A conversation about Purpose in recovery

Restoring a sense of purpose will help a recovering addict stay sober. They need to find where they fit, how they can contribute, and be able to participate in society.

Our third video for National Recovery Month: Purpose. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines purpose as: “Conducting meaningful daily activities such as a job, volunteerism, family caretaking, creative endeavors, and the independence, income, and resources to participate in society.” Here’s what Dave (and I) had to say about that:

Having a regular routine was a priority for Dave in recovery.  Because he lost his job, and because of his struggle with addiction, he had to find a new line of work.

Fortunately, Dave’s new line of work proved to be fairly rewarding and built up his already innate/inherited ability to talk to anyone in the world. Six years of work as a debt counselor and then managing counselors proved excellent training for parenting teenagers/college students!

We talk more in the video about leading a 12 Step recovery group, and I go off on a tangent about Sheryl Sandberg and what is one of my new favorite books: Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. 

Also, if you’re looking for ways to help families in crisis, I’ve got all kinds of ideas for you.

Thanks for watching!

A conversation about the home in recovery

For a husband or wife dealing with their spouse’s addiction, recovery comes with a whole new set of issues. A lot of relationships come apart in recovery. Here’s how ours mended.

Did we get awkwardly transparent again? The screenshot says it all…

Addiction affected our whole family, so our whole family has been a part of recovery, too. In this video, we’re talking about how our home changed in the early days of recovery and beyond.  What did we tell our kids? How did our relationship survive? What help is out there for families?

September is National Recovery Month. Each week this month, we’ll post a new video about an aspect of recovery. Come back and visit next week, or subscribe to our newsletter for updates and upcoming videos.  Thanks for watching!

 

 

A conversation about physical recovery from prescription opioid addiction

Dave and I talk about the physical aspects of his recovery from prescription opioid addiction: withdrawal, post-acute withdrawal syndrome, and more.

What happens when you stop taking a prescription opioid? Well, that depends. Have you been taking them according to the instructions? Or have you been abusing them? Most people who take powerful opioids for recovery from medical procedures experience only mild withdrawal. But when you’ve been taking them for years, and in amounts that could kill you?

In this 20 minute video, Dave describes his many withdrawal experiences with Tramadol and Suboxone and gives insight into the critical need for support in the early months of recovery — especially from long-term, high-dosage prescription drug addiction.

If you’re discouraged that you or your loved one isn’t “back to normal” this is an important watch. Oh, and please subscribe to our newsletter if you haven’t already. We’ll send you a week’s worth of posts in one email.

What do you mean you’re “in recovery”? Why aren’t you healed?

Recovery is more than just living without addiction. Recovery involves heart, soul, mind, and strength.

If you follow along with nationally recognized months, you know that the point of them is to raise awareness around a certain topic.

September is National Recovery month

And I might have a few things to say about recovery… It’s been in the subtitle of this blog since 2011, and it’s something we live daily.

Recovery is so much a part of our lives, I sometimes don’t know where to begin. But the question in the title of this post is as good a place as any. Because sometimes “recovery” in the context of addiction and mental health carries baggage.

I used to think the idea of recovery was derided only in certain faith communities. But over the last decade of study and experience, I’ve noticed that skepticism isn’t limited to church people.

The word recovery conjures images of 12 Step meetings and therapists’ couches, and while that’s not wrong, it’s limiting. There isn’t just one route to recovery.

Recovery is simply the healing process

Most humans understand that healing is a process. We may be sympathetic, or even empathetic — even if at times we feel impatient — up to a year out from trauma. But beyond that? We really want people to snap out of it. And, if we’re honest, we start to think something is wrong with a person if they don’t.

Dave and I have had many discussions about recovery this year as we’ve had the opportunity to share our story through Guideposts and other avenues.  I started going to the recovery group he leads at our church, after a few years away from it, and I’m facilitating a women’s group as a part of it.

Dave’s been clean almost 11 years, which is a major victory after been a prescription drug addict for 15 years. Our life today is so, so changed from what it was a decade ago. He’s transformed. And yet, he always introduces himself in the group as “an addict in recovery from pills.”

I didn’t like this at first. It grated on me.  “Don’t you think, after all these years, that you’re finally healed?” I asked. We talked about it for days.

But Dave still says he’s in recovery from addiction because it’s true. And as much as I wish sometimes it wasn’t, I know and believe there are some wounds that not only don’t just disappear, they may not heal completely in this life. I understand it because I have a wound or two like that myself. Whether you call it that or not, you might, too.

There are wounds that Don’t fully heal

We understand this in the physical realm — with the wounds we can see. If you break your leg, for example, you may have a long recovery that involves surgery, traction, and rehabilitation through physical therapy. Your recovery process would depend on the severity of the trauma, your age, and your participation in the exercises you’re prescribed.

In some cases, a patient may never fully recover their former strength or walk. They’ll always have a limp.

Not only that, but former habits change as well. Maybe they don’t climb mountains anymore because walking on an incline for more than a mile knocks them out for weeks. The recovery time takes too much of a toll.

When I think of Dave’s recovery in the context of trauma like that, I get it.  His life was literally changed forever by 15 years of drug abuse and addiction –and all its wonderful side effects. And so was mine, and so was our family’s.

For starters,

  • Dave can’t take pain meds like regular people, which makes medical procedures more complicated
  • He has holes in his memory and sometimes skips words when he’s speaking and doesn’t realize it
  • He feels weird every time he walks into a doctor’s office or pharmacy because it’s where he got drugs

This doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Recovery is more than just living without pills…

Recovery involves heart, soul, mind, and strength. It has its roots in hope, but it deals in reality.

The SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has a working definition of recovery, as shown in the graphic above. It includes: health, home, purpose, and community.

I love this. It’s the stuff Dave and I talk about all the time. And we get to talk about it with you right here all month.

Where you need to be and where you are most needed

We won’t always feel the thrill of this is the thing I was made to do. When it no longer sparks joy, we will wish we could throw away our calling like the jeans we’ve been hanging onto for someday. Just because you are called to something doesn’t mean it will be easy. In fact, I can say with total confidence that it won’t be. If it was, we wouldn’t need a power greater than ourselves. 

We should go with our lives where we most need to go and where we are most needed.

Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark

Sometimes, we wonder what to do with the stuff of our past. The things we did, or we were, or experienced. Sometimes we bury it, sometimes we run from it, sometimes, we let it bury us.

If you are working toward freedom from the past, freedom from shame, freedom from fear, freedom from chains, you will in time come to a crossroads. Call it letting go, call it forgiveness, call it realization that you are no longer bound, but at some point, even if that point seems so far away now, it will become possible for you to forget what lies behind. 

I’ve heard that phrase a lot. Most of the time, the person saying seems to be forgetting that the speaker was speaking of his successes and the laurels he refused to rest on. Because he never forgot that he was the chief of sinners. Are we really ever allowed to forget who we once were? And such were some of you seems to be a cornerstone of grace. Forgetting where we came from tends to make us holier than thou.

So what do we do with it? With the thing we’ve been forgiven for, the thing we’ve been healed from, the thing we’ve gotten through?

Some of us are given rest, I believe that. Quiet healing. Peace at last.

But some of us are called to speak up, to light the path, and let our lives become a means of encouragement. Maybe we’re just a few steps ahead of someone who is desperate to know which way to go. Or maybe we’re in a place of peace someone is doubting even exists — just knowing you were once where they are now will give them hope that their life won’t always be as dark as it is at present.

But I believe this, too, we know when we are called. We don’t have to wonder.

In the stillness when the TV goes off, when the people are asleep, when the phone rests out of reach, you feel it. In the moment when the preacher is preaching and the burn radiates in your chest, it rises up in your mind and you see it. In the task when the Eric Liddell-like rush of When I run, I feel His pleasure overwhelms you, you hear it.

A calling doesn’t let go of you. Oh, you can suppress it for a while, and you will very likely doubt it — maybe even for a long time after you’ve stepped into it. But if you don’t answer it, calling hangs onto you like a blackberry bramble, pricking you every now and then with a spiked thorn. It’ll quit bothering you, of course, if you develop a callus. But if you feel the sharp sting, and you pay attention to it, the poke will lead you to where you are most needed.

How do you know where you are most needed?

Well, honestly, sometimes, you’re asked. But more often, especially if you are the gentle or reticent sort, you have to suck up your fears and raise your hand. And sometimes, the thing you are resisting the most is the very thing you are being called to do.

And for some of us, the stuff of our past is shaping our calling. People going through hardship need to know they aren’t alone. It helps to know there is someone out there who gets it.

That doesn’t mean we have to launch a ministry, though that might be what you are being called to. We don’t have to start a business, though that also could be it. But more than likely, we just need to notice the need around us: the hard place someone is going through that is a place we’ve known well; the thing that almost killed us, but here we are, still breathing; the darkness that consumed us for a time, and no one would know it if we didn’t say a word. Someone is in need of the hope you have to offer them just by your existence.

We’re stepping out into the unknown when we agree to open up the past and let it become hope for others. Sure, our discomfort might mean we don’t belong, but it could also mean we’re in the right place.

We won’t always feel the thrill of this is the thing I was made to do. When it no longer sparks joy, we will wish we could throw away our calling like the jeans we’ve been hanging onto for someday. Just because you are called to something doesn’t mean it will be easy. In fact, I can say with total confidence that it won’t be. If it was, we wouldn’t need a power greater than ourselves. 

But sometimes, when you look around you in that space you are compelled to fill, you notice how few are called to it and how much you are depended on in that way no longer makes you want to run away. You are there just exactly because of who you are and what you’ve been through and not in spite of it — you, with all your imperfections, fears, and doubts.

You are the one who is needed and you know beyond reason that you need to be there.

Seven Reasons to Hope- a free ebook for you

Join our subscriber list and get your FREE copy of Seven Reasons to Hope
HEY! I finally finished a book! And to celebrate me actually finishing a book and Dave’s 10th anniversary of freedom, we are giving it away FREE to everyone who subscribes this month.

Join our subscriber list and get your FREE copy of Seven Reasons to Hope

HEY! I finally finished a book! And to celebrate me actually finishing a book and Dave’s 10th anniversary of freedom, we are giving it away FREE to everyone who subscribes this month.

It’s not just a bookmark. Nope. It’s a 59-page ebook.

I know… I’m so excited to share it with you!

This quick read includes seven short chapters, hope-filled quotes, a prayer for you, some questions for reflection, and more.

Please send me Seven Reasons to Hope

Why I wrote Seven Reasons to Hope

More than 2 million people in our country struggle with prescription drug addiction. Chances are, you feel the pain of it — or of some kind of addiction — right in your own family.

I was moved to write Seven Reasons to Hope by the heartache of hopelessness that clings mercilessly to addiction. It grabs onto both the one who is struggling, and the one who watches helplessly as addiction consumes someone they love.

But I absolutely believe that whatever the addiction is, it doesn’t have to be the end of the story. It wasn’t for Dave, and it wasn’t for the dozens of people I’ve interviewed over the years of writing for nonprofits who came out of addiction.

We need stories that give us hope

In every story is that someone held tight to hope that this wasn’t the end for them. A grandma, a parent, a wife — someone never gave up praying and believing. If that’s you, you know it’s a hard place to be. You are the reason I wrote this book. And if you’re struggling with addiction yourself, there’s hope here for you, too.

Here are a few excerpts:

When someone you love makes poor and destructive choices over and over until it becomes the pattern of their life, you run out of energy and patience to deal with them. It’s painful to let yourself stay positive only to be hit hard by disappointment again and again. You begin to really feel foolish and instinctively— even rightfully — you decide to protect yourself from devastating disappointment. It eases the pain to just accept they’ll never change….

*****

The trouble is, we’ve come to believe letting go of pills and alcohol has different rules from letting go of our own stuff. We believe breaking free from addiction and becoming a responsible adult should happen all at once – or at least within a reasonable amount of time….

*****

Dave and I are still together because when everything came crashing down and he hit rock bottom, and he was faced with the choice to either get clean or lose his family, he was willing to do it. And not just the hard work of getting sober, the humbling work of rebuilding his entire life from the ground up. And he wasn’t just willing, but committed to do it.

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There’s more to come…

While I was writing this little book, I realized I love the format so much more than blogging. I’ve been hoarding words for way too long, and it’s time to let them out there where they can maybe do some good.

And so, although I’m continuing to pursue traditional publishing for some other books, I have a series of little books like Seven Reasons to Hope to release this year online. If you’d like to know when they’re coming out, or if you just want to support my writing dreams (thanks mom & dad!) just click  on this big red button…

As a subscriber to my email list, you’ll get:

We promise not to take advantage of our access to your inbox and will only send things we believe you’ll appreciate as an Enduring & After reader.

That means: addiction & recovery resources and encouragement for people who are struggling with addiction, love someone who’s struggling, or want to be a part of the solution for the epidemic invading our communities and devastating people’s lives.

Note: this email list subscription

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If you already subscribe to my blog through WordPress, THANK YOU for following me! This list I’m asking you to join is different. You’ll get things that won’t be posted here.

Thank you so much for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

10 years clean: celebrating with ordination and a feature in Guideposts Magazine

Dave celebrated 10 years of sobriety this month! Not only that, he passed his ordination exams and will be an officially ordained pastor this coming Sunday, December 31.

It’s been a big month! And there’s more to come.

This fall, Guideposts Magazine asked us to be a part of their 2018 series on addiction recovery. We are so grateful for the opportunity we had to talk with them and for this chance to share our story of hope with their readers. Dave’s story is in the January print issue, it’s featured online, and a video is coming in January.

Click on the image below to go to the story and watch the video on Guideposts’ site.

Take a few minutes to read his story and share it. People need to know there is hope for freedom from addiction.

 

 

 

 

Facing surgery as a former addict, and the importance of finding the right healer

I keep getting notifications that I haven’t written here in a while… and I’ve had some messages from you over the last six months… so I should probably write a bit and let you know that all is well with my husband — because my last post here was written when we went to the emergency room last spring.

Facing surgery as a former addict

Turns out Dave’s gall bladder was very unhappy, it took many months for doctors to figure it out, treating him instead for severe acid reflux. When they did figure it out, he had surgery. In addition to removing his gall bladder, the surgeon took a liver biopsy. All tests came back negative, and he has recovered well.

If you are very familiar with prescription drug addiction, you probably wonder how post-surgical pain management went. For anyone who’s been addicted to pain pills, major injuries and surgery are minefields — even after years of continuous sobriety. Some people don’t understand that… maybe they have more self-control than I do.

I have a weakness for dark chocolate with almonds and cherries in it. I can’t just have a tiny bite and walk away knowing a whole bar is waiting in the cupboard… And chocolate’s power is nothing and utterly ridiculous to compare to a real drug.

You do what you have to do to keep from going back there again

We learned some good, hard things through this experience, and I will tell that story soon, but I think it’s important to tell you two things: Dave ended up staying overnight in the hospital (it was supposed to be outpatient surgery) so they could manage his pain and avoid sending him home with a bottle of narcotics — and it worked.

Recovery was slower, at first, without the powerful pain meds everyone else in the nation gets as a matter of course — but that was a good thing in the long run.

Prior to surgery, people told us their experiences of pain pills being too effective and jumping back into life before their bodies were ready for them to do so and doing long-term damage to their bodies (I did it myself after my last c-section almost 15 years ago and I still feel it almost every day.)

Refusing pain meds post surgery may not be a good idea, but you probably don’t need as powerful a drug — or as much as is usually prescribed (ask your doctor)

Pain pills mask your healing body’s need for rest and tend to give you a false sense of ability — which means we often do far too much post-surgery than we should.

We are grateful Dave had the option of using paid sick leave in order to recover properly without the stress and worry about how we’d get by. I know this isn’t possible for a whole lot of — maybe most — people. It wasn’t possible for us before now.

But research shows we’d have less of a pain pill problem [which has in turn fueled the heroin problem] in this country if we allowed people time to heal — if adequate paid sick leave post-surgery was mandatory for employers.

The right healer makes all the difference

Speaking of stress, the whole thing  — pain, surgery, post-surgery — was terribly stressful. We’ve seen former addicts fall hard because of one outpatient surgery — even after years of sobriety.

I’m grateful for our surgeon’s vigilance, for all the friends who prayed specifically about pain management, and for the hospital staff who took care of him (though we had to tell our life story a dozen times because so many aren’t educated on the addictive properties of Tramadol, Dave’s former drug of choice & unfortunately our hospital’s go-to for pain). It was rough.

I’ve learned how important it is to find the right people when you’re seeking healing. They are the ones who listen well, treat your concerns seriously, and don’t turn immediately to the easiest, cheapest, most common course of action. This is why decent affordable care and patient rights are critical to curbing the epidemic of drug addiction in our country, but that’s for another post. Lock ’em up, as a strategy, has failed.

It’s hard to find the right people. When I was sick myself a few years back, I went to more than a dozen doctors over a couple of years before getting the right diagnosis.

I knew I’d found the right doctor when the first question out of her mouth was “Has anyone done an ultrasound of ___?” No one had even suggested it, but after the ultrasound, we had the answer.

Dave persisted over and over with one doctor who sent him out to specialists and eventually put the puzzle pieces together for his gall bladder diagnosis.

Be ready to push back

Some of us are prone to settling.

It goes against our nature to push back, ask questions, to insist, or to press for a different way. We’d rather not go at all than try again and again until we find the right fit. Plus, it costs money. We’re forced to choose what is both inexpensive and most expedient.

A wise friend told me recently that it’s important to remember medicine is a practice. But it’s also important to find the right healer.

Last week, The New England Journal of Medicine published an article about a study done on Opioid-Prescribing Patterns of Emergency Physicians and Risk of Long-Term Use.

Get answers, or get a second opinion

Researchers discovered that even within the same hospital, doctors prescribe differently. Some immediately go to pain medication, some don’t. They learned that “the intensity of a physician’s opioid prescribing was positively associated with the probability that a patient would become a long-term opioid user over the subsequent 12 months.”

What this says to me is that it’s more important than ever to be aware of your options for pain management. Find a doctor who wants to find answers for your pain, not just treat your pain with a bottle of pills. You have options.

***

Read more about the study here.

 

the importance of cheerleaders

I’ve got enough negative words in my own head about myself. I don’t need more. You don’t need more. We’re stuck in an ugly, losing game sometimes. Heckled by our own hearts.

photo cred: College of San Mateo Library
photo cred: College of San Mateo Library

I was in Ceres, California last Monday when I heard Glenn Frey had passed away. And the mental collision was so real.

I did two years of high school in that town. And one of those years, I tried out for cheerleading.

We had to do a yell routine, of course, and I was astonishingly not good at that part. But I was even worse at the dance routine — which was “The Heat is On” sung by Glenn Frey. It’s been 30 years, but I can still dance the first sets of beats.

These moves have provided endless entertainment for my family and a few select friends over the years. I’m sure I remember them so well because it is the only dance routine I ever learned… Our cheerleaders at Ceres High School were awesome dancers. And I was an awesome, rhythmless, regular Baptist.

(Oh, BTW, my sincere apologies to the friends I would have loved to see in California, but it was a whirlwind one-day visit for my Grandma’s 90th birthday. Go Grandma!!! *insert pom pom shake here*)

I always wanted to be a cheerleader. I love, love, love synchronization. Whether it’s dance moves, or coordinating colors, or plot lines. It’s all so lovely to watch. Movement, staging, timing = favorite things.

When I think about why cheerleading was so hard for me (high school was not my first attempt to make the squad), I can acknowledge now that, in addition to being terribly uncoordinated, I’ve always been too self-conscious. There’s a certain amount of just going for it that a person needs in order to cheer well.

But, I’m getting pretty decent at cheering from the sidelines these days — as long as I keep it under a certain decibel. My yell is weird. And sort of screamy. The voice comes out not at all what I imagine it to be in my head. Something about watching my babies do stuff out there just makes me lose my self-consciousness and yell out their names. Which they just LOVE!

As much as they may hate it in the moment, they will remember mom (and dad) shouting praises from the sidelines for the rest of their lives.

Because praise, encouragement, cheer… everyone needs this. Everyone.

In fact, nothing simultaneously makes me angry and breaks my heart more than hearing parents yell from the sidelines in angry, disgusted tones at their kids.  I’ve been at games where I wanted to tell some parents to GO HOME. I cannot imagine listening to anything more discouraging than your voice. Your baby has run 18 miles today in the blazing sun. Give him a break!

All of us need cheerleaders. We do. Especially at critical points of life when discouragement clings to you, sucks you in, and threatens to drown you like quicksand.

I’ve been reading “For the Love” by Jen Hatmaker and in one chapter she puts on her old cheerleader voice to tell her readers some things. I needed to read this pep talk and maybe you do, too.

Here’s what she said that just lifted me right out of my pajamas, into the shower to ponder, and back into my bathrobe (keepin it real here) to write this post:

We will cheer each other on, refusing to speak doubt into our gifts. When you are scared, I will declare, ‘You can do this.’ When you whisper a dream, I’ll holler through a bullhorn that you are brave and wonderful and important! When I am beaten down, you will remind me that I am an approved worker with no shame….Let’s do this. Let’s fulfill the good work we’ve been commissioned to. Silence any voice that whispers ‘not enough’ and stand in truth as an approved worker. You are. Jesus made you so. If God surveyed the cross and declared it finished, then it wasn’t sufficient for everyone but you. If Jesus covered it all, then He covered it all….If you need to deal, then deal…Forgive, release, acknowledge, confront, feel the feelings, let something go, believe the truth, whatever you need to do. Then dust your hands off and get ready to go….This really is your one wild and precious life. You matter so much. You are writing a good story for your children. Your community and church need you, your neighbors and family need you, God adores you and Jesus is obsessed with you. Here we are, your community of women running this race together, proud of you, moved by you.

-Jen Hatmaker, For the Love

I need people in my life who cheer for me. My husband, my kids, relatives — they do an amazing job at this. And oh how I love my dear friends who speak even the smallest words of encouragement to me. Friends who believe I can. And should.

I’ve got enough negative words in my own head about myself. I don’t need more. You don’t need more. We’re stuck in an ugly, losing game sometimes. Heckled by our own hearts.

Maybe you feel beaten down and discouraged, too. Maybe you don’t have cheerleaders in your life, or your cheerleaders are fighting their own battles. Maybe you need to do what I’m going to do and Stuart Smalley that quote from Jen Hatmaker right onto your bathroom mirror and “silence any voice that whispers ‘not enough’ and stand in truth as an approved worker.”

And if you’re dealing with a husband, wife, child who is struggling with addiction (or anything else for that matter) take some time to think about your role in their life.

Are you the voice on the sidelines (maybe you need to get back to the sidelines) calling out every wrong move, every failed attempt when they’re fighting to get on their feet? Or do you cheer them on toward victory?

Cheering on someone you love through recovery takes selflessness and patience. We have to set aside our uncertainties, insecurities, fears and allow hope to fill us and give us grace and encouraging words. And pray for wisdom. Lots and lots of wisdom.

I suppose the same is true for any relationship, really.

Encouragement revives.

* * * * *

Who in your life needs your words of encouragement? A child, a spouse, a pastor, a friend?

Sometimes, you just need to go for it.

But maybe not with pom poms.

…encourage one another and build each other up…

1 Thessalonians 5:11