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 

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

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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, ask yourself: Do I want to jump head first into the recovery life? Or do I want to perpetuate the insanity of active addiction until I end up in a jail or coffin?

Sounds pretty dramatic, right?

In my small city, the heroin epidemic is the worst in the state. Our sons and daughters are dying with needles in their arms. Children are becoming motherless or fatherless. That’s not drama. That’s real life. Raw, serious real life. What the citizenry of my city is experiencing is happening in every state in the nation. Something has to stem the tide.

Thank God there is an alternative!

The recovery life IS life. And when you have very nearly lost the one life you’re given, it’s time to wake up. The next time you need a fix, seek help. Help is out there for the asking!

You don’t have to participate in feeding your disease. I don’t believe we are ever ‘recovered.’ You don’t graduate and get to flip your tassel, but you DO get to experience life and find the harmony in yourself just below the surface you’ve been numbing.

In plain speak, life can be a real b*tch – seek out your recovery tribe and let them love you until you can love yourself.

A healthy, sustainable recovery is possible. Enjoyable, even. Being in lifelong recovery sounds daunting, but not nearly as daunting as the using life. Aren’t you curious to find out who you really are? Active recovery is the way to find out.

Did you know that you have friends you haven’t even met yet in the rooms? You are not alone. You have a safe place to fall.

As of this writing, here is a list of resources to get you on your way. Just click on the blue hyperlinks below.

God bless us, every one.

ALCOHOLISM (Alcoholics Anonymous)

SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICE ADMINISTRATION

National Alliance on Mental Illness

CELEBRATE RECOVERY

NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS

FRIENDS / FAMILY OF ADDICTS: AL ANON

 

Your Destiny Awaits (In Recovery Magazine article)

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Greetings, all!

Occasionally, I submit a piece to In Recovery Magazine, and they have been generous with the opportunities to do so. The publication is awesome, and it’s always an honor to be a part of the work they do.

Do you know who else is awesome? Each and every one of YOU.  I hereby declare today Reader Appreciation Day, because I appreciate you and your readership, and I need an excuse to eat cake.

Just kidding about the cake. Not kidding at all about my readers!

Thank you.

Thank you for taking the time to read my wordy posts. Thank you for your sweet and wonderful comments. Just – thank you; a whole lot.

I’m posting today to share an article with ya’ll that ran in In Recovery Magazine in 2016. Feel free to share the link, and as always…

God bless us, every one.

CLICK HERE to read “Your Destiny Awaits” – In Recovery Magazine

And the Band Plays on – Addiction Complacency / Grace-full Recovery

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By: Jana Greene
I just came across a post on my Facebook news feed by a friend who just lost someone she loved to the ravages of addiction. He OD’ed on heroin.
It started like so many, many posts I come across – RIP. Rest in peace.
I’m so tired of people resting in peace before their lives are lived to completion.
I never knew this friend of my friend’s.  I’ve  never heard his name prior to this event – but my spirit knows his spirit, and I pray his is at peace.
It’s easy to become numb to the loss of life from addiction. We are in the midst of opiate saturation and fatal / ‘functioning’ alcoholism, because the human condition is so confoundedly painful. It just really is.
Behind every story of death via substance abuse, there is a son or daughter. A mother, a father. A friend. A person of great and precious worth.
How does society deal with loss on such a grand scale?
Too often, by accepting the undercurrent of judgement as truth, and denying that addiction is a freaking brain disease.
Another day, another RIP memorial page on Facebook.
One more overdose victim. I guess he had it coming.
One more person who drank herself to death. She asked for it.
Nobody says it out loud, but the sense of exasperation is tangible.
Hey world-at-large – IT’S A DISEASE.
Meanwhile, the rest of us cannot afford to rest.
I’m glad that there are programs that allow participants the luxury of anonymity (and I certainly respect the anonymity of others) but I’m not sure how long we can afford to hide our faces. The faces of addiction, but more importantly – the faces of RECOVERY.
Because not all of us will RIP before our time, but surely stigma enables keeping the disease alive and kicking.
Every overdose should shock the shit out our systems. It should worry us when we start thinking of a lost life ‘just another.’ It should break our hearts.
Karl Marx is quoted as saying ‘religion is the opiate of the masses,’ and I think there is truth in that. But religion as we know it often carries the same numbing properties as any other opiate. Relationship with the living God is what the masses are really craving.
We are all just really jonesing for relationship.
If you can’t justify being compassionate because you believe addiction is solely a moral peril, I challenge you to consider it an act of compassion from one fellow human being in confounding pain to another.
One spirit to another.
The gentleman who died of a heroin overdose, he brought to mind tonight the parable of the lost sheep in the biblical book of Luke.

“…By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.

“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.”

Jesus gets it. He didn’t go after that one sheep to feed it opiates. He went after it because He couldn’t bear missing out on relationship with one who had so much worth.

It’s my honor to show my face and be non-anonymous. I am an alcoholic who did not die of my disease, but who still asks God for help in my recovery journey every single day.

The Temptations got it right with this song….I hope we can get it right, too.

“The sale of pills is at an all time high,
young folks walkin’ ’round with their heads in the sky,
Cities aflame in the summer time,
and the beat goes on.
Eve of destruction, tax deduction,
City inspectors, bill collectors,
Evolution, revolution, gun control, the sound of soul,
Shootin’ rockets to the moon, kids growin’ up too soon.
Politicians say more taxes will solve ev’rything, and the band played on.
Round and round and around we go, where the world’s headed nobody knows.
Ball of confusion,
That’s what the world is today.
Hey hey.” –
The Temptations, “Ball of Confusion”

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Be Still and Know that You’re Not God (Whew – What a relief!)

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By: Jana Greene

“Be still and know that I am God.” – God

Yeah, but it’s HARD to be still!

Sometimes it’s almost unfortunate that our Creator has endowed us with this thing called “free will.”Free will has gotten me into a lot of jams.

God, if you knew me, you totally wouldn’t trust me to me.

You know, the will that keeps telling you that you don’t have a disease called addiction.

That you can stop anytime you want.

That you have a plan and it looks like doing what you’ve always done.

But if nothing changes, nothing changes.

Recovery in real time doesn’t look like a baby-steppable feat, but a free fall. Every single day, I surrender my will to my Father’s, because I know he only has my best interest at heart.

Every single day, I don’t drink today. No matter what happens, I don’t have to take a drink on this very day.

And tomorrow, I will wake up and surrender my free will again, just for tomorrow.

Bite-sized pieces, you see. Bite off enough recovery today to nourish yourself today. Then free fall into the love of a very real Father.

So often we try to do the opposite. Bite off more than we can chew by declaring we can never, ever drink again and poor pitiful us! And we chase it with ‘babystepping’ just to make it through the day.

This is not the life your Father desires for you!

You don’t fail God when you fail, dear one! That’s an old trick of the enemy. He wants you to feel like a failure. Don’t give that rat bastard the pleasure.

Instead, surround yourself with other people whose free wills are also prone to malfunction. Find as many as you can and watch what they do to just NOT drink. Take what you need and leave the rest, as they say in the Rooms.

Here’s the thing – God totally does know you. He isn’t tolerating you and your janky free will. He is madly and passionately in love with you, in all of your jankyness. He gave us free will so that when we choose to receive His love, it comes from us mind, body, and soul.

Be still and trust in His perfect will for you….

That He has only your best interest at heart.

That He knows you intimately and loves the bejeebers out of you JUST AS YOU ARE.

That He has the most amazing adventures for you to enjoy, and to enjoy SOBER so that you can be mindful of the  miracles as they unfold.

If you can’t be still and know that He is God, be mad that He is God. Let Him know that you relinquish trying to push Him out of a job, and if you can manage it, surrender your will to Him.

You’ve got this, daughter of the Most High, because He has YOU.

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Goodnight, Sweet Prince

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By: Jana Greene

Today I have a great sadness.

I am sad because the autopsy results are in – : Prince died from opiate overdose. I just lost my musical main man, David Bowie, earlier this year. Prince was my second music love; his lyrics wove the words of my final growing-up years with fine purple thread.

My friends and I saw Purple Rain in theaters half a dozen times. We sang along with “Party like its 1999” and marveled at how OLD we would be when it really was 1999. I played “KISS” on my boom box, rewinding it until the tape in the cassette broke. My friends and I ALL  loved Prince’s voice and drowsy sexiness and ridiculous androgyny, and we all wished we were Apollonia or Sheila E., or Vanity. He also fostered in me a love for Corvettes – little red and otherwise.

In the weeks since his untimely death,  I had been under a tiny umbrella of denial, even in a monsoon of Purple Rain. It’s not drugs, I convinced myself. Please no. No. No. No.

But it was drugs, and we need to talk about it.

Lets talk about the fact that around 40 Americans die each and every day from prescription opioid overdoses.

Let’s consider that the increased prescribing of opioids — which has quadrupled (QUADRUPLED!) since 1999 — is fueling an epidemic that is blurring the lines between prescription opioids and illicit opioids.* (Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin, heroin…it’s all the same to your body and mind. It all anesthetizes the Spirit.)

Lets talk about how hard life can be to get through – even when you are rich and famous, or talented and much-loved. Addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer.

I don’t know why Prince was an addict. Maybe he fed the monster to keep the music going, or to make the hurting stop. I can only guess.

Whatever the reason, I wish he’d discovered that freedom didn’t have to cost him his life. People can and DO recover. (If you are waiting for a sign to get help with a drug or alcohol problem, here it is – your Sign of the Times. Today is your day!)

We, Dearly Beloveds, need each other to get through this thing called life. We, the ones in recovery and our advocates – are that grassroots effort.

Prince (or the Artist Formerly Known as) didn’t die in vain if his overdose opens an honest conversation on addiction and closes the doors of stigma and apathy. How many Great Sadnesses do we need before we pay attention?

It was drugs, and we need to talk about it.

 

Dear Prince Rogers Nelson,

I hope your tender heart is satiated.

I hope you are in Heaven serenading angels with “Purple Rain.”

I hope your doves have finally found peace.

Thanks for the memories ❤

 

And God bless us, every one.

 

“Sign of the times, mess with your mind.

Hurry, before it’s too late….. – Prince”

 

*CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, in an interview with People Magazine