Moral Failing or Disease? Substance Abuse and the People we Love

Sharing again.
Because reasons.

The Beggar's Bakery

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By: Jana Greene

Hello, dear Readers.

Earlier today, a friend whom I respect very much asked if I believed addiction was really 100% a legitimate disease.

I do.

In much the same way that the medical establishment used to consider homosexuality a mental disorder and have learned otherwise, I think we will come to understand substance abuse a disease, rather than a moral failure. The science is there.

Today, I hope to write about this subject, which can bring up volatile reactions. I hope to open a respectful dialogue between the addicts AND the people who love them.

Before you read on, I encourage you to visit YouTube and watch this little video. It is simple and profound, and might help us all to understand the nature of addiction a little better:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO

In addition to being an alcoholic myself, I do battle with several other…

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Letter to my Sister – I love you forever

sister
KK, you drew this for me when you were four years old, and titled it “Big Sister, Little Sister.” You explained that we were playing ball together. It still hangs in my house to this day. It means the world to me.

By: Jana Greene

Good day, Readers.

I know I am smack-dab in the middle of writing about the Beatitudes, and taking my sweet time about contrary to what I promised because I’ve had a procedure in my head, neck, and shoulders in which 200 ccs (14 very necessary injections) had to be placed in the muscles and over the skull to prevent my migraines, and while seemingly barbaric, it helps my headaches immensely. I’ve been in a lot of pain; pain that is not conducive to creativity. That is why I have not continued the Beatitude Series (I am still working on #4 – the sense of justice – but I had this dream last night and when I woke, I knew I had to write it. So I interrupt this Beatitude Series to write about the dream I just had. It may cause a family shit-storm (if any of my estranged family reads my work), and I sincerely hope not. That is not my intent.

My intent is to tell my sister, who was born when I was 16, that I love her.

KK,

I had a dream about you last night. It isn’t the first that I’ve had about you, but it was by all means the most vivid, I need to share it with you because I felt your actual spirit while in my dream-state.

I’m going to start by telling you the beginning of the dream, because that is the natural set-up to the last scene is the normal way to write it. But we’ve never been normal, and why start now? Besides, the last scene was the one I woke up crying to.

I snuck in the house because my name is officially mud forever and ever amen to that side of the family, for telling the truth.

But you took a risk, although you were angry about it. You’d been crying and I could tell you were equal parts happy to see me and supremely pissed, I could tell because your eyes become particularly green when you are in this state, and the contrast to your gorgeous red hair becomes even more striking.

There was an urgency for me to tell you what I came to say, because other family members were on their way to kick me out, so I took that beautiful face of yours that I’ve been in love with since you were a baby and held it in my hands.

I told you I still love you and think of you every day, even after six or seven years. I told you I was SO proud of the successes you’ve achieved – which are extraordinary by anyone’s estimation. I told you I’m sorry that you don’t like to be hugged anymore and I hope that’s not because of our split – you had graduated from high school, and you loved hugs until then. I explained that I was just trying to stay sober and help other people stay sober by writing honest, not cause a rift. But rifts are sometimes a by-product of honesty.

I told you I’m sorry that my honesty splintered the family, but mostly because the splintering from you and your brother broke my heart anew every day I wake up.

Before that scene, the dream was a mix of Clockwork Orange surrealism and Freudian saturation, as usual.

It ended with our mom saying you got a tattoo, and it was my fault. It was a portrait of someone I didn’t know, and the person in the tattoo had a third eye, the all-seeing eye. She made you have a cover up of that third eye, because it somehow threatened your safety.  She was very upset about it.

And I was very upset by her presence because I know my own mother pretty much deplores me, and I didn’t want to make thing harder on you. I never meant to make things harder on you.

She chased me away and said to never come back. That I was upsetting everyone in the household.

But I got to hold your face in my hand even though you disliked being touch, so it was all worth it.

Earlier in the dream, you avoided me and I followed you room to room. The rooms were all a mess full of naked mannequins and old cell phones (take THAT, Dr. Frued) and I couldn’t find my phone but I kept trying. I needed to tell Bob where I was.

My sister, my first baby,

I know you think that some secrets are better left unsaid. It left you in an unenviable position to choose loyalty between your father and I. After my story came out, I remember you posting that some secrets should remain unsaid. Then you unfriended me, and I couldn’t really blame you. Although in your line of work, I was surprised to hear you give voice to that sentiment, but I understand it was primal.  You don’t get any more primal than that.

And for that, I’m very sorry. But I’m not sorry for writing true (and, truth be told, the extreme sanitized version of events.) I’m only sorry for hurting you and losing you in the process.

But my truth is my truth, and my childhood is part of what made me who I am – anxiety-ridden, feeling responsible for the adults in the house, worrying that my issues were swept under the rug in the name of keeping things nice-nice. I grew up feeling like a mistake that everyone was just trying to make the best of, and I’ve got scars, too. You were a much-wanted baby, I don’t expect you to understand.

Because you were my first baby, my girl, another truth be told.

When you were born, mom went through a hard time, and I hoisted you up on my hip and took you every where I went with my new-found driver’s license. There were rumors that you were mine, and I didn’t discourage them, because to my mind, you were the love of my life and every single thing you did was cause celeb. I simply could not get enough of you, dear one. I’d never known love like that before. So….

I’d love to hold your face in my hands one more time and tell you I’m sorry how all of this has effected you and your brother. I don’t feel that I can safely do that because others would insert themselves in the process and that would be more damaging than healing – on both our parts.

I would tell you I was sorry. I would tell you that I love you, and never stopped, and that I’m so freaking proud of you, but not just for your career accomplishments….for your strength, too.

I love you, always.

Blessed are the Meek (Part III of The Beatitude Series)

Mystic
The truth will set you free. But first it’s going to be pretty uncomfortable.

By: Jana Greene

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Most everyone knows this beatitude; what with the promise of inheriting the earth and all. I love the way The Message translation breaks it down:

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are — no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” (MSG)

Who else has felt like they are never enough? I don’t mean the self-depreciation that comes with not meeting individual expectations. I mean,  who else struggles with core low self-esteem? Just feeling less-than?

At times, I feel I can do no right. I wish I were more organized, more punctual. More reliable. Steadier. It’s easy to get swept up in self loathing as a vehicle for ‘meekness,’ at least for me. Once the spiral gets going, it’s easy to believe all of your own negative press. Our self-esteem can ride on our hormonal fluctuations, our bruised egos, our moods.

Before I got sober, I was a very guarded person. I had few friends and because I was operating out of a place of near-complete fear, I reasoned that I wouldn’t say boo to a goose because I was ‘meek.’

I watched every word I said (sometimes that was good) for fear I might incriminate myself. I watched every thought because I just knew that God was displeased with my carnal nature. It was a stifling existence, fighting my voice in order to please everyone else, especially the Almighty.

It wasn’t a lifetime of meekness. It was a lifetime of being afraid. God isn’t afraid of my thoughts – He know them all already. Oh how I wish I had known that the Almighty was already okay with the real me!

Meekness is defined as (trigger warning) “submissiveness.” Why is being submissive considered such a societal ill? Because we are defining submission in terms of how humans treat each other, not how God treats His creation. If someone always has your best interest at heart and never fails at sweeping you off your feet, being submissive is easy. Most of the time.

It isn’t a watering-down, but a building-up!

Four years into sobriety, I met my husband. In an instant I fell in love and took the great risk of being myself with him. Through step work, I started loving people and letting them in, and in return, received a great deal of love. And I was amazed – I am STILL amazed 12 years later – that he actually encourages my quirkiness.

Had I not met him, I doubt very much that I would be writing this blog – or anything else – because I would be too afraid of what you (the reader) are thinking right now.

Sometimes we just need someone to give us permission to see ourselves in a positive light.

God is giving you permission! Blessedness is not a mood, but a state of being. Praise be for THAT!

It took a little longer for me to trust that God encourages our quirkiness, but I’m here to tell you, He does. He really does get tickled by the things that make us US.

It’s okay to have a voice.

In researching the subject of meekness, I came across a wonderful quote (and one that is, as far as I can tell, anonymous): “Meekness is not weakness, just strength under control.”

Meekness is not low self-esteem. To be meek is to know who you are, and not try to be more than that or less than that. But being who God says we are is so much better than who we could paint ourselves to be.
Just BE.

Human being < human doing.

And it is in the ‘being’ that we become content with who we are and find ourselves the proud owners of everything that can’t be bought…

Love among one another.

Strength under control – God’s control.

Intimacy with the Living God. If we are bestowed that, we have gained the whole world.

 

 

 

Blessed are Those who Mourn (Part II of The Beatitude Series)

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By: Jana Greene

Blessed are those who mourn. Hmmm. Grieving kind of feels like the opposite of that.

Mourning and grieving seem nothing like the trappings we equate with blessings. It looks nothing like lightheartedness, or joy pressed down and overflowing, It looks and feels like pain.

Here is the verse in The Message translation:  “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”

Blessed are they who mourn – for they shall be comforted – is what the scriptures say.

Psalm 56:8 puts it this way:

“You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn
    through the sleepless nights,
Each tear entered in your ledger,
    each ache written in your book.”

When I was a teenager (and a bit of a self-righteous holy roller) my daily prayer was always exactly the same. I would write it down in my journal, so as not to forget praying for one single person. It became a bit of a chant – a laundry list of ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous.’ The top priority was always this little nugget, always prayed with the same inflection and tone of desperate begging:

“Please, Father, keep all of my loved ones safe and healthy. Build a hedge of protection around them. Please, God, please. Don’t let anything happen to my mom, siblings, extended family…..”

My fear of death for the people I loved most was an absolute obsession of mine. At the heart of it – beneath the words in my journal – was this imploring prayer:

“God, I will not survive it if you take anyone I love, or if anyone I love gets sick. You know it. I know it.  Please let each member of my family live long, happy, healthy lives. Amen.”

As long as I prayed the very same thing fervently and (here, God, let me remind you, in case you forgot yesterday) almost chant-like, I felt covered. Insured I’d payed my premium.

I never anticipated that things would turn out the way they did. The estrangements form those I’d loved most and prayed for OCD-style. It never occurred to me that I would one day have to mourn the living. For the sake of my sobriety, I had to erect boundaries, some that require virtual estrangement.  I never added the prayer, “Please God let us all get along for the rest of our days,” because there was no way I could have foreseen what would happen in the future. Indeed, those loved ones are still living. I hope they are happy and healthy, too. I still pray for them every day.

If you’ve ever had to mourn a living person, you know it is a slow, laborious process that rips your heart out cell by cell, sinew by sinew, over the course of years. It never gets easier. The betrayal you may feel numbs not one minute of the soul surgery.

Nothing about it seems ‘blessed.’ A person in mourning  (for the living or dead) might seem the last you’d imagine as ‘blessed.’

But that person might just be leaning into God in such a way that she melts into his love and provision. That has been my comfort. The melting into God.

And having a father you can melt into like that embodies the very being of the blessing state.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

I’m starting to see a pattern here in the Beatitudes. The emotion of happiness  is nothing like the state of blessedness. Not only on the surface, where we are all so used to looking for it. But in the supernatural comfort in the midst of some really shitty circumstances.

Blessedness > pain. It just has to.

See, there’s this thing I cannot live without. – one thing I would not survivt. It trumps loss and grief, because it wraps itself around me and fills me.  The One thing that I can never lose or grieve.  That thing is Holy Spirit.

So remember, you are not lost, no matter how much loss you’ve had to endure. Papa hasn’t forgotten that you need provision. He cries with us when we mourn.

You will survive. I will survive. It just doesn’t always feel like we will.

Blessed are every toss and turn. Blessed are the sleepless nights.

Blessed be the One who remembers every tear we shed, and records them in our books.

Blessed are those who mourn, for the Father weeps with them.

Blessed are they who trust God through the grief.

And God bless us, every one.

 


Blessed are the Poor in Spirit (Part I Beatitude Series)

 

By:  Jana Greene

Finally, I’m beginning the series about the Beatitudes, and exploring the differences between experiencing happiness and living in the state of Blessedness.

One is what you feel, the other is a state in which you live.

I’d like to share with you what God has revealed to me through the Beatitudes – one single item at a time.

For the next 8 days, it’s my goal to post a piece every night at 6:30 p.m. Texts will be taken from The Message translation of the Bible, unless otherwise noted. The Beatitudes can be found in Matthew 5.

Today’s Beatitude is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (NIV)

I’m no expert on this subject – no theologian. I only know what each of the Beatitudes has looked like in real time, as it ever-reveals itself to me. And now – hopefully for you.

Are you in a place where the Biblical Beatitudes seem like shallow platitudes?

Are you flummoxed by some of the language used by Jesus, as He explains who qualifies as “blessed.”

Does it seem like He is speaking in riddles all throughout the Beatitudes? At times, even His own followers implored him to use simple words!

It sometimes seemed like that to me, too. But as I go slowly, (oh. So. Slowly.) Through Seminary and personal study, I am learning that many of the original texts were written in Greek – a language with so many more nuances than King James ever dreamed of. Much is lost in translation.

“When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him.  Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said: – Matthew 5:1

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”

When I read this passage, I am not thinking joy. I am not thinking shallow happiness.

I am not thinking, ‘Hooboy! I wish I were at the very end of my rope so I could feel BLESSED!’

It sounds counter-intuitive to everything we’ve learned about the way life works, because it is the complete opposite of this world’s workings.

Nobody ever wishes to be hanging on by a thread,  because it’s so uncomfortable to our Spirits to be in that place. People who thank God in the midst of trouble FOR the trouble must be higher evolved spiritually than myself, because truthfully, I don’t really want anything to do with that ‘rope’ at all.

Especially the ‘end’ of it.

If I’m honest, I also really don’t want to identify as ‘poor.’

You see, in the study of the NIV translation, “poor in spirit” is the term used to assure you that you are blessed. “Are you in Spiritual poverty?” Jesus asks. “Well, come on down! Come sit by me and be Blessed.”

Not blessed later.

Blessed in the midst of Spiritual Poverty.

What does that mean anyway, spiritual poverty? For me, it means staying a desperate beggar for more of God. It means knowing you are not in charge, and being thankful that you aren’t.

Yes, we are children of the Most High God, and yes, He lives IN us. Holy Spirit is already here with and in us. I know that there are rabid opinions about this issue (are we Royals and should operate as such, and that we are beggars no more) but truthfully, I am okay with being a beggar.

I never want to lose that primal desperation to have a deeper relationship with Christ. I never want to lose that worshipful desperation. And I’m not going to apologize for that.

Every single day, I can come to God and ask for His help in maintaining my strong-but-occasionally-rusty, 17-year old recovery, for example. Even though I know He is ‘in da house’ – the Kingdom of God is within us – I invite Him deeper, and his love acts as a salve for my mind.

My heart knows “It is Finished” and He already lives in me. But sometimes my mind gets awfully forgetful.

There I meet my inner Beggar – sometimes at the end of her rope – desperate as always for the comfort of Jesus. And in doing so, become poor in spirit – in need of ever more intimate relationship with the One who Blesses.

It’s the place where you tell Jesus “Hey, I got NUTHIN’ here, Brother.”

It’s the place where you cannot see any possible way out.

It’s the place where Jesus shows up – invited or not – hallelujah!

When you are at the end of your rope, and feeling like your Spirit is impoverished, there is no self-promotion. There is no energy to fix and do and manipulate. On the contrary. The “I decrease so that you increase, God” modus operandi comes into play so fully that the Father is bound by duty to rescue us.

Who else among my readers has been at the end of their proverbial rope? Are you there now? Are you poor of Spirit, feeling like you have no well to draw from and nothing to pull from to bless others?

You are BLESSED, Kiddo! Right here. Right now.

Rope can be used to hang us. But it can also be used to lift us up out of our poverty of mind and soul. And even though the end of a rope sounds pretty ominous, what will you meet if your hands get tired and slip off of the lifeline? Trust that your feet are only inches from the palm of the father’s hand. He will catch you, guaranteed.

We get blessed when we decrease, and He increases.

We get blessed when, having nothing at all to give in spiritual poverty, He gives all, pouring it into us to overflowing.

Tomorrow, I will be writing about the second Beatitude, and it’s a DOOZY. Bring tissues!

Here is the verse:  “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”

Thank you for your readership, friends. I’ll post the next segment tomorrow.

God bless us, every one.

A Thanksgiving Treatise (or Turkey Day with the Grown-Up Kids)

(*This piece is satire* No offspring were hurt of egos bruised in the making of this post.)
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By: Jana Greene
Happy Thanksgiving, All!
There are certain things my adult daughters and I have agreed to disagree on, and thus; avoid conversing about altogether on Thanksgiving.
We get along SO MUCH BETTER when certain topics are off the table. It ain’t denial – we all know where the other stands – lets call it relationship maintenance. These things have been hashed out MULTIPLE times, and are only really good for raising blood pressure and driving a wedge between us.
Your typical Thanksgiving table talk is rife with strife, amirite?! So as in years past, I have issued a brief and snarky outline of acceptable Thanksgiving dinner topics for my lovely but liberal daughters and their paramours, because nobody really wants to see Old Mom stroke out at the table during the festivities. It makes it much harder to pass the gravy.
Let’s all try to get along on on this Thanksgiving Day, the year of our Lord, 2017:
1. The Kardashians. Oh Law, how are they still making the list? Why do they keep replicating? No, we will never be anything like the Kardashians. Why? We are not rich. We are not (quite as) bitchy to one another. Our bootys are not as high as Kardashian bootys, nor as round or firm and NEVER WILL BE. Do I really need to go any further? As such, I don’t care what Khloe or Kim or….(I only know two, sorry) are doing these days.
2. The presidency of the United States. Yes, everything sucks, politically. All of it. We have differing reasons WHY we think it sucks but I’ve been an American a long time, and I can assure you that someone will always be elected to office who SUCKS. Trump, Obama, Biden, Michelle, Pence, (fill in the blank with your favorite Libertarian) – all suck mightily. Lets not waste time stating the obvious. Last year, multiple people at this very table threatened to move to Canada is things did not go their way. Those things did not, yet here you are, right here at my table. So hush.
3. Giving us the rundown on the ‘gender identity’ or ‘fluid sexuality” lifestyles that the kids you went to high school with have all adopted. I don’t want to fixate on it, but not for the reason you think.  I made those kids oatmeal raisin cookies when they were little, and took them to pumpkin patches and watched them grow up. I love them, and not one iota more or less because they’ve changed their, um….affiliation. I get it that this issue is a VERY big and legitimate “THING’ but I don’t want to hear about the sex lives or choices of my own heterosexual friends, thankyouverymuch, so I sure as hell don’t want to hear about Brittni or Skye’s self-actualization journey into being tran / pan / bi / tri / sexual, queer or gender fluid. Evaporating every part of a human being except for their sexuality is tragic, because they are so much more than just that one identity. We’ve heard it all before. We get it. It isn’t’ ‘just a phase.” It’s long ago lost it’s shock value, I hate to tell you. Please pass the cranberry sauce. Everybody just do YOU.
4.  Refugees, Syrian or otherwise (although I’d love to chat about The Fugees – the R & B group that features Lauryn Hill. Anyone know what they’re up to these days?)
5.  If you feel strongly enough about the backstory of Thanksgiving, remember that not one single person alive today ever had a hand in decimating a population. I wholeheartedly agree that what was done to the native population was HORRIBLE, and is one of the very reasons I TRUST NO GOVERNMENT. Rather than guilt-tripping everyone at the table, feel free to boycott the turkey and sides and pie, and take a box of lucky charms up to your room and eat dry cereal all by yourself, you anti-Colonialist. We’ll save you some plain water. Really, we’ are all fine with that.
In conclusion…..the list also encompasses avoidance of:
6….. Terrorism talk, twerking, why being a vegan is preferable to being a barbarian, what you did when you got drunk last week, Global Warming, and  (if applicable) why you don’t shave your legs anymore,  why I will not get matching tattoos with you (keep this one on the back burner, though, kids. I’m intrigued,)  Any and all ‘shaming’ –  Body, lifestyle,  turkey. Also, I’d really rather not have a rundown of all the genetic material that I’ve passed your way that is sub-par. Sorry about all of that. Thems the breaks, kids.
7. I know you have “cramps” (and have every Thanksgiving since your menses) but you CAN help clean up after the meal. Its a very good way to display camaraderie with your family, and participation is a VERY feminist thing to do. Thank you.
Lets try to be cognizant of how very BLESSED (yep, I SAID it!) we are to be family, because we are an AWESOME family.
We’re not ‘lucky,’ because everything wonderful that makes up our relationships did not come about all willy-nilly, but has been formed over years and years of fierce love, fierce opinions, fierce loyalty.  I am so blessed to be your mama.
No, we are BLESSED. All of this straining and lurching forward and falling back – again and again choosing each other – that’s a supernatural bond. We laugh all the time, we love unconditionally (I didn’t say we discuss trigger subjects unconditionally).
We each have the other’s back EVERY day, no matter how much we disagree.
Lets nomnomnom out on Thanksgiving dinner, eat too much pie. Loosen our belts. And go back for seconds. And thank God for allowing us the privilege to do so.
And after dinner, if you’re really lucky, we’ll break out Cards Against Humanity and play a round of wildly inappropriate cards with your own mother, and you’ll try to tell me what certain things mean, and I will block my ears and say NO DON”T TELL ME!  and we will laugh to the point of choking / and-or peeing.
I love you all to the moon and back. Here’s to a peaceful day!

Giving Gratitude the First Word

Happy Thanksgiving Week, all. In this Thanksgiving season, I’ll be sharing some pieces about gratitude from the archives.
The Beatitude Series will return next week. Thanks you for your readership! God bless you all.

The Beggar's Bakery

bird Not today, worries. You don’t to rent space in my head in this season of gratitude.

Dear Standard Issue Worries,
Yeah, I heard you when I woke up this morning. I normally hear you before I even open my eyes to start the day. You’re pretty obnoxious and hard to ignore.
But you know what?
NOT TODAY.
Today is not your day, and tomorrow might not be either.
Do you know why?
Today I let Gratitude have the first word, and it drowned out your useless clamor.
Awash in the fount of every blessing, I realized that Worry is a victim’s game.
But Gratitude? It is interactive! It encourages me to look around at the overwhelming blessings Abba has given me, name them, and realize each one is a result of God’s strong hand.
As a matter of fact, when a sneaky worry creeps into my mind today, I…

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