What are men really providing for and protecting from?
Suppose you gained everything in the world and lost your soul. Was it worth it?– Billy Graham
I had my suicide all planned out.
At 50 years old I reached that mid-life point where a man reflects on his life and his accomplishments and I didn’t like what I saw one bit. I realized that all the things I thought were so important meant nothing to me and that I had failed miserably at the things that were; like being a good father and husband.
I was ready to add my name to the long list of suicides among mid-life men in America.
Luckily, I decided to listen to a wise man who told me that my purpose for being here is to share my struggles and failures with the world so others may benefit and possibly wake up so…here I am, for what it’s worth to you.
Working as a recovery life coach is very rewarding and heartbreaking at the same time. When I look into a parent’s eyes and see the emptiness from having lost a child to addiction, I can’t begin to imagine their level of pain. Having been through countless close calls myself and with my own children I can only identify with the fear that it may one day, be my pain too.
It’s much too often these days that another story pops up in my news feed of an honest, hardworking, “successful” parent who is left wondering how it could happen to their child after they followed all the rules. It’s usually only the very prominent who make the media but for them and the thousands of others, the story is usually the same. They saw the signs and they tried everything they knew but, eventually felt helpless to save their child.
Recently, I read an article about a very high ranking military man who lost his son to addiction. He spoke about all the power he had in his position but when it came to helping his son he had none. The article went on to describe the huge sums of money he spent on professionals and treatments and the difficulty he had navigating through the system despite his power. This good man immediately took action and used his power to improve that system in hopes that others wouldn’t have to experience the same pain and feelings of helplessness.
As a men’s coach, I’m always looking for the part in the story where a man expresses his own internal struggles around his role as a father and what it may have played in his child’s addiction. Unfortunately, that didn’t make the news. That’s not to say that he didn’t have any as I believe every man does in these tragic situations. Those just aren’t the stories that make headlines in a culture addicted to sensationalism.
Addiction is much more than a societal problem. It is a cultural problem, which is to say that it stems from a set of learned behaviors and beliefs about what it means to be truly successful in life. Despite the huge advances we’ve made in education, treatment, and punishment our kids continue to die from substance abuse and addiction at rates that are the highest in history. Perhaps it’s time to shift our focus inward and see how the virtues conditioned in us from an early age align with the infinite wisdom we were born with.
Improving a system to support a dysfunctional ideology can only improve the efficiency of its dysfunction.
We can lock up every last dope dealer and build a treatment center on every corner and addiction will continue to thrive in a culture that nurtures it.
As men, we are hardwired to protect and provide for our families. In a country that leads the world in overdose deaths by a huge margin, I can’t help but wonder if we’ve lost sight of what we’re supposed to be providing for our families and protecting them from.
Ever since men began working outside the home some 300 years ago we’ve continued down a rabbit hole so deep that we’ve lost sight of what our family’s needs actually are. We delegated our parenting duties to an education system that serves the masses and stunts the individual spirit and creativity of our children. We’ve reduced the institution of marriage to something that resembles a fun house at the amusement park. Then when the marriages fall apart (surprise, surprise) we have policies we [men] created that inhibit our abilities to be effective fathers to our children.
Absent dads are being held responsible for the lion’s share of society’s ills and it’s not just the so called “deadbeat dads” who they’re referring to. In fact, if you’re following the blueprint of success laid out to most men in western culture, it’s likely that you see your kids about as often as the deadbeats do. The irony of a culture that leads the world in wealth and trails in happiness and well being doesn’t seem to slow us down long enough to question where our pursuit of happiness has taken us.
So, what is a man to do?
Recently, there seems to be progress being made in raising our consciousness as men. I believe we’re finally reaching that tipping point where we either wake up or die like the dinosaurs and many are responding.
I also think the timing is perfect. Technology has allowed more men to work from home and be with their children, giving them the opportunity to reclaim a type of fatherhood that worked for thousands of years before the industrial era kicked in.
When we look through history we see the son at his father’s side through most of it. It wasn’t until very recently in civilization that this changed. It’s no coincidence that this is the same exact time men began to lose their way and our society began its descent down the happiness scale. When I visit “undeveloped” countries the connection between a present father and overall well being of its culture is hard to ignore.
I honor and appreciate the loyal warrior I mentioned earlier in this article. I believe fully, that he followed the values and blueprint of our culture with a discipline very few have. I can’t help but wonder, though, if someone told him as a young man that his son would die in a different war if he might have chosen to serve in that one instead.
Perhaps it’s time for the peaceful warrior to return to the war room and rethink who our enemies really are. He may decide that an old strategy worked much better than the one he’s using today.
Greg Boudle is a men’s recovery coach, published author, and speaker. To find out more about Greg and his mission, visit lifebeyondclean.com