The Reverence of Kindness

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“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” ~ Mother Teresa

We have the wonderful opportunity to bring a message of kindness, hope and joy where we might have inflicted damage and beaten others down in the past. We are all starved for such words and so richly blessed when we hear them. 

I wonder what it might be like, or what sort of kindnesses we might extend if we recognized God in the face of everyone we meet.  Can you imagine the awe we might have for one another?  The reality that each of us is created in the image of God should be enough to at least give us pause. 

The stranger, the wounded, and even the arrogant people would become our beloved relative.  This is not some dreamy illusion but is a spiritual truth.  The only thing lacking is our reverence.  It is reverence that identifies the sacred.  And the sacred surrounds each and every one of us.

“Kindness, I’ve discovered, is everything in life.” ~ Isaac Bashevis Singer

Our mission is to treat each other very well.  The final words attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi were ‘brothers, while there is still time, let us do good’.  This means that kindness and compassion should always be our lot. 

We can only do this sort of good when we are filled with reverence and awe for the very fact that the other is our relative, our dear, found relative.  Kindness, gratitude and gentleness will become second nature. 

Love will replace suspicion and guardedness will be exchanged for generosity.  We cannot afford to waste time arguing and grasping for personal power, control and relevance.  Now is the time to seek God in the present moment, in the hearts and eyes of our fellow travelers, and in the hands that long for our touch.


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Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast


The Self-Doubt Committee

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“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” ~ William Shakespeare

There is a committee that meets on a regular basis inside our brains that operates as if it has a powerful mandate with the final word on the disposition of our worth.  It has an agenda that allows them to tick off all of the failings, shortcomings, pitfalls, should-haves, and what-ifs.

The members argue and shout at each other about how impossible it is for us to move forward considering our total lack of ability and incompetence.  Do you recognize that committee and those voices?  We struggle with them every day.  All too often, we listen to them like some benign CEO who fears for his job, approving their negativity with a nod and a sigh.

They are right.  We could never rise to the occasion.  It will be better to just plod along rather than risk another failing attempt.  The problem is that the committee does not have all of the information.

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” ~ E. E. Cummings

Our friends in Alcoholics Anonymous call this grouping of internal self doubters “the itty bitty sh…y committee”.  They find these meetings of negative thoughts actually have the power to lead them back into the horrors of addiction if given the opportunity.  What is needed is an internal CEO with vision and with a silencing gavel to pound on the desk.

Each of us has the power to develop and carry out a personal mission statement.  Self doubt will slip into the recesses of our minds when we are following these better angels.

We were created to serve a higher purpose than we can ever imagine.  There is no time for negativity, no time for committee meetings, no reason to doubt and no reason to second guess our destiny.

Today I will pound that gavel and move forward toward my dreams!

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Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast


Survivor Guilt: What Happens When We Are Left Behind

When tragedy strikes and we are untouched by its’ full force, the pangs of Survivor Guilt can plague us.  We are grateful on one hand, but filled with thoughts of “Why not me?” We ask ourselves what we might have done to prevent this from happening.  How could we have not seen this coming? There is a sense that we are responsible for remaining intact and living on. The self-condemnation can be crippling.

“The problem with surviving was that you ended up with the ghosts of everyone you’d ever left behind riding on your shoulders.” ~ Paolo Bacigalupi

How Can We Begin to Understand and Cope With Survivor Guilt?

The awful weight of self-indictment is the main characteristic of Survivor Guilt.  People experience a seemingly endless loop of the gut-wrenching belief that they did something wrong or failed to do what they could have done.  It happens to war veterans, accident survivors, those who live through natural disasters, cancer survivors, police officers, and Holocaust survivors. It is also common among friends and family members who have suffered the loss of a loved one to suicide.

I am no stranger to Survivor Guilt.  My sister died of neuroblastoma when she was four years and nine months old.  Mother was grief-stricken as one might imagine.  Her beautiful little child had been taken and she was left to cope with the terrible loss feared by almost every parent.  We should not have to survive our children.

She slipped deeper and deeper into dark sadness and depression. Her continual demand was to know why God would take Mary Kathryn instead of her. She had begged to be the one to die in my sisters’ stead only to be forsaken. There was no comforting her.  Despite opening her own business and trying to carry on with family and friends, she could not.  Our family doctor told Dad that the only thing that might help would be for Mom to get pregnant again.

She did, and I was the replacement kid. Sixteen months after my sisters’ death, I was born into a house replete with Survivor Guilt. I have learned that many kids who survive the death of their siblings also experience this phenomenon.  I will never forget an occasion while playing on the living room floor with my Aunt Lucille. She was a registered nurse and had spent many hours with my sister.  At one point she mistakenly called me Mary Kay.  I could hear my mother break down into sobs in the kitchen.  I wondered why I was alive when my sister was not.  A wave of shame swept over me. I wished we could trade places. I was only three years old.

Symptoms, Indicators and Healing Tools

Survivor Guilt has been linked with PTSD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which recognizes the role of negative emotions such as guilt and shame.  The following are symptoms associated with those negative emotions;

  • Avoidance
  • Feeling on edge
  • Hypervigilance
  • Detachment
  • Easily startled

Other associated indicators not included in DSM are;

  • Feeling disoriented, confused and unworthy
  • Obsessing over the tragedy
  • Being ambivalent about living
  • Overwhelmed by the sense that you’re never really safe

Measuring Survivor Guilt

A good instrument for measuring Survivor Guilt and PTSD is the Trauma and Loss Spectrum Self-Report instrument (TALS-SR).

It explores the lifetime experience of a range of loss and traumatic events and lifetime symptoms, behaviors and personal characteristics that might represent manifestations or risk factors for the development of a stress response syndrome.

This tool is of great value to those like Police Chaplains, who deal with survivors.  Police Week reported in that one of the most important things an LEO who is experiencing Survivor Guilt can do is to “share your story with someone you trust and who will actually hear you rather than judge you.” The Chaplain fulfills such a role for many officers. First responders witness some of the most unimaginable sights in unfiltered, graphic situations. Police officers, firefighters, and paramedics also need to be given action-oriented methods of healing to cope with all they experience.

Survivors Continue to Suffer

The Associated Press reported that Survivor Guilt and symptoms of PTSD continues to plague those New Yorkers who lived through the attack on The World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Dr. Nomi Levy-Carrick, mental health director of World Trade Center Environmental Health Center program reported that; “There was tremendous Survivor Guilt, so people who survived didn’t feel worthy of wanting to seek care.

The fact that they had survived, they felt, should have been enough.” She said people who tried moving on despite the lingering psychological effects of 9/11 realized they weren’t getting better. 9/11 is perhaps the national tragedy that most of us remember in vivid detail.  We were devastated on a personal and community level beyond anything since the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Think what it must be like for those who continue to suffer as if it happened yesterday. It never seems to leave. In a real sense, this is the essence of understanding Survivor Guilt PTSD.  When it brings the darkness once again, unannounced, that unspeakable yesterday suddenly becomes today…here and now.

Not Limited to Tragedies Surrounding Death.

We have learned that Survivor Guilt is not limited to tragedies surrounding death.  I have provided counseling services for both adult men and adolescent boys who were victims of sexual abuse. The effects of the abuse are lasting. They have complicated feelings and vivid memories that haunt them relentlessly.  One of the most heartbreaking revelations is that so many feel that they were somehow responsible for what happened.

“I was cute and kind of a sexy kid,” said Shane “He (the abuser) probably couldn’t help it.  I could have stopped it.  If I would have, other boys wouldn’t have been hurt.  It’s all my fault.”  He begins to sob uncontrollably. Shane is reduced to the little boy in a dark bedroom under the blanket of violence in the monstrous act at the hand of a trusted adult. My response is to try and carry light into their darknesses.

I have found that the most valuable thing we can bring to those who experience Survivor Guilt PTSD is the listening ear and open heart of one willing to accompany them without judgment and with unconditional acceptance and love.  When the victim is no longer alone in the memory healing can begin.

Our Veterans and the Burden of their Experiences

Veterans of war carry the burden of their experiences in silence like so many victims of sexual abuse.  Their service is often marred by the loss of comrades and buddies in bloody scenes that none of us can imagine.  They come home to families who have longed for their return only to feel estranged.  A different person seems to be living in the body of their loved one.  Repeated inquiries about what happened ‘over there’ are met with silence and denial.  I remember men, including my Dad, who were soldiers and sailors in WWII.

They rarely, if ever, talked about their combat experiences.  There was a wall of unknowing behind which nobody could come.  One of my friends fought in Vietnam and was known to have witnessed something horrific over there.  It was not until thirty years later when we read his suicide note that we found he had held the body of his wounded best friend for hours.  Merciful death or help from medics was not coming so Billy did what he had to do and ended the suffering with his service revolver.

The note said he could no longer bear the decades of pain.  Billy was alone for all of those years. I was never able to bring him a torch for the darkness.

Some Truths and Some Hope for Survivor Guilt PTSD

We know of so many things can cause Survivor Guilt and how to cope or heal.  The one who lives on after a loved one takes their own life, the one who survives after a sibling dies and the one who stays alive in an otherwise fatal auto accident are among the many who might shoulder the weight of Survivors Guilt.  There are two facts which are universal when it comes to this;

  • It always comes when something happens which brings an extreme state of feeling previously unexperienced
  • It must be dealt with or will persist for a lifetime

Here is some good news that comes to us from the most unlikely of situations. A most remarkable thing is happening for survivors of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting. Social media, protest marches and the honoring of fallen friends seem to have empowered the young people who survived, helping them in ways that were not available to earlier such tragedies.  They tweet to huge audiences of thousands about their pain and about actions they are taking to prevent further violence.

Their #NEVERAGAIN page on FaceBook has more than 165,000 followers. These kids bravely stand up to criticism by adults and persist in their efforts day after day. They are courageous. Though probably unaware, they are doing almost all of the things that are offered by experts on Survivor Guilt PTSD to heal from their tragic losses.

We can learn a lot from these young people. They seem to be carrying light to each other (and to us) in the darkness.  Not in the form of a torch but in hundreds of thousands of little beams coming from their cell phone flashlights.

Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration, and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast

The Miracle of Self-Sacrifice

Rescue worker remove fatally injured New York City Fire Department chaplain Rev. Mychal Judge from one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City, early September 11, 2001.

Sacrifice is the miracle that makes great things possible.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Self-sacrifice is a miracle in action. There are times when our world seems to be driven by greed and selfishness. One of the most powerful things to experience is a personal observation of one who freely gives for the sake of others.  This story is one we watch unfold during the Christian observance of Holy Week.

Self-sacrifice is the act of deliberately following a course of action that has a high risk or certainty of suffering. We have witnessed such selfless action by our children as they cry out for an end to gun violence.  They have exposed themselves at great cost.  Pope Francis offered his support for their sacrifice in his Palm Sunday homily.

Such action always entails personal loss which could otherwise be avoided in order to achieve a benefit for others. It carries a powerful message saying; ‘There is something I want more than life itself. There is something more important.’

We are sanctifying our actions when we make sacrifices. The drive to make a personal difference, whether by living a life of service or rising to the occasion when it becomes clear that someone must, is the essence of self-sacrifice. We trade the uncertainty of options for the certainty of gloom when we surrender to despair. Life isn’t filled only with difficulty and pain. It is also filled with people whose dignity and spirit rise above their circumstances. There are situations when great sacrifice or love and wisdom turn a problem into an opportunity and strength. If we look at what has happened in our own lives and in those of others, we have ample reason to hope. This hope can change the world.

Today I will embrace self-sacrifice to make a difference!

The Sustaining Gift of Encouragement

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“Follow your dreams.  Be yourself, an angel of kindness, There’s nothing that you cannot do.  I believe, I believe, I believe in you.” ~ Il Divo

Encouragement is the gift that keeps giving.

One of the most powerful things we can possibly hear is the phrase ‘I believe in you’.  It comes to us when we need it the most and rescues us from the bog of self-doubt.

Just when we think that everyone has lost faith, that we are hopelessly lost and doomed to lose, an angel appears with the words to sustain us saying ‘I believe in you’.  When we hear them we receive hope, our energy is renewed and we begin to believe in ourselves again.  The confidence of our resolve is restored so that we can battle the difficulties before us.

There are people who do believe in us. 

When times get tough it is critical that we remember the encouragement that they have given in the past.  Someone has looked us in the eye saying ‘you can do it’ and then we have.

We found the energy to overcome, persist and endure.  We have summoned the buoyancy of resilience and finished the race.  When we have doubts in ourselves or find ourselves being filled with self-criticism, it is important to replay the tapes of those who have fortified us.  It is just as important to spread the words to those who are struggling along with us.

How often we have the opportunity to tell someone that we believe in them and let it slip away.  When we encourage each other, believe in them and affirm their journey, we shine a light for everyone to follow.

Today I will seek the counsel of those who believe in me and will encourage someone else with my believe in them.
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Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast


A Mission From God

“One of the most important spiritual disciplines is to develop the knowledge that the years of our lives are years on a mission.” ~ Henri J. M. Nouwen

A favorite movie of mine is ‘The Blues Brothers’ (1980) with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi (written by Aykroyd and John Landis). There is great music, plenty of action and lots of laughs. One of the exchanges between the brothers, Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues, result in the adventure of their lives.  They unwittingly find a purpose and seek redemption by saving a Chicago orphanage from foreclosure.  The guys are challenged by the police and Neo-Nazi thugs along the road but ultimately overcome all obstacles.  Their mission cannot be foiled.

This is the famous exchange that sets them on the path;

Joliet Jake:  Me and the Lord, we got an understanding.
Elwood:  We’re on a mission from God.
Elwood: It’s a hundred and six miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.
Joliet Jake: Hit it.

Jake and Elwood become radically available.  In order to accomplish their mission, they must set aside rules, fight the good fight, connect with community, make amends and redefine who they are.  Redemption is not an easy process.  When we engage in something greater than ourselves, there are sacrifices that must be made.  Then there will be nothing that can stand between our dream and its realization.  We make ourselves completely available without compromise.  We join with others, keep our eye on the prize and get it done.  We ‘Go for Life’ in a very big way.  No more half measures.  No more putting it off until later.  The time is now.  We are on a mission from God.

Life Is A Banquet

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“In all of living, have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.” ~ Gordon B. Hinckley

The warm showers and new life offered up to us from Mother Earth, provided by a loving God, are reason enough to celebrate.  We take ourselves way, way, way too seriously.  There is joy and humor to be found all around us, yet so often we trudge along with heavy hearts, one-track minds and narrowed tunnel vision.  We are so darned self-absorbed and preoccupied that we miss the whole thing.  Political correctness stifles the laugh that stirs in our bellies.  We fret excessively about offending…or being inappropriate. 

Springtime reminds us to begin anew, to put aside our old worn out worry, hurry and hate that we drag around from the winter chill.  There is plenty enough time to pick it back up if we so desire.  Now is the time for merriment.

The thought of former Chicago Cubs third baseman, Ron Santo pops into my head when I think about finding joy in every moment.  Here was a guy with every reason in the world to be a martyr and carry resentment.  He had juvenile diabetes and it was the serious kind.  There was never a doubt that the progression of the disease would take him out one day.  Despite the gloomy prognosis, he played the game of baseball with a flourish.  He was known for jumping up in the air and clicking his heels at Wrigley displaying his great exuberance for life.

“Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death. Live! Live! Live!” ~ Auntie Mame (1958) with Rosalind Russell

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He found delight and humor in the Curse of The Cubs when a black cat circled him on third base one day in 1969.  He was funny, charming and delightful as the WGN announcer despite losing both of his legs later in life.  Ronny taught us that we all have trouble and afflictions…but that we should never let them get us down.  Nobody ever deserved being in the Baseball Hall of Fame more than Ron Santo.

We have more than enough reason to have LOTS of fun despite our hard times.  Let go and have a good belly laugh today!  Life is too short to be glum.


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Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast


Expressing Thanks and Gratitude

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“Grateful eyes look at each thing as if they had never seen it before and caress it as if they would never see it again.” ~ Brother David Steindl-Rast

There are so many people that come in and out of our lives that it is hard to keep up with them.  Our busy daily rounds keep us hopping between work, family, friends, duties and other responsibilities.  It is important to set aside a little time to say a heartfelt thank you to the ones who have had an impact on the way that we live, think and believe.  Time can rob us of the opportunity if we are not careful and thoughtful about this effort.

Mr. and Mrs. Green

Among the people who shaped me was an English teacher in my junior year of high school.  He was delightful.  Somehow, Errett Worcester Green was able to make it fun to memorize verse.  Perhaps it was his hilarious presentations of the material, his love of the language, dedication to teenagers or some special magic that he brought to us every day.  Whatever it was, I learned to love poetry, Dickens, Shakespeare and school.

Mr. Green, a native of Illinois, was already 65 when I was his student, but age didn’t create a generation gap between us.  One of the most popular teachers at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, “Pop” Green drew otherwise sophisticated 17 year old juniors to him like a Pied Piper.

We watched as he performed scenes in Hamlet, using different voices for each character.  Many of us actually fell out of our chairs when he sang ‘Froggy Went A-Courtin’ while acting out the parts of Froggy, Miss Mousey and Uncle Rat.  I discovered for the first time that learning could be exciting.  As I have grown older, his lessons continue to enhance my ability to remember meaningful lines and share them with clients.  My counseling sessions all have a little sparkle of  Mr. Green in them as I find new ways to connect and relate.

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” ~ John F Kennedy

My family has heard me tell stories about E. W. Green over and over.  We were in South Florida visiting my mother in 1978.  I had just proudly competed a recitation of the introduction to Beowolf in Middle English which Pop had us memorize, when my wife urged me to make an effort to tell Mr. Green how much he had meant to me.

So, I picked up the phone with the intention of doing just that. 

His wife answered the phone.  Helen W. Green taught my senior English class.  Having her as an instructor was almost as wonderful as having Pop.  She completed the love-of-English lessons he started by infusing even more joy but with a bit less hilarity.  It was so good to hear her voice.  Mrs. Green remembered me after almost ten years and proved it by asking some personal questions and reminiscing about ‘her children’ at Pine Crest.  I told her that I wanted to talk to Mr. Green and let him know how much he meant to me.  She was gracious and kind as usual but gently informed me that “Pop” had died the day before.  I was devastated.

The final lesson that Mr. and Mrs. Green gave to me was an invaluable one.  Never put off expressing your appreciation and love for those teachers, mentors, family members or friends who have provided important guidance for our journey.  I made one of those connections today when I called Mr. and Mrs. Green’s 85 year old son to let him know how his parents had influenced my life.  He was so happy to hear my story. The pleasure was all mine.  Thanks again Pop and Helen!

Banner image: Errett W. Green and Helen W. Green

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Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast


Prejudice and Transformation; The Experiential Roots of Bias and Spiritual Awakenings

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I am writing this column from Memphis as the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination has come and gone.  My visit to The Lorraine Motel and Mason Temple on April 4 was such a moving experience.  It led me to re-think prejudice, racism, and all that separates us from one another.  Creating a curated column with this in mind is a challenge.  There is so much information online. Sorting through it is mind-boggling and formidable. I have gained much in this research.  You might say I have a new pair of glasses.

Despite progress made in narrowing the gap between the privileged and marginalized, it remains wide.  Discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion, national origin and sexual orientation exists as surely today as ever.  We see it or hear about it daily. In Memphis, the CEO of United Way reported on February 27, 2018 that “the median income of African Americans is still 50 percent that of whites, despite our increased high school graduation and college degree rates and when it is consistent across other socioeconomic indices, we’re still stuck.”

We are still stuck indeed. Each of us is biased and possesses some degree of prejudice. My own roots of prejudice and discovery of redemption might be of some help to others. While I don’t think it would be useful to re-disclose the mounds of data, there is some good current information in this column’s hyperlinks.  The most important thing to gain from this is that anyone can change. I have found that such conversion is unlikely unless there is a spiritual awakening from self-examination and soul searching. As the AA people put it in the second step of their program of recovery; “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

Jean Vanier, a philosopher, writer, religious and moral leader and the founder of two major international community-based organizations, L’Arche, and Faith & Light, that exist for people with intellectual disabilities, teaches that fear is the basis of prejudice.  He asserts that “We are all frightened of those who are different, those who challenge our authority, our certitudes, and our value system.  We are all so frightened of losing what is important for us, the things that give us life, security, and status in society.  We are frightened of change, and, I suspect, we are even more frightened of our own hearts.”

Self-Examination and Childhood Experience Reveal Roots of Bias

Examining ones heart is not easy work.  I never wanted to think there was a prejudiced bone in my body.  I was raised in Danville, Illinois, not in the Deep South where racism seemed so glaringly blatant.  I just couldn’t have experienced such intolerance growing up in my comfortable Midwestern town.  But, upon deeper reflection and introspection, it seems that early childhood experiences hidden within implicit messages from adults shaped my opinions and attitudes more than I had imagined. I also discovered that Danville has a past that brought it some well-deserved shame. There was a horribly brutal mob lynching in 1903 which made headlines around the country. No place is immune from the fears which fuel hatred and violence.

My earliest memories of African-American people surround several women and men who served as caterers for my parents’ elegant dinner parties. When I asked my mother why they were all black, she responded that the family had ‘colored’ servants for generations. Her ancestors had freed their slaves in Kentucky when they decided to migrate to Illinois in 1829.  One of them, a pregnant girl named Polly, followed on foot behind their covered wagons into the Free State.  She was not allowed to cross the border in the wagon due to federal law. Aunt Pol, as she came to be known, and her family acted as our servants and nannies for years to come.

In fact, her grandson, Frank Neal and his wife, Florence were among the caterers I knew and loved. So my first impression was that African Americans were our family members. It also bothered me, even as a little boy, that we had once been owners of slaves. I decided to pay attention to family members and other trusted adults as they talked about and interacted with black people.  My observations were puzzling.  It was forbidden to use the “N-word” in our home but when my mother gave Florence Neal a ride home from a party she told me she was taking her to nigger town.

When we saw black children with their parents she referred to them as ‘pickaninnys’. Mom wasn’t the only one who gave me mixed messages.  But hers were the words that stuck with me. In my mind, there was clearly a disparity between what the adults said they believed and how they behaved.

Media helped to shape my attitudes and those of most kids.  There was no internet, but there were other means that guided our thinking just as much Face Book does today.  Children’s books like “Little Black Sambo” which portrayed the character as a stereotyped ‘pickaninny’, was quite hurtful to black children “The Bobbsey Twins In the Land of Cotton” portrayed cotton picking laborers in this way;

Negroes, both men and women, were gaily dressed in bright-colored shirts, or sunbonnets and aprons.  Most of them were singing. “They must like their work,” said Nan. “They seem so happy.” “Cotton picking is healthful exercise.” Replied the plantation owner.

Several recording artists like Al Jolson who wore blackface and sang as minstrels depicted a negative stereotype of African Americans. Ralph David Abernathy talked about those stereotypes as black people “scratching where they didn’t itch, and laughing when they were not tickled.” Amos ‘n’ Andy was hugely popular radio show whose characters were voiced by two white men portraying black men.  Later, a television show of the same name appeared with ‘colored’ actors.  Bishop W. J. Walls of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church wrote an article sharply denouncing Amos ‘n’ Andy, singling out the lower-class characterizations and the “crude, repetitious and moronic” dialogue.  These were only a few of my boyhood influences.

I discovered early on that people loved the way I mimicked and imitated voices.  It wasn’t long before my jokes turned on black people, polish people and others who were easy and, I found, socially acceptable targets.  My popularity among friends and family grew dramatically as I acted out my characterizations. It all seemed harmless enough.  Little did I suspect that my antics were affecting people in lasting ways. I was a privileged white boy who was leveraging my position at the expense of those who were suffering injustice and discrimination. I could feel this in my stomach, but the approval and laughter I created only increased the frequency of my bad behavior.

The origins of prejudice can almost always be traced to childhood experiences and to beliefs taught by parents and other adults.  Between the ages of 3 and 6, kids begin to understand prejudice and to apply stereotypes.  We are not prejudiced because we are evil but because we are human and it is easy to fall into it. The infrastructure of prejudice is not moral depravity, but our regular thinking mechanism that just went wrong.

How Pivotal Events Shake the Foundations of Prejudice

It has taken a series of ah-ha moments, tragic events, studies, workshops and close work with marginalized people to create my conversion and transformation process which continues to this day.  The first such experience happened in 1958 when I was seven years old.  My parents spent winters with my grandparents in South Florida near Pompano Beach.  I loved going there and considered it my second home.  On this trip there was a special treat.  The State of Florida had just opened the Sunshine State Parkway.  It was a divided tollway and you could cruise along at speeds and ‘make time’ unheard of on the two lane roads from Danville to Pompano.  To top it all off, there were full service rest areas with free orange juice and a restaurant.  We stopped at the first one we saw. The booths at the restaurant each had a little juke box and you could pick songs you liked for a nickel.  We were all quite impressed.

I will never forget what happened next.  I had to go to the bathroom and my folks decided I was old enough to go on my own.  I confidently strode to the facilities only to be met by signs that baffled me.  The restrooms were marked for use by race.  They were labeled as White Men, Colored Men, White Women and Colored Women.  Water fountains were also separate.  What was I supposed to do? I pondered for a minute and chose the colored bathroom thinking that the people in there had to be interesting (purple, red, orange?).  I went inside and started to approach a urinal when a black man took me by the hand and asked to take me back to my parents.

I protested that I had to go, but he persisted and led me to our booth.  The man told my parents that; “The little master was gonna use the colored bathroom.  We could all get in a lot of trouble.” Dad apologized and took me to the White Only boys’ room.  I was indignant.  It took lots of rather clumsy explanations for me to finally be told to accept that things were different in the South…and to shut up.  I decided never to forget the look on the man’s face who saved us from ‘trouble’.  There was something terribly wrong.

There were other influences over the years.  My friend, Jack Lord from Pompano introduced me to books by Martin Luther King, President Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage, and one about Gandhi.  They made big impressions on my thinking.  Not a reading list my conservative Republican parents endorsed, but they allowed me to delve into them anyway.  But the next event that shook up my conscience happened in 1967.  I was 16 and a sophomore at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale.  One weekend I was invited to a friend’s house in Pahokee, Florida.  Any excuse to get out of the dorm was welcome.  Several of the dorm kids were from Pahokee and it sounded like a great time.

On Sunday I was expected to attend church services with my host family at First Baptist Church.  One of my friends Dad was a deacon at the church and met us at the door to chat about football prior to the services.  As we were talking, an African American couple from out of town began walking up the steps to the sanctuary.  The Dad excused himself, went into the vestibule and returned with a shotgun.  He pointed it at the couple and said; “You must be in the wrong place.  The nigger church is down the street.”  The frightened folks made a hasty retreat.  I was so angry that I couldn’t find words for hours.  I just sat there in the car all the way back to Ft. Lauderdale with hot tears in my eyes.  I finally decided that I would never be silent about something like this again.

On April 4, 1968 I was in night study hall at Pine Crest when the teacher in charge, Mr. Ed Sickman, called for our attention and told us Senator Robert Kennedy announced in Indianapolis that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis.  We were devastated.  How could such a thing happen in our country? King’s words kept playing in my head; “I have felt the power of God transforming the fatigue of despair into the buoyancy of hope. I am convinced that the universe is under the control of a loving purpose and that in the struggle for righteousness man has cosmic companionship.”  Was he wrong? Had we sunk to such a level as a people that all hope was gone? How could God let this happen? My heart was broken.  That was undeniable.  Then, a few short weeks later, Senator Kennedy was killed.  My inner transformation was in full swing.  I began to question everything about my beliefs.  But, like any conversion, the process was not linear.

Conversions and Transformation Take Time to Affect Change

My penchant for racially insensitive and mean joke telling continued for years. Even though my heart was changed, my mind wasn’t.  The guilt I experienced was not enough to stop my comments to others which might have influenced or reinforced their own prejudices. It is said that one has to really want to change for it to happen.  I believe that this is true. Certainly, the pivotal events I described above were the impetus for my change.

But there is more to it than that.  I spent much of my life helping kids who suffered the most terrible trauma, and adults who struggled with addictions as a result of horrific childhood experiences.  They are of every race, religion, sexual orientation, social background and on and on.  They have been my teachers.  More than all of my college African American Studies, workshops, retreats and community leadership gatherings about prejudice, my patients led me to the spiritual truth that we are all unique but conversely all the same.  It took years for me to reach a place where my bias does not actively direct my behavior.  But I still have to be on guard. Old demons can still raise their pointy heads.

The process of conversion and transformation is well told in the lives of Saul of Tarsus (a relentless persecutor of early Christians), John Newton (the slave trader who wrote Amazing Grace) and George Wallace (the Governor of Alabama who infamously preached; ”Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”). All three of these men were feared and reviled, but celebrated by many as well.  Then something happened which turned each of them around and transformed not only their own lives, but the lives of countless others.

Saul became the Apostle Paul and spent his life dedicated to those he once would have slaughtered. 

John Newton wrote the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace” and wrote extensively on the evils of slavery.  His conversion took 38 years by the way.  It is seldom immediate.  George Wallace was shot in 1972 by a would-be-assassin.  He recalled as he lay on his back, blood pooling on the ground, a light came into his heart and as his son later remarked “this was his first step on the road to Damascus.”  Wallace poured himself into Bible study and found a new faith system that did not allow discrimination and hatred.  He asked his former enemies for forgiveness.  Congressman John Lewis, for one, offered it to him saying; “George Wallace should be remembered for his capacity to change.”

Storytelling and Use of Resources to Stem the Tide of Prejudice; It’s Always a God Thing

Telling your own story and listening to the fears of those to whom we minister are critical elements in the work we do to help people find their way.  There are important questions to ask ourselves when developing such stories. This involves self-examination and seeking to find the roots of prejudices.  Among them are these;

  • Do you remember the attitudes your parents had about other races, religions, ethnic groups when you were a child?
  • How did your prejudice develop?
  • Can you recall a time when you held prejudiced attitudes or beliefs or acted in a discriminatory manner because your group of friends expected you to?
  • Can you think of a prejudiced attitude you have held toward a group of people?
  • Have you ever been the target of discrimination? If so, how did this negative treatment make you feel?
  • Do I hold any stereotypes that may lead to excluding, avoiding, and biased treatment of others?
  • Have you witnessed racism toward any racial or ethnic groups?
  • Are you aware of racism in your community?

In addition to the stories we develop, there are also some excellent tools available to us that would help create dialogue and build bridges between groups.  Among them is the Sojourners Study Guide and Book by Jim Wallace called “America’s Original Sin”.  I have used them in my work over the years and find them to be extremely helpful to participants in exploring belief systems and building community.  A copy of the study guides are provided here in pdf form for your use. There is a virtual learning series called “Racial Equity & Liberation” which is also quite valuable and easy to access. Another good current resource guide was developed by Yusef Mgeni in 2017.

The time for action is now. Clare Hanrahan, the social activist, leaves us with this formidable warning;

“Like the deadly currents in the Mississippi River, racism still lurks about even when much of the surface seems calm.  Today, its poisons are rising again like a deadly fog off the surface of deep and troubled waters.”

Here is the truth. 

Fear of others is the fundamental emotion that guides prejudice and discrimination. It always searches for a scapegoat. When we develop a desire to change through the intervention of a “Power Greater the Ourselves” a realization begins to take hold.  As one of my patients used to repeat over and over to me; “I’m not in charge. It’s a God thing.” We will realize that all of us are fundamentally the same, no matter what our age, gender, race, culture, religion, limits or disabilities may be.  We all have vulnerable hearts and need to be loved and appreciated.  We belong to a common humanity.  As we begin to listen and really hear each other’s stories things begin change and everyone involved is transformed.

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_team_member admin_label=”Robert Kenneth Jones” name=”Robert Kenneth Jones” position=”Columnist” image_url=”” facebook_url=”” linkedin_url=”” _builder_version=”3.0.101″ saved_tabs=”all” background_layout=”light” global_module=”26968″]

Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast


The Listening Mission: Learning to Hear Each Other in Times of Noisy Saber Rattling

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It seems that we are all too eager to pick sides nowadays. 

My wife, Bonita, asked me earlier this week how and when I was going to write about counseling victims of gun violence, the kids march on Washington and important issues of the day which divide our country. Memories came of being an eleven year old on the Edison Grade School playground in Danville, Illinois way back in the dark ages.  A baseball game was about to commence.

Captains were appointed by our teacher and then the chosen boys began picking their favorites, or the most talented as team-mates. Sides quickly developed.  Friends became immediate rivals and the game began. We decided to be The Cubs vs The Yankees.

Young Mickey Mantle faced Don Cardwell.  Little Ernie Banks faced Whitey Ford.  It was 1961 and hard for a boy not to love the Yanks…but we lived in Cub Country.  What are ya gonna do? When the game was over, despite heated arguments about who was safe on first, and what the strike zone was, we all became friends again.

Wouldn’t it be great if it worked that way in all our affairs?  But today we often make hard and fast binary choices which create permanent teams.  This ‘adult’ kind of side picking just isn’t working very well.

Finding Common Ground through Deeper Listening

We have worn ourselves out with fist shaking.  It is time for some really deep listening.  We who are Chaplains, students, human service providers, educators, youngsters, counselors, and folks from every walk of life who believe in freedom cannot rest until the possibility for common ground is reestablished.

I learned a lesson about listening from a group of eight sexually abused boys who were participating in group therapy with me.  We were working on the 12 Steps and they had received a Second Step assignment at the previous session to identify a ‘Power greater than themselves’.  These kids suffered things that most of us can never imagine.  They were tough survivors in small packages who protected themselves by keeping everyone at an arms distance.  I found that it was more important to hear what they weren’t saying.

But finding common ground in something greater than their abuse and bigger than their addictions was an important milestone to achieve for each of them and for the group.  Each session always began in moments of silence.  They hated that.  But it allowed them to find a quiet safe zone from which to begin.  On this day, one after another, they revealed their ‘Higher Power’.  Shane chose a traditional God, Michael chose The Universe, Jason chose numbers (no beginning and no end).  Then came Thad.  He chose a doorknob.

The group burst into laughter and he became red-faced.  I quieted the guys and asked Thad to explain.  He said that he had seen a picture of Jesus standing in a garden knocking at a door.  He had noticed that there was a doorknob on the inside of the cracked open door but none on the outside.  He then glared at the other boys and said; “That’s my Higher Power.  I get to choose whether to open the door or not.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.  Laughter had been replaced by little sobs.  We had listened deeply to Thad.  His wisdom opened us all to new possibilities.

Giving Advice, Good Counsel and Talk is the Easy Fix…Try the Listen First Project

My training as a counselor and therapist emphasized listening over talking.  This can be a tough practice when people who come to me are overtly seeking direction.  They say they want me to tell them which way to turn.  They beg for solace, wisdom and comfort from my words.  They want for someone to fix things, to ease the pain and guide them to safe shores.  But I have found when I follow their desire and offer interventionist management that my clients are seldom helped for very long.  It is dangerous and presumptuous of me to think I know what is best.  Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J. recently told me that ‘we can shine a beam of hope on the light switch but it is up to the individual to turn it on or not’. Carl Jung said the therapist has been invited into a patient’s sacred inner temple and that we must remove our shoes before entering. He often told stories rather than give advice. The short of this is to say that we always bring bias and pre-judgment to the table.  This is why it is so important to listen carefully, thoughtfully and tenderly.  Unless there is a severe mental illness blocking the way, every person has a pretty good idea of where they need to go and what they need to do.  We just need to shine the light in the right direction to help them see the way to their own answers.

Chaplains know better than most about the power of listening.  They are called in times of crisis to be present without fixing people.  They learn that being there, often in silent oneness, for those who are grieving and in pain is more powerful than any words or evangelizing could hope to be.  They bring psychological and spiritual healing as they experience gut wrenching stories of loss happens with deep listening and empathy. This ‘Listening Presence’ is perhaps the most critical skill a Chaplain can develop.  It is the tool they will use more than any other.

This active listening approach is used in business and community affairs to reach goals and solve problems.  Lee Iacocca, the automobile industry genius said; “Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk.” The Listen First Project has identified four drivers to improve economic results.

  • Discover what listening means to your employees, each person’s listening style, and how to build your team around a common set of core principles
  • Learn effective listening techniques and specific behaviors that drive results
  • Practice the skills necessary to become a professional listener
  • Engage employees beyond the workshop by infusing communications with Listen First principles that foster a positive team listening environment

Listen First is a ‘movement to mend the frayed fabric of America by bridging divides one conversation at a time’.  They have been instrumental in bringing healing to communities around the country. Their National Week of Listening began on April 20th of 2018 in Charlottesville, VA (#ListenFirst).  In an age of ever increasing division and polarization, this group is offering hope. The first step is to take their Pledge:

“I will listen first to understand and consider another’s views before sharing my own. I will prioritize respect and understanding in conversation. And I will encourage others to do the same.”

Creating Safe Places for Listening

People don’t feel safe sharing their opinions.  Even though there is quite a bit of ranting on Face Book, Twitter and other social media, most of us put on a brave face and don’t engage. A woman I know and have helped over the years is struggling with the binary choices and ponderous polarization that her son is experiencing in a northern high school.  They moved from the south a few years ago.  She confided in me that “my son gets “bullied” by his peers AND teachers for wearing Trump, NRA or God Bless America items. Todd (not his real name) is a responsible long gun competitor.” The young man is dating a girl whose mother has strong “liberal” principles and exerts quite a bit of influence over her daughters thinking. The girl and Todd have to hide his beliefs or she would never allow them to see each other. Additionally, my former client feels unable to tell people about her strong fundamental Christian faith or political preferences for fear of being chastised and shunned by her community.

I wonder what it might be like if we created Listening Missions in our places of work, play and worship? Imagine regular meeting places and times where ideas, differences and possibilities were really heard, honored, discussed and processed. I am sure that we would find some brilliant solutions.

Then there is the former Rural Southern Voice for Peace (RSVP) now known as The Listening Project, which is a group offering help to organizations and communities. Back in 1981, The Rural Southern Voice for Peace, founded by Herb and Marnie Walters in Celo, North Carolina, began a “deep listening” fellowship which has become The Listening Project.  My best friend from Danville, Steve Magin was one of those engaged in starting community listening projects (CLP’s).

These CLPs are a comprehensive listening, organizing and action process that can take grassroots organizing to new levels of skill and success. They also organized Facilitated Group Listening (FGL) which is another communication and action program offered by Listening Project. FGL enables larger groups of people to come together at the same time, to address differences, commonalities, problems and solutions. It is structured so all participants agree to a contract that protects each person’s right to be heard and respected. Listening takes place in small groups that are guided by a trained facilitator.

They can be reached at Rural Southern Voice For Peace ~1036 Hannah Branch Rd., Burnsville, NC 28714 or 828.675.4626 or

We Have the Bully Pulpit

Our 26th President, Teddy Roosevelt, recognized that his office gave him a unique platform from which to listen, advocate and act.  He called it the Bully (wonderful) pulpit. Our influence as servant leaders offers just such a platform and means to facilitate listening.  We can shape a new conversation where win/lose or compromise are transformed to cooperation. When we compromise everyone has a stake in the loss.

When we cooperate everyone has a stake in the win.  We will have facilitated common ground and new ways to succeed are established. Our children are watching, pleading and demanding our cooperation in ending the stalemate that comes from polarization.  They showed up and demonstrated across the country to make their point.  We must begin to listen…and to hear each other in radical new ways.  We share the bully pulpit.  Let’s find a way to create Listening Missions wherever we serve.

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_team_member name=”Robert Kenneth Jones” position=”Columnist” image_url=”” facebook_url=”” linkedin_url=”” admin_label=”Robert Kenneth Jones” _builder_version=”3.0.101″ global_module=”26968″ saved_tabs=”all”]

Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast


The Addiction Epidemic: Re-ordering Strategies for Substance Abuse Disorders from Intervention to Prevention

[et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”3.0.47″ custom_padding=”23px|0px|54px|0px|false|false”][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.0.47″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat” custom_padding=”9px|0px|40px|0px|false|false”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”3.0.47″ parallax=”off” parallax_method=”on”][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.0.101″]More than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids…nearly double in a decade. An estimated 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) died from alcohol abuse in the same year. We lost 152,000 people.  This makes alcohol and drug abuse/addiction the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Only heart disease and cancer took more lives.

Congress approved and the President signed a bill funding $7.4 billion for addiction in 2018.  But are we allocating our resources well? Are we addressing this health crisis in new and effective ways? It is a good and meaningful try to be sure.  The problem is that we continue to allocate much more money and effort into putting out fires as opposed to preventing them.

Chattooga River

Chattooga River

Are We Focused on the Real Problem? Insights from the Chattooga River

In my role as an addiction professional, I used to speak before groups of mental health, substance abuse and adolescent treatment providers on a fairly regular basis. One of the stories I liked to tell is that of a hiker in the Blue Ridge Mountains who had wandered onto an active emergency situation at a Class IV rapid on the Chattooga River.

There were ambulances, EMT’s, police officers, a coroner and lots of onlookers trying desperately to pull the dead and dying from still-treacherous waters below the rapids.  The victims were young people who were beaten by rocks, lungs full of river, no longer able to help themselves.  Knowing that he would only get in the way, the hiker hustled upstream.  There he found another frantic situation indeed.

The whitewater of Bull Sluice was enveloping kayaks, canoes and swimmers. Specially trained First Responders and Experienced Whitewater Guides were using all of their skills in efforts to get people out of harm’s way to little avail.  So the hiker went around the bend and up to a point where he heard cries for help and found several river guides and volunteers throwing floating devices on ropes, wading into swift water, hauling kids and boats up to shore from an area just above the Class IV treachery.   Many were being rescued but some were swept away.

There was still little room for him to be of any use, so the hiker ran along the bank to find a group of youngsters swimming in the river.  Some neighbors and volunteers from the down river site were trying to talk them into getting out of the water…warning of the perils downstream.

Several of them paid attention and followed the urgings of their warnings and headed in for dry land.  Finally, a few hundred yards further on, the hiker found a bend in the river where it seemed to be warm and inviting.  A group of kids were changing into swim wear and heading toward the water with rafts and inner tubes.  There were no adults supervising, warning or rescuing.  The situation was so ostensibly innocent.

He approached the young people, told them of all he had witnessed and talked about finding another way to enjoy the afternoon that might not be so life-threatening.  He showed them the way to a little private cove where still water, a diving well and nice beach waited.  Everyone took him up on the offer and enjoyed a safe day of adventure.

From the Intensive Care to Early Screening:

Our Inverted Focus (or Looking for Cures in All the Wrong Places)

I think my subtitle is a little cutesier than it should be. It makes me think of the 1980 Country song “Lookin’ for Love” by Johnny Lee making it hard to resist.  Anyway, my story about the Blue Ridge Hiker is what I believe is an upside-down pyramid of attention, emphasis, funding and research in dealing with the opioid/addiction epidemic.  The following are the categories of treatment intervention as I have experienced them in decades of direct service in the field of Substance Abuse Disorders (SUDs).

Tertiary Intervention: Most of our precious time and resources has been given to what I call tertiary intervention.  Like the hiker approaching the chaotic rescue efforts downriver, we have spent most of our time giving CPR to the dying and burying the others. Tertiary Interventions include;

  • Emergency Response Teams (First Responders, LEO’s, Emergency Rooms, Hospitals, Intensive Care)
  • 24 hour hospital based Short Term Medical Detox Centers
  • Criminal Justice System
  • Universal availability of naloxone

Secondary Intervention: These are Medically Managed Services for adolescents and adults.  In my story, it is the discovery of direct whitewater rescue.  Secondary Interventions include;

  • Hospital based 24-hour nursing care and daily physician care for severe, unstable patients who cannot manage life without these intensive services.
  • 24 hour Intensive Inpatient Services Withdrawal Management centers with counseling, physician, nursing and medication management services.
  • Residential treatment centers with flexible programs to meet individual treatment needs depending on severity of illness.

Primary Intervention: Services at this level help those who do not require round-the-clock care.  The hiker in the little tale finds swimmers and adventurers above the rapids but in some degree of real trouble.  Primary Interventions include;

  • Partial Hospitalization Services for adolescents and adults, this level of care typically provides 20 or more hours of service a week.
  • Intensive Outpatient Services for adolescents and adults, this level of care typically consists of 9 or more hours of service a week.
  • Outpatient Services for adolescents and adults, this level of care typically consists of less than 9 hours of service a week.
  • Opioid Treatment Programs. (OTP) utilizes methadone or buprenorphine formulations in an organized, ambulatory, addiction treatment clinic for clients with severe Opioid-Use Disorders to establish a maintenance state of addiction recovery
  • Drug Courts

Primary Prevention: Early Intervention for Adults and Adolescents, this level of care constitutes a service for individuals who, for a known reason, are at risk of developing substance-related problems, or a service for those for whom there is not yet sufficient information to document a diagnosable substance use disorder. This represents the final stop for our hiker.  Primary Preventions include;

There is practically universal accord that our methods of dealing with drug and alcohol abuse have failed to achieve the desired results.  The efforts to stem the tide of addiction by declaring a war on drugs (which was really a war on people engaged in it) proved almost fruitless.

The problem is that despite good intentions, and an allocation of massive funding, we are continuing to pour resources into the least effective means of turning the tables on our nationwide epidemic. Policy makers and leaders have decided to ignore the facts and double down on a status quo method of dealing with a healthcare crisis which has been raging for almost 20 years. And the status quo has made virtually zero impact (statistically speaking) on outcomes.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) of 2018 heralds a new era which will “Expand prevention and educational efforts—particularly aimed at teens, parents and other caretakers, and aging populations—to prevent the abuse of methamphetamines, opioids and heroin, and to promote treatment and recovery.  However, it authorizes funding at the roughly the following levels nationwide;

  • Inpatient, outpatient and OTP treatment at $4.1 billion
  • Criminal Justice at $1.59 billion
  • Prevention at $221 million (4.4 million per state)
  • Recovery Support Services (FAVOR, recovery high schools, recovery housing) at $7 million or $140 thousand per state (not even enough to fund services in Upstate South Carolina for example)

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Iceland Teens

There is a place on the planet which has used effective local initiatives in the form of policies to discourage drug use while offering solid alternative programs.

Iceland built an anti-drug plan that focuses largely on providing kids with after-school activities, from music and the arts to sports like soccer and indoor skating to many other clubs and activities.

They coupled this approach with banning alcohol and tobacco advertising, enforcing curfews for teenagers, and getting parents more involved in their kids’ schools to further discourage drug use.

Researcher Harvey Milkman says of Iceland’s approach, that it’s “a social movement around natural highs: around people getting high on their own brain chemistry … without the deleterious effects of drugs.”

As a result, Iceland, which had one of the worst drug problems in Europe, has seen adolescent consumption fall. The number of 15 and 16 year-olds who got drunk in the previous month fell from 42 percent in 1998 to just 5 percent in 2016, and the number who ever smoked marijuana dropped from 17 percent to 7 percent in the same time frame. In a similar time period, from 1997 to 2012, the percentage of 15 and 16 year-olds who participated in sports at least four times a week almost doubled — from 24 to 42 percent — and the number of kids who said they often or almost always spent time with their parents on weekdays doubled, from 23 to 46 percent.
[/et_pb_tab][et_pb_tab title=”The Vermont Approach” _builder_version=”3.0.101″]In another approach, the State of Vermont has developed a comprehensive health care policy which has changed the outcomes for opioid disorders dramatically using medication assisted treatment programs.

It is called the “hub and spoke model” which was developed by the American Society of Addiction Medicine. The results have been encouraging. Vermont is doing much better than nearby states.

It was the only state in New England that in 2015 was below the national average (of 16.3 per 100,000 people) for drug overdose deaths.
[/et_pb_tab][et_pb_tab title=”The Los Angeles Approach” _builder_version=”3.0.101″]One of the most dramatic approaches to dealing with the Drug Crisis can be found at Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. Here, and in a multitude of spin-off organizations, comprehensive employment and life redirection strategies have been used to help gang members, previously incarcerated individuals and families to overcome violence and addiction.

They are unconventional.  Established by Rev. Gregory Boyle, they tell that at Homeboys, hope has an address.  He tells us that, “Homeboy Industries has been the tipping point to change the metaphors around gangs and how we deal with them in Los Angeles County.

This organization has engaged the imagination of 120,000 gang members and helped them to envision an exit ramp off the “freeway” of violence, addiction and incarceration. And the country has taken notice. We have helped more than 40 other organizations replicate elements of our service delivery model, broadening further the understanding that community trumps gang — every time.”

Every member of Homeboys must test clean on drug screens to be a part of the community service.  Their unusual program is based on a spiritual model of unconditional love.

[/et_pb_tab][et_pb_tab title=”The Memphis Approach” _builder_version=”3.0.101″]Memphis is using ACE’s.

Infographic created to share information about what adverse childhood experiences are, how prevalent they are and their impact.Web jpg

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Awareness Foundation of Memphis “informs the community about the role of emotional trauma in mental, physical, and behavioral health, and implements innovative models that provide preventable and sustainable solutions to reducing toxic stress in family systems.

The Foundation launched and provides strategic oversight to the ACE Task Force of Shelby County, the Universal Parenting Places, and the Parenting Support Warm Line.” Although not an addiction or substance abuse disorder specific program, ACE’s used in the comprehensive way Memphis is developing will stem the tide through screening and direct services.  The fact is that pain drives addiction and SUDS. Drugs and alcohol are abused by people who have childhood experiences and trauma that the rest of us cannot imagine.

They are seeking relief and a hiding place.  When a community like Memphis gathers its schools, juvenile justice system, LEO’s, pediatricians, colleges, churches, other human service providers, parents and families together, you can be sure that something incredible will happen.

There is new research telling us incredible things about the way addicted brains work.  Drugs have been found to hijack dopamine systems making ‘getting high’ an almost unavoidable consequence.  Also, the adolescent brain, when exposed to drug use has little chance to form good cognitive processes. The idea that addiction is a moral failing has been practically eliminated.  With that in mind, it is even more important that we begin thinking outside of the box.
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It’s Up to Us…Here and Now:

Just think…152,000 people lost from this preventable disease or disorder.  People in our lives will die.  We have a lot of work to do.  Funding and programs will only go so far.  Certainly, we have to encourage a change in the way budgets are allocated.

Prevention first…at the very top priority…is the best and most worthwhile model to embrace. We cannot keep repeating mistakes of the past and expect different outcomes.  But there is a spiritual, community reality that we must embrace as a foundation for how we deal with the problem of addiction and substance abuse disorders.

The one who suffers is not someone else but is each and every one of us.  If we are going to get beyond all of this, there is no other way to look at it.  Our wounds are shared.  We are all in this together.  Here and now, and in each and every moment, we should be asking the question ‘What can I do to help’.

Then we will find an answer.

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_team_member name=”Robert Kenneth Jones” position=”Columnist” image_url=”” facebook_url=”” linkedin_url=”” admin_label=”Robert Kenneth Jones” _builder_version=”3.0.101″ global_module=”26968″ saved_tabs=”all”]

Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast


The Promise and Acceptance of Faith

“Faith’s only real demand on us is that we trustfully keep moving forward into the unknown.  How things turn out in the end is not up to us.” ~ Paula Huston

Walking the path of life, while maintaining faith, can be a tricky project.  There are so many distractions.  Alluring temptations of power, fame, and the savory or sensational wave us in their direction.  Pitfalls of disappointment, resentment, sadness and grief whisper to us that we are all alone.  These interferences lead us on a well-worn trail that is ego driven and desolate.

Faith becomes a meaningless notion when the results depend upon us.  After all, in the words of author Richard Leonard, SJ; “Where the hell is God?”  Where is God when we are tempted?  Where is God when we are full of grief?  Where is God when things go wrong?  Why are my prayers falling on deaf ears?  Why should we have such capricious faith anyway?

God is not distant. 

This is the promise of faith.  The experience of living in the world with the pleasures and storms which come our way can be challenging.  There are no guarantees that things will be easy just because we have faith.

What we have is a God who never leaves us.  We can go to the depths and rise to the heights but God hangs right in there.  The answer to the question ‘Where the hell is God’ comes as a gentle whisper saying; “I am with you always.  Everything I have is yours.”

When we are battered and beaten, God is at our side.  When we fall and skin our knees, God is there to be with us.  We cannot be separated. Faith is simply an acceptance of that truth.

Today I will step out with assurance that I am not stepping out on my own.  I am held in the arms of a loving God.

Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast

Justice, Mercy and Compassion

by Robert Kenneth Jones

“Fill the seats of justice
With good men, not so absolute in goodness
As to forget what human frailty is. ~ Thomas Noon Talfourd
How easy it is to judge those who annoy us and those who break the rules!  Of course, this is not some new phenomenon.  Human beings have been doing it since the beginning of time.  But today, we have made the judgment game a sensational and salacious sport.

The 24-hour cable news’ programs are engaged in continual finger pointing and disdain of opposing points of view. They practically seduce us into paying attention and implore us to take sides.  We soon identify ourselves as virtuous and the other as unethical or evil.  We become engrossed when the powerful are mired in scandal and revile the outcast or marginalized who continue to cause trouble.  We become self-appointed judges, juries and executioners. 

“Pray that we might allow God to show us that compassion, mercy and forgiveness are far better than judgment.” ~ Drew Filkins

The people who are suffering and need our compassion and mercy the most too often receive our biased judgment. But who am I, and who are we, to judge? Consider the plight of our own personal brokenness.  

Each of us has made plenty of mistakes.  None of us will escape destructive patterns of behavior which, if scrutinized, could cause us to be condemned in one way or another. If we scorn those who suffer from addiction, ridicule those who have fallen into low places, criticize the homeless, blame the victims, or cast out the mentally ill, what are we doing but selfishly indulging misguided righteousness?

Rather than offering mercy and compassion, we strike a blow of intolerance.  Perhaps it is really the scorned, broken and wounded spirits within us which are crying out for forgiveness.

Banner photo by Phillip LeConte

Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast

Mindfulness For Everyday Peace; How meditation, prayer and contemplation are shaping our world

by Robert Kenneth Jones

The practice of Mindfulness is moving the nation along a path to gentle revolution. 

I recently watched the 2017 documentary ‘Mindfulness Goes Mainstream’ from PBS and learned that the transformative influence of mindfulness along with Centering Prayer, yoga and other disciplined practices is spreading throughout our country. This has been brewing for a long time but is now emerging as a proven way for relieving stress, offering tools for pain management and providing techniques for increasing focus while improving productivity.

Mindfulness has been embraced by America’s biggest corporations, the Armed Services, police departments, and our school systems.  Evidence-based studies conclude that it is having a positive effect on personal health. It should be no surprise that these methods once limited to Eastern religions and old hippies are now being embraced by millions of ordinary people who are trying to survive an increasingly complex and hectic world.

So what is mindfulness anyway?

My personal experiences with it have led me to the following explanation; Mindfulness is a psychological state of heightened moment-to-moment awareness through specific practices and disciplines such as meditation and contemplative prayer.  It is about achieving a state of mind that is centered in the present and devoid of judgment (the past) and worry (the future).

Most of us begin to feel like we are spending our whole lives trying to get by. This realization seeps into consciousness somewhere around age 40.  You start to develop uneasiness about the secret desperation that you have been hiding for so long. The things that were so important yesterday seem shallow and meaningless today.  You look fine on the outside but are crumbling on the inside.  You just know there has to be a better way to live more fully. This is when turning to mindfulness is so useful. Andy Puddicombe, the co-founder of Headspace, a digital health platform, describes the transformative power of doing just that by devoting only ten minutes a day simply by being mindful and experiencing the present moment.

Mindfulness in the Workplace

Corporations such as General Mills, Aetna, Target and Google are using mindfulness to improve innovative thinking, communication skills and more appropriate reactions to stress.  They have built extensive programs to foster mindful practices among employees and have seen benefits and improvements in employee health, productivity and job satisfaction. Leadership courses have been developed which use mindfulness as the touchstone of success.

Mindfulness in the Military

The United States Marines are embracing mindfulness and report remarkable results. Marines who took an eight-week course in the basics of mindfulness recovered from stress faster following an intense training session that replicated battlefield conditions. Four platoons underwent the standard training regimen to prepare for combat. Members of the other four additionally received eight weeks of mindfulness-based mind fitness training. This consisted of 20 hours of classroom time plus homework: Participants were asked to complete “at least 30 minutes of daily mindfulness and self-regulation exercises.”

The Marines were assessed at the beginning and end of the eight-week program, and again a week or so later after they completed a highly stressful, day-long training exercise at a special facility designed to replicate combat conditions. This training required them to respond to an enemy ambush.

Afterward, 54 Marines who had undergone mindfulness training and 53 who did not undergo a series of medical tests. They revealed that the heart and breathing rates of the mindful Marines returned to normal faster than those of the control group members. Brain scans on a subset of 40 Marines also found differences between the two groups. Focusing on several parts of the brain implicated in cognitive control and emotion regulation, the researchers found exposure to emotional faces produced less activation. There is a reason to believe that this method of strengthening mental and emotional resilience will even reduce to incidence of PTSD for veterans.

Mindfulness in the Law Enforcement

Law enforcement officers and first responders have been engaging in mindfulness programs and practices for about ten years.  In a pilot study conducted by Oregon police officer Richard Goerling and Michael Christopher of Pacific University, officers who learned mindfulness skills reported “significant improvement in self-reported mindfulness, resilience, police and perceived stress, burnout, emotional intelligence, difficulties with emotion regulation, mental health, physical health, anger, fatigue, and sleep disturbance.” This echoes some of the research from an earlier study, which found that police officers who went through mindfulness training experienced less depression in their first year of service. This approach is certainly preparing LEO’s and first responders with better ways to handle their emotional stressors in an era where they face increasing violence every day.

Mindfulness in the Classroom

Our public and private schools are using mindfulness practices to help students deal with stress, the threat of gun violence, bullying, and classroom restlessness.  Two different studies were done by Cheryl Desmond, Ph.D., and Laurie Hanich, Ph.D., of middle school children who had taken the “Wellness Works in Schools” mindfulness-based course showed significant gains in self-regulation and executive function.

Discipline problems become teachable moments for kids who have learned how to use mindfulness.  Dennie Doran, head of the Upper School at the Nantucket New School and a teacher there has been at the school for nine years.  She definitely sees a “before” and “after” effect since they began teaching mindfulness. “We have a common language from the 3-year-olds to the 14-year-olds. ‘Was that a mindful decision?’ ‘Did you think about your choice?’ ‘Stop and take a breath.’ So that by the time the lower school gets to the upper school we’re dealing with teachable moments instead of discipline problems. They’re learning self-awareness and then making choices based on that self-awareness.”

Perhaps we are entering a new age in schools not rooted in hardening or softening them but in helping students and teachers to find deeper and more meaningful connections with self and others.

A few of the many benefits of Mindfulness:

Pope Francis relates to mindfulness and Centering Prayer as “serene attentiveness” which approaches life by being fully present to someone without thinking of what comes next, which accepts each moment as a gift from God to be lived to the full.  He reminds Christians that “Jesus taught this attitude when he invited us to contemplate the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, or when seeing the rich young man and knowing his restlessness, he looked at him with love.  He was completely present to everyone and to everything, and in this way; he showed us the way to overcome that unhealthy anxiety which makes us superficial, aggressive and compulsive consumers.”

Mindfulness at Home

I have found that mindfulness enables me to experience every moment.  There is an ever-present opportunity to step into a moment and find peace.  I have grown in deeper, loving awareness of the wonders of creation and in my connectedness with other people.  I don’t live in the past or worry about the future (for the most part…I’m working on it). Gradually, I have come to believe in the truth of The Serenity Prayer and that we are all here, on earth, in the peaceful presence of the Creator. Thanks at least in part to mindfulness. So, get quiet, sit up straight, close your eyes…now take a deep breath in and let it out.  There.  You are on your way to practicing mindfulness.

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast

The Beloved Community

by Robert Kenneth Jones

“The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community. The aftermath of nonviolence is redemption. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation. The aftermath of violence is emptiness and bitterness.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King worked for the establishment of a Beloved Community. The Beloved Community in which love of enemies, non-violent resolution of conflicts, human dignity, peace, and freedom will overcome hatred, division, and selfishness.
What a magnificent dream. His message of love stirred up controversy and he was called a rabble-rouser. His message of love made lots of enemies but he was undeterred.
God wants a humanity that is characterized by this sort of fearless love which neutralizes the power of evil and transforms it into good.
Fifty years ago, Dr. King was taken from us at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. It was such a tragic day. Violence, fear, and hatred seemed to rob us of his beloved community dream. But of course, in reality, violence never wins.
One of the most amazing peacemakers I have known rose from the ashes of that dark day in Tennessee. Clare Hanrahan, began her battle for justice and mercy when she was 18 in her home town of Memphis after the assassination of Dr. King in 1968. From then on her work has been tireless.
Though many of our generation put aside work for non-violence and the beloved community after the War in Vietnam, Clare did not stop. She has been a protester at the gates of bomb factories, has been jailed in federal prison for protesting at the School of The Americas and has stood in silent, non-violent vigils for immigrants, women and the marginalized.
At age 62 she started an organization called New South Network of War Resisters. Clare recently said in an interview at her Asheville, NC home, “I think we’ve all got to live in the light of what we feel is right action and just do that.”
One of her books, The Half-Life of a Free Radical: Growing Up Irish Catholic in Jim Crow Memphis, tells the story of her work and struggles. She has been a light for us all to follow exemplifying Dr. King’s dream and stressing alternatives to violence.
Like Clare Hanrahan, we always have the option to be kind and gentle. We always have the option to let go of personal bias in favor of cooperation. We always have the option to love instead of hate. We have the chance, here and now, to exercise these options and become co-creators of Dr. King’s beloved community.
About the Author
In a career spanning over four decades, Robert Kenneth Jones has been an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse. His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.
Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin
Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast
Drawing courtesy of Vivien Feyer, gifts of the Society for the Support of Chemical Weapons Victims.
Martin Luther King Memorial Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Guided by Another Easter

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Easter shakes us up.

It asks us to let go and let God. Easter reminds us that our lives are not our own. We clearly discover that we are not in charge. God seems to have another idea for us. It is an idea which has little to do with our own plans.

Couldn’t most all of us confirm that we never planned to be exactly who we are and where we are today?

Our passions and dreams are only diminished by the alluring attraction of wealth, power or even by the need for security. When we compromise, put off or set aside the fire in our bellies, the chances are good that it might be reduced to a flickering memory of what-might-have-been.

And so, we trudge ahead, doing what we are expected to do. The terrible consequence is a life lived only on the surface. We arrive at our destination and find there is nobody there to cheer for us. We take nothing with us and finish as a weary traveler. Then we simply disappear into the background.

This is God’s better idea. As Gods exceptional and beloved child, each of us is given special gifts and special powers unique unto ourselves. Every gift and power ignite that little fire which burns as our passion. When we pay attention to this fire it becomes bliss. We are directed by its light through darkness, rain and life storms.

When true to our course, following our bliss and honoring God’s gifts we become enabled to live fully. We become instruments of God’s dream. We arrive at our destination in the embrace of a loving community. We bring all of the accumulated love with us. We are never forgotten.

Easter is a time for renewal and new beginnings. We have a chance to affirm our gifts and to re-ignite our special powers. Easter sets us free. Easter renews us. Easter brings us home.

“When I look through God’s eyes at my lost self and discover God’s joy at my coming home, then my life may become less anguished and more trusting.” ~ Henri Nouwen

About the Author
In a career spanning over four decades, Robert Kenneth Jones has been an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse. His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration, and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin
Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast