Parents aren’t perfect. But sometimes our imperfections, shortcomings and downright irresponsibility, especially in the form of addiction, inspire our children to do better.
In a documentary on the life of the late, great actor Marlon Brando (titled “Listen to Me Marlon”), he described his father as a terrifying batterer and abuser and his mother as the town drunk. Though brought up in a miserable environment, Brando found that acting seemed like the only thing he could do. One of his most memorable lines, “I coulda been a contender,” serves to portray a sense of personal failure. Happily, the failure was that of the character in the movie, not his own, for he went on to a terrific acting career all the way to winning Academy Awards.
Internationally renowned self-development author and speaker Dr. Wayne Dyer could easily have followed in his father’s footsteps. Dyer’s mother was 22 when his father left him and his two brothers, making it impossible for their mother to keep them. Dyer hated his father because they were all placed in foster homes. Dyer later found out his father had died from cirrhosis of the liver from alcoholism.
But an interesting thing happened to Dyer when he was finally able to release his anger toward his father. Shortly thereafter, he wrote his first book, Erroneous Zones, and became a best-selling author. He also stopped drinking and enjoyed other vast improvements, such as attracting the right people in his life.
Many successful people, it turns out, are the children of addicted parents. Of course, it could be because addiction is such a common issue. But I’d like to think the negativity brought on by addiction shows children of addicts what a mess it creates, and helps them develop the muscles to avoid repeating history.
On his daily television show, Dr. Phillip McGraw, famous American psychologist, often refers to having had a father who was a raging alcoholic. His negative experiences with his father might have pushed him into a whirlwind of despair and even alcoholism or other addiction. Instead, Dr. Phil says he never drank and still doesn’t drink. He recognized his father’s example and headed for some very high hills.
Self-help guru Anthony Robbins took his dysfunctional, abusive upbringing and suffered many setbacks because of it, until he decided to pick himself up, dust himself off, and resolve to use a huge emotional and physical “monkey wrench” to rid himself of obesity, addiction, and financial irresponsibility.
When I first saw his wee-hours infomercial, he exuded such enthusiasm that I bought his tapes (back then they were VHS), listened to them over and over usually while driving, and found myself becoming more empowered, self-confident, and ambitious. Robbins’ incredible energy came through in his voice that held nothing back. He persevered when it came to teaching others to really observe---not merely look---at their lives and behavior.
Much like Dyer, as Robbins garnered followers, his voice made an even greater impact that led to his teaching tours attended by throngs of people who woke up and smelled the coffee, some for the first time in their lives. Robbins and Dyer gave their audiences tools for self-improvement, and the enthusiasm to create lives worth living.
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