Saturday, December 22, 2018

Mirror Mirror on the wall...

From my journal. . . Christmas time is tough on those of us who struggle with addiction and who are in long term recovery. Today, I don't have to fall apart and I don't have to be afraid. That's not always been the case and thankfully I don't have to let my past consume me. I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to be anything other than what God intended.


Stick around me long enough and I will share a story or sixty about what recovery looks like - the good, the bad, and the ugly. I've shared on more than a few occasions that recovery can be difficult on everyone involved.

Difficult - yes
Impossible - hardly
Doable - 💯

So why do it? Why get sober? Why put down that bottle, that rig, and that pipe? Why change? Does anyone really care about you? Do YOU EVEN KNOW yourself anymore?

It's Christmas...did you buy your kids gifts or did you buy drugs? Is that REALLY who you are? Will you get 💰 for Christmas and Immediately go see the dope dealer? No judgment here...been there...done that. Or how about this one - will you pawn your gifts and theirs the day after Christmas? Or worse yet, will you simply not show up for anything and be STUCK in the shame of your spiraling addiction.

Is that really who you are? Is that who God created? Go to the mirror and ask yourself those questions right now. I will wait...

If you are reading this and crying right now, you are ready - call a friend, call your parents, tell your wife, call your husband, call me 765-667-0150 - it's time.

You DO NOT have to live this way anymore.

Yes, recovery is hard.  But, if addiction was so easy, you wouldn't be standing in front of a mirror...praying, wishing, and begging yourself to QUIT. Recovery is hard but addiction is so much harder. Aren't you exhausted?

You do not have to stay in front of that mirror for one more second -- GET UP...brush off...ask for help...YOU are LOVED...You are special...You are amazing...You are an awesome person, parent, partner and YOU can recover.

It's Christmas - give the gift of yourself this year. You can recover. End the chaos and ask for help. Be the warrior.

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Surrender...Never Surrender...Always Surrender

Why is surrender a word that most associate with losing, giving up, or raising the white flag of defeat?  Why do we consider those who surrender to be weak, unworthy, or worse yet – a failure?  Surrender has been used to end major events like World Wars and to stop someone we love from twisting our arms too hard by screaming UNCLE - - a close relative of the scary and shameful word - - SURRENDER.

“Never surrender” is what we are taught at an early age - - but, WHY?  Maybe that never surrender mentality is necessary in battle, in business, or on the gridiron.  Perhaps that never surrender attitude is beneficial for those battling addiction or recovering from cancer.  I know that I never want to surrender to my addiction again…like never.  Here is the dichotomy - - the issue - - the problem.  I cannot “never surrender” if I don’t first surrender to something bigger than the problem at hand.  Does that make sense to anyone but me?  Right about now you may be scratching your head - - stick with me as I attempt to explain by sharing a bit more of my life and my own story of surrender with y’all. 

My burden became as heavy as stone and my addiction was leading me straight to death.  I was a total loss you might say.  I had literally given away everything to feed my addiction.  I am not sure I had anything left to give save the clothes on my back - - and I would have given those for some more crack on just about ALL occasions.  In that moment, I realized that I was beat, defeated, and destroyed.  I was alone.  I was scared.  I couldn’t drive the bus anymore.  I had come to the end of me.  I was ready to throw in the towel, to check out, and call it quits and not just on my addiction - - my life.  I was D U N…DONE.

That’s when I realized how truly hard surrender is.  That’s when I realized that surrender took courage.  Surrender requires asking for help.  Addicts don’t ask for help for fear of being judged.
Come on…be honest…you know I am right - - asking for help is hard - - when is the last time you asked for help?  We both know it wasn’t yesterday when you were lost, and you wouldn’t even stop and ask for directions – I get it. That dates me, but you get my point.  We all think asking for help just like surrender shows our weakness and vulnerability. 

In fact, the opposite is true.
·       Surrender is strength
·       Surrender is asking for help (again strength)
·       Surrender is letting someone else drive the bus for a few miles (once again, strength)
·       Surrender is asking for direction when we are lost
·       Surrender is hitting my knees and looking up for God
·       Surrender is shutting up and listening to God (strength / patience)
·       Surrender is acceptance (that is hard)
·       Surrender takes courage, obedience, and perseverance
·       Surrender is prayer
·       Surrender is humility and humility, the proper focus of strength
·       Surrender says, “I will change” - - everyday
·       Surrender says, “I can’t…He can…I think I will let Him”
·       Surrender is establishing a connection with God - - a repurposing of sorts - - a welcome home - - a calling fulfilled
·       Surrender is my heart’s desire
·       Surrender is the ONLY way out of my addiction and prison of me

Once I realized what surrender truly was, I was ALL IN.  Surrender was freedom for me and for a life-long prisoner of addiction, that was all I needed.
I had to learn to surrender to God so that my addiction could end.  Funny, I had to learn that power of surrender in the face of the weakness of me.  I had to surrender so that I could say “never surrender” in my long-term recovery.
I know where I have been, and I will not go back again.  I WILL NOT SURRENDER.

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

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Remembering my chains...

November 21, 2016 was Bible study night at Plainfield Correctional Facility.  Every Monday, Reggie and David would volunteer their time to come study God’s Word with those of us who wanted to learn.  Nothing is easy in prison.  Not even time with God.  Nothing.  Even getting to Bible study is a process and might be why of nearly 2000 offenders only 10 – 12 joined me every Monday at Chapel.  That small number might also be why to this day I resist the belief, notion, or judgment that I only found God in prison (some jailhouse religion talk if you get my drift).  From the outside looking in that may be true but let me tell you about the WORK of finding God in prison.
At 6:00 PM every Monday (and Thursday and Friday for regular Church) you are required to “stage-up” or prepare to go and that means lining up (one or two in my dorm) at the door.  Then, as usual for anything in prison life, I waited by the door until 6:30 PM when Chapel was screamed by the guard – exciting right? – wrong.  That just meant I had to go to the guard desk and check-out, be harassed, cussed at, and then told to wait again, by yet another locked door until the walks (prison talk for sidewalks) are opened at 6:50 PM.  Getting close to Bible study you might say?  Nah, now I just must walk a ¼ mile in either the blistering heat, pouring rain, or ridiculous cold to the Chapel where I am normally greeted by lock doors and another wait before the guard finally decides to check us in and eventually allow us to enter God’s House - - FYI it is normally 7:15 PM by now.  Very efficient use of 1 hour and 15 minutes prep time for Bible study.
Writing this today makes me wonder why I kept going.  I never missed unless we were on lock-down or the couple of times the guards would simply refuse to let me go for whatever made up reason at the time.  Prison is all about control and the enemy is in control of the Indiana Department of Corrections.   Editorial note:  nothing ever happens on time or as planned in prison and this part of chaos in control is what is so de-humanizing in the whole process of incarceration.  One never knows what to expect even when it is expected.  It is cruel and unusual punishment just being there.
I thought I had it bad to get to Bible study but come to find out, Reggie and David had a process too.  Searches and questions like - - “open your Bibles,” “empty your pockets,” “open your mouths,” “why do you come here?” and statements like “they are all losers,” “they don’t care about God,” and “they are all criminals.”  You know the things you probably all thought before you read my blog, listened to my journey, liked my page, and shared my comments. No judgment here - - I thought the same things before I went.  That’s why I share my journey today.
But they came – EVERY MONDAY.  Time away from their families to join a small group of men who had nothing to offer them.  Except that those men had to fight in a sense just to be able to worship and learn together.  So, from 7:15 PM to 8:50 PM we studied.  We prayed.  We laughed.  We cried.  We wished we were them.  Maybe they wished they were us (doubtful). We shared life.  We were free – free to be God’s people even as prisoners.
I learned a lot about God on Mondays.  I learned that where I am doesn’t define who I am.  I learned that a lot of the best parts of the Bible were written in prisons just like mine.  I learned that we are all broken and need God’s love.  I learned about service to others and to God.
On this day, we studied Colossians 3, and these are the things I remember about that day.  I was introduced to tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  I remember learning about forgiving each other (especially prison guards) and in all things to give thanks.  I learned in the process of getting to Bible study, the study itself, and in learning about the struggles that Reggie and David face as well that I would do just as they did once I was released.
Paul basically tells in Colossians that we will not find success in our own strength or rules which lead us away from the only adequate power source - - GOD.  I have no idea why I wrote about this today, but it may just because of what Paul signs at the end of the book – Remember my chains…
So, I remember my chains today.  My chains, in addition to getting those Bible studies, were as follows.
·       Crack
·       Meth
·       Alcohol
·       Cigarettes
·       Shane
·       Pride
·       Shane
·       Prison
·       Bible study process
·       Prison
·       Jail
·       Shane…see a pattern here?
My prison…my chains…were me.  I will remember them and this:
What matters most is that we understand that we move in God’s strength.  Period. End of story.
If you are struggling, it’s okay…help is only a prayer away.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

I need you now. . . I need you most . . .

This is another guest blog that discusses anxiety and depression.  The author, Jessica Warner, is a familiar contributor if you have read the blog in the past month.  Jessica is an amazingly compassionate, caring, and selfless person who, like all of us, struggles with something.  I share this today because it is important to appreciate that we see a lot of different faces in our daily walks and we never know what is going on behind their eyes, underneath their breath, and in their souls. Hug someone today.  Listen to a friend.  Text your mom just to say you love her.  Tell your kids you love them.  Listen. Just listen. Smile at EVERYONE… it may be the only positive moment in their seemingly happy day.

Most days I am a mess wrapped in anxiety and depression and panic attacks-tied together with a pretty ribbon. And the only thing keeping me from a breakdown are small parcels of hope wrapped in helium balloons- ready to fly away at any second. The parcels of hope haven’t always been what you would expect. Some days those balloons are filled with dead-of-night-dark thoughts. And I chase them. I grab onto those strings and pray the balloons won’t pop. I grab those strings and I tie them around my wrists and hope if they fly away, they will take me with them. Or pray that they are tied tight enough to do some damage. The hope that one day, all this will end...whatever that means.

There’s only one problem. There’s no floating away with the world’s heaviest balloons. They weigh me down like bricks tied to my ankles, running through knee deep sand. They bring me down. If I was in water I would be drowning. Sometimes I wish I was drowning. Sometimes I think I am. Can tears drown you? The salt water falling from my face makes me feel weak. If I can’t handle this, what’s wrong with me? I should be able to handle this. The salt water falling from my face reminds me of ocean waves- because they crash over me each time, I strive to take a breath. It’s like those stupid balloons followed me here. My ocean of anxiety and panic. How am I supposed to escape when I can’t see the shore? Can’t go back, can’t stay here. My body is tired of fighting the constant state of dread. My hands shake, my stomach hurts, my head aches. I let my darkened balloons take over out of sheer exhaustion. Sometimes they let out air- so subtle that you can just barely make out the sound of “not good enough” “not worthy” ...but it sounds like an explosion in my head. And I let them scream at me? Why am I okay with letting the weight of my own thoughts sink me? Even when it doesn’t make sense, it’s like I can’t stop. 

Until one day, I’ve had enough. 

Enough dread. 
Enough worry. 
Enough pain. 
Enough fear. 
Enough sadness. 
Enough hurt. 
Enough pity. 
Enough drowning. 


I have had enough. 

I am enough. 

The wind finally shakes the balloons free, and amid the explosion, there is calm. Peace. My head above water, my feet planted. And it’s almost easy to forget how I felt a minute ago. My dark balloons are floating above the trees, toward the sun. I realize I don’t need them. I see now that I never really did. And I don’t want them. The freedom feels so good. I feel it in my soul. A shift. Light and airy. I know I am valuable and lovable and capable and responsible. I find new balloons. I fill them with my dreams and gratitude and faith and self-love. I let them carry my through the forest of bright flowers and breathe deep the aroma of change, no longer holding my breath. Sometimes the rain still falls, but my balloons keep me above the current. They remind me that whatever comes next does not come as an ending, but a fresh start. A clean slate. A new perspective. If I keep fighting, even when the balloons get heavy, I will never be stuck on the bottom. 

If you struggle with ANXIETY click here for some help…

Also, this song inspired her to write this blog. . . I appreciate you Jess. 

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

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