“A holiday is an opportunity to journey within.” – Prabhas, actor
“…he believed there was a reason for everything…”
Oliver contacted me to set up a consult with the sarcastic opener, “I’m an alcoholic but didn’t choose to be. It doesn’t just run in my family, I think it gallops!” He added he wanted help with his addiction. We set up a meeting for the next week.
Oliver was an Algonquin from Labrador. He was well over six feet tall, deep black hair parted in the middle and a long ponytail at the back. He was dressed casual but neatly. He was a man who took care of his physical self. He told me he drove heavy machinery for a living, working all over Canada, especially the North. Currently, he and his partner, Odessa, lived here because she has family in the area.
Oliver told me he was a very spiritual man who strived to honour his traditional beliefs and respect for Manitou, the Spirit God of his People. He said he believed there was a reason for everything that happened in life.
And, it was this belief which brought him to call me. He had asked tribal Elders in his travels, why he was an alcoholic…what purpose could it serve? He said their responses were different and yet the same.
Each Elder had said, in their own way, he would figure it out and understand it… eventually. But, he grew tired of waiting and decided to ask someone else who might have another perspective.
“…‘there are no mistakes in people’s lives…only learnings…”
Since he obviously appreciated humour, a unique perspective on common events, I asked him,
“Oliver, why pick on me? Why would you ask a psychologist, and specifically, this psychologist?”
He smiled at my attempt at humour before replying,
“I have a colleague who did some work with you several years ago. And, I recall him saying, you said, ‘there are no mistakes in people’s lives…only learnings.’ That idea just stuck in my head ever since. And, so I tracked you down on the internet…and here I am!”
“Well, what you colleague said is true. In my work and my own life, I have found, we are always stronger and smarter from every experience.” I said.
“And, you have never found an exception, Ken?”
“Oliver, not in my 36 years in this profession or my 72 years in this life. And, since I can use the hard sciences to assist a person to prove it to themselves…well, that just inspires me…it is my life’s work…my life’s purpose!”
“Our scientists test, prove and reprove them almost daily.”
“Ken, how can you be so certain about it?”
“The only truths in life, the only things we are certain about, are the laws of nature which govern our universe. Our scientists test, prove and reprove them almost daily. Everyone honours the law of light, sound, friction, gravity, energy conservation, and so on. I think Indigenous People, globally, often display the most awareness and respect for these truths.”
“Ken, you are starting to sound like an elder of some kind.”
“Elders and insightful scientists, often sound similar because they are using the same reference point…our natural world, Oliver.”
“I never thought of it from that perspective before…very interesting actually!” he replied.
“What if you started thinking about your drinking, alcoholism, in this natural way?” I asked him, to see if he was ready to broaden his perspective.
“Do you mean seeing my drinking as connected to laws of nature…that’s a stretch…Isn’t it?” he asked, curiosity in his voice.
“Christmas is a holiday that persecutes the lonely, the frayed, and the rejected.”
– Jimmy Cannon, journalist
“…there was equally the benefit of your survival to live another moment, hour, day, week, whatever.”
“Not really! Try this on for size. Did you ever sit down and write out where, when and how many times your drinking saved you from pain, injury or even death…so far in your life?”
Oliver sat back in his chair flabbergasted. He went totally silent, struggling with an idea which, I assume, had never occurred to him.
“The laws of nature require a duality of synchronicity and symmetry to each moment of our existence, without exception. Oliver, you’re sitting here in my office having this conversation. So every time you drank, in your past, it must have got you through that moment of your life to the next moment of your life…you survived each time you drank.”
“While you know full well, there was lots of pain at each moment…there was equally the benefit of your survival to live another moment, hour, day, week, whatever. Can you see that, Oliver?”
His eyes were fixed behind me, glassy, staring off at some memory…perhaps seeing both sides of it, both the pain and the pleasure of it…for the first time. We were quiet for a bit. I waited until he was ready to continue.
“…it is stuck to us, attached to us, by the emotions we associate to it.”
“Ken, I started drinking when I was twelve. I got drunk instead of taking my baseball bat to my father while he was passed out on the couch on Christmas Day. He was destroying our family and I didn’t know what to do about it…so I got drunk, too!”
“Let’s find the pleasure in that moment for you…I can imagine the pain you experienced at that moment…hurt, betrayal, anger, frustration and more! But, you’re here right now, so whatever you did to cope…worked! Oliver, let’s find out how specifically.”
“Ken, I don’t want to go back there, I want to forget it, put it out of my mind forever…to be free of it.”
“We are only free of anything when we can see both sides of it…then we can honour it and let it go! If we resent it or infatuate it, it is stuck to us, attached to us, by the emotions we associate to it.”
“Angels or devils, whether people or memories, handicap us,…slow down our learning!”
“Are you saying, if we only see one side of a memory, it holds us back from letting it go and moving on?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying, Oliver! Angels or devils, whether people or memories, handicap us, confuse us and slow down our learning!”
“So, that would mean the nightmares of my childhood, which I spend so much time and energy resenting, are handicapping me!”
“Yes! You are just like the rest of us! Unless you free yourself from them by uncovering the truth of natural law…that they actually have a duality, a synchronicity and a symmetry.” I said, checking his integration.
“So, looking for a bottle instead of a baseball bat, had to have benefitted me at that moment…is that what you are getting at?”
“Yes, so go back to that moment in your life. Be there in your mind’s eye, see what you saw then, hear what you heard, think what you were thinking…and tell me just one advantage to you that you went looking for a bottle instead of a baseball bat, Oliver?”
“It’s no coincidence that the word ‘holiday’ suggests a holy day.… If you wish to advance in any sphere, the best way is to take a retreat. -Pico Iyer, writer
“…to protect your family, your mom, your baby sister, Oda, yourself and even your father…”
Oliver closed his eyes, sitting back again in his chair and going very quiet.
“I remember Mom was crying at the kitchen table. My baby sister, Oda, was on her lap, not knowing what was going on…she was a little over a year old. It was like one of those friggin police stories on TV…just before the crime happens…someone does something stupid… to make matters even worse!”
Then he continued his memory of the event,
“I knew, my bat was under my bed. I knew, he was so drunk he would never know what hit him. But, I also knew when he was sober, he worked his butt off for us; I knew my Mom still loved him… in her own way; I knew I would never be able to explain it later to Oda! And, I knew it would destroy our family forever!”
“So Oliver, is it fair to say you went for a bottle instead of a bat to protect your family, your mom, your baby sister, Oda, yourself and even your father…at that moment? But, it was still a painful experience!”
“Yes, that is actually true when I look back, now…I can see it!” he replied, his face projecting his new insight with raised brows and widened eyes.
“…can you see how it looks different immediately…less negative, more emotionally balanced…”
“So Oliver, is it fair to say, you were protecting some of the most important parts of your life at that moment…some of the people you most valued in your life…you were really honouring your highest values at that moment?”
“Yes, that’s very true, Ken! Since I was the oldest, I kinda saw it all, but felt helpless to fix it.” he replied, his face a mixture of uselessness and hopelessness.
“But, by your actions, by you going and getting drunk instead of attacking your father… while painful, your also protected yourself and your family.”
“Yes, I really did, didn’t I?” he said, ponderously.
When you look at it truthfully, see both side of the event…can you see how it looks different immediately…less negative, more emotionally balanced, more synchronous and more symmetrical?” I asked him.
“I’m getting it now! I’m not seeing myself as a coward anymore. Rather, I see myself as more intuitive and caring…like it was the ‘smart’ thing to do! But, how come I didn’t notice this back then, and not have to waste all these years beating myself up?”
“What you did just now was make the unconscious, more conscious!”
“Oliver, a couple things to remember. First, we are always behaving inside our highest values 24/7, unconsciously. What you did just now was make the unconscious, more conscious! And second, what you did was apply some natural laws to your perception of the situation which you were unaware of before today.”
“So, what about all the other similar events in my mind? What do I do with them, Ken?”
“That’s the work you still need to do to prove to yourself, these laws have always applied. You will need to uncover specific ones which, in a way, hold the key to unlock your full awareness of this law in action, throughout your life.”
“Are you saying, if I find the same balance, synchronicity and symmetry in others I will prove to myself the truth of this in my life?”
“Exactly! Are you ready to look at the next memory?” I asked.
“I sure am! It was about a year after the first one…” he replied.
“There can be no lose without equal gain…nature ensures its true for each second of life to optimize our future!”
– King Ayles, writer
“…I see the perfection in this…the influence of Manitou!”
So began Oliver’s journey to self esteem and self control…to sobriety! He worked hard and did well. He learned how he and his father were perfect fits for his family to be who they were at that time, doing what they did and having what they had…and it continues…even to this day.
I remember him saying in one of our sessions, “Now I know what the Elders meant…I have learned how my past created my present and determines my future…I see the perfection in this…the influence of Manitou!”
“Very cool, eh?” I said.
“Yeah! And, it really shifts, for me anyway, what the Holidays are about. Now I can start being grateful for my family instead of trying to be happy with them. Happy is kind of one sided, too positive…but grateful feels more in the middle to me…because my Dad still gets tipsy this time of year, but it seems different to me, now!”
“Oliver…now, you are starting to sound like an Elder!” I said smiling.
He returned my smile with a humble shrug.
“During the holiday season, it’s easy to forget that sometimes the best gift of all is simply the gift of time.” – Kate Klise, author