Feb 6, 2018

The Hurt and the Healer - Moving video!

(This post is faith - based.)

Recently I heard in a sermon,  "If you’re in a trial, God’s intent is to make us more Christ-like, and to draw us closer to Him, and being in close relationship with God is what brings us joy.
If you’re not (already) in a trial, you’re headed for one.”

We don’t pray for suffering. We pray for God’s will. This life is on His agenda, after all. 

Monday I faced a trial. A family member who was on a clear road of recovery relapsed. I’m so strong in a lot of things, but this crushed me. It’s hard to see someone you love suffering, and it's natural to suffer along with them.

My challenge was to find joy.

This song has lyrics that sound pretty desperate, and this was how I felt at times this week but we have this hope. Life sometimes IS about suffering, but He’s the anchor of our soul. (Hebrews 6:19)

got this. 
This song is about the glory that comes from our deepest wounds. It’s a humble, desperate cry for God.

In the book of John in chapter 16 verse 33 it is recorded that Jesus said,

“…In me you have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”

Is. 53:5, …”By his stripes we are healed."
When I first heard this song, called “The Hurt and the Healer” by Mercy Me it was through the above video, which shows images of Jesus being crucified, a school boy being bullied, a girl sitting by herself in the lunch room, a man being served divorce papers, a family facing foreclosure on their house, a woman exiting an abortion clinic, and woman chained to an empty pizza box, empty needles and empty bottles of booze nearby.

Through all of that, Jesus was present.

It's like a game of Chutes and Ladders: Move a few squares ahead, maybe take a ladder to jump 10 squares, but it’s only a matter of time before you land on a square with a slide, and you're  back to where you started. That’s life.  That's recovery. And so while our family is adjusts to the old and seeks serenity, courage and wisdom, like that AA prayer,

Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I can't change,
the courage to changed the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference." --Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
I rely on God to fill me with His peace and serenity, and I can trust Him to make me bold, and I can lean on Him for wisdom, understanding, answers. 
Isn’t it nice that our God is in the business of death and resurrection, and transformation? He’s forever changing us, but He never changes. He’s already perfect, but I am so far from perfect!
There is nothing that is impossible for our God and there is no hardened heart that He can’t soften. I just pray that His will be done.  I won’t question it but instead ask Him to comfort me and ask Him to work things out the way He intends to.

Every time I climb a ladder, I know it’s just some time before I slide down another chute. But, like a kid at a playground or an amusement park, I can just learn how to feel joy every step of the way.

Thanks for reading! What are your best tips for finding joy or peace in the midst of a trial?

Jan 30, 2018

What is Healing and Recovery Like?

Some people describe their recovery --or the pain and addiction requiring recovery-- as a merry-go-round. Perhaps you've heard the expression "Please stop this merry-go-round, I need to get off!?"

I prefer to describe my recovery as like stopping a Ferris wheel at an amusement park in the middle of the ride, to take in and assess the view. From "up" there, I sorted out the confusion in order to identify where the pain was coming from, and the reasons why it wouldn't go away. It wasn't easy, but it made all the difference. What was that difference? 

Looking at the big picture. I realized that my coping mechanisms (denial, self-blame, emotional eating for comfort, etc.) weren't working. I was going day-to-day: miserable, confused and hurt. Blaming myself, fighting off depression, and sometimes having suicidal thoughts. 

Laundry List #7 states that "we get guilt feelings when we try to stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others." I thought boundaries were fences that would offend rather than protect. 

Abuse complicated my life more. It compounded my shame, and conditioned my belief that everything was my fault.  (Laundry List #11) This is perfect situation for the abuser to thrive. (The abuser's trajectory is that their victim is always the one to blame. This helps them to avoid being held accountable for their behavior.) 

As a
"para-alcoholic," (See Laundry list #'s 13 & 14) and #12 a "dependent personality who is terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship  in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings, which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us," also helped reinforce the dysfunction.

Adult children of alcoholics often attract abusive people. 

Often times, adult children learned how to be tolerant of abuse, and thus they do not to expect better treatment. Or, they become abusers themselves, although I do think the former is more common.

Perhaps you have suffered abuse--which is essentially an invasion of your boundaries-- because it was at the very core of your parent's addiction-- a support and concern only for the alcohol, and everything else is either abused by violence or neglect to support the alcoholic's sick need to drink. 

In my case, I was 17 when I learned of a friend who was also an alcoholic counselor. I was so angry at my parent that I would call this person up whenever my parent was in earshot--this would be the "punishment." (Of course, I was always punished later!) Defying my parent was not the way to go, and in many ways it was a deliberate invasion of their boundaries.  

Look for more information about healthy boundaries in a later post. As always, thank you for reading!

Jan 16, 2018

Why does pain have to be a part of life?

We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.
-Carlos Castenada

In her book, One Foot In Front of the Other: Daily affirmations for recovery, Tian Dayton writes about pain.

Our pains are not so unique.

In the Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA/ACoA) rooms we relate to one other and find common threads within our experiences. Finding this common thread helps us feel more belonging and less alone in our suffering. 
We are brought into the present our thoughts are no longer “racing towards the future or churning on the past.” 
No matter what life hands us, we are partly responsible for our response. Motivational speaker Brian Tracy calls this “response-ability.” Pain is a part of life, and what matters more is how we respond.

Running From Pain 

Tian says, “I recognize that what causes people to become crazy or dysfunctional is running from pain. Actually feeling pain takes a few minutes, a few hours, a few days, a few months,[BUT], running from pain takes a lifetime."

And according to Tian, it this constant running away or looking for reasons to avoid, bury, or deny our pain that we go crazy!!

Reason for Pain

If something repeatedly continues to bring up feelings of pain or frustration, then God is trying to teach us something, just like facing our fears, it’s time to face what is. 
It’s the only way to make our fears go away. 
In fact, avoiding pain is on our Laundry List. In List #10, “We have stuffed our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much.” 
We seek approval and lose our identity in the process. Are we afraid to be rejected /perhaps we are used to being rejected for being ourselves. Our true selves were never fully accepted; there was always something wrong with us and our alcoholic parent made sure to point our "faults" out every chance they got.
We live our life from the viewpoint of victims and are attracted to that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.  Laundry List #6 states that we have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves.
  • Do you try to help others relieve their pain instead of facing your own?
  • Do you prefer to fix your friends and family, rather than taking a look at where you could use some healing and mending yourself?
  • Have you been running from pain, and the truth of your pain? 

*Today’s affirmation inspired by Tian Dayton’s book One Foot In Front of the Other: daily affirmations for recovery 

Photo credit: Dreamstime

Jan 9, 2018

Awareness Hurts; ACA Groups Help

Awareness asks for responsibility. It asks us to hold ourselves accountable.

Is awareness empowering? Yes. Awareness in many ways is the key that unlocks change in our lives, but only once we become fully willing to open up to it. To face the overwhelming feelings and resist the urge to run away and give up.

We avoid being overwhelmed with baby steps. But, baby steps takes even more patience and perseverance to stay the course, because with baby steps the journey takes longer.

When I first came to an Adult Children of Alcoholics meeting, way  back in 2007, I first had to learn that I needed the group. The recovery process is often a "peeling back of layers" and I felt I needed to first seek counseling for the child and relationship abuse I had suffered, first. Counseling helped me to learn about what happened to me but I remember feeling a homecoming  when I joined ACA (or ACOA, as its sometimes called.) At 27, I needed to learn that as a young adult I was still more child than adult, and if I was going to grow up, I needed the guidance to do it right.

We met Wednesday nights at 7 pm, inside the fellowship hall of a local Episcopalian church.
The conversation flowed as easily as the industrial -sized coffee pot, and I met a lot of acquaintances that later became good friends.

Gradually, we healed together as we studied the steps and read from the "Big Book."
I wrote for their newsletter and moved forward.

The domestic violence counseling opened up my awareness to a need for counseling. And, after 2 years of that gave me an understanding of why the abuse and what caused the abuse and why abuse was attractive --and attracted-- to me.

Recovery is/was/still is a long road.

Life is good --better--when we choose to wake up and live with awareness. Learning to accept what we can and cannot change, and developing the wisdom to know the difference.

Where are you in your recovery journey? And, are you fully aware of what happened to get you here?

Image credit:  © creativecommonsstockphotos
ID 96117692 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Jan 4, 2018

Do you keep a journal?

Keeping a journal serves two purposes:
1.) Keeping record of your life (and innermost thoughts)
2.) Emotional catharsis

If you're a Christian, one idea is to keep a "blessing book" where you can regularly record each way God blesses you. A blessing book is sort of a ramped-up gratitude journal, wrapped up with prayer and scripture a Godly praise.

By regularly recording your innermost thoughts, you can write questions and supply the answers. You may not have the answers, most likely you won't have the answers, but you can display your opinions and voice your opinions as answers.
And, you can ask the One who has all the answers, you can write exclusively to God, in a prayer-like fashion,

I just recently took up journaling. As an aspiring writer, it was something I did on and off most  of my life. When  I became  a professional writer I "forgot" to journal or just didn't think I had the time. Today I find journaling as important to my mental functioning as it is to my life.

Through my journal, I record my thoughts and feelings. Suddenly, chaos starts to make sense. So, I continue to  pour out what is bothering me without  reservation or restriction.

I am freed rather than restricted by writing rules. Nobody can tell me how to write, I just know I need to write in order to release pent-up emotions, and to answer questions. The editor who plagues me daily takes a rest. What wants to come out comes out. What doesn't want to come out will eventually come out too.
I recall painful memories and joyful ones. I recall criticisms, mistreatments and misunderstandings. On a mission to make right the wrongs, at least by my sight, I can work on forgiveness. 

Some resistances we may have towards journaling:
  • Someone else might read it
  • We fear the actual act of writing
  • We fear finding or making the time to write
  • We are afraid of what we may discover emotionally or otherwise 

Still feeling resistance? Here is a helpful article on ways to combat that.

If you don't already, would you like to start a journaling practice? Would learning to journal help you to release pent-up emotions and enhance your healing process?