Not too long ago I had the idea to bring different perspectives on recovery that may not be well known into this blog. However, I was stuck. I didn’t know where to start. Aside from current view points of addiction and mental illness that are well known to the treatment field, I didn’t know what I could present. Then I realized the answer had been in front of my face for the past couple years. In a philosophy, religion actually for some, that I have tried to incorporate more and more into my lifestyle. As a Dudeist Priest, or Cleric of the Church of the Latter-Day Dude (if you’re not into the whole brevity thing), I realized Dudeism could help provide this alternative perspective.
Yes. You read that right. Dudeism. Some of you may be saying “What in God’s holy name are you blathering about?” While others may be saying “A wiser fella once said, sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, the bear eats you.” According to dudeism.com, Dudeism is “the slowest growing religion in the world…an ancient philosophy that preaches non-preachiness, practices as little as possible.” Dudeism is a philosophy that recent has been organized into a religion (that’s just, like your opinion, man). It uses the movie The Big Lewbowski as a parable. Its roots lie in Taoism but it incorporates a number of other philosophies. I could spend a whole blog entry explaining Dudeism but instead why don’t you explore and learn for yourself here.
For those familiar with the movie, you would know there is a fair share of drinking, drug use, and other problematic behaviors. Despite this, others have been able to embrace Dudeist concepts and incorporate them into their lives without use of substances.
We are here to see some viewpoints of Dudeism and recovery. Though I could write on this myself, I thought it would be better coming from others. For this, I asked some members of Dudeism to share their experience and perspectives. Below are two of those contributions with more to possibly come soon. Click “continue reading” to see their entries.
-Chris Dorian, Founder of Know Your Why Recovery
Dealing with Underlying Abandonment Trauma, with The Dude
By Glen Dower
The Big Lebowski and Me
Hi, I’m Glen and since my early 20s, The Big Lebowski has emerged as my #1 favourite film. This is quite the accomplishment as I came to the film late, and grew up a truly devoted Star Wars fan, and general movie buff.
But the film struck a chord. It was recommended to me by my fellow bartender at the time, Will, with whom I had developed a solid camaraderie based around our fondness for having a good time – whether we were behind the bar or not. After a shift once, he grabbed a bottle of vodka, one of kahlua…and a carton of milk from the storeroom and said ‘Right Glen, back to mine, we’re going to watch a film.’
Over that weekend, we would finish our shifts at the bar (The Goffs Oak Public House, Cuffley, excellent Sunday Roast Dinners), grabbed our bottled essentials (paid for by tips by the way), went home and watched the film over and over. The film contained likeable/adorable, quirky characters played by a top notch cast clearly having a great time, the dialogue sizzled and soared, it had bizarre musical numbers, a soundtrack that warranted a deepdive, it was crazy, it was cool, plus funny-angry characters were my deal, with John Goodman’s Walter Sobchak quickly becoming one of my joint film actor performances ever, alongside Tommy Lee Jones as Deputy Sam Gerard in The Fugitive.
Then it just became part of my life, absorbed into my DNA and celebrated through daily quotes, themed landmark-birthday parties, household decor, many nerd shirts, and with the White Russian becoming my go-to cocktail.
But as my early 20s became my late 20s became my early 30s and, as I write, have become the last of late 30s…my approach to life changed with each chapter, and some chapters contained light and some grew darker than a black steer’s tookus on a moonless prairie night.
Forgotten and Suppressed Prologue
Long before I discovered The Big Lebowski, way before I discovered Star Wars, even before I discovered Disney’s yellow-spined classics on VHS; my parents split up, with the father leaving us for another woman. I have never seen nor heard from him again. I was three years old, and my mother was pregnant with my soon-to-be-brother.
For many, many years I believed I was fine with this. I believed since I didn’t remember having a father; I wasn’t missing it. My Mom worked hard and we never went without a thing, I had amazing grandparents whom I adored, I did well in school, I played sports, and I loved my movies. I grew up with zero interest in cars or in tending a barbeque, I taught myself basic DIY…but I have never felt I missed out on interests or skills that perhaps are passed down from father to son. Sure, it was weird that my friends had dads who lived with them, some friends’ dads had also left but still came to see them and take them out, and all of my friends went on more holidays than me or got more from Santa. But I just got on with it (or so I thought). Looking back, it would seem that Little Me just accepted that I just didn’t have one of those ‘Daddy Things.’ I would later discover; even in a limited emotional and cognitive state, a child can interpret when an abandonment experience has occurred and they are processed as traumatic events. These events are then often suppressed as a coping mechanism. I was suppressing. I was suppressing big time.
It was when the young adult years kicked in and some vague understanding of how the ‘real world’ worked after I left home for university, that unbeknown to me, I was carrying a different sort of baggage other than my suitcases. I was discovering sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, all were a complete and utter shock to every system, with an army of chemical changes surging through my body and mind. On reflection it shook something awake that was lying dormant. Then discovering the desire to spend time with one person ALL the time, developed. The need for a special lady friend. This was the first indicator of what was to come, with my belief being ‘But why would anyone want me?’ This was not me feeling sorry for myself. But rather an inner presence that was beginning to manifest.
I won’t wait until Act 3 for the big reveal a’ la “You threw out a ringer for a ringer”. What I was starting to truly suffer from was, then undiagnosed, underlying abandonment trauma.
What is Underlying Abandonment Trauma?
Abandonment trauma refers to:
“the intense emotional response, and related behaviours, to being neglected emotionally, regardless of age…Significant abandonment incidents can cause a great deal of emotional pain, and impact the way you perceive yourself.” – Jacquelyn Johnson, PsyD.
“Symptoms of abandonment trauma can include extreme insecurity or anxiety and also debilitating self-esteem or self-regard. Adults who suffered abandonment (as children) are more likely to self-sabotage.” – Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C
Here, I would like to explain that self-sabotage is not the same as self harm. Self-sabotage is the conscious or unconscious decision-making that will lead to pain/disappointment evasion – ‘if you don’t try…you can’t fail.’ The idea of putting up various blocks to external factors essentially acts as a protecting mechanism. Other signs may relate to procrastination, which I realised I had experienced. Which is not the same as laziness or going with the flow – Dudeism-style. No, it is the idea of putting something off or delaying taking action (specifically something you ultimately may enjoy or benefit from) again and again, until it becomes irrelevant. Again, this is a coping mechanism to avoid disappointment and/or failure. Another trait of self-sabotage is imposter syndrome – when something positive does occur, you automatically feel ‘I don’t deserve this’, then feel it is going to end at any moment or – and linking back to abandonment trauma – it is going to be ripped away from you, thus replacing pleasure and enjoyment with anxiety and fear.
The underlying aspect means that it was lying dormant in my sympathetic nervous system, insidiously affecting my decision-making and relationships, until more symptoms manifested themselves. In a superb Mental Health Talk for People Magazine, director Kevin Smith describes his own mental wellbeing following traumatic events in his life, you can watch it here:
Although his personal traumatic events were not related to abandonment; he does raise the critical point that an event that may prove to be traumatic for someone may not be the same to someone else. As Smith eloquently puts it, “Trauma is trauma.” The brain does not distinguish. Drowning in a puddle or drowning in the Pacific are both drowning.
There are people, who are very uptight, who will engage in ‘Trauma Olympics;’ those who say “You think that’s tough?! I went through this…” These people are unintentionally toxic, and should be avoided, or be supported themselves if necessary.
Now, I will share the signposts along the road to me realizing I needed, sought, and utilized help.
What Condition My Condition Was In
I had always enjoyed drinking, getting drunk with friends and (certain) members of my family. But over the years, as I saw things not going my way, getting frustrated and confused, going through break-ups, suffering in jobs, feeling any form of abandonment; I’d turn to drinking more and more. Unfortunately, and to my regret, this had carried on until a few short months ago. My alcohol consumption was probably nearing a peak, when I sought help. I would not say it was out of control, but it had just become too much. I very much like the quote from the late, truly great Barry Humphries who said of his own drinking “I have had an unsuccessful relationship with alcohol.” I will leave it there.
I had arrived in my late thirties, just not happy. From the outside I had it all sorted – a wife and boys I adored, nice place to live, pleasant working environment, enjoyed running marathons for charity etc. etc. But in my core something just wasn’t right. Things became make or break, and I was definitely the villain. There were factors that pushed me over the edge into drinking more, pretty much when I had the opportunity to do so.
When I did receive help, I learned that this was the trauma, and alcohol was a numbing agent. A short term fix for the various levels of anxiety, isolation, loneliness, disappointment that I was feeling. I was avoiding being alone in my head, especially going to sleep at night, I would drown out the anxiety, and those thoughts about whoever or whatever that I did not want to be thinking about.
One of the many problems which arises with this course of action is it causes one particular cycle – a chemical one. Not to get too technical but alcohol does not drown out anxiety, alcohol creates a dam in your brain that blocks it, and anxiety builds up behind this dam. This dam is temporary, and when the effects of alcohol wear off, the dam crumbles and all that anxiety floods through and engulfs you. The easiest solution is to rebuild the dam again as quickly as possible. Cycle. But I am not passing the blame or giving an excuse. I could have stopped going to the store or to the bar, I could have stopped asking for one for the road. But I didn’t.
One thing led to another, which led me to an appointment with a private doctor. Let’s call him Doctor Tim. I knew help was out there and I knew I needed it. Or I was going to lose a lot. I pretty much shared with him the same details as above (minus details of my #1 favorite film). There was a nod of recognition early on – he had heard my story before. When he asked what my hobbies and interests were, he was not surprised to find out I was a creative and I was able to list my interests and plans including writing, podcasting, geeking out etc.
He then guided me through so many moments in my life and was able to shine a bright light on why I had acted or felt about this and that. Dr Tim informed me that I had, and continue to look for something that gives me a feeling of gratification or a sense of accomplishment – essentially my whole life I have been trying to fill a hole within me, that hole could be the trauma itself or that the trauma has ripped out of me. I was pouring myself into various endeavors, unaware I was trying to pour recognition and external approval into myself; into the abandonment pit. A pit that may never be filled, as my father made the choice to leave me when I was a baby and he made the choice not to look back.
My Recovery and Where Dudeism Comes In
Dudeism aims “to assuage feelings of inadequacy that arise in societies which place a heavy emphasis on achievement and personal fortune. Consequently, simple everyday pleasures…are seen as far preferable to the accumulation of wealth and the spending of money as a means to achieve happiness and spiritual fulfilment.”
Upon Dr Tim’s diagnosis and eye-opening explanations, my thoughts could have become very uptight. But, I had been given another chance. I now knew what had been causing me such pain. So although I may never be cured I can now deal with it. If you know where something has come from, know where it is, you can guess where it is going to go…
After Woo peed on The Dude’s rug, he didn’t just sit on the toilet, feeling sorry for himself. He called the other Lebowski guy and set up a meeting. With the encouragement from Walter, he went about solving the problem i.e. he did not procrastinate. Although he didn’t exactly go out and achieve anyway (the Coen Brothers regret not having The Dude replace his rug by the end of the film). He took action. Dr Tim made it clear that I had numerous interests and plans as I was searching for gratification in one form or another, to compensate for abandonment. So, I decided to lean into that fact – and seek out all those things that made me happy. Not for achievement nor personal fortune. But, for me. I knew I had talents and I knew I had intelligence. I knew I wasn’t a career-guy but I wasn’t a lousy bum either…
The Dude Abides
No more procrastination or impostor syndrome – I found opportunities I wanted to pursue. I pursued and wonderful things came out of it. After offering my service; I started to contribute articles to a film celebration website (CinemaScholars.com). I am close to contributing my 30th article. I had always had the desire to start my own podcast. Now, I have a small but growing podcast network of three shows (under the banner What Heroes Do) where I enjoy the company of my friends. I was clearing my mind, and my body was getting clear of alcohol but I wanted to push it further, and I am now an Internationally Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Coach with Diploma.
All of these occurred within 10 months of my meeting with Dr Tim.
Financially, they have cost me little, but they are simple pleasures that also fill those moments that would have otherwise been used for numbing agents. I gave up alcohol completely in the Summer of 2022, and have not looked back. I have my job and take care of business, and I look after and care for my family to the best of my ability, but outside of those I follow my pleasures that give me, and essentially others, gratification and hopefully support.
I do want you to get help, and that could be talking to a loved one or A Stranger (I’m no Sam Elliott but leave a comment below and we will reply), a doctor or a therapist. Talking is awesome.
Then, I am not telling you to start writing or podcasting or to become a personal trainer. Unless you want to? What does your inner-Dude say? If you have those dark thoughts that may stop you from taking a chance, you have to say to yourself ‘The Dude minds, this aggression will not stand, man.’ Pleasure can be simple, pleasure can be free. And hopefully you will get to a point where you say ‘I abide.’
Fuck it, Dude. Let’s go bowling…or do whatever makes you smile.
-Glen Dower has worked in marketing and in Education for too many years. He now most enjoys the company of his sons and teaching them the ways of The Force, The Dude, and The Italian Stallion. Podcasting and writing about movies is a close second.
By Lena Jones
Dudeism for me is about going with the flow, remaining level headed and just enjoying life despite life’s difficulties.
I’m going to explain how Dudeism helped save me from myself.
I am an alcoholic. I began drinking when my great grandfather died. I was 11. This man adopted me. He taught me so much. He was the happiest, realist, most relaxed dude I’d known. He was my best friend and he was gone. My family was drinking. Heartbroken and not paying attention. I decided to swipe a bottle out of the fridge. Drown my sorrows. I then swiped the next, and the next. I threw up, had a horrible hang over. Thus the pattern began. Combined with my rebellious nature, addictive personality, alcoholic parents, and it was the 90s… it created the perfect storm. Most of the time my parents were gone, we were left to our own devices. Getting someone to buy the alcohol was super easy. Someone was always willing. Swiping alcohol from my parents wasn’t hard. My addictions expanded. I was put on pills for my moods. I smoked weed to forget. Fast forward, I was 16 and found myself pregnant. I stopped everything for baby’s sake. I married young, and I ended up with 4 kids before I hit 25. Combine an abusive relationship. Healing for me was found in a bottle. I tried quitting several times. Nothing worked.
I had seen The Big Lebowski when I was 15. My uncle watched it with me. My uncle, like my grandpa were both dudes without even knowing it. Laid back, go with the flow, happy, chill individuals. Even though I didn’t get it then, I’d get it later.
When I was 24 I wanted a change. My life wasn’t the way I wanted it. Luckily for me Dudeism was founded around 2005 I believe officially, or that’s what the internet says. While I wasn’t officially practicing, I wanted to incorporate this into my healing. I seen this lifestyle work for my grandpa and my uncle. AA wasn’t my thing, although I incorporated bits of that later. I knew I needed help.
So I went and talked to my uncle. I asked him how he was able to live his life the way he did. He was a successful boss of a shipping company. He took vacations a lot, he went into work mid morning, he had the weekends off, he lived life on his terms. He was striving in his own way. He was my dude role model.
He looked at me and said kid, you just live, you just be. When something bad happens, you accept it, you keep going. You don’t stop. When the dust settles, you enjoy life. You have to find a way to stop being dependent on stuff, and heal yourself through peace. You have to straighten up for your kids and get the hell away from that prick you call a husband.
That was what it took. He paid for my divorce for me. I started meditation and just wanted life to flow. Once I set my mind to it I was able to start leading the lifestyle I always wanted. I didn’t get upset at every setback. I took the bad with the good. Things became a lot more chill. I saw a counselor who helped me work through some trauma. I was able to go off my meds. I went into rehab. I checked myself in. Through that I was able to reevaluate my addictive personality. I also became more simple with what I wanted in life. It was a whole mental reset. I had so many setbacks, so many disappointments. I don’t run to the bottle anymore, but instead I look at things differently. It was a journey. Ups and downs. I’ve had so many people tell me how strong I am, but it was a whole change in my life. Dudeism helped me shift my life and reset. I found God. I found a support system. I found and built my life around Dudeism, God and my family.
I did what worked for me. I made it work, just like my uncle had for him. I’m now almost 40. Have an amazing family, married my soulmate, and am almost finished with nursing school. I practice Dudeism still today. My husband is a dude as well, even though he doesn’t label himself.
-✌️Lena Jones is a Dudeist Priest and fellow alcoholic in recovery