Sunday, October 28, 2018

Keep that door shut

A couple of days ago 35 months of living one day at a time came and went and I didn’t notice it that day.  Funny how recovery works like that at times and at other times it is the most difficult thing that I face during the day.  After a lifetime of substance abuse and addiction, it doesn’t seem possible that I am living my best life - - sober.  I just left my third meeting in as many days and I am reminded of how far I have come in my own recovery journey.  I am grateful each day for my sobriety, for the relationships that have ended, and for the ones that have been healed.  I am grateful for every door that has been opened and for the ones that my recovery has told me need to stay closed - - forever.  There was a time when I couldn’t imagine not being around certain people, various lifestyles, and driving down the road of addiction.

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There was a time when I didn’t know who I was as a person.  There was a time when I didn’t know who I was spiritually - - was I even a soul worthy of love and happiness?  There was a time when I didn’t know who God was and if I did catch a glimpse of Him, I didn’t think what He had to offer was for me.  I was too far gone.  A hot mess.  Too much of a sinner.  Too many mistakes.  Too many flaws.  I was at the end of me… I walked into the rooms of recovery not knowing myself or who God was, and I found both in the faces and the voices of the people just like me.  For that, I am forever grateful.
Enough of that rant for now.  I am going to talk about humility today.  I think a lot of people see humility as weakness, a mark of helplessness, and even as public embarrassment.  I think our society has labeled humiliation as a failing, a loss, or a mishap.  I see humiliation and humility as two very different and distinct things as I think humility is the ultimate sign of strength and as the perfect version of love and kindness.  I see humility as leading to a peaceful surrender and a pervasive sense of gratitude.  Humility breeds connection, kindness, peace, service, and kinship.  It takes what I have each day and makes that enough.  Humility is being at peace in everything and feeling that same peace when I have nothing.  It is being okay with not being okay and staying in the HERE, the NOW, and the PRESENT.  What in the world does that have to do with Recovery?  I thought you would never ask…
If I am humble, I will never stumble.
Stumbling can lead to relapse and a relapse leads to prison or worse, death.  So, humility is the key to my recovery and to my life for that matter.  If I can stay in prayer and stay in the present than I can remain humble.  Humble to me is recognizing that I don’t have all the answers, that my God does, and that I might as well let Him take the wheel and drive this bus.  When I was driving the bus, I would tell you it was great as I am driving on bare rims, with no brakes, and completely out of control.  That is humility to me: giving God the keys to my life.  That means that humility is the ultimate example of strength.  Admitting my limitations and allowing someone else to be in charge is surrender and ultimately is THE sign of strength.

 Humility is:
·       Admitting I don’t have all the answers;
·       Asking for help;
·       Being uncomfortably honest especially when it is painful;
·       Taking good care of myself daily;
·       Talking about my feelings;
·       Not worrying about yesterday as I can’t change it;
·       Being in the present and not worrying about tomorrow;
·       Trusting in the slow work of God and understanding that where I am TODAY is exactly where I am supposed to be in accordance with God’s plan in my life;
·       Accepting past mistakes and NOT focusing on them because when we focus on our problems we lose sight of our source of power and strength.  Humility is placing all my trust in God.
If I stay humble, I will not stumble… If I trust in God, I know that hope and change will follow.  That is promised to me in the Bible and in the rooms of recovery.  That is what I see in the faces of the people in those rooms and what I hear in their voices of recovery.
Humility is best prayed like this: God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
I am grateful for my sobriety and that I am humble enough today to let God take the wheel of my life.  Coming up on three years clean and sober and only by the grace of God am I able to share this journey with you all.  I appreciate you all reading, and I ask you to share this blog link on your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages so that someone out there that needs to hear this can. 
If you are using right now. . .stop and get to a meeting.

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

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Where do you need God to see you?

“You are the God that sees me.”  Hagar is the first person to utter the name God in the Bible and to recognize that that same God sees us where we are and not where we think we should be.  Hagar had been discarded and rejected by Abraham’s household and had to experience not only emotional turmoil but also the torture of the hot, barren desert after being sent away.  She became an outcast banished by those who once valued her.  That is the definition of pain, of loneliness, and of shame.
I don’t presume to know, understand, or let alone appreciate that kind of prison and shame but I can relate to her situation of hopelessness in two areas of my life:  addiction and prison.  Actually, let’s just examine how they are both pretty much synonymous with one another.  Addiction is prison.  Addiction is pain.  Addiction is shame.  Addiction is lonely.  Addiction is hopelessness.  Addiction is hell.  Finally, addiction is the only thing that I was good at before I was sent to prison.  To me, they are the same thing.  That may not sound believable to most people but trust me I had given everything away to and for my addiction.  My career, my family, my friends, my house, my cars, my money, my self-respect, my health, my love, my ability to laugh, my everything was willingly given to feed the only thing that I was still good at - - my addiction.  Funny, that same thing that I was perfecting was the very same thing that was killing me - one day at a time.  That’s the true prison in my life.  I was a prisoner to my addiction and I was hopeless. 
On December 18, 2015, I didn’t care what happened to me because anything was better than the life I wasn’t living.  On more times than I care to admit, I wanted to end my life and with it my addiction.  I couldn’t even do that right and just stayed incarcerated within the prison of my own hand. Who does that?  I truly believe that Judge Young saved my life that day.  I would not have stopped using drugs because I did not love myself and I was hopeless.  I could not see a way out, a better tomorrow, and in no way did I think my life could get better.
Until I recognized that my situation was hopeless without outside help, God waited and did not help.  But when I was ready to admit my need and cry out to Him, He was ready to step in.  I guess that’s as good a definition of rock bottom as any I’ve heard.  I often look back now and think my rock bottom must have had a trap door.  My rock bottom of addiction dropped down to my real bottom of being completely alone with that same addiction and the wreckage I had made of my life.  I was truly alone and forced to see me for what I had truly become - - a junkie, an addict, a crackhead, a meth-head, and a thousand other things that I never planned for in my life.  Simply put, I was a hot mess.
But, guess what?  God saw me – right there – in prison – alone – addicted – deserted – discarded – an outcast – hopeless – ashamed – unemployed – a felon – the worst of the worst – bad father – and on and on and on.  God saw me.  God Saw me. 

God saw me, and He said something like this, “look at how perfect you are.”

So, I took my hopelessness to God and He saw me, and He stepped in and the rest is history.  The key is this:  God can restore a sense of self-worth even in the most trying of times if we just hit our knees and look up.  Sure, addiction is terrible, but God loves us right there in that same addiction.  Just let go and let God.
Recovery is still hard work but it’s easier than addiction.  If you are struggling with addiction you know what I am talking about and YOU CAN ASK FOR HELP.  Say a prayer.  Seek God.  It will get better.
If you are not suffering with addiction, what does your prison look like?  Don’t act like you don’t have one.  Come on, get with it.  We all have prisons, they just look a little different than mine, your neighbors, or your spouses. But, trust me, they are there.

Why are you hopeless in that same prison that you don't want to admit that you have?

Remember, you don’t have to be in prison to be a prisoner. . . but, who the son sets free is free indeed . . .

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

P.S. This last picture is one of many that Avery sent me while in prison. You can’t tell me that God doesn’t see us right where we are as He sent many reminders from her to let me know I was never alone, even when it felt that way. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Don't rush . . . Don't stop . . .

For as long as people have been addicted to alcohol and drugs, there have been three results to those addictions:  jails, institutions, and death.  There are no exceptions.  There are no get out of free jail cards.  No one can cheat the death of end stage of addiction.  The sad truth (editorial rant) is that for many years people have been dying at the hand of their addictions.  It's just recently that people are actually talking about it.  It's okay, think back over the years of your life and you will likely remember a suicide, unexplained death, or one of unknown and mysterious causes.  Those were most likely related to substance use or addiction and were just not talked about because people were unaware of the addiction or the family was too ashamed to let the truth be known.  The focus on the opioid epidemic has awakened a quite monster in our society.  A monster that has lived on inner-city streets, in backrooms of bars, and within crack houses of small towns like Marion, Indiana for decades.  Not until it hit soccer moms, good people being over-prescribed painkillers, and frankly, White America, did anyone pay attention much less give a darn.  That is the sad but true face of addiction in America.  That is why I speak out.  That is why I share my prison journal.  That is why I blog about my story and my journey.  I want people to know that addiction does not discriminate, does not exclude, and does not lead anywhere but to those same jails, same institutions, and same death mentioned above (editorial rant over). 

Luckily, and by the grace of God, my addiction led me to prison where I could find the hardest thing besides my addiction: CHANGE.

Change is hard.  Change is difficult.  Change takes time.  Change is painful.  Do this for me right now - - cross your arms.  Now, uncross them and cross them the exact opposite way. . . STOP AND DO THIS NOW. . . How ridiculously uncomfortable, weird, and awkward was that?  Something you have been doing your whole life and if asked to change it, it is all sorts of hard.  Imagine being addicted to something that has been your whole life:  more important than your kids, your family, your career, your law license, your respect, your name, and on and on and on.  Simply put, in end stage addiction, DRUGS = SURVIVAL.  Now, go and change that. . . are you kidding me?  Addiction was miserable and change is hard. Period. End of story.


In my life and in the lives of many that hang out with, work with, and help out in their own recovery, God has been the chain breaker and the change maker.  God stepped into my life and things started to happen but there was no magic cure - - there never is.  I still had to work, to surrender DAILY, to study the Bible, to listen to God and to others who might know a little more about recovery than I do, and to work a daily program of recovery.  A friend of mine, Mike Henson, Jr., who is not in recovery but works with those of us who are, says this about people in recovery, "I have seen so many people struggle to change and work so hard to better their lives and those people are the strongest people I have ever met.  They are survivors.  They are warriors."  

God sets the stage for change by His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness, and the promise of a new life in Him.  But, He also whispers, "there is work to be done."  God changes the hearts of men but we still have to work on the brain!!! Addiction is a powerful enemy. . . But, God. . . 

If you or someone you know is struggling in addiction, there is hope and change is possible.  Just like crossing your arms differently gets easier, change is smoother the more you pray, the longer you work at it, and the more you accept and surrender your addiction and your life to God.  You didn't . . . wait for it . . . become addicted overnight and you won't change in that same period of time.


If you are using right now - - put the pipe, the needle, or the bottle down and pray.  Focus on quitting and not on your past mistakes.  When we focus on our problems we lose sight of of our source of power and strength.  Trust in God.  Hope and change will follow.

Gregory Boyle says, "Trust in the slow work of God.  Ours is a God who waits.  Who are we not to?  It takes what it takes for the great turnaround.  Wait for it."  

If you are stuck today all you have to do is take that first step away from the dead end sign.  God will walk with you and so will everyone else in recovery.  

Just ask for help. 

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

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