RECOVERY

We’ve Taught Our Kids to be Angry

I realize that I don’t stand in the majority on some of my views, and if my popularity depends on my jumping on someone else’s wagon, I’ll be the kid sitting alone at the lunchroom table. That’s okay with me. I don’t always think like everyone else thinks. 

The truth is that I care about people, and I care about personal responsibility. We went wrong somewhere down the line. I don’t know if it’s too late to straighten it out, but I’d like to find out.

We’ve taught our kids to be angry, but we haven’t taught them to be strong.

We’ve taught them to be entitled, but we didn’t teach them how to do without! Because let’s face it, we either don’t know or don’t remember how to do without, and all that this world has become in terms of modern conveniences has spoiled us to the point where we don’t know what it’s like to suffer even a little bit.

Hot? Turn the air conditioner on. Don’t want to climb stairs? Take the elevator. Who circles the parking lot for 10 minutes to find a spot up close, so you don’t have to walk 50 feet? Who doesn’t? And we teach our kids this stuff.

Everything is automated; instant. Then we wonder why there’s all this complaining, all this offense! It’s as if we have set the world on tilt by forgetting to teach that WITH HARD WORK COMES REWARD, even if it’s just the satisfaction of a job well done.

Things, like freedom, should not come so easily to us as individuals that we forget that they hold value, and that someone is still sacrificing for our basic rights and privileges.

We have failed as parents, as a society, and as a nation. The stark reality is that it’s very possible that our country will be devastated before our citizens–our children, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and grandchildren–can be saved.

Instead of admitting where we’re at fault, and starting the process of putting this nation back together again, we are constantly pointing the finger at each other and pulling out this or that old hurt that we could have been past if the pot was not continuously stirred by a reckless media who feels no shame at endangering the lives of countless Americans, because it garners them the Almighty Dollar.

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Yep, we are being sold out for money. That’s what the truth is, from no matter which direction you come at it. You can always follow the money to find the source of the evil, and the MSM is making bank. Follow that money trail. It doesn’t take five minutes to figure out where it leads.

However, before we start THAT finger pointing, we must realize that we are the ones who feed off of that negativity–actually seek it out from day to day on social media and news networks who used to strive to print the truth but who now seem to paint the internet with false information in a gleeful and completely irresponsible way, to turn American opinion towards whatever issue benefits them the most.

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Attention is given to issues best left in the past while our citizens are dying in their cars every day, often with their children strapped in the backseat with a pretty pink or purple stuffed animal for a companion, from opioid addiction. Meth use is running rampant in our country and instead of an all-out war on that evil, we focus our attention on battles that have already rightly been fought for and won, as if we need to travel back in time and do it all again.

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While we are talking about drugs and money, it wouldn’t hurt to give some thought to that connection either. Do you think it’s an accident that America is in an addiction crisis? Come on, now. It’s time to wake up and smell the crack pipe! It may be painful to think that we may be pawns in a game that’s being played out behind the scenes, but the truth hurts. That’s something to be angry about!

I’m a woman, and I’m white, and I’ve been told all my life that my opinion doesn’t matter. There are countless others who, like me, have had their voices silenced and their ideas shot down. Maybe their gender is different, or their color is not the same—or perhaps the idea they’re presenting is even less conceivable than my ideas have been.

I wonder where this nation would be today if every voice was at least considered before being disregarded? Every idea is not grand, but every opinion is not wrong just because it is voiced by someone other than you!

I’ve made many mistakes in my life. I’ve done things that were shameful and that I regret. I hope that I have learned from those things and will not repeat those mistakes.

As a nation, we have the same opportunity. I can’t push God on you, although I can pray for you to turn to Him! I don’t have a voice that will reach your moral consciousness.

I’m not even interested or able to be political. I’m just thinking that if I can see all of this, I can’t be the only one. Even if everything I say isn’t agreed with, if you read this to the end then you have given me my voice.

Now use yours! And not just your voice. Stop worrying about being offended and start being concerned with what our children and grandchildren will be facing when we are gone! Because right now? It ain’t looking pretty.

Here’s a place to start: EQUIP YOUR CHILDREN! Begin by arming them with the truth as soon as they are old enough to hear it. Don’t let them grow up blind to what’s really going on. You aren’t protecting them. You’re killing them.

You can’t be scared all your life! It’s time to fight or die. We need to stand up and take our nation back. We need to fight the right fight. You may THINK that we need to prosecute all the drug addicts, and perhaps we do, but there’s way more to it than that. We need to stop the influx of drugs into our country.

We need to stop the pharmaceutical companies from making a profit off the deaths of our citizens. We’ve got to quit fighting battles that were won long ago. Quit letting the media that is controlled by big money feed us divisive information with intent to destroy. Listen to each other! Care for each other. Let God come back into our homes, and our schools.

Don’t buy everything the MSM tries to sell you! Do some research. Find out the truth. Teach your children how to do that. Teach them the rights that this country was built on, and how to live responsible lives. Show them how to stand up for themselves and others.

Our children’s lives and futures depend on us. It’s time we teach them to be strong, to be fierce, and to be equipped! I get that you think that you are protecting them, but you’re not. It’s time to tell them the truth. If you don’t, you’ll protect them to death.

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RECOVERY

THE THIEF OF JOY

In this world of influence and social media, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison. Teddy Roosevelt told us a long time ago that “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and I believe that reality speaks for itself when you look at the increasing number of teen suicides since the invention of certain social apps that are being used as bullying tools. Here are a few truths to fight back against that old stealer of joy:

  • God created YOU to be YOU! He gave each of us a unique set of gifts and talents to be used for HIS glory. You are the only person who was designed to be exactly like you—so be that! And be that BEST YOU that you can be!
  • What you see on SOCIAL MEDIA isn’t real. Faces are airbrushed. Backgrounds are blurred. Vacations are faked. Waists are slimmed. Lots of things are made to appear one way when they are just the opposite! Isn’t it better to be authentic than to wear a mask for the rest of the world to see?
  • We ALL fall short of what we could be! It would be great if we all lived up to our potential, but clearly, we don’t. If someone is pointing out what they perceive to be YOUR shortcomings, it’s probably just to take attention off their own.
  • You may not really want what you think you want. Think about what it would REALLY mean for your life if you had the things THEY seem to have! What if you had that dream job? How much time would you have to spend away from your precious family? What if you had all their money? Would you really know who your friends were at the end of the day? How about that car? Okay, maybe it WOULD be cool if you had that CAR! Okay then! Quit wishing and start figuring out what it would take to earn the money to buy it!
Photo by Efren Barahona on Unsplash

Since you know that it is self-defeating, here are several things you can do to get out of the comparison trap and start to lead a more productive life:

a.  Work on being a better YOU! We could ALL use improvement, remember? You don’t have to make a huge goal. Just try to be better than you were yesterday! Stretch yourself a little further every day. Take more risks toward a better future!

b.  Tend to your health. Start eating better. Make one healthy food choice at a time. Take the stairs more often. Walk across the parking lot instead of parking as close to the door as possible. Drink more water.

c.  Practice humility and gratitude. You will be amazed at what a difference it makes in your life to just take the time to be grateful for all you have.

d.  Give others more of your time, energy, money, and resources. You will be blessed more than they will.

e.  Get rid of things cluttering up your life. Do you really need that porcelain figurine from 1976? Are you ever going to fit in those jeans again? I’m sorry to tell you that the answer to both of those questions is probably NO!

f.  Love more.

g.  Go to church.

h.  Pray and read your Bible (if you don’t have one, go get one).

i.  Journal. Writing your feelings down helps you sort them out and is extremely helpful when trying to work through situational anxiety.

j. Paint, draw, take photos, or do anything artistic! You will be so busy that you won’t have time to compare yourself to ANYBODY. Also, you will have accomplished something wonderful (no matter how it turns out)!

Hope these tips help the next time you’re tempted to compare yourself or your life to someone else! Remember, the most important thing that you can be is YOURSELF!

RECOVERY

The Day I Chose to Live

The day I chose to live was easily the worst day of my life. I guess it happens like that sometimes. Finding my son dead was a horrific experience that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Mr. Main (my husband) says that people don’t even like to hear or talk about losing a child, because they’re afraid if they do then it might happen to them as well. As if talking about it is inviting the devil in! So I don’t say much about that part of my grief. I keep the horror to myself most of the time.

Most things that happen in this world have a definable reason. Maybe the only thing that we can never get a full understanding of is death. One thing you do grasp rather quickly is the absolute FINALITY of it. And it’s that knowledge which forces you to confront your own mortality, whether you’re prepared for it or not. Then, at some point in the consideration of death and all that it means, you realize something that you may have never thought of before. You, as an individual who lives and breathes on this earth, have control of your own life. You can choose whether you can live with the loss or die yourself, alleviating all of your mortal suffering.  

Losing Mikey was a deal breaker for me. I was finished. I looked at the world and what it held for me. I looked at my life as it was and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was not willing to be on this earth anymore. I had spent most of my life grieving anyway, and I was sad before that, as if somewhere in my innermost being I knew what was coming.

My entire childhood was spent longing for an elusive place that I called “Happiness.” I knew I couldn’t find it and thought somehow that if I did, all things would be made right. I wrote songs and poems from a very young age about death and suicide, even though I wasn’t consciously contemplating either one. It was a part of me from the beginning, this grief that I carried in my heart, like a foreshadowing of things to come.

So, when tragedy after tragedy struck, I wasn’t even surprised. It was as if I expected it. Like that was my life, and I better learn how to live with it. And I did okay with it, to a point. I won’t pretend that at any time I came to an understanding of death or even life. I didn’t know why I always seemed to be a target. I thought I must be receiving punishment from God for my sins or someone else’s.

The human mind is incapable of providing a rationale for death. It just is. We are broken people living in a broken world where we have no control of things as small as the actions of others or as big as death. We are only humans after all. We were forced out of the garden so that we could not eat from the tree of life, even though we could finally understand the existence of evil and how it seeks to destroy both the guilty and the innocent. How unfathomably unfair!

So, I looked at my future, and I could not accept what I was seeing. Life without my son was incomprehensible to me. I had already buried so many people—2 babies, my father, my precious aunt. How much could a heart take before it shattered completely, and for that matter, how much could a mind take before it did the same? Now God was asking this of me, to live my entire life without my child, and I said, “No.”

I woke up from a necessary drug-induced sleep and said the words aloud—to myself more than anyone else. Just to have them out there. Whether I said it to state my intention or my certainty, I don’t know. I just said it. “I don’t want to be here anymore.” And I knew I had made the decision to end my life. To not face the future without my son. It was over, and I was okay with that. I didn’t have to deal with death or life anymore. I was done.

I was done.

But I didn’t consider the other people in the room. Of course, I didn’t! I was alone, locked inside myself with my pain and the loss that I knew there was no escaping. When I said the words, I wasn’t talking to anyone but myself. And maybe God.

But Nic heard me. Nic was my first son to take a breath as a living person in this world. I had a son before him, but he died before he was born. And when Mikey was 8 years old, I buried my second son, Samuel. Now three sons were gone, and Nic was in the room with me when I realized that I had reached the point of no return. So was my daughter, Tiffany. And my best friend, Martha.

And when I said, “I don’t want to be here anymore,” without hesitation, Nic said, “You go, I go.” Silence roared in my ears and all other noise stopped at that moment. I was in shock. There was nothing else in my life but that statement, and the realization that he meant every word of it.

Then Tiff said, “You go, I go,” and Martha said, “You go, I go.”

And I became angrier than I had ever been in my life. Angrier than the angry of losing my babies, and my father. Angrier than I was at God for taking them. Angry, because in that moment, everything changed. I was ready to die. I had no desire to stay.

But I had no choice. Not then, not now, not ever. And it hurts, but not near as much as it did that day, the worst day of my life.  

That day, I chose to live.

It would be a long, long time before I chose to have a life. That day I was only capable of making one choice.

There is only one thing that trumps grief. Only one thing that’s bigger than the worst loss. One thing that is undeniably monumentally ENOUGH, even in the face of the most insurmountable tragedy ever to befall a Mama—the loss of her child. That one thing is LOVE.

The day I chose to live, I chose their lives over my own. Knowing that I would never smile again until I drew my last breath on earth, the time God set aside for me to die, I CHOSE LOVE. To choose love, I was forced to choose life. I chose to keep my remaining two babies alive on this earth for as long as it was humanly possible for me to do so. My selfishness was not bigger than my love for my two children and my friend. I was forced to make the choice to stay on this earth for them.

Regrets? NO. Not even one. Amazingly, life went on, and I did smile again. And I learned that even though happiness is temporary, joy is eternal. I learned to walk this road that God placed me on one step at a time.

For more of what I learned from grief, click here: https://moodyoops.com/12-surprising-things-that-grief-will-teach-you-that-you-actually-need-to-know/

Now, I look at the faces of those I love more than my own life and more than my own death, and I know I made the right choice.

And now my family has grown much larger than the three people it had suddenly become! There have been more losses, but also more births. It has also grown in other natural ways, by adding children and adults through marriage and through deep and abiding friendship.

No one can replace Mikey, nor anyone else who is lost to me, but no one needs to. Mikey had his own space in my heart, and it’s still occupied. He didn’t leave me forever. I will touch his face again.

But here on earth, I get to watch my grandbabies laugh and play. I get to teach them about life, and sadly, about death. Sometimes it’s a bittersweet joy and sometimes it’s a full-on beautiful, boundless joy that doesn’t exist because of my decision but despite my having to make it. And I enjoy more fully the moments that I have with all the ones I love, and those who love me back—especially the ones who love me enough to be willing to sacrifice their own lives if I cannot be in them.

When I wake now, sometimes I can’t help but to think about what I would have missed if I did not choose to live. When I look at my life, it is full of joy—and sadness too. One does not exist without the other. You can’t truly know the joy of life without experiencing the pain of death.

I don’t know what my childhood would have been like if I had known joy instead of the darkness of sorrow and depression. If I pass down anything to my children, I hope it’s not the despair that I was born with. I hope it will be a legacy of life. I hope I will have taught them to love as fully and deeply as possible for every single moment that God allows us. I pray that they will know always that He has a plan that ultimately leads to infinite joy. There’s no time to be searching for a place called “Happiness.” Life is way too short for that.

Happiness is a lie anyway.  In this world, it’s fleeting and superficial. Joy, however, can be had now (even amid grief) and experienced eternally. If you are going to strive for anything, strive to find joy. If you are going to choose anything worthwhile, let it be life.

Choose Life.

As for me, I am forever grateful for the lessons learned and blessings received because of the day I chose to live.

BUSINESS OWNER, ENCOURAGEMENT, ENTRE SUCCESS, MOTIVATIONAL, RECOVERY

6 USEFUL THINGS YOU CAN LEARN FROM ROAD CONSTRUCTION

Photo by Pop & Zebra on Unsplash
Photo by Pop & Zebra on Unsplash

Stress.

We’ve all been there. You think you’re getting somewhere in your life and you might even be early getting there for a change. You’re travelling along at the perfect speed, listening to your favorite song blast through the speakers, just starting to feel like things are going to finally go your way. Then BOOM! Road Construction.

How aggravating.

Aggravations like road construction can derail a perfectly good mood on a perfectly good day if you let them. Instead of turning 12 shades of red and feeling your blood pressure stand your hair on end, let’s try to find the positive in the situation.

Here are some useful things you can learn from being caught in road construction.

1. The road you are on could be better.

Sure, you’re not the one doing the repair. That’s not your job. But it’s someone’s job, and they’re doing it! It’s an awesome time to just be grateful that someone is tending to the dangers that are seen and unseen. Your way will often be less than perfect. This may be the time to slow down and be cautious while someone else sorts out the problems.

2. Speaking of slowing down, maybe you’re just in too big of a hurry!

Road construction forces us to come to a screeching halt and take stock of our surroundings, whether we want to or not. This is a good time to ask some very important questions. Are you prepared to go forward? Are you recognizing and heeding all the warning signs? It seems elementary, but the red flags are there for a reason—danger. Stop. Check yourself. Only move forward when it’s safe to do so!

Photo by Liam Macleod on Unsplash

3. You need a REALITY CHECK.

Distraction causes us to miss a lot of opportunities. If you aren’t paying attention to the flag man, you could miss your turn to move forward and inadvertently force everyone behind you to wait until the people moving past you in the opposite direction have all gone by. This could cause anger and negativity among the ones closest to you. Pay ATTENTION! Keep your eyes focused on moving forward when it is your turn to do so.

4. You may have forgotten to do the GROUNDWORK.

Have you ever noticed all the steps it takes to build a road? From just the part we can see, you have to level the ground, fill in the holes, put in drains and ditches, lay gravel and asphalt, spread it all out, get it smooth, test it, paint stripes, and I don’t even know what else! All of this hugely matters as you travel your road. What if you forget a step? You may have to tear the road up back to that point and try again. Whether you are laying the groundwork or someone else has done it for you, make sure that your foundation is SOLID! One pothole can take you out of the journey if you hit it wrong.

5. You may not have noticed the BEAUTY along the way!

Sometimes as we speed towards success, we forget to notice the lovely things—like the pretty yellow flowers that grow by the roadside, the bird that pecks the ground on the shoulder of the road, the tree limbs that are gently swaying with the breeze, or even a turtle as he laboriously makes his trek across the pavement. As we are forced to slow down or stop, it’s an opportune moment to take delight in the things that we didn’t even notice before.

Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

6. You may need to go a DIFFERENT DIRECTION.

We’ve all been in a long line of cars waiting for the flagman when there’s that ONE GUY (or gal) right in the middle who breaks out of line, turns around, and goes back the way he came! For those of us waiting, “Yay!” We are ecstatic because we can finally move forward a few feet, and hey, any progress is progress! But let’s talk about the guy who turned around.

*He may know an easier way to get where he’s going, without the hassle of the road construction. For him, that’s a lesson learned with a small bit of aggravation! Even if the other way is a little longer, he (or she) has counted the cost and decided that it’s worth it!

*She realized she didn’t need to go where she was going after all! She could probably do more with what she had if she headed in a completely different direction with it! That moment (or agonizing few minutes) waiting in the road construction afforded her an opportunity to look at where she was headed and make a decision. If you find yourself stuck somewhere, maybe you need to PIVOT!

Ask yourself: “Do I really want to go where I’m headed?” and if so, “Is there an easier way to get there?” There’s no shame in your game if you change your mind. Take the time you didn’t mean to have as an opportunity to think about your choices!

These are the 6 things that I learned while I was stuck in ROAD CONSTRUCTION. What have you learned from being stuck on the road you were travelling? Remember, no matter what you might have heard, finishing well is not the only important thing. The trip itself is what makes life worth living.

Don’t miss the beauty along the way.

KISSES Y’ALL

RECOVERY

12 SURPRISING THINGS THAT GRIEF WILL TEACH YOU THAT YOU ACTUALLY NEED TO KNOW

Joy and grief grow in the same garden.

My first introduction to death was at the tender age of 18. This was before I knew the first thing about living, so I sure didn’t know how to process the fact that people could just stop doing it. Especially important people, like my Daddy. He was bigger than life to me, and his life seemed way more important to me than mine. I threw myself face down on the floor and began my first attempt to barter with God.  Apparently, God wasn’t interested in reversing the process and taking me in Daddy’s place, because I’m still here, and writing about it after all these years.

God has a way of giving us just what we need to survive at the time, and sometimes scarcely more than that. Somehow, I managed to get up off the floor and scrape together just enough of whatever it is that it takes to survive. I had to make a lot of hard decisions that I wasn’t ready for back then. It was like going from zero to sixty—I grew up fast. I didn’t have much of a choice.

The tragedies in my life have continued. I have not only buried my father; I have also buried three sons. Two of them were infants, one was almost 17 years old. I am forever changed. Some days I find the courage to talk about it and some days I don’t. It would be easy to wallow on the hard days, but today I choose to honor life by talking about what grief has taught me, in the hopes that it will help someone else when they go through the darkness.

THE TAKEAWAY                                   

  1. PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THINGS.

This seems like a no-brainer. I can’t elaborate too much on the obvious, but if I have learned anything it’s to put the people you love and your relationships above material possessions and the pursuit of them. The Bible, in Mark 8:36, asks, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Don’t sell out your family for money or recognition. Don’t trade your time with them for anything that seems glittery and beautiful. You can’t get the moments that you lost back again. You can’t even get the moments that you spent back again, but at least you have the memories of those. Let your memories be full of laughter and joy when you can, but also go through the hard stuff with the ones you love. The darkest night spent with someone you care for is better than the brightest morning alone with your things.

2. WE ARE NOT IMMORTAL.

Surprise! Life here on this earth does not last forever. We die. Our forever is not going to be spent here in these bodies, doing this stuff. There’s really no need to save the best for last! Don’t keep your ideas to yourself. Use them! Get out your best dishes, wear your best clothes. Have dessert first if you feel like it (I don’t recommend this all the time though. It’s not that great for your waistline).

3. TAKE YOUR MOMENTS WHEN YOU CAN GET THEM.

Embrace the precious times of your life. You don’t know what the future holds! The Bible talks about this too (a very wise book), when it says in James 4:13 “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.”

Love on your family. Stare at your children. Watch them breathe. Take a moment to revel in their smiles. Say all those words you’ve been holding back. Just in case this is all you will ever have; make it the best moment it can possibly be!

4. IT’S OKAY TO LIVE AGAIN.

You are not betraying anyone by going on with your life. Continuing to breathe is not a curse, and you have no reason to feel guilty for it. God has appointed each of us a time to be born and a time to die (Yep, that’s from the Bible too). If you are reading this, it wasn’t your time to die. It’s hard and it hurts and it’s unfair and all of that. But it’s the truth. Oh, and you aren’t God. It wasn’t your choice. You can let go of that now. Keep breathing. Keep going. Keep trying. Make it a great life. Do you know what the absolute best thing is that you can do for the ones who have stopped living? For you to keep on living, and to lead a victorious life.

5. LAUGHTER REALLY IS GOOD FOR HEALING.

Don’t feel guilty for finding enjoyment in your life. Let the joy come back. It doesn’t mean there isn’t still heartbreak. It doesn’t mean you have forgotten. Joy and pain can inhabit the same house. Let them.

6. GOD KNOWS YOU’RE MAD AT HIM.

He can take it. This is His world. Nothing happens without His knowledge and permission. It’s a hard pill to swallow. Everyone dies. Also hard to get down, especially when that someone is your child or parent, spouse or sibling. Or grandparent. It doesn’t mean that you are insignificant to God that He allowed it to happen to you. It also is not a small thing that He gave His Son to die, knowing that He would ultimately beat death. I mean, that was the point. He kicked death’s ass so I could see my kids again someday. Yeah, I was mad at Him for a long time. Sometimes I still am. Then I remember that, and I get through. I know where my hope is.

7. WE AREN’T MEANT TO DO THIS ALONE.

Don’t isolate and expect to get through it all on your own. There’s no need in it. If you don’t have friends or family who will walk through your grief with you, find a recovery group. Celebrate Recovery is a great place to go. If not that one, then another. There are moments when you need to shout, cry, fall apart, and vent. You might just want to share some funny old memories. You might not know what to do with your anger and unforgiveness. That’s what these groups are for. People are better than things and substances for helping you to get through. They need you too.

8. LIFE IS A MIRACLE.

Do you know why you are still here? Neither do I. It’s a miracle. Treat each breath as the gift that it is. Embrace the fact that you are alive and go dance in the rain.

9. ALL WE LEAVE BEHIND IS WHAT WE GIVE TO OTHERS.

No accomplishment, no amount of money, no possession will matter after you are gone. When people think of you, let it be because they remember what an impact for good you made on their lives. Stand up for what is right. Fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. Love everyone the same. Don’t discriminate because of color, social status, or wealth. Give everything you can give to other people. You can’t take one thing with you where you’re going anyway (no matter which direction that is).

10. IT’S OKAY TO CRY.

You can grieve for as long as you need to grieve. I believe that there are some losses that you will always grieve for on this earth. The loss of a child is one of those. If you need to cry, don’t let anyone tell you that you should be “over it.” Your grief is your grief. Feel it and live your life anyway.

11. YOU DON’T HAVE TO SPEND YOUR LIFE TRYING TO MAKE THEIRS MEAN SOMETHING.

Their life was not in vain, and neither was their death. It has already taught you so much! You have precious memories to hold forever. Their lives already had meaning, and they always will. Don’t spend your whole life setting up foundations in their name, donating to causes in their name, furiously trying to immortalize them. Let them rest in peace. You don’t have to make their life mean something. The best thing that you can do to honor them is to make your own life mean something! Work on that. Take responsibility for you. Get better so you can help other people.

12. THE NEXT “YOU” WILL BE DIFFERENT.

This journey that you are walking through grief will change you. That’s okay. You might think that you were meant to be that other person who was never touched by loss. Things would have turned out another way. Perhaps you can make a case for that, but I doubt it. Life, death, and God did not steal anything from you. Remember that everyone’s time is appointed to them. That means that you are meant to be the person touched by loss. The question is “why”?

Use the things you have learned to help other people. Sure, you are different, but you’re not lesser than. You have a world of experience now that was very hard-earned. Don’t let it go to waste. Use it for good. When the opportunity comes, take it.

These are some of the surprising things that grief will teach you that you actually need to know. Somewhere down the road, you will have the chance to share them with someone else in a way that helps their heart. Doing it will help your own.

just a doll that looks like Samuel…

RIP Samuel Allen Dowden, born dead, July 17th, 1998

Happy 21st

grief, RECOVERY

CAPACITY

Sometimes we’d rather believe the worst possible lie than face the truth.

The thing about the world is, you can’t change it. No matter how much you want to. It doesn’t matter how much you wish it were different—or easier—or less frightening and ugly. You just can’t change it. It’s like an out of control freight train on a track that heads straight to hell.

To love, to live, to forget, to pretend, to dream, and to die—human beings have so damned much capacity, even in a world that we can’t do anything about.

Sometimes I wonder if we actually have the capacity to draw the line between what is real and what never was—to distinguish between real life and fantasy or even dreams as we hold on for dear life, speeding through space, darkness, and time.

  • Do we ever really know what reality we’re living, or what even constitutes reality?
  • What is it about the truth that makes us lie so desperately to ourselves?
  • What keeps us yearning and trying so hard to reach for something more than the actuality that we face?
  • Why do we constantly strive to get to a place—any place—that is different than the one we are currently in?

I have a lot of questions like these, and by rights, I should have. I can’t think of too many people who should ask them more than I should. Because I’m dead. Lifeless.

All this time—all this time! I believed that I existed! That I woke up unprovoked one morning and found your cold and stiff body. As horrifying as that was, I could make some sick and twisted sense from it.

The very idea that you had left me had my mind reeling in shock—oh, but hadn’t you prepped me for this very moment by asking me in advance to forgive you? “Will you forgive me, Mother?” you said. “Will you ever forgive me?” And in my innocence, I answered you with a mother’s true love and said, “You’re my child, I’ll forgive you anything!”

Mikey, fishing

I, in my small mindedness, had the audacity (or you could even say, the CAPACITY) to believe that was true! That I would forgive you for anything! I wasn’t thinking about the comment you had made earlier in the week, when you said that you’d often thought about sneaking into my room at night to kill me. I knew you were just talking—of course you were! You’d never do such a thing. But you did, didn’t you, Son?

Never would I have believed that you would follow through on your casually spoken words! No one could have ever made me believe that you would be a threat to me! I brought you into this world—I did! As your mother, I loved you so much more than anyone else (past or present) that you might purposely or accidentally encounter. I’m your Mama—you didn’t mean it! You could not have, because that would mean that you were someone that I didn’t know—had never known—and that just is not possible. You’re my baby. I love you more than my own life.

I wish that clarity could have come in some other less unforgiving way, that on the day that I was destined to find the truth there would be a laughing acceptance and the flippant toss of the head and “I knew it all along,” spilling out of my mouth.

Oh, if only I wasn’t standing here invisible, looking at you, and what you have become in this world and screaming, “NO, NO, NO, NO!!” This is my BABY!! It cannot be the way it is and yet—my mind knows now, and I do not have the ability to make it any other way. You have done what you threatened to do—in fact—you reached that goal long ago. I thought I found you dead, instead they found me.

How can the dead refuse to be dead and even insist that there is life and recovery and all the things that most human beings strive for after a loss so complete? How did I get to this place where I thought that the worst that could happen had already done so? Capacity. I lost the capacity to snatch the truth out of the swirling particles of reality and fear in front of me. When you are dead, you cannot know the truth.

Proof of Life

What about those babies that I love so well? They scream my name and run into my arms when they see me! They grab my leg when I try to walk and say, “I don’t ever want to let you go!”

Proof of Life

None of this seems odd to me. I have been there! I have! I have lived! You did not kill me! You could not have! You are my Son! I cried for you, for years on end—how can the dead just not stay dead and slip into the infinity that we claimed would be consumed with our love for each other?

Even more—how can I not now find that my greatest wish has come true—that YOU are alive?? Because if I am the one who died—then YOU LIVE!! You live! My baby lives! I know this must be true in the same moment that I realize that I am not alive, and do not live, and indeed, have not for many years.

Can the dead be crazy like the living? Does the mind just continue to fabricate an existence to protect us from the things we cannot face? But—maybe I am wrong! I must have found some OTHER way to die—some accident that no one saw coming and never thought to warn me about—That has to be true. I could NOT have died BY YOUR HAND! Not the hand of my Son—the hand that was once so tiny and fragile and the only thing of you that I could hold when you first made your entrance into this world.

The Truth

The truth is such an elusive (and in some cases, abusive) creature. We can tell ourselves anything—we all have the capacity to believe our own lies and act on them. Somehow though, if our foundation is steady, we make our way back to the truth eventually. Whether we like it or not.

I did, indeed, die by your hand. I died a million times inside, remembering what you said, and knowing you could never take it back. I died when I found you asleep forever, lying as if you might get up any minute and argue with me about who was going to cook supper or wash dishes.

I died as they tore your body away from your Mama’s hands and loaded you up to take you away from me forever. I died with the flood of memories which took me back to every single thing that I had ever done to hurt your heart—each time I yelled at you—when I snatched your cap off your head because it annoyed me—when I gave it back to you because it annoyed someone else.

Mikey, with his cap pulled over his face

You Killed Me

I died when I realized that I could never make it right. I died when I remembered telling you that I would forgive you anything and realizing that it was not true. I died a million times and in a million ways and it was by your hand—because it was your hand that held the pills. Your hand that lifted them to your mouth to swallow them. YOU killed ME in that moment, more effectively than if you had actually snuck in my room and cut my throat.

I have so many memories of you, my son. So that one statement that you made to me in that one moment shouldn’t weigh so heavily on my heart—and if you were here now, laughing with me over something silly that you said almost 13 years ago—it wouldn’t be significant at all.

The World is a Heartless Place by Mikey Black

Instead, you are not here, and I am alone in my room, my pen moving across this page so fast that I can barely read the words while my mind tries to make up ANY scenario that keeps you breathing on this earth—EVEN IF IT MEANS THAT I AM NOT.

The Capacity to Love

Because Mikey—I love you. Whether you are dead or I am dead, that does not change. I love you even though you killed me by killing yourself.  Even though it wasn’t an intentional act on your part, it forever changed things. Still, it did not even remotely touch the fact that I LOVE YOU. I loved you then, I love you now, and I will love you forever. God gave us the capacity to do ONE thing eternally—to LOVE.

He also gave us the capacity to forgive, and I forgive you—on most days. I forgive you for killing us both that day, and for not killing us both that day. Regardless, I know that God has resurrected us both, but not in the same way. You are in your place that God had ready for you, but I am here in this one—struggling to overcome and live a life of purpose. You left this world, Son, but not in vain. Because God always has a plan. He alone has the capacity to turn destruction into beauty.

LOVE YOU AN INFINITY OF INFINITIES

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound–that saved a wretch like me…

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, And mortal life shall cease,

I shall possess within the veil, A life of joy and peace.”   John Newton

RECOVERY

The Making of a Meth Addict

From His First Cry to His Final Breath

JOHNNY’S STORY

“I guess I finally decided to tell my story to somebody who would write it down pretty much like I said it. Before I get too deep in it though, I better set the record straight, in case it comes out somehow and you catch on to me.

I ain’t really from around here, at least not before about twenty years ago, and how I got here was from a job I took to take care of my babies. I used to move around a lot because that’s just what I learned to do. You chase the money when you can’t do anything else, and you have three little kids looking at you for food and clothes and toilet paper, and other stuff that they need and you’re the only one they can really count on to get it for them.

It Don’t Matter How Smart You Are if You Ain’t Got a Pot to Piss In

I always tried to better myself, just about every way I could, but nothing I ever did seemed to amount to much in the end. I got myself a college degree, and I ain’t gonna lie, I don’t have to talk like this. I just do it because it’s easier to dumb myself down than to take the trouble I get into for acting like I’ve got sense sometimes. It’s different around here. It was a pretty big culture shock when I hit this part of the state, and I’m not sure why I didn’t just turn around and run. Well, that’s a lie right there. I am sure, and it’s because it don’t matter how smart you think you are if you ain’t got a pot to piss in.

So anyway, I have a story to tell, and I ain’t gonna tell it all. I’m just going over the part that I think might do some good to help somebody else that might get in the same predicament that I got myself into. Maybe they can find the courage to get out before it’s too late. I guess I waited too late, but I didn’t know it, and I pretty much went back for seconds. That’s the part that doesn’t make sense unless you know the whole story. I’m gonna try to tell just enough to make you understand.

I got down here around ’98, and it wasn’t long before I met a man. To say that I was always “meeting a man” would be putting it mildly. I swear, there’s one around every corner when you decide that you can live your life without one in it, and I have come to that conclusion many times. Unfortunately, they always seem to be around the corner I’m rounding, and I run smack into them and fall head over heels in love every time.

To clarify that point, I don’t usually fall in love with the man, just in love with the idea of being in love with the man.  This time was different though. I had never met anyone like Johnny before. He said I was his “meant to be” and I believed him. Of course, I did. I was a single mother with three little kids and I was looking for salvation. Not the kind that God gives you—I had that already—but something a little more down to earth and touchable. We got married pretty quick, and I thanked God for him every time I thought about it.

He Could Pick a Deer Off at Just About Any Distance

Johnny was a strong, working man, and I thought that he was everything that I had ever wanted. When he wasn’t working, he would grab me and the kids and we’d go fishing, or he would hunt with his buddies. Most of the time he had a whole pack of boys following him around, trying to learn everything he knew about huntin’ and fishin’. Everybody said he was the best shot around, and he wasn’t too worried about killing the deer legally, just mowing them down every chance he got. He could pick ‘em off running through the woods at just about any distance and he’d do it driving down the road or walking—didn’t matter to him.

The Sun Was Going Down

It wasn’t that bad of a deal. He made you think that it was the law that was wrong, not him. He didn’t do it for selfish reasons like filling our freezer, don’t think that. Maybe it was just for the joy of killing or maybe for the joy of giving the meat to people who needed it, I ain’t quite sure. We never really had any extra fish or deer meat because he gave every bit of it away so he could go again. That’s just the man he was, and everybody loved him. Mostly me. I don’t think I could’ve loved him more if I tried. And he loved me too. He said all he needed in life was ‘you, the kids, a smoke, and a Coke.’ That’s a pretty simple life right there. It would have been enough for us.

Johnny didn’t believe in drugs or drinking. Well, he would drink, but only once a year. He’d go to the bar and get drunk on New Year’s Eve, and I would drive him home. He would do ridiculously funny things like put his toe prints on the windshield in the morning dew as the car warmed up and say, ‘Now you see it, now you don’t,’ or sing the National Anthem in Donald Duck’s voice, or something equally crazy but normal for Johnny. Then, the next day he would get up like always and go build a fence, or help somebody wrap their pipes, or fish, hunt, or something. He never just laid up with a hangover. That just wasn’t the kind of man he was.

Then Johnny Got Hurt

He was on the job and working just like he always did. He worked hard enough for two men, and one time he actually did do the job of two men.  Bob was an old guy who needed to retire but couldn’t afford to, and he couldn’t breathe very well, so my Johnny would finish his work and then do Bob’s work too. It wouldn’t have been that unusual except that my husband was the foreman of the job. He could have sent Bob home at any time, or even had someone else do the extra work. That just wasn’t him though. He was always doing for other people.

I’m pretty sure Bob was retired or dead by the time all this took place. If I remember the story right, a machine should have been doing the job that the hands were doing, but the bosses couldn’t wait, and they were told to go ahead and do it themselves. Somehow, they were supposed to pick up sledgehammers and knock some pieces in the track—I guess I forgot to mention that he worked for the railroad.

Johnny had always told me, ‘If you get hurt on the railroad, you just as well better pretend you didn’t, because they’ll fire you so they don’t have to pay you.’ The railroad was always bearing the brunt of lawsuits filed from people getting run over by trains and maintenance of way hands who weren’t looking when they stepped off backwards onto the tracks and a train was coming, and other reasons like that. Instead of waiting around for you to decide to milk the situation for all you could get, they would just go ahead and fire you on the spot. You were gonna sue them anyway, so it didn’t really matter. At least that’s what I understood their position to be.

It was for that reason that he waited a day before he told them that he was hurt. Well, just like he always said, they fired him. He had worked there for 12 years, and they just up and fired him like he didn’t even matter. Didn’t even give him a chance to get better, not that he could have. They said that it was because he didn’t tell them right away that he was hurt.

We knew they’d have fired him either way. Turns out “hurt” didn’t really cover it. Johnny broke his back. In the process of many X-Rays and MRI’s, we found out that the reason his back ended up broke and nobody else got hurt is because he had degenerative back disease. He was out of the game for good. Not just that game, but also the hunting and fishing one. Truth be told, he was out of the game of life for good too. We just didn’t know it for another ten years.

The Switch Got Flipped

When a man has everything that he loves taken away from him, or at least everything that he feels like makes him a man, it changes something inside of him. He lost his identity somehow–all the things that made him who he was to himself. That little switch that was flipped might have a lot to do with why everything else happened the way that it did. But whatever way you look at it, it wasn’t Johnny’s fault.

Doctors and lawyers got involved, like they’ll do. The railroad’s doctors and Johnny’s doctors. The railroad’s lawyers and Johnny’s lawyers. They all had different opinions on whose fault the accident was, and what should be done about it. During all of this, I kept on working and taking care of my babies. Johnny got money advances from the lawyers and pain pills from the doctors. I tried my best to hold our lives together. I wasn’t doing a very good job.

He got addicted. Like I said, it wasn’t his fault. When they send you to pain management, they don’t try to “manage” your pain. They give you a huge bottle of opiates, synthetic ones mostly, and a date to come back. After a while the vultures start circling the parking lot. As soon as Johnny would come out of his pain management appointment, someone would meet him in the parking lot to buy some of his pills. Then he’d be short what he needed, and he’d do the same to someone else. I guess he was dealing drugs, if you want to look at it like that. I felt like I just turned my head and let it happen. I tried to stop it, but what could I do? I couldn’t put my own husband in jail, and he never seemed to hear anything I said to him anymore. It became a vicious cycle that there was seemingly no escape from.

Pain Meds–the Beginning of the End

But there was. Somebody told Johnny of an easier way to manage his pain, or his addiction, or something. I guess that was the beginning of the end. Pretty soon he was taking pain pills, drinking, smoking marijuana, and doing meth. I knew about all of it but the meth. You couldn’t have convinced me of that to save my life. Or anybody else’s. Also, no one tried. I never had any idea that my husband was addicted to meth. It never crossed my mind. I still don’t know if he smoked it, ate it, shot it, drank it, or what. I never saw him do it one time and wouldn’t even know it if it jumped up and bit me in the butt.

I could tell you about the part where my youngest son got ahold of some morphine that had to have come from Johnny, either directly or indirectly, if I had the guts to do it right now. It’s a whole other story for a whole other day. I will give you the short version. He didn’t make it, and I lost my mind. I have to live my entire life without him now, knowing that I didn’t save him from a ship that I didn’t know was sinking. Because I was just working and paying bills and taking care of my kids I thought. I was just surviving and hanging in there and waiting for a better day. And a better day was not coming. And it is never coming now.

Did I blame Johnny for my baby dying? Of course, I did. He was only 16 years old. And Johnny had been the love of my life, and I couldn’t make it work in my head. I could say a million things to him and about him, but I couldn’t make any of it work. I didn’t know that Johnny was already dead himself. Or if he wasn’t, that was the last thing that he needed to send him over the edge. When the boy died, Johnny died too. He just didn’t know it. Hell, none of us knew it.

Johnny Wasn’t Johnny Anymore

I bet a lot of people don’t even believe that you can’t tell when someone who is addicted to meth checks out on you, and someone else takes their place. Johnny wasn’t Johnny anymore. He was already dead and gone. Pretty much a zombie to tell the truth. He didn’t get buried for another ten years, but he never showed up again. There was an imposter inhabiting his body after that. He fooled a lot of people. I can’t believe that one of them was me.

We couldn’t get through the death. I guess I should say that I couldn’t get through it. Truth be told, Johnny wasn’t really feeling anything. That body learned to fake everything that Johnny used to be. It would laugh, or cry, be happy or sad—pretty much anything you would expect from a real person, but it wasn’t one. I know that now, but I sure didn’t know it then.

We split up—divorced—went our separate ways. I struggled to get over the loss and the betrayal. I didn’t want to live most of the time. But I had the other two kids, and they were young adults by then, and putting pressure on me to live my life again. They didn’t know Johnny was dead already, what with him walking around and all. They harbored hopes that we would get back together and that things would be the way they were before. Everybody loved Johnny.

You Can’t Give Me Back My Son

I moved on with life and relationships and reasoned out my forgiveness of Johnny. I didn’t know the truth of how it had all happened. I didn’t know really if he had been responsible. Perhaps I had misjudged him. Perhaps it wasn’t his fault. To this day, I still don’t know the truth. The source of the morphine is still a mystery to me, one that I will never solve. I don’t need to solve it anymore though. I have released that need to God. “Why” is not a question that I need an answer to, and neither is “how.” It doesn’t even matter. My child is dead, and no amount of forgiveness or unforgiveness can bring him back.

After a few years of separation, my heart softened toward Johnny again. I remembered how I had loved him, and how my kids still did. He told me about the meth, that he had been addicted. I was shocked—it was unbelievable to me that he could be doing all that right in front of me and I wasn’t even smart enough to know it. See, I told you that my college degree was pretty much useless. Well, if that’s not what I said, I meant to. I was blind where he was concerned.

Maybe I Saw What I Wanted to See

I believed him when he said that all the drug use was over. He told me, ‘I can’t imagine how bad I made you feel,’ and I just knew he had changed. Johnny cared about my feelings—he wanted me back! I moved back in with him, once I shook off the guilt. It took a while to get past the idea that I was somehow betraying my son by going back. I still don’t know if I did or if I didn’t. The truth is in the ground with Johnny, and it’s best that it stays there. I’m finally getting better myself. It has been almost 13 years.

I think about what it took for me to leave the second time. There wasn’t much doubt after I had been there a little while that something was still very wrong. Johnny would sleep for days at a time and then he would stay up for days at a time. He would take things apart that he couldn’t hope to put back together because there were so many pieces. Trash would pile up around him as he sat in his chair. He stopped taking baths, and brushing his teeth.

I tried to save him. Even after everything. In a way, I think that’s why I was there. Maybe I knew all along that he wasn’t better. Maybe I knew that he was still on drugs, even though I didn’t know it was meth. I think I must have had some kind of inflated opinion of myself, or of what love can do.

Love is Not Always Enough

I’m here to tell you that it isn’t enough, no matter what you think. Love can’t beat addiction. Love can’t go down into hell and pull somebody out who doesn’t want to come. You think you can be a savior to someone you love who is an addict, but you can’t. You aren’t enough and you never will be. If they don’t want to be saved, nobody can save them, and God won’t do it either. He already sent His only Son to do the job. If Jesus ain’t enough, you sure aren’t. The only thing that happens when you go down to hell to get somebody out who doesn’t want to come is that you stand the chance of dying there too. I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you.

Anyway, I cleaned up his house and made it beautiful, because I thought that stuff like that mattered. I told him when to bathe and brush his teeth. I became his wife again. I took care of his bills, and other things that needed tending too, and I was glad to do it. I don’t regret going back out there, even though it turned out badly. I needed to do it. I needed to know that Johnny was gone, so I could let his memory rest in peace in my own heart.  Everyone said how glad they were that I was back. Everyone was glad but me.

I struggled hard with my own feelings. My anxiety was out of control, and I had PTSD from finding my baby dead. I had taken to cutting myself to get some kind of relief from the hurts inside of me. I was angry and hurt and drinking all the time to try to make myself feel better. I’m just telling you all of this so you know that I’m not trying to make myself out to be a saint who always had it all together. I sure didn’t. I was barely hanging on to life, and I don’t think I was sane all the time. Still, you do the best you can do with the hand that you’re dealt. If I could have thrown those cards back in God’s face, you can believe me when I tell you that I would have. That ain’t the way things go sometimes though. Sometimes you gotta stand up, whether you want to or not, and when you’re the least able. And you do it for the same reason that you try to go down into hell and rescue someone.

But Sometimes It Is

There’s only one motivation that’s powerful enough to make you forget your own pain and heartbreak to the point where you will do as much as you can to spare somebody else from the same. That motivation is love. Don’t forget that. There might be a day when you need to call it to mind.

Johnny had never laid a hand on me before—hardly ever even got angry with me. Now the guy who pretended to be Johnny was violent and angry. He was paranoid and suspicious and controlling. I didn’t know that Johnny, but I couldn’t allow him to control me. He shoved me, threatened me, and pushed me out the door. He told me to leave, but when I would try to go, he would beg me to stay. I cried every day, but I stayed.

I would think about how good he could shoot. There was never a deer that I could remember seeing that Johnny didn’t gun down as it ran through the woods, and it didn’t matter how far away the deer was. He didn’t need to look in his scope to shoot it either. He would just look down the length of the side of it and use that as a guide as he lined the gun up in motion. It was an amazing thing to see—not so amazing to imagine yourself on the other end of it if he went crazy and you tried to run.

I guess the catalyst for leaving came when my little grandbaby came over to see me, and he scared her by yelling. I thought about how much I used to love him. And I thought about what it had cost me. The truth is, it doesn’t matter what the truth is when it comes down to it. It only matters what happens. And what happened is, I lost my son. I wasn’t going to lose anybody else. I wasn’t going to let my daughter lose her little girl. I was going to protect my family with my life—the way I would have done back then if I had known I needed to. So, I thought about how much I used to love Johnny. And then I thought about how much I loved my precious grandbaby. There was no comparison. There wasn’t even a choice to be made.

Whose Fault is it, Really?

There’s a lot more to the story, and maybe one day I will let somebody write that part down too. But for now, I told what I needed to tell. There ain’t nothing good that’s ever gonna come from meth. The doctors that hand out those prescriptions for bottles of pills are finally getting regulated, but it’s not enough. I can look at some of my own relatives and know that they aren’t doing enough to staunch the flow yet. The blood of addiction is directly on their hands, theirs and the big pharmaceutical companies that make a profit off the misery they deal to hundreds of thousands of victims who just want some relief from the pain.

The Price We Didn’t Pay

It didn’t have to end the way it did. Johnny didn’t have to die of a meth overdose. He didn’t have to die an addict. He wasn’t that guy. He didn’t believe in taking drugs and he only drank once a year. He was a hard-working and hard-playing man who loved to hunt and fish, and he loved me and the kids, a smoke and a Coke. And by God, we loved him too. And now you know the price we paid for it, and the one we didn’t.”

MOTIVATIONAL, RECOVERY

Still Your Baby

Girl crying
No Matter What, She’s Still Your Baby

There was no way that I could miss that something was really wrong with this girl. She was upset, not thinking straight, unable to make a decision. It was time for her to answer basic questions about her life, and she was having problems. That’s when she called you.

I heard your voice on the other end of the phone. I don’t know why she put you on speaker, but I think it’s because she was afraid to go through the moment alone. A child should never be afraid to call his or her Mama. There’s something wrong with a world where that is a reality, no matter what the cause of it.

Addiction Causes Heartache in Families

I don’t have any idea what she has and is still putting you through. I’m pretty sure that’s what you would say to me if given the chance. And of course, you are right. There’s no doubt about it—I don’t know. But here’s what I do know for sure: She’s still your baby.

I couldn’t keep my eyes off her hand as she pressed the buttons on her phone. She was trembling, visibly shaken at the very idea that she would have to ask her own mother for a small favor. She didn’t want money, or a ride, or even a place to stay for her and her children. She wasn’t trying to use you.

The reason she was calling was to ask your permission. Not because she had to! No one would have known the difference but her. She just wanted to write down your address. She wanted to be able to call it her home.

What Does it Take to Answer the Call?

Before she hit the last button, she said, “If she doesn’t answer, I understand,” and “If she says no, that’s okay.” I saw her eyes fill with hope when you did answer. Then I saw that hope die when you wouldn’t even give her time to ask the question. “Teresa,” you said. Actually, you didn’t call her Teresa, you called her by her real name, but I won’t use it here for her protection. “Teresa, I don’t have time to talk to you. I have to get in the bathtub.”

You had to take a bath. And because your bath was more important than your baby, I watched your grownup baby’s heart break right in front of me. As the light went out of her eyes, I felt the tears forming in mine. I had to swallow the pain with her. I felt the hurt in my own heart. The very thought of being rejected by the one person who should always stand beside you no matter what was enough to bring me to tears. I can’t even imagine how shattered her heart must have been.

It Doesn’t Matter if Addiction is a Disease or a Choice. Our Children Are Dying.

Even as you turned her away, she kissed her children and told them that it would be all right. But I know that it won’t be—because she’s lost, and addicted, but she’s still your baby.

Everything leading up to this point is none of my business. I know it isn’t, but I got a little of the story anyway. She’s acting “crazy” and is being sent for a psychiatric evaluation. Her friend says that drugs are how she copes with life—that life is what’s wrong with her. From Teresa I found out that it’s more than life. It’s also death.

I may not be able to understand how a person’s life can lead them to this point, but death? Now THAT I can wrap my mind around. When I found my son dead, I went crazy too. I reached for any and everything that would take my mind off the reality that my child was gone. I could make a list of the things I tried if I thought it would do any good. I have a feeling you don’t want to hear any of that. Your mind is closed. Maybe you haven’t suffered a devastating loss. I’m afraid that you are about to. I need you to wake up and prepare for battle, if you even care. Because she’s dying, and no matter what, she’s still your baby.

Overdose, Suicide, Disease, Isolation–Things an Addict Might Experience

I don’t even know if you can reach her now. I saw her mentally close the curtains. She’s in a different place than we are, inside, looking out. She slammed the door shut on her feelings. She will refuse to trust anything or anyone. Since her own Mama won’t give her the time of day when she is clearly desperate, she feels worthless. In self-defense she has separated herself from the rest of the world. She’s in there by herself now—but she’s still your baby.

According to everything I’ve read (including an article at this site: https://www.centeronaddiction.org/prevention/addiction-women) women get addicted faster than men and suffer more health consequences because of addiction. I think it’s safe to say that no one benefits from addiction. I also know that people who become addicted to methamphetamines have about a one percent chance of getting off the drug and regaining their lives.

I don’t know where Teresa’s addiction started. I never laid eyes on her until today. I do know that her husband died recently. Maybe she already had a problem—maybe not. I know that she was recently released from a psychiatric hospital where she spent three weeks. Apparently, they couldn’t straighten out the mess in her head. I don’t think you can unravel grief and addiction in three weeks.

It’s possible that she started using drugs as a coping mechanism to get through the grief. Like I said earlier—a person will do just about anything to keep from looking loss in the face.  I’m sure that you have all the answers to these questions. After all, she was born and is still your baby.

She Used to Be Your Baby….

I know I keep reminding you of the fact that Teresa is your baby. It’s funny—when other people’s children are drug addicts, it’s easy to say that they are lost causes. I’ve gone as far as to call them “methheads,” or “zombies.” Assuming she’s on meth, you may not have much of a chance of helping her anyway. It would be really tough for her to crawl out of this hole. She sure can’t do it on her own!

Hey, you remember when she was little, and you dressed her up in all those cute clothes and put her in bows that were as big as her head? You got her ears pierced way too young and carried her around with you everywhere you went. You called her a princess and bought her stupid stuff just because she asked you for it. The Dollar General cart would be level full of crap you knew was going to be broke by the next day, but you didn’t care because your baby wanted it, and what your baby wanted, she was going to get.

And she could do no wrong! Or if she did, you just overlooked it, or laughed at it because she was so darned cute. You clapped for her first step and you praised her when you taught her how to ride a bike. You cried when the bus rode away with her on her first day of kindergarten, and you verbally whipped more than one teacher who gave her less than the grade you thought she earned. You would have fallen in front of a train for her then! So, what changed? Isn’t she still your baby?

Is Love Conditional?

When you told Teresa that you would love her forever, did you forget to say, “Unless you become addicted to something, then you’re not my baby anymore.” Did you really mean it when you said, “Baby girl, your Mama will always have your back,” and “I will always be here for you.”

All of Teresa’s life, I bet you have told her that you would stand by her, no matter what. I don’t have proof of that, but I’m thinking that it’s a reasonable assumption, judging by the look on her face when she got the nerve to call you. She wore that hopeful expression that was an expectation that Mama would live up to her word. But you didn’t, did you? You fell flat on your face, and right in front of the person you need to be standing up for.

Does addiction change who your daughter is in your eyes? Does she suddenly belong to someone else? What if cancer were the demon she was battling? Would you turn your back on your baby then? Would you say, “I’m tired of you calling me every time you need something!”? If our kids can’t call us when they need something, why are we their parents? Isn’t that what parents do? Aren’t we supposed to answer the call, and do all we can for our babies? No matter how old they are, or how addicted they are, if we give birth to them—they are still our babies.

A Mama Ought Not Have to Bury Her Baby

What if it’s not too late? It might be. I don’t know. I sure saw that light die in her eyes. What I do know is that if Teresa was my child, I’d be fighting like hell for her life. I’d turn over Heaven and earth for the answers. I’d go down into the pits of hell and wrestle her away from the devil if I had to. I’m hoping for both of your sakes that you wake up to the reality of what that moment in time may have cost you and fight with everything you’ve got to right that wrong before it’s too late. The next call you get might not be from your baby. It might be about her.

And it’s true. I don’t know what you’ve gone through. I don’t know what it has cost you. Teresa is an addict. But you can’t just let her go. You can’t just let her die. She’s still your baby.

ENCOURAGEMENT, MOTIVATIONAL, RECOVERY

Don’t Give Up On Yourself

Quitting On Monday

I think that the easiest day to lose hope is Monday. When the week starts, it should be full of great possibilities, but the reality is that Monday is the day the cold hard truth usually slaps us in the face. It’s the day we are forced to stop pretending that everything is great. We often need to go back to work and leave our dreams behind again. It gets hard.

It isn’t just work though. The whole world will come against you sooner or later. Maybe it will set up a pattern all your life. Things and people that you count on will be snatched away from you. Just when you feel the most secure, something will happen that will set your world on tilt.

Don't Quit Your DayDream painting

Quitting On Tuesday

Maybe it’s Tuesday that makes you want to quit on yourself the most. The struggle to get through Monday has taken its toll, and you just don’t have anything left. Hard things happen, and you don’t feel like you are equipped to deal with them anymore, if you ever were.

At first, when the hard things happen, you may want to give up on God. It’s easy to throw the blame on the Almighty. He is ultimately in charge. But, when you think about it, you realize that God hasn’t failed you in any way. You may begin to ask yourself if you have failed God.

Being Angry With God

It’s hard to always stay positive in a negative world.  I get that. I really do. I’ve had my share (and more) of tragic circumstances. I have not handled much of it very well. I did not turn to God in my pain and loss like I should have. I turned away and blamed Him instead. At least I did for a while.

It was when I was the angriest at Him that I realized that I still believed in Him. Of course, believing isn’t enough. I also had to get to a place where I remembered that He was good and that He loved me. I had to realize that He still had a plan for my life, even though my own plans had crashed and burned. Coming to that point was the hardest after I buried my 16-year-old son. This kind of loss makes you question all that you have ever believed.

Perfectly Imperfect

During my trek through the chaos and confusion of the worst of my grief, I learned to see the world in a different way. What was ordinary to me before became extreme. Casual beauty became exquisite when I realized how temporary it all is. I learned to focus on the smiles of my children and to take in every breath that they breathe. I learned that the imperfections that I once saw as flaws are what makes something beautiful and unique. The world irrevocably changed for me, but it wasn’t all good.

What Our Children Face

I looked at our world and what we have made of it. Sin and ugliness have run rampant through our societies. The children that we bring into the world are forced to grow up in fear of what tomorrow will bring. If they are living unaware of the potential danger of the future, then they are ill-equipped to face it. On the other hand, to tell them what it may be like is a betrayal of their innocence. How do we know what to do? How do we tell them that the walls protecting them are made of glass?

The problems we face seem to be insurmountable at times. Human trafficking, the threat of war, and the divisiveness of our country due to political affiliation, religion, race, and economics to name a few. We get mixed messages from the media and don’t fully understand what the truth is and how to teach it to our children. Like my Mama always said, “Babies don’t come with blueprints stamped on their butts.” Do we protect them with the truth, or protect them from the truth? I don’t know.

Who Failed Who?

All I know is that God didn’t fail us. That leaves the obvious answer. If He didn’t fail us…. We failed Him. With that realization, hopelessness can start to creep up on you.

Depression. Anxiety. Feelings of worthlessness and fear. The idea that you can never get it right because you never have before. The overwhelming sensation that you are about to drown in your sorrow, anger, and helplessness.

I’ve been there more than once. If you have ever felt like that, you aren’t alone. Don’t give up on yourself.

A Life of Abundance

Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came so that we would have abundant life. An abundant life is a life full of meaning and joy. That is the kind of life that God intends for you to have. He didn’t say that you can only have this kind of life if you deserve it and never do anything wrong. He didn’t say that you’ve got to operate in a realm above the human realm to create and achieve this life for yourself. He simply said that He came so that you could have it.  

Your abundance is found in God through Jesus Christ. No matter what the world throws at you. No matter what Monday brings. It doesn’t even matter if you need to leave your own dreams behind. Whatever heartbreak you have faced has not changed the truth. Grief and loss can’t take away what Jesus came to give you. Your abundant life is in Him. Not in yourself! Not in your circumstances. Not in your loved ones, your dreams, your hopes. Abundant life is also not lost in the outcome of a failed plan or dream. What an eye-opening thing to finally learn!

The Freedom to Keep Trying

This doesn’t mean that you should quit trying to achieve anything on your own. It means just the opposite! Now you are free to pursue your hopes and dreams without the fear of failure because your worthiness and your abundance was never meant to be found in any of your personal accomplishments anyway. You are free to love with all your heart because death can’t steal your hope! You can dance in the rain because no storm can wash away the sacrifice already made for you.

Your Focus

Take your focus off yourself. That’s not what your life is supposed to be about. All you could ever hope to be can be found in your relationship with God. Yes, I said it. It’s not about you. You may be dangerously close to quitting on yourself. Don’t do that. The problem is relational. Pursue a relationship with God if you want to add meaning to your life.

 Matthew 6:33 says to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” If our focus is on Him, where it should be, and off ourselves, our lives will be full, and everything will fall into place just the way it’s supposed to. If our focus is on ourselves, we will always experience chaos and a feeling of off-centeredness because we were created for Him and by Him, and not to be self-serving.

The Truth

I believe that this is the truth that we should teach our children. If we want to equip them to be warriors in whatever battle comes their way, we must first introduce them to the source of their hope and life. We need to teach them as we learn ourselves that our identity should be first understood as a “child of God.” Whatever is next is not only secondary, but it’s also temporary.

Here’s what I believe to be the truth: the things you do for yourself on this earth are going to die with you anyway. The only things that you leave behind are what you do for other people.

The Prize

Knowing that my abundance is in Him is just the catalyst that I need to keep going, to keep plugging away and staying in the race even when it feels like I’m defeated. I can never be defeated if I’m running the right race—the one for His kingdom and in His design. It’s easy to fall back into the temptation of seeking to define my worth by earthly standards and how I feel, but the actual cold reality is none of that matters. The only thing that matters is that I keep my eyes on the prize.

ENCOURAGEMENT, MOTIVATIONAL, RECOVERY

I Want to Bury My Head In Cookie Dough

Not a Roll of Cookie Dough, but One of Those Tubs.

Ice Cream Neon Sign


Or Eat Five Gallons of Chocolate Ice Cream with a Package of Oreos–No, Girl Scout Cookies! I want Thin Mints, and I want them fresh out of the freezer!

Are you wondering why I want a tub of cookie dough, or something else sinfully sweet? In case you are, I will tell you. Because I’m stressed out. When I’m stressed out, all I can think about is taking something sweet and bad for me and shoveling it in my face.

Food is where I go for comfort.

It sure hasn’t failed me yet! Well, it hasn’t failed me in the moment, when the cookie dough is in my mouth and my endorphins are through the roof. I only reach failure status when I step on the scale a month later and I’ve gained 20 lbs. Or I would reach failure status then, if I ever really got on the scale. See, if you don’t acknowledge it’s happening, it’s not happening. Right?

I’ve lived most of my life in just that way. The struggle to maintain a weight that made me feel comfortable with my own body has been life-altering and mind-consuming. I’m a good weight now—just ask any specialist. My BMI is perfect I’m told. “You are a great weight right now. You can continue to lose if you want to tweak it, but that’s just for you.” I thought it was all just for me.

It’s not my body that’s the problem. I don’t know if you know this or not, but it rarely is. It’s the mind that has all the issues. Every single morsel I put in my mouth comes packed with a load of guilt. I’ve written about this before in another blog, https://moodyoops.com/how-you-see-yourself-determines-who-you-are/, and you may want to check that out! It’s a big deal to me.

Think about it like this. If you were an alcoholic, and you quit drinking, you would feel better. You would find other ways to gain comfort and peace—perhaps you would learn to pray more, read, fish, exercise, or do something creative. You would never have to pick up the bottle again if you chose not to, and that’s fantastic! Your addiction may be slightly easier to understand and control when you realize that you can actually live your entire life without one sip of alcohol.

But What If You Are a Food Addict?

You are addicted to food but you stop eating in unhealthy ways, you start exercising, and you start taking better care of your body. That’s a great victory! There’s only three problems that I can think of that might hang you up on a consistent basis: breakfast, dinner, and supper.

Yep, that’s right. You can’t go on for the rest of your life without eating! So even though you’ve beat the unhealthy patterns, it’s harder to let go of the guilt that you have always associated with eating. It comes unbidden the second you start chewing and increases with each bite. By the time you are finished with your meal, you are filled with remorse!

With guilt comes the desire to cover that guilt, and what’s the first reaction your mind has to that desire? It wants to go back to that old comfort that it’s so used to, and put it on again. Guilt is crying, “Cover me,” and food is answering, “I will!”

It Becomes a Pattern.

It happens over and over. Once or twice at the ice cream trough and you’re okay, a week’s worth and it starts to show. It’s a vicious cycle of doubt, guilt, and confusion that runs through your mind like a hamster on a wheel. The more you obsess over what you eat, the more you want to eat it. The more you try to avoid something, the more drawn you are to that very thing!

Are There Any Answers?

So what are some of the things you can do to break the unhealthy cycle of food guilt? Hmmm….I go through times off and on where I think I get this right. Of course, they don’t last as long as they should, but I am going to keep going back there until “off and on” becomes a tendency, and a tendency eventually becomes a habit, and a habit finally becomes a way of life that’s not even considered thought-worthy anymore.

  • I never tell myself that I can’t have something. Why? Because if I tell myself “no,” I think about that food all day long every day and eat everything in sight until I finally break down and just go get what I’m obsessing over! If I want it, I eat it. However, one thing that I will do is tell myself that I can have it “tomorrow.” Sometimes when tomorrow rolls around I don’t even want that whole roll of cookie dough (or tub). Sometimes I do. Either way, I give myself permission to have it. Maybe not the whole thing, but some of it for sure!
  • I try to take responsibility for my own diet. I don’t mean diet as in “I’m on a diet,” I mean diet as in “the food choices that I make for myself.” No matter what plan someone else is on and thinks is better, no matter what they have had success in, no matter what food they put before me, and no matter what anything else you can think of, since I am ultimately responsible I make it my ultimate responsibility to choose what goes into my mouth and what does not. Even when a health professional pushes an app at me and says, “You need to count calories if you are going to lose weight,” and I know that I lost 65 lbs and didn’t count the first calorie, I’m going to politely say, “That’s not how I do it,” and move on with life. It’s my life, my health, and my body. I’m responsible for its upkeep. I know what’s good for me and what isn’t. Counting calories will have me (a) starving, and (b) obsessing. I’m saying NO! to both of those ideas and I’m just going to keep on doing what I’m doing for the rest of my life. Thank you very much.
  • I try to notice how I feel after I eat something. If it makes me feel good physically, I’m good with it. If it makes me nauseated, headachy, sluggish, or any other negative physical outcome, I will probably not want to have that food again real soon. Since I deal with food guilt, I don’t let my emotions dictate to me what I will and won’t eat. At least, I don’t when I’m working on it.
  • I also try to notice the taste the food leaves in my mouth. I know that sounds crazy! But to tell you the truth, that chocolate frozen pie that was so dang good when I ate it left a really bad taste in my mouth! I really didn’t like it as much as I thought I did. I was just so used to liking it that I thought I still did. So the next time I want to take a bite of it, I will remember the taste it left in my mouth. Maybe I will still take a bite of it, and maybe I won’t. It has gone both ways.
  • I don’t always eat every meal, or I just eat during a certain number of hours in the day. They call this intermittent fasting. I probably don’t do this the textbook way or for the textbook reason. What it does for me though, is relieve some of the guilt of overeating because if I’m skipping a meal now and then, I’m not overeating! It’s a pretty simple way to trick your mind into believing the truth.

Now I’m not offering up any of my methods as advice, because I’m not an expert or a health professional of any kind. I’m just saying what works for me. There are studies that say that you can’t skip meals because it lowers your metabolism. What I have learned is that when you get over a certain age, the rules all change. If I hadn’t skipped some meals, I wouldn’t have lost a pound! You have to do what is right for you and your health though. It’s always good to check with a doctor or other health professional before starting any kind of health and wellness program!

I don’t know if anyone can relate to my food struggles, but this is what was on my mind tonight. We all have different areas that we battle every day—this just happens to be one of mine. Feel free to leave a comment if you have been there, and you can also share my blog to your choice of social media if you think it might resonate with others. You can follow the blog and sign up with your email so that you will get a notice every time I post something new!