When a Recovering Addict Mourns

It is morning, but it is dark.
Dark in the sense that everything is just not how it is supposed to be.
Dark, so dark, that I strain to see sense, but there is no sense to see.
This dark weighs like a thousand pound cloud that thunders, waiting to release the torrential rain.
How did it come to this?

Dutifully going through the motions, I slip on my suit coat.
Black. Black as dark as black can be. I feel wound & bound as I enter this day.
Just five months ago he came to the house. I recognized his hesitancy and his lack of admission right away because I had been there myself.
Not that I know it all or have the answers and can say I am free, because, in reality, we are never really free – never free enough to not be concerned.

We all walk a tenuous, tightrope of recovery.

The light begins as a pinhole stream, as hope is recognized and love is allowed in. Gaining steadiness in my walk I can say the brightness of the light grows with each day that I keep my back turned away from the lures that promise things that are not true.

Emotions are hard.
They trigger desires and thoughts to run and hide in the dark spaces and places.

Standing tall I breathe big and my hand slips into my suit coat pocket and feels a single, soft tissue. This suit was borrowed by him who came to the house five months ago. He wore it to his friends funeral. Yes… this was his tissue with his tears dried on it from just a few weeks ago. And now, here I stand, wearing the same suit, needing a tissue of my own. I pull it out and let the soft crumbled mass sit cradled in my hand like a treasure; the treasure of a friendship now lost.

Death is so very dark.
Why couldn’t I have helped him better to see the light more clearly?
Emotions; damn emotions!
Begging, they seductively whisper to me…
the darkness that thunders with the weight of rain, beckons.
That tenuous, tightrope is before me. Can I still walk it?

I am paralyzed in the moment.

Without any more hesitation, I carefully place the crumpled tissue back into my pocket. And my heart weeps a message: Dear friend, I will miss you. I am sorry I couldn’t change your mind.

And so, I step out and balance my footing…
Sober. Yes, sober, I decide on it.
And I leave the dark rumble behind me.

***

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My son was just barely five months clean in recovery when one of his good friends died of an overdose via a medicine laced with fentanyl. He was crushed. He wept and stuffed that crumpled tissue into his suit coat pocket.

Just about six weeks later, it was my son who died of an overdose involving fentanyl.

I cannot help but think about the impact that drug related deaths have on those who are in recovery; I imagine it frays the end of the tightrope.

Emotions are hard. Death by drugs is a slap of reality across the face that forces a hard look at mortality and threatens the recovering addicts ability to keep walking that tenuous tight rope.

As my son’s friends in recovery came to his memorial service, they wept and were crushed too.  My heart feared for each one of them.

For real, just weeks later, I watched these same friends weep over another friend who died of an overdose; It was horribly overwhelming. What bold resolve it takes to keep on going forward in recovery when friends are dying all around them.

How can we help?  We can help by being purposeful in our love and support for those  who struggle every day to keep sober and clean. Acknowledge their strength and resiliency to keep going when fear rises up and they doubt their next day will be successful. Keep reaching out and hoping and be there when they need you.

Most of all, pray.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Addiction Sin?

This was the one question asked of me while I spoke to the high school students at the Granville Village School; my topic: Addiction Juxtaposed with a Christian World View.

Is addiction sin?

I believe the short answer to that is, “NO.” Addiction, in and of itself, is not sin because addiction is a chronic illness.

The longer answer involves a bad choice tried and then repeated, that can be triggered by emotional states & mental illness, which messes with natural dopamine levels, and can be exacerbated by genetic predisposition… all leading to chemical and /or emotional dependency. That’s my take on it all.

The truth is, we all make bad choices from time to time and they usually follow a similar pattern of pre-meditation.

I am young and I stayed up too late, I am wicked tired, and I have an early class…so I decide to start drinking coffee like my dad…or a Monster energy drink like my older sister.  This week it is one caffeinated drink, next week it is three, and now I  need one everyday to function. This is an addiction to caffeine. Lack of self-control, to get the sleep that is needed, is the sin.

I am overweight and I need to stick to my diet, but I had a really stressful day…so I reach for the bucket of ice cream and I eat the whole container. Today it is ice cream, tomorrow it is second helpings, and next week it will be a bag of chips. This is an addiction to foods as a comforter. Lack of self control, leading to moments of gluttony, is the sin.

I am super anxious and I need to calm down so I can focus…so I decide to drink a couple of beers and try smoking a joint that my friend offers me. Tonight that worked well, so I try it again the next night, and the next night, and most every night; in fact, I think chillin’ like this is the way to go for a good night sleep! This is an addiction to substances.  Lack of trust in God*, to absorb the anxiety, is the sin.

Caffeine, sugar, alcohol … or whatever the substance used (especially those that fuel the current drug epidemic), once we take part and repeat the partaking, our brains are  altered chemically and/or emotionally, and we set ourselves up for potential addiction.  When people attempt to abstain consistently from these addictive substances – headaches pound and cravings of a beastly size will come at the minimum.

This is why America runs on Dunkin’ and people cannot stick to the number one New Year resolution… so, you can imagine how much harder it is to abstain, for the one who is addicted to stronger substances that skyrocket dopamine levels and cripple the body’s own production of it’s natural dopamine?

Most choices that feed our fleshly desires, rather than the Spirit desires, are sinful acts.

Everyone falls short. We all make bad choices sometimes.  Temptations ensnare us like a trap that bites the rabbits leg.

One piece of advice from God: “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,” Ephesians 5:18.  This warning against drunkenness implies abstaining from anything that will impair your physical being to cause you to act in ways that would harm your body, or cause more behavior that is displeasing to God.  Surrender your life to Christ, die to self, and you will be enabled with the power of the Holy Spirit to resist temptations and live a fully free life.

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Short answer take-away:

No, I do not believe Addiction is a sin.

Addiction is a chronic illness and people who suffer from addiction need loving care and help.  The sin is the piggy-toe dipping, leading to a big step walking, in the ways that satisfy the flesh-desires we have instead of trusting that our God can take care of our every need.

 

*(My one disclaimer is that I believe that there are some levels of anxiety and depression, and other mental struggles, that do need medical & psychological intervention alongside a relationship with God, in order for there to be full healing).

 

 

 

How Can I Thank God When my Son is Dead?

How can I thank God when my son is dead? 

That thought alone sets off an explosion in my head!

It  Can’t be done!” Reason explains.

He is Dead. You are dead. The world is dead. There is no point.

Give up while the choice is still yours!

Can I say it any bigger, any bolder?

Just dead.

Dead.

Dead.

Why am I even going on?

The fact is true as the sky is blue. My son is gone; There can be no thanks in that!

And yet …

Before my son died,

I lingered in bed when the sun kissed my cheek through the window.

My mouth watered in anticipation of a warm chocolate chip cookie.

My heart delighted in silly bantering with my husband  – who is right and who is wrong?

I looked forward to meals alongside my kids,

and their kids,

and their dog-kids.

I loved the sound of rain, especially when I was falling asleep.

Then… I thanked God for every enjoyable blessing.

Of course,

… then, it made sense.

And yet …

After my son died,

I still linger, anticipate, delight, banter, look forward to things, and love.

I am not dead. The world is not dead.

I am alive and creation still thrives with sun and rain and kids, and their kids, and their dog-kids.

And so, even if it makes no sense, I can thank God, even … now.

The choice is definitely mine.

So I choose.

And…

Before my son died,

I loved my son with a deep, sacrificial love – the kind that warmed, and hurt, and forgave, and forgave, and forgave.

After my son died:

I still love my son with a deep and sacrificial love – only now it aches to hug, and hug, and hug. So I do. I hug, and hug, and hug others who need those hugs like my son needed them.

There is a point. A particular point.

I remember how he reveled over  a good barbeque,

a big jump in the pool,

a chill time at the bonfire,

and especially a spirited wrestle with his brother.

His smirky-grin dances in my memory and stitches a stitch in my broken heart.

Stitch by stitch. Stitch by stitch.

All this, a very profitable, particular point; Healing one stitch at a time.

The sun rises, the sun sets.

There is rhyme and there is reason.

“It Can be done!” I say.

There is no if, and, or but.

Joy reaches it’s potential when Sorrow is known in the gut, way down deep…. you can’t appreciate the good without knowing fully, the bad.

This is why I go on.

God is still God, and merciful, and compassionate, and powerful, and the same as He has always been.

God allowed for His own Son to die,

so that mine might live...

not just in my memory, or in my heart, but in heaven eternally.

Yes,

so I thank God for that! 

How can I thank God when my son is dead?

This is how.

Love.

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May you, dear reader, find Joy in abundance this Thanksgiving!

This is as big and as bold as it gets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where was God, when my Son Died of an Overdose?

My son, was alone when he died.

This fact haunts me.

His friend, “asleep” in the next room, unaware, did not wake up in time help my son. There was no one else around, just the two of them.

With angry, mournful cries, my question stands:

Where was God, when my son died of an overdose?

It had been a self-medicating night of weed, alcohol, and cocaine. Pizza, laughs and companionship, leading to a late night taste of heroin. One high falling to a lull, after the next high falling to a lull, and on it went.

Why heroin?

It was not his drug of choice; He told me several times, “I will never do that mom, I am not that stupid.” All I can assume is that he was not in any right-frame-of-mind and therefore did not realize what he was doing; he had no idea that the heroin was laced with fentanyl.

ikvk6228.jpgHe just bought new sneakers one week before, a prideful accomplishment on his part; he sent me this photo saying, “I got a good deal , mom, $10 bucks off!.” He recently picked out his meal choice for his brother’s upcoming wedding, “beef” of course, we all knew he’d choose that.  Earlier that week, he made plans to go to the gym with another brother to get back in shape. Just four days before, he wept with a sober friend, confessing he had relapsed and knew he was in trouble and was afraid. I believe he finally got to the point of realizing for himself that he had a problem and needed help.

My son did not intend for his life to end on that terrible night.

So, where was God when he pulled out the heroin packets? Why didn’t God awaken the friend sooner?

As my son began to lose his capacity to breathe, did he know it? When the oxygen level was cut off, and his heart slowed to a stop, could my son comprehend what was happening? Did he cry out for help, inside? Did God hear him?

Here’s what I believe:

I believe that God was with my son the whole time, weeping over his choices perhaps, but loving him through it all. If comfort and assurance was needed as my son was in that flash-of-a-moment, realizing he was dying… I know that God gave comfort. When faced with stuff too hard to do alone,

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:8a. 

I often told my son this.

I believe, that God held his heart, til it’s last beat and cradled his soul with his last exhale, hugging him into heaven. God is a God of compassion and of mercy and He knew even more than we,  how much my son needed to be rescued. And rescue, God did. My son was rescued from ten years of mental anguish, inner turmoil, two years of addiction, and all the fall out that crippled life for him; he suffers no more.

I often think: what was ahead that God spared him from? … the unseen future that only God sees. Because of His sovereignty, I choose to trust that what God allowed was the best for my son; in this trust, my anger dissipates. Though I still weep mournful tears and my arms ache to wrap my arms around my son, I know that God did not fail him, or me.

Currently my son has no need of sneakers, beef, or the gym; Instead, my son enjoys the fullness of peace with God.

If you wonder where God is in your battle, be assured, He is with you because He never leaves us, or forsakes us.

 

 

 

 

 

In the Battle – Love

Nose to nose,

I can see your sweat balance on your brow just before it drips like a tear down your cheek.
Heat-flares swirl like flames from your words that are so loud, I cannot hear.
Standing still,
I am not afraid of you. I am afraid for you.
Search I do, with a calm desperation, for my soft tender boy, as I stare steady into your eyes…
Where are you (?) I plead, with a screaming whisper…
I Know you are in there…
My heart holds on like a rope to the mast as you turn in a fury and punch the wall with ramped-up rage, storming ocean waves keep coming without mercy and the sheetrock tells all with it’s gaping hole.
Ah-uuuuugh! Vomits your souls guttural plea, from the inside places that weep inside your brokenness.
Hang on…
I see you soft tender boy, caged by the demons that grip, and tear, and lie to you.
Nose to nose,

I know you see that I am not afraid as your sonship locks on my momma’s gaze, again, as the tide rolls out…
I am afraid for you.
Look at me, don’t turn away soft tender boy.

I see you.
Let me hold your chalk dusted hand.

The third thing I learned in the battle is this:

Loving, is the most important action.

As a Christian, my mantra sings:

Love God. Then Love others.

Love is what enabled me to stand in the storm with my son. I did not leave. I did not give up. And neither should you. Do you suffer by watching your loved one suffer in the illness of addiction? I urge you to stand firm – look hard to see the person underneath their addiction – see the lost child you remember and keep loving, even when it makes no sense to keep loving.

Down deep the one afflicted will know, and that’s what counts most…

that your loved one knows that they are loved.

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All Lives Matter for Two Reasons

The truth is… ALL LIVES MATTER.

All lives matter for two reasons:

#1. … because, as I believe, God created each of us in His image, and because of this fact, each one of us is a precious individual worthy of respect and love, no matter what we have, or have not done in life. To discredit, or look down on anyone with disdain is an affront to God himself as the Creator of all life.

#2. … because, I believe, everyone has a purpose; God creates and places everyone in the line of history for His purposes.  Our stories involve the ups and downs of life that includes both victories and wounds from the battles we fight, for the purpose of coming alongside one another to be the voice of praise or the arms of comfort of the Lord himself.

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This is why I do what I do.  I write and speak out about issues that affect us all as human beings created in God’s image.  I advocate for the erasing of stigma that causes people to misjudge and misinterpret the situations of another one’s life, especially those suffering in battles that are overwhelming and consuming.

I asked God to help me to see those around me as He sees them; in my heart, this is what He revealed to me:

All lives matter. 

Go and live like you understand that, so that my love may be known.

Dear Reader:

Will you join me and be an advocate for every human life?

Help me define what that looks like….

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“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

 

 

 

Everyone Fights A Battle

The truth is, everyone fights a battle.

I am battling the beast of grief because my son battled the beast of addiction, and lost.

There are certain elements needed to fight a battle:  PPE (personal protective equipment), a plan or strategy, and execution & movement of the determined plan. As each of us faces our battle, we need to be mindful of these three things. If we enter the fight without even one of these things, we are likely to lose the battle.

As I face the beast of grief today, my PPE is the Truth: God’s Word tells me there is a purpose and a plan in all things; Truth is my armor.  Family and friends undergird my armor with their love for me, no matter what.

The plan, is for me to keep my mind staid on the Truth; the strategy is simple – know the Word, pray, and be vulnerable to share my feelings.

Strong execution is following thru with the Truth and not turning from it. The battle may be short, or it may be long, depending on the day. Yet I know, that I am able to keep going because my Lord is with me and I am loved.

As I look to my right, or to my left, I see there are battles around me that others are fighting …

… are you enduring a battle today?

If so, I am here to tell you that you can be a conqueror in your battle simply because the Lord loves you!

Not feeling it? Contact me, and I will love on you with all the kindness my heart can give.

Don’t give up.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37