a table in the wilderness

“I have not forgotten you. I did not lead you into the wilderness to die.”

image

I imagine the first Thanksgiving, whether at Jamestown or Plymouth, had a lot to do with celebrating survival.

Only half the pilgrims at Plymouth had made it through the journey, a harsh winter, desperate hunger, and life-taking illness. There must have been some grief — no matter how stoic –when they looked around the table.

I keep thinking about that. How Thanksgiving may be less about gratitude for what I have and more about gratitude for God bringing us through suffering, pain, loss … a nuance, but one that turns my thoughts from material blessings, and even the fellowship of friends and family, to a deeper sort of thanks, made deeper by the suffering. By realizing my utter dependence on the Father for breath.

And the food on the table, the corn and meat that made up the pilgrim feast? A token of love, not unlike the manna and quail provided from heaven, that said, “I have not forgotten you…I did not lead you into the wilderness to die. I will take care of you.”

Losing a job, fighting illness, loss of a loved one, broken relationships, injustice, anguish over your addict’s choices… Sometimes, that’s all Thanksgiving can be.

A respite from pain. A table in the wilderness. A deep breath of grace.

a prescription for addiction

A little piece of our story made it to the cover of the New York Times this week . . .
That little piece is a drug called Suboxone.

A little piece of our story made it to the cover of the New York Times this week.

Well, actually, a piece that was left out. (It happens when you are too wordy.)

That little piece is a drug called Suboxone.

Suboxone/buprenorphine is, as the Times article says, “a substitute opioid used to treat opioid addiction.”

Suboxone played an important role in Dave’s recovery. In fact, it’s the last drug he used. Six years ago, he was weaning himself off it. And it was horrible.

Here is the published paragraph for her.meneutics with the portion in bold added back in:

For the first time, in a safe place to bare my soul, I began to release the burden of Dave’s recovery. He wasn’t “fixed” yet. [After a second time in a hospital for detox, Dave was prescribed a new “addiction recovery” drug called Suboxone under the care of a psychiatrist. With stress-filled, long hours of work and unable to take the time off needed for the required meetings, he found ways  to buy the Ultram pills online instead.] His choices resulted in losing ministry, income, home, and reputation all at once. The best thing that happened to Dave and me, as devastating as it was, was total exposure—our “rock bottom”—which defused the secrets of their power. — The Secret Lives of Christian Pill Addicts

Suboxone gave Dave the sense of well-being in just two pills that he’d gotten from 30 Ultram. But Suboxone treatment is complex. Really, it’s a trade. A legal substitute for heroin, a similar idea to Methadone, and an “acceptable” fix for prescription drug addicts — as long as you are under the care of a decent psychiatrist. Though it has helped a lot of people, it isn’t necessarily the answer to every problem of addiction. The inpatient detox program Dave went to in April of 2007 didn’t give him a choice. Suboxone turned out to be their prescribed answer for addiction.

With Suboxone, Dave had substituted one powerful drug for another.

The treatment, to be successful, required more of Dave than he was ready to give — especially for someone who is trying to keep the recovery process private.

The doctor he was supposed to meet regularly with was an hour’s drive away. Meetings for Suboxone patients were also an hour away, but in another direction. He reasoned that he could not keep up his 90-hour-week (in the summer) camp director job and take the time out necessary for the Suboxone program. But because he did not meet his obligations, he lost access to the Suboxone. However, it was easy to access Tramadol online, which meant immediate relief was right at his finger tips.

In theory, Suboxone is another “wonder drug,” intended to help people with chemical addiction work toward freedom from that addiction. Addiction isn’t just physical — it’s multi-faceted. Which is why, for Suboxone to be effective, the patient must find ethical, trained professionals AND has to be committed to the full course of treatment — meetings, counseling, and all.

On another note, Dave was put back on Suboxone in November of 2007 to ease withdrawal from Tramadol (to keep him out of the hospital, especially since we no longer had insurance) after his relapse. Then he had to taper off the Suboxone, which took him down to tiny pieces of the pill — milligrams, just like many Suboxone patients interviewed by the Times. The detox was agonizing. Worse than the Tramadol withdrawal. Dave didn’t begin to feel normal until several months after his last microscopic piece of pill. 

We demand so much of ourselves and of others when it comes to being well. A few sick days. A few delivered meals. A few prayers. Bodies and souls need time to recover from trauma. And getting out of addiction IS trauma.

There is no easy solution to drug addiction. Beware of programs that claim to be easy. Understand what we did not, that recovery is a consuming process, not a quick fix.

* * * * *

Opioids are a normal part of our American lives now.

Chances are, you or your children have taken opioids for big things like surgery recovery and even for lesser procedures or illness like oral surgery, coughs, and even nausea. And some drugs aren’t classified as opioid, but were designed to act just like an opioid on the brain — like Tramadol/Ultram.

Opioids act on specific receptors in the brain and the body, which also interact with naturally produced substances known as endorphins or enkephalins – important in regulating pain. While prescription pain relievers can be highly beneficial if used as prescribed, opioids as a general class of drugs have a high potential for abuse.  — National Institute on Drug Abuse 

Some commonly prescribed opioids are:

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet)
  • Diphenoxylate (Lomotil)
  • Morphine (Kadian, Avinza, MS Contin)
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl (Duragesic)
  • Propoxyphene (Darvon)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)

You can read more about Opioid addiction here.

* * * * *

A few thoughts for you:

  • Ask doctors for other relief options before giving yourself or your child an opioid. There ARE alternatives, especially for coughs and dental procedures.
  • Dispose of all pain medications wisely. Do not keep them around for the next time you have pain. Or, LOCK your medicine cabinet.
  • Don’t just take a doctor’s word for the need for and effectiveness of a medication. Do your own research. Get a second opinion. Both Dave and I have recovered from minor surgery (laproscopic gallbladder removal) and dental surgery (tooth extraction, root canal, etc.) on Ibuprofen and Tylenol. It takes longer, but we have to do it. Opioids are not allowed in our house.
  • I encourage you to read, or at least skim, the Times article and the follow-up article. I am fully convinced that greed in “Big Pharma” perpetuates prescription drug abuse epidemic in this country. Is there really a need for Suboxone strips? Think about it.
  • Finally, even in a tiny, beautiful, suburban community like Poulsbo, Washington, heroin has become a serious problem. Want to know why? Because it’s cheaper than prescription drugs.

* * * * *

NYT Subox

Recovery is individual. What seems to work for one person may not work for another. This post is intended to be informative, not a judgement against people who are using Suboxone, pain medication, or doctors who prescribe them.

Photo Credit: Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910-1990, photographer, May 1940 Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [reproduction number, LC-USF34-053710-D (b&w film neg.)]

letting go of leaves

Stick figure silhouettes cling to dangling color that remains . . . dropping one by one . . . leaving them exposed, leafless . . . .
The woods betray us. We are vulnerable.

Hiding is instinct.

Because we feel wrong, because we we’ve done wrong, because we’re afraid.

Because the world is full of devils. And temptation. And deception. And hurt.

Because our eyes have been opened to our flaws. Our tragic flaws . . . hamartia.* His. Hers.

And we cannot close them again.

Our own skin is suddenly not enough. We are not enough. Exposure stabs, air stings. Branches scratch arms, stones gash bare feet, thorns stick, send shivers through us and stay.

We hide, attempt to make covers for ourselves with beautiful things, with leaves hastily sewn together to mask our acutely aware, raw selves. Alive and yet aching, free and yet cut off.

* * * * *

November 14th is an anniversary.

October, 2007    I dared to hope, as we approached the six month mark this time. Dave was in a 12 Step program. We both attended weekly meetings. With support and encouragement, I was slowly letting go of his recovery.

For months, I had been exposed to what dropping masks really looks like, and I began to long for real freedom myself. Not just in weekly meetings, but in all of my life.

I copied this quote into my journal from a book I’d been reading:

PicsArt_1384458095829“Hiding is a curse. It came into being after the fall. Hiding is motivated by shame. It involves pretending and deceiving. Hiding is the place of fear and anxiety. . . . Imagine what your life would be like if all pretense were to vanish from it. Imagine the freedom and relief of not trying to convince anyone that you were smarter or better than you are.”– John Ortberg

I spent October digging deep, pulling out hurts, wrongs, pain — writing them down, discerning what hurts were of my own making and needed confession and which were not my fault in any way but for which I felt responsible. It was a slow, painful bleed. But saying them aloud, calling each one by name, letting go of crushing sense of responsibility for sins that were not mine, admitting and confessing aloud the ones that were . . . it was so very freeing. Secrets, dragged into the light, were relieved of their power. That was November 5th.

Nine days later, Dave came to me to confess. He had been using again, made terrible choices, lost his job and our home.

Every page of that journal and the next is filled with mourning, with letting go and letting fall — a season of stripping away, sorting through shame, wrestling with bitterness. Until Dave told his story of addiction and healing to our church — eight months later — and I began to finally feel free.

Each month then and each year now is a milestone to celebrate.

He’s made it well past six months to six years.

* * * * *

Eastward of Eden, the world glows shades of amber.

Windblown chaff of evergreens sprinkles pavement gold. Yellow-brown pathways lead home.

Wind plucks, swirls golden leaves . . . suspends, whisks in dry needles . . . lets all fall, flickering in sunlight.

Stick figure silhouettes cling to dangling color that remains . . . dropping one by one . . . leaving them exposed, leafless.

Behind the house, autumn transforms woods, uncovers mountains beyond sea. Beside the house, neighbors, once voices hid by forest wall, take on form and face.

The woods betray us. We are vulnerable.

* * * * *

PicsArt_1384460381061 (1)A friend comes to visit. We laugh about this world — neither of us natives — you never know what the trees hide.  Til winter, forests conceal beautiful views . . . and rusted cars, and rotting couches, and old toilets . . .

Woods are good for hiding all sorts of unwanted . . . until naked trees reveal brokenness.

Sometimes you don’t see the mess until the leaves die.

Ah, but the stripping of leaves is only for a season.

And better coverings are being made.

* * * * *

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:1-3

______________________________________________________________

* In literature, hamartia is a tragic flaw. In Scripture, sin.

** Step 4 We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.  Step 5 We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

link to: the secret lives of Christian pill addicts

Read the full post at her.meneutics.
http://www.christianitytoday.com

Have the incredible privilege of sharing here today.  Please read and share. You never know who is struggling with secrets.

I’ve also updated the resources page — a starting place if you are looking for help.

Thank you to my husband, David. Your life is a testimony of God’s grace and power, and you are a blessing to so many people. Most of all, me.

 

a harvest of gratitude

. . . I don’t mean just the big THANKS. I mean the little thanks — for everyday things. The things that we have to dig into to find a reason for being grateful. It’s a whole lot harder than it appears.

I tend to try to change everything about my life all at once. 

Time to get healthy? I take vitamins, drink the right amount of water, cut caffeine and/or sugar, drink raw apple cider vinegar and green tea, attempt exercise . . . and then, when I feel better, I never know what did it.  Plus, do I have to keep up all these things?. . . and then I fail, because I really can’t keep up with so many habits foreign to my nature.

I like new and different. Routine loses the thrill after about a week.

So my latest kick is self-discipline — because I lack it. (Again, *two thumbs pointing to self* bored with consistency.)

Just general, over all self-discipline. Which may sound like CHANGE ALL THE THINGS! and biting off more than I can chew. But isn’t, really, because I’m starting small.

My usual self would, at this point of decision, print out a schedule, a chart, a list — and organize my life. I love doing that. I get excited about new organizational things. HOWEVER, doing and then sticking with it is an entirely different matter. It’s not that I need to be more organized. It’s that I need to be more disciplined.

So I’ve started small. Or maybe big. 

Because sometimes, I complain . . . okay, often. I often complain. And I am lazy about gratitude.

So, my “big” self-discipline for November is that I am committing to start each day with a grateful thought and post it on Facebook and Twitter . . . like a whole lot of other people. (Hey, some trends are good trends.) I’m no Pollyanna, believe me. I could really use a little less grumbling. And I know an ungrateful attitude is a whole lot of why I often struggle with being content.

And I don’t mean just the big THANKS. I mean the little thanks — for everyday things. The things that we have to dig into to find a reason for being grateful. It’s a whole lot harder than it appears.

I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts in January — loved it — and when I read her journal plan, I thought, Writing down three gifts a day? How hard can that be? I made it to 45 gifts. Forty-five! And my last journal entry of three simple gifts was at the end of March. So it’s actually hard. For me, anyway. Because of my apparent allergy to consistency . . . and maybe gratitude.

So I love this from One Thousand Gifts:

Do not disdain the small. The whole of the life — even the hard — is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole. These are new language lessons, and I live them out. There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.

I, too, had read it often, the oft-quoted verse: “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). And I, too, would nod and say straight-faced, “I’m thankful for everything.” But in this counting gifts, to one thousand, more, I discover that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things in my life. A lifetime of sermons on “thanks in all things” and the shelves sagging with books on these things and I testify: life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time.

Little nails and a steady hammer can rebuild a life . . .

So I’m doing it.

I’m going to attempt to share a harvest of gratitude for small things and big things.

#30daysofthanks

Because I need to remind myself that I have so much to be thankful for.

And my bet is, it really does change everything.

Praise for the LORD’S Goodness.
A Psalm, a Song for the Sabbath day.

It is good to give thanks to the LORD And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High ;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning And Your faithfulness by night . . .
For You, O LORD, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands. Psalm 92:1-4

* * * * *

What about you? Have you seen simple gratitude change your outlook on life? Want to try #30daysofthanks?

Read more about gratitude from enduring and after

the gift of gratitude

all I ever have to be

but for the grace of God