April 28, 2017

Trustworthy people

by Rod Smith

Trust is an individual pursuit. A trusted friend is a great find. The  
journey begins with being trustworthy. Remain aware that some
people cannot be trusted and that there will always be people
whom you will decide not to fully trust. Be appropriately
careful with your trust. This is not living with suspicion but rather living with good boundaries and self-awareness.  

Here are some pointers toward recognizing trustworthiness:

• He can be trusted with information; however, he does not pry

• He is usually as willing to speak about his own life as he is to
hear about your life. (Professional therapy excluded)

• She does not need access to the details of your life and is quite
comfortable if you say that you are not ready to talk about
She is helpful, when you have requested her insight, but resists
She has a diverse, enduring circle of friends.

• She does not abdicate responsibility for her life, even in the

• He displays growing integrity at every level of his life.

• He does not persistently attempt to be “one up” with stories or
jokes or make himself the focus of every conversation. 

• She has developed a good sense of humor about herself.

• She does not offer unsolicited guidance or insight.

• She is highly respectful of people under every circumstance.

• He can track the development in a conversation, respond and
develop themes of thought rather than appear to have his mind
made up. 

April 27, 2017

High Maintenance people

by Rod Smith

High maintenance people require constant attention and approval. They crave to be the center of almost every conversation and will often become symptomatic (moody, resentful, loud, threatening) when they are not. They analyze every move, thought, word and action of others, and then read more meaning into things (statements, looks, sighs, attitudes) than was ever intended. They are easily hurt, quickly offended, quick to rebuke when they do not get the kind of attention they think they deserve. Threats of withdrawal or desertion become a way of life.

High maintenance people are difficult, sometimes impossible, even in the most relaxed of circumstances. They pick fights, find fault, and personalize almost everything. They argue with people who are closest to them for no apparent reason. They often pick on strangers (waiters, helpers). They often live in a world of cut-off relationships where others are idiots and no one understands.

What can you do if you are in a relationship with a high maintenance person? You can do very little that will not hurt, offend, or get a reaction – but you must make a stand. High maintenance people seldom benefit from pity or patience or empathy. They will only benefit from being constantly challenged to grow up.

April 24, 2017

Is a long-term relationship possible?

by Rod Smith

Is it possible to enjoy a long-term and committed relationship with an adult child of an alcoholic? Is it possible to have a committed and long-term intimate relationship if you are an adult child of an alcoholic?

Of course it is possible. Being the son or the daughter of an alcoholic is not a life-sentence of some variety although at some points in a person’s life it may seem like it.

Here are keys to such a relationship and they may be helpful to all relationships:

  • Conflicts are not the end or even the beginning of the end or a sign that things will end.
  • Regard conflict as healthy and a necessary component of love.
  • Healthy people work things out, talk things through, find resolutions to issues, they don’t move on in the face of conflict.
  • Healthy people move towards conflict and not away from it.
  • It’s possible to accommodate (change, adjust) without losing.
  • It is possible for both parties to grow through learning to accommodate.
  • Being loving is more important than being right.
  • Fragile people in fragile circumstances say things to partners who may be equally fragile that are hard to undo – caution and love and patience are essential with people who have grown up in families that endured regular conflict.
April 24, 2017

My observations of Adult Children of Alcoholics

by Rod Smith
  • They (we) tend to mistrust relationships – from casual to intimate.
  • Relationships are about winning or losing, about using or being used.
  • Mistrust trust – they (we) are suspicious of you if you trust them and suspicious of you if you don’t.
  • They (we) are experts in the “double bind” meaning that no matter which option you choose, it is the “wrong” option.
  • They (we) are constantly on duty and have little or no conception of what it means to let go, to relax, and to live with some abandon.
  • They (we) assume there’s always a hidden agenda.
  • They (we) misread authentic innocence and regard it as a cover designed to pull them in.

To succeed in a casual or intimate relationship with an adult child of an alcoholic persistence and patience are essential. They are likely to test the validity of the relationship time and time again. They are going to put roadblocks in the way and will sabotage any meaningful connection to test if it is real.

In the extreme adult children of alcoholics replicate the chaos of their childhoods in order to replicate the discomfort and the mistrust that was their normal.

Please use this column wisely – it is not intended as a means of judging or hurting anyone.

April 23, 2017

Over-mothering

by Rod Smith

I see a lot of over-mothering – mothers who willingly, sometimes compulsively, offer their lives for babies and children. Mothering so overcomes them that there is no room for anyone or anything else.

Themselves included.

And, it’s fully understandable. The much anticipated (or unanticipated) baby arrives and changes everything.

Babies are very powerful. They deliver many a parent into a promised land of new meaning and purpose.

The power, I have often thought, is inversely proportional to their size – the gravitational pull of Earth on a mother, at a time she is so honestly and purely vulnerable. And, of course, if her life is already subject to pain (and who’s life is not?) she is all the more vulnerable to “solving” her incompleteness in the baby.

Sadly, while the baby restores meaning, purpose, and hope, the child was never deigned to BE (to embody) Purpose, Meaning, and Hope (that’s reserved for Another Baby).

As inviting, seductive, and honorable as it may appear, losing our lives for our children serves no one anything worth having, especially, and with glaring irony, the very children whom we love.

Children were never capable of handling worship and they don’t respond to it very well.

I am, I believe, uniquely (but not singularly) positioned to see this. I am not, of course, a mother, but I come pretty close. I have had the joy of the solo adoption of two babies from birth.

I know, I know, before you fire off angry letters, it is not the same.

My first son’s mother approached me to adopt her unborn son, and my second son came to me in an equally unusual manner. Remarkable women, in my book, women who both carefully calculated that their sons would have something from me that neither could see themselves offering.

My sons are now 19 and 14 and have been with me from hour 1 (I was at his birth as the labor coach) and day eight respectively. Being a solo dad in a bi-racial family in the Mid-west of the USA has held more than a few surprises.

At the news I would adopt, people warned me about the dumbest things: nappies (diapers), three-hour feeding routines, and sleepless nights. They warned me about how my life would change as if children are only an inconvenience. I was informed, on more than a few occasions that my sons are black – as if it were something of which I was thoroughly unaware.

But, no one, absolutely no one warned me that the babies would enter my life and take it, yes, take it from me.

No one warned me about the power of love.

No one warned me that I’d rush to protect my sons when protecting them was, in that instance, not in their highest interest.

No one said that if I was not intentional about maintaining a life of my own I’d dissolve into my sons’ lives.

Yes, Over-Mother. I think I do understand. I think I do understand that you love your child more than your own life. That’s clear. It is my impulse, too. I struggle with this day in and day out.

But, if we really want to empower our sons and daughters, we’d better ourselves live and love as fully now as we hope they will fully love and fully live one day. How else will they learn?

April 22, 2017

Monday meditation / Nine simple truths

by Rod Smith

Nine simple truths –

May they be your first thoughts every morning and may they infiltrate your every move and every relationship:

I am….

  • To be respected and treasured and able to respect and treasure all other people.
  • Capable of expressing my opinions and will do so with growing and greater confidence.
  • Uniquely gifted and my gifts are useful to my immediate and broader community.
  • As unique as the proverbial snowflake and yet part of the human family, tainted with its vulnerabilities, failures, and frailties.
  • Capable of forgiving the worst of offenses I have endured, and capable of seeking forgiveness for the worst offenses I have committed.
  • Able to encourage the discouraged and offer hope to the hopeless.
  • Unafraid of the talents of others and able and willing to help others find their greatness.
  • Capable of becoming the most generous person I know.
  • My own best friend so that I may be a friend to others.
April 22, 2017

Cellphone rules 

by Rod Smith

1. Turn the phone off when you are in meetings, at the theater, or while you are paying for your groceries.2. The person present (in front of you) gets your attention over the person absent (at the other end of the phone).

3. Don’t text, read text messages, make or receive calls, play electronic games, when you are in a conversation with someone or having a meal with someone.

4. If you expect an “important call” that will warrant taking a call while you are engaged in another conversation, have the decency to announce your intentions ahead of time.

5. If you must use the phone in a public area, talk quietly.

6. If you happen to call a “wrong number” have the decency to apologize.

7. Turn your phone (and computer) off for the entire weekend — give your family your undivided and un-distracted attention.

April 18, 2017

Gifts for our elderly parents: 

by Rod Smith

Four gifts for our elderly parents when we ourselves are adults: 

• Regular phone calls and frequent visits. Everyone likes to be in the loop with the people we love. If you’re too busy as an adult to make regular contact with your parents, you are too busy. Something about your life probably needs re-assessment.

• Room for your parent to think and to speak and to tell stories you, the adult son or daughter, may well have heard a thousand times. Stories are obviously a powerful link to past and serve to re-ignite the soul. Your parents’ repeated telling of the same stories is providing a valuable service.

• Opportunities to be with your children. While a grandchild is not a commodity to be passed around, he or she is the promise of hope to a grandparent. As much contact as possible should be encouraged. Of course there are exceptions. If your parents are relatively sane and sober (when your child is present) then there is much to be gained from encouraging contact.

• Hearty celebrations of milestones. Ignoring or forgetting a parent’s birthday is the same for some as ignoring the parent. If your parents’ birthdays are something you regularly forget there’s something deeper going on with you that may need your attention.

April 17, 2017

No matter how highly functional or not, here are some family challenges worthy of pursuit:

by Rod Smith

Talk about what you would like to do more as a family and what would we prefer to do less as a family. The list may include monumental challenges that take years to address. The list may include things that can be changed in an instant.

Talk about what you would each like to do more, and less, as individuals in the family. As above, some may be really easy and some may take seemingly forever.

Plan something meaningful and unusual (“off the charts”) that the family agrees to work toward. This may be a trip, a building project, or entering as a family into a race.

Discuss (according to age, ability, and appropriateness) topics that are usually taboo like death, sex, finances, and family secrets. Discuss why they are taboo in the first place. When and why and how did the secret become a secret. Who decides what is and what is not a secret?

Consult a professional who is able to construct a Genogram with your family. Request that it span three generations. This will (potentially) alert family members to troublesome trends and urges that pre-exist within the family system and therefore (potentially) equip members to face them if and when they emerge again. Nothing in families is new!

April 16, 2017

My son leads the pack….

by Rod Smith