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

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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.”

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

Go Buy Yourself a Shovel

shovel
It may be time to start digging up the real you!

Y’all, I am literally testing something new tonight, so bear with me as we learn together! It may or may not work, but here is my intention by way of a disclaimer: there will hopefully be an affiliate link in this blog post to some really cool lounge/pajama pants! Now I don’t expect that I will normally dump my business on you like that, but since I have no clue what I am doing, I figured an announcement would be in order this time in case I mess it up pretty bad. Technology sometimes mystifies me. I think sometimes that my three year old grandbaby can do more with it than I can.

Okay, also, I’m not sure that a blog post is the best place to put one of these, but like I said, I’m just learning, and Amazon gives you a limited time to do that before they jerk the rug out from under you. So I’m trying to hurry and get some of my education in pretty fast! By the way, I checked out the lounge pants, and if you’d like to pop over to buy me some, they really are a great price and I want some! I will take medium…They look super comfy! But let’s get back to the age thing.

Save 20.0% on select products from CYZ Collection with promo code 20LOUNGEPANT, through 2/20 while supplies last.

It does not matter how old you are. If God has given you a vision for your life and the gifts and talents to pursue that vision then you don’t really have the right to throw that in His face and say, “I’m afraid, so I’m just going to bury this over here until You come back.” We aren’t “fine” accepting a mediocre life just because it’s easier than stepping out of our comfort zone to do more. We aren’t “okay” if we are making excuses or creating chaos to avoid taking charge of our own lives and doing something about the situations we find ourselves miserable in. We surely aren’t living our best life if we are living one that someone else has created for us!

I am not too old to live out my dreams!

I’m at the age where it would be easy and also expected to look back at my life and say, “Oh well, I could’ve been more,” or “I could have done this or that but that ship has sailed now.” Well, it HASN’T sailed for me! I still have dreams, and I still have the belief that I can make those dreams come true. I don’t have to be stuck in someone else’s definition of what my life should be. I know what God has put on MY heart, and that is to pursue a ME that is better than the ME I used to be, so that’s what I am going to do.

My dream doesn’t diminish anyone else. In fact, the Bible says that no one lights a lamp to place it under a basket, but puts it on a stand so that it lights up the whole house (Matthew 5:15). The thing that light diminishes is darkness.

If you are doing what God has called you to do, it may scare some people. They may think that you don’t need them anymore, the closer you get to your goals, or they may realize that in order to remain a part of your life they will have to step up their own game! Maybe that person who is discouraging you has been accepting the lies that society and culture has been throwing at them since they were old enough to catch.

It isn’t your job to try to convince anybody to get on board with your dreams and plans. They don’t have to be. Your job is to use what God has gifted you with, to do what He wants you to do and to live the life that He intended you to live. If you have forgotten your vision or if you have buried your dreams, go buy yourself a shovel and start digging. It’s not too late.