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!

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

dear friend who is up late, online, and searching for answers

There’s exponentially more information online now, and experts to chat with at all hours…but I think, more than anything, we just want to know we’re not alone: Someone like me has been through what I’m going through and she survived.

I was never a chat room sort of gal — which is a shame because if I had been, I might’ve found someone to talk to late at night when the quiet house amplified the voices in my head. Instead, I searched endlessly for answers.

I still search, but with less desperation and mainly when I’m worried about my own health issues. I nearly always regret those sorts of searches…not super helpful for inducing sleep…my mind always goes to the worst and the internet freely offers it.

Anyway, I ask a lot of questions in real life now — about things I never would have years ago:

Is this normal?

What would you do?

How can I know for sure?

What if he doesn’t?

What if it’s true?

The answers aren’t always reassuring, but they’re offered by people who know me and care. People don’t always have the right answer either. But I care less now about getting the exact right answer than I do about having someone who will listen to my fears and not dismiss them as silly or faithless.

One real life – around the corner – in your kitchen – on the phone – friend is worth more than a thousand far away. That’s a proverb of sorts.

Trouble is, she’s not always awake when you are. And sometimes, there are things you don’t even dare to ask her…

Who did we ask before Google? Oh yeah, Jeeves…but who before that? I know my answer: Nobody. I kept the hardest questions to myself and they weighed heavy on my heart and mind and kept me awake for hours into the night.

I remember the first time I searched for Tramadol forums online. My first search, more than a decade ago, yielded sellers with ridiculous pages packed with search words. You had to hunt for a page that offered actual help and conversation — maybe you’ve experienced that, too. What I found eventually were conversations that held the beginnings of warnings about the power of this prescription drug. Even people breaking free from heroin recounted near-death experiences of withdrawal from Tramadol. Page after page was filled with harrowing stories of this new drug. I found nothing at all to encourage me.

There’s exponentially more information online now, and experts to chat with at all hours…but I think, more than anything, we just want to know we’re not alone: Someone like me has been through what I’m going through and she survived.

I wonder, dear friend who is up late, online, and searching for answers if that’s what you want, too? Maybe underneath the impulse to click and scroll for facts and knowledge, what you really want to know is: is it going to be okay?

And you know, just like I do, nobody has that answer. Not really. But you click, and scroll, and read and repeat til you are exhausted enough to finally sleep.

* * * * *

Two weeks ago, I was writing the story of our life together — Dave’s and mine — going back a long way. It was almost our 24th anniversary and that, combined with a revived passion to get the whole story down on paper made me feel especially reflective. Our story spans decades now: years of migraine headaches, years of addiction, years of recovery…years and years of feeling alone in suffering and in shame.

Right now, maybe all your deepest questions are unanswered — unspoken. Maybe you only see despair, discouragement, darkness.

I think so many times it’s only in the looking back that you really see.

We sang a song at church the other day, and it hit me all at once and nearly knocked me down. I got home and opened my notebook and across the page where I’d meticulously graphed the details of our history together — all the unspoken troubles behind the smiling faces in a gazillion photographs from 24 years– I wrote this line:

Never once did we ever walk alone.

Oh friend, I know that’s not the answer you came looking for, but it’s probably the most true and honest answer I can give. Whatever it is, however lonely it feels, you aren’t walking by yourself. Not really. Not ever.

Whether it’s worry rendering you sleepless, or fear, or anger, or hurt, or grief, or confusion — whatever it is, whatever you are suffering, God is with you even when it doesn’t feel like He’s answering your questions.

My prayer for you tonight is rest. And peace that passes understanding. Someday, you will look down from a mountain, not up from this valley, but you need strength for the journey. He provides for you, even in your sleep. *

Here’s a song for you — a lullaby — to remind you: you’re not alone.

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 *Psalm 127:2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.

on the occasion of my 100th post

There’s a lot to read on the world wide web and so little time to read it. So thanks!

The 100th post is a lot of pressure.

I feel like there should be cake. Picaken to be exact.

(This one was a blueberry pie encased in lemon cake. The Queen of Desserts.)

Or maybe there should be a present under your seat . . . go ahead. Look. 🙂

How about a picture of my cat? Who could apparently be making me crazy??? (DO NOT click that link if you love your cat. Don’t. Don’t do it. But if you must, bookmark it and get right back here.) Inside joke for those who chose to read: So now the new question is Crazy Cat Lady: which came first the crazy or the cat? Also, like any of us needed one more thing to worry about. Or to add fuel to the cat-haters’ fire.

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Apparently, she’s into reading now.

But seriously, thank you for reading and for coming back to this piece of cyberspace again and again. There’s a lot to read on the world wide web and so little time to read it. So thanks! I appreciate every read, every like, every comment (well, except spam and the few hater comments I’ve received), every share.

I started this blog three and a half years ago. (Don’t do the math. I am definitely an inconsistent blogger). “Addiction, recovery and faith” is where this piece of writing began. You can read about that here.

Every now and then though, I find that I need to write something different. Because that’s heavy stuff.

Besides you all seem to like it when I write other things . . . ironically, my most-read post of all time is about skipping school to go to the Super Bowl parade . .  . you know everybody loves a rebel.

Anyway, I’ll get back to the heavy stuff, but I do like variety. And joy. Joy is good. I hope that readers who come looking for encouragement in their battle with addiction — whether it’s their’s personally or a loved one’s — see that it’s possible to have joy again. Because in the middle of it, everything seems so hopeless.

So tonight, if you are willing to play along, and in honor of Throwback Thursday (how convenient is that?), please choose one of the posts below to visit.

Thank you!

most read posts about addiction

there’s something I have to tell you

most read post about recovery

a note from Dave

most read post about faith

when I fear I have lost my flavor

most read post of all time

12 great things you learn when you skip school to go to a Super Bowl Parade

* * * * *

Thanks for reading!

Deb's signature for blog

 

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a funny Valentine: love and fear and staying

If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.

CS Lewis, The Four Loves

“What made you stay?” 

The answer is so simple and yet so complex it would take time to explain to anyone’s satisfaction.

I’ve been asked so often lately — to the point that I should probably respond. So I will. This spring, starting now.

But before I do, I think I should explain why I hesitate to publish my thoughts:

First, people ask this question, most often, to find a rule, a principle, a plan. My answer is disappointing, I think. Like when you notice a co-worker’s amazing weight loss, ask their secret, and the answer boils down to “diet and exercise.”

Second, although we praise the result of endurance, we tend to call the process foolish. When I attempt to write my simple truths, I can hear mocking crows as they circle above my head. Anyone who would stay with an addict for so long is a sick co-dependent.

Third, the past casts a hint of a shadow across every sunny day. Last week, an addict clean for a decade ends up dead in the headlines. Five days ago, I write up a woman’s story — nine years clean, she relapsed after her brother’s tragic death, got clean again and was now in recovery. Two days ago, I’m told she quit the program. And, in addition to the millions of addicts thrown from the wagon by trauma, we lose a Philip Seymour Hoffman every 24 minutes in this country . . . 100 people a day die of an overdose.

Sometimes, I’m afraid if I feel too sure and secure, if I rest in this new life, I’ll jinx it and the six years of clean and good will be gone. There are no guarantees . . .

But the answer to the question is, and always is, in its purest form: love.

And here is a beginning:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own, is not provoked,
does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I Corinthians 13:4-7

And here, an explanation:

In words which can still bring tears to the eyes, St. Augustine describes the desolation into which the death of his friend Nebridius plunged him. Then he draws a moral. This is what comes, he says, of giving one’s heart to anything but God. All human beings pass away. Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose. If love is to be a blessing, not a misery, it must be for the only Beloved who will never pass away.

Of course this is excellent sense. Do not put your goods in a leaky vessel. Don’t spend too much on a house you may be turned out of. And there is no man alive who responds more naturally than I to such canny maxims. I am a safety-first creature. Of all arguments against love, none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as “Careful! This might lead you to suffering.”

To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to this appeal, I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities. I doubt whether there is anything in me that pleases Him less. And who could conceivably begin to love God on such a prudential ground — because, so to speak, the security is better? Who could even include it among the grounds for loving? Would you choose a wife or a friend — if it comes to it, would you choose a dog — in that spirit? One must be outside the world of love, of all loves,  before one calculates. Eros, lawless Eros, preferring the Beloved to happiness, is more like Love Himself than this.

I think that this passage in the Confessions is less a part of St Augustine’s Christianity than a hangover from the high-minded Pagan philosophies in which he grew up. It is closer to Stoic “apathy” or neo-Platonic mysticism than to Charity. We follow One who wept over Jerusalem and at the grave of Lazarus, and who, loving all, yet had one disciple whom, in a special sense, he “loved”. St Paul has a higher authority with us than St Augustine — St Paul who shows no sign that he would not have suffered like a man, and no feeling that ought not so to have suffered, if Epaphroditus had died.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

I believe that the most lawless and inordinate loves are less contrary to God’s will than a self-invited and self-protective lovelessness. It is like hiding the talent in a napkin and for much the same reason ‘I knew thee that thou wert a hard man.’  Christ did not teach and suffer that we might become, even in the natural loves, more careful of our own happiness. If a man is not uncalculating towards the earthly beloveds whom he has seen, he is none the more likely to be so towards God whom he has not. We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.

CS Lewis, The Four Loves

a table in the wilderness

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

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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.

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.

 

when I fear I have lost my flavor

Sometimes, discouragement knocks hard on your door and it takes everything in you not to invite it in to share a giant piece of chocolate cake.

Sometimes, discouragement knocks hard on your door and it takes everything in you not to invite it in to share a giant piece of chocolate cake.

Sometimes, you let it in. And you eat the cake. And the leftover spaghetti.

Sometimes, discouragement crawls into your bed and keeps it warm while you drag yourself to make breakfast and get kids to school and return to pull the covers over your head and shut out the world.

Sometimes, it sits beside you on the couch and watches brain-sucking cartoons all day while your toddlers run around in their diapers and cowboy boots and stop stinky and goobery in front of your face to wipe away your tears.

Sometimes, discouragement drives you to work, sits uncomfortably in your chair, stares at a blank screen . . .

When you’ve been sick and it’s gone on for a long time and no one has answers.

When you’ve been fighting battles with your child and every conflict throws failure in your face.

When you’ve worked overtime to finally get ahead and come home to a pile of bills that will set you way back.

When you can’t seem to find where you fit and no one invites and no one asks and no one notices.

When you finally take a deep breath only to discover your addict is at it again.

Discouragement knocks hard, relentless.

Discouragement whispers worthlessness and failure in your ear and tells you you can’t.

Discouragement spins a friend’s success or happy post into a jealousy or regret.

Discouragement suffocates in the darkness with questions and tears.

Discouragement chokes out life-giving words and seasons speech with self.

Discouragement tells me I have lost my flavor and am of no good but to be tossed out and trampled.

Can salt be made salty again?

I wonder . . .

When I fear I have lost my flavor, I disappear.

Disappear like Moses — to be alone with God.

Disappear like Jonah — a long shadow of fear, jealousy, envy or discontent has eclipsed joy.

Disappear like a leper — to heal and seek a doctor for a cure.

* * * * *

Sunshine beckons me. 

I lie on the trampoline in the yard, soaking in afternoon light, sifting through sickness, disappointment, hurt, regret. I hear nothing. No words of comfort.

Somewhere below me, the tide is out.

A breeze passes over sun-warmed sand, mud, shells, carrying the sea to me and I breathe deep . . .

One day I will look back on this season. A season of physical breakdown, a season of letting go of a child, a season of wordlessness, a season of discouragement.

But I am not in the looking back.

* * * * *

Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress. Psalm 25:16

Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me!
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8

* * * * *

This morning I remember the thing about discouragement.

How sickness, exhaustion, anger, hurt and loneliness open the door to it.

How it wallows in the past, thrives on lies, heaps on guilt, compares and finds wanting.

How it sucks everything into its mire and drains the world of sunlight and sea-salt air.

How you could drown in it. How you need to be pulled out.

If you are sinking, reach out. If a sinking friend reaches for you, take her hand. Do kindnesses for her. Listen.

And if words are necessary, let them be always with grace, seasoned with salt.

* * * * *

Grace has been shaken over my life.

I am grateful for the one who sits beside me for long hours in a waiting room. For the one who draws me away from my solitude to get some lunch. For the one who shares tears over tea. For the one who brings dinner. For parents who call just to hear my voice. For children who bend down to wrap their arms around me. For a husband who listens in the middle of the night. For a doctor determined to help me get well, starting with removing my gallbladder.

I am grateful for Sarah Young, for Philip Yancey, for Ann VosKamp whose little books have become a permanent fixture on my nightstand, and remind me that a flavorless season is survivable and can become a beautiful and encouraging thing.

I say thanks out loud to God for blessings and ask Him to sift the rocks and dirt from my little bowl of salt.

And then I hear it — the gentle whisper of love I couldn’t hear over the beating on my door.

* * * * *

* * * * *

Are you discouraged? Feel free to comment — anonymously if you wish. And I will pray for you. It will be good to take a little sabbatical from myself.