I’m glad I asked! What about taking out names and posting this on your blog?! I think this is eye-opening on many different levels, not just yours. This got me thinking about family dynamics a lot.
Thanks for the in-depth info and analysis. I wonder if you couldn’t start compiling all your writings and craft them into the start of a book. My bet, a lot of the info is all ready there. Does any of your family follow your blog?
Thanks for the opening. Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a razor across my bald head. Just got done cleaning the kitchen. Had some fish the other day and could not stand the residual smell of Cod. Now I’ll try to address your inquiries as best as possible. The fast answer is a current relationship with my family is strained at best.
None of them are listed as “followers” of my blog. I’m pretty sure N reads them from time to time. M has read one and expressed he dug it. As for the rest, well, my hunch is they don’t really think anything I have to say has any validity.
I sent all of them updates for over a year…with nary a response. Part of the motive for doing so was to get their affirmation. That’s never a good motive to do anything…so I stopped doing it about a month ago.
The real eye opener was when a bro hit town and they went to the cabin without telling me about it. Though we had planned on going together, no one called to suggest I sit that one out. Even though I would not have gone anyway, that one stung a bit. My sponsor Bill said; “What do you need to get it Tim? A neon sign from the Lord in your living room?” What a guy. He’s a good sponsor and helped to snap me out my denial regarding the current familial paradigm & dynamic.
Another thing that was unhealthy was when I’d share a video, a writing, a gig, a notice that I’d be playing at the Vineyard or whatever…and never getting a response–let alone any of them showing up to share the joy–well, that really hurt. My boys and ex responded and that was cool, but I was the one repeatedly setting myself up for disappointment. No more bro. I’m not into S&M and don’t need the hurt or their affirmations.
The question about them choosing not to embrace me or anything I’m doing is a bit more complex. Yes, the sobriety piece has a lot to do with it…at least on a subconscious level. Hockey players don’t hang out with chess players…even in the same family. Part of it too is an unwillingness on their part to invest in me on an emotional level as the result of my chronic relapsing. Can’t say I blame them on that level. It took one of my sons 18 months to invite me over after being released from prison. Remember M, I’m the only one in our family to end up in prison–twice. That was very hard on all of them. I wasn’t the only one doing a prison sentence. That being said, in one month and five days, by the grace of God and trying to practice those 12 principles in all my affairs, I’ll have three years of unbroken sobriety. I have to move on. Whether they do or not is really on them. That’s just the way it is.
Regarding one of my nephews…well, he looked up to me at one time. After his Dad died, I went into a tailspin in and out of recovery. His mom rolled with me for a season, but got sick of the drama. I was not available to be at any of his baseball games, (despite promising to do so) because I was to busy being an asshole and feeding the beast. I can’t and won’t speak for the rest of my siblings as I’m not privy to their relationships…or lack thereof with my nephews. All I know is that I blew it and can only count on time & grace healing old wounds. The best thing I can do to engender healing is to remain clean & sober and trust God’s grace to fix that which I cannot.
To think I’m “getting the blame” for all the dysfunction in our family is an over-statement and not very accurate. There’s enough dysfunction in our tribe to go around and I certainly don’t have the corner-market on it. Know that I’m no innocent victim in all this M. There is no conspiracy to get Timmy. When one lives a big chunk of their life like a rabid animal…the rabies tend to get spread around. The very people we love the most, get hurt the most. It’s understandable that many of them are just waiting for the “next call“. You know, the one from the local constable, State Po-Po or the Oakland County Morgue asking them to come and identify the body of some crazy Irish stiff laying on a slab, eyes wide open with an expression that says; “What the hell happened this time?“
There’s a saying about the effects of untreated alcoholism on a family. “No one gets out alive“. That’s one of those program cliché’s with deadly accuracy. For reasons not quite understood, I’m still alive and rockin’ in the free world. That’s not stated as any kind of prideful boast because I’m alive in spite of some rather herculean efforts at self-annihilation. That I now live in a cozy apartment on the corner of Redemption and Hope can only be an attribute and testimony to God’s grace. Period.
EVERYBODY IS STILL HURTING
Here’s as simple as it can be explained M. My Dad was a classic alcoholic. One of the things we learned from him was how to scapegoat. Scapegoating is a futile effort to divert and displace personal responsibility for one’s own character defects by focusing on the defects of someone else. Mom & Dad (well into their respective recoveries) often had a propensity to talk about the family member who was not in the room. There were times (I’m ashamed to admit), of co-signing that bullshit so they would like me. I’d do almost anything to avoid being in the family dog-house. Other times I stood against it…paying the price of temporarily being ostracized. To this day, some family members engage in that dynamic with fervor. Today, I find it incongruent with my recovery as it does not reflect God’s grace. If there is something to say…right or wrong…I say it. That can be threatening to the more passive-aggressive members of my family–even though it’s never intended to be that way. On the one hand, some may secretly respect that. On the other hand, the reaction can be; “Who in the hell does that junkie felon think he is saying that kind of shit?” I get that. Really. In our family, it’s helped to look at everything through the healthy/sick prism. In other words, when confronting a situation, it’s good to ask; “Is this healthy? Or is this sick?” From my perspective, 95% of the relational break-down in my family is the direct result of untreated alcoholism & addiction running amok through our tribe.
In all fairness…and to keep things in perspective, I’ve contributed more than my fair share to the madness over the years. I’d repeatedly blow it, relapse, take a major dive…then by grace, rally to crawl out of the wreckage–only to crash again. My siblings (understandably) got sick of it. Kelly got real sick of it so she divorced my ass. The State got more sick of it than she did, so they locked me up…twice. That’s the record. That’s the empirical data. No one else in our family has a FBI or State number for life. That’s what I did and that’s on me. Today is a new dawn. I no longer choose to live that way. Using is no longer an option. That the majority of my family would be slow to embrace the truth of that for me…is quite understandable. I love my brothers. How could anyone not love a bunch of psychos like this?
Listen up. My bros are the best. No man deserves a posse’ like this who have your back. As it stands right now, I view a relationship with them as a fairly toxic and unhealthy thing. That’s not on them or stated in any way, shape or form to suggest that I’m better than any of them. We’re just in different places…places that are irreconcilable. I’ve beat my head dozens of times trying to force a reconciliation. Today, I realize that’s just not gonna’ happen. Besides, if something is forced…what good is it? A pastor with more wisdom than I once shared;
“Forgiveness is mandatory. Reconciliation is always iffy because it involves other people“
Let me share something with you brother M. For all our faults, character defects and dysfunction, I’d not trade my family tribe for any other on the planet. I really mean it. Being estranged from them is no picnic. As it stands right now, it’s a no-win situation. Here’s a recent example:
Some Nigerian crackhead high-jacked my Yahoo account a couple of months back, sending an email out in my name to everyone on my contact list. In it, this scum claimed he was me and that I’d been burned out of my hotel in Paris and pleaded to send money. Out of 364 contacts, only two went for it. Anyone who has been at the receiving end of one of my junkie hustles as well as a vast current network of friends and road-dogs all knew it was bullshit–except two of my brothers. For one thing…being on parole meant I could not go to Canada, let alone Paris. For another, that’s just never been my style. When on a run searching for an angry fix, a “take no prisoners” siege mentality takes root. There’s no time to finesse’ someone out of any money with lame-ass emails. But two of my brothers thought it to be a quite plausible scenario.
I think that’s funny as hell…as well as pretty sad. But that’s the way it is. I just have to accept it.
Now here’s another piece. Over the years…actually decades, there were times that I was the family “hero“. I can’t tell you the number of times being called by family members to intervene, or to put someone in treatment, or write a letter, or to help mediate something, or to confront something that nobody else wanted to. When I first flew back from San Francisco in 1979 to start working at the city of Detroit, some of my siblings told me; “You have to speak with Mom & Dad…they’ve gone crazy with this Jesus stuff!” So that’s what I did. Having spent the flight mainlining cocaine in the Jet’s John, I was up for the job. The sick thing is that Mom & Dad listened to me while flying out of my mind on cocaine…or at least feigned listening. With seven Hurley kids, they got pretty good at that. After hiring into the City, I crashed and burned within two years and wound up in Brighton Hospital. After being discharged, I ran at recovery with everything in me. Being the first of my sibs in recovery, they didn’t quite know what to make of it. Then doors started opening. As the new Director of Detroit’s DWSD Employee Assistance Program, I took on the role as the family hero. The Bad Seed grown up on The Street Called Straight. I did everything (looking back) to feed the Paradigm of Pedestal and dug it. My family was genuinely happy that their brother was no longer beating his head against a parking meter. I played the roll of a counselor and took every call and request from them with relish. Did I sometimes cross some boundaries? Of course. Did I sometimes respond in ways they did not approve of? Absolutely. Was there a motive at times to garner the approval of my parents and sibling? Guilty. That being said, I was good at what I did… enough to make a living at it…and for the most part, was always motivated by having their best interests at heart.
That one of my brothers (for instance) now chooses today to forget all those times and focus instead on me taking a shit on his back deck while being a drunk idiot is on him. The other weird thing involving a nephew is harder to swallow. I spent more time trying to help this guy than all my brothers combined. No boast…just fact. It was and honor and a privilege. When I miss him now, there’s not one scintillate of regret or shame. I gave that kid everything I had. No one else in the family can say that.
Finally, it’s my opinion that the majority of my family choose to place blame and focus on everything else but the disease of un-treated alcoholism/addiction and its ravaging effects on our tribe.
I will not and cannot play that game because my life is on the line. When I start waltzing with denial, trouble is right around the corner. I really don’t care if that pisses off my siblings. We are in a war. We’ve already lost two. Who’s next? If something drastic doesn’t change, the body count will grow even higher.
Fact: Most of my sibs, kids nephews & nieces continue to play chemical roulette with four chambers loaded.
Myth: “As long as I’m not as fucked up as Timmy, I’m OK“
I hope this provides you with a clearer picture of what’s been going on for a long time. It would be the height of denial to think this set of holidays would be like those warm memories we had in Troy with Mom & Dad. Thankfully, I’ve already received multiple invites from folks who want to share their homes, hearts, food and the love of God throughout the holidays. That’s where I’ll be this year. Things are still raw. I’m not up to dealing with unwarranted emotional blow-back. Though it may “feel” like it at times, it’s really nothing personal
Less than 23 months ago, I was locked in a dog cage eating Alpo grade swill. It was some straight up dog shit.
Today I don’t have to eat any physically or emotionally unhealthy Alpo. Had someone told me life would be this rich today, I’d have said; “Yeah right…pass the bong“. By grace and grace alone (because I sure as hell don’t deserve it) life is good today. Doors are opening at a pace that’s hard to keep up with. Just last Wednesday, I was interviewed on film at U of M for a Prison Creative Arts Program thingy…I can’t even remember what it’s for. It doesn’t matter. All I know is that it’s a good thang. Music is exploding with more opportunities to play than ever imagined. In prison, we were allowed to play these horribly shitty, $79.00 guitars with action set so high it felt like rubbing your fingers across speaker wire. Today I get to play a $3,000.00 Taylor any time the mood strikes. Playing a guitar is so much fun now. Half the time, I don’t even need chord sheets…opting instead to just feel it…like the gig at the Scarab Club. I wrote that little riff dude! At least Joey would have appreciated the ginormity of a First Riff.
Back in the day, Joe, Fandog, Skin & I would be all over this shizz as brothers-in-arms. Back in the day, my bros would have been at this gig rooting the loudest. Back in the day, we’d have gone down to the Golden Fleece in Greektown for a celebratory dinner. It grieves my spirit that we aren’t rolling in the deep like that today…but it’s no longer going to hold up the trajectory of what God wants to do with a wretch like moi’.
So…thanks for caring and taking the time to ask what the current State of the Nation is at Hurlco. Thanks for trying to mediate a reconciliation the other night with one of my brothers. He’s just not up for the gig right now and that’s pretty sad…for him. My hands are not clean in the mess, but I’ve moved on. Today it’s much better living in the solution rather than setting up camp in the problem. Hours have been spent taking inventories and owning my crap. Tears have flowed while crippled by the guilt and shame of my sins. Just recently, my pastor prayed that it was time to trade in ashes for beauty, the spirit of heaviness for a garment of praise. When he prayed for the grace to trade in the shame for God’s delight in this kid…I snapped like a twig. Something was released in a torrent of shameful tears. I’m not quite sure what it was…only that it was good. My family is the shizz. Perhaps one day we’ll be able to get together and get it on and bang another gong of music. Right now, no one calls. That’s their loss. I’m a pretty good guy to call. To be defined by your worse mistakes is not healthy for children and other living things. God has brought a plethora of friends and comrades who don’t feel any need to do that. Of course..heh, heh, I’ve never ganked the majority of them. The other thing happening is a healing of old friendships where I did put the Major Srews on–like the relationship with my old boss at the City of Detroit. That just blows this little Irish mind. Some of my sibs are just not down with the healing tip right now. Some of it’s my fault and some of it is just having an investment in dysfunction with a perceived pay-off. We all played a participatory role in getting where we got. Today, I can accept it may take years for us to come together…or perhaps never being be “fixed”.
Bottom Line? Living up to…or down to the unrealistic expectations of anyone is never a healthy thing. Whether pedestaled as a “Hero” or denigrated as a “Zero”…neither is accurate. I’m just a guy with flaws and talents trying to make it one-day-at-a-time while finally becoming comfortable in his own skin. If others cannot or will not roll with that concept of acceptance, there’s nothing I can do about it except keep moving forward.
There is no pay-off for un-forgiveness other than getting sicker.
I love your heart and passion for family M. I just offered you my perspective. Feel free to ask the rest of my sibs for their input. After all, we are not supposed to be enemies.
P.S. What’s the end of a Hurlco blog without another jam? This baby was recorded live in the Spirit on September 9th at the Renaissance Vineyard church in fashionable Ferndale. Playing with this team is the bomb.