January 07, 2015

The Time Came - Part 2

What Happened???
The Final Answer
Drug addicts are no longer the people you love. -Dr. Brad Lander, The Columbus Dispatch

Dear Readers,

This is the second and final piece to my latest and greatest work: The Time Came. It's the much needed and lately promised follow-up to the article The Time Has Come, which first announced and defined the new dance of Abstract Improvisation a few years ago. More importantly, though, it warned that the price of complicity - that doing nothing would be the death of the dance called West Coast Swing. 

It was a call to arms. It struck deep and it struck hard. Its boom echoed across the world. And the WCS Revolution began.
Since then, much has happened. Wars have erupted, lives have been saved, careers have been decimated, eyes have been opened and waves of shock and awe have rippled throughout the community again and again and again... as the people we thought we knew did unspeakable things, and the people we thought were old and tired turned new and exciting once more. 

But in the most important of corners, the winds were still. The very people we all thought would take action - did nothing at all. They were the only ones in this entire world of WCS that did not change these last few years. 

Upon the completion of today's Weekly WCS Note, you will finally know why. (We're assuming you've already read Part 1 by now. If you haven't, click here to read it!)

It hardly needs to be stated that these last two Weekly Notes, #102-103, have been the most important ones I've written since The Time Has Come. As such, I ask that you give them the time, the care, the examination and the open mind and heart that they deserve. It might just change your life. It most certainly changed mine.

With Love, 


The Time Came 

Last week I shared with you some stories. I told you about back room, side hall, behind-the-scenes commentaries and complaints made by people you knew, loved and trusted for their love of West Coast Swing.

Heck. All of them still taught Pure WCS in their workshops, seminars and newsletters. So you looked up to them. Had them on a pedestal. And then you found out that when the time came to save the dance... they flaked. No, more precisely, they failed. 

And it's not so much that they failed to save swing that hurt - but that they chose to kill swing instead. There are so many more stories I could have shared with you. I have volumes, books and bunkers of recordings in my brain. Hour after hour after hour they would discuss, dissect and pull apart this "new" pervasive dance out there that wasn't swing.

So I threw you a few tidbits - mere morsels of things they said - but they said *so* much more. All the time. At every convention. Night after night after night. And do you know when these conversations started taking place?

Soon after Abstract Improvisation was born. That's right. They had their fingers on the truth from the very start.

To be honest, I wrote The Time Has Come for them, really. They were first and foremost in my mind as I typed away all night and day. I'll tell you a secret. Before I published it on my blog- before I ever sent it out in my newsletter and before I posted it on my website, I emailed a .pdf of The Time Has Come to all of the people I wrote about last week... Jack & Annie, Skippy, Mary Ann, Mario, Kelly... and many, many more. There were about 30 or more names on my list in all.

I sent it to them first because I was under the impression that they'd want to know - that they loved WCS just as much as me, and that I'd learned through my unusual connections what others were teaching. They were teaching Abstract, and that those who were- they were working really hard at keeping these giants in the dark.

I was so grateful for the positive feedback from them - so happy that so many of them loved what I wrote! They sent requests for more, more, more and I addressed a lot of my Weekly WCS Notes to topics they brought up.

To be honest, they had a lot to do with why I wrote at all in the first place. Capital Swing is a convention that employs nearly all of them as judges. It's notorious as a place that keeps Pure WCS teachers and champions as their judging staff.

So I was shocked when, upon returning to WCS, I watched them place every couple dancing WCS last. And it was a turbulent time for Pure WCS. "Swing content" was a huge issue and the US Open had swapped out all their judges because they had flagged the majority of finalists for content violations.

It was a huge story. Behind-the-scenes, of course. But Dani Canziani didn't change her judges. She kept that list tight and secure. But then... bam. All the dancing they'd been complaining about was scored high, high, high and the three T's... not just in the middle... not just low... but dead last.

They were sending a message. A deadly one. And I thought they just needed the vocabulary to see how to get what they loved back out there again. I just couldn't reconcile all of their back room marathons of complaints and lamentings with their scores, right? I mean, they taught swing, talked swing, talked extensive trash about this "other" dance... so they didn't mean to hurt swing with their scores, right?

I thought I'd accidentally discovered the key, and I thought by sharing it, I'd help them, and everyone else, do what they wanted to do: save swing.

You know, just after I posted The Time Has Come publicly, I got an email from Gerry Zonca, owner of a once-popular swing site. You know what he said? What he literally told me? 

"If you really want to save the dance, 
you should do it by continuing to talk behind the scenes,
in back rooms of events, etc."

He literally said that!!! I was hiccuping so hard with the giggles/shock. At first my mind rambled, "Heh-heh-hey-eh-eh-ehhhhhh...ahhh-ah-ah....aaaarrrrre you KIDDING?!?!" I tell you, I thought it was a prank but just couldn't tell. But then, he just seemed so serious about it! He couldn't possibly be serious, right? But he was!

"Sure," I thought, "I'll go back to doing that. Because that's definitely worked over the last ten years. It's not like whole new dance didn't just plant its first seeds while all of us were whispering away - or that it started to grow, then grow more, and more and more... all over the world, until it became one great giant redwood tree 1000 feet high during all that time, right? Right?!?!!!

The beyond-belief absurdity of that email. It was like he was telling me that gravity pushes things out into space, not down onto earth, so I should stop trying to sit in chairs. Oh. My. Heck!

While everyone else was typing letters of "Thank God you said something!!!" Gerry was saying, "Shhh! Keep it down! We don't actually say that stuff out loud, remember? It's like you want change or something!"

Oh Gerry. At least he was honest about what he wanted: everything to remain the same. Swing dead, Abstract alive, swing veterans feeling superior because they knew they could dance better than the young kids no matter how old they grew... guaranteed arrogance. Forevermore. 

But don't forget the money! I'm talking about all the money pouring in from the Ponzi-scheme of course. (He didn't realize that staying on that path actually insured that they'd be out of a job in a few years. Young Nissy's don't allow "old people" [anyone over 35] to be in authority.) 

Speaking of them, it's time for #6! It's the tie that binds these "swing" heroes to these "abstract" heroes. And ohhh how tightly they are bound! No matter how they all say they hate each other, the truth is that they all run in unison one WCS "family." 

They may not all share the same views, but they actively participate in and, most importantly, protect the System A "family" of today's West Coast Swing world.

By the way, this system is the very reason that I'm still here. I've stuck around much longer than anyone thought I would. I certainly didn't understand why I kept writing for swing, even when it did more harm than good for my family. 

People kept writing in, saying I should move on - that this community didn't deserve me anymore. And I agreed with them! I could see their point. But at the same time, other people would write in begging me to stay! And I would think, "why in the world would they want this for me?"

But of course - I would stay. You were confused, I was confused... but I finally figured it out. This family system is why I stayed. For those of you struggled between staying and going, I hope I can shed some light on your situation with my own personal story for just a moment.

You see, I grew up in a System A family. We often hear people say that we marry people like our parents. But did you know that they also say we are attracted to communities, workplaces and jobs that mirror the patterns of our families as well?

So when swing went System A, I was automatically pulled into it on a deeper, more needy level - but I didn't know why. I just couldn't let go - couldn't cut the cord - and it drove me nuts. 

I'd left rather easily when the dance first changed. I opened up my own studio and fell in love with a whole different kind of life. And when I came back, I only meant to do so for a year or two. But instead, I got sucked in somehow. I just kept going.

Because by then enough time had passed, and too many wars were sabotaged and lost. We'd become a System A family. I didn't enjoy it as much as I had before. Not nearly as much. Swing just didn't feel great - it felt off, unkind and contracted. I didn't enjoy the music, the rude behavior or the focus on competition instead of "getting that good dance." 

On paper I was insane to stay. But stay I did. Even when things got really, really rough. I was offered so many positions with so many great opportunities and instead - I stayed in swing. Why, why, why??? 

I didn't have an answer. I just knew the pull to stick it out and fight was much too deep for me to see. That cord was invisible to me - hidden, so that I couldn't take some scissors like I wanted to and just cut myself loose.

You remember my struggle: how many times I said "this is my last Weekly Note"? You remember how often I said goodbye? But then something would happen and bam... I jumped right back in.

But earlier this year, when I finally learned about all the #6's in swing, all the lights switched on, the machines powered up and started whirring and YES! The cord wasn't invisible anymore! 

I had finally connected the dots and said, "Ah ha! So that's why I'm still here!" And I finally moved on, as you saw in Weekly Note #99: My Apologies & More.

What was the cord? Exactly how was I entangled in Swing? We've talked about it a little bit already, in Part 1. Since I grew up in a System A household, I wasn't allowed to feel, especially anger. 

But that was a long time ago. Since then I'd fought long and hard to learn how to heal. So when I found myself in a System A family again (though I didn't know it yet), I felt their hand reaching out, telling me to push down my anger into that coffin.

And there was no way I was going to go back there again! I was done with the days of coffins and chaos. Nuh-uh. No way, no how. I was going to do everything I could to make sure I admitted that there was an elephant in the room, darn it! I would never stay silent again!

So I thought I was being healthy. But old wounds die hard. And System A's demand some form of servitude in order to allow admittance.

In reality, I had simply switched from The Enabler role I'd grown up playing, to the Black Sheep role. It's the character that actually voices all of the unspoken things in the family. Of course, the Black Sheep are usually self destructive, and I'd come far enough to at least be constructive and do some good... but let's be honest.

You can't touch a spider's web and not get caught in it.

I paid a heavy price. Had I seen the System going in, I never would have pushed on so hard. I would have stopped right after Irene like I had always planned to. I regret 90% of it. (You, my loves, are not part of that 90%!) 

But I want my life back. Everyone who survives a System A family wants their life back. We feel like we have to start our lives all over again. 

So there it is. The reason I couldn't walk away. I always wondered about that, book after book, chapter after chapter. I didn't know why I needed to talk to swing. It was because I was taught, as is in all System A families, that I was to never speak or think of leaving -ever.

Years ago, when I saw my own personal family clearly, I left. So once I saw swing clearly too, I again freed myself from the need for "their permission" or "their approval" and made the same decision: to leave.

Perhaps you can relate. Perhaps you don't consider leaving swing or you don't question The Ten, the Church, the Cult or the Council because you feel like you'd be harming them, hurting them, accusing them or outing them. Perhaps you're like me - perhaps this is something you learned to do growing up.

You learned that to leave anyone is to abandon them, that to walk away is to be accusatory and that if you admit to reality it is a vile form of betrayal. These are all the lessons System A families drill into our hearts, minds and souls. 

I hope that the rest of this article demonstrates that none of this is true. You aren't part of a family that will fall apart without you, but part of a series of choices instead. They are making choices every day. And soon you can too.

Informed choices. Ones you can be proud of. Let's do this. (And make sure your seat belts are securely fastened, please.)


If you remember, the first five signs of a System A family are as follows: 
  1. Proximity is Intimacy
  2. Family is a Black Hole Around One Central Star
  3. Don't Feel, Don't Talk, Don't Trust
  4. Anger is the "Hidden Forbidden"
  5. A Specific Cast of Characters
In my breakdowns of each, I gave examples for you through characters like Robert and Martha who have family members like John and Amy. Let's find out more about them.

#6: The Central Character is Addicted

Every System A family has at least one addict in them. Martha is an addict. Robert is an addict. John's parents are both addicts. "But if they are the ones with the problem," you might ask, "then why is everyone else in the family showing symptoms?"

What a great question. I hear it all the time. The answer lies in the very nature of addiction itself.

Addiction, at its very core, is a person's attempt to escape. Period. Escape pain, escape reality, escape feelings, escape relationships, escape consequences, escape... everything. And when a family member does that, especially when it's a parent or provider, things go south very quickly.

The first five things I listed are direct results of an addict's behavior. 

Now. Not all of them have to be. Many of these characteristics form because the family wants to "make up" for all the negative consequences and actions that come from a person's addiction.

Unfortunately, these five characteristics only enable the addict. They can go on being an addict, never facing the music for the choices they've made.

Clearly I am simplifying all of this for you. I'm sure you've noticed, while watching an episode or two of Intervention, that there are reasons people are drawn to addiction - like a parent refusing to say "I love you," even in the middle of a freakin' intervention for the kid. 

But people living in a fully functioning Addictive System (hence my calling it System A) rarely get an intervention at all, which they need in order to find the wound that started it in the first place and heal it. 

In an Addictive System, everyone is too invested in denying anyone is addicted to anything, to ever even consider asking for help, never mind looking into such things as interventions.

And that brings me to our little West Coast Swing/Council/Points community. 


At the core of this dysfunctional family I've been writing about for all of these years, lies a ton of addicts. A ton. And once I realized that, all the characteristics I'd noticed, along with others I hadn't quite put my finger on yet, like #1: Intimacy is Proximity (if you miss an event, or don't even go to an event, you are so out), fell into place.

But if there were so many addicts, and I'm so familiar with the subject, how in the world did I miss it?

Because no one is addicted to the same thing. Of the people I named last week, along with those in their circles with just as much power... there are gambling addicts, sex addicts, porn addicts, cocaine addicts, alcoholics, online/video-gaming addicts and even addictions to certain persons as well as addictions to themselves (severe narcissism?).

I'm literally overwhelmed. It's still really hard to face these facts.

I remember when I first learned the basics of alcoholism and an alcoholic system. I hadn't returned to swing yet, but I remember driving home from the training thinking about so many WCS experiences that had hurt my feelings in the past.

But once I knew and understood the system, I suddenly realized that all of these memories weren't personal. So many actions had everything to do with alcohol, and nothing to do with me. It was so freeing... and really terrifying too.

I grew up in the "just say no" era, where we were all taught that we all had the right to say no, and that it was no big deal if we did. Everyone had the freedom to choose. The big mantra of the 80's was: "NO MORE PEER PRESSURE!"

And yet here I had experienced it in my favorite thing ever: West Coast Swing. I was crushed.


By the way, one of the largest tools in helping me understand those first days in WCS better, at least in regards to alcohol and addicts, is something I had never ever heard of before in all my years of school. It's called "filtering."

Every addict's life is dedicating to protecting their drug of choice. Part of the reason Sally was expected to be at John's parents all the time is because that is where all of their alcohol was kept.

An addict is constantly calculating just how far they are from their drug at any given point in time. If they travel, their number one priority and focus is knowing when and where their drug will be available to them.

This is why you see certain behaviors regarding alcohol during plane travel. You might hear the man next to you mentioning alcohol repeatedly to the stewardess the moment he boards the plane. 

It's usually in a joking manner, but there is an edge to it. That man needs to make sure that a drink is available to them as soon as possible.

Listen, not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic. And how much you consume does not determine addiction. But how much you need to get a buzz does. And how often you need alcohol also does.

I hate television today, because they make most of their money off of alcohol-related advertising, and it's also why so many addicts are pushed into writing positions over non-addicts for the shows as well. 

Reality check: Having a glass of wine in your hand at every meal is not healthy. It's a flag.

Study up. I do not recommend going online. It's like googling the word "cruise." You'll get nothing but paid advertisements and warped/fixed studies. Talk to your doctor, only.

Y'know, I was told by so many people that alcohol was okay to drink during certain stages of pregnancy. After sharing that little tidbit as a "known fact" with my doctor, I was sent reeling back with a deluge of information to the contrary. 

"Who told you that!?!?" I was asked repeatedly, with a loud incredulity I'll never forget. Afterwards I realized that I only ever heard this fact reported and repeated... by WCS dancers.

That should have red-flagged me right there.

But my point is this: talk to your doctor to get handouts and recommended materials on this stuff. I'm sorry - a doctor who knows nothing of WCS. I watched a nursing mother drink margaritas while breast feeding her baby at a nurse's party. The baby turned red and swollen and started screaming... and the nurse said it was fine.

Whoever your medical professional is, make sure they aren't a part of us, ok? Better yet, check 12 Step websites. They are the most honest people on the planet. Sign on for a private chat with a sponsor who can answer your questions for you... at least questions about addiction...

Anyhow, to recap: talk to your (non-swing) doctor first, Recovery program second.

Now, back to filtering. I said that addicts protect their drug of choice. A gambler knows exactly how far a game is from them at all times, as does a smoker with smokes, a porn addict with porn, etc. etc. 

Now, as an extension of that protection, there comes a filter. In short, it's a filter of "defense." Addicts think you can see their addiction - their need - their weakness - so every time you say anything to them... they have a filter that grinds up your sentence and spits out as an accusation into their brain.

For example, I went to a party where a woman and her husband had built a bar into their house. They literally built an extension onto their home. It was a large open air patio with a huge bar, a pool table and a floor to ceiling neon sign saying "Smith's Bar."

Their teenage sons played bartender and all the parties their sons attended were held at their house only (have you heard the phrase, "if they're going to drink, I'd rather they drink here"?). I still didn't see it. I hadn't been trained yet.

Anyhow, the woman had decked her buffet out in an amazing array. She had an entire table dedicated to beverages of every sort - beer, soda, juice, energy drinks - everything! Including Fresca, which I LOVE.

So when she asked what I would like to drink, I happily stated my excitement for the ice cold buckets of Fresca that lay just behind her. 

And did she smile? Show me all the different kinds they had? NO. She freaked instead. I didn't know what I'd said! I was so scared! Her hair stood on end and vibrated so hard that her eyes practically rolled back in her head.

She was an alcoholic. And when I said, "Fresca," her FILTER told her that what I was really saying was "I do NOT want alcohol because it's wrong to drink alcohol!"

I later learned that the only response that would have warranted a happy face or welcome reaction would have been a request for alcohol.

If you turn down coke to a cocaine addict, they will only hear "judgement." If you say no to a game of poker to a gambler, they will only hear "judgement." Every addict filters any and all negative reactions to their drug as offensive and really, a declaration of war.

That is their filter. They will never actually "hear" what you say on the subject, no matter how hard you try. It's just the nature of their beast.


Ah yes, the boat. The boat that our heroes refused to rock. Remember how I told you that, yes, they did love West Coast Swing... but that they did not love it enough?

I said that they loved something else more. And that is their addictions. Or their roles in the addictive family we've become.

Addicts need people who will rescue them. Boy, do we have a lot of people who will defend these addicts, no matter what law they break and no matter how outrageous they sound!

Addicts need people who will distract others from their addiction - like the role of The Clown or The Mascot. Addicts need so many, many things - all six things I listed for you over these last two Weekly Notes plus more- but you know why they need all these things?

Because they need ONE THING above all else:

They need to feel safe in their addiction.

And that is precisely what the world of West Coast Swing has become. A safe haven for addicts.

Remember the filter I just mentioned? How addicts feel threatened every time someone says something they themselves wouldn't say about their drug? Well, that filter makes life uncomfortable outside of their addictive systems. 

It's why so many of them don't leave their homes. Their addictive system plays out best within their own four walls....

But what if you don't have an addictive system at home? What if your parents don't allow you to drink, do drugs or watch porn? Or what if they just don't do those things at all, never mind requiring you to refrain?

What if you are single? Out there on your own? Well then... life must be a lot harder for you as an addict. There's no system to make you feel safe and supported in your addiction...

But wait! There is a place for singles with addictions! There is a place for people who live and breathe for certain substances and/or needs that are labeled, by outsiders, as "unhealthy."

And that place is us, my friends: West Coast Swing.

The world of West Coast Swing is one huge Addictive System, fully equipped and designed to make addicts feel welcome, normal, at home and successful.

In West Coast Swing the healthy ones fail and the unhealthy ones succeed. It is a thrilling alternative to the real world. No wonder they are willing to sleep on the floor in the halls of hotels when they can't afford a hotel room.

There's nothing more like nirvana for an addict than a Points Convention.

I remember learning that the young men that room together at WCS events are now in the habit of watching pornography together. Do you watch porn with others? Do you do get-togethers over porn?

No. Because most would have a negative reaction to that. But not in WCS. We will defend any and all of your addictions, even if it kills us (and the dance) to do so.

Happy Christmas. You're welcome. Come along on board.

So no, I don't have many swing heroes anymore, just people who chose to protect their addictions and other addicts. Oh wait - Jackie Ford! Jackie Ford knows what WCS is and what Abstract Improvisation is and guess what? She judges accordingly.

Gosh. I wish I had more than one name to give you. The rest are protecting the boat.

I'm glad I am no longer one of them.

Love & joy,
Over & out,
This is not my last Note,

To view the original version of this famous Weekly WCS Note, just Click Here!