In this episode Tony shares his one-man mission to debunk the biggest myth in the world of habit change. This episode is sure to change your opinion on what it takes to create new habits and give you hope that you, too, can create new habits even if you feel like you’ve been unsuccessful in the past. Tony also shares a story about “getting the fudge first” aka the one-hour Disneyland shopper’s pass.
Recently, Senator Ted Cruz’s Twitter account favorited a tweet featuring hardcore pornography.
Before I go any further, I think I would be fined by the internet if I passed up some comment about the way my previous sentence read, and it was written in the way that most media outlets have been writing it, as in his Twitter account favorited the tweet. Not Cruz himself, but his account. So, to be fair, earlier this morning my Facebook account wished my friend Thomas a happy birthday and it also liked a dog fail video. I knew my Facebook account liked dog fail videos, but I honestly didn’t know it knew Thomas, but he’s a good enough guy that I’m OK with that.
And let me be upfront: I recently launched an online pornography recovery program, so you’re probably going to think that I am unwilling to even try and see both sides of the aisle when it comes to the harmful effects of pornography.
See, I already did it, I already showed my bias. I didn’t simply say the effects of pornography, I said the “harmful” effects. I slid that judgemental statement in there without even meaning to. But there's a lot more to the story. Many years ago, I left a successful career in the software industry to go back to school — night school, no less — with four small children at home. I had no shoes, and I walked uphill both ways on broken glass, in the winter... sorry, I was practicing the way the story will eventually be told to my grandkids.
The point is that when I started my journey to become a therapist, the very LAST thing I expected to do was focus on the pornography industry. I did it because I felt a calling of sorts to do something that I loved.
Computer software fell in my lap after college; and before I could blink, ten years had passed and I was well on my way to a midlife crisis, and I’m talking the kind of epic proportions!
I wasn’t satisfied with my career. I was a modern-day equivalent of a Fuller Brush salesman, schlepping my floppy disks around the world, being routinely turned down at trade show after trade show by busy execs focused on finding the next strip club instead of my program that would speed up their hard drives by up to .0001 milliseconds. I know, hard to believe I wasn’t finding joy in that journey.
I was looking at Hawaiian shirts; the type with no top buttons. I believe I had just purchased some sort of gold chain and I was looking to trade up my Toyota Celica for a better sports car, and while I’m embarrassed to admit this next part as a proud, card-carrying 15-year-member of the “I shave my head bald and I love it club,” I was starting to look into hair plugs!
This “call” that I felt was specifically to work with men, to help them become better husbands and fathers.
Nowhere in this call was any mention of spending thousands and thousands of hours working with hundreds and hundreds of men who wasted hours, days, and weeks looking at porn. Men who were warping their sexuality without even realizing the consequences.
Little did I know I would spend hours debating with clients the cause of their early erectile dysfunction (which, by the way, is at an all-time high thanks to the current desire for pixels over actual people), or that I would eventually become an expert in how people access pornography on every device known to man — from kids' game consoles to GPS navigation units.
I now sit in countless couples sessions a week hearing porn-obsessed client after porn-obsessed client looking to me for help in convincing an unwilling spouse to really amp things up in the bedroom because he can’t be content with a goal of intimacy in sexuality. These men believe that satisfying sex, for them, has to include a variety of the things that he’s witnessed, or worked his way up to over the years of regular and routine porn exposure.
It’s not a surprise to learning that close to half of all divorces report that pornography use has played a significant role in the destruction of the marriage.
I work with doctors and lawyers, CPAs, and highway patrolmen, large and small business owners, students, teachers, landscapers, waiters, all whom struggle with pornography addiction. Porn is no respecter of persons, it is everywhere, and it is relentlessly trying to make its way into the home.
These clients who finally seek help have tried repeatedly to stop looking at porn but ultimately return. Most of them have been caught at some point by partners who feel betrayed. And when trust has been broken, it takes work to repair it, and that work can be difficult, which feels overwhelming at times.
This also leads them to feel bad, which can lead them to turn to porn. These clients routinely report that they struggle with an emotional connection with their partners, and most all recognize an increase in their objectification of women, viewing most as primarily body parts. Not human beings, mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives.
Most all feel disconnected from their families and their churches, and they typically come to a realization that they are disconnected from their lives because whenever they feel triggered, they turn to porn.
And it’s not about lack of sex in the relationship.
I sit with dozens of men each week who openly admit to assuming that once they were married their appetite for porn would subside when they had a more regular sex life. And while on occasion that is the case, I routinely sit with dozens of men each week who admit that they can have sex with their wives and then, after she falls asleep, they turn to porn so they can then find their true excitement.
Triggers that lead to viewing porn come in all shapes and sizes.
Some of the most common are stress, boredom, lack of connection with a partner. This is often a bit of a catch-22, as the lack of connection stems from the continued viewing of porn. When these triggers hit, thoughts turn to ways to porn and eventually, the brain moves that pattern over into the “habit center” of the brain. The basal ganglia, a little walnut-sized part of the brain, is purely reactionary, putting habit sequences into play without much effort.
And once it has become a habit, the brain, in its never-ending evolutionary quest to get out of work in order not to burn out so it can try and live forever, switches tracks right over to the habit center whenever the hint of a trigger is present.
Meanwhile, the average age of first exposure to porn for children, depending on the study, is now 8 to 11 years old.
We understand that this early exposure equals “sexualization.” The best way I can explain this is that when a kid is exposed to porn at that early of an age, he or she is now aware, and often focused on, those body parts that they are now trying to make sense of on adults. Ms. Johnson, to the sexualized youth, isn’t just his or her third-grade teacher. Ms. Johnson now has real body parts, and suddenly, learning that a shark’s body is made up primarily of cartilage (OK, sure, I’m pulling from experience on this one) is trumped by the fascination of whether or not she has ever done anything like the videos.
So why so much to-do about porn?
Why the concern over Senator Cruz’s Twitter account favoriting a video featuring pornography? Why concern ourselves with whether or not this politician or that politician liked or shared or viewed or denied something porn-related?
In my professional, pornography-addiction-recovery-program-creating, thousands-of-hours-of-working-with-pornography-addiction opinion, these actions represent just the tip of the iceberg. Pornography has slowly but surely warped the nation’s collective sexuality and numbed us all to the severity and consequences as well.
I know that porn is not going anywhere anytime soon — anywhere but probably becoming more entrenched in people’s lives — but I believe it’s at a significant cost. It’s at the cost of putting pixels in front of people, virtual reality in front of real relationships, and while the effects of this direction are bad enough in this therapist’s opinion — granted my job security appears to be intact — I believe the negative effects are amplified when these behaviors are out in the public arena coming from those who in theory represent the people.
I think I’d prefer somebody who’s going to accidentally like a post about the latest dog fail video, at least then I know he’s turning to a different avenue to avoid falling prey to those triggers.
Well, at least his Twitter account will have found that different avenue.
Tony Overbay is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, host of the popular podcast The Virtual Couch, and the creator of The Path Back, an online pornography recovery program. You can download a free copy of Tony’s “5 Common Mistakes Christians Make Attempting to Break Free from Pornography Addiction” from his website, PathBackRecovery.com
Author Tina Fuller joins Tony to talk about her book It's My Turn. The book is about growing up with a narcissistic parent. They talk about personality disorders, signs of narcissism, and the negative effects of growing up the child of a narcissistic parent. Tina also shares how to heal from the issues that arise from being raised by a narcissist. Tina can be contacted at email@example.com or through her website http://www.narcissism-answers.com/ This episode is sponsored by www.elis-extracts.com use coupon code virtualcouch for 25% off any order. And check out Tony's online pornography recovery program at pathbackrecovery.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Episode 3 of the Virtual Couch just landed! On this episode I tackle how to deal with unwanted thoughts, it's a subject that I love discussing whenever I have an opportunity to speak. So many people think that they are unique in a lot of what goes on inside of their head. As a therapist I love helping people process and realize that we truly aren't necessarily what our brains are telling us that we are, and there are some easy techniques you can use to help silence, or put perspective on, those annoying unwanted thoughts. PLUS I share the story of being locked out of a hotel room in my skivvies Please subscribe, review and share, and keep those questions coming to email@example.com.
In the second episode of The Virtual Couch Podcast I answer a couple of questions sent in by listeners including one about how to handle depression. And I address the importance of being honest with yourself, including what to do when you feel "broken." This episode of The Virtual Couch was made possible thanks to a generous donation from Eli's Extracts, an all natural, organic shave cream solution. Don't forget to submit any questions that you would like answered to firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you!
The first episode of my new podcast, The Virtual Couch, is available on iTunes and wherever else you go for your podcasts. In this inaugural episode I tackle the topic of how to effectively talk to your teenagers. You can find the episode here, and please be sure to subscribe, share, comment and rate in iTunes. Thank you!
originally posted on Yourtango.com on August 24, 2017 at http://www.yourtango.com/experts/tony-overbay/why-men-fear-couples-counseling-and-how-convince-them
Couples counseling saves marriages, but typically men aren't game, here's why and how to get them to come to counseling.
“She’s been to counseling a lot on her own, so she knows all the right things to say. I feel like she immediately gets the counselor on her side because she says something about empathy, or attachment or some other touchy-feely word!”
Now we were getting somewhere! David, who up to this point had spent the better part of the two previous couples sessions staring at the list of ingredients on the back of his energy drink, was finally sitting up on the couch and looking me in the eye. I was witnessing, in real time, David finally being the dreaded “v” word, “vulnerable,” and as I glanced at his wife, Staci, it was clear to see that she, too, was getting a peak at a side of David that she hadn’t seen before, and she liked what she was seeing.
And so it goes when working with men in couples counseling. I actually entered the counseling profession after a decade as successful software company executive because I felt a calling to work with men. I went through grad school professing my passion for wanting to help my fellow XY-chromosome-carrying brethren become better husbands and fathers. (Cue the patriotic music while I step up on my soapbox) I wanted to see men live up to their full potential. I wanted them to treat their mothers with kindness and return to helping old ladies across the street. I wanted to dig deeply into their childhoods and help them realize that they were no longer that shy, insecure kid getting picked last at kickball, even if they deserved it! I wanted them all building white picket fences around their dream homes, carrying their partners across the threshold, I wanted them to be millionaires, and pirates and astronauts, and I wanted rainbows and unicorns to appear and every man on Earth to finally get that pony he always wanted!
But men didn’t come to therapy. Sure, there were the exceptions, the sensitive guy who liked rom-coms and aromatic shower gels and wasn’t afraid to wear bright colors after Labor Day. For the most part I would only get men who had been caught in any of the following: looking at pornography, cheating on their spouses, or Oklahoma City Thunder basketball fans angry that Kevin Durrant left for the Warriors.
What I discovered in my work with men was that they typically turned to their vices as coping mechanisms, and in most cases, they were coping with unsatisfying relationships with their partners, or unfulfilling careers. Coming to terms with these life-challenges was difficult because it implied weakness, or vulnerability. Ah, there’s that word again, vulnerability!
This discovery led me to more training on couples counseling. I learned that most counselors weren’t particularly excited to work with couples, and upon further review, more than one counselor shared with me that it was because they didn’t know what to do with the men! My training led me to an evidenced-based modality called Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT), EFT had become popular over the last 15 years led by renowned psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson and her easily-digestible book Hold Me Tight.
At the core of EFT is the need to be vulnerable, to be able to open up to your partner and share your most intimate thoughts, and details, hopes and dreams, allowing your partner a voice to be able to meet your unmet “emotional bids.” With understanding, and practice, the process works beautifully, and I’ve since worked with hundreds of couples who have seen their relationships go to levels they never dreamed of, and almost 100% of these couples have included men!
The challenge is that vulnerability is not the default setting for most males. Men are typically raised with heavy doses of “rub a little dirt in it,” or praise for the strong, silent type, the Lone Ranger, John Wayne, or for a more updated reference, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. These heros never cried, they just kicked butt, rescued the damsel in distress, and in the Duke’s case, literally rode off into the sunset. Vulnerability was for wimps, and a man’s brain is wired to think that if he opens up to his feelings, his wife will immediately do a spit-take (I offer all of my clients complimentary water bottles upon arrival, I’m classy like that), and then run out of the room yelling over her shoulder, “I didn’t marry a weakling, I wanted the Terminator (sorry, another dated reference)!”
I’ve heard a variety of reasons why men don’t want to come to couples counseling, but the recurring reasons typically sound like one of these:
1. I’m going to get ganged up on, I’m basically walking into my own execution.
2. I don’t believe in all of that touchy feely emotional crap.
3. You’re just going to tell me that it’s all my fault.
4. It costs a lot of money, can’t we just read a book or watch an episode of Dr. Phil?
5. I’m worried that the therapist won’t have complimentary water (see, I already have that one covered).
At the core of all of the reasons and excuses that I’ve heard over the years is a fear of the man having to be vulnerable. Men typically don’t voluntarily try to tap into feelings that rarely surface on their own. Feelings that only come out at the end of any family movie where an animal is reunited with its owner (shout out to Air Bud, I’ll never forget!), anytime a childhood-favorite sports franchise wins (or loses) a championship game or when you open the donut box and someone has, in fact, eaten the last chocolate sprinkle even though you left a sticky note on top of the box and all you really wanted after your workout was a chocolate sprinkle donut (but no, I’m not bitter!).
But the truth is, I have yet to experience a couples session when the man finally did decide to “buy in” and be vulnerable, and his wife didn’t nearly burst into tears, and not tears of “get this guy out of here!” but tears of “finally, there’s that guy I’ve always wanted, one that I can actually communicate with on a deeper level than whether or not the Giants won last night!”
So how DO you get him to come into counseling? Well, there’s always leaving a trail of bacon into the counselor’s office (I recommend giving the counselor a heads up so they can lay down some plastic, the good bacon leaves stains) but better yet, I recommend that the wife model that same vulnerability that will come into play in effective couples counseling.
“I can understand your hesitation, but I want to assure you that I know you’re not completely to blame (even if he is), and I appreciate your willingness to come with me.”
There’s no harm in reaching out to a counselor in advance, you can ask her/him what counseling methods they use, what would they say to a husband who is hesitant to come to therapy, and to they have bacon?
Or, I have regularly had women express in the first session that their husband is not particularly sold on counseling, or doesn’t believe it will work. As a counselor, I appreciate that type of information, and a good counselor will address a comment like that with empathy and understanding, and be aware of the triggers that may lead to the husband shutting down, or disengaging from the counseling process.
Look, I’m a counselor, obviously I feel that it works. I currently see around 15-20 couples a week and there is nothing quite like seeing a man recognize the benefits of counseling and watching their marriages grow. So I believe that short of lying to your husband to get him to go to therapy, getting him in the door is worth the effort. I often see couples who say that they wish they had come to counseling years before, but she wanted him to want to, or he felt like she was always nagging him about it. I like to say that somebody has to “come out of their bunker” first, and in this case, it may in fact have to be the woman. Express to your husband how important it is to you, be vulnerable, and once he’s inside the counseling office, you may need to help him express his hesitation for coming.
Be sure to give the counselor the data upfront, remember, he or she is a pro, they’ll know what to do to help put him at ease. And if you don’t feel comfortable with your counselor after a few sessions, find another! That’s part of the business, the relationship between the client and the counselor is imperative for success, find a good fit and then watch the magic happen. And once he’s at ease, ladies, and he sees how effective counseling can be once he’s vulnerable, you’ll eventually be the one fighting him for aromatic soap!
Tony Overbay is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the creator of The Path Back, an online pornography recovery program. You can download a free copy of Tony’s “5 Common Mistakes Christians Make Attempting to Break Free from Pornography Addiction” from his website http://pathbackrecovery.com
One of my greatest parenting moments is when one of my kid’s friends are at the house and they spill something. It doesn’t matter if it’s a drink, or soup, it can be anything. Without exception the kid takes on an expression of sheer panic, looking around the room ready for the heckfire and darnnation to come upon them, for the lights in the room to flicker on and off and for me, the patriarch of the home, to come unglued and ask the question echo’d around dining rooms for centuries, “Why did you do that!? Come on, clean it up, I can’t believe you spilled, do you know how many times I’ve told you not to spill!?”
In the situation mentioned above, typically the child’s shoulders will slump, their head will go down, chin touching chest, and a solitary tear will run down their face, and at that point the rest of dinner is ruined. In my home, again, without exception, the following occurs. Kid spills drink, soup, etc., laughter erupts, and several people get up to get something to clean up the spill. Drink, soup, etc., is refilled, more laughter is had, and dinner continues. But it wasn’t always this way!
I remember rather clearly as a parent of four young children the constant spills, as well as plates, bowls and anything else that can hold food finding it’s way to the floor, and this typically happened right as my wife or I was finally sitting down to eat after getting everybody else situated. Or it happened right as we were trying to hurriedly clean up, no doubt running a bit late for whatever else we had planned for the day. To this day, our dogs sit and stare motionless at the floor during dinner, statue-like, just waiting for somebody to send something to the ground for them to devour (and nowadays things are dropped on purpose because the dogs are old, and my kids think they deserve a scrap or two since the spills are far and few between).
The point being that I feel fairly confident as a father, as a therapist, and as a human being in general, that none of my kids, or your kids or the kids visiting our home woke up that morning and thought, “what can I do today to make my parents angry? Got it, I’ll spill something during dinner! They’ll never see that coming, and then I’ll sit back and watch the chaos unfold!” Kids are kids and spills happen, they’ve happened in the past, and they’ll happen in the future. I’m sure that in prehistoric times there were caveman kids spilling saber-toothed tiger milk from their rock-like cups (can you tell I’m a child from the Flintstones era) and in the future kids will, well, they’ll drop their pills that contain all of the nutrition and hydration they’ll need for the day (shoutout now to the Jetsons!). I’m surprised that spills don’t happen more often based on the dexterity and attention span of most kids. And on that note, I’m convinced that the juice box was invented by someone who actually despised children because forget trying to get the little spear-like straw into the eye-of-a-needle sized hole without some spillage!
And in the vein of being truly authentic, do you want to know what inspired this article? I just kicked over a bottle of flavored water (OK, OK, it was diet soda) on the floor of my office AGAIN and there was no part of me that thought, “man, I know I’m busy right now but I think I’ll spice things up a bit, kick this bottle over and spend the next 10 minutes trying to clean up this mess.”
Our goal is to build up our children, to edify them, to help them along the path of living up to their full potential. No, no, I’m not going down the “every kid needs a trophy” path, but we want our kids to be able to come to us when they need us, to feel comfortable knowing that we’re there for them, that we have their back, that we love them. But if we overreact to an inadvertent spill, how on earth do we expect them to come to us to help them process the intricacies of teenage dating, friendships, insecurities, college and career choices or the myriad of other things that go through their minds.
As a therapist who does a fair amount of work with teenagers I once again can use an “all or nothing” statement with confidence when I say that EVERY teenager that I’ve worked with over the years has shared with me that yes, their parents have in fact told them that they want their teens to come to them with any problem, to share anything with them. And then when the teen inevitably needs their parents help, and comes to them with something that the parents don’t want to hear, the parents freak out! You can see where that’s going to lead? Yeah, that teen isn’t going to come open up to the parent anytime soon.
So not reacting to a spill, or, better yet, reacting POSITIVELY to something that is simply part of life is a powerful way to connect with your kids early on, period. It’s a way to set the stage for having them feel more comfortable coming to you with more important challenges later on in life. Roll with the spills and eventually you’ll be right there beside them helping them roll with the larger ticket items they face as they grow up, and as a parent, don’t you want to be the one they come to? Besides, some day when you’re in a nice home somewhere and they’ve come for a visit with the great grandkids, you’ll want them to help you clean up that prune juice that you just spilled, because you’ll swear you didn’t mean to!
Tony Overbay is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the creator of The Path Back, an online pornography recovery program. You can download a free copy of Tony's "5 Common Mistakes Christians Make Attempting to Break Free from Pornography Addiction" here.
Yesterday I was sent a few questions from a grad student in a local counseling program, she wanted to interview me for a project about why people choose therapy as a career. One of the questions was simply “why did you want to be a therapist?” I only had a few minutes to try and answer her questions so I made it brief, that I had always been interested in people, what makes them tick, and more specifically I felt a strong “calling” to become a therapist and work with men. I wanted to try and help men become better husbands and fathers. For as long as I could remember I wanted to be a husband, and a father, it was ingrained in me, and, quite frankly, I enjoyed doing both (husbanding and fathering).
I then shared a tiny bit more about sitting on that “calling” for a couple of years, probably trying to ignore it and see if it would eventually go away, while enjoying a fairly successful software career that paid pretty well and sent me all over the world for various tradeshows and meetings. But I wasn’t even remotely satisfied, or fulfilled, selling software. I wasn’t passionate about it. In my mind I was just selling a “widget” and meanwhile I kept feeling this calling toward therapy.
So I decided to go back to school and get my masters in counseling. I was in my early 30’s (if you’re a visual learner, like me, and you’re picturing these events in your mind, I was already bald, that happened a decade earlier, thankfully after I had already convinced my wife to marry me!) I decided that another two years would pass and I would either have my masters, or I wouldn’t, so I might as well get it. I look back on those two years with sincere feelings of gratitude, as I felt like I truly was lifted up and supported by God. I was still working full time, I had four small children, I was active in my church, and I was just discovering my passion for ultra running (distances of over 26 miles). I had always tried to maintain a “zero impact” policy to my family for my running, I had started getting up around 3:30 AM to run before anyone else got up, and I decided to embrace a similar policy for school, I would do my school work after the kids went to bed (I was in a program where I attended class one evening for 4 hours, and there were A LOT of papers and projects in between). This was when I started getting by on very little sleep, yet I was able to excel in grad school (I loved the material, I graduated with a 3.92 and I’m still bummed about my A-, I think the teacher was trying to prove some point, yeah, I should let that one go) and be present and available for my wife and children. Again, I felt the hand of God in allowing me to accomplish all that I needed to during that time.
Fast forward to the start of my therapy career, I was ready to help as many men as possible! And that’s when I realized that a lot of men, OK maybe most men, don’t typically come to therapy! I worked with some early on in couples settings and a few more when they had to see me, i.e. they had been caught doing something they shouldn’t have, or they truly were at their wits end and were finally looking for help. In hindsight that was a wonderful time where I truly learned how to help people with a variety of issues including anxiety, depression, OCD, and several others that I have now spent thousands of hours working with and build the foundation of many therapist’s practices.
During this time, almost a decade ago, I also started noticing more and more men starting to come into therapy and the request of their wives, or ecclesiastical leaders or sometimes on their own volition because they were struggling with an addiction to pornography. Pornography access was becoming easier by the day, and with that access came more and more cases. I started seeing more teenage boys, and eventually some women as well, but it was clear that the problem was getting worse, and the ramifications were still unclear. But what WAS clear was that people were reporting that they had tried and tried to break the habit, sometimes going weeks or even months without viewing pornography, only to return to it when certain life-triggers occurred. I sought more training, and continued to work with more and more men, and at that time it became crystal clear, that my “calling” to work with men was in fact coming to fruition.
Since that time I have now worked with hundreds and hundreds of men, and teenage boys, as well as some women, who have been unable to break the chains of pornography addiction and compulsive sexual behavior. The research is continuing to come in, that pornography warps sexuality, it causes people to objectify men and women, son’s and daughter’s of God, it perpetuates unhealthy sexual relationships and causes feelings of low self esteem, it leads to body shaming, struggles being with real people, I could honestly go on and on and on. I’ve had debates with people who feel that a little bit of pornography doesn’t hurt, but upon further review it’s clear that it has an incredibly negative impact even in “low doses.” I’m not trying to guilt or shame people who are stuck in the trap, because that’s not even remotely productive and actually only feeds the addiction even more! I’m trying to promote a message of hope, because I have literally seen hundreds and hundreds of people leave pornography in their past and THEN realize the true negative impact that it had on them. There is so much more to share on this topic, and in the coming weeks, months, and years, I will share more of what I see daily, in sessions, of how pornography impacts marriages, families, friendships, relationships in general, and more importantly, how one can overcome it, and become an instrument in God’s hands to help even more of His children.
I now know that the launch of The Path Back was what God had in mind when he started planting those seeds so long ago to look into this career, and more specifically what I could do to help my brothers, and sisters. I am grateful to be on the front lines of this fight, because it’s one that isn’t going away, but the more people that we can help and put this problem behind them the more people that we’ll have on higher ground to lift their brothers and sisters, and the victories will be contagious, and we will save lives along the way. And there will be a rainbow with a pot of gold and a unicorn... I realized that I was getting a little bit fired up there! There is hope for ANYONE struggling with pornography addiction, all it takes is a few steps down The Path Back to a better YOU (yeah, you know I had to throw The Path Back in there at the end, it was just sitting there, tee’d up, I had to take it!).
I wanted to quickly share my appreciation for Coach Steve Jacobs and the entire Jr. Zebra football organization for allowing me to participate in their first night back to practice Monday night, it was the first time on the field since the tragic passing of Coach Eric Morales last Thursday evening. I was asked to speak with the football players, parents and coaches about ways to emotionally process what happened, help identify some of the emotions many of the young men were undoubtedly feeling and hopefully help them recognize that there is no playbook for events like these that occur in life. We were able to talk about the fact that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, but that is important to feel like they can share their emotions regardless of what they are, or when they may present themselves. The young men were incredibly attentive, and respectful, it’s no doubt that many of them will remember this for the rest of their lives, so I was grateful for the direction of the Jr. Zebra board in putting together the evening to help the youth, and the adults, try and work through what I can’t even imagine were some difficult last few days.
Several people shared some wonderful thoughts of Coach Morales and while there were definitely tears, as would be expected, we were also able to laugh, and see how we can all keep him alive in our hearts, and minds (for those in attendance, you’ll never hear about Dip’n Dots again without thinking about him!). We talked briefly about how differently we can view an event, and just because somebody felt something different from their friend, it doesn’t mean that what they were feeling was wrong, or not important. I used an example of asking how many of the young men played video games...all of them, and how many of them liked a ‘jump scare’ (a game where something comes out of nowhere eliciting, at least in my case, a frightened yell!) which was many of them, versus how many didn’t like jump scares at all? The point being that we can all experience the same situation differently.
The strength of the community was evident as well. There were chaplains from the Placer County Sheriff's department as well clergy and additional chaplains and volunteers from several Lincoln churches on hand. Coach Morales’ family was there, and his daughter shared a touching story of her father’s generosity. And there were Coach Morales’ fellow coaches there with the boys as well.
Coach Morales is one of the few people who literally died doing what he loved, coaching football. I wanted to convey to the young men that coaches don’t coach simply because they love an oblong object with white laces (a football), they coach because they love working with the youth, with those boys that were sitting there that evening, and it was clear from many of the stories shared that Coach Morales truly loved the youth. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, as well as the entire Jr. Zebra organization, from the players, cheerleaders, coaches and family members. It was one of those moments where the community truly came together and I was proud to have settled in Lincoln some 24 years ago. My prayer is that we can all take a moment of self-reflection as is so often the case when tragedy strikes, and decide in this moment to try a little harder to be a better whatever it is that you want to be, father, mother, son, daughter, grandparent, employee, church-goer, whatever it is that you want to improve, and that you gather your own family a little closer, make more of an effort to be present, and to spend time with those you love. I believe this is truly how you can honor the life of Coach Morales.
There is a gofundme account set up to help with the costs of Coach Morales’ funeral for anyone interested in donating.https://www.gofundme.com/LJZCoachMorales