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

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.

Deb's signature for blog

 

 

 *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

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.

IMG_20141013_063254_481
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

 

smallbutton64seasonstree

a funny Valentine: love and fear and staying

“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

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.