This week, we talk about divorce, single parenting, depression and planning to kill yourself. We talk about addiction, alcohol and the courage it takes to get sober. David Mills offers deep wisdom to men and women that are in the midst of dark times as well as to those that support them.
You can listen to the entirety of our conversation here. The Handle with Care podcast can also be found on iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify.
Here are three key takeaways from my conversation with David.
Offer to help with the logistics of a disruptive transition. David said, again and again, how much it would have helped him to have someone help him make a plan, a plan about vocation or attorneys or mediation. The logistical burden of change and loss can feel paralyzing. When someone you care about is going through something hard, don’t just make vague comments of support like, “if you need anything, call”. Can you offer your time and expertise to help with steps moving forward?
How central is alcohol to your events or your after-hours socializing? What sort of an atmosphere does this create for people that don’t drink or that are trying to stay sober? Have you ever paused the ask the question?
Be aware of the language you use when talking about divorce. David recounted how it wasn’t helpful to have people speak poorly of Mary, that only complicated his situation. He also bristled under well-meaning comments about how everything would be OK. Before you jump in conversationally, take a moment to pause and consider your words. Maybe now you are wondering, well, what can I say? One of the safest, most meaningful comments you can offer to someone in a hard time is this: “I am so sorry; I imagine this must feel really hard right now.”
Here are a few other highlights from our conversation
Drinking does not have to be at the core of social functions
14:41- David Mills
Yeah. You know I've always been a drinker. And I saw on college and grad school and then as an adult I think it's really one of the one of the I truly think most corrosive things about our society is the way that like you're taught as adults not like you can drink but like drinking is a necessary part of a social function. Drinking is a necessary part of bonding which is just it does not have to be that way. So.
In hard times, find something that you want to create
25:02- David Mills
Helping me lean into my hobbies would have been really helpful or like asking me the question like like, don't think about work, don't think about this in the context of being a father. Don't think about this the context of anything except like what's one thing that you would like to become really good at. You either know nothing about or you know a little bit about and you would like to know more about and then help me pursue that, I like, just something to focus my attention towards creating anything would have been really helpful in that moment.
Look at the trauma
26:46- David Mills
I guess I would tell myself to deal with the trauma I guess I would tell myself the deal with the trauma and that it was gonna be OK. I think if I would've done that earlier I would have been better in every aspect of my life. And the more I do it, the better I am, even on darker days. So, yeah, there's a lot that I didn't face as soon as I wish I would.
27:30- David Mills
There is going to be a lot of moments over the next year where you feel like you don't have the capacity or the time to breathe. There is no single decision that you make that is going to be worse because you took five seconds to breathe.
Men need to become comfortable and in control of their feelings
28:26- David Mills
And I this is maybe a bit more gendered, but I do think that particularly cis gender men in our country are generally pretty not in control of their emotions a lot of the time. And we see that play out. And in the micro aggressions which tear marriages apart, we see that play out in the political landscape. We see that play out and social policies that have children ripped away from their parents and put in cages. We see it all over the place. This truly toxic masculinity. So, if there's anything that I can do to model a different way of what it means to be quote a man and in this society for Atticus, that's really important to me and it's at the heart of that is teaching him to be fully comfortable with what he's feeling able to name it able to name when he needs space from others to process it, like one of my proudest moments as a father when Atticus was really upset and he said I just really think I need five minutes alone in my room and I was like, Dude awesome I'm that person. But I want to model through this process. I've, I've learned that I truly want to model what it means to be a man who is in control of your emotions because I drank I became an alcoholic because I wasn't in control of my emotions so many of the bad decisions that I made in life have been because I wasn't in control of my emotions so honor what you're feeling but also it doesn't have to control you.