Saturday, August 25, 2018

Learning the Hard Way

One of the most important lessons I've learned through my recovery journey with Shane, is the power of our words and actions.  They have the ability to destroy an addict, just as easily as they have the power to heal. Unfortunately, I learned that lesson the hard way.

Watching a loved one struggle with addiction was hard.  Plain and simple.  It was hard watching a person I've known all my life slowly turn into someone unrecognizable.  It was hard watching the "Shane" I loved be replaced by a selfish, self-absorbed addict.  It was hard watching my children struggle and mourn the loss of their dad, and wondering if the wounds would ever heal.  It was hard trying to make our lives look completely "normal" so outsiders wouldn't see the shame and pain I felt inside. This was a whole new level of hurt for me that I wasn't prepared for.  I felt betrayed. I was angry and resentful, and I fought back.   I resorted to many methods of defense that quickly back-fired--accusations, nagging, tears, hysteria.  I tried to guilt-trip Shane into getting help.  I wanted him to be healthy and happy, but I think deep down I was more concerned with making my own pain and my family's pain go away.  I was so focused on my own hurt that I never stopped to think about the hurt that he must have felt, the guilt he already carried, and the shame that had to be absolutely crippling.  And so instead, I ended up pushing Shane further and further away.

     It didn't take long for God to show up and help me see that I was wrong.  I was reminded that He taught me a completely different skill set--one that I had forgotten.  Tolerance, kindness, patience, courtesy, humor, and LOVE.  When I focused on these things, I soon realized that the person I knew and loved had not been replaced.  He was just trapped.  And nothing I could do or say was going to free him.  So I stepped away from the wheel and let God have my pain.  I focused on showing love in my words and actions and learned to rely on my faith that God could handle things.
     Addicts don't need to be reminded of how out-of-control their lives are.  They don't need to be reminded of their guilt or the pain they've caused.  They live with it every day, and our words and actions can be killers that ultimately take them down.  Instead, show them the love of the ultimate healer--Jesus Christ--and watch the transformation take place.  Trust in Him and His timing. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

My best friend and worst enemy . . .

Bondage is subtle. I never started using drugs with a determination to become an addict. Slowly, I became dependent on certain behaviors, substances and attitudes. It consumed me. And, in a pathetic sort of way, my bondage gave me security.  It’s been said that there are two things an addict hates:  the way things are and change.  I can attest to that as I struggled for more years than I care to admit with the beast that became my worst enemy and my closest friend.  I was to the point of taking my own life on more than one occasion and had said to myself more times than I can remember, “why can’t I just can’t stop.”  I hated myself, but I could not stop using.  No one could convince me to stop using. I couldn’t convince myself to stop using.  That’s the struggle, the rub, and the downright insanity of addiction.  No one knew more than me that my beast was killing me, but no one loved that same beast as much as me. So, what changed you say?  What happened, or more accurately who happened?

When I was sentenced to prison, I gave up on me and let God take over my life.  Honestly, at first, I just didn’t know what else to do so I asked Him for some help. I was never good at asking for help. NEVER.  However, my way had landed me right in the middle of hell and I thought to myself, I better figure this out or I can just throw in the towel. So, here I am in prison and just decided to try something new. At first, because I didn’t know what else to do. It’s as simple as that.

For a few months and honestly at times today, God and I have been at odds, disagreed, and fought on more than one or two occasions.  But, He has taught me a few things along the way:  to be humble, to trust Him, to rely on Him, to ALWAYS ASK FOR HELP, to be obedient, to love, to HOPE, and to patiently endure through it all – whatever that all looks like. When I asked God for Help, I hated my addiction and myself, but I was scared to death to bury the beast that had also become my bested good friend (shameless Forest Gump quote). This has been the worst and best journey of my life, but I have clung to these words, "all things work together for His good."

Getting to this point of humility has not been pleasant for me. I have been knocked down, embarrassed and defeated. Prison is my bottom. The bottom of all bottoms. What's crazy is that humility is the ability to look at where I am and who I am and honestly accept what I find.  That's a hard pill to swallow in my case. Humility today comes from trusting a God that has already told me a million times that I am His and therefore awesome, unique, one of a kind, perfect, and here's the KEY for an addict.......DESERVING of love, forgiveness and joy. This gift of knowing God's unending love for me makes it easier to accept me for who I am. The key for my humility is accepting that I'm messed up but God's in the messed-up business. He takes my flaws, my sins, my ugly, and my fears and says.... "Okay, I got this, I love you, you're forgiven, now start over." The longer I obey and serve, the humbler I become. The humbler that I become, the more joy I find. What’s amazing is that the more I wait for Him, trust Him, obey Him, and serve Him the happier I am.
Not all miracles are turning water into wine, healing the blind, or raising the dead. Most are hidden in everyday life and in RECOVERY!

The true miracle is that God can take my enemy and my best friend, the beast, and calm his roar so that it becomes the whisper I never hear again . . .

My favorite faith author, Mark Batterson, says this: "Don't seek out miracles, just follow Jesus. And if you do that long enough, you will find yourself in the middle of some miracles." Trust me, if you do this, your life will change.  You don’t have to be in prison to be a prisoner and you don’t have to be trapped in addiction to need God. 

If you are struggling, it’s okay. . . help is only a prayer away.

p.s. I love this picture because it shows the power of healing, the love of family and friends, and the forgiveness that comes from surrender. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Washing the Judge's car and such. . .

I was on a run yesterday and came upon this tunnel.  As I ran through it, I started to think about how it was a bit symbolic of my life.  I love this picture because it shows a couple different things.  First, it shows a tunnel and what little boy or man doesn’t love a tunnel?  Tunnels are often thought of as dark and damp, in a low point, or a deep hole and I can remember many of those points in my addiction, my prison term, and my life.  Second, it shows the bridge above the tunnel.  This bridge is a full of sunlight, life, and is the high point in this picture.  A bridge symbolizes help, connection, and a partnership of sorts as it connects one side to another.  No on wants to live in the tunnel, yet we all hear sayings such as let’s help each other bridge the gap.  Bridges are good and light, and tunnels are dark and lonely. Tunnels represent the valleys in my life and bridges represent the hills.

There are many times in my life in which all I saw were tunnels.  There are also times in which I’ve experienced the light, the power, and the connection of those bridges.  This blog isn’t so much about the tunnels and their darkness, nor the light from those bridges.  Nope, this is about my perspective in experiencing both the darkness and the light and what better way to explain my perspective of both than a couple good-old fashioned prison stories about how I see GOD’S GRACE IN BOTH.

I recently shared how mad, frustrated, and angry I was with Judge Dean Young when he sentenced me to four years in prison on December 18, 2015.  At that time, I thought that he was killing me, but come to find out, the exact opposite was happening. He, as promised, was trying to save my life.  MY LIFE. . . the life I had all but thrown away with my addiction was being saved by a trip to what’s best been described as hell on Earth - - PRISON.  I can still feel the deflation, the shock, the pain, and the anguish.  I was led out of the Courtroom where I practiced law in shackles and headed to prison.

This is when I was taught my first lesson in how God sometimes uses our pain as his megaphone to get our attention.  See, I had tried to get clean on my own many times before and I could never chalk up more than 6 months clean and I thought that was a miracle.  So, I headed toward that tunnel of my life and something started happening - - I started praying, reading the Bible (free on the inside version), and listening to who I hoped was God. I wish I could say that I was healed and immediately released from this tunnel, but that’s not my story.  I stayed 17 months to the day and it was odd because not only was this the longest tunnel of my life, it was also the best bridge I ever walked on. In that tunnel and on that bridge, one day at a time, almost imperceptibly, I healed.  I learned that my circumstances don’t change the character of God and more importantly I learned that where you are doesn’t define who you are.  That awakening saved my life because I finally was able to admit defeat and surrender my addiction, my pain, and my will to God.

It’s been said that if you want God to do something new, you can’t keep doing the same old thing. 

So, I was first introduced to God’s grace in prison, BUT NOT BEFORE he really got my attention at the Blackford County Jail.  The day I was sentenced, I was immediately transferred there because my brother, Kyle Beal, is a Sheriff Deputy for the Grant County Sheriff’s Department.  I am still in shock when I wake up the next morning and immediately start planning the World’s biggest pity party.  Luckily, I didn’t have much time to accomplish that goal as the Jail staff immediately made me a trustee, which I know from being an attorney is a good thing.  Everyone wants to be a trustee and I thought God was just showing me his favor since I was an attorney, an important person, and this was all just likely some big mistake (LOL).  Trustees normally get treated better, have more freedom and privileges, eat better, and get contact visits.  I am thinking, “Great! I can do this! Wow, would you look at that nice bridge!”

That was short lived as I was mopping the main hallway, Judge Young comes to Jail to get his car washed.  No, they were not having some local car wash fundraiser for the High School Band.  He came to have the trustees wash his car.  To have ME wash his car is all I remember thinking. I thought you have got to be kidding me.  This man just ruined my life and sentenced me to four years in prison and now you want me to wash his car?  This was the second BUT, GOD moment from the Judge because I was like HELL NO.  SO, I washed his car. . .

As Kyle Idleman says, “Sometimes God shows up and sometimes God shows off.”

Finally, this picture symbolized my life because there have been many tunnels and just as many bridges.  I now can keep them both in perspective.  In the tunnels of my life, I’ve learned to bow my head and pray to the God who sees me there, and in the bridges of my life, I look up and praise the God who placed me there. (Thank you Tauren Wells).

God’s grace saved me on that day in December of 2015 and again when I washed that car, when I was in solitary confinement, and countless other times since.

The greatness of God’s grace means that I don’t have to have it all together or try to convince myself that my tunnels are not that bad.  The truth is my tunnels were worse than I ever care to admit, BUT GOD’S GRACE is greater than I could have ever imagine.

C.S. Lewis said, “Begin where you are”, and I did that and do that every day. Whether I am in a tunnel looking down or on a bridge looking up, I know that all things work together for His good and for His plan in my life.

If you are struggling, it’s okay…help is only a prayer away.

Thank you for reading and please share this on your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram page. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Quit looking back . . .

From my journal . . . It is easy to think about the past and live in the pain and suffering of days gone by when sitting in a prison bunk at any hour of the day or night.  There are a lot of hours in the day to sit and think about everything and nothing at all.  From good memories to bad, and from many successes to the same amount or more failures.  Instead of having pity parties or huge celebrations (that's a joke), I'm focused on what I can do today to be free of mind, to be sober, and be content.  I have started working a program, not only of recovery, but of recovery by faith and I have realized that I must do these three things daily:
1) Forgive those who hurt me and more often than not this includes forgiving me. I can be my own worst enemy. I can beat myself up, tear myself down, and spit myself out for all the mistakes that I have made while being in active addiction.  Forgiveness takes the power out of any situation and doesn't leave room for bitterness and resentment to fester. Trust me when I say this: resentments will kill you. Someone way smarter than me said this, "an unresolved resentment with someone is like drinking poison and waiting for that person to die."
2) I must remember that my past doesn't define who I am today. I must learn to give myself a break, let go of the past, and be okay with being a recovering addict.  In fact, I must accept who I was then, who I am today, and who I am trying to be everyday.  Taking all of this together reminds me of God's forgiveness, grace, and mercy. If God can forgive and forget my past than so can I.
3) Don't live in my past successes. This is probably the biggest one. It's easy to depend on God when I'm stuck in #1 and #2 but what about on the great days when I'm doing awesome???? I must be mindful that all things are created for His good and must seek His will in every situation and never rely on my past successes. And, yes, there are successes even in prison......but that's for another day.
What's great is that in all of the three things listed, I don't have to have all the answers, I don't have to figure it all out, and I don't have to make it happen myself. All I need is the faith to get up, brush myself off, and take that first step. . .
I say Just for Today a lot in here and that is how I have made it through thus far.  I can do anything one day at a time. . . including live in prison, walk in faith, and work on my recovery.  
God is good, it's as simple as that. 
If you're struggling, it's okay . . . Help is only a prayer away.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

These two . . . 2.0

We are getting ready to take Seth to Indiana University and I am sitting here with a journal in my hand and not much writing is happening at the moment.  Rarely do I have problems writing in my journal.  But, this morning I am all over the place emotionally, and I can't seem to get a handle on what I want to share with you all about this day.  The easy topic is Seth leaving home to attend I.U., and the pride, anxiety, sadness, and joy that surround this exciting phase of his life.  The main issue (of many 😉), is that I have many other emotions fighting for space in my head about this day.  I think the best way to share this is by listing how I feel today and compare it to how I felt when my oldest son, Elijah, left for Northwestern University in 2016.

If you have read my blog at all you know that my circumstances were a bit different that year.  I wasn't home to experience that transition in Elijah's life and I wasn't able to feel anyway about that.  In prison, feelings are a sign of weakness, a flaw, and generally only experienced at night . . . in bed . . . in private. . . and with dry tears of sadness or joy.  That's hard to imagine for me because today I get emotional, I have intense feelings, and I am a crier. . .   I think that is one of the many gifts of my recovery - - to feel again and be able to express my emotions in healthy ways.  In the prisons of my life, the only emotions I ever felt were pain until I could get high and stay high so I didn't have to feel that pain. . WHO wants to feel pain?  Thus, the power of my prisons were unrelenting and suffering pain coupled with the crippling shame that kept the cycle of my addiction going. . . going. . . going. . . and going.

Today, Elijah is in San Francisco chasing his dreams and changing the world and Seth starts his own journey at Indiana University.  So, here's that list I promised (wiping tears).  A list of looking back and looking forward and written in this moment.  A list that is full of so many emotions that I am laughing, crying, and praying my way through it.

I am grateful for 2nd chances and also sad that I missed the 1st chance.

I am thankful for forgiveness and also upset and mad that had to ask for it.

I am proud of both of my sons and hopeful they don't fall victim to the addiction of their father.

I am happy that I get to experience this day with Seth and feel guilty I missed it with Elijah.

I am nervous about Seth leaving and I am confident that both of them will change the World for the better.

I pray for peace, comfort, and understanding yet I feel anxious, nervous, and confused.

I will miss Seth dearly and I already miss Elijah every single day.

I want to give them space and let them be men and I want to hold them, protect them, brush them off when they hurt, and tell them to get back out there and chase your dreams. . . just be careful.

Mostly, I am grateful, thankful, and blessed to be their Dad and to be able to give them the gift of my recovery and hopefully it shows them and others that all things are possible if we trust and believe in God's promises.  Today, I am reminded that the closer I live to God, the smaller everything else appears and I am thankful for this because right now my emotions seem huge.

I am also reminded of who You say I am. 


I am #stupidgrateful today because I am driving to B-TOWN to pick up Seth after the IU and Michigan Basketball game and then heading up to see Elijah for his 21st birthday celebration tomorrow.  I am thankful to have permission to leave the State of Indiana and for this time to be with the boys again.  I am thankful for 2nd and 3rd and 4th chances.  I am reminded today that recovery is possible and there is always hope.  If I can recover. . . anyone can.

If you are struggling it's okay, help is only a prayer away.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Searching for Peace (Posted by Amy)

Addiction is such a baffling disease.  It was so hard for me, as someone who has never been addicted, to understand what would make someone continually do things to their bodies and minds that were slowly killing them.  As someone on the outside, I could see it happening.  I kept asking myself: why doesn't he see what I see? Why. Can't. He. Just. Stop? I thought if I could just understand what was going on and what he was going through, I could somehow help him.  I wanted to figure out the solution, because if I could solve the problem, I could finally have peace.

But addicts are really good at convincing you that they are okay, that there isn't a problem to fix.  This picture was taken on a family vacation in 2015.  Shane's expression in the picture mirrored his mood and personality throughout the weeks leading up to, as well as the weeks after the trip.  During this period of time, I was convinced that Shane was on the road to good health.  My family and I had seen changes for the better and began to trust him again--brought him "back into the fold" of our family. Unfortunately, 6 months after this picture was taken, Shane was sitting in a prison cell.

If you spend enough time with an addict, you will begin to see patterns.  I remember watching the transformations in Shane--remission and relapse--over and over.  This vicious cycle of addiction brings with it an endless series of problems.  As soon as I thought I had one problem solved, another one took its place.  My obsession with trying to solve each new problem put me in the middle of a vicious cycle of my own and was destroying my peace of mind. But worse than that, these problems had caused me to forget one of God's awesome promises:  He is peace.  It is inherent in His Presence.  The peace I was so desperately seeking was right in front of me.  Once I realized this, I was able to let go of the problem that was destroying me.

Do you find yourself stuck in in this vicious cycle?  Are you searching for a peace that seems nowhere to be found?  If you are, just take a step back and recognize that perfect peace can surround you if you give your problems to God.  It is always there.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."   --Proverbs 3: 5, 6

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Hope . . . from a prison cell . . .

From My Journal . . . I have heard HOPE defined as the belief that things can change, get better, or improve.  I can promise you HOPE means the most to those who have lived without it and I can relate to that statement. There is also something special about the comfort of others who have experienced my pain. . . They know, they get it, they understand.  They can say "Me too," and immediately that validates what I am feeling at that moment.  

Not everyone has the same pain, the same experience, nor the same life.  But, we all have struggles and it helps when someone kneels down with you to pray, listens to your story, and tells you they will walk along side you in this journey.  That is real HOPE in action.  Someone who has been there coming along side of you and telling you they get it and they will walk with you. . . until you can walk on your own.

I had so much pain in my addiction.  I did not believe that things could get better.  I was so alone, surrounded by my shame, and full regret.  There were many days where I just didn't want to go on any longer. . . I was ready to throw in the towel.  In my addiction, I wouldn't let Jesus in to help me.  I wouldn't take advice from anyone.  I wouldn't listen to my loved ones, family or friends. 
I never let anyone get close enough to me to even get close to HOPE.  I wanted nothing to do with that word.  That required work.  I was a hopeless addict.  

So, God did what He does and got my attention and put me in prison.  I kept trying to be Shane and he kept trying to tell me that He had different plans for me.  I didn't listen, fought back, and disagreed until He didn't have any options left but to put me away, keep me away, and give me time to realize that I needed someone and something other than myself and my addiction.  That time away was just what He needed to get me to a point where the only HOPE I could see was looking up from a prison floor.  That is defeat, that is powerlessness, that is despair, and that is exactly what I needed. 

I thank God today (March 28, 2017) for this time away, time alone, time to sit quietly and time to get sober.   I thank God for changing me, for giving me the chance to love and feel again.  I thank him for allowing me to appreciate this life, to meet my family again, to write in these journals and to share my story in here and soon out in the real world.  I thank him for time to heal, for His grace, and forgiveness.  I thank the God of 2nd through one-million chances for showing me that I am more than what I was before I met him in prison.   


I thank Him for introducing me to people who cared enough to come in the prison and teach me about recovery and life.  I thank all the volunteers who came to the prison and helped me become a better person. 

I will never again take this life for granted and I will always enjoy where I am at on the way to where I am going. . . Yes, even in prison there are many things to be grateful for.  

If you are struggling, it's is only a prayer away.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Solitary confinement...the hole...torture...hell

I'm being shackled by my feet, waist, and hands and led up to the visitors area at Plainfield Correctional Facility for a visit with my family.  On every other visit, this is a great walk as visits are the best part of an otherwise terrible existence.  Visits are the only human contact I have in here and they are a glimpse of home, a hug from my daughter, and a moment of freedom from the pain in my mind. Visits are great. . . just not today.

Today, my visit will be via a closed circuit monitor screen because I am in solitary confinement, "the hole," the "sweat box," or what I call hell.  This entry is not about today's visit but about what it feels like to spend 45 days alone in my cell and isolated in and from my thoughts.  The reasons for my solitary confinement are not important but suffice it to say they were later held to be unwarranted not only by a Federal Court but by the prison administration as well. (That's a another blog for another day). 

When I started this blog, I challenged myself to share the essence of my life, my experiences, my struggles, my recovery, my wins, and my losses.  I intend to share what solitary confinement feels like, sounds like, and how it is above all else. . . torture.  At the end of this blog, I have two links which you can review and decide for yourself.  I hope you take the time to check them both out and get a glimpse of what it was like for those 45 days. 

My home for 45 days is a 6 X 9 cell that looks a lot like the YouTube Video attached to this blog.  What's not shown in this video is the extreme desperation, heat, and humidity of these cells.  It's so hot that that I spend every hour of everyday in nothing but state issued white boxers.  It's so hot that the toilet sweats and drips on the floor but the water evaporates before it can form a small pool of water.  It's so hot that the only relief is from lying naked on the concrete floor that is marked by the dirt, pain, and anguish of the previous prisoners life.  It's so hot that the air is stagnant, it smells like the desperation of 32 men held in cells just like mine.  I can hear their screams, their voices, their laughter, and their tears.  Their tears are the loudest as the silence of their pain is deafening. 

Being along in my head has always been torture to me.  I tell anyone I work with in addiction that when I am in my own head, I'm in a bad neighborhood - - that's been true throughout my own life, my own addiction, and especially in here.  Those same voices almost drove me crazy over the 45 days I was alone with my thoughts, my demons, and my past. 

For 45 days I was out of my cell a total of maybe 4 hours and only saw the light of day for 3 of them.  The other 2 were to shower, go to the Doctor, and make a few phone calls home.  Make no mistake about it, I was all alone in my mind and the voices of my pain for 45 straight days and I still get anxiety and a panic about it, especially as I write about it today. 

My only human contact was the same people who held the keys to my captivity.  I can't begin to describe how mentally exhausting and torturous that is.  Having small talk with the person keeping you captive just to remain somewhat normal is a definition of insanity that I can't even explain. 

My only saving grace was that I had my Bible and the songs (like my theme songs below) I had memorized from K-Love in my head.  I am not the best singer but let's just say that when you are performing a concert for one, everyone is a rock star.  Prison is hard but solitary confinement is torture and that hell would have killed me. . . BUT, GOD.  I don't know why I had to go through that experience, and I don't question it with God, but I do know that His strength, love, and grace got me through it one day at a time.  I was completely alone and that time brought my relationship with God to a whole new level.  There are many experiences along my journey where God carried me but none more so than those 45 days of despair. 

I share this because although most people will never experience 45 days in "the hole," all of us have experienced at least that many days in a hole.  

We all have holes that we must go through and sometimes stay in for awhile.  However, even when we think we are all alone, in whatever our hole looks like today, we are not. . . God is with us . . . Always. . . .

If you are struggling, it's okay. . . help is only a prayer away. 

Here are some links to watch and decide for yourself if "the hole" is torture. . .

UN Committee on Torture Says U.S. Must Reform Its Use of Solitary Confinement

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Our Family, Our Story, Our Recovery...

Image may contain: 3 people, including Shane Beal and Amy Botkin Beal, people smiling

Since From My Journal is the story of our family's recovery journey, I'm joining Shane on the blog today.   I didn't post things very often on Team Beal Recovery, but I've been feeling God nudging me on the shoulder a lot lately to take a more active role on this blog.  So Shane conceded the floor today and encouraged me to take a crack at this "blogging thing."  

I saw a quote recently that said, "If you don't believe in God's miracles, talk to an addict or alcoholic in recovery saved by His grace."  Well, I'm here to tell you that I'm a believer. And I would hope that anyone who has known my husband for more than the last 2 years would agree with me.   I thank God daily for the miracle of Shane's sobriety and I am so grateful that he has been sharing his story--our story.  But as Shane often points out, living in sobriety and in recovery can, in some respects, be just as hard as living in addiction. I believe this is not only true for the person in recovery, but also for the people who love and support him/her.   So I look at every new day in recovery as a miracle.  

Now, I would be lying if I told you that life suddenly got simpler, or that the road I travelled in order to witness these miracle was easy to forget.  We still stumble and struggle--all of us do in our own special ways.  But we are learning a new normal.  Learning to recover together, as a family.  And we learn to take each day as it comes.  Through joining Shane on this blog, I hope to be able to share some of my struggles, the lessons I've learned about addiction and recovery, and, above all, hope--there is hope no matter who or where you are on the journey.  All you have to have is faith that God can do ANYTHING, if you just trust in Him.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness."  2 Corinthians 12:9


Thursday, August 2, 2018

Slow down, take a look around, and listen. .

From my journal. . . I met with a dear friend this week and we had an amazing visit and we learned a lot about each other, our journeys, and our God. At the end of our talk, my friend said this, "I always pray for you to take care of yourself so that you can continue to help others. And, remember you can't help everyone. . ."

I have thought about that since our meeting and it's really true. My life was devastated by my addiction and I fight tooth and nail to share my journey in the hope that someone can avoid my pitfalls, my mistakes, and my failures. It's as if I think I can will someone to read, someone to get it, and someone to change. At the end of the day, I know that's not possible but it's my passion and I try. . . Hard.

I am learning that my journey is mine and simply sharing it is healing for me and others who need it or know someone who does. I am learning that I can't help anyone who isn't ready. I know that one all too well. Ask any of my family, my friends, or anyone who knew the old me. . . I wasn't ready until I hit the cold, wet, and dark floors of prison.

I'm also learning that the best way to help people is to take care of myself first and just live my life out in the open, sharing along the way, and accepting anything God lays in my path.

Today's self-care list is pictured and I pray for each of you today and please say a silent prayer of self care, acceptance, and gratitude for me and my dear friend who helped me more than they know.

If you're struggling it's okay, help is only a prayer away.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Elijah's letter to me in prison . . .

Addiction is selfish.  Addiction is a thief.  Addiction is pain.  Addiction is hurt.  Addiction is consuming.  Addiction is hell.

I recently shared a funny letter from my son, Seth.  Seth is the comedian of the family and the one who deals with his own stress by trying to be funny and make others laugh.  He probably gets a little bit of that from me.  Humor and Sarcasm were my masks in life when I didn't want to deal with pain, anger, fear, or vulnerability.   My other go to was unfortunately alcohol, crack, meth, heroin, and literally anything else that I could take to numb the pain, ease my mind, and calm the demons.  I also received some letters from Seth that were not funny.  There were also some visits that were not fun for him. . . What teenager wants to drive two hours to visit their Dad in prison.  Let alone a Dad who wasn't always there for him when he needed me.  I get it and although it was hard, I understood.  I can't really explain how hard visits are to get and also not get and maybe that is for another blog.  But, just trust me. . . it's all hard.
This blog is more about a letter I received on J-Pay (e-mail for offenders) from my oldest son, Elijah.  As a backstory, I missed every birthday of his since 2014 as I was either in rehab or prison until this last birthday in January of 2018.  Remember when I shared about my brother's death and me being molested as a child a few days ago?  I wrote that at 3:00 a.m. on his birthday while I was in rehab in Texas in 2015.  Not the best birthday memory for me or him for that matter.  Not only did I miss all those birthdays, but I missed piano recitals, concerts, plays, and even his graduation when he delivered the salutatorian address for his class. 
If Elijah did anything, he excelled at it and I MISSED IT . . . well most of it.  If I didn't miss events due to rehab or prison, I missed things because I was still high.  I even lied about going to see him in Scrooge. . . I was so high that I couldn't even go and told him I was there (not sure if he even knows that but I am sure he does).  
So, I received this J-Pay from Elijah around the time of his birthday in 2017.  I don't have the actual letter because I couldn’t print it off the kiosk at prison, but I have notes from it in my journal.   Elijah has a lot of pain and issues with me because of my addiction and my actions associated with my addiction.  His letter was painful for me to read because I never wanted him to feel that way.  But, that is the reality of my addiction.  It made wounds deep and some I didn't even realize were there. 
I can't imagine how embarrassing it was for Elijah to be such a success in his endeavors while his once successful Dad spiraled out of control in front of his and his friend's eyes. That's a pain a Father is never supposed to bring upon his son. I wrote him back and once again said I was sorry but more importantly explained my life now and how I was not the same person and would never be that person again.  He's probably heard that once or twice in his life and maybe it didn't mean a lot because of my track record.  But, I explained that I forgave myself after God forgave me. I can't change the past and I can't help him get past it with the exception of my actions from here on.  
In recovery, I have learned that if I do the next right thing and do what I say I am going to do, people will eventually believe me again. Insider Tip: all addicts want the support, trust, and love of their family back. . . it's the main thing people say in my groups at work. . . "they just want to heal their relationships." 
But it's his to do with God's help and that is what I will pray for: healing and forgiveness for Elijah according to God's will. When I think about the pain I caused everyone I also can see that maybe God is teaching us all one of the most important lessons in life: forgiveness.  Forgiveness is freeing, especially for one that needs the grace that comes with it. 
C.S. Lewis said, "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you."
I read that quote and think that God's grace is never limited by the circumstances that we are in.  No matter what my pain is. . . no matter what my fear is. . . no matter what pain I caused. . . I am forgiven when I lay myself at the feet of God and pick up my cross and follow Jesus....that's freedom for me and hopefully Elijah. 
I love you Buddy!!! I'm your biggest fan.
If you're struggling, it's okay....
Help is only a prayer away.

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