John’s Words from the Big Chair

Essays, quotes and musings about life, therapy, and what it means to live a life in recovery.

“Sanctuary”

“It is times like these that compel me to build a sanctuary in my own mind. A kind of harbor in the tempest, if you will. With the physical restrictions on my movement, I begin to emotionally re-group and retreat, as I find both shelter and comfort within the confines of my own imagination and the mental fabrications of escapism. My travels become unrestricted and erroneously inviting.”  

~May 10, 2020

Safer at Home

The Exile of a Modern-Day Extrovert
April 6, 2020
–John Cookmeyer, LMFT

Is it better to be safe than sorry?  That is a question for the ages, but it takes on a whole new meaning when I find myself staring down the barrel of a Worldwide Pandemic.  It appears there has come a time in my life when I will have to make some difficult decisions. Am I willing to sacrifice my own mental health for the promise of a chance at continued physical health and safety?  It seems as though I will need to focus some serious attention on what is most important to me, my family, and to those around me. Should I isolate for my own good, or would that isolation be for the benefit of my family?  Or maybe I should “shelter in place,” just for the good of the community at-large. On the other hand, I could venture out of my comfortable home just to be in the presence of others. Or, I can continue to trudge along through life as though nothing, absolutely nothing, has gone wrong in our World. 

If the safest option is to stay “Safe at Home” and “Shelter in Place,” that means that I would have to forsake the experiences, and the mental stimulation of physical interactions with friends and family, or even a complete stranger.  This sounds like a very bleak option. It seems as if I would be sentenced to solitary confinement, or worse yet, a solitary demise. Again, the question arises, am I truly safer at home? If I don’t opt for the Safer at Home option, perhaps I could just practice something that I have never enjoyed, I guess I could try this so-called Social Distancing?

If I do forsake the Safer at Home option, and vie for the more neutral option of Social Distancing, which might allow me to venture out of my self-imposed quarantine, it is true that I may expose myself to a virus that could potentially kill me or perhaps sicken me and my entire family.  At this point, I should probably inform you that I am diabetic, which is considered an “underlying condition.” In addition to my diabetes, I am also rapidly approaching the cutoff age of sixty-five. For me, to truly practice social distancing would be constantly saying to others, “Good to see you, now don’t touch me, don’t even come near me right now.”

Perhaps, I could completely ignore the whole idea of changing the way I conduct my day-to-day personal and professional commitments.  Maybe, I will go on with business as usual. I can always turn a blind eye to what is happening around the World, across the country, and even in my own hometown.  Perhaps I would be able to resist the cries of the family and friends of the people who have become sick to the point of prolonged hospital stay and even death. Even if I could do that, I would also have to totally disregard my children’s pleas for me to stay at home and think about myself and my family first.  I am not likely to do the latter. 

  Truth be told, playing it safe is conversely, and historically, the most dangerous thing for a man like me to do.  Or is it? This Pandemic is a whole lot bigger than anything I have ever seen, It has the World by the tail at this point.  So please allow me to try and explain my personal difficulty with this particular challenge. I am an extrovert. If you happen to read this essay, and you are not an extrovert, you may have absolutely no idea what I am going through.  The mere thought of self-isolation, social distancing, and being “safer at home,” frightens me more than does the thought of contracting a grave illness or even my own death. In spite of that however, with the support and encouragement of my wife and children, I have made the decision to participate in the concept of staying “Safer at Home.” 


It Always Comes Down to That One Thing

Written 2007
Published Bright Road Recovery 4/2/2020
–John Cookmeyer, LMFT


I do believe that the worst thing I have ever done feels to me, the same way the worst thing you have ever done feels to you. In my life, my own actions have forced me to face-up to some awfully grave truths. In the past, I would rather have died than to admit to some of the horrible things I had done. I have also lost countless hours of sleep over the things I probably should have done, but chose not to. It always comes down to that one thing, that one thing that fills my life with tremendous amounts of guilt, shame, and remorse. 

First comes the guilt, the actual admission of having done something illegal, immoral, or both. It is elementary; I know I am guilty simply because of the evidence. The evidence points all its fingers in my direction. I was there, I did it, and there is nothing I can do or say in all of the days I have remaining that will ever change the facts. I say I am guilty because it was my idea; I thought about it, I planned it, and I executed my plans without a thought of anyone or anything else but myself. I guess I could try to place at least some of the blame elsewhere: perhaps my parents, my wife, or even society at large, but none of those people where anywhere near me when I committed my crimes. 

Unfortunately, as soon as the guilt subsides, the almost crippling shame takes center stage and engulfs my every thought. Life seems to go on for others, but I am barely able to function from the overwhelming feelings of humiliation and utter distress. I see other people going about their business, but I can only watch them and wonder quietly to myself, how do they do it? I know my shame comes from the acknowledgement of the fact that I have done something wrong or foolish. Perhaps foolish is too mild a word to define some of the things I have done. Horrific and unconscionable are just a few of the words that may better describe the thoughtless acts I have committed. Shame, if I let it, will absolutely run my world into the ground.

What follows the guilt and shame is an ever-present feeling of remorse. Remorse, by definition, is a feeling of deep regret or self-condemnation. Remorse is a word that best defines the way I often feel about many of my past indiscretions. The remorse is usually harbored in the recesses of my mind and feels very similar to a nagging headache or a relentless toothache. Remorse is by far the most difficult of my feeling to reconcile.

The power of feeling is nothing more than just that, the power of my feelings. But it always seems to come down to that one thing, that one thing I just need to come to grips with. Finally, as a mature adult, I now understand that there are ways to work though these sometimes-debilitating feelings. Having accepted the fact that I did what I did and nothing I do will ever change the past; that’s a huge step forward for me. Also knowing that there are avenues of redemption I can take to become a more self-respecting person is truly a God sent. The undeniable relevance of all of this is simple: If I want to improve my self-esteem, I must engage in acts of great esteem, and if I hope to become a man of virtue, I must partake in more virtuous activities.                                      

                                                                                  


When everything becomes nothing, and nothing becomes everything, we are compelled to assess ourselves against a backdrop that no longer holds points of reference. However, we can continue to do what it is that brings us comfort by creating a masterpiece upon a canvas with the supplies that have been afforded to us. There is solace in knowing that art is created for the sole purpose of comforting its creator.

John Cookmeyer, LMFT

As I looked back through my life in an effort to move forward with some ease and comfort, I realized that those in my past whom I had harmed or done wrong, stood between me and my desire to continue my movement toward true happiness.

John Cookmeyer, LMFT

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.

William Arthur Ward

True acceptance is the realization that you will never have a better past.

John Cookmeyer, LMFT

If you keep on saying things are going to be bad, you have a good chance of being a prophet.

Isaac Singer

My darkest hours of profound shame may be just what someone else needs to hear in order to change their life.

John Cookmeyer, LMFT

The most important part of communication is hearing what isn’t said.

Peter Drucker

I have learned that humility and intellect can co-exist; so long as I placed humility before intellect. 

John Cookmeyer, LMFT

Happiness can only be found at the corner of “Here” and “Now”.

John Cookmeyer, LMFT

“Today I will do my best to close the doors and windows in my life that lead me nowhere.”  

John Cookmeyer, LMFT (May 2020)

“It’s not about how far we have gone; it’s more about the direction we are heading.

John Cookmeyer, LMFT

“Forgiveness is a gift I give to myself.”

John Cookmeyer, LMFT (May 2020)

“I must constantly remind myself that surrendering is not losing nor quitting; surrendering is merely the act of joining the winning team.”

John Cookmeyer, LMFT (May 2020)

“I could never get enough; it is only by giving of myself that my spirit becomes full.”

John Cookmeyer, LMFT (April 2020)

“If I want to improve my self-esteem, I must engage in acts of great esteem, and if I hope to become a person of virtue, I must partake in more virtuous activities.”  

John Cookmeyer, LMFT

“Don’t look back, that’s not the direction you’re going.”


“When my spirit is full, it can not help but overflow gratitude onto those around me.”

~April 2020

John Cookmeyer, LMFT

“I could never get enough; it is only by giving of myself that my spirit becomes full.”

~April 2020

John Cookmeyer, LMFT

“When it feels like your life is falling apart, it may just be falling together.”

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“Life has many shapes, as love has many faces.  Life can keep you going, but love can take you places.”

John Cookmeyer, LMFT

“Time is not to be saved, and certainly not wasted.  As Love is to be savored and not merely tasted.”

John Cookmeyer, LMFT

“I still have bad days, but that’s okay. I used to have bad years.”

April 14, 2020 John Cookmeyer, LMFT

“Today is a Monday that I have yet to live; therefore, I believe I will do just that.”

April 13, 2020 John Cookmeyer, LMFT