Fire Breathing Dragons & Brain Science

20 Balls on Fire in the Air – Gracefully


My beloved son, Nathaniel

“The dragon. A beast of such power that if you were to see it whole and complete in a single glance, it would burn you to cinders.” – Merlin, Excalibur

I’ve been a little busy. The third and final year of the distance education program can be startling if you take it all in — in a single glance — kind of like a dragon… or something like a dragon. My recommendation is not to do that. The dragon has no fire if you listen closely and do exactly as I say…

Do what is in front of you. Don’t forget why you’re here. Have fun… with other people.

Do what is in front of you

To Do

This is a light weekend – coffee and chocolate help

That’s why I like “to do” lists. They make busy lives manageable. As a matter of fact, I’m working on marking a task off my list right now by writing this blog. I listened to a video of Simon Sinek explaining why we like to scratch off our list of things to do so much. Dopamine. That’s it. We get a little squirt of dopamine each time we fulfill a responsibility and scratch it off. Dopamine rewards the brain and we want more. More what? There’s the rub. Your “to do” list must be taking you somewhere. Where is it taking you? Why are you here?

Don’t forget why you’re here


These are our friends and family – We can’t let this continue

Maybe you want to become a social worker to help save lives. Perhaps you’ve noticed hundreds of people a day washing up on the banks of the river. You’ve the bright idea to wander upstream to see who keeps pushing them in. Well, that’s a noble quest. And that’s exactly what it is… a quest – a long quest – an epic quest. Have you ever been on an endless road trip in a non-air conditioned car? Or a flight with no nuts and screaming babies? Or a cross country bus ride next to a mouth breather? You’re about to lose your cool – plotting your escape – and someone finally says, “We’re almost there!” Suddenly, you feel rejuvenated and motivated and almost happy. That’s dopamine – just a little squirt to keep you moving. Trust me when I say, figure out where you want to go and map your journey. Know the mile markers so you won’t lose hope. You must perceive forward motion. I’m almost to my destination. I’m almost done.

Have fun… with other people

Rally Crowd

I’m glad you asked. I have fun by spending quality time with my wife and children, plotting world domination with my dearest friends, and blowing my horn with my band mates. You’ll be sorely tempted to short yourself in this area of your life. Don’t do it. You’ll regret it and you’ll make everyone miserable. And you’ll completely miss the whole point! If your desire is to help preserve the lives of others (or, if you’re slightly more daring, enhance their quality of life and bring equity to a fractured system), you must remember what life is all about. Human connection. I love my family and friends. I need people. When I’m with the people I love, and I’m having fun in a purpose-driven life, I experience Joy. Now, when you get to this place, you’ve achieved a sizable squirt of oxytocin. And isn’t that why we’re all still here?


My Traveling Companion, Jill – I’m the mouth breather




About Donald McDonald

Husband, father, veteran, musician, addiction professional, man in long-term recovery, UNC MSW student, work in progress - I was raised in Asheville, NC and my undergraduate degree is in English Teacher Education from NC State. I am in my third year of the Triangle Distance Education program. My concentration is macro and my mission is to raise the profile of recovery and reduce the barriers to engaging in and sustaining recovery from alcohol and other drug problems.
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