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

 

 

12 Steps, AA, Addiction, Brokenness, Celebrate Recovery, Christianity, Devotional, Health, Hitting the bottom, Inspirational, Recovery, rehab, sobriety, Spiritual, Spirituality, substance abuse

From Practical to Tactical – Making the 12 Steps Matter in Your Life

1,000 miles
Everyone (even pop culture) seems to know that “admitting you have a problem” is the First Step proper. But does that admittance look like? And what about after Step One? And what does “Step Work” look like in practical living?
This series has been on my mind and in my heart for quite some time, because I know how confusing step work can be. The following blog entries will explore the traditional life-changing and oft-intimidating 12 Steps through observations made along the way. Each day will invite you to ponder a different step.  It is only sharing my own experience, strength and hope, nothing more. Take what you need and leave the rest, as they say in the rooms.  If the 12 Steps can help me, they can help anyone. I promise.
“A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” –  Lao Tzu
The first time I darkened the door of an AA meeting, I was a 20 year-old. I wanted recovery, but I wanted it yesterday, and my understanding of the program reflected my impatience. These are actual thoughts I experienced when I first walked into my first 12 Step meeting:
“Well, Step One…..check! I admitted I have a problem, so that one is done. On to Step Two.”
“And I believe that a Power Greater than Myself can restore me to sanity, on account of I’m clearly not in charge here. So, worked that step already. Next!”
“Turning my will and life over to the care of God? Okay, I’m down with that. ‘God, I turn my will over.’ This isn’t so hard…..”
“Step Four: Making a fearless and moral inventory of myself……yikes.”
And with this one, I was stuck. Trust me when I tell you that Step Four cannot be done in one afternoon, even if you have the whole day off. Truly. You can take an inventory haphazardly, but not a searching and fearless one. This is where the rubber meets the road, right here on Step Four. (And sadly, yes … I actually believed that I had ‘worked’ Steps 1-3 in the course of a one-hour meeting. Ta daaaaa! Of course I only believed that because of, um….denial reasons.)
It would be many years before I would get serious enough about working the 12-Steps to truly explore what they look like in ‘real time,’ how they play out as workable ways to live life on life’s terms. Now, in my fourteenth year of continuous sobriety, I am just starting to get it. Here are some of the stones that I picked up on my ongoing walks with God. With them, I am building a future; and a good future at that!
Musing on 12 Step programs:
You will work the steps more than once. If you had a flow chart that depicted each of your issues and where you are Step-wise on each, well, there wouldn’t be enough ink or paper on the planet to print it out. Seriously, there wouldn’t.  It is an overused analogy, but recovery really is peeling an onion. One layer gets addressed and another is exposed. I’ve employed the steps in a number of situations in my life and will continue to do so,  and personally, I think they are applicable for anyone – addict or not – to apply. Unless your life is perfect, in which case you can go ahead and stop reading now, because you will not be able to relate to me at all.
Our addictions may look differently, but the root causes that trigger them are almost always similar. Alcohol was my drug of choice, heroin might be yours. I really don’t care because it matters little what you drink, smoke, or shoot, because I would venture to bet that the core issues that drove you to do so are pretty identical to mine. The answer is the same for all of these problems, as well. Without my Highest Power Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t have survived my addiction to tell the tale.  One of the things I love most about the Celebrate Recovery program is that it is for anyone to experience the overcoming of any hurt, habit, or hang-up. In my estimation, if an issue or addiction is coming between me and God, it’s a problem worthy of applying the 12-Steps to. Alcohol, drugs, food, porn, gambling….you can learn a new way to live as an Over-comer with any struggle.
There is no schedule for working the 12 Steps. Oh how I wished for a timetable for the 12-Steps when I first got into recovery! Someone to say, “Okay, you will do A, B, and C, and then you will never want to drink again.” It does not work that way, at all. You will, if you are honest, become ‘stuck’ on a step.  This used to frustrate me to no end, until I learned to think of the phenomenon as “marinating” in step work. “Working the steps” alludes to  putting in time and energy and waiting for the quittin’ time whistle to blow. Marinating in a step brings to mind a soaking-up, a “take-your-time because it’s gonna be worth the wait” mindset.  A good marinade cannot be rushed. For it to become part of the meat, it needs time. But you don’t want to spend your entire life in a bowl of marinade either.
If you can find a Step Study Group, by all means, please explore it! It is not for the faint of heart, it is for the determined to survive.  But under guidance from a Step Study Leader and some very fine workshop materials, an in-depth study of each of the steps can be a game changer. No longer floating about in the Program of Your Understanding, but in a group in which everyone has Experience, Strength and Hope, and everyone brings it to the table in order to get well. You will bring ESH to your group that only you can bring. The value of having people delving into the steps one-by-one alongside you cannot be overstated. Find a group in your area and ask if Step Studies are being done. They are a separate animal altogether from the meetings, but incredibly worth your time.
There are no two recoveries alike. They are the snowflakes of the wellness world – each and every one is different. One of the slipperiest slopes out there is to see someone else’s recovery journey and decide they are not doing it right. Trust me when I say that your own side of the street is enough to keep clean. Don’t be passing judgement on someone else’s sidewalk, just stay on yours, keep it clean,  and lead by example. I have had people tell me that I’m not really sober because I don’t have a sponsor. I’ve been told a plethora of things by a myriad of people; people who are – just like me – learning to live life on life’s terms. You just do you, and I’m going to do me.
Put one foot in front of the other and ask God to bless your footfalls. And marinate in this new way of living.

 

Celebrate Recovery 12 Steps and Biblical Comparisons 
 
1) We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.
“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 
2)  We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” – Philippians 2:13 
 
3) We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.
“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 
4)  We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” – Lamentations 3:40 
 5)  We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” – James 5:16 
6) We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” – James 4:10 
7) We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,” – 1 John 1:9 
8)  We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:31 
9) We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24
10) We continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” – 1 Corinthians 10:12
11)  We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and power to carry that out.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” – Colossians 3:16
12) Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs.
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore them gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1
AA, Addiction, alcoholism, blogging, Holiday, In Recovery Magazine, Recovery, sobriety, substance abuse, The Super Bowl

In Recovery Magazine – “But it’s Super Bowl Sunday!”

I’m honored to be among In Recovery Magazine’s new bloggers. Here is a link to the piece just published at InRecoveryMagazing.net, titled, “But it’s Super Bowl Sunday!” It explores the sticky wicket that special occasions can feel rife for drinking, and how a reality check can reel us addicts back in with the truth. The truth is that the whole world doesn’t drink on Super Bowl Sunday. And the truth is that every day in recovery is the real special occasion. God bless us, everyone!

BUT, IT’S SUPER BOWL SUNDAY!

Addiction, Inspirational, Recovery, Writing

EDGEWISE book giveaway time!

EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God
EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God

It’s book giveaway time again! I am happy to announce that two copies of my recovery memoir, “EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God” will go to winners in the http://www.goodreads.com giveaway event. The deadline to enter the contest is July 20.

It’s easy to enter, and there is no obligation whatsoever.

To enter, CLICK HERE.

God bless you!

 

Addiction, Recovery

When Recovery Means Saying Goodbye

REEL

Goodbyes are hard.

They are hard enough when made seamlessly – a  Bon Voyage before a long trip, planned and executed with love and attention to detail.

Goodbye is difficult, even under the best of circumstances, but there is closure to a well-rounded farewell – an “Until we meet again.”

When I got sober, I said goodbye to alcohol in all it’s forms. It was a very hard break-up, because the connection was so intimate. We snuck around, alcohol and I. We had memories, a history. Goodbye to tart Chardonnay and mellow brew. Goodbye to neon beach drinks with little umbrellas. Goodbye Nyquil.

The parting was long-wrought but swift. Abstinence – unlike mere absence – does not make the heart grow fonder. The further I separated from my lover alcohol, the clearer it became that I was better off without it. Good riddance.

But a funny thing happened during our breakup. Not unlike the separation of any two coupled entities, our friends took sides. But instead of Team Alcohol and Team Jana, my loved ones seemed to belly up to one of two bars: Team Drunk Jana and Team Sober Jana. And I wasn’t expecting that development, honestly. I had naturally assumed that the people who loved me would rally behind Team Sober, but that is not what happened.

My whole world changed, one tenuous moment at a time. Every single nerve in my being was on high alert, but everyone else just kept living as though nothing was happening. As if nothing had changed. It was at this juncture that I had to erect those pesky boundaries. But boundaries with others are only good when they are respected, and as we know – people in the throes of addiction themselves are not great respecter of boundaries.

Sometimes, that means saying goodbye to people we love.

In truth, “everyone else” did not become more dysfunctional as I grew in recovery. The dysfunction just became clearer to me. It is a testament to my level of disease that I had not realized it before. I developed a mental allergy to high drama, and an emotional allergy to the abusive drinking and using of others.

The sad truth is that there are people I’ve known my whole life that will always prefer Team Drunk. They found me more laid-back, easier to manipulate, and less confident when I was active in my addiction. But the problem with the former me is that I was a dumbed-down, numbed-down version of myself before I got sober. I am a new creation in recovery.

Where does healthy acceptance of others meet healthy self-care? I don’t purport to know.

Is “you make me want to drink” enough of a reason to cut ties? I think it can be.

Is “you hurt me” enough of a reason to distance? Team Sober says unequivocally, yes.

My heart still longs for a connection for some of the people to whom I have said ‘goodbye.’ It is  a very hard break-up, because the connection was so intimate. We had a history. I love them dearly, dearly.

What to do with the jagged, messy edges of goodbye in recovery when the amends I’ve tried to make with others don’t match up with the edges of self-care in a nice, neat seam? When the closure has no well-rounded farewell – an “Until we meet again?”

Team Sober says to approach it just like every other recovery issue – this Bon Voyage before the longest, best journey of recovery – planned and executed with love and attention to detail for the sake of my life.

One single day at a time.

 

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

Addiction, Recovery, Spiritual

Stinking Thinking: The Soundtrack

Shut up the squawking, already!
Shut up the squawking, already!

By: Jana Greene

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

Too much noise.

The world is just full of too much noise. The past few months have simply overwhelmed me, good things and bad things, both.  Graduations, illnesses, a new job, family issues, children leaving the nest, new pets entering the nest….a reorganization of priorities made necessary because of that creeping, wonderful, awful thing called “change.”

Getting used to the “new normal” is hard when “normal” won’t stay static long enough to catch my breath. I’m really struggling with a bit of depression lately, low-level sadness and a feeling of being overwhelmed.

You know what used to really help me unwind? A glass of wine. It’s hard to believe its been nearly thirteen years since I’ve had a glass of wine. Of course, its been twenty since a drink actually relaxed me; there, toward the end, it nearly killed me. I am glad it doesn’t control me anymore.

But still, after all this time – and a life so blessed it is virtually unrecognizable from pre-sobriety days – my mind still sometimes thinks that “one glass of wine” would do the trick!  It parrots the same garbage that made me so sick years ago.

I’m on to it, though. In the recovery world, it is the soundtrack of “Stinking Thinking” (or stinkin’ thinkin’, if you are from the South.) I know what it looks,  feels, smells and tastes like. And this is it.

1)      That one drink would just help me unwind….

Never, ever have I had one drink. Or one of anything else, for that matter; unless it is one pint of  Häagen-Dazs ice cream*. Because eating more than one pint at one sitting is just gluttony!

Sometimes, and I’m just being honest, I just want all the noise and anxiety to stop. For five minutes. The five minutes a drink afforded me cost me hours and days of spiraling, and the occasional blackout. The parroting stinking thinking soundtrack forgets about that little detail. Hardly worth it.

2)      Its been over a dozen years! Maybe I’m  cured ….

This is a sneaky one because it adds pride to the already-convoluted mix, as if the length of my sobriety insures against future alcohol abuse. Danger! Danger!

I have known people with extraordinary “”time” relapse, and instantly be transported back to the depths of despair afforded by addiction, or worse. There is no cure for alcoholism. Not taking the first drink is the best insurance there is.

There was a time I could not imagine going 24 hours without a drink. It is not ‘living in the past’ to remember what that was like. It is essential that I remember that.

The fact that I still – when really struggling with life on life’s terms – obsess about drinking as a relaxation technique, confirms that I am, in fact, an alcoholic. I will never be able to drink normally. And to try could very likely be the death of me (and very nearly was.)

3)    It wasn’t that bad, my drinking…

Except that it was; it was awful. Again, remembering the reality is key. I did not have a fun, rosy, Nicolas Sparks-type romance with alcohol. I had a dysfunctional, co-dependent, Stephen King-type relationship with alcohol.

It’s best to remember that it made me a person I really don’t like at all. Not to mention I turned yellow and became very sick. The self-loathing was worse than any other symptom.

4)      I shouldn’t have admitted to the world that I am an alcoholic…

Well, the proverbial cat is out of the bag now! It jumped out of the bag back on January 3rd of 2001.

At my lowest – when my thinking is the most stinking, I have actually wished that  I’d never told a soul about my secret, because if nobody knew – I could just resume having the “one” glass of wine or random margarita and be like everybody else. See? Doesn’t that make perfect sense?

Lather, rinse, repeat…(see # 1) This is why it is called the “Cycle of Addiction.”

5)    I REALLY shouldn’t have blogged about it…

Ah, the blogosphere. Nobody forces anyone to blog, of course.  But having a passion for writing and recovery, I found that a Force was compelling me to do it anyway.

With the miracle of technology via The Blog, not only is the cat out of the bag, but it is circling the globe on a uni-cycle.

In the beginning, writing a recovery blog was very difficult, because it required such rigorous honesty. I wanted to become involved in recovery ministry and share my experience, faith and hope openly. And because living life in open-book format makes for vulnerability.

Ironically,  vulnerability contributes to accountability. More than once, that accountability has kept me from relapsing.

6) I will never “get there”…

This one is true. I will never have it all together, because then I would have nothing to learn. And this recovery thing is all about learning. Boy howdy….is it ever about learning. When I’ve learned all that God intends for me to learn, He will take me home.

Until then, I will depend on Him to help me navigate the noise. When I’m overwhelmed, I will go ahead and feel it, and acknowledge that change is inevitable. Sometimes, my mind is wrong about things, squawking when it should be listening. I’m going to try extra-hard to take that into consideration when depression creeps in.

I’ll write about that wonderful, awful thing called “change” when it happens (which is constantly), spending every thought generously on paper. You know, since its already out there. I’ll own my crazy, ask for Divine help with my anxiety,  and let the guilt of the past go.

Change is what brings the good stuff, too…the stuff I don’t want to be too numbed out to feel. Because stinking thinking kept under wraps only rots and festers. Change is what brings all that is good and acceptable and perfect.

And a life so blessed deserves to be truly lived, transformed by the renewal of my mind…noise and all.

*I would totally eat more than one pint of  Häagen-Dazs in one sitting if nobody were watching and it wasn’t so expensive.

Recovery

But it’s the SUPER BOWL: an alcoholic looks at “special occasions”

Hi, dear readers! I’m sharing my Redemption Feast blog post from today’s WilmingtonFAVS.com about drinking and ‘special occasions’.  Please feel free to share the link with those you might know who are involved in / seeking recovery, and God bless!

http://wilmingtonfavs.com/blogs/jana-greene/but-its-super-bowl-sunday-an-alcoholic-looks-at-special-occasions-part-1

Hitting the bottom, Inspirational, Recovery

Gimme Shelter – a venue for amazing grace

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By: Jana Greene

I have an addictive personality. That’s usually a bad thing, especially with substances, drink (and chocolate) but not always.

Over a decade ago, I had an encounter with Jesus like no other I’d ever experienced. I would like to say that it happened in a beautiful cathedral or in a peaceful mountain valley or by the roaring ocean. But no. It occurred on my dirty 5’x5’ dirty bathroom floor at 2:00 a.m. with my head bowed against the toilet seat.

I felt dead inside, and I knew that I was dying on the outside as well. I had known Jesus from the time I was twelve, but had not walked along side him for many years. I didn’t really need to, you see. I had it ALL under control. There were small, still whispers and glaring neon signs as I passed through on my way to  the valley of the shadow that is alcoholism, but I could usually drink them away. Not anymore.

Taking a drink would momentarily stop the shakes but would cause immediate retching. I had consumed so much alcohol on a daily (well, nightly) basis that my body required it now, and rejected it too.  Here, lying on the bathroom tile, I crawled over to lock the door so that my children wouldn’twalk in to see their mother this way.

My beautiful children. I hated myself more in that moment than ever before, because my daughters didn’t deserve this kind of mom. Even my deep love for them couldn’t get me sober. My declining health wasn’t enough motivation either. And I certainly was powerless to stop drinking, as every single day for two years I’d promised myself that I would simply NOT drink today. What can get me well? I asked God, from the cold bathroom floor.

But God was in another place. He had to be, didn’t he? He had tons of Good Christians to hang out with instead. The church-goers, the teetolers. The ones like me, who know Him but have pushed him away in favor of some pursuit, addiction or selfishness…why would He want to be present with us?

But between great wracking sobs and heaves, the room spinning like a mad carousel, I vaguely remembered reading something in the Bible years ago about God meeting you where you are.

“God,” I cried. “Oh, God. I’m calling you. I’m so sorry I’ve turned my back on you. I’m asking you to be with me and help me. Father….meet me here.” More wailing. More puking and crying. “You said you would” I whispered hoarsely. ” I remember.”

“Father! Come sit here on the floor with me, please. Please don’t leave me alone!”

I crawled over to make room for God…this God who fashioned the universe but was not too busy or big  to come sit on a dirty bathroom floor with his broken child. I felt His presence stronger than I had ever felt it before. In my sickness, I lay down with my head in the lap of Jesus and He comforted me. I knew He was there just as tangibly as any human being could have been; more so. He met me there.

“Come close to God, and God will come close to you,” said Jesus’ brother James, in the Bible. “Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” For me, my loyalty had been divided between God and alcohol addiction. I didn’t want my Father to have to compete for my life any more.

That day was twelve years ago this month. I have been sober by His grace (one day at a time) since my encounter with Jesus on the bathroom floor all that time ago. Recovery is sometimes a cathedral-like experience and sometimes a gritty challenge. It is at times peaceful like a mountain valley and at others, as clamoring as a roaring ocean. It is messy work, always.

But Jesus still meets me where I am, in all of those places. He is so good, I tell you. I still have an addictive personality, but these days my addiction is God’s Grace. I cannot get enough of it, and I cannot tell enough people about it.

Redeemed and alive, inside and out. Sheltered by amazing grace.

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!

Hitting the bottom

Letter to my Disease

“My chains are gone – I’ve been set free. My God, my Savior has ransomed me” – Amazing Grace (contemporary version)

By: Jana Greene

I found this letter amongst some old pieces I wrote in early recovery.  In fact, this one dates back eleven years, almost to the day.  I had been sober seven months when I originally wrote it.   I pray it will bless someone who needs to read it.

A Letter to my Disease

 

Dear Alcohol,

I know I have had a hard time letting you go, but I feel I must remind you –

I have God on my side.

You may have genetic advantages, and plenty of opportunities to tempt me, and social acceptance, but those things pale in comparison to the Almighty God.

I have friends, too.  Powerful friends.

Friends who have fought you for a long time and WIN, day by day.

Friends who care about me, just as strongly as you wanted to destroy me.

I have the “steps”, the “statements” and most importantly, scripture to pray –

And those help keep you at bay, too.

I thought you were my closest friend.

I counted on  you!

You lied and deceived, and this I cannot forget.

I know you for who you are, now.

I know you are there, waiting to destroy, still.  Willing to play the part of friend,

While you decimate my health, my relationships, and my spirit.

But therein lies my advantage.

I know you are there, and I recognize your voice.

I don’t deny you, but I do despise you.

You will never take me alive, and you will not cause me to die.

You had your try at me, and through Jesus Christ and His saving grace,

I am victorious.

It is finished, one day at a time, by that same

Saving Grace.

I have God on my side.

 

Inspirational, Recovery

Rigorous Honesty and Other Risks

By:  Jana Greene

This morning, I was at a loss at what to write about.  I’ve had a headache pretty steadily for nearly a week solid, and have a busy schedule today, and these two conspired against my wanting to write at all.  But still….

Under my desk is a big cardboard box full of writings; articles, poetry and general musings about life, some of it going back to high school.  This is my sad attempt at organization…throwing things into a box, so that the oldest pieces end up on the bottom, and the most recent on top, like layers of sedimentary rock.

So, I consult The Box this morning for writing ideas, digging down a few layers.  Somewhere in between the top (which is from yesterday) and the bottom (the Jurassic period when the dinosaurs roamed the earth – known to my children as “the 80’s”) I found a single manila folder.  Everything else in the box, at least seven inches deep, is thrown in willy-nilly.  The folder is named simply:  “The Bad Years”

Immediately, I knew which era was chronicled in this layer:  The later stages of my disease, and most likely, the very early stages of recovery.

I am an alcoholic.  The Bad years, I have had.

I flip through the pages, and catch words like:  drunken, AA, lying, puking, embarrassment, shame and rejection…..words I don’t necessarily associate my “now” life with, but words that have been my life at other times.   And no matter how hard I try, I cannot shake the feeling that I am supposed to write about the experience.  Trust me, I’ve tried to shake the feeling.

More than a feeling, it is (dare I use the term?) calling.  At the end of the day, I just cannot imagine that we must endure the really difficult things in life alone.  What is the point of coming out on the ‘other side’ of something horrible if you keep it to yourself?

But writing about it is going to require what 12-step programs refer to as “rigorous honesty”.  In my interpretation, rigorous honesty is different from regular honesty in that it is subject to the sin of omission tenfold.  Writing about my journey is going to require including the words:  drunken, AA, lying, puking, embarrassment, shame and rejection – and that’s just for starters.

I pray about it often, asking God about what to include in a book, if I were to write one.  I tell Him that I don’t want to embarrass myself, but I know it’s a little late for that consideration.   I try to tell Him that I don’t have the time/money/confidence/smarts to write a book.  I think He is telling me that I don’t need those things to write my story.  What I need is faith in Him.  Period.

He reminds me that I still have tons of issues, in my “now” life, and that I get through them One Day at a Time the same way He got me through The Bad Years….with grace.

He is enough to save my life.  He is more than enough to handle the seven inches of literary sediment in a cardboard box.    I cannot undo my past, but I can write about my redemption so that maybe someone somewhere will know that they can survive The Bad Years.

Grace really is amazing.

Inspirational, Recovery, Spiritual

To Thine Own Self be True?

 

We’ve all heard the old adage

“To thine self be true”

But I say NO to that baggage…

I’ve seen what My Self can do

I love the verse in Romans that asks the simple question, “With God on our side, how can we lose?”  It reminds me that God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for me, exposing Himself to the worst of humanity in order to save me.  What could possibly even attempt come between the love of God and me?

Me.

I cringe when I think of some of the things I’ve done in the past.  You see, I am my own worst enemy.

In my life as an active addict, I used alcohol as a numbing agent to quiet my anxiety.  It started off innocently, but ended in the near-destruction of my body  and mind.  Yet the worse byproduct of my drinking was that it anesthetized the  quiet, divine stirrings that  my Father in Heaven was sending.  He was loving me, trying to tell me He loved me.  I chose numbness over relationship in order to keep my sickness alive.  In countless small ways, I shut God out, preferring to get “my way”. 

Before long,  there seemed to be a pattern with “my way”.   It always ended in destruction, and then surrender to God.  What if my pattern were to become taking all matters – big and small – to Him, and bypass the whole “destruction” phase altogether? 

I’ve been sober 11 years, but I’m still a work in progress.

“To thine own self be true,” ends, ironically, in my self-destructive behaviors.

People ask me sometimes when I knew it as time to stop drinking.  I’m never quite sure how to answer them, because I knew the first time I took a drink and thought, “If I can feel like this all of the time, I’d be crazy NOT to stay drunk”.  That warm buzz?  I loved that sensation….I really loved it.  At first, I tolerated the destructiveness because it felt so good.  Years went by, and by that time I realized it didn’t help with the anxiety anymore,  I needed it in order to stop the shaking in my hands.   The shaking in my spirit. 

And prayer?  I’d stopped praying altogether, because of the mess I’d made of my life.  I was embarrassed before God Himself, ashamed that I couldn’t control this thing, this one thing.  That is how insidious my disease is.  I was turning yellow, sick and retching, but I just couldn’t let it go.  I wanted desperately to be a good mother, but that facade was breaking apart.  I couldn’t get sober for my kids, for my job,  or for my life. 

One cold January evening, I walked to the harbor near our house, and sat on the bulkhead.  I always felt the Creator a little closer near the water.  I told God that I couldn’t do this anymore, that I’d made a mess of everything.  I shouted at Him for not saving me from myself, and warned him that if I had to live without drinking, He may as well take me home now because I couldn’t give it up.   I cried for my children, who were four and seven at the time.  For two hours, my cares and worries spilled out in racking sobs until I had said everything.  I ended the rant of my soul by telling the Almighty that He had to meet me in that place because I couldn’t take another step. 

Essentially, I said, “Ok, God….You said you are enough to get me through this.  You said your grace is sufficient.  Show me your grace, then!”  I’m not proud that a challanged God, but thats what I said.

The sun had set by this time,  and all was quiet.  I half-expected a light to beam from heaven, but instead, something better happened.  I felt His Spirit gather me into the lap of his unfathomable grace and hold me there.  I felt so incredibly small, like a much beloved child.   I cried for a long time in the lap of Jesus.  “What took you so long?”  He seemed to say.  “I love you so much.”

It was January 3rd, 2001.  I was a captive set free.

Of course, it was no easy task to get sober, or to stay sober.  It was very hard work, but every day, God extended His help, His supernatural-ness to me as I needed it; not ahead of time, mind you.  But enough for each day.  He is faithful every day, one day at a time.

My addictive personality didn’t change, although I have a healthy dis-trust of it now.   I ask God to use the good stuff within me to tell others what He did for me, and to help me overcome the bad stuff within me so somebody might actually listen and receive his help, too.  

 Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us?  Theres no way!  Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins found in scripture

That’s  what God says about it.  Still not convinced? 

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us.  I’m absolutely convinced that nothing – nothing dead or living, angelic or demonic – today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable – absolutely NOTHING can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. – Romans 8:31-39 (The Message)

I tried to drive a wedge, but I failed.  He loved me still.  Now I ask for His will for my life, and try to get out-of-the-way of it. 

“Lord, your will…not mine,” is my prayer.

I’ve seen what “myself” can do.