Demi Lovato and Relapse – No Addict Left Behind

Demi

By: Jana Greene

“I think I’ve definitely had my rock bottom and I think that was probably right before I went into treatment where I said, ‘I definitely need help.’  – Demi Lovato

I know I’m not alone in my feelings of sadness about Demi Lovato’s heroin relapse.
The singer and actress had six consecutive years of recovery time before she overdosed on Heroin yesterday.
That’s a long clean time, by anyone’s estimate.
Relapses are always jarring – even when they happen to celebrities who – if truth be told – sobriety may even be more difficult for with so few checks and balances on finances and public adoration.
They are even more jarring when they happen to someone you know and love. I found that out in March.
One of the “girls” my daughters grew up with was taken by heroin after two years of sobriety. Two YEARS.  She and I had grown close in the past, because she knew I was in recovery, and I had the distinct pleasure of getting to mentor her a while back. She was  feisty, hilarious, sweet, and beautiful. More recently, she moved and we’d lost touch,  but I knew she was a couple of years into active recovery and I was so proud.
Demi’s overdose brought up so much pain, all over again. It highlights an uncomfortable truth – we are never, never free of our addictions. You don’t “get over it.” Society may not understand this, but I hope that some wisdom and understanding about the disease will blossom on the heals of this awful thing. People need to know that we cannot rest on our laurels and that we need support to stay in recovery.
This problem touches all of us. The more we understand, the better.
I’m seeing something beautiful happening in the wake of the tragedy. I’m watching the recovery community around the world – MY recovery community – rally around one of our own. It’s very Jesus-y, really; the way only LOVE (and plenty of it) triumphs, no matter what. As she had made the recovery life a platform, she probably thinks she disappointed the whole world. She may not realize that we still claim her, proudly. That we still believe in her.
In the cyber world, I see it everywhere. My Instagram (MyFIERCErecovery) feed is awash in posts by 800 fellow addicts who GET it, and are pulling for Demi in every way. There hasn’t been a shred of disappointment or smack-talk, much to my surprise. On Facebook, I see the same thing. For those in my community, this is an excellent time to spread awareness.
I see it in the real world, too. My friends and I have had discussions about the sadness of relapse, but also the tremendous hope that comes from knowing she can make this near-death experience into an even stronger recovery.
We don’t give up on anyone!
It’s like the addiction world version of “no man left behind.” She will likely be embraced and encouraged from the recovery community around her. These people are just bulldogs, ya’ll. They stand with you until you can stand on your own. I’ve no doubt she has a wide and loving network of people and resources to help her heal.
I myself am one drink away from destruction, and I know it. I have no illusions about my disease, even with nearly 18 years of sobriety. Our drug of choice is a patient force; it will wait until we are tired and triggered. It will wait for us to feel confident about being sober. It will wait for damn near anything – time itself is no deterrent.
I came across another quote when I was preparing to write this piece, and if you just read it hurriedly or in passing, you may miss the profoundness of the statement:
“No matter what you’re going through,” Demi has said. “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it may seem hard to get to it but you can do it and just keep working towards it and you’ll find the positive side of things.”
I hope she still believes that, because it’s still true. The things she learned in recovery didn’t dissipate because she had a relapse. That’s another misconception. What you gain in recovery time, you keep. It’s yours. Now use it every single day – ONE single day at a time – to bolster your new recovery journey.
If you just keep working towards it.
Just keep working.
Just keep going.
I pray that Ms. Lovato will come out of this bolstered, strong, and with renewed commitment to recovery. Her light at the end of the tunnel has not been dimmed – it still shines bright waiting to guide her through recovery. I believe she will find the positive side of things again.
We are all pulling for you, Demi.

Please take a moment to consider the loss of life and talent that alcoholism and drug addiction has taken from the cultural landscape.

And then think about the voids left by the vastly more important people in our own lives who are lost or still in the trenches of addiction – the children, spouses, friends and family that you love.

Amy Winehouse, musician; Brian Jones, musician with The Rolling Stones;   Chris Farley, comedian, actor;  Cory Monteith, actor  and singer;  Darrell Porter, American professional baseball player ;  Elisa Bridges, model, actress;  Elvis Presley , musician, singer, actor, cultural icon; Freddie Prinze, actor;  Hank Williams, Sr., country music singer-songwriter; Heath Ledger, Australian actor;  Howard Hughes,  business tycoon, movie producer and director, aviator, engineer, investor; Janis Joplin, musician; Jim Morrison, musician, singer; Jimi Hendrix, musician and singer-songwriter;  John Belushi , actor and comedian; John Entwistle, bass guitarist for The Who; Jon Bonham,  drummer  and songwriter for Led Zeppelin;   Judy Garland, actress and singer; Keith Moon, drummer for The Who;  Kurt Cobain, Nirvana singer;  Len Bias, Boston Celtics player; Lenny Bruce, comedian ; Marilyn Monroe, actress, model, singer;  Michael Jackson, singer and icon; Richard Burton, actor; River Phoenix, actor;  Sigmund Freud, considered by many to be the founding father of psychoanalysis; Tommy Dorsey, jazz musician; Truman Capote, writer; and Whitney Houston, singer and actress; Philip Seymour Hoffman, actor; Prince, singer; Michael Jackson, singer; Whitney Houston, singer; Tom Petty, singer; Chyna, female wrestler; Scott Weiland, singer for Stone Temple Pilots; Corey Montieth, actor; Mikey Welsh, bassist for Weezer; Bobby Hatfield, singer for The Righteous Brothers.

A Prayer for the Hallway – Faith in the in-between

 

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By: Jana Greene

Lots of people say that starting a thing is the hardest part, but I beg to differ. To me, the hardest part is when you’ve done all the things to put yourself on the right track, but it seems forces are conspiring against you.

Paranoid? Maybe. True? Certainly.

When you’ve changed your lifestyle to a healthy one, but have hardly lost an ounce over the course of weeks. I don’t know about you, but it was my intention to have a window opened to me when I said goodbye to pleasures like sugar and carbs. When I’m stuck in limbo, my Inner Jana really just wants to say, “Well, screw it! I tried! Back to the Haagen Dazs!”

And in matters much more important…

When you’ve chosen to step out in faith but doors are not exactly opening up to you.

When you are expecting God to part the Red Sea but He isn’t making a way for you like you’d trusted. He is doing it some other way – even though you clearly instructed Him to please come through.

Getting started isn’t always the hardest thing. Sometimes the hardest thing is to KEEP going.

Here’s another thing a lot of people say:

“When God closes a door, he opens a window.” To which I’d like to add – “but it’s HELL in the hallway!”

The hallway is the perfect place for giver-uppers to give up; trust me, I know.

In the hallway, the light is often busted. You cannot see a way out, no matter where you turn. Where’s that window again, God?

In the hallway, our hearts hurt. It’s a lonely, unforgiving place. It can easily feel like no one even knows you’re missing.

In the hallway, you feel vulnerable, like Eve when she discovered she was naked. Just you and your Maker in this strange place of neither here-nor-there.

It seems like the long hallway will never end at times. You walk and walk, and the hall just stretches ahead like a mirage. I mean, sometimes it REALLY just goes on and on.

The hallway seems like a TERRIBLE place to rest! Right beyond a locked door and with no other exits clearly marked. But “rest” is what we are supposed to do in the damn Hallway, I think.

The hallway can be a purgatory-esque place of extreme anxiety building and extreme faith building, in that order.

Here’s the thing about hallways, though. They always lead to somewhere.

Some of the longest, darkest hallways I’ve had to camp in on have been great places to wait it out and wait on God. Not COMFORTABLE places, mind you. But pretty good incubators for learning to truly trust, even when you cannot imagine what the future holds.

When I went through a divorce in the early 2000’s, I experienced a stint in one of the loneliest hallways of all time. Formerly a mom who worked from home, I had to go out and get four part-time jobs to care and feed for my kids. We had nobody else. For a period of a couple of years, I stayed in “fight or flight” mode, to the extent that I’m pretty sure I crashed my spiritual hard drive. I had shut a door that badly needed shutting, only to find that my circumstances got more difficult before they got any better (and they did.)

When I quit drinking, deciding to quit was not the hardest part. The hardest part was on Day 11 and 105 – random times when I’m just minding my own sober business and the shit hits the fan and I’m caught unaware by the drama. The only thing that got me through sober was the faith result of spending untold time in the hallway.

And now, with my janky health problems and chronic “I’m not sure what I want to do when I grow up” (I’m nearly 50…) state, I find myself in yet another corridor, waiting for God to open my window and trusting that when He does, it won’t be on the 21st floor.

I’m preaching to myself as well as anyone else! I’m struggling, ya’ll. That’s why I’m writing about this phenomenon, hoping to pull myself AND you up with the hope that God is indeed working on things, even when nothing changes on the surface.

Had I not sat in that lonely place of in-between for so long, I wouldn’t have known how to survive life on life’s terms. The Hallway isn’t really a Hell, but a changing room.

A portal to accepting GRACE.

I will keep pressing through the hallway if you will!

Until we come out the other side, please join me in this prayer. ❤

Dear Papa God,

I feel like I’m in between. In between things and people and places. I’m ready for the glorious answers to prayer, but I know that you ONLY have my best interest at heart and have wonderful things stored up for me just beyond the open window. Thank you for changing things in your perfect time, instead of my time – which is seen through such a limited scope. Help us to be patient in the hallways, when we feel lonely, lost, scared, or anxious. Thanks for camping out in the hallways WITH us. What a wonderful thing for a Father to do. Holy Spirit, instill in me the faith to keep on keepin’ on, every day, with assurance that YOU are faithful.

Amen.

 

How ’bout that OFFRED?

Offred1
By: Jana Greene
Okay. I’m about to pull a Jesus juke The Handmaid’s Tale.
If you’re not familiar with the show, that’s too bad. Remedy that please.
The protagonist – played by Elisabeth Moss – is everything a heroine should be, including relatable and flawed.
In addition to giving me the compulsion to approach strangers in the produce section of the grocery store and whisper, “Blessed be the fruit” for my own entertainment, The Handmaid’s Tale is also an incredible series laced with danger, truth, and foreboding.
SO much terrifying allegory for a world that I could not have imagined in my younger days, but is now reality. It is about having human rights stripped away – even one’s very identity.
No spoiler alerts here, just little old me spreading thoughts for your perusal.
This show illustrates religion vs. grace in an embarrassingly bright light.
It’s about what happens when an ‘elite’ few in are allowed to run amok over its own citizenry, in the name of the “common good.”
Or worse, in the name of God.
And I guess that’s what especially pisses me off about the world we live in. We use His name to damn and to bless, as if we had that kind of power. Look at what a mess we’ve made! The evidence perpetuates itself –  God is rules. God is anger. God is the Nanny State.
Except that He is not. He is courage. He is compassion. He is freedom. The Word is a person, not a book.
Without going into spoiler-heavy detail, let’s just say in this cliché: the season two finale had many twists and turns. But all the while maintains it’s message:  You can try to twist ideologies to glorify your own, or embrace the truth about who you are. We cannot be boxed; Commanders, Guardians, Marthas, nor Handmaids.We were created for the wild liberation of individuality.
The fact that love conquers insurmountable odds is the godliest tale.
We simply cannot worship political parties.  Both have to potential to land us in a Orwellian spot like Gilead, one just as easily as the other. God has no political agenda. Only God can show us how to fight for justice while keeping our love front and center.
Like Jesus. Or like Offred….
I mean, JUNE.
May the Lord open.

When we got Nothin’, we Still have Hope

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By: Jana Greene

“You haven’t posted to The Beggar’s Bakery in a while…”

“The Beggar’s Bakery hasn’t gotten any new likes.”

“It’s been a while since your readers have heard from you.”

Such are the multitude of notices I’m getting that remind me I haven’t blogged in a while.

I’M SORRY, FACEBOOK OVERLORDS. I GOT NOTHIN’.

For six months, I’ve been writing a book about recovery. It hasn’t left any time and / or creative juice residue with which to write other things. Writing a book is stressful, but not nearly as stressful as surviving all the things that become material for the book. Right now, things are tough.

The book is all about the fierceness of the recovery life, whether that recovery be from drugs and alcohol or shitty childhoods, or bad relationships, or poor self-image. It is in fact titled “FIERCE Recovery.” But I am not feeling particularly fierce these days, you see.

I think maybe I am fierce in the same way as my fat house cat, who has delusions of grandeur that he is a big, scary panther, when in reality he is scared of the vacuum cleaner. We love him dearly, so he gets to live out his fantasy and we all pretend that he is super badass.

I AM fierce. I am strong.  But sometimes I’m delusional about what that means. Any thread of self-glory in those statements is being unraveled like a sweater. I’m naked underneath, but the thread keeps being pulled. Part of my fierceness is being exposed as vulnerability. Vulnerability can dangerous, but no more so dangerous than we are to ourselves when he hurt. Depression is a bitch.

But still, we have hope, because it’s a gift that is not the enemy’s to take. It’s not even OURS to withhold from ourselves.

I think my own personal free fall began with the death of a dear friend’s daughter from a heroin overdose. She was not just a friend’s daughter, but a young woman who I’d watched grow up alongside my kids and struggle with drugs. I had the distinct honor to “mentor” this girl for many of her recovery years, and came to love her.

My city is the “opiate capital” of the East Coast. Overdoses are commonplace. People are dying – mothers, fathers, daughters, sons. It is becoming “normal” to hear that someone I know directly or indirectly owe their lives to Narcan now.  Every day I hear of another overdose death, and every single time it brings my heart back to the girl who didn’t mean to die, but didn’t know how to live without her drug.

In other news, the suicide rate is skyrocketing. We were all sad to hear of Chef Anthony Bourdain’s passing, but how much more devastating are the lives lost in our own friend and family circles? People I love very much are being hospitalized for depression. Beautiful human beings are considering taking their own lives, choosing a permanent “solution’ to temporary problems. (Note: ALL problems here on planet Earth are temporary! It’s a universal law that things ALWAYS get better!)

Its as if two of the four horses of the apocalypse – suicide and drugs  – have decided to trample the human race under sharp, deadly hooves. We are all so tired.

But we cannot ourselves afford to tire of pulling each other out of the way, when people are hurting so badly.  But damn, it’s overwhelming.

Maybe it’s not so important that I fit the definition of FIERCE.  Perhaps I don’t need to feel like I have all the answers before I feel worthy to write a blog that says “I’m struggling. You?”

Maybe FIERCE is simply keeping the faith anyway. Maybe ‘fierce’ is just not drinking, and instead writing all of your janky and desperate thoughts and publishing them to a blog that other people might be able to relate to.

Maybe that’s why I’m supposed to write this piece because Facebook wouldn’t get off my back. Maybe we all need reminding that there is hope.

So long has we have a shred of hope, we cannot count ourselves spiritually bankrupt. Sometimes a direct hit right in the delusions of grandeur can shake hopelessness loose and release our inner Big Scary Panthers. Those badasses are all about survival.

The world would be a different place if people understood that they are precious to a loving God, who adores them just the way they are. Still a difficult place, but not a hopeless one.

That means you. He loves YOU.

“I got nothin'” has, in prior times of struggle, been enough for God to work with. Empty of all suggestions to make to God in order for things to work out the “right” way, we just ‘are.’ We stand in need of the one thing we cannot ourselves manufacture – HOPE. We are empty of answers, and desperate for his intervention.

If I’ve got nothin’, my hands are free to pull others up off the ground. They are free to hold tight to God’s promises.

So if you are reading this and your heart is despondent, just know that you’re not alone.

I won’t drink if you won’t!

I won’t give up, if you don’t!

Please don’t lose hope – you are loved.

Vulnerability is okay. We can be badasses in need of help. That’s not an oxymoron!

Take my hand and I’ll pull you out from under the stampeding horses.

And then when you can get on your feet,  YOU take someone else by the hand and pull them out, too.

Because when we got nothin’, that is everything.

Romans 5:4-5 [Full Chapter]

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” – (MSG)

 

If you are overwhelmed, please reach out for help!

SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION

1-800-662-HELP (4357)

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE

1-800-273-8255

NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL HEALTH

1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

 

 

 

Her Name is Natalie

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By: Jana Greene

Every day, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. The misuse of and addiction to them is an absolute crisis – and the deaths of those who overdose affects every facet of life in every community. It’s absolutely out of control.

I have the pleasure of living in a beautiful beach town, but the displeasure of living in what has become known as the “Opioid Capital” of the nation. My town is Wilmington, North Carolina. Things are bad here – addiction things. Really bad.

Last week, I was en route to a recovery meeting on a regular Monday night, in a less-than-pristine part of town. As I turned onto the venue street, a saw a young woman walking on the sidewalk parallel to the street. From the back she looked like every other 20-something  – she wore palazzo pants and a tank top, and her hair was atop her head in a messy bun. But she looked like a girl who was in a hurry to get nowhere. Her steps were unmeasured and unsteady. She looked only at the ground. As I passed her, I glanced back and saw that she had a look of defeat on her otherwise beautiful face.

As usual, there were a group of folks standing around the entrance to the building, just smoking and talking. As I’d never attended this particular meeting before, I rolled down the window and asked a gentleman if I was at the right place.

“Yes,” he said. But he wasn’t looking at me at all, but at the young woman walking by staring at the sidewalk as she passed.

“Natalie!” He yelled, as I took a parking space. “NATALIE!”

In my rear view mirror, I watched Natalie reluctantly saunter over to the man, whose name I would later learn was Bill. They were speaking right behind my vehicle, and when I got a better look at the girl, I felt a pang in my heart so suddenly that it left me breathless for a moment.

Natalie is a drug addict. She is what society labels a “junkie.” This young lady looked as if she were headed to knock on death’s door. I imagine she gets judged, everywhere she goes, what with the track bruises up and down her arms and hollow, sunken eyes. She is rail thin, and the look on her face is one of 100% proof hopelessness. She’s given up, and just waiting for her body to follow suit.

I watched Bill trying to convince her to come to the meeting. He was trying to convince her to get help. I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation, which mainly consisted of Bill lovingly encouraging her and reminding her there is a better way, and she mumbling “I know” with her eyes down as she shifted from foot to foot.

When I opened my car door and headed into the meeting, I heard Bill tell her that she is worth it. And I heard Natalie say, “I’m not a bad person; I just have a problem.”

She’s right. she is not a bad person. She is only a sick person.

I have heard offhanded comments about the Narcan – an FDA-approved nasal form of naloxone for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdosethat infer taxpayers should not have to bear the cost to bring “just another junkie” back to life after an overdose. There is NO SUCH THING as “just a junkie.” It troubles me greatly that people could dismiss the value of human life so blithely.

Natalie is somebody’s little girl. Somebody once sang nursery rhymes with her and put oversized bows in her hair (or should have.) She was a tiny girl once, and then she most likely got hurt – maybe so deeply that she can’t bear to feel those haunted emotions. Maybe she grew up loved and safe, and suffered an injury and got hooked on pain meds. Maybe she just experimented with a drug “once,” and it rewired her brain and now she cannot stop. She might be somebody’s mother who should be putting oversized bows in her daughter’s hair right now, but wakes up to repeat the same nightmare day after day as the child grows up basically motherless. It’s a horrible cycle.

It really doesn’t matter how she got here. It matters that she survives it.

A couple of months ago, the opioid epidemic became manifest to me in the loss of a sweet girl who I loved and helped mentor. She grew up with my daughters, came to their sleepovers, went to the beach with us, and brightened all of our lives. She was funny and smart and beautiful, and 25 years old. The last time I heard from her, she had two entire solid years clean! In three month’s time, she would relapse one single time, and not survive to pursue her recovery again. What an absolute waste. She leaves behind a son, a loving family, and too many friends to count. She has left a hole in our community.

I’m writing this now in tribute to that beautiful friend. And for the sake of Natalie and everyone like her whose live has become a spiral of destruction and shame.

This deadly addiction is a spreading plague. It’s happening to the poor and downtrodden.  It’s happening in the pristine parts of town. It’s happening to people from good families. Parents who love their children are dying in front of them.  It’s got to stop. We are losing so many precious lives. What can we do?  I won’t pretend to know how to fix this. Nobody does. The issue is so big and monstrous.

But I do implore you to do two things, even though I know that they are hard:

  1. Try not to assume things about a drug addict. You never know what personal Hell they’ve been through. You never know how utterly impossible getting clean seems to him / her.
  2. Treat addicts and alcoholics who are still active in their disease as if you believe there is hope for them, because there is. So long as they are breathing, there is hope. We don’t treat people battling cancer as if they are already dead; we treat them as if they will come out the other side. Drug addicts need you to love them as if they will get well. Not enable, mind you. Just love. It may be hard to treat people who are making really shitty choices with respect, but the true selves in them are not the junkie selves you see.

Natalie didn’t come to the meeting that evening. She was too addled by where she would get the next fix to listen to Bill. And that’s how this demonic thing works. She is thinking “just one more.” Just one more time, and then I’ll quit. I just have a problem. I will fix it tomorrow. But sometimes, tomorrow doesn’t come for these precious souls.

She’s not a bad person. God bless her broken heart.

How did this epidemic get started? Check out more alarming stats and facts here:  National Institute on Drug Abuse 

Alcohol, Grace, and Me (an addict’s journey)

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By: Jana Greene

My name is Jana and I’m recovering alcoholic and follower of Jesus Christ.

While I was preparing my testimony to share and was feeling super nervous about sharing it, God knew,  because he led me to this in the Mirror Bible translation from 1 Corinthians 2:1-4:

“My intention in visiting you was not to engage with you in theological debate or to impress you with clever words guessing about the evidence of God.

The testimony of God is my only persuasion concerning you: Jesus Christ died your death on the cross! I CAN SEE YOU IN NO OTHER LIGHT.

I felt completely inadequate; you now that it was not my eloquent speech that persuaded you. I was so nervous that my whole body was trembling with stage fright!

My message was not with persuasive arguments based on secular wisdom, since my aim was not to point people to me, but rather to the powerful working of the Spirit in them.”

So, thanks, God. I needed that. I pray the Spirit will speak through me.

One of my first memories is trying to squeeze into my toy box. I couldn’t have been quite two years old. My parents were teenagers and were fighting in the living room. I know they did the best they could, as they were kids themselves, and I always sensed that I was kind of a mistake everyone in the family was just trying to make the best of.

Even scared and hiding in my toy box then, I knew I wasn’t alone. I felt a presence with me.

At three years old, I went to live with my grandparents when my parents divorced, where I would stay until I was 7. It was a pretty happy home.

I learned that the world was a crueler place still when I was four. The father of the kid I played with next door molested me. It happened again by a female babysitter when I was six, and by three other men before I was 12. When I was 9, it was by a family member.

At home, the atmosphere was chaotic and sometimes violent, and I was riddled with anxiety even as a youngster. There was always fighting, and sometimes abuse.

I tried to stuff all of this down and make myself very small. But I didn’t know that when I grew up, I learned how to numb it instead.

At 12, my life changed forever at a Billy Graham crusade. When I walked down the stadium steps to accept Jesus and pray with a volunteer, I felt Jesus was fidgeting with anticipation to meet me, and I thought maybe I was not a mistake after all. I will never forget the song that played as I walked down:

Just as I am and waiting not

To rid myself of one dark blot

To thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,

Oh Lamb of God, I come.

Throughout high school, I managed to make good grades and stay chaste and never drank a drop of alcohol. I carried a Bible to school with me each day. I organized a Bible study with my friends. I was the quintessential ‘good girl,’ on the outside, at least.

I knew scripture, but I didn’t know grace, neither giving nor receiving it.

At 18 and in the middle of my senior year, my family and I moved to North Carolina. I now had a two year old sister and seven year old brother that I helped care for often. They were the lights of my life. A life that – at home – was more chaotic than ever.

I was waiting tables and started tailgating late after each shift, and at 19 I took my first drink. I was just physically, emotionally, spiritually toast by that point. To hell with the ‘good girl,’ I thought.

I just wanted to stop feeling.

From the very first sip, I felt another compilation of emotions. I believe I had eight Bartles and Jaymes wine coolers that night. I remember thinking “If this is what it feels like to be drunk, why isn’t everyone drinking all the time?”

Alcohol was like ‘other than’ potion.

If things were bad at home, I could feel other than afraid.

If I was feeling compulsive and self-destructive, I could drink to feel other than myself.

Other than socially awkward and full of anxiety.

Other than a mistake.

It helped blot out the bad memories.

Thereafter, I drank every day, and heavily. I regularly drove impaired, often getting lost in my own neighborhood. How I never harmed myself or others on the road, I do not know. By the Grace of God, I suppose.

Every ‘good girl’ value I had prided myself in (pride really does come before a fall…) had dissolved and without a moral compass, promiscuity ensued. Blackouts were how I fell asleep. This scared me enough to seek help.

At 20, I first darkened the door of an AA meeting, and it was like I’d arrived on the planet I was meant to have been born on. Other people understood the powerlessness against alcohol! That group loved me when I could not love myself. I attended every day, got a sponsor, and stayed sober three glorious months.

I even found my Bible still packed away in a box and began to read it again.

Then I went on a date with a man and he ordered me wine with dinner. I bravely told him that I didn’t drink, and he assured me that there was no way I was an alcoholic and that he was sure I could moderate.

Ah, a challenge! I do love a challenge.

I allowed a man I’d known for a week take my inventory. Consequently, I drank so much that night that I threw up in his car, passed out, and woke up somewhere unfamiliar. That began another downward spiral.

I soon found myself pregnant and was devastated. I’d always wanted to be a mom, but not like this. This staunchly pro-life girl felt pressure to have an abortion, and I was scared. I had nowhere to go. But by the time I got to the doctor’s office, the baby had no heartbeat detected and after the D & C, I felt like a shell.

I drank constantly after that. I hated myself with a fervor. I lost touch with God again.

Within a year, I married the man. I was just 21.

In two years’ time – in which I drank every day and usually to excess (and often alone) – I started to desperately want a baby.

So the most amazing thing happened – I stopped smoking and drinking cold turkey and it was not that difficult because all of my energies went into creating and nurturing a new life, and not my own. I didn’t think my own life was worth nurturing, but that epiphany wouldn’t surface until much later.

When my daughter was born, I fell so in love with her that drinking was the last thing on my mind. The motherhood high had cured me! Three years later, I had another daughter – every bit as beautiful and amazing as the first, and the motherhood high doubled that day.

For six years, I didn’t have a single drink, as I was pregnant or nursing. But around 1997, I decided that when my kids were tucked into bed at night, I would simply have a glass of wine. I had matured now, right?

Instantly, I fell right back into six or seven per evening, picking up right where I’d left off. Wine is the socially acceptable beverage of moms everywhere, I rationalized. (What IS it with moms and WINE?)

Soon after, we moved to the coast and became immersed in the drinking culture of beach living. By 1999, I was drinking heavily every afternoon and evening, and during the day on weekends. I tried moderating over and over, only to wake up angrier and angrier with myself for not managing it better. I sometimes polished of a box of wine every night or two.

The whites of my eyes were yellowing, I began getting sicker. Nobody – including my husband at the time – knew how much I was drinking. Nobody needed to know. But I was not the mother my girls deserved.

I begged God to help me moderate.

By 2000, I was becoming very sick. It was no longer any fun to drink. It no longer made me feel ‘other than’ the bad things and instead amplified them. I started putting alcohol above all else. I wanted to stop, yet ironically, I found I could not.  I required it to stop the shaking.

My body knew when to expect it and demanded it on time, yet revolted it when I drank and I was vomiting every day.

The drinking life I’d romanticized turned on me.

A couple of years ago, I came across an old journal from the time. I’d titled the entry “I can touch bottom now.”

Please Jesus, please. That was my prayer last night. Crouched down against an unfamiliar toilet in the home of the hostess of the company Christmas party. How did I let this happen AGAIN?

I tried to pace myself, but by the sixth or seventh drink, I casually wove to the bathroom and locked the door behind me. I told myself to vomit quietly, but I kept forgetting where I was and who was with me in the bathroom. I could FEEL someone in the room but it was hard to focus. I wished they’d leave, seeing me at my worst like this. After a while of retching, I noticed that I’d lost my shoes. Where were they?

GET UP, I told myself. GET UP AND FAKE SOBER….but when I looked in the mirror my eyes held the long, strange gaze. My dead eyes, rimmed in crimson and makeup sloughed off with sweat. Since I work at the school, my coworkers are the teachers and staff at my children’s elementary. They couldn’t know my secret!

After a while, I feel the first twinges of becoming more a tiny bit sober and it is immediately uncomfortable.

When I can stand up without weaving, my thought process is simple:

I am thinking, “I just need one drink, that’s all. That will steady me out.”

Before the night is over, the Art teacher will try to wrestle my keys from my hand, so that I cannot drive home, but I do it anyway.

That’s the crazy thing. I keep doing it anyway.

I’m so tired.

So, that is my ‘bottom story’. I know enough about recovery to know it doesn’t have to STAY my ‘bottom story.’ If I pick up again, I risk a more tragic ending. The good news is that getting into recovery is not the end of the story, but the beginning.

My date of sobriety is January 3, 2001.

On that day, two weeks after that party, God again met me on the bathroom floor. This time, my own. As I lay on the cold tile, I asked God to help me and surrendered my will entirely.

And in this full surrender mode, I asked Jesus to please save my life. And in one crystal clear moment, I knew he was with me, scrunched down on the floor, holding me. Not only with me, but in me.

In this broken vessel.

“Just as you are, remember?” I could feel him say.

I knew without a doubt that it had been he who was with me in the bathroom at the party, and as a child hiding in my toy box, and a million other times of peril.

To be honest, I didn’t expect sobriety to ‘stick.’ I didn’t think I deserved it to.

The first few weeks of sobriety were almost unbearable. God and I had ”words’ on many occasions. I was sick, inside and out. My body screamed for alcohol. I informed Jesus that I COULD NOT DO THIS, and yet I relied on him solely and he carried me through. My detox included hallucinations. The devil constantly reminded me that ONE drink would make them all go away. “You’re a liar,” I told him. “I’ve never had just one drink.”

All of my energies now went into creating and nurturing a new life – mine.

I did meetings and got online support from other women alcoholics. That’s where the healing started. I asked God to restore my children and help me be the mother they deserved. Eventually, my eyes and skin lost the yellow tint.

I have had to erect boundaries with people I loved in order to maintain sobriety, and knock down other walls to make room for healthy trust to sprout. I’m still always learning.

To this day, I take it one single day at a time.

I would love to say that I’ve been completely delivered – and I know addicts who received instant healing – but my recovery is daily. My default setting is often to want to numb out. Food tends to be my drug of choice these days. That’s a slippery slope for me because I’ve resorted to bulimic behaviors in the past. My program helps me apply the 12 Steps to many areas.

I also struggle with major co-dependency issues. Recovery is truly like peeling an onion; one layer is exposed at a time. But you can deal with one layer at a time with God’s help. I get by with a LOT of help from my friends, too.

Although God can heal us by any mode, I’m grateful that my recovery requires me to willfully surrender to God each and every day. That’s a sheer gift, because it keeps me humble, having to stay in constant contact with Holy Spirit, in and around me.

In 2007, I married the love of my entire life after meeting him in church. He is my best friend and biggest supporter. My precious daughters are 22 and 25 now, and we are very close. They are very proud of their mama’s recovery. They call me a good mom. They call me a strong woman. That’s not getting what I deserved. That’s the magnitude of the grace of the Father!

We are very open about our struggles. Stigma has no place in our family.

I discovered Celebrate Recovery in 2008, when the pastor of a church I was attending asked myself and another sister in Christ if we would train as CR leaders. We did, and over the course of two years, I was blessed to be a part of launching two CR groups in Wilmington. I love this program. We are tribe – a safe place to come and be honest.

Life, as they say, marches on. It is not always easy.

In the past several years, I have had to contend with an incurable and painful chronic disease. I’m not sure I’d still have my sobriety if not for CR. The journey through this illness has resurrected that urge to default by numbing. I rely on the program to keep me grounded, and the people in it to take my hand.  It has taught me so much. The 12 Steps apply to so many situations. The pain has somewhere to go.

I’ve accepted that I don’t ‘do’ moderation, in any way, shape, or form, but I’m learning. The up side to an addictive personality is that I don’t love with moderation. There is nothing moderate about my love of Jesus. I just have to tell you about it because it saved my life.

God has fulfilled a lifelong goal, in that I have become a writer and penned two books on recovery. Sharing my story is part of what keeps me clean and emotionally healthy. I also write a blog dealing mostly with recovery issues – TheBeggarsBakery.net.

In 2015, the folks from the 700 Club called asking if they could come film my testimony to air as a segment on the show. On Leap Day 2006, it did air. Talk about surreal!

For someone who never expected her sobriety to ‘stick,’ God has opened so many doors.

I the summer of 2016, I became a Certified Recovery Coach and a North Carolina Certified Peer Support Specialist. I’m currently in seminary at a very grace-based college. I love learning about the infinite grace of Jesus and the love of the Triune God. At nearly 50, I am hoping to get my Bachelor’s degree in substance abuse in a year or two.

It’s never too late.

These days, I rarely crave the feeling of ‘other than,” because I’m more comfortable in my own skin. But when it does happen, I’m equipped with my tools to get through it and the support of friends who GET it.

It’s such a gift to have a place to go where people understand you. They know that whether you are bruised and beaten by your own compulsions or a victim of somebody else’s, the answer is the same: Jesus.

He wants to clean out all of the childhood and life crud and hurt that has built up. It’s kind of his specialty.

Last January, I picked up my 16 year chip at a Celebrate Recovery meeting. I am baffled. What a long, strange trip it’s been – and a wonderful one. I would not be alive had I not surrendered my will to God on that bathroom floor all those years ago.

I still have to stay on my toes. Life is often so difficult, and our disease will not be taken for granted. It’s been a lot of hard work. I remember when 24 hours seemed impossible. It was done one single day at a time, and still is.

If you cannot relate to any other aspect of my story, that’s ok.

Just know this: YOU are designed to be in relationship with our perfectly good, full-of-grace Father.

Christ died your death on the Cross! I CAN SEE YOU IN NO OTHER LIGHT!

My life verse is Romans 8:1. From the Message translation:

“With the arrival of Jesus the Messiah, the fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous,, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of Life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.”

Thanks for letting me share ❤

There’s no Graduating from Addiction (and why that’s a GOOD thing)

The Beggar's Bakery

Present tense

By: Jana Greene

I follow a support board on Facebook that consists of women alcoholics and addicts. In a recent post, a member asked this simple question: “Do you think a person can ever say they’ve recovered from their addiction.” Out of 129 responses, there was only three ‘yes’ answers. And there’s a reason for this:

Addiction is a lifelong condition.

“Yeah, but….” you might be thinking. Consider the alcoholic uncle who just gave booze up cold turkey, after declaring that he just woke up one day and lost his taste for it.

Bully for Uncle Herbert. I’ve heard tell of people like this; I’ve just never known one.

For most of us, it takes work – and a lifetime of it. But the alternative is doing the same self-destructive thing over and over and expecting a different result. That’s the definition of insanity. At the end of the day…

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