainly due to the particular path I took and the lack of information at the time. It was a path mainly focused on the problem person (me) and the rapid results it brought about bred more of suspicion from my family members, both immediate and extended, rather than relief or even a sense of approval which I so desired at the time. I really couldn’t understand why this reaction was emanating from people who were often embittered, resentful and wary of my frequent drunken behaviour.

I often regretted my family’s reaction to my sobriety and the loneliness it generated. I couldn’t reconcile the fact that a band of strangers were to become closer to me than my relatives who had borne the brunt of my alcoholism. And those same relatives, I felt, should have been the first to celebrate my recovery, now that I was not stealing from them, insulting them or being a downright nuisance whether drunk, craving a drink or hung over from a drunken binge.

I believed that it was in fact good for them now that I wasn’t drinking. By taking responsibility for my recovery, wasn’t I also doing them a favour?

Reality hit me, I think, when I was in my tenth year of sobriety. I started being invited to family gatherings. Family would now want me to talk to a friend or wonder if they could give my number to so-and-so whose sibling had a drinking problem.

It then dawned on me.

My sense of regret was a trap. It was a racket I could hold on to that would keep me feeling sorry for myself for the minimal family support I received earlier in my recovery journey.

Or it could be an opportunity for others to avoid the same route. An opportunity to earn a living as a professional in an area that was strictly borne of experience, pain and loneliness. An opportunity that could pay the rent, mitigate my teenage son’s insatiable need to be relevant or buy flowers for the woman in my life.

I also saw that with time, it gave me great joy to witness real results of families walking in freedom and relief with the addict or alcoholic in their life. Relief because of information provided that the addict was not bewitched, belligerent or plain stupid. Relief from new understanding that addiction was a disease like any other. Freedom to create new possibilities of responsibility, harmony and wellbeing.

That is why as a professional interventionist, I have chosen to hone my skills for this specific group of people as my primary clients: the families and significant others of alcoholics and addicts.

Families and significant others are often not aware of the impact they have on the addict’s life and are often dismissed as being enablers. What they hear when, for instance, the addict is being admitted into a treatment centre is that they are to ‘blame’ for the addict’s circumstance. The fact is they are not to blame just as much as the addict himself is NOT to blame for his addiction. The family and significant others of the addict are, however, affected just as much as the addict because they are all in one system in which the addiction thrives.

So, yes, to some extent I was disappointed when the distraught parent halted our engagement.  More than that, however, I understand the action where they perhaps wondered why they have to pay for me to see them when clearly they weren’t problem person.

I really do wish them and their son well. The age of miracles is still with us.