I think most people have some form of addiction or addictive behavior. What do you think? And I am not saying that all addictions or addictive behaviors are bad or harmful. Exercise can be an addictive behavior. Anyway, most addictions might not be as serious as my past behaviors; however, I believe that most of us have behaviors that motivate us to a desire to be rewarded in some way. Now, I am not saying that all additions are wrong or life-threatening. Believe it or not, “Addictive Behavior” is defined as a “behavior, or a stimulus related to a behavior, that is both rewarding and reinforcing”. (look it up on Wikipedia) Remember, in my blog two weeks ago, I confessed that I actually gave up going into Value City one year for Lent. See, I was “addicted” to buying something almost every time I walked into Value City. Now, I ask you, was my addiction to Value City wrong or harmful? However that store was a “stimulus” that motivated me to reward myself in a positive way. But I must also confess and admit that I found myself in a temporary state of “withdrawal” after my local Value City closed its doors. As I reflect on my life at the old age of 72, I also realize that I suffered from other forms of addictions and additive behaviors. The longest addiction was my dependency and desire for alcohol which began when I was a senior in high school. I was a very serious alcoholic for twenty-four years. Now, did my alcohol addiction motivate and reward me? Honestly, my answer would be “YES”, although there were many times when my addiction almost killed me. See, I must admit that my alcohol addiction and addictive behavior actually empowered me during those psychologically deadly years living undercover in drug organizations and organized crime associations. Basically, being drunk all the time undercover actually freed me to take more chances and raise the “risk factor” in investigations that I would normally never have had the courage to enter into. And so, my alcohol addiction was the stimulus that motivated me to go deeper undercover and I was “rewarded” by taking down some very serious organizations and operations that no one else could get into in my unit. Were they potentially life-threatening? “YES”. Were they fun? “YES”. Were they rewarding? For me, personally, “YES” because most of the time, I lived in fear. And so, again I ask you what are YOUR “addictive behaviors”? What motivates you? What stimulates you? It could be your occupation or profession. It could be your spouse, relationship or family. Again, not all addictive behaviors are “bad” for you. However, there are many forms of addictions and addictive behaviors that could cause you to have a negative impact on your life. Food addiction, excessive spending, gambling, sex, pornography, cheating on your spouse, just to list a couple potential harmful addictions. I can still remember the addiction or addictive behavior I had in the seventh grade. No, it was not girls. See, I was too shy to ever talk to a girl. However, my addiction was Playboy Magazines. Remember them??? Every month, I would walk into my local drug store and “pick up” the latest copy of Playboy Magazine. And since I was too young to buy it, I would simply just steel it, put it in my duffle bag and walk out of the store. And believe me, in the seventh grade, I was not interested in the articles. Honestly, what are your addictions and addictive behaviors? Most, if not all of us have a couple things that motivate or stimulate us. And they do not all have to be bad. If you have the courage, come out of the “closet”, write to me and share what motivates you. Basically, we all need to be honest with ourselves and others. Our addictions and addictive behaviors have a lot to do with our personality, identity, self-image and perception of how we see ourselves when we look in the mirror.
Well, this week is Ash Wednesday. However, the Tuesday before is also a special day. It is Shrove Tuesday or “Fat Tuesday”. So buy your donuts early. Not only that, it is the official beginning of MARDI GRAS, especially in New Orleans. By the way, have you ever given up anything for Lent? I still remember the stress of giving up VALUE CITY one year. Now, for me, that was a real sacrifice. Anyway, there is a song by Loreena McKennitt titled “The Mask and Mirror” and two lines of lyrics are “Would you like my mask? Would you like my Mirror?” In my workshop, “Mirrors and Masks”, I focus on the underling image of those lyrics as I talk about the reasons why people wear “masks” to hide their identity and the “person” they see when they look in the “mirror” of their mind. Now, for our discussion for this blog, I am not talking about the people who wear masks to celebrate Mardi Gras or Halloween. I am not referring to The Lone Ranger (if you are old enough to remember that television series) or bank robbers or special units of a police force. Today, I am focused on the people who wear “masks” to protect an image that they want other people to think or believe they are for various reasons. And, yes, I am referring to people who wear “masks” for protection but not for a defense from physical harm. I am talking about individuals who wear masks as protection from people discovering and uncovering the truth about their real lives and identities. And personally I confess that I still wear a “mask” at times. What about you? See, I believe people who wear mental and psychological masks in relationships do it with the intention to hide their actual self-image and real personality. Now, maybe take a moment and think about why so many people wear “masks” Maybe the masks that many people wear are designed to inflate their egos or to act as defense mechanisms to hide the weaknesses that they believe they have within their minds. I guess my question to you is basically do you really know the person that you have an intimate relationship with in your life? Or maybe another question would be more direct. Do you find yourself wearing a mask at times in your relationships? Does anyone really know the person they have a relationship with? No one really knows what is in the mind of another person. Again, I present myself as an example of someone who has worn many masks in life to project or protect an image that I wanted people to believe I was, especially undercover. And, in fact, I was very successful and convincing people that I was someone who I was not in my mental disguises because the masks that I wore were all in my mind. I was so convincing in wearing my masks that I became the person I had created. See I had, and still have, a very creative mind. See, I wore three masks undercover in the underworld of drugs and organized crime associations. And I was very good at convincing people I was who I wanted them to think I was. Outwardly, I projected an image of a very hard, tough and emotionless person who would kill you if the situation presented itself. However, I always lived in constant fear of being “found out” for the person who I really was inside – a man with weaknesses and fears. Now, I can acknowledge that I projected images that “masked”, hid or covered up my insecurities. And so, I compensated for my inner insecurities by becoming the image of the person I projected to be, a killer. In closing, I ask you a very personal question. When you reflect on your life, can you identify with any “masks” you have worn to convince people, even in your very close personal and intimate relationships, that you are or have been someone or something that you really were not within your mind? This will be my last blog. Very few people actually read this stuff and even few people respond to it. So, if you want to write, you know how to find me. It was fun but I really do not like talking to myself.
The Light of Recovery……… “CATCH ME IF YOU CAN” During a book signing session, following a speaking event on “First Impressions – False Perceptions”, a woman told me that, after hearing my life story, she said it was like listening to a “Renaissance Man”. Later that evening, reflecting on her compliment, I had to think about her interesting analysis. I had been called many things in my life but never a “Renaissance Man”. Basically, a Renaissance Man (or woman) is a person who is considered “enlightened” in all subjects, a well-educated individual, sophisticated, with talent, knowledge and proficiency in a wide range of fields. A person highly cultured with many interests, an expert in several areas. Now, that was too impressive for me. And then I began to think about the basic definition of “Renaissance”. Literally, “Renaissance” is defined as “Rebirth” in French. Now, I could relate to that definition. See, in the past forty years my personal “Renaissance” had been about the “Rebirth” of my soul and not about the professional adventures that I had experienced, many times, in a deceitful way. As I reflect on all the professions and occupations that I either talked my way, or worked my way into, the 2002 movie, “Catch Me If You Can” came into my mind. Like the real life of Frank Abagnale, I realized I could be a very convincing “con artist”. See another definition of “Renaissance Man” in today’s world is “a very clever person. Someone who is quick to understand, learn, devise and apply ideas”. Now, I could relate to that description. Instead of considering myself to be “cultured”, I thought of myself as being “clever”. Remember, in “Catch Me If You Can”, Frank Abagnale successfully posed as, among other fictitious identities, a jet airline pilot, a medical doctor and a state prosecutor without ever attending flight school, medical school or law school. I realized that, in many ways, but on lower levels, I had led a similar life many times. See, for me, it was always the challenge, the “game”, the adventure, the risk of deception. Not only was I very successful undercover living with three fictitious identities for several years, I was also very good at deceiving people in other professions that I talked my way into without any real experience. To give you a perception of my deception, I created a rock band in high school as a drummer without any knowledge of how to play the drums. I talked my way into a position as a graphic artist with the Bureau of Customs in Washington, D.C. with very little artistic talent, using a portfolio of artwork that I had stolen from another graphic artist. I was also hired as a printed circuit drafting engineer by Westinghouse Corporation with no engineering degree, no knowledge of electronics, no drafting experience and no understanding of printed circuit boards. I never saw a printed circuit board before being hired. However, I think my most impressive challenge was to create a center for Mind-Body Medicine with no credentials, no license and no formal education or training. And so, my question to you is simple. As a “Renaissance Man”, was I “cultured” or “clever”? You can contact me my responding on Facebook, sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or sending a message to my website, www.michaelbkaminski.com . If you have any topic ideas, please send them to me.
My life has been very challenging at times. However, I must admit, or really confess, that my journey has not been boring, far from uninteresting, still unwritten with the potential of unexpected adventures. Think about it. Think about your life. Isn’t that the way life should be for everyone, but maybe not in the way I have lived my life in the past. And now when I take time to think about the roads that I have traveled, the mythical character of Don Quixote comes into my mind. Have you ever heard of him? See, much like Don Quixote, I now realize that I have lived a storybook life, in many ways, attacking “windmills” in my travels. And also much like Don Quixote, I have actually encountered a variety of extremely interesting people, or “characters”, along the way. In retrospect, I have lived a life that most people can only fantasize within their minds. Think about it, in his imaginary travels, Don Quixote encountered very interesting and intriguing people, individuals that most people never really care to meet. He had relationships with prostitutes, priests, soldiers, escaped convicts and even scorned lovers. As I now reflect on the journey of my life in the past, I have to smile when I think about many of the similar types of characters, in real life, that I have met along the path. See, I have lived with, had associations and personal relationships with priests, prostitutes, killers, clergy from all the major religions, generals, homeless people, millionaires, drug dealers, pimps, strip club owners and people in organized crime who would kill you if the situation presented itself. And I would even kill people if I had to survive. And now, as I stop and take time to reflect on the roads that I have walked, many times the low roads in life, I realize that almost every significant encounter taught me a valuable lesson about life and in the way I now perceive myself, my self-image. And even though I have achieved three formal university degrees, including a Masters (but not a medical M.D.), I acquired an M.D. (Master of Deception) along the way. See, with all my formal education, I still believe that my most valuable and most important education was gained from living life on the “streets” in an environment that most people never want to live. See, you cannot buy with money, that form of education, although it can be very costly at times. Basically, in most of my professional adventures, I had to convince people that I was someone who I really was not in reality. And, along the way, I had learned the art of becoming a “Master of Deception”. Now, maybe that title was really my informal “Masters” degree, although later in life I did go to seminary and receive a Masters in Theology with a minor in Psychology after achieving degrees in Criminal Justice and Political Science. But, again, my most useful education was gained from my M.D. (Master of Deception). In fact, I use my “street” credentials in one of my workshops, “First Impressions – False Perceptions” My main point is that life should always be an adventure. Life should never be boring. See, no one really knows when our “shelf life” will expire or when our “expiration date” will be stamped on our forehead or mortal life. You and I are God’s greatest creations. And each one of us was born to live a life of fulfillment in whatever we choose to be along the winding road of life. Come to think about it, I think the Beatles had a song about the long and winding road.
Sharon’s story is not unique. There are many stories about women, some documented and others untold, who have lived through the painful experiences that Sharon was confronted with in her life. See, Sharon is only a “reflection” of the women who had their lives changed because of domestic violence, sexual abuse in relationships and the effects of eating disorders created as harmful ways of coping and trying to control their situations. And like the stories of many other women, Sharon’s life was tragically shortened because of physical damage to her body and psychological damage to her mind resulting from long-term effects of physical, mental and emotional abuse. Sharon was not murdered. However, I believe that Sharon died mentally and emotionally many years before her weak and damaged heart finally could not take the strain of functioning inside her frail and fragile small body. Now, some people would say that Sharon’s death was God’s Will. Although I have a deep faith in God and repeat the words of The Lord’s Prayer almost religiously, the phrase “Thy Will Be Done” still does not comfort me when I reflect on my life with Sharon. However, I do believe that God brought Sharon and I together in this life for a reason and a purpose. And even after fourteen years, Sharon’s spirit still gives my life a sense of meaning and fulfillment. See, in her way, because of the years that I was blessed with only a brief moment in time with Sharon, she changed my life and personality without her knowing the way she affected me. Sharon’s story, although very painful and tragic, is also very powerful because of the inner loudness that was covered over, muted and muffled by the outer silence of her visible personality. See, because of the years of living in abuse, Sharon created a personality that “masked” her inner thoughts, emotions and feelings. Upon reflection, Sharon was not unlike many people who present a physical public image of the person they want other people to believe they really are, although this image is, many times, a false perception. See, for Sharon, it was a personality created as a form of self-protection. And she would only allow people to pass so far into the entrance of the gated and guarded walls of her mind. Sharon was my wife. She died on April 25, 2005. And as I reflect on the brief moment in time that God granted me with Sharon I think that, many times, the greatest gift in any relationship is not that it gives us what we want and desire but that it, at times, denies us what we want and desire. In this process, we gain more than we expected and hoped for in life. Now, how does someone begin to write a story about eternal love? How does a person attempt to put into words a story about a love that is unique and timeless? How does a person truly define the real meaning of Love? It is time that I return to writing and “SHARON’S LIGHT” will be a tragic love story. And this story will not be about the limits of physical love. See, in my relationship with Sharon, I would reach a level of love that transcends the physical limitations of what most people think or believe they know about love. See, in her way, Sharon would teach me how to love someone who could not give love in return. “SHARON’S LIGHT” will be intended to inspire the reader to take the journey within oneself to seek, find, feel, know and own the power and depth of love of “Self”. My desire in sharing my life with Sharon will be for the reader to recognize and understand that love is eternally present within oneself. There is no need to seek and search for love and hope to find it in a relationship or desire for physical sex. Again, I would appreciate your comments or feedback. I would also like to have your thoughts on future blog topics. You can contact me through Facebook and by “friending” me. Or you can write to my personal email address, email@example.com , or through my website, www.michaelbkaminski.com .