12 Steps, AA, Addiction, alcoholism, Brokenness, Celebrate Recovery, Christianity, fellowship, Grace, Hitting the bottom, Holy Spirit, Inspirational, Jesus, Recovery, Serenity, sobriety, Spiritual, Spirituality

Recovery Option “B” – Have Faith Anyway

bBy: Jana Greene

Very recently, I came across the prayer journal that I  kept before I got sober on January 3, 2001. That is my D.O.S. (date of sobriety) which has become far more meaningful to me than my birthday or any other anniversary.

In this particular journal, the entries began about a month before my D.O.S. (the date in which my sobriety ‘stuck’) and continues only through about six months into recovery. There are about ten entries, total. It would not seem to be a very in-depth journaling exercise if, say, I were being graded on it. But I wasn’t being graded on it, of course. The number one key to keeping a journal, in my humble opinion, is remembering that nobody is going to grade you on it. It is for the benefit of you own tender spirit, and no one else.

I sat down with a cup of coffee to read my old, cringe-worthy journal just the other day.

On an entry dated December 11, 2000 – about three weeks before I came to the end of myself in my addiction – I am hopeful at the top of the page:

Reflections/notes: “I am saving this space to write in tonight when I am tempted to drink.”

And then scrawled in the center of the page many hours later …

Drank anyway.

Even today, nearly 15 years later, I can feel the collapse of my heart as if it just happened. Oh how vividly I remember that sensation of disappointment. I hope I always remember it, it helps keep me sober today.

In between those two writings, a full-on war was going on inside of me. Picking up a drink was, for me, setting down a portion of my faith that God was in control and could handle my problems. Drinking was my way of sitting out the game. Not only did I relinquish my part in saving my own ass, but I was shaking my fist at God for not helping me save it. By continuing to pick up, I was in essence tying the hands of God. He is a gentleman, you see, and will coerce by force. There must be surrender.

I don’t know why it took so long for my sobriety to become ‘sticky,’ I only know that it took what it took. And I know that I had to do the work to put my disease in its place. Meetings. Prayers. Surrender every minute of the day. Strategy. Every war requires expert strategists or it is doomed to fail.

Part of the strategy in very early sobriety was to give myself only two choices. Any more than two were completely overwhelming.

Today will be challenging in the same old ways. It will also be challenging in some brand-new ways. You have a choice. You can …

A) Drink/use anyway.

or

B) Have faith anyway.

The latter is so much more difficult than the former. But choosing the second option saved my life.

“Having faith anyway” looks messy! It means believing that which seems completely impossible. It means accepting THIS, one day at a time, one hour at a time, one SECOND at a time, if need be.

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:28 (MSG)

It’s interesting to read the journal entries that followed. They were desperate. Here is the entry from five days sober:

“I cannot drink today, not today. Maybe not ever again. Nobody knows the extent of my disease. My hands are trembling, holding this pen. I feel toxic, inside and out. The alcohol is bad for my body but worse for my soul. It’s like acid and sweet nectar of oblivion, all in one. I cannot serve two gods anymore. I can feel the hand of Jesus reaching to me, I know He is with me, even now. I used to boast that Jesus was my crutch. I used to be embittered by all that happens in life, and talked to him every day. Over the years, the wine instead became my crutch….just a ‘little something’ to relax me, and then a few more, and then I don’t even remember, until an empty bottle or box. And so here I am on this cool January morning, trembling and calling out the demon. I want God back at the helm, and it’s not because I ‘deserve’ it, but because of this amazing, impossible-to-comprehend gift of Grace. I don’t want to feel the constant shame, the uneasy and bewildering guilt anymore. I’m ready to change, with His help.”

Lots of other notes in the journal follow.

“Okay, God….what is the DEAL with my LIFE?”

and …

“Help me, God, I cannot do this!”

But I COULD choose option B…Have faith that if I surrender to the will of God, I will survive it – and thrive, even.

And so I chose Recovery Option B, no matter what.

Is everything falling apart and you can see no possible resolution? Choose faith anyway. He’s Got this, if you only surrender your will to His.

Are you hurting – mind, body, and soul?

Choose faith anyway. NOTHING has ever been healed by drinking / using the toxins.

Angry, bitter, fed-up?

Don’t pick up and HAVE FAITH ANYWAY. Have faith that your D.O.S. – that glorious, meaningful GIFT of a date – is yours to keep, but you’ve got to work to keep it.

And surround yourself in a healthy recovery community. Journal, if it helps, and remember nobody is grading you! Don’t sit out the game of your own life. Don’t tie the hands of God. He has SUCH good plans for you. He knows you far better than you know yourself. And He is madly in love with YOU. When you get tired, ask for His Spirit to help you along. It’s a messy thing, recovery. But oh how your tender spirit will rejoice on the journey, one single day at a time.

It can save your life.

It saved mine.

 

 

12 Steps, AA, alcoholism, Celebrate Recovery, Hitting the bottom, Inspirational, Recovery, rehab, sobriety, Spiritual, Spirituality, substance abuse

Step Four – Sh*t Just Got Real

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By: Jana Greene
STEP FOUR
We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Biblical Comparison: “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” – Lamentations 3:40 
If Step Four had a tagline in the current vernacular, it would be: “Shit Just Got Real.” Apologies for the profanity, but really….there is no other way to say it to get my point across.
No longer are we just admitting that there are issues, but we are exploring what led to our active disease  in a “searching” and “fearless” (and MORAL!) way.
This one takes time, deliberate work, and a “letting it all hang out” with your sponsor or someone you trust in the program who you can be real with.
Left to my own devices, my Step Four work might be a light inventory such as one might engage in when counting boxes of cereal at the grocery store. But no, that will never do for a true Step Four experience.
Step Four calls for searching my heart and asking my spirit the really hard questions.
It requires fearlessly moving forward in taking that inventory, no matter what that looks like.
And not being intimidated by taking such moral inventory of ourselves.
There is nothing to lose but the secrets that keep us sick, after all.
Here are 7 practical tips to working on Step Four:
1) Write your Fourth Step Inventory. There are many ways to go about this. You can use columns or spreadsheets (If you are really savvy,) but I use the journaling approach, and I do so old-school with a pen and paper. When I free-style write, it flows more easily. There are no hard-and-fast-rules to tracking Step Four progress. The idea is to write a record of who has wronged you, and whom you have wronged, and to make amends to those people you have harmed, except when doing so is destructive to you or others.
2) The Big Book in AA instructs participants to inventory three “common manifestations” of self-will that often precede inventory items: Resentments, fears, and harm done to others. Working within the parameters of these categories has helped me many times. Sometimes there is an over-lap, and that’s okay too. Life is a messy endeavor, and recovery is certainly a fertile ground for that messy factor.
3) Don’t forget to list yourself as part of your inventory.  You need addressing and forgiving, too. Are you your own worst enemy? Yeah, me too. Include the self-destructive habits you engage or engaged in, and explore deep enough to expose the root cause for that behavior. Self-harm is a slippery serpent, and you must chop it off at the head. Sometimes the same harm that you inflict on others, you regularly inflict on yourself and without realizing it.
4) Pray throughout the process. Talk to the Almighty like He is your best friend. Because He is.Ask God to reveal people to your heart whom you need to make amends with. Sometimes, the Father reminds us gently, and other times people who sincerely traumatized us are brought to mind. In those times, remember that the past has no power over you when you are working the fourth step. The idea is not to dredge up pain, but to bring it to the surface enough to be dealt with.
5) Remember to list all others who have hurt you – physically, mentally, spiritually, sexually, or emotionally. Do not confuse this with taking THEIR inventory. Remember, you can only handle taking your own.
6) Remember to list all those whom you have hurt – physically, mentally, spiritually, sexually, or emotionally. Ask them for forgiveness if you can. Write a letter, if need be. You are responsible for your efforts to make amends. The OTHER person is responsible for how they respond to you. You cannot control another person’s reaction.
7) Think of your Step Four work as attending the birth of a new baby,  and not a funeral. The old ways (the ones that never worked for you anyway) are being addressed so that NEW ways can be instated. And with new ways comes new life. YOUR new life.

You are probably realizing by now that Step Four is not a “quickie” step. At all.  Seek through prayer and meditation the most honest inventory you can take. And then camp out there for a while. Step Four cannot be rushed.

Examine your ways honestly and return to the Lord.
He is waiting for you with open arms!

12 Steps, Addiction, alcoholism, blogging, Spiritual

STEP THREE – A Time to Turn

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STEP THREE

We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.
Biblical Comparison: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” – Romans 12:1

Standing at the counter of the DMV among the throng of other vehicle owners  at the License Plate Tag Office, I was feeling more than a little stressed out. I’d formed an emotional attachment to the car whose tags I would be turning in today. In turning in the license plates, I was essentially saying, “She’d been a good little car, I’ve  had lots of good memories with  her. But she isn’t safe anymore. The car was no longer getting the job of getting me where I need to be reliably anymore. It was time to turn in the tags.

How do you know it’s time to turn in your way of living? Is your life unmanageable? Turning can be hard, but a life driven by peace and love under the care of God is so much better than one driven by our own devices.

Step Three assures us that God is worthy to turn to. In much the same way you would turn license plates in to the DMV after a car has stopped working for you, you can turn your life and will over to the care of a loving and redeeming God if it isn’t working.

We often form emotional attachments to things, making “letting go” difficult.

“Well, my situation may suck, but at least it’s familiar to me.”

“How do I know sobriety will ‘stick’ this time? I’ve turned my will over to God Before, and I am using again. (Answer: Put that thing down and don’t pick it up again no matter what happens…and trust Him to help you!)

Turning away from the hurts, habits, and hangups that have put you in this despondent place? Well, they just aren’t worth going back to look for and picking back up.

God is a gentleman. He will allow you to choose what you hang on to, and what you lose. He will not keep you from turning back around and resurrecting the addiction or pain you are trying to overcome. It’s your choice to turn your life over to His care.

If you desire a lifetime driven by peace and love, make the conscious decision to turn your will and life over to the care of God is yours and yours alone. Turn in those tags! The vehicle isn’t keeping you safe; in fact, it is causing you harm.

And don’t look back, my friend.

 

Musicians The Byrds had a great song, pulled from the book of Ecclesiastics about this very thing:

To Everything Turn Turn Turn

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under Heaven.

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together.

A time to turn.

 

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you know the innermost parts of our spirits, and you long for us to be free of our hurts, habits, and hangups. We cannot do this alone.  We ask humbly for your help to take our character defects, and give us beauty for ashes for each one of our issues. Thank you for always being accessible. We love you. We trust you.

Amen.

12 Steps, AA, Addiction, alcoholism, Brokenness, Celebrate Recovery, Devotional, Faith, Healing, Hitting the bottom, Inspirational, Recovery, Serenity, sobriety, Spiritual, Spirituality, substance abuse

STEP ONE – The Big Admission

By: Jana Greene

 

BlogSTEP ONE

We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable. – Celebrate Recovery

Biblical comparison: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” – Romans 7:18

I don’t know if you are supposed to play favorites with the Steps, but I am rather fond of Steps One and Twelve – One because it gives you the opportunity to admit “defeat” over a substance or habit, and Twelve because – having become victorious over an issue or addiction in Steps 2-11  – you actively become the person paying your new life forward by giving yourself to others. From “It’s all about me and what I cannot handle” to “It’s all about you and I think I can help!”

In some of my 12th Step work, I have been given opportunities to help others get involved in the programs, and nothing brings me joy quite like seeing someone pick up their “Surrender Chip” at a meeting. Each of the plastic chips designates a different amount of “clean time,” and the “Surrender” chip is the very first one taken as an act of letting go and letting God. I can feel the energy coming off of my friend, the Newcomer, who is here for the first time tonight.  Although I’ve seen it 100 times, the it’s all new to her. She is waging a war in her own mind about accepting the “Surrender” chip.

I cannot do this. There are so many people here. What if someone knows me? There is no going back once I stand up.

But I must do it. My way isn’t working. How many times have I tried to get sober on my own? I need to find another way.

If I surrender, I am giving it up. There will be a hole left where my drug of choice took up space…..a lot of space.

But these people seem to know another way. Some of them are even laughing and joking!

It’s all I know, drinking.

But it’s crushing my relationships and killing me from the inside out.

Every day I say NO MORE! But every day I find myself right back in the center of drunkenness and drama.

I think I need to surrender.

Yeah, I know I need to surrender.

And with legs shaking and heart palpitating, she rises from her chair and excuses herself as she walks past the people in her row. They are clapping and cheering, like surrendering her addiction was a GOOD thing.

A gentleman holds out the blue chip to her, and embraces her as she takes it. She didn’t realize that she was crying, but she was – tears streaming down her face. When she turns to walk back to her seat, all attendees are on their feet, applauding. They know how hard it is to surrender an addiction. They, too, are powerless over their addictions and compulsive behaviors, and as their lives became unmanageable, they had mustered the courage to walk up and pick up a “Surrender” chip.

Many folks get caught up on the powerlessness angle of the First Step. How DARE anyone refer to me as powerless?  We live in an age in which we are all  expected to be super heroes in our lives, figure it all out, and certainly be the conquerors of our own worlds. Being powerful is highly esteemed by society (although society holds equal disdain for the powerful among us, too)  because being “in control” is where it’s at, right?

Wrong. The only way for an addict or alcoholic to regain control of his or her life is to surrender. My Highest Power is Jesus Christ. When I surrendered my will to him in regards to getting sober fourteen years ago, it was not an occasion taken lightly. I was giving him my very own will, since my will was only serving to make me sicker and sicker. I tried many times to do it “my way,” with abysmal results. Like Paul wrote in the book of Romans in the Bible, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”

Ever tried really hard to do something you knew would result in destruction? I’ve tried thousands of times. Why can I not carry it out?

Because complete Surrender must precede the abstinence from alcohol, the drug. Not partaking in drugs and alcohol is a nifty concept, but it just doesn’t work. Unless you want to live the rest of your life as a “Dry Drunk,” it’s essential. Surrender to God has to stay strategy #1, or my life becomes unmanageable all over again.

Admitting “defeat” over the drugs and drink is the most powerful thing you can do.

And in the not-to-distant future, you will be paying your life and gratitude forward by helping a shaky-legged, tearful Newcomer take that First Step

 

 

Addiction, Hitting the bottom, Recovery, Spiritual

Skewer the Stigma: In the wake of losing a star, an addict shares “who we are”

Philip_Seymour_Hoffman_2011 Rest in peace, Mr. Hoffman.

He had enjoyed 23 years of clean time, previous to his relapse.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

In the announcement of his recent death from a drug overdose, CNN refers to Hoffman as “everyman,”  and indeed, he was extraordinarily talented while still remaining personable. I know in my head that people with two decades of sobriety “fall off the wagon,” but it is always jarring to my heart when I hear about those occasions. Addictions will not be taken for granted.

There seems to be a slight shock that Hoffman, who suffered the same disease as Amy Winehouse, died from the same disease. His spin was not that of a train wreck, but of an accomplished and revered performer.

The article goes on to describe Hoffman as an actor so versatile that he “could be anybody.”  I’m not sure the author of the piece really appreciates how true his statement is.

We are everyman …. everywoman.  We alcoholics and addicts. We are legion.

Hoffman is Winehouse,

Who is the twenty-year old kid who died in the bathroom of a fast food joint with a needle in his arm,

Who is the elderly gentleman in the nursing home, stealing pills from a roomate,

Who  is the wealthy businessman drinking in the wee hours of the morning to get going,

Who is a soccer mom who cannot stop at three glasses of chardonnay,

Who is me.

If the silence of those ripped from the landscape of the entertainment world is deafening;  the gaping voids left by loved ones lost to addictions are life-swallowing sinkholes.

We alcoholics and addicts…..

We are not weak. The strongest people I’ve ever met have been recovering alcoholics.

We are born with super dopamine-seeking brains, susceptible to a hijacking of our brain chemistry. We know that our choices can keep our disease at bay, but we usually have to learn that the hard way.

We don’t want to make excuses for the train wrecks we pilot; we just want you to know they are not by design.

 We are sensitive, and are often creative forces to be reckoned with.

We contribute to the landscape of the world. We make music and poetry and art. We make business deals, and partnerships. And we value relationships more than you can imagine.

We love deeply, intrinsically…..sometimes so deeply that our souls cannot seem to bear it sober.

We punch time clocks and live ordinary lives. And truth be told, it isn’t always the pain that makes us want to drink and use, but fear of the ordinary.

We love our children fiercely. Yes, we would change  “For the sake of the children” if only we could.

We have heart.  We grieve so for hurting people. We often lack the instincts to handle that grief without self-destructing.

We really don’t want to self-destruct at all, but we don’t always know how to keep it from happening until the process has begun.

We crave the ability to handle life on life’s terms “normally,” like you do.

We don’t mean to embarrass you.

We don’t want to inflict the pain on others that our brain chemistry urges us to.  Addiction is as a plaque in the arteries of the spirit, a disorder of the brain. Like any mental illness, nobody wants to have it.

A good portion of any recovery program worth it’s salt is accountability. We want to make ammends with you (and if we don’t want to, don’t despair….we are working on it.)

We are brought to our knees in a desperation that normally-wired brains cannot fathom.  And we can get better – if we stay on our knees.

We need each other for survival. We sit in meetings in drab church basements drinking lukewarm coffee with others like us who are cut from the same colorful brilliant, thread-bare, sturdy cloth – because we want to go on living and contributing to the world, just like you.

We need God most of all. He is the Power Greater than Ourselves that can restore us to sanity.

We are “everyman” and “everywoman.”

And we get sober. We even stay sober, with work. With the understanding that our disease will not be taken for granted.

But we need you to understand some things:

You can support people who are trying to win – and daily WINNING – the footrace with tragedy.

You can try not to shame them. They feel guilty enough.

You can start here to educate yourself on the realities of alcoholism and drug addiction.

You can know that you are NOT ALONE – if you are everyman or everywoman, too.

You can ask someone who struggles with addiction – past or present – to church.  Our spirits, above all else, need to be nourished.

You can ask a recovering friend to go to the movies with you, or out to dinner, or for a walk on the beach.  Our minds and bodies need to be nourished, too.

You can ask questions.

You can pray for us.

You can just not give up on us.

You can know this, mothers and fathers. Your child’s addiction is NOT YOUR FAULT.  You did not cause it.

You can be tender to us in recovery, just as you would anyone in treatment for a disease.

By simply talking about it, you help strip away the stigma. Because the only thing worse than battling a disease is battling a disease that many people don’t believe exists. A disease that – if treatment is not embraced as a way of life – can be fatal.

For everyman.

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 “everyman”  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.

For a more comprehensive list of the famous who have passed away due to substance abuse, click here.

Addiction, Hitting the bottom, Motherhood, Recovery

A Tree Grows in Prison – addiction and the harvest of God-seeds

TREE

By: Jana Greene, thebeggarsbakery.net

Hebrews 13:3

“Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you.” – Hebrews 13:3  (MSG)

 

God,

I’m thinking today of all the saints in the early church who prayed to you from the cells of prisons. Wrongly persecuted, they mustered their faith and lifted it to you, because they had been stripped of everything else they owned.

I know you’ve gotten your fair share of letters from prisoners.

Jails and prisons are often the venue in which lost souls lift their last remaining possession to you – faith – but the truth is that many have been stripped of that possession, too. Many, before even arriving for intake to be processed by a legal system, were already processed by another captor – Addiction – before ever setting foot in jail.  Addiction is a thief of hope.

Today, I have a broken heart for a dear friend and Sister in you, whose adult son is both literally, and figuratively, a prisoner. He is addicted to drugs, God. He has reached the end of himself. Right now, he seems a shell of himself.

But a long time ago, this friend raised this man up by filling him with God- seeds. She took him to church, and youth group; she talked out her active faith in you….all the way forming rows as she raised him, and planting  seeds in the soft soil of youth.

He is familiar with you. But he has made some bad choices, covering that fertile, planted ground with all the world has to offer, including substances that distract him from You. He has filled his life with all the plastic distraction that keeps the sunlight from getting in; that keeps the water of life from reaching the seeds.

Society sometimes has very little compassion for those who bring woes on themselves. Society forgets that it is only made up of infinite units of just the same kinds of people – sinners.  It’s easy for them to open their bibles to the letters that Paul wrote as a prisoner, and feel compassion.
But you don’t forget to be compassionate, because you never forget that we are infinite units of people who sin, but whom you love dearly.  All people must come to you from their knees on the floor of a prison cell, its only a matter of what four-walls constrain us.

Today, this man – this addict – is on the floor of a cell. I like to think he is calling out to you right this minute, but I know how stubborn addicts can be (being one myself) – I know how insane the cycle is, and how hard it is to let go of that tarp of denial we keep covering ourselves in.

But I am asking you – right now, in Your Holy Name, to crouch down on that prison floor with this man. Scrootch up so close to him that You feel familiar, that the seeds planted in his spirit in his growing-up-years feel like beads under his skin. Crack them open, and as they are opened, let him feel surrounded by love.

The supernatural feeling all addicts crave, that many addicts are willing to go to prison for – to die for – is only just a craving for you, Lord.

This young man is feeling the pain of the chemicals leaving his body, as we speak. Let the suffering he is experiencing  be for the cause of one little Seed of Faith germinating. Fill up the space left by the chemicals, the hurt, the loneliness, the shame and pain. I’m sure he will remember you, God.

Be with his family, who is suffering beyond comprehension. Fill them up, too.

Since this precious son of my Sister in You is currently  in no position to “write letters” in your name, and lift prayers from his broken spirit, mind and body, today I am interceding on his behalf. I ask that everyone who reads this to pray along with me.

For the addicts, the prisoners. The broken, the sinners. For my friend’s son.

Remind them that they are full of seeds of Truth, let them receive water and light, in their own personal prisons, and let those seeds grow healthy and strong and take root in You. So they can go out and tell other prisoners that there is life waiting to be lived.

Give them HOPE, Jesus.

In the name of the Father God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

AMEN

Recovery

“But it’s Super Bowl Sunday!”: an alcoholic looks at special occasions

And here is Part II

Blessings!

http://wilmingtonfavs.com/blogs/jana-greene/but-its-super-bowl-sunday-an-alcoholic-looks-at-special-occasions-part-ii

Hitting the bottom, Recovery

Take me Higher – an Alcoholic Finds Solid Ground

By: Jana Greene

You are an alcoholic. Or an addict. There is precious little difference, really. You indulge in some substance or activity that you cannot for the life of you control. You have tried, under your own power. You simply cannot stop.

It started innocently. You got drunk, or high – maybe a little accidentally. Certainly, it was harmless. Over time, you needed to get just a little drunker or higher to achieve the same result – feeling okay in your own skin. So you start to drink a little more, to get a little higher.

But one day, you start to need the substance or activity more than you really want it.  You begin to dread coming down from it.

Who wants to come down from something? All of the great clichés espouse the glory of high

Ain’t no mountain high enough.

High achiever.

Soaring to great heights.

Your love keeps lifting me higher…..

For a while, “high” made you feel weightless, but not anymore. Now it feels unbearable because you can’t get high enough. It becomes apparent that high is a manner of deceiving yourself. You used to have direction. What happened to knowing where you are in relation to other things?

Then, the spiral. Everything is out of control.  Which way is up? It is impossible to tell as you flail about, falling.

Coming down is a bummer. But coming down from artificial heights is inevitable, and fast. It is not the gradual and glorious slow decent of a skydiver with a sturdy parachute.

No.

You must come back to earth because there is nowhere else to go, but doing so results in a free-fall, a plummet.  No parachute to catch the wind, and no wind to fill the chute if you had one at all.  And something inside you tells you that you should fall and with a hard landing.

The dual demons of entitlement and self-loathing surface in this free-fall:

You deserve to drink/ use and get away with it, because you have all of these pressures and why shouldn’t you have a little relief?

And you deserve to use and lose everything, because you are a weak and hopeless person who can’t cope with Life on Life’s terms.

That is why sharing recovery is the Highest calling for an alcoholic or addict. There is purpose in it – God makes sure that no agony goes to waste in this life.

Authentic life takes place in the venue that is grounded. Recovery can be bumpy path, but it is on solid earth, at least. It is, in the truest sense of the term, death-defying….more so than any leap. It is life worth living for any addict because an active recovery is an expedition..a wonderful journey into uncharted territory and the clarity to soak it all in.

Your active recovery is a hike in the wilderness with a pack full of provision – more than you will ever need, courtesy of God. It is helpful to know which tools are available, but even a blind search through a knapsack is better than a fall from a high cliff.

On the ground, there are people to link arms with who will pull you up when you feel like tripping, because everybody feels like tripping sometimes and everybody needs support. On the ground, it is okay for you to have weight – a fullness and purpose in your step, because you are a human being carrying around a burden of being human. But not by yourself.

Most importantly, you aren’t artificially high  in a free-fall of destruction -you can easily locate “up” . From positioning yourself on your knees in prayer, you can see in all directions. You can clearly discern that God is God and you are not. It becomes obvious that He was the wind that filled the parachute you didn’t know you had so that he can be the solid ground beneath your feet now. You are filled with gratitude for having survived, for not having to be your own higher power anymore.

So, where do you go from here?

You go out and find the ones spiraling in the air, grasping at entitlement and self-loathing as they fall. You make sure that they don’t hit the ground without knowing that the dual demons of entitlement and self-loathing are not trying to catch them, but waiting for them to destruct upon impact. Tell hurting people that there is hope because of Grace, and Grace promises that we don’t get what we “deserve” (thank God!)

That’s how you will avoid the same temptations of dangerous height – by providing the gear for others and leading the expedition. Because you are not immune; you are never immune to relapse. You must stay on your guard and ask for God’s help on the journey – each day. He is strong and full of hope and He has sent others to walk with you, victoriously.

One Day at a Time, you feel okay in your own skin. Lifted higher by real love, the Highest Power.

You are going to be just fine.

Spiritual

Redemption Feast Blog – Letter to my Disease

I invite you, dear readers, to visit http://wilmingtonfavs.com/blogs/jana-greene/letter-to-my-disease to see the Wilmington Faith and Values site that I also write for.  My blog there (usually updated a few times per week) is called “Redemption Feast”.

God bless you and yours today, and as always – please feel free to share the link with anyone whom you feel might benefit from it.  Have a great day!

Inspirational

Why Jesus is my Sponsor

Sculpture at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, NYC (photo by Jana Greene)

One of the first things that one is encouraged to do in Alcoholics Anonymous is to get a sponsor.  Webster’s dictionary describes a sponsor as:

a)      A person who vouches or is responsible for a person or thing.  Or…

b)      A person who makes a pledge or promise on behalf of another.

Although I attended many meetings, I never did find a sponsor in the halls of AA.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want one initially, but asking someone to sponsor me seemed a cruel thing to ask of anyone in those early days.  Kind of like asking a stranger to donate a kidney.  And I surely didn’t want to sponsor someone else, even after some time in recovery, because I am a messy and flawed human being.  Being responsible for myself is about all I can handle (and some days that’s a stretch).

At one of the first meetings I went to, one member told the group that your “higher power” could be just about anything.

“It could be a lampshade,” she said, nodding toward the light in the corner of the room.  “As long as you admit that believing in it can restore you to sanity.”

I looked at the lampshade, which admittedly appeared to be more sane than I at that moment.  But it was not a “higher power” and I didn’t believe in its holiness. I didn’t believe that I could save myself, or that Buddha could save me or nature or another person.  I believed in Jesus Christ and His power to get me through this thing called sobriety.  It would have to be an act of God for me to stop drinking.

You see, for three days prior I had been on my knees, sick and begging for help.  Three days of detoxifying sweats, shakes, and hallucinations – the penalty of denying my body alcohol.  In my weak and lonely state, I had called out to Jesus Christ.  A fill-in-the-blank deity did not carry me through that – it was nothing short of supernatural.

When I was at my worst, sprawled out on the bathroom floor heaving and shaking, I screamed at the Lord and called him to the mat.

“You said your grace is sufficient,” I yelled, fist punching at air.  “Well, where are you?  Help me!”

Help me.  Help me. Please help me.  You SAID you WOULD!

And he did, moment by moment, bit by bit, comforting my sick body and tortured mind.  In that dark time, he became my closest friend.  The kind of friend you would give you a kidney.  The kind of friend that would give up his life for me.  Because you see, he did that, too.

Ever since that day, I have felt that I HAVE to tell other people about him, that he is still in the miracle business.  I have to show other “beggars” where I found bread.

I love the 12-steps and believe in the practicality that they offer.  I pull them out of the “toolbox” constantly, because they help me to do life on life’s terms instead of my own.  In the rooms of AA meetings and Celebrate Recovery gatherings, I have met the bravest people on earth.  Every person in recovery has something to bring to the table that another person in recovery needs to know or hear.  But for me, the program itself and the wonderful people I met at the meetings were just not enough to maintain sobriety.  They could not save my soul.

Life kept happening…the good and the bad, and all along, Jesus stayed. Jesus made the pledge, the promise – and he is still vouching for me today.  Any sanity I have had restored in these past eleven years of sobriety?

Given to me by my Sponsor, Jesus Christ.  He is the Highest Power of all.

Spiritual

Gather by the River, and Touch the Hand of God

By:  Jana Greene

A lifetime ago, I had a dream.

There stretched before me, under a lavender sky,  a wide ribbon of water.  I approach it alone at first, barefoot and wearing a robe of opalescent  linen.  As I draw closer to the river, others come, too.  Feeling a soft tug at each of my sleeves, I know by instinct that my children are by my side and I clasp their hands.  I look down at two heads shining blonde in the bright moonlight, their gazes focused forward.

The river is mighty, but sounds like a tinkling brook of a million bells.  I see multitudes of people at the river’s edge and more spilling from the hilltops beyond and through green valleys – all resplendent in the whitest garments.  I instantly understand  that some had been blind in earlier times, for their eyes took in more than mine.  For others, the river bells were the first sound to befall their ears.  Some were skipping, as though they had never walked before.  Everyone is in a slow rush to get to the water.

Everyone is  at such peace.

My children were pulling me now, their voices joined in with an ancient song that grew with the masses, as if known by instinct.  Nothing I’d ever heard compared with this music, composed by angels.

Across the river!  There is my Papa!  My beloved grandfather’s eyes were clear of the depression he carried when I was young.  And next to him was my grandmother, healthy and alive!  Oh how I want to run to her and bury my face in the familiar softness of her shoulder.  And my mother, there, too…ever beautiful, now serene.  And all the ones I loved so much – who struggled with all kinds of issues and hurts – are here, with whole minds for their bodies, whole spirits for their journey to the river’s edge.

One by one we gather until there are too many to count.

Closer, closer to the river now, I am desperate for the water. I wade in until my tunic is wet to the waist.  The current is cool and swift, but I am not moved by it.

I absolutely must reach Jesus.  I know He is here.

See?  There He is – holding out His arms to me!  There are so many, many people here, but He is waiting to embrace me!  When I can no longer touch the soft sand of the river bed with my feet, the current starts to move me gently toward Him, and the music surrounds me – fills me –clearer and more harmonious than anything I’ve ever heard, and I am almost close enough to reach the Living God.

But, wait.  I can’t see His face.  Why can’t I see His face?

With all my might, I try to hurl myself sideways against the water that now rushes.  But my strength is not enough and I fall just short of brushing His fingertips with mine.  My tunic is suddenly so heavy.  Isn’t this the living water?  Why is it so heavy, then?   Within moments, it is burdensome, like swimming in jelly.

Your face, Lord….I am seeking your face now!

And then I wake with a sudden, terrifying start in the darkness of my bedroom.  I am panting with suffocation, and my arms ache with having been outstretched in my sleep.  Heart racing-skipping randomly like a rabbit in the brush-  body drenched in a detoxifying sweat.  The beautiful  music has been replaced by an eerie sobbing – my own – and though it is pitch-dark, I close my eyes as hard as I can, grief-stricken that I am back in my heavy, wet, hurting body.

It is day three of this thing called sobriety, and I almost touched the hand of God.

Inspirational, Recovery

The Changing Room

By:  Jana Greene

Embarking upon recovery from alcoholism years ago, I realized that everything about my thought process had to change from the inside-out.

But how?

From my experiences, I had already learned that the ways ‘tried and true’ were not always true for me.  If I were to get sober, I would be scrapping my own blueprint for my life.  When I chose sobriety, I felt like an infant who lacked even the most basic instincts for survival, since what I had counted on to survive had nearly killed me.

The standard learning model did not work for me in early recovery, because alcoholism is not a rational disease.  Despite having read every self-help book I could get my hands on (there it is again…..self) and having listened to motivational speakers, preachers, and my own bullhorn of self-condemnation, I had failed repeatedly to get sober.

Then I attended some AA meetings.  It was not until I surrendered my own strategy and listened to other addicts in 12-step meetings that I began to accept that recovery was not about learning to change at all.

It was more about changing to learn.

In that room, I changed.  I listened.   I heard from people who somehow – and this is the miraculous part – did not drink.   They did not drink, but sometimes still wanted to….and when this occurred, they looked to 12 remarkable steps for living and to each other,  and it saved their lives.  They worked on recovery even when it wasn’t fashionable to be in recovery, when they really didn’t feel like it, when nobody else understood.  And they committed to sobriety in a way I never imagined possible, because they would never, ever be able to drink “like everyone else”, no matter how many meetings they went to.  Until this point, I thought meetings were a kind of means to an end….like perhaps once you “graduate”, you can celebrate with a Zima or something.

But no.

I would never graduate from alcoholism, and that was depressing.

But I would gradually LIVE, fully and joyfully….and that was exciting!

The successfully sober people I met were from all walks of life, but they all  had one thing in common:  they just didn’t pick up a drink.  No matter what.

“If your ass falls off on Main Street,” I remember one Old-Timer saying.  “Don’t pick up.”

I really never forgot that, and I’ve felt like my ass was going to fall off too many times to count, truly.

I also felt like I would die from the shakes or from the pain of de-toxing alcohol.  I felt like I would die of isolation because nobody close to me knew – or understood – the magnitude of what I was facing.  I felt incredible shame as a mother for all the nights I put my kids to bed early so that I could start drinking early.

I felt, felt, felt, felt…..like every nerve ending in my body was on fire and every piece of my spirit was shredded.    When will all of this FEELING end?  (Thankfully never, because I learned how to feel GOOD things, too 🙂

I kept feeling, but I didn’t pick up.  I tried to gather up all the nerves and soul-shreds and bring them to God, but I missed a few pieces in the process.  No matter; He found the ones that needed to remain a part of me and we decided to discard the ones that kept me in bondage, and bit by bit He is still restoring me.

I’m still a hot mess in some regards, but I’m God’s hot mess and I’ve decided to spend the rest of my life letting people know that He is utterly faithful and sobriety is a crazy-wonderful-life-saving thing.

Nearly a dozen years into recovery (thank you, Jesus – and one day at a time), I am still changing in order to learn. I have a long way to go yet, but the learning; it just keeps coming.   No matter what.

Because nothing changes if nothing changes.  Yeah, I learned that in a 12-step meeting, too.