Co-addiction and responding to our times #2

Welcome to my series on co-addiction and responding to our times. The first post in this series chronicles my journey into recovery from family addiction and how the tools from that recovery have come to inform my response to politics, activism, and productive action. Thank you for reading along as I explore and reflect.

As we’ve moved forward after inauguration day  there have been many groups and individuals who have been allowing their voices to be heard through protest, governmental podiums, marches, lawsuits, and other platforms. We each have our own circle of impact, and our own lists of things that we do and do not have control over. 

It is in these times that each of us has the responsibility to decide for ourselves which actions we might or might not take. This is the challenge I’m writing about today. 

When dealing with the addiction, dysfunction, or destructive behaviors of another it is natural to react with frustration, anger, and often hopelessness. Their behaviors can be harming us and are often harming those more vulnerable than ourselves whom we wish to protect. This situation sets the stage for the co-addictive disease to draw us in. With all our focus on the destructive behavior of the addict we fall into the trap of believing that we must convince the addict to see our side before the situation will improve. 

However, co-addiction recovery programs, as well as my own experience, are very clear on this. If we are waiting for the other side to change before improving our situation then we have given away ownership of our own wellbeing, and the only to regain ownership of our wellbeing at this point is to admit our own part in the situation. We are in an abusive relationship, and we are afraid to leave. We have become dependent upon the abuser. In many situations this is not our own fault. We may even have been born into the situation, but at some point it becomes our responsibility to take ownership of our happiness, whether the abuser agrees with us or not. 

Many of us have spent much time arguing with those caught in the disease, and trying to convince them that they are hurting themselves and others. It is through this argument though that we turn our power over to the disease. The disease, at it’s core, seeks only to spread itself, and is separate from logical argument. It feeds off our engagement with it and our dependence on it, so our need to win it over to our reality is one of it’s food sources, and the further invested we are in the argument the more control it has. Also, through its bullying tactics, when we engage, the disease attempts to undermine our reality and convince us that the abuse is normal, deserved, our own fault, or that it’s not really happening. Our attention unknowingly becomes focused on gathering evidence strong enough to convince the abuser, and ourselves, that we are right. This becomes a distraction that is clear to outsiders. It’s a distraction from the more important, yet difficult, questions.

These questions only become important though once we have decided one thing, that we are powerless over the disease and that, in fighting it, we have lost our own ability to own our peace. 

 Once we have come to this point the difficult questions that we didn’t want to consider begin to surface, “How can we do this on our own? How can we provide peace and safety for ourselves and our loved ones whether the abuser follows or not? What actions must we take so that our peace and wellbeing are no longer dependent on the actions of those in the disease?”

Thank you for following me in my journey to regain control of my personal peace and wellbeing in difficult times. Subscribe or check back in as I continue this series on Co-addiction and Responding to Our times. 

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Co-addiction And Responding To Our Times #1

I’m starting a series of blog posts discussing my perspectives on finding peace and power while faced with my responses to the new governmental administration and other environmental and humanitarian issues. I have found it difficult, as I know others have, to find appropriate external, and internal, responses to actions which I see as destructive by the government, corporations, and fellow citizens. I have also felt pain, sadness,and helplessness regarding my personal inability to maintain control of my inner peace while faced with my responses to these events. 

My posts here are largely informed by my personal experiences in recovering from family addiction. This post, and following posts, are partially autobiographical and I lean on these experiences as mirrors to current challenges. I have also come to use the “disease model” of addiction and dysfunction to explain and respond to many of the circumstances that arise. 

I would like to mention that my angst existed prior to current events, but this is where I’ll start:

Before the election I found myself posting daily about the danger of a Trump administration and dedicating much of my emotional energy toward preventing its possible occurrence. Hearing support for him or seeing his campaign signs increased my heart rate and put me in a state of anger. He was a blatant personification of greed, self-centeredness, and exploitation of all that I saw as important. I found it incomprehensible how so many could have support for such a selfish destruction that I felt was so blatant. I was angry at him for being such a selfish and insensitive fool, and I was angry at his followers for standing behind him in such a blind and selfish way. It was eating at me constantly, and the day after the election it peaked. I was devestated and wanted to run around and shake people for being such idiots, as I saw them. I was split in two, half carried away with thoughts of vengeance and revenge, while the other part of me wanted to collapse and cry under the weight of powerlessness.

It was at this point I had a realization. It wasn’t an intellectual realization, but a gut level realization that I was in a place where I had been before. Many of my newer friends may not know this about me, but I grew up in a household of addiction. Both my father and my mother were alcoholics who blacked out at the dinner table almost each and every night. My father showed up stumbling drunk to our school functions, or my mom would disappear in the evenings to be found passed out on the front lawn. The fear was almost constant of what may go wrong. Nearly every day of my life I spent attempting to control the situation. There were times I yelled and screamed at them in attempt to shake them out of their insanity. I would push them and yell as they insisted on going down to the neighbors house, drunk, to resolve a dispute. I would pour out their bottles, write notes, hide their keys, or make suggestions that they don’t drink that night. For  nearly 15 years, every night, I held hope that tonight would be different, that if I just said the right thing, that if I played the cards just right, they wouldn’t drink.

The reason I share these things is to draw the parallel between growing up in an addictive home and living in a society which is at odds with what one feels is personally acceptable. One’s life can become consumed by responding to the seemingly unacceptable situations. 

What I didn’t realize though is that I was not dealing with a rational situation. I was dealing with a disease. I would also learn, years later, that through my engagement with it, I too had caught this disease. It turns out that the disease of alcoholism also has a mirror disease which effects those closest to the addict. Just as an addict’s life is largely consumed by his or her addiction, a co-addict’s life becomes nearly fully consumed by attempts to control the disease and consequences of addiction in another. The co-addict’s responses and behaviors actually become part of the problem and perpetuate the disease. So too can our own responses to the dysfunctional forces of our society perpetuate the dysfunction. As is stated in co-addiction recovery groups, the best thing we can do for the addict in our life is to focus on our own recovery. 

The day after the election I found myself at a bottom of powerlessness that felt nearly identical to what I felt in those moments before seeking help for family addiction.

In my family addiction situation, much like societal situations, one of the most difficult parts was that their actions were not only affecting me but were harming someone I cared about very deeply. My parents had recently adopted my young cousin who’s mom had recently died. This young person, who I saw as a little brother, after a very difficult life, was telling me stories that were beyond that which even I had experienced in the house. I was devastated and infuriated. My young and grieving brother was all alone while in a house with two adults. My dad, passed out at the table after shooting up pain pills, my mom equally as inebriated, and my cousin made to clean up the mess each morning. The injustice was intolerable. 

I responded just like many of us are compelled to respond toward the injustices against our environment and the vulnerable among us. I sought to use anything in my power to fix the situation. I told them how selfish they were. I held my love for ransom and said that I no longer viewed them as my parents. I even, myself being only 18, researched how I could take custody of my young cousin. I also stoked my anger constantly, for this was necessary to maintain the fight. 

It was also, luckily, at this time, that I sought help. I went to a support group that I thought would help me change the behaviors of the alcoholics. This, in fact, was not what I found. What I learned was that my responses were not only compromising any hopes for personal peace, but were actually working against resolution of the problem. I also came to see clearly that I was dealing with a disease, a disease which I co-created when I engaged with it, and the solution was not in fighting it, but addressing the disease which now lived in me. This became one of the largest gifts I ever could have received. 

Please subscribe or revisit my blog over the following months if you would like to hear more. I plan to regularly post about the tools and experiences I found over five years of recovering from family addiction and speak on, how I believe, they can be used to find peace and power in our current times. 

Matt Hunter

The Choice

I’m voting for Hillary this election. Yes, I would rather have Jill Stein. Yes, I would rather have Bernie Sanders. Yes, the system is broken, neither candidate supports the people, the government protects corporations, and we use war as a lever for capitalistic dominance.  These are all true, and I don’t think Hillary is going to change any of them. I don’t think any leader will change these things, not right now. I believe that, for better or for worse, the entirety of this responsibility has fallen to us. Another thing I believe is that our main tools for creating change at this point are unarmed protest, civil disobedience, sabotage of destructive corporate projects, and independent/social media. We have to act with our hearts so honorably and peacefully that the paid guards of industry refuse to shoot us, the jurors refuse to convict us, and the judges refuse to sentence us. We can’t fight our own policing forces, their weapons are too strong.

Reporters for pipeline protests are already being charged with acts of conspiracy against the state. Semi-trucks with digital phone interceptors and internet/cell phone data jammers are being parked outside reservations and protest areas to block organizing/publicizing. We’re at a point where policy and law does not protect the environment and future generations, but the corporations who’s actions will destroy us. Furthermore, we do not have the power to change these policies through the avenues legally provided us. We must force them, not with violence, but by leveraging every bit of power we have in a peaceful manner.

Policy will not be shifted from within, by any president, to the extent necessary.  How do I think each candidate would respond to the organizing which is necessary? I think Hillary, acknowledging that global warming is a major problem, would try to maintain the image of cooperation. Our militarized police forces, national guard, and private security companies that stand off with protesters would be encouraged to use non-lethal force and show restraint. Liberal supreme court justices would be chosen for office who understand civil rights issues and environmental concerns. Quite simply, we will be shown at least some level of civility.

How will a Trump administration react? First, Trump does not require the support of liberal minded citizens. His base is joined together on the notions of law and order, support of corporate enterprise, and protection from terrorists and traitors. Trump believes global warming is a hoax and says that the environment is good and all, but we can’t stifle business. We’ve also seen how he deals with protesters at his earlier rallies. I believe that Trump, from day one, would begin further investigating and isolating groups and people that are organizing against the civil rights and environmental injustices of government and industry. I believe he would begin, wholeheartedly, creating a dialog and culture of domestic witch-hunting. He would continue to spin the story of protest into a story of riot and disobedience. Protesters would be made examples of, state of emergencies would be declared as a matter of course, and heavy-handed and lethal force would be used.

Politicians side with corporations for personal gain. Neither candidate is outside of this influence. Trump, however will do it with a passion and maniacal fervor that only he could pull off.

Here’s my recommendation. Take 15 minutes out of your day and go vote for Hillary. As soon as you leave the booth go donate $100 to Bernie sanders, the Green Party, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, or any other cause. Join an action group. Find people that are creating the change you want to see and join them. Spend the next four years advocating for a third party. Let’s vote today and dive head first into the revolution tomorrow.

Native Protests and Repatriation of the Land

Protests such as these will not directly stop the installation of destructive infrastructure such as the Dakota Access pipeline, though the courageous and honorable actions of these protesting tribes is the most valuable statement I could imagine. Our destructive practices have hundreds of years of inertia spawning from a culture of unrestrained consumption and unapologetic destruction of any group in its way. The fangs and claws of this culture, through the will and guns of US founders, reached bloodily from it’s body in Great Britain, across an ocean, and into the flesh of this land and it’s native people.

This first injustice was a grand one, and in the unconscious of the nation will continue to live on as a blind hubris in our actions. This hubris displays itself as a haughty declaration of our right to ownership of anything within our reach.
The protest of the natives of this land is characterized by long suffering, deep loss an unbelievable strength of heart, and dedication to the land. They have continued, through broken treaty after broken treaty, fighting to preserve their multi-thousand year old cultures through lost battles, endless fights for redemptive policy, and protest.

The hundreds of tribes which existed on this land, before their slaughter, had highly developed and nuanced governing processes, conflict resolution abilities, land management practices, and developed crops. Some of this culture, despite US efforts, is still preserved within the existing members of native communities.

In November of 1969 an alliance known as Indians of All Tribes seized and occupied what is now known as Alcatraz Island for a period of 18 months. This alliance was initialized by Native American students and community members living on the West Coast. They built a thriving village on the island that drew Native American pilgrimages from around the nation.

With humor, but also sincerity, the alliance proclaimed that, “We, the Native Americans, reclaim the land known as Alcatraz island in the name of all American Indians by right of discovery. We wish to be fair and honorable in our dealings with the Caucasian inhabitants of this land and hereby offer the following treaty, ‘We will purchase said Alcatraz island for $24 in glass beads and red cloth, a precedent set by the white man’s purchase of a similar island about 300 years ago. We will give to the inhabitants of this island a portion of the land for their own, to be held in trust by the American Indian’s government and the Bureau of Caucasian Affairs to hold in perpetuity for as long as the sun shall rise and the rivers go down to the sea. We will further guide the inhabitants in the proper way of living. We will offer them our religion, our education, and our life ways in order to help them achieve our level of civilization to raise them and all their white brothers up from their savage and unhappy state. Further, it would be fitting and symbolic that ships from all over the world, entering the golden gate, would first see Indian land and be reminded of the true history of this nation. This tiny Island would be a symbol of the great lands once ruled by the nobel Indians.”

Despite the undertone of satire, this group made actual demands for the use of this island. They called for five institutions to be established on the land: a center for Native American studies, an American Indian Spiritual Center, an Indian Center of Ecology (to do scientific research on the reversal of pollution of water and air), a great Indian training school, and a memorial as a reminder that the prison had been established initially to incarcerate and execute California Indian resisters to US assault on their nations.
All indigenous residents, by the Nixon administration, were forced to evacuate the island in June of 1971.
Their request was declined, but their vision was not.

Beginning in 1971, the Sioux Indians began occupying the Black Hills, the current location of Mount Rushmore. Their demand was the return of the Black Hills to the natives. After 10 years of protest and occupation , in 1980, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Black Hills had been taken illegally and that remuneration equal to the original offering price plus interest, nearly 106 six million dollars, be paid. The Sioux refused the reward and demanded the return of the Black Hills. The money remained in an interest bearing account, and by 2010 totalled over 750 million dollars.
The Sioux Nation is noted to be one of the most difficult places to live in the United States. Males, on average, live to just 48 years old, females to 52. Despite their suffering they will not be bought.

Thought has been put into what the de-colonization and repatriatization of the land to the Natives would look like. It would come as the natural progression of a genuine apology. It would start out by admitting that we were deeply wrong and be followed up by the heartfelt question of what we can do to make it right. We would then make ourselves of service to their requests to the best of our ability. To this end I would consider myself a patriot, until then I will likely be a critic of US culture, patriotism, and it’s persistent self-destruction.

The day before the boulder

There’s one tired house in an old ghost town just North of Expiry Utah. Nobody bothered boarding up the windows of the old post office or taking down the “open” sign on the Hodgkins diner. They all just decided to up and leave the day the boulder broke loose from Mount’s Peak. It now sits on the edge of it’s millennial throne awaiting the day to plunge, and at half the size of the mountainside there’s no question where it goes.

In a place like this, with a danger like that the crows should own the sound, but every night, at a half past six, the banjo sings out loud. An old woman dances and the old man plays till the fire burns to the ground, and the sound of freedom spills out thick from every crack in the clouds.

You’d think the fear of tomorrow gone would overcast the Spring, but the sound of the birds and the smell of the rain do not seem to agree, and the clumsy thoughts of the big grey rock always seems the same, that the feel of the ground and the seed put down are the matters of today.

Black Medic – Nitrogen Fixer, Pollinator Attractor, Herbal Tea

I want to highlight a plant that I don’t hear a lot of people talking about – Black Medic (aka Medicago lupulina). Black Medic is a Florida native that is a nitrogen fixer, pollinator attractor, and medicinal plant. All of these pictures were taken in my front yard this morning (in Central Florida), and demonstrate just how dominant, beautiful, and beneficial this plant can be. As you can see from this first picture, Black Medic seeds prolifically and will grow into thick stands in the spring.

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It’s also a pollinator attractor, not to mention beautiful.
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The third and fourth pictures are from a plant I pulled out of the ground. You can see the nodules on these roots, which are the homes of bacteria living symbiotically within the plant’s flesh. These bacteria, in exchange for plant sugars, provide the plant with ammonia based nitrates they convert from atmospheric nitrogen, which plants are unable to use. Black Medic is one of a select number of plants referred to as “nitrogen fixers” which, with the help of these bacteria, are able to convert and use their own nitrogen, one of the most essential of plant nutrients. This ability allows them to live in nutrient deficient soils and provide for nearly all of their needs literally out of thin air. Carbon, also taken in from the atmosphere, along with this converted nitrogen, largely make up the biomass of the plant. Once the plant dies its accumulated biomass is then returned to the soil for other organisms and plants to use. This is one of the major sources through which soil is built over time.

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Black Medic is also used by herbalists as a tea or infusion for it’s calming effect. Shoot, it relaxes me just knowing that it exists. And it’s flowering right now! so go see where it is growing around your yard and collect some seeds!

Beneficial insects – aphids, parasitic wasps, and fungus

I was lucky enough to go out in my garden this morning and capture this amazing picture. The untrained eye may not realize it, but there is a LOT going on here, and it is an excellent demonstration of beneficial/predatory pest relationships. IMGA0901 If you look closely you will see aphids in three different forms here. The first aphid (small translucent green) is a living and thriving aphid who is being farmed by an ant. Aphids eat plant sugars by penetrating the protective surface of the plant and releasing the food. The ant, that you see, has a mutually beneficial relationship with the aphid. The ants corral the aphids, try to protect them from predators, and even bring their eggs down into their mounts to protect them during the cold season, bringing them back up when the weather is again suitable. In return for their labor, the ants get the pleasure of “milking” the aphids. They jostle the little creatures while they are sucking the plant sugars and cause them to spill their spoils. The ants then harvest the plant sugars for themselves and their friends.

The next aphid you will see in the picture is a parasitized aphid. This aphid has a large, brown body, and is actually dead. A parasitic wasp has laid an egg inside of him, allowing his body to be used as food for the developing pupae. In this next picture you will see that some of the brown bodies have holes in the rear and some do not. The holes are where the wasps have hatched. IMGA0906 The third aphid you see, in the first picture, is covered in a blueish green fuzz. This is a beneficial (to us), parasitic fungus which infects and feeds on living aphids As you can see, from this broader picture, the plant (Okinawa spinach) was covered in aphids, but upon closer examination it can be seen that over 90% of them are parasitized or killed by beneficial fungus. IMGA0907 Sometimes, when I have harmful insect infestations, I use organic sprays or manual labor to remove the pest, but it is important to only do this when it is necessary for the life of the plant. The reason for this is because predatory/beneficial insects need these pests to maintain their populations in your ecosystem. This is just one small example of how allowing natural ecosystems to evolve and develop in our food producing ecosystems can solve many of our problems.