My gastroperesis is flaring so hard I’m barely able to keep any food down. This throws other medical issues into a hellish spiral.
My chronic pain has been ridiculous.
We have very difficult things to deal with in the family right now. Really hard things.
I’ve cried several times today, which is no small feat when you’re on antidepressants. It felt awful to cry, and then really good…cleansing.
And it seems a counter-intuitive measure to wallow around in pain and sadness, but every once in a while, you need a good wallow.
Today I will cry, and rest, and bitch about my woes to my ever-patient husband.
I will likely beat myself up for having to cancel plans with friends, and hate myself for feeling melancholy.
I will feel like I am not handling life well AT ALL. (While reminding myself that despite it all, knowing I’m doing my very best.)
At some point, to be transparent, I will feel guilty for even having this little nervy-B, guilty for unloading on my husband, and guilty for having the audacity to complain about this life, when I am truly blessed in so many ways.
I’m pretty sure I’m not done crying today. God, I hope not. There’s a long line of tears queued up in my spirit that need to be purged.
I hope that tomorrow, by some measured miracle, the world on fire won’t seem quite so much like utter doom.
Today I will wallow. I’ll sleep and watch Schitt’s Creek (it’s a balm to my soul), and talk with God about WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH MY LIFE RIGHT NOW. And I’ll look forward to better days.
Because they are always on the way, you know – better ones.
This morning, I woke up early in the great state of Georgia.
Two of my dearest friends in the world accompanied me to a conference that addressed a faith reconstructed. It was incredible. The teachings were what so many evangelicals (and I was one for most of my life,) would consider utterly scandalous.
Y’all, LOVE that rich, pure, and bounteous SHOULD be scandalous. The most passionate love stories always are.
I didn’t move for a while when I woke, because I simply couldn’t. (If you don’t already think I’m nutty, you might now. And I’m okay with that)
I was pinned in place but this momentous, ridiculously extravagant sensation of love.
It was so thick in the air, it felt womb-ish, like a swim in calm ocean, flowing and bobbing. Or being swaddled like a baby, feeling nurtured and safe.
I didn’t fight it, like so tend to do. I didn’t negate it with my usual self-loathing talk. I always feel “powerless” against my own thoughts. My insecurities are members of a terrorist organization of sorts. During my (literal) “come to Jesus,” I discovered that I don’t have to negotiate with terrorists. I get to choose.
No, instead of fighting and fretting against the swell of love, I just rested in it. It was overwhelming, glorious, and unlike any experience I’ve had in a half-century of Christian fundamentalism. There was not even a trace of shame involved. I was fresh out of bothers for a spell.
At some point, I “feel” God say something to the effect of: “Please don’t talk and think mean thoughts about my little girl. I love her so much.” Wait WHAT!?
“You heard,” says gentle but firm Holy Spirit, her voice strong and convincing.
That little girl is me.
This weekend was like a speed-dating session with my true identity. Lots of uncomfortable moments. Lots of connecting. Lots of nerves. The result is this radical, rich, ridiculous grace for others.
I MUST share what I experienced in the wee hours of the morning with you. I have to. Because it’s LIFE.
Love is life.
Sometimes the supernatural doesn’t come like a lightning strike, dramatic and jarring. It’s not always signs and wonders that the church proper chases for a dopamine hit and considers evidence of a Being of pure Love.
No, sometimes it’s a soul hug first thing in the morning. Supernatural revelation can be realizing you aren’t a cosmic mistake; that you have belonged to Source since before the formation of the Universe. That He belongs to US. I know it sounds strange. But I’m okay with that too.
I welcome the chance to tell you how incredibly loved you are this day.
I don’t want to convert you.
I have no ulterior motives.
I don’t want to change you.
I have no agenda.
I don’t want to push religiousity. Matter of fact, religion is the whole problem. It has almost nothing to do with the actual Trinity, which invites us to a beautiful dance that includes us all.
And as a result of this Great Forgetting , the church can be stingy with the very thing it’s attempting to sell: Love. Purpose. Being.
This weekend, I feel like I had a heart transplant, and I couldn’t be happier.
My prayer today is that you wrap your arms around yourself and hug. Don’t rush it. Really hug yourself tight. Consider it a hug from me.
And so much better – it will be a hug from Papa God. He is wild about you.
May you come to the overwhelming realization of who you really are, and that the opposite of Love is fear. I learned that I don’t have to rent Fear a room in my head. Evict that sucker.
May your awareness of the supernatural be increased so that you can recognize when God “winks” at you.
May you come to know and (this is the hard part) ACCEPT the TRUTH about your inherent value, which is priceless.
Take one lifetime of Old Time Religion. Stir in two cups of Fear-Based Theology. Sprinkle in 2 tbsp of unintentional judginess, three tbsp of Obviously I’m Right, work through dough. Add additional The Bible CLEARLY Says! to taste.
While religious “dough” is trying to rise, but just kind of petering out, prepare in a shofar – I mean BOWL:
Two cups each of Chronic Pain and Debilitating Illness powder that has been sifted through a “name it and claim it” sieve for 40 years, but it’s still lumpy.
Add 4 tbsp frustration, and a dash of Must Not Be Worthy of Healing. Stir in a packet of What Will My Fundamentalist Friends Think. Cry about this step for approximately three more years.
Check ingredients in first bowl to make sure dough is indeed rising. But nope. It’s just sitting there in a big glop.
In yet another bowl, add one adult child who has come out as bisexual, which was NOT in the original recipe, so sayeth the Expectations Set Forth by the Church. Add a smidge of What Will My Fundamentalist Friends Think (if you have any left, which is doubtful. We go through it like gangbusters around here!)
Decide to add many dollups of Mother Love anyway (heck, dump in however much you have,) and set the kitchen timer to two more years on the “acceptance” setting. This is a wet ingredient, so thinning it out will just make it easier to spread. Use liberally.
Open up the pantry and see what else you have that might somehow make it more palatable.
Aww, shucks. All you have is a Costco-sized box a bag of Everything Else Life Can Throw At You. That stuff is SPICY. Always check the label…let’s see…it contains Mental Health Challenges, Losing Mobility, Family Estrangements, Crippling Anxiety, Bouts of Financial Struggle, Alcoholism, Codependency, Childhood Trauma, and 1000 grams of pure Shame Concentrate.
Going back to the bowl, taste the batter. See that it is bad. Mix all ingredients. See that it is WORSE.
While waiting for the timer, it’s important to assume that the Master Chef is angry and frustrated with you. Kind of like an astral Gordon Ramsey or something.
Assure yourself the whole Universe is against you, as is everyone you know and love who is following directions from a 2,000 year old book of recipes that several hundred fallible human people contributed to. Kind of like Gramma’s recipe box that had a hundred food-stained index recipe cards from her friends shoved into between the pages. Make sure to take everything out of context for best results.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and when timer sounds, decide on how much savory Self-Doubt to use. Seasonings come in “I’m a Worthless Sinner,” and “Searing Disappointment” flavors.
Ask yourself WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Am I just a shitty cook, or so I just have so few ingredients to work with, I’m having a hard time accepting the result?
And what if I’ve been forgetting the Main Ingredient all along?
Next (scary) step:
Decide you’re tired of fear-based faith, dust off your hands, open your heart, ask the Universe to help you see what is Truth, battle-weary, heavy-hearted, and feeling raw inside like dough that won’t rise.
Decide to put all judgement and Christian-ese down the garbage disposal. The Expectations of Other People went bad a long time ago and is really stinking up the place.
Decide to fold Unconditional Love into every single recipe. Never run out! Keep it on the top of every list so you always have enough.
Follow the example set by Jesus always…He is always cooking up something GOOD.
Next, march all three containers used previously out your back door. Gently set down all three, and leave them outside to think about what they’ve done.
Now – this is important – turn off the oven. Nobody is burning on my new watch!
You are not alone, Chef Self.
So join a “cooking” club – one that is comprised of other Seekers with open hearts who want to get at the meat of the Truth, and offer you endless sugar.
Flip the script. Read the instructions anew.
Take one bowl – the most chipped and beat up one you got, and butter it with kindness.
Then invite all your friends over to help you create a masterpiece.
All you will need is:
8 cups HOPE – brimming. Five tbsp of self-forgiveness. A heaping scoop of Studying what the Cookbook Really Calls For – reading between the lines. A tbsp of of Learning to Love Yourself Too will hold it all together when you want to throw in the towel.
And last, but MOST importantly, add All the Jesus You Have, all day every day. All of it. Tip it over and smack the bottom of the box for every molecule of Jesus it’s got. Really pile it in on. Study his ways in the context given, and leave room for Holy Spirit in every dish.
Oh, and tell your friends that All the Jesus is just another measurement of LOVE. Get to know HIS way around the kitchen together.
These few ingredients are all you need, Junior Chef, to mix up a reconstruction of faith for the ages. And keep in mind:
If you feel like you have to keep Fear on hand “just in case,” know that God is not the store where you purchased Fear. That stuff is very in-organic.
If you’re grieving the losses of this hard life, pull up a chair and come sit by me. There is always plenty of room at Christ’s table. And mine. *Pulls out chair and pats the seat in a welcoming invitation.*
If you’re ambling around aimlesssly, your chef hat askew, join me. I’ll be celebrating that I finally understand, “It is for freedom you were set free.”
And if you’re deconstructing your faith, and If you’re being called “deceived,” “fallen” – or (and I’m okay with this one) – “ex-evangelical,” remind yourself that the Word of God is an actual person. As Master Chef, he wants to see you succeed.
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
“There are some secrets I will take to my grave.”
Have you ever said the statement above? I have. It is a sentiment that keeps sickness active and recovery stunted. Step Four helped us form an inventory and delve into the wrongs done to us and done by us to others. What to do with the indiscretions laid bare by the hardscrabble work of the fourth step?
Step Five is clear about taking action.
Words have power. What you speak from your mouth can change the trajectory of your healthy recovery, even change the world around you. Speak light and life over people, and their lives change. Speak darkness and it attracts darkness. Let’s not confuse admitting the exact nature of our wrongs to another human being as speaking darkness. To the contrary, as our searching and fearless moral inventories, they can be cleanly dealt with. It’s hard to see in the dark. But whatever the light touches is seen. And can be grasped to be fully put behind you.
Some items on our inventories might be harder to admit than others. Some may seem impossible to own before God, much less a sponsor or accountability partner. But our wrongs – our sins – stay powerful unless confessed to those we trust. Confessing them deflates them so that we can step over them and move forward.
The exact nature of our wrongs, taking responsibility for those things so shameful we vowed never to admit them on this side of the dirt. You really are only as sick as your secrets.
The problem with taking secrets to your grave is that it requires you to lead a grave-tender’s life to some degree. It forces you to spend your lifetime keeping something destructive underground, making sure it stays covered up. Part of you is always tending to that, protecting it. Digging it back up to make sure it is still there so that you can flog yourself with it’s shame, reburying it twice as deep. It’s a lot of work to keep secrets.
“You don’t know what I’ve done,” you might be saying.
And you’re right, I don’t. But I do know that – in order to live victoriously in recovery – you must not keep it to yourself. All the things you’ve done in active disease and otherwise are covered under the blood of Christ Jesus if you accept Him and His love.
You see, God already knows what you’ve done, and is crazy in love with you anyway. If you are in a 12 Step program, you already know people who are equipped to help you admit the exact nature of your wrongs.
“I’ve done bad things” doesn’t cut it when working Step Five. Share your heart with someone who is trustworthy and then burn or bury your past indiscretions in the place of the secrets that have required you to tend to your grave as you are in the living.
So that you can say “Grave? What grave?”
So that you can get on with this big, juicy life you’ve been given and ask “What’s next, Papa?”
“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!” – Romans 8:15-17 (MSG)
I have been reading “Mystical Union” by John Crowder. And it is wrecking me, absolutely wrecking me. If you are a Seeker, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Getting wrecked can be a good thing.
“It will turn everything you believe on its ear,” I was told by the person who suggested I read it. “In the best possible way.”
Oh, goody. Because everything I believe is all that I know. And I know so little, really.
The word “mystical” can be off-putting for Christians, although it shouldn’t be – you don’t get much more mystical that the Creator of the Universe becoming human to reconcile himself to his creation – Christianity 101. The whole thing is mystic to the core. Still, I am rattled by what I am reading.
Among the dozen or so ideas that have taken me aback – in the book I’m only half-way through with – is Crowder’s assertion that “God is never looking at your performance as the indicator of His pleasure toward you. So many people live on an emotional roller-coaster ride … ”
Raising hand, and wearing the promotional roller coaster T-shirt, nauseated from the marathon ride…
I am on a quest to lose my religion – religion being all the spin that man has put on relationship with God through the ages – and turn down the noise of it, so that I can hear what God is really saying.
That we cannot fathom how much he adores us, every one of us.
That He is always in a good mood, not temperamentally mood-shifting, like we are.
That He is only always good.
That He is less the stern-but-loving Father-figure that churches have historically made him out to be….assessing our accomplishments and shortcomings – and more of a laid-back, hippie-dippy, all-you-need-is-love (Christ), welcoming, tolerant Father – in a way that transcends all time, space, and reason.
(What if He isn’t even disappointed in me for comparing him to a hippie-dippy, all-you-need-is-love, welcoming, tolerant, Father and Creator who transcends all time, space, reason with pure, unrelenting love?)
I usually invite a challenge, especially the kind in which I can easily prove the challenger wrong. But this time, I know the Challenger Himself is Almighty God, and He is pulling me away from the idol of religion, and into Him. My weaponry of thin, papery religiousness powerless against His embrace of Truth.
He transcends all with pure, unrelenting love. He transcends the regulations, pontifications, rules – all the things we’ve made it about for more than 2,000 years. Surely he can transcend my own dirty deeds; my wonky quirks.
Maybe that’s what Jesus meant, when He uttered his last words, ” IT. IS. FINISHED.”
I don’t think I’ve ever grasped the finality of what happened at the crucifixion and resurrection of God. If it is finished, the residual guilt and shame I keep picking up and hauling around is not my cross to bear– as I’ve always believed. The grace I ask for and receive is not meant to counterbalance the heft of my shame. I do not receive grace by the bucket-full to douse the fire of each indiscretion – I am already drowning in it. So are you. The work of the cross was the catalyst for God to flood the world with grace.
Religion says that God swoops down and saves me from myself a thousand times a day, and that is what grace looks like. But the theology of Mystical Union says (and with scripture, I might add) that we believers were co-crucified with Christ and in one swoop. God reconciled us to Him….
We can stop trying to make perfection happen. Perfection is not going to happen.
It is finished, period. Mind blowing.
Sometimes being a Seeker gives me a headache.
Religion says we are responsible for aspects of our salvation – ergo, we can turn the volume up or down on our spiritual speaker, tweak the boom of the bass, turn down the treble, change the center with the fader of our deeds and actions.
But God cannot be moved from Center. He is the Center. He is undeterred by the noise we create.
Fundamental to this spiritual epiphany is the idea that we are not “sinners saved by grace,” which I have – over the years – convinced myself was my identity. After many years of sobriety and much prayer, that had been the only conclusion.
But what if the work of the cross – that event in which Creator God heaved toward humankind with such love and power that it knocked the evil in us to the ground and buried it with Christ – was powerful enough to resurrect us in glory with Christ, while leaving evil in the grave?
What if God only sees us through the lens of his living, life-giving Son, and not as sinners wearing toe-tags that say “Admit One – Heaven.” I am going to have eternal life, yes. But I don’t want to slog out my existence here during my mission on Earth, not understanding and appreciating what my birthright truly is. I want joy now too, please.
Hey, has anyone seen my “everything I thought I believed?”
Oh, there it is – on the ground. On it’s ‘ear’
Wreck me, God. Wreck me.
I’m after Truth. Help me to accept it, and to share it with others as I walk the journey. I’m ready to be fully, 100% set free.
Joe is a Christian who struggles to keep his blood pressure under control. Following his doctor’s advice and having the support of his family, he manages to healthy. He keeps encouraged by those who love him, and that makes all the difference.
Also a Christian, she is a survivor of breast cancer. She has suffered through a double mastectomy and many chemo treatments, and is currently in remission. She surrounds herself with people who love her to stay in a positive mindset, and has the admiration of the community for the brave fight she has waged.
Sam’s diabetes demands constant care. The dietary and medical choices he makes impact his life every day. Sam is very open with others about his condition, as he depends on their support and his own healthy choices to keep him going.
Joe, and Sarah, and Sam. They each battle a disease. Each need a place to rest, as rest is essential to wellness.
In this life, we will have trouble. If God’s own son was not spared suffering, we will surely not be either. Health challenges are simply a part of life.
Now meet Amy.
Amy is a follower of Jesus Christ who suffers from mental illness. Perhaps you know Amy – or someone like her. We all do.
Maybe she cuts herself. She might even have visual and auditory hallucinations.
Perhaps depression weighs her down, making even the most mundane survival tasks difficult.
She could have anxiety, the dreaded foot race between her worrisome thoughts and the beats of her heart.
She may have crippling compulsive behaviors, making her a social outcast.
Her moods may soar to the top of the stratosphere – beyond logical control – and then crash and splinter in too many pieces for her to put back together.
Her emotions may be too wild for her will to handle.
She might rage or isolate, with the same outcome: shame.
Amy is just as sick – but no sicker – than others with chronic diseases to be managed, but that makes some people feel uncomfortable. So she hides, even from her own church. She knows there are others who struggle with issues like hers, but she is wary to share her story with them.
She depends on Christ to help her through each day, but desperately needs other Christ followers to walk with her.
Christians struggle with mental illness, too.
A brain that does not regulate serotonin levels is – spiritually speaking – no different from a pancreas that does not regulate insulin. The biological propensity toward addiction and alcoholism should carry no more stigma than having genes that could carry cancer.
High blood pressure can be managed and so can mental health. And having a mental illness has nothing to do with having a relationship with Christ because that relationship is simply, not “all in one’s head.” It is all in one’s heart.
The church is the first place that the mentally ill should seek to stay encouraged, become surrounded with love, and depend on the support of one another.
To bear our own crosses while we help others keep from collapsing under the weight of their own.
To manage the pain of life and all the challenges it doles out.
To combat the stigma of mental illness, and nurture the brave ones coping with it every day.
To stay encouraged by those who love us, which makes all the difference. To have a safe place to find rest.
Joe, and Sarah, and Sam. They each battle a disease. And so does Amy.
It takes a village to build one another up, yes – but it also takes a church.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus. (Matthew 11:28, NIV)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – Jesus. (John 16:33, NIV)
Could be titled “Prayer in the desert” … Could be titled “VEGAS, BABY!”
A friend of mine, who happens to be a writer I admire very much,
asked me to guest blog. When I was trying to figure out what to write, I struggled a bit. He suggested that ‘prayer’ might be a good subject. I told him that I’m having a bit of a (as Christians are disposed to saying) Walking in the Desert prayer spell right now. Then I prayed about it a bit. Then I remembered a trip to Vegas. And then I wrote. The result is attached below.
Thanks, Chris Canuel, for the opportunity to guest write for your awesome blog.
And it came to pass that she did not think of Munchos *every hour of every day, and her spirit learned to recognize that chocolate was – in fact – not necessarily the only means of spirit-soothing. And in that day, she did no more dread Romaine instead of Big Mac, but did so feel slightly feel slightly less like Jabba the Hut when dressing in the morning, as her pants did not cutteth her in half.
* But only every other hour
Today is Day 8 of “clean eating,” and the truth is that I do feel better. I am supposed to do 30 days, which – in theory – helps reboot my mindset about food.
Although my body feels better, the psychological effects come in lurches. For example, last night – in a fit of seemingly random stress – I announced to my husband that I could eat a whole bag of chips all by myself at that very moment; that I wouldn’t even share with him.
“And,” I said, for dramatic effect. “I would lick the greasy, salty remnants out of the empty bag, after I ate it all myself!”
I really could have done that, but instead I just bitched about not being able to, and the urge passed. My husband, knowing my penchant for both bitching and the dramatic, just listened and lets it pass. He is so much saner than I.
For the hundredth time in the past week, the parallels between this 30-day program and my sobriety came to light. In a stressful moment, I wish I could obliterate. In reaction, I do one of two things:
A) The healthy choice: Dig out my recovery tools – affirmations, prayer, mindfulness, admittance of powerlessness, and ask God for help. Examine why I desire to obliterate.
B) The less-than-healthy choice: Gripe about why I cannot handle food, alcohol (it keeps going….fill-in-the-blank) with said substance like a regular, “normal” person, until the craving passes. And then examine why I desire to obliterate.
I am working on making choice “A” my default, but working is the operative word here.
Progress, not perfection.
I am also working on acknowledging the results of my eating regimen. Fussing about having to do something does not cancel out the effects of following through and not doing it. Successes still count, even if my attitude isn’t so peachy.
Instead of focusing on my Munchos/chocolate dietary deficit, I am going to give thanks that my (fat) pants fit! I will give myself props for fighting the good fight, and embracing the Romaine (figuratively, not literally. That would just be really weird.)
And ask God to soothe my spirit when I am stressed, on Day 8, Day 30, and for a lifetime; to help my mind stay “re-booted.”
And in that day ….
She shall enjoy the occasional chocolate as a treat and not a staple, and she shall rejoice in God’s bountiful creation of the components of the Hershey bar, and useth moderation in imbibing in the works of thine hand.
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 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.
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.
The office was silent, except for the gentle clicking of keys and an occasional throat clearing. I took a bite of the carrot I’d brought for a snack.
CRRHHRUNCH. The sound echoed through the open space filled with short-walled cubicles. I had no choice but to finish chewing, each bite resonating.
“This is one crunchy-ass carrot,” I said awkwardly, without thinking – and to no-one in particular.
And then I felt guilty. The whole office knows I’m a Christian, and Christians don’t curse, right? Real Christians don’t.
It’s difficult to exist in a work environment 40 hours per week without saying a naughty word. And….is “ass” a naughty word? Any fourth-grader can tell you that the words “ass” and “hell” are in the Bible. I suppose it depends on the context, since carrots don’t have asses, per se.
I’m a wordsmith. Sometimes, when I weave words, a strand of metallic thread makes its way into the fabric of a story. It can get pretty shiny, what with all those threads.
Sometimes, it is just pure laziness when I resort to the four-letter-genre. The societal standard for what constitutes a curse word is always changing.
Curse words are fuzzy territory to me, as a Christian – I know they shouldn’t be fuzzy. We aren’t supposed to say offensive words, period. But what is offensive, and to whom? The Bible also warns against saying, “by heaven or earth….,” but every translation of this verse is slightly different.
I have a slightly salty tounge, which I try to tame on occasion. Hey, I’m working on it.
Once, while trying to reign in my language, I tried substitute a particularly virulent word (said mostly in frustrating situations) with “mercy.” For a two-week period, I refrained from said Big Daddy Curse Word, and instead, said “mercy. …until my husband remarked that I sounded a lot like his aunt, whose most favorite word in the universe is “mercy.” This aunt is a lovely Christian woman, 80 years old, and I’m sure she has never said either “ass” or “hell,” even in passing, unless reading scripture. (If “by heaven and earth” is not biblically acceptable, what about “mercy?” I mean, if we are going to be legalistic.)
But I am not a lovely 80-year old Christian. I am a 40-something recovering alcoholic with three daughters, a full-time job, a passion for Jesus and recovery, a red-headed temper, and an occasionally salty tongue.
All of this wondering about potty words reminded me of a post I’d read by favorite blogger, Jon Acuff, about the subject. He is much more astute in his observations (and much funnier, I might add.)
“Christians occasionally swear. They don’t do it a lot. I’m not talking about thirty-second tirades laced with profanity. I just mean that every few days they’ll say a swear in the middle of a conversation. Why do we do it? I think we want you to know that we know those words exist. We want you to be aware that we are aware they are out there and we know what they mean. Plus, everyone knows that swears are nineteen times more powerful coming out of the mouth of a Christian. That’s a scientific fact right there. If you’re a nonbeliever and swear a ton, it’s just not that big of a deal. If you’re a Christian though and you swear, birds fall out of the sky. Trees shake to their roots. Magma gets fourteen degrees cooler under the crust of the Earth. Wielding that kind of power is too tempting to ignore.”
“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)
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.
“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.
A man walks out of a bar. The establishment has been his “safe place” for years. He knows the owners and they keep a seat waiting for him on the end, where the bartender can lean in to listen when he talks without knocking over the high-ball glasses. They know his story and keep pouring, and those two things have always made him feel understood. Loved. He went to the bar every day because he wanted to be cared about and he wanted to just be left alone. Drinking is a funny thing – it makes both seem possible simultaneously.
He was incredibly brave, he thought, to work so hard and provide for his family, to deal with all the drama and dealings of life. Wasn’t he due this time? Didn’t he have it coming to him?
Until very recently, when it became obvious that his safe place was a dangerous place, he thought he would keep drinking. As his wife was leaving for the last time, and he had not been willing to follow her. He had not been willing to ask for help. The path to help was a rocky, treacherous road. The way to the bar was paved with familiarity.
As he slowly became more lost, lost, lost, it became increasingly clear that pouring did not equal understanding; that having someone lean into you and listen did not always equal love. Over the years, he chose this seat over relationships, over passions. Everybody knew his name here, but not a single soul knew his heart.
He is sick, in mind, body and in spirit.
He doesn’t know how to stop. How do you stop? Someone somewhere has to know how.
There must be magic pill to stop the drinking, and there was. There were lots of pills, all supposed to make him better, but they only made him worse in time. Perhaps he needed another diversion? A few days without drinking made possible by strange women and dirty, secret deeds. And then drinking again. What about sheer willpower? Alone, in his room, shaking and sorry, he had no one but himself for company. Nothing is working. He asks God for help, if God is real….if he exists at all.
“Love me and leave me alone,” he wanted to tell God. But instead, he searched for a support meeting nearby. Because, at the end of himself, he had no other choice.
Before the first meeting, he sat in his car, debating with himself about going in at all. Because the rooms are full of “those people” and once you walk in, you are one of them…no turning back. But he knew that he already was.
He thought of the bar, but he made another choice. And stepped into a new place.
Inside the building, worship music filled the space. He filed past others – men, women of all ages, all races. The stereotype represented was very specific: The Human Race. As he took his seat and the speaker began to share her experience with substance abuse and recovery, he leaned in.
I am lost, lost, lost, he said in his spirit.
In that most-alone place, God made his presence known.
There were relationships among hurting people in those rooms. There was a passion for living. He took small glances around the room as the meeting wrapped up. Over cups of coffee, there were tears, but laughter, too. There was palpable joy, something he’d forgotten existed.
And nobody knew his name. Nobody knew it until the men gathered alone for small group.. There, in a small circle, he shared his name. He told a little of his story, when it was his turn.
At the end of the meeting, all of the others knew why he was there, and why he didn’t want to be there anymore. And no-one turned away from him. His eyes met with love.
There was a pouring-out of himself and all of his drama and dealings, and he filled up that space with hope for a future, because here, “those people” have one – a future.
The God he had doubted helped him to stop drinking when he couldn’t do it himself, and gave him people who loved his heart when he was at the end of himself. He had been incredibly brave to walk through the door. He was due this time, he had it coming – this life raft. This safe place.
Keep coming back, they said. Your seat will be waiting for you.
A man walks out of a bar……and into a meeting. He keeps coming to meetings because he feels cared about there, and he knows he cannot be left alone to his own devices. The road he is on – to recovering his life – is well-worn by others.
It is paved by hope.
“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.- Alcoholics Anonymous
I’ve always thought that masquerade balls are a little bit silly. The masks – small and papery – neither really obscure the identity of the wearer in full, nor allow for identification in full. They are ornate but flimsy man-made things, and all the glitter and paint in the world cannot make them anything but.
Of course, it is possible to masquerade in a more virtual manner. We humans hold up all kinds of masks to impress and mislead one another. The idea is to project our sameness to everyone else while protecting our tender faces. Sometimes we think that the glitzier our visage, the more we are fooling the world.
Christians, especially, are known for wearing masks.
But we are not fooling God. We are not even fooling each other. Hidden identities are false identities.
Life is not a masquerade ball, meant to be waltzed stranger-to stranger, emotionless. But a wild movement of fellowship meant to be danced barefoot in the dust that Jesus kicked up when He walked the earth. Barefaced and real, with the tears, smiles, sorrows and joys in full view of one another, and our God.
What of our ornately crafted masks worn to protect our identities? If we remove them, people might see the mess. People might see the pain.
But they might also see the Jesus.
God never made us with that purpose in mind. Jesus had big problems with mask-wearers. “Take them down,” He said in effect. “You are not fooling anyone.” The Apostle Paul – himself a believer in a kind of recovery for mask-wearing – wrote:
“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original..” Galations 5:25 – 26 (the Message)
Our identities are God-given, not flimsy, man-made things. Don’t cover yours with same-ness paint. Take down the mask of glitter and glitz. I see that your tender face is full of tears and smiles, sorrows and joys – emotion-full. It looks real and raw and beautiful like God intended.
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.
MMMmmmm, Christmastime. The music is lovely, the parties are grand. The food? Well, it’s almost divine.
As a recovering alcoholic, I save a lot of calories by not drinking (sick thought #1) but I make up for it by taking part in food festivities. Savory dips piled high on crackers, sugary cookies and cakes. If it arrives in a crock pot, it’s simmering on borrowed time. Anything with a cream-cheese base? Yes, please!
The problem is – if I’m honest – is that I need to admit a little secret: making food a centerpiece in my life is not just a holiday phenomenon. And I have the pounds to prove it.
I worry about my issues with food because I see a pattern emerging. A few weeks ago, I cleaned out my closet, and within moments I found the first Hershey bar. I had hidden it in an otherwise empty shoebox, a single candy under tissue paper. Working my way under some random papers stacked on a closet shelf, I found another Hershey bar and at the bottom of the stack? Another one., and another. The last one was under an old Pittsburgh Steelers blanket behind some more boxes.
I have had issues with food all my life. From hating to eat as a child, becoming a full-on “foodie” as an adult. When I went through a painful divorce several years ago, I lived on Diet Coke and cigarettes, losing 80 pounds. To be truthful, it felt pretty good to have some measure of control over something going on. The cycle has repeated over and over: starving myself for a little while because I don’t like what I see, bingeing to fill up and comfort. It was the kind of hidden behavior that I just didn’t want to “discuss” with myself (also known as “denial) But now – here in a tangible intervention, was evidence bold on brown wrappers: H.E.R.S.H.E.Y.
All told, there were 11 chocolate bars hidden in strange places in my closet.There is a big difference between using food as a treat and an anesthetic. I am very emotional about food (and dern near everything else) but usually not to the point of crying. This time, there were tears.
The candy had been stashed individually over the course of months, because chocolate is my comfort food and having three young adult daughters, someone is ALWAYS PMS’ing at my house, looking for this anesthetic for the symptoms. So I hide it. Because when I am jonesing for chocolate, I am really jonesing for chocolate, you know? I am the mother in this house and don’t I deserve chocolate for putting up with everyone? I can quit any time I want! I’ll quit for the New Year and get in shape…you’ll see! What’s the big deal?
See? Emotional. Hershey bars should not be that powerful of an emotional trigger. Also, while I’m being real here, hoarding food is a related compulsion I struggle with. But that is a blog post for another day.
Do I remember hiding the chocolate? Not really. It is something I did kind of automatically. Go to the store for milk and eggs, pick up an extra chocolate to hide. When I get especially stressed out, I go buy more chocolate at the store and sooth myself the Hershey Way and it seems harmless enough. Except like some people can’t “just eat one” potato chip, I almost never “just eat one” chocolate bar. Here’s the secret: The second bar I like to enjoy in private – and that’s really embarrassing to admit. Sometimes it is more than two. I’m ashamed, even for my husband to know. Why does all this seem SO familiar?
Right before I got sober, I was terribly sick. The first glass of wine, I would drink in front of other people, but the second….seventh…..tenth? I “enjoyed” those alone, ashamed. I had boxes of wine stashed in secret places all over the house, because there was never enough. What if I ran out? Dang it, I am an adult and it’s just WINE for Pete’s sake, and don’t I deserve a little something for putting up with everyone? I can quit any time I want! I’ll quit for the New Year and stay sober, you’ll see! What’s the big deal?
The big deal was that I’d forgotten that the void requiring filling was not shaped like a bottle or box of Chardonnay. The hole is not shaped like a Hershey bar. It is a God-shaped place that, in times of stress and need and worry and peace, can only be filled by Christ. It’s not “just a treat” if you are tormented by it.
Run first to Him, and away from things done in secret. There is no shame in Him; no room for condemnation. Love conquers sick thoughts #’s one through one-billiion. Love fills up the void, and I know that already. That’s the thing about life on this planet: I will struggle with SOMETHING until the undertaker is throwing dirt in my face. You will too. But oh, the grace that God offers us strugglers!
That – the sweetest of things – I don’t need to hoard or hide. It flows constantly and with such force that it spills over into other spaces and can’t be contained. Kind of like my belly over the waistband of my jeans right now. (Hey, it’s important to keep a sense of humor!)
Jesus as the centerpiece of my life, First. Jesus consulted before food or drink or even friends – renewable comfort, available. I just have to ask for it.
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.
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.
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.
I never really got to know my father. He was disinterested in me when I was born. As a very small girl, I remember jumping and dancing and shouting for him, wanting him to pick me up.
Look at me!
I can still see him now, coolly smoking a cigarette looking through me. How do I get my Daddy’s attention? Little girls crave that attention. They feel deficient if they cannot obtain it.
Then, I had a step-father. When he came into my life I was five years old. I was both jealous of his attention for my mother and hopeful that he might show some for me. I became his adopted child, losing my identity as the daughter of one disinterested. But that didn’t really make me a beloved daughter. There are worse things than parental indifference, I would find out. There could be malevolence and maltreatment.
Years after the damage had been done, God healed my heart. He is still healing my heart. I trust Him daily, but it is an ongoing process to give up the hurt.
For years, I tried to fill up instead of give up. Fill up that space with attention from men. Fill up shame with alcohol. Fill up neediness with accolades. Fill up deficiency with a pouring into various meaningless pursuits. It’s a lot harder to give up expectations and surrender wholly. Giving up pain requires a kind of filling up faith…and trust.
It is said that we model our idea of who God is by our experience with our earthly fathers, and that is true, because we have no other measure to go by. But then, what is a father? My maternal grandfather was a loving influence on my life, and my husband shows me what the most noble human fathering looks like in the way he cares for his daughter (and my daughters, too). But for the most accurate picture, I have to go to the Bible instead of looking to personal experience:
A father doesn’t ignore the needs of his child; he provides more than enough for her.
“Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.” – 1 Timothy 6:17
A father isn’t irritated by the presence of his daughter, but delights in her with pride.
“Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in.” – 1 Peter 4:3-6
A father doesn’t betray his daughter’s trust, but honors it.
“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plansto take care of you, not abandon you, plansto give you the future you hope for.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (MSG)
A father doesn’t abuse and neglect his girl, but protects her from harm.
“Every promise of God proves true; he protects everyone who runs to him for help.” – Proverbs 30:5-6 (MSG)
A father is not detached, but involved.
“What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.” – Matthew 10:29-30 (MSG)
A Father is not waiting to reject his child, but welcomes her with open arms regardless of her deeds.
“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish!” – Ephesians 2:8-9 (MSG)
So, how do I get my Father’s attention? That pure adoration that little girls crave from their Fathers? I don’t have to jump and dance and shout Look at me! He is already looking, already getting a kick out me….just because I’m His kid.
In the spiritual realm, he is my Daddy by adoption because His son grafted me into his family. He is my Creator, the one who used love to make me family.
Getting to know God for The Perfect Father is an adventure in loving and being loved. I wish I could say that I don’t ever struggle with abandonment, rejection or trust issues, but that wouldn’t be true. I am learning to accept that My True Father loves me even though sometimes I misbehave. He is teaching me to accept that he forgives me, even when it is difficult for me to forgive myself. And He doesn’t instruct me with the iron fist or shaming ways of the fathers I have known on Earth, but with the gentlest correction reminding me to focus on His grace instead.
Maybe so many of us women are attention-seekers because we’re designed to be. Perhaps we are created that way in order to seek our Father’s love. To give up on being perfect to earn a Father’s love, in order to fill up on the love of a Perfect Father.
To be Daddy’s Girls in the purest sense…not so much “full of ourselves”, but FULL of our Father.
Today, I reminded about showing compassion to those who may not “deserve” it. I made a dumb mistake, you see.
It’s the blisters that are reminding me. Or maybe the skin on my nose and shoulders that has turned the deep crimson hue of a good Merlot. I have a bad sunburn, and all I want to do for the moment is wrap up in soft sheets and whine about the pain. Maybe even moan a little. And eat chocolate.
What… You never heard that chocolate has healing properties?
I am nearly forty-four years of age. I know better. I’ve been a fair-skinned red-head all of my life, and this is not the first time I’ve been severely sunburned.
The other day, my Beloved and I took a day-trip to the beach and we only intended to stay for an hour or two.
But as if by some act of divine mercy, we found a spot on the shore that was nearly deserted (by at least twenty feet on either side) and the sky was a wide blue with nary a cloud to block the glorious rays of the sun! A breeze from the ocean blew gently and cool (but warm for October) against us, making us forget that…hey, there are no clouds to block the sun.
We had even remembered to put up the beach umbrella!
Not that we stayed under it for very long.
When we did get warm-ish sitting under the wide blue sky, we walked down to the water – holding hands. And although the ocean was a bit chilly at first, the initial “yikes!” gave way to a cooling ahhhhhhh until we were neck deep and free-floating.
On an October day, no less!
We swam until we were tired and then walked back to the beach chairs in the sun, enjoying the sensation of water evaporating off of our skin. Conversation, laughter, sunshine, water. And then again. And then again.
Until we – satiated and out of cold beverages – headed home.
And then, over the next few hours, our bodies turning burgundy, thought “Hmmm. Maybe we should have used sunblock.” We did think about it a few times.
But it’s OCTOBER, my mind protested stubbornly. As if one cannot possibly get sunburned in the fall, the way one cannot possibly wear white after Labor Day. My mind, which felt increasingly like an egg fried underneath my crimson scalp relented. Excuses, excuses…and then a painful consequence. And now the moaning.
You did this to yourself.
Wandering through Wal-Mart later on a quest for aloe lotion, I see the stares from people thinking, Well, she should know better. Or worse…..Tourist!
Judging is easy….the smug realization that whatever painful, blistering circumstance a person might be in – they brought it on themselves. I’m getting better at not judging, but sometimes it’s still a challenge. Because when we see homelessness, addiction, a pregnant teenager or even celebrities who struggle with consequences – sometimes our first thoughts are not of compassion:
You know, that could have been avoided.
Don’t you know better?
That was a dumb mistake.
And while all of these things are possibly true, the resulting pain is still pitiful. God may shake his head with frustration over us – the stubborn ones – but he still gathers us up in soft sheets of compassion. He expects us – as if by His divine mercy – to do the same. Even when one’s mistake is out there for all the world to see. No excuses necessary….just love.