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Candace Hartzler, MA/LICDC is the author of Learning to Love Differently, a healing pathway for families of addicts. Candace Hartzler holds an undergraduate degree from Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio and a Master’s degree in Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Ministry from The Methodist Theological School in Delaware, Ohio. She has been a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor since 1991 and is retired from The Ohio State University, Wexner Medical Center, Talbot Hall. She maintains a private practice in Clintonville, Ohio.  Candace was a chosen presenter at the 2012 National Conference on Addiction Disorders held in Washington, D.C., speaking on Family Addiction. She has published numerous articles on addiction’s impact and has served as faculty member at the Addiction Studies Institute, The Ohio State University.

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I will always be concerned about the damage addictions inflict on the hearts of addicts and on the ones who love them. The passing of my husband in 2021 has deepened my commitment to growth, change and overall wellness while also beckoning me towards creation of new and different.

The new and different includes less focus addiction/codependency and more on spiritual truths, spiritual growth and on keeping-life-simple. Living my life in the frame of simple has pointed me towards a memory to a fall day in 5th grade when our teacher asked each student to stand in front of the class and talk about what we wanted to be when we grew up.


Oh my. What does a 5th grader know about such things? If memory serves (and it might not), the pig-tailed, permed, or just-girls-with-crooked-bangs said they wanted to be teachers or nurses or secretaries or mothers. None of us could talk long about why we wanted to be any of the things we were claiming but we were at least brave enough to claim. I stood up and said, "I want to write stories."


Mind you, I had not written a word beyond what was required in elementary school, so I was as surprised as anyone by my outrageous claim. Always a reader, never a writer, until years after working as a secretary, a waitress, a mother, a volunteer, an adult student and a counselor. It was then I began to write: essays, professional articles, a few short stories here and there, (never my long suit), a few novels were started but never completed, and finally my book on families and addiction.


And now, all these wrinkled and mature years later, the fun stories are happening. For little people. The children's stories. Books that don't feel like work. I just sit and listen to the little animals talk to one another and then I write the words down. My book Theopatra, More Than Just A Mouse, an illustrated chapter book about a dreamy-eyed, courageous little mouse, was a delightful and creative romp in the world of writing. And there's another book gestating, conversations between the willful pint-sized mouse and her friends are stirring and I'm writing them down.


So blog entries change focus because life invites it. Life is short and full of invitation to live and love differently and we are asked to show up as the person we have become. I believe all of us live different chapters in our lives. Check out the chapter you're in and make sure you're still creating the life you want. Yes. You. Can.


I just completed Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, focused on the year following the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne on December 30, 2003. Framed within the 227 pages are memories of their 40-year-marriage, of her professional and family life within the context of John. She is an excellent and enviable wordsmith. She writes to make sense of John's sudden passing (one evening while sitting at their dining table) and to make sense out of the nonsensical. "Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant," she writes.

The art accompanying this post is from a glass fusion class I took last winter, the first winter without the steady side-by-side warmth of my husband. His passing changed life in an instant, even though we had months to prepare for the inevitability. I didn't much like what I created in that glass fusion class, but then I didn't much like anything about my life during those cold winter months. What I have come to appreciate most about the piece now, though, is how the light shines through and brings a brightness to the colors and shapes.

But back to Joan's magical thinking, these past months have included hours and even days of just that, including thoughts this is all temporary. He'll be home soon. That red jeep in the drive. Wait till I share this with Clem. Yes! So proud of your books! And your way of honoring all around you. The tapestry we wove from love, kids, cats, condos, too many squirrels, too small a kitchen, too many walnut trees, all these Redbuds and all those vacations.


But then an emotional banana peel lands on the path, and I pause, slip a bit, acknowledge the truth that his physical self is gone. All the book knowledge, all the music, all the positive memories (and not-so-positive during his last hours), all the talking out loud to God and whoever else is listening, pales. And I am left with just the rawness of loss. His prolonged absence. His dancing across the dining room with his walker. His "Good Morning, Sunshine." Even during his last weeks.


Then here comes the holy? It is after one of those days of sitting in a chair wrapped in a blanket feeling the wounds of grief that I begin to feel the balance again. Almost as if the pain of loss is part of achieving balance. Gotta' feel it to heal it?


It all seems a part of a long-term marriage, the dash between the beginning and the end. A full circle of sorts. A look at the best and the worst life has to offer. Falling in love then somewhere during the dash part, between the birth of something and the death of the same, a deep appreciation for it all. Always a double-sided coin. The holy comes fraught with holes and slippery places.


But as the year of firsts draws to a close, I look back and see how often people showed up, love showed up, kindness reared its head and I see how critical it is to trust in the process of change. I hear Father Richard Rohr referring to our need to "allow our wounds to be our teachers." Or is that Thich Nhat Hanh? Suffice it to say if that is one of the great spiritual truths, whoever the author, then I'm growing like a little wild spiritual weed.

Emotional banana peels notwithstanding, I assume, as long as I continue to let the light of love and experience and wisdom, all the fascinating ways the Divine has shown up in all these past years, that all will eventually we well. Again. Even without the red jeep in the drive. Or the Friday night flowers.


This picture was taken three years ago from an upstairs hallway of a farmhouse in Virginia. The workshop setting was chock-full of quiet sunrises and sunsets, homecooked food, and attendees who were open to learning more about themselves and about one another.


And while it is important to realize there are still quiet sunrises and sunsets and people willing to learn more about one another, pain is raging across our cities, our nation and our globe. We are being called up. We are being called upon. We are being invited to see clearly the result of oppression of a race. A knee on the neck of a black son who cried out for his mother minutes before he died sickens me.


A cry for his mother. A cry for the feminine. A cry for what the feminine represents. If our nation does not take huge action to live differently, to see clearly through the frosty panes of our prejudices, our fears, our way of putting our cultural knees on the necks of blacks (and women and immigrants and poor whites and gays and anyone who seems to go against whatever the cultural "norm" is), our nation will do down. Period.


Our priorities and values need sanitized. Change will happen only if we open our eyes and unseal our hearts. Our children don't need more stuff. They need adults in their lives who live whole heartedly without focusing their esteem on external validation and on the accumulation of STUFF. They need to see the adults in the world accepting those who look and live differently. They need to witness adults in their families and in their (our) governments agree to disagree without put-downs or using verbal knees-to-the-necks.


The changes needed will not come from the top down. The changes of heart and mind will come from the down up. We the people, all races, all types and kinds of humans, need to decide what we will do to bring about the shift needed.


I don't demonstrate but I do write letters. In no way do I agree with the current administration. I don't scream but I do pay close attention to the words of others and I vote accordingly. Some days I pray incessantly. Other days I just stick to my routine of quiet yoga, meditation/prayer. Then I read. Work in my art journal. Work in my flower garden. Write a letter. Do FaceTime with my giggly and wise 6 year-old granddaughter. Chat with my spouse. Take a walk. Make dinner. Most days I find purpose and meaning. On the days that purpose seems lacking, I know deep down that I will find it again the next day.


Most of humanity is good. I didn't say most whites or most blacks or most immigrants or most men or most women. I said most of humanity. To see change, to bring about ways to live and love differently is a task for each and every one of us. Find your way. Please.


Virtual hugs for all.


Candace















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