Grace – Apply liberally and immedietly (and preferably before calling yourself a dumbass)

grace
Whenever you consider excellent candidates for a liberal and immediate application of grace in your life,  imagine yourself here – the divine hand of God pointing straight at YOU. Now go forth and LOVE on that person to whom God is pointing. She deserves it!    (photo taken on a truly divine trip to Wimberley, TX – God’s Country proper.)

By: Jana Greene

Greetings from the State Capital! I am reporting from Raleigh today to share a story with you that is a little difficult to share and really quite embarrassing. But I feel transparency is important, so here it goes:

Several months ago, I made a decision to start a brand new career at 47 years of age. I didn’t think it would be too hard because I’ve kind of been doing aspects of this job for many years. It’s my passion and I badly want to succeed at it.

When I grow up, I want to be a Peer Support Specialist in the recovery field.

Yes, it’s a thing. But it’s a pretty new-ish thing. I did my research and signed up for the certification class. I tried to dot my ‘i’s, and cross my ‘t’s’. I wanted to make sure it was right. I arrived today (the first of five days) early and with sharpened pencils. I would have brought the instructor an apple, but I didn’t want to appear over-eager.

So imagine my surprise when, in the middle of the first day of training (yes, it took me half of a day), it dawned on me that I was sitting in THE WRONG CLASS. I had traveled half the state away and booked a hotel and spent gas money on a program to become a Recovery Coach – a noble aspiration, but not exactly what I thought I signed up for.

When the realization hit, I felt my face burn. And the barrage of self-shame was immediate.

You DUMBASS, me called me-self. How could you get this SO WRONG?  Very quickly, things got dark in my head. This is why you are having a career crisis in mid-life. Get your SHIT TOGETHER, loser. You’re old, you’re not qualified.  You can’t do anything right. You just really can’t. You never have and you never will. Well, that escalated quickly!

But then I did something crazy and deliberate. I caught myself and decided to treat myself the same way I’m always imploring others to treat themselves – grace-fully.

I’m here for a reason. I’ve already met incredible people who I can tell will become friends. I cannot spend a few hundred dollars and five days to launch a new career. It will take longer and be more difficult. But so what? God’s got a PLAN, MAN. Go with the flow already.

It wasn’t automatic, I had to deliberately derail the sneaky spiral of negative thoughts. THIS IS A BREAKTHROUGH.

As it turns out, I will need these credit hours to become certified anyway. I’m just doing things in reverse – not because I’m a dumbass who cannot do anything right, but because I’m a willing participant in whatever gig Abba has got going behind the scenes. It doesn’t have to look like my preconceived notions (and it’s usually better it doesn’t.) My very kind instructor and awesome classmates (some of which made the very same mistake) all rallied around and noshed on the process.

“Is it a big deal I didn’t take ‘x’ class before ‘y’ class?” I asked.

“Oh, you couldn’t have signed up for ‘x’ class anyway before now,” the instructor informed us. “The state suspended the training. They’ve only just now re-instated it.”

Ah.

Shortly after this episode, I private-messaged one of my best girlfriends. She is this fabulous, wild, creative, loving tour de force for the Father, and a safe place for me to fall on more than one occasion. She had very recently schooled me on taking every thought captive.

Me: I screwed up, but I’m not going to stay there because I’m here for whatever reason and have learned tons and met incredible people already…Here for a reason!

My sweet friend: I am so proud of that much progress in giving yourself GRACE! !! (God) allows us to make this sort of mistake so we learn to apply grace liberally and immediately!

Yes! of COURSE! Instructions for grace: Apply liberally and immediately. I LOVE that.

Be tender and gentle with yourself.

Don’t call yourself any name that you wouldn’t call a hurting friend to her face.

I’m allowed to make mistakes, and so are you.

I’m starting a brand new career at 47 years of age, and that’s kind of a brave thing to do. It’s my passion, and I will (God willing) succeed at it. It may take longer and be more difficult, but all things work for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purposes.

Your thing? It’s brave, too. Do the thing. So what if it doesn’t go off without a hitch. You’re DOING it!

Do something crazy and deliberate. Be passionate.

And when you mess up? Apply grace liberally, and with the same zeal you grant it to others.

You’re worthy of that grace.

Yes, you are.

 

 

15 Years Free – A Look Back at Me

15years
The “AFTER” Me, imperfect but FREE

By: Jana Greene

I never smiled with teeth showing before I got sober.

When you are trying to shrink back into yourself, your smile can’t be genuine.

For a while, every photo album I had seemed to have this ONE photograph of me from the year 2000. It was taken at work, and as my job was in an elementary school, it was quite literally an awkward school picture for the directory.

On the cusp of my 32nd birthday, hair bleached blond, face bloated, eyes downcast, and a slight close-lipped smile for the camera. The whites of my eyes were slightly yellowed. I was afraid of my own shadow; afraid of myself.

It was taken two weeks before I got sober and stayed sober.

For years, every time I’d come across a copy of that one picture, I’d throw it out. It brought up such primal feelings of disgust. Now,  I wish I could find it to share with you.

The image is burned into my brain. I’m not disgusted by that young woman anymore. I just feel sad for her. I know she is me, but she is also kind of a stranger.

I want to reach back in time and hold my active-in-addiction self. Tell her she will be okay.

“You wouldn’t say ‘boo’ to a goose right now,” I’d say.”But one day you will be wild and free. And smile with TEETH showing, even.”

I would tell her that she will not drink herself to death. That she doesn’t need alcohol to function. That the drug is LYING to her.

I want to tell her that its LIBERTY to be free of protecting secrets.

I want to let her know that she will feel like she is dying when she divorces the drink, but she won’t die.

I would implore her to go ahead and FEEL all of those feelings instead of numbing them. They have a right to be felt.

I would tell her that major boundaries are going to have to be built, but that she will survive the fortifications.

I would tell her she will one day be okay with being fully HERSELF – crazy and silly and ridiculous. And that the people who really love her stick around are not repulsed by the real self, but drawn to it.

I would tell her that her daughters will not be ashamed of her. That she isn’t a terrible mother, just a sick one. That one day those children would be proud of her sobriety.

I would tell her that life doesn’t get easier, but she gets more able to deal with life on life’s terms. For real.

I would tell her that she would experience a happy marriage – something recovery would make directly possible. That there is so much to GAIN from living a life free of addiction.

I would tell her to cut herself a freaking break, already. (And that she would be working on this one for quite some time…and that’s perfectly okay.)

I would tell her that God is more than capable of getting her through a recovery life. So capable, in fact, that she one day will not SHUT UP about Him and His infinite goodness and GRACE, and that grace will become the platform of her entire life. A good life, made possible by active recovery.

I would tell her she will smile with teeth, genuine-like.

And I would tell her she is loved. That I love her.

I forgive her.

I cannot find a single copy of the ‘before’ picture, but I can show you the ‘after.’

I can assure you that all of the things I would tell my old self are also true for you, that recovery is there for the taking. That God’s grace is available in the the same measure to you, no matter where you are on your journey or what you are recovering from.

God bless us, every one.

 

No Glory for Demons

weiland
Scott Weiland, commons.wikipedia.org

By: Jana Greene

Another creative genius, another casualty to drugs. On this occasion, Scott Weiland – front man for Stone Temple Pilots – breathed his last on December 3rd. Sadly, his family had already been in mourning for years.

As usual, there is almost a tone of glorification in the reverberations of his passing. He was a creative giant, so the natural progression of his ‘going down in a blaze of glory’ is sort of a sick, societal expectation.

Sex, drugs and Rock n’ Roll, right?
Right?

Not at the expense of living.

Not if death is the consequence. The price is too high.

According to his ex-wife Mary Forsberg Weiland, the musician claimed atheism as his belief system (or lack thereof) but I counter with the assertion that he served the little “g” god of addiction, perhaps without knowing it.

What a greedy god addiction is! It promises glorification of self while taking a razor to self, and making you too numb to notice it’s happening.
But it’s happening every day. We are losing music and art all the time.

Addiction can be a religion all its own. There is ritual sacrifice involved. But death does NOT have to be the natural progression of an addicted life.

Or as Mary says, “Let’s choose to make this the first time we don’t glorify this tragedy with talk of rock and roll and the demons that, by the way, don’t have to come with it.”

I’m not a Stone Temple Pilot fan per se, but I’m posting today just to encourage you to read Mary’s letter, which was published in Rolling Stone and has been widely shared. In it, she implores us all not to glorify his death, but instead to recognize addiction for what it really is – a void-maker.

Don’t celebrate the demons. They only ever bring loss and death to the cultural landscape and to the families who grieve.

“…But at some point, someone needs to step up and point out that yes, this will happen again – because as a society we almost encourage it. We read awful show reviews, watch videos of artists falling down, unable to recall their lyrics streaming on a teleprompter just a few feet away. And then we click ‘add to cart’ because what actually belongs in a hospital is now considered art.”

Recovery is Like a Baby Elephant

xing

As I approach fifteen years of continuous sobriety from alcohol (still, always, one day at a time and glory to God)  I find myself in a pensive mood…going through old writings from earlier recovery and taking a deeper look into the challenges and triumphs of a life where my drug of choice doesn’t call the shots.

This is a journal entry from my 22nd month of sobriety.

Although YouTube didn’t exist at the time (or if it did, I surely didn’t know it) I’ve added some adorable videos to illustrate each point.

Just for fun (because recovery IS fun!)

I pray it blesses you today. As always, feel free to share the link.

God bless us, every one.

I just love elephants.

Before the first elephant had been brought into America, legend says that the gentleman importing it tried to describe the animal to his community. If you’ve never seen an elephant, it would be hard to picture one in your head from someone else’s description.

People simply could not comprehend that such a thing existed before they saw it themselves. I just couldn’t imagine a recovery life existed.

I have 22 months of sobriety today – exactly as long as it takes a mother elephant to gestate and deliver a brand new elephant into the world.

Yes, recovery  is like a baby elephant.

It needs it’s unit to survive, others of its tribe. It has a tendency to wander, but must not separate from the herd for it’s own safety.

There are threats to its very life, but staying with it’s tribe helps ensure it will grow up healthy and strong.

 

It requires nursing and attention. Not giving it adequate care increases the chances that it will follow in its brethern’s deep footsteps… the “Elephant in the Living Room” that I walked around and pretended wasn’t there in active disease.  That elephant’s name is Denial. It left piles of shit for me to clean up or step over.

It tried to trample my dreams of writing. Of hoping. Of living.

 

It comes into the world larger-than-life, and keeps growing:  Recovery must take up a lot of space in my life, that’s just the nature of countering the disease. Go big or go home.

Before you know it you’ll have the brawn and tusks and wisdom to live life on life’s terms.

 

It is a little clumsy and awkward at times: Who cares? We all stumble! It’s all part of learning.

The more you stand back up, the more balance you invite, and the steadier you get on your feet.

 

It’s playful: The thing I didn’t expect about sobriety is that it is FUN. It likes to be silly and whimsical. Alcohol deadened my playfulness, and stifled my big personality. Recovery meetings are sometimes somber affairs, but they shouldn’t be only somber.

Being clean and sober is a special opportunity to channel your inner youngster – the one you tried so hard to numb.

 

It is sensitive and tender: Elephants are one of the only animals that cry actual tears. From my expertise (which consists completely of watching  a lot of nature documentaries) the mighty beasts are very sentimental.

They are very emotional, especially when SET FREE from a lifetime of bondage!

 

It is also STRONG and able: A healthy one can come up against almost any obstacle and display appropriate assertiveness to protect it.

 

Yep. Recovery is a lot like a baby elephant.

Before we experienced recovery, people tried to describe it to us. But if you’ve never endeavored on the road yourself, it might be hard to picture it from someone else’s description.

Can you comprehend that such a thing exists?

It does.

Oh, and your new recovery is also full of surprises …

Radical Acceptance – Tolerating itchy distress

distresstolerance.jpg

 

By: Jana Greene

I came across the funniest thing on Pinterest today. It was a pin picturing a 50’s housewife smiling absently with the caption “Some days, I’m the Queen of Serenity – and other days separating coffee filters pushes me over the edge.”

I “lol’d.” Hard.

Oh the truth!

I once participated in a group therapy exercise in which Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) distress tolerance skills were addressed.

Sometimes I think we addicts and alcoholics have a super high threshold for substances to soothe our distress (it takes so much), and super low tolerance for dealing with distress without those substances (it takes so little.)

That’s kind of addiction in a nutshell.

Fifteen years into this lifestyle called recovery, I am still learning so much. I have not ‘arrived’ – not even close. But I am alive to keep learning, and that’s everything.

I’m still amazed at people who can simply shrug off very distressing issues. How do you DO that?

I’m learning, but it’s a process. I’ve let the tools I learned get a little rusty.

Distress tolerance is the idea that some of us find certain emotions overwhelming and unbearable.

And how well does that jibe with our drinking and using? It is such a natural FIT, so convenient…

“Oh, I feel THIS way and it’s uncomfortable. I will do anything to stop feeling this distress. ANYTHING rather than FEEL it.”

That is the road that leads to destruction. That is the road that leads to death.

And there is so much to be distressed about in our world. Separating coffee filters not-withstanding. So many heavy things, like refugees and war…and health issues and job issues. You know, life stuff.

I’m dusting off my years-old practice of distress tolerance now, because the negative is starting to be awfully prevalent in my life.

No matter what length of time of sobriety one has, it the absolute tolerance is breached, we are not safe from our prior way of doing things.

If life gets too itchy, we want to scratch it.

“People with a low tolerance for distress can become overwhelmed at relatively mild levels of stress, and may react with negative behaviors…

Many traditional treatment approaches focus on avoiding painful situations, but in the distress tolerance module of DBT….people learn that there will be times when pain is unavoidable and the best course is to learn to accept and tolerate distress.

A key ingredient of distress tolerance is the concept of radical acceptance. This refers to experiencing the situation and accepting the reality of it when it is something the person cannot change.

By practicing radical acceptance without being judgmental or trying to fight reality, the client will be less vulnerable to intense and prolonged negative feelings. Within the distress tolerance module, there are four skill categories:

  1. Distracting
  2. Self-soothing
  3. Improving the moment
  4. Focusing on pros and cons

These skills are aimed at helping individuals cope with crisis and experience distress without avoiding it or making it worse.”

– GoodTherapy.org

Wait, doesn’t ‘radical acceptance’ mean denial? On the surface, it may seem so

But just under the surface, when we really explore the concept, it becomes apparent that it is the balm for that terrible itch of distress.

It’s the okay-ness of feeling whatever we feel, while acknowledging that feelings are not facts.

I’m going to intentionally work on the four skill categories. I hope to share my experiences here on the blog. I hope I can be brave enough to do that.

God bless us, every one.

 

 

 

Enter to win a copy of “Edgewise – Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God”

Enter to win a copy of “Edgewise – Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God”

 

 

Hello, Dear Readers.

It’s Goodreads.com book giveaway time again!

To enter to win one of two signed copies of “Edgewise – Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God,” click and follow the prompt in the middle of the page. Oh, and feel free to share it, too!

It’s completely a NO obligation thing.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

Synopsis: Can a believer in Christ also be an addict or alcoholic? On the edge of active disease and surrender, Jana Greene shares her recovery journey in a collection of raw and honest essays. Somewhere during the process, she let God get a word in edgewise, and plunged into a spiritual awakening that she could not have had any other way. D.T. Niles is famously quoted as having described Christianity as “One beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.” This book is a telling of Jana’s journey to find food for the spirit, and inviting others to follow. “Because,” she says. “When I couldn’t love myself enough to lift myself up, I crawled to Jesus, and he said, “You look hungry … come to the table!” Redemption is the best feast ever.

Thank you, and God bless us every one.

 

Why Does Everything Have to be About Recovery?

serenity

By: Jana Greene

There are some things that normal people just don’t understand … like an active recovery life.

You can’t really blame them. If I hadn’t the experience with making everything about drinking, I wouldn’t understand either. Recovery Warriors are a hard-core bunch, making everything about getting and staying well.

Recovery, recovery, recovery.

I’m absolutely certain that many people – even those who love us dearly – harbor the secret thought “Get over it, already! You’re sober now….why the obsession with recovery?”

What they don’t know and cannot understand is that we addicts and alcoholics have two speeds only: Active disease or active recovery.

Those are our two only choices.

Yes, you can stay sober without putting a recovery spin on all areas of your life. You can be dry and clean. But in order to grow and thrive in a spirit that you’ve previously pickled and poisoned, you need to find alternate ways of dealing with Life on Life’s Terms, which I think we can all agree is brutal.

Our disease affected everything!

Because everything was about alcohol when I was active in my disease and something had to fill that empty space when I left it’s sorry ass.

Every day you wake with breath in your body, you have two choices.

ONLY TWO.

You can:

A) Obsess about your drug of choice – Keep everything about your addiction.

If you are drinking or using and are an addict, this is your default setting. You do it without thinking, even though it’s all you think about. Woven into choosing this choice are the possibilities of destruction, irreparable shame, sickness, and self-hatred. It is too often the route to death, spiritually, mentally, emotionally and even physically.

Most every minute of the day is spent either partaking in your drug of choice, feeling shame for having partaken in your drug of choice, and spending all available energies on obsessing about when you can do it again, which you swear you will never do again each and every time. And then you wake up the next day obsessed with doing it again.

B) Obsess about Recovery – Keep everything about becoming WHOLE

When you make the right choice, you lose your relationship with the abusive spouse of drink or drug. But that is ALL you lose, and when you get far enough away from it, you will more clearly see how abusive your default setting really was.

Doing the work of recovery is a life-long pursuit – just as active addiction was.

It is not a 90-day long stint in rehab, or an event you can attend and then move on to other things. If your sobriety is not nurtured and tended to, your spirit will turn back to it’s default setting of using.

In a victorious recovery life, most every minute of the day is spent maintaining that beautiful gift, learning new and healthy coping skills for dealing with issues, celebrating your clarity and ability to appreciate who God has truly intended you to be. It is time well spent, I promise.

Gratitude fills the space shame used to occupy. Clarity spills into the cracks where denial used to reside.

Recovery affects everything!

There is no magic pill to fix addiction. But there is an antidote to it:

It is active recovery.

It has to become what you are all about.

Life instead.

Who in their right mind would bring their deepest, darkest secrets out into the light for all to see?

Someone who has a story to tell that might help others out of the pit of despair that is obsession with using.

And somebody somewhere needs to know about your recovery story, Recovery Warrior.

What will be your obsession?