Living and Dying with the Addict

Once again the media has exploded with the disturbing story of a sports figure and celebrity who has been overtaken by their addictions. The arrows of blame are flying at everyone whoever came into this person’s life as he too is blamed for being a weak person. And as the arrows of shame fly, so does the misunderstanding of what it is like to watch someone who is slowly killing themselves and the painful decisions that their loved ones must make if they hope to survive and keep on living.

The Lamar Odom saga is one that many of us live outside of the spotlight. We do it in our own circles and often without sharing our drama with those closest to us. These past few days I feel as if my healing scar has been ripped open again as I remember the frustration that I could not save my husband from his demons. Like Odom, he suffered a horrific childhood of abuse and at an early age was introduced to self-medication for his pain by his foster family and doctors. My husband, Dan, would live his life in and out of treatment programs, praying for relief. Unfortunately, he also suffered from bipolar disorder and even when he was clean and sober, he felt he was going crazy. He did things that made absolutely no sense to anyone—including him.

People would say to me all the time—if only he had Jesus he would change. If only he would commit to a program he would be ok. If only you were tougher on him. If only you weren’t so hard on him. If only…

You see friends, those of us living with the addict and mentally ill, we do all those things. We cry ourselves to sleep praying that God will deliver them. We become hopeful when they fall on their knees and accept the Lord into their lives. We celebrate when they agree to enter a long-term treatment program. We watch them count the days of sobriety and we think, “This is it.” We all do all that we can and yet sometimes the demon inside wins the battle here.

And sometimes, we let go and let God take over.

Letting go and watching what happens outside the protective boundaries of our homes can be almost as unbearable as struggling with them inside where no one sees the battle. This is when our faith is tested as we see them rise above only to slip away. AA talks about those who may never fully come clean and how we need to keep them in our prayers. Often those prayers are for deliverance—a deliverance that may only come with death. And that’s when the blame game really kicks into gear, as we see it being played out in social media today.

You see I lived this for many years. My husband lost his battle. I made tough decisions to protect myself and my daughter that few understood. We too had a legal separation that I sat on for several years hoping that I would never have to file the final papers. When Dan was hit by a car and left with severe brain damage, I had to go ahead and finalize our divorce so that he could receive long-term care. That didn’t mean it was over for me though. He was still my husband despite what some legal document declared. We still visited him in the nursing home. I was still his emergency contact. And when he died, I was still the wife that arranged for his funeral and led the family to say goodbye.

There were those in my family and in the recovery community that didn’t understand how I was still in the picture after all those years and after finalizing our divorce. Why hadn’t I walked away and pretended it never happened? Even at his funeral, my brother went around asking people why they were there for such a loser, a liar, a thief, and drug addict that had caused so much pain. You see, that is the gift of grace and mercy that my faith brought me. Many of us loved Dan and could see beyond the actions his drugs and mental illness led him to take. We could see the same man that God saw. We could weep, as I’m sure God did, at Dan’s pain and torment. We could love the man that was made in God’s image and who despite his deepest beliefs in that same God, just fell short. We could see our own imperfection and still love ourselves because we were willing to love Dan as Jesus loved the sick and mentally ill.

So as this story unfolds in the press, let us stop criticizing a woman who made choices to protect herself while still loving her husband. Let us pray for the family and friends who gather around a man they love for who they know he is. Let us pray for the man who hurt so much he could never find peace. And then let us open our eyes and our hearts to our own families and friends who are walking this same walk in everyday life. Let us reach out in understanding and compassion as their hearts are torn apart because their lives are being lived out in front of them, even if they suffer in silence. And let us keep trying to help the helpless and lost, just as Jesus did when he walked the streets.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen.

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The Darkness of Singleness

Living alone often can amplify the negative voices in our head because we have no one to counter them. Our feelings of discouragement, sadness, or incompleteness may overcome us at times. Being honest about our struggles isn’t always easy, especially if we already feel alone and unwanted. It may be difficult to believe that we are capable of change or that our lives will improve. We may be afraid to admit  to someone else what is going on because we fear judgement, when in reality; the people around us already know something isn’t quite right.  They may not know how to tell us, or they have tried to tell us and we couldn’t get what they were saying. We thought—you don’t know how lonely I am, you don’t know what it is like to not have that special person, you don’t know….fill in the blank. Continue reading

Holding onto the First Stone

Social media has increasingly been lit up with negative comments, finger-pointing, and divisive language over our ever-changing culture. We sit in wait for those with whom we disagree to slip up—no we wait in joyful anticipation for them to fall off the cliff. We are quick to call out the sins and errors of our opponents or of those whose world view differs from ours. We are ready to stone and destroy anyone who threatens our sense of what is morally right. I have been amazed at the sheer volume of glee exhibited in the face of bad behavior or failure. I am talking predominately about celebrities and politicians over whom we happily celebrate their public humiliation. But we also wait to see colleagues, ex-friends and lovers, family, and even churches to which we once belonged tumble. Somehow it makes us feel better to point out the error in their ways. I think the negative postings are showing our own hearts and an overwhelming desire to be more right rather than to understand what has happened and to talk about what we want for ourselves and society.

There is a wonderful story about a woman brought to Jesus at the end of the Feast of the Tabernacles.  The woman, likely a married woman, was found in the bed of a married man who was not her husband. The church leaders bring her to Jesus to stone her according to the Law of Moses, although in reality it is to set a trap to see if Jesus will agree to stone her or let her go. What he does instead puts the decision back on her accusers by saying: “If any of you are without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Of course they all drop their rocks leaving the woman behind to go free and change from how she is living her life. We too need to drop our rocks.

It saddens me when a politician, of any party, messes up. It is an awful day for all of us when someone we entrusted to make good decisions for our country is found to be an adulterer, a molester, a thief, or reckless in some other way. It doesn’t matter which side of political fence you are on—this is bad for all of us. But the truth is: we are not without sin. Maybe not their sin, but we have our own. Before we gleefully celebrate the fall of a man or woman in power, let’s pray that God will deal with their behavior and pray for their recovery. And let us take time to ask God to show us our own failings that we too might change. Let’s be hurt and disappointed as well as compassionate instead of  flooding Facebook or Twitter with comments pointing out how they have, expectedly, fallen so far down. Put the stone down.

Maybe you are upset about changes in laws regarding same-sex relationships. Maybe you are angry about a former athlete who has made dramatic changes in his life to live in a way that goes against everything you believe. You may be angry that your belief system is being circumvented. You may hate what you believe to be a sinful nature. However, are you looking past all the rhetoric to see the people involved here? Regardless of what you believe, can you not see the hurt in these people and pray that they will find peace and joy from the inside out?  I am not asking you to walk away from your religious beliefs, I am asking you to look at them with love and kindness. You know, Jesus walked among the sinners. He stopped and talked to them about themselves. He knew already knew about them but he still listened to their stories. He compassionately talked to them about their behaviors and encouraged them to accept a new way of life. Maybe if we take time to listen and to better know each other, we can get beyond our hateful behavior and grow in God’s community together. Maybe we can stop making fun of people and start seeing who God sees and love as he told us to love. Maybe we can see God in them and love them too. Maybe we can drop the rock and see the person inside—a person made in God’s image.

When the celebrities we idolize for their good looks, their money, and their success fall into drunkenness, drug abuse, or marital woes, could we not laugh and celebrate their private failure gone public? Could we first stop idolizing them as earthly gods and see them as people just like us who are going through a painful time? Could we remember that as a part of humanity we all have the potential to find ourselves in the same sorrowful situation? Rather than flooding social media with all the articles about these public failures, maybe we should first look at our own lives and areas in our relationships that need improvement. Maybe we can ask God to show us if we are heading down a slippery slope that might end in addiction or divorce so that we can change the progression down our own path of self-destruction. In today’s world of social media we begin to think that these celebrities are people we actually know. Rather than focus on them, how about we look around and see if there is someone close to us that we can help. Is there someone you see suffering some form of addiction? Do you know of someone in a troubled relationship? How can God use you to help them? Can you put down the stone we throw to hide our own shortcomings and work for personal improvement? Take the stone they are carrying and help them.

These are but a few examples of the way we react to adversity today. If we go back to the story of the sinful woman we hear Jesus say that he is the light of world sent to bring light into our moral darkness. HE brings the light—it is not our responsibility to be about casting stones. I am not suggesting that anyone abandon their faith-led beliefs or worldviews. What I am suggesting is that we step down from the roles of judge and jury and we step into a world of discussion and clarity. Anyone who wants to change the mind of another must first understand the heart of the other and share their perspective in a loving way. So yes, put down the rock. Drop the name calling. Stop crucifying those who you believe live in sin or who may be in trouble because of their life choice. Stop making fun of people who live in a way you just can’t wrap your head around and ask them to help you understand. Stop looking and waiting for someone else’s missteps and look at your own vulnerabilities and behavior. Then you can begin to talk about what is going on in the world around you without animosity. Take the time to look into the eyes of those on the other side. See their heart. Reach a hand across the table and as you hear their story, share your story. Let God take care of what God needs to take care of. Become a real lover of man.

Drop the Rock.

Beyond our Past

It is easy to get stuck in the past and to carry the heavy load of our hurts, our failures, and our struggles with us into the new day. They can become like old familiar friends that, in our minds, define who we are and how we live. We can even become dependent on these burdens we carry to see us through. Some become our addictions and our excuses for not moving forward. I can’t lose weight. Drinking makes me feel better. You don’t know what happened to me. No one understands what I have been through and why my life is so hard.

Have you said those things? Are these the things that are keeping you from experiencing joy today? Are you afraid of what your life might look like if you don’t’ have those friends with you anymore?

Did you know that you are God’s masterpiece? I used to scoff at that notion given my lifestyle. But Paul said that all of us screw up at some point in our lives and God still wants us in his life and he wants to give us a fresh start that will allow us to live lives of purposes. (Ephesians 2: 1-10) Even as God is calling us to walk with him and to change; we must be seeking him to escape from our past (Laminations 3). He is there, waiting for us to build a life-long relationship with him, one in which we will receive his gift of love and forgiveness and new empowerment to change. We can find our true selves in God’s love.

I do believe that a relationship with God, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit is the “silver bullet” to healing. I know from personal experience that I needed the help of a gifted treatment program and gifted counselors to make the breakthroughs in my transformation. I also know that it was not until I was willing to see God smack dab in the middle of my life, that I found healing. I know that he wants a renewed life for me to live. I know that he has plans for my life. I know that I have purpose in sharing what he has done in my life. I know that I am no longer alone or abandoned—my relationship with Jesus brings me a sense of belonging and wholeness I never found in any man or woman.

What is keeping you stuck where you are today? What is keeping you from feeling joy? What first step can you take today that will bring you out of your pain and start you on a path of purpose? What is keeping you from saying, “yes” to freedom and new life? What is stopping you from first asking God to walk with you?

“You turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.” Psalm 30 New Living Translation

Painting by: https://donnalynyates.wordpress.com/