What AA/NA has over the Church

PART ONE:

I am not an expert, nor a person in recovery, but I am a long time, church-going Christian, and I had the privilege to attend an AA/NA meeting and was involved in a similar type meeting – S.O.A.R.R., each took place in the basement fellowship halls of a church; my son was a recovering addict and that’s how I became connected to the meetings.

At first glance, the AA/NA & S.O.A.R.R and the Church at large, have many similarities:
• The meetings are weekly
• People are regular about meeting
• There is a book that guides them
• There is a leader who leads them
• There is a common goal
• There is mutual sharing and love.

I was kind of surprised at the many similarities actually.

However:

AA/NA meetings and the local S.O.A.R.R meeting, have something over the Church at large. There is this one thing that stood out and spoke volumes to me.

 

At the AA/NA & S.O.A.R.R Meetings, everyone is greeted with a genuine bear hug, and  people in recovery share testimonies at every gathering, not just on special occasions; I was awed at the level of surrender, humility and depth of airing real-life-messy; it took me by surprise, and without a doubt, convicted me and humbled me. Sharing and speaking up is the point:  Step OneWe admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable.
Total SURRENDER. Total HUMILITY.
My eyes were opened to the brokenness that is unfortunately so prevalent. Heart & gut wrenching details, baring of deep soul hurts and challenges wove through every story like a rough thread in a fine piece of linen.
Total exposing the MESSY of life.

THEN…there was that one thing that melted me.
That one thing stood out like the one tall stalk of corn left in the plowed field.

ACCEPTANCE by way of NO JUDGEMENT.

This is it: the one thing AA/NA has over the church is a lack of judgmental attitude.

It did not matter who was speaking, it did not matter what they had done, experienced, or been through, or how they said what they said. Nods, tears, and mutual-empathetic-attitudes are what exuded from each one sitting in the meeting. Not one member at the meeting judged that person in the vulnerable seat. This witness melted a place deep in my heart.

It is my opinion, that the Church at large can learn something from the meetings that take place in their basement fellowship halls.

The Church at large is generally too clean; at least it can often seem that way because of the façade that is portrayed when people walk through the doors on a Sunday morning wearing their best and smiling their best as they greet each other, exchanging, “How are you’s?” with smiling replies,  “I’m fine” (when underneath it all, many, if not all, really are not).  I know from my own experiences, I feared the judgment of others, especially as I endured very messy things in my life and guiltily I admit, I seduced others to passivity as well with the “I’m fine” replies, too many times.

To the Church at large, I challenge you to break down the facades if they exist, stop fearing and instead, accept people who have messes and be willing to share your own messes; stop judging those who are struggling with really hard stuff; you aren’t as clean as you want everyone to think you are…
…surrender and be real, so that we all can be seen and heard and accepted and helped, without fear of judgement – no matter what the mess or struggle is…

To the AA/NA meetings and all people in recovery who are fighting for your lives, I say BRAVO! Keep doing what you are doing…
…surrender and be real, keep seeing and hearing and accepting and helping without judgement!

We are all here together in this life trying to survive and thrive – let’s not make it harder for each other. There should be genuine bear hugs enough for all.

 

Stay tuned for PART TWO: What the Church has over the AA/NA Meetings – Next Tuesday

 

 

 

You Can’t Fight Flesh with Flesh

The truth is: we are all the same; human is human and each of us fights a battle of some kind. That’s why we are the same.

Mainstream culture and society tries to tell, or sell, us differently.

Like a caged animal in a zoo,  I pace the house back and forth, from room to room; looking for a way out…

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My mind races with swirling thoughts and I cannot lasso them. I grab for the open bag of chocolate chips in the cabinet and hope the sweet, smoothness in my mouth will focus and settle me.

Nope.

After some energy is expended on the chores at hand, I find myself back in the kitchen making a grilled cheese, surely this will do the trick! Warm cheesy, goodness is surely the comfort that will hug me into a calm for the day.

Nope.

Disappointment fills me instead.

Obligatory errands take me out of the house and two hours later I find myself exactly in the mind space that lured me to the chocolate chips.  Salt is one of my go-to’s when I want to pacify my weary, wounds and so I plop on the couch with a bag of chips and crunch, crunch, crunch.

Am I filled?

Am I calmed and focused now?

Am I settled?

Nope.

As if someone turned on the lights, I realize, all day, I have been mimicking the behavior of one who is addicted; I was seeking something, anything, hoping to find the specific- particular thing, to satisfy an emotional and physical need in order to center and calm the things that unsettled me.  My flesh was out of control and very needy and I used flesh desire and pacification as the remedy and it did not work.

Nope.

It did not; I just feel depressed.

My son was addicted. And I know that he, like many others who are addicted to substances, are caught in the same patterns of trying to satisfy the daily need, whatever that  may be for each person. For my son, he sought to settle his anxiety and soothe his depression.

He tried to fight against his flesh with flesh, with drugs.

I tried to fight against my flesh with flesh, with food.

Herein lies the trouble.

You can’t fight flesh with flesh!

You need something stronger than flesh to fight your flesh.

The Son, of the God who made you, is the One thing, the One someone, that can fight against your flesh and win for you, the victory that is desired. Jesus is the answer.

How?

Seek a personal relationship with Him by talking to Him and seeking Him.  No formality or special language needed.  Cry out to Jesus and He will hear you – read His Word in the Bible and He will speak to you. Walk in Faith and He will make your paths straight and focus you for every day.

I know this firsthand.

And I also know, on the days when I take my eyes off of Him … I am seeking the chocolate chips, grilled cheeses, and chips of the day and I get nowhere but fleshly depression.

This is an invitation to close your eyes and listen to the words of this song and consider the best way to fight the flesh that holds you captive like an enslaved prisoner:

Don’t have His Word? Contact me – I will get it to you.

Don’t know what to say? Contact me – I will talk to you.

The truth is: we are all the same; human is human and each of us fights a battle of some kind.

Let Jesus be your way to victory in the battles.

 

 

 

 

 

Detox Counselor Weeps

Last Christmas my son was at The Castle.

Don’t think Downton Abbey, or Cinderella & Prince-Charming kinds of Castles.   I am referring to The Castle in Brockton, MA – the short term addiction treatment program for kids 13 – 19 years old.

My son was 19 when we sectioned him to detox; he was not happy with us. Yet, he had excellent care at The Castle and his detox counselor was able to meet my son square-on; good progress was made and my son knew why we did what we did.

However, after 5 clean months, a relapse and overdose took my son from this earth.  His detox counselor called me when she heard about his death and was devastated. As we talked, she wept with me and confessed:

“I lied to him; I told him he would have many Christmases to enjoy with his family – that this was just one Christmas to work through to have many more in the future.”

I said,

“You did not lie, you were encouraging him to be motivated to pursue clean and sober living – you were extending hope to him.”

And that is the truth.

I look back and remember packing eight of us up with gifts, in two cars, twice, to try and make it through a blizzard to get to The Castle to see him on Christmas day, last year; it consumed our entire day.

Hours of tedious driving later, we arrived. Big hugs were given, animated conversation and laughs filled the glass atrium as snow continued to fall outside.  My son’s face literally lit up with joy and relief at seeing his family. What a glorious moment! My heart tucked that entire scene away and logged it as: precious-memory-to-keep-forever.

Some look back with sadness and think he had the worst Christmas last year and he will never have another one to enjoy… just like his detox counselor thought. And, that it was our worst Christmas too.

I beg to differ, actually.

Last Christmas was very intentional – one that was not taken for granted because it was full of purposeful action to show our son how much he was loved. I know my son knew that – it was written all over his face for that full hour we got to spend with him. Deep down, he knew he was totally loved, and in some ways, it was a best Christmas for him I think; the usual traditions were up-ended, they weren’t there to distract everyone from the total focus of love.

After all – that’s the whole point of Christmas isn’t it? It’s not about the trimmings and the traditions/expectations and the lazy MO of the day. It’s entirely about love.

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This is a painting that my son painted before addiction took over his brain and claimed his life. He loved to paint and draw; it brought a sense of peace to his being.

Notice the star –  it was followed by some wise men long ago.

Notice the angel, front and center – it is a symbol of the Good News that God has for us all.

Notice the small yet perfect depiction of Jesus and his parents surrounded by those carefully crafted stones – humbly positioned in just the right place.

Jesus’ birth was intentional; let us not take his birth for granted… it is the beginning of God’s best show of love for us. We are each deeply loved by the Father and Jesus was willing to do what he did; be born, live to die, and rise… so we can go to heaven one day. This is the ultimate gift of love.

Simple.

The message is simple.

Dear Detox counselor,

My son is now in the presence of Jesus this Christmas… and he will enjoy all Christmases eternally.  Do not weep, dear detox counselor, for the earthly Christmases lost, for my son’s gain is far better!

Yes, my heart hurts and I miss him so very much!

Yet, … until I join him – I will keep following and keep sharing the good news!

Merry Christmas to all who read these words!