What do you say to someone who’s hurting?

What do you say to someone who’s hurting?

In the wake of the tragic wildfires, I am a bundle of mixed emotions. Me and my family were spared from major loss, but thousands of others were not. At last count over 7,000 homes and businesses were destroyed. Over 43 are dead. Many families lost everything.

In many respects, we are all hurting from this.  How do we process our feelings? How do we cope?

I’m not a psychologist nor a counselor and therefore I am not qualified to give any specific advice.

I do however, know that I have to process my own emotions and do what I can to help those who need it.

Here’s what I can offer:

  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Listening

Offering food, clothing, shelter and financial support are also helpful.

Yet even then, I am left with a sense of grief. How would I handle it if I lost everything? I don’t know.

A couple things that have always helped me in past personal crises are writing— journaling about my thoughts, and emotions, talking with others, counseling, and trying to offer help to others.

I was given two opportunities to talk with people in the midst of these devastating fires.

Last Saturday I had a book signing at Barnes and Noble. In some ways, it felt selfish to promote my book, but I quickly realized that I was there for another purpose—to offer encouragement and guidance to those who had family members suffering from drug and alcohol addiction and also to offer encouragement about the fires. I was able to listen to their stories and offer suggestions. Many of them also bought my book. Beyond Recovery: A Journey of Grace, Love, and Forgiveness.

B&N

Two days later on Monday, I was scheduled to do my first live radio interview by phone on KZSB – 1290 AM in Santa Barbara. It was largely unscripted and conversational. Granted, I had a framework for the program including talking about the fires, ways people can help, and, of course, my recovery journey as it related to my book.

The interviewers, Ed Giron and Maria Long were both gracious and kind and asked some really good questions. Ed at one point asked me what advice I would have for those that don’t think they are ready to stop drinking or using drugs and a follow up question about what I would suggest for those who really don’t think they have a problem. I paused before answering.

You see, my experience has been that sometimes we may think we are ready to stop drinking, using, overeating,etc… and may  even go to a meeting or seek counsel, only to return to our old addictive behavior(s). Other times, we feel we still have control and therefore have no need for any solution. If you want to learn more, you can listen to the whole interview here:

In summary, I suggested that for those who don’t think they have a problem with food, drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, etc., —they may not. However, if they are causing an individual pain and affecting their relationships they may want to seek help. In response to Ed’s question about those who think they may have a problem but are not yet ready to change or seek help, I expanded a bit more but, in a nut shell said that the first step is admitting that one has a problem. Then an individual can follow the 12 steps or work with a counselor or another program to find a solution.

The bottom line though, for me and millions of others, is that the solution must come from a power greater than ourselves. We are not God. And no matter how much we think we are in control, ultimately, we are not.

That brings me back to the current state of my emotional and spiritual development. I rely on prayer and meditation to help me stay centered. I have a sense of faith. I call my higher power God. I have witnessed hundreds of miracles in my short lifetime and trust that even in the wake of these horrific fires that most of us will survive. In some respects, we have become closer as a larger community and stronger because of them. That is not to placate, minimize, or sweep away the pain they inflicted.

My heart goes out to all who lost it all. I too have lost so much in my life—jobs, health, brother, family, broken relationships. In the midst of it all, I always found hope.

My prayer for all is that we find the courage to process our emotions and continue to grow in love and kindness for each other. May we become more unified as families, community, country, and world. May we realize that we are truly never alone. That at the end of the tunnel there is always light.

Shell Beach - Pebble Beach Trail Inverness, CA

Shell Beach – Pebble Beach Trail Inverness, CA

Love,

Shawn

Find our more at

www.shawnlangwell.com

Vulnerability takes courage, so does creativity.

Why is it so hard to be ourselves?

Have you ever thought, what if so and so knew that about me, what would they think? What if they knew I was judging them, or didn’t like them?

Letting down our guard is risky. It takes vulnerability. How do we respond when we are in a funk but someone asks us, “How are you?”

“Fine. Doing fantastic. Never Better.” We smile our best smile, hoping they don’t see through our facade.

“How about you?” We may ask, merely out of politeness, really not giving a rip about the other person because deep inside, we’re really not fine. We may be struggling to make ends meet. The car might have just broke down. Or, while rushing to get to work on time, we spilled coffee on our shirt when we slammed on the brakes not seeing the back up in front of us. Then, we do our best not to get more angry, even though we want to scream, ( Sometimes I do – It’s safe in the car with the windows up and the stereo blasting!) as we crawl along the 101, stuck in traffic for an hour and a half  to drive a mere eighteen miles!

To protect ourselves we don masks. Sometimes, they are necessary. After all it’s probably not a good idea to waltz into the office and dump our crappy day on everyone else. Instead, we arrive at the office with a painted Monday morning smile, “We’re fine.”

We pretend to be OK even when we had a lousy day. I get it. If we really aren’t doing fine, we don’t want to bring everyone else down especially if we are having a really shitty day.

Now I am making an assumption that we have all had to put on a happy face from time to time even if we really didn’t want to. But somehow we have to deal with that stuff inside that gnaws at us.

That’s why I am grateful that I have a couple close friends and a community that I can go to when I am walking through some challenges.

My struggles today are gold-plated compared to what they were 30 years ago. Nonetheless, I find it incredibly helpful to talk with others whom I trust to walk through some of the stuff I am going through. Case in point, I am in the midst of putting together my next book  on goal setting. Yet I keep getting stuck. My friend suggested I map it out. How ironic that the book I am writing is about planning and walking through fear, change, and setting goals, and that I have to apply what I am trying to write about BEFORE I can write about it.

So yeah, when I’m going through change and out of my comfort zone, I get cranky. Today is one of those days. It will pass.

As Oscar Wilde said, “Creativity Takes Courage.”

So does vulnerability. For now, I’ll keep on keeping on.

Hope you days are good and filled with joy.

More to come soon.

Shawn