Wednesday, December 4, 2019

At the risk of sounding harsh . . .

Recently I was asked to pray for a young person who had been hospitalized for an apparent drug overdose.   When I heard that they had been released to go home I celebrated, of course.  I continued praying, because not dying is only the first part of getting well from a drug overdose.

I do not know this young person.  I have no idea whether they are a social user who got something they couldn’t handle, or an addict who was chasing a higher high.  That means I have no idea whether the overdose is likely to change the drug using behavior that resulted in a trip to the ICU.   

If they are a social user who will be “scared straight” by this experience, the hard part may be over.  They will need to continue physical recovery from whatever damage they did to their body.  Depending on what the drug was there might also be brain damage and if so, that damage may or may not be something they can overcome.  I’ve seen both outcomes.  
But if they are an addict, and their family thinks an overdose will make them stop, they may be sadly mistaken.  Because if they are an addict, an overdose may be no big deal, just another experience, nothing to get excited over.  It might mean that they decide to change drugs because the one that they overdosed on is dangerous for them.  It might mean they decide they just got a bad batch of whatever, or maybe their dealer cut it with something toxic, but surely that won’t happen again.  And to make sure it doesn’t happen again, they may even go so far as to find a new supplier. 

I realize this sounds harsh, but I am speaking from personal experience.  Whenever I overdosed - and it happened more than once - as soon as I was out of danger of dying I wanted more.  I made all those decisions I listed as possibilities, because the reality is that I am an addict, and an addict is going to use until they simply cannot use any more. Overdosing was never a reason to stop, only a reason to change some part of my using behavior.  An addict may switch drugs or methods of use or the people they use with, but an addict will continue to use until something makes them stop.  Too often that something is death. 

I stopped because I woke up one morning knowing I couldn’t live the way I was living any longer, and I didn’t want to die that day.  I couldn’t live with the soul sickness and the emptiness in my heart any longer.  I knew I had to change my life, right that minute.  And I was lucky enough to find the right treatment center to get me started on the journey that very day.

I blame my recovery on prayer.   I know that millions of people in 12 Step meetings and churches all over the world pray every single day for those addicts who still suffer the way I was suffering.  I firmly believe all that prayer drew me toward recovery and toward God.   It has been 30 years since that morning and I haven’t felt the need to use drugs or alcohol.  I have wanted to probably thousands of times, but I have not needed to the way I used to.    

So I will continue to pray for that young person and for all the others still using, and for all of their families.  I hope you will pray with me.  May God’s healing power touch them all.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

A Gratitude Prayer

Loving God,
I am grateful for all that you have done for me.
Not just for the amazing, daily bounty you pour out upon me,
food and shelter, friends and work, and Cats,
although I am filled with gratitude for all  those things.

But I am grateful for the many times and ways you showed me your love,
even though I didn’t see it.
even though I didn’t believe it.
even though I would have rejected it had I known it came from you.

For I was homeless, and you always provided a place for me to sleep
I was suicidal, and you sent a loving friend.
I repeatedly placed myself in harms way, and you keep me alive.
I was beaten and raped, and you gave me safe places to talk about that.
I was bullied and abused, and you let me forget until I needed to remember.
I was without faith, and you sent the faithful to teach me of your love.

And I am grateful, Lord, that you have embraced me all my life,
even when I turned away from you
even when I spoke of you and your people hatefully
even when I would have disbelieved . . .  if I could.
But I always believed in You, even when I believed wrongly
For you are the Lord, my God, creator of everything.

I am grateful that you have given me so many ways to share what I know about your love,
with people who believe, but may need to be reminded.
with people who grieve, and may wonder where you are.
with people who do not know you, but do know there is an empty space inside,  
like the one that I had.
That God sized hole in my heart.
Thank you, Lord, for filling my life with opportunity,
for filling my mind with understanding,
for filling my soul with your healing power,
and for filling that hole in my heart with your love.


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Open hearts, open minds, open doors?

My heart is broken.  On Sunday - two days ago - I lifted up our sisters and brothers in the United Methodist Church who were facing a hard decision, a decision that would probably split the denomination no matter which way it went.  Even knowing that, I really thought that the delegates voting would, as John Pavolitz says, err on the side of love.   But instead the vote went the other way.  The denomination voted to reject those members who are anything other than heterosexual cis-gendered persons.  No same sex marriages will be permitted.  No one may serve as clergy who identifies anywhere along the LGBTQI spectrum.  The church whose motto is “Open hearts, open minds, open doors” has chosen to reject some of God’s children.  Instead they have chosen to affirm that “The practice of Homosexuality is not compatible with Christian teaching.”

I know that my own denomination is not, and perhaps never will be, fully open and affirming.  But we are congregational.  Each Disciples congregation makes decisions about membership and leadership for itself.  We have no rulings coming down from on high telling us who we may or may not accept, who we may or may not marry, who we may or may not call as ministers.  

Our brothers and sisters in the United Methodist Church still have hard decisions ahead of them.  Will they accept this ruling or not? Will they stay in the denomination or will they go?  Will a new Open Church branch of the Methodist Church evolve out of this General Conference’s decision?  While they are grappling with these decisions, let us pray. 

And may it be known that our doors are open to any seeking a new home in Christ.  In our house, all are welcome, and all means ALL. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

I know better, but . . .

2018 was a hard year for me.  Nothing awful happened, mind you. It was just a hard year.   There was the back pain, which is better now after cortisone shots and cauterizing the nerves that were causing problems.  And there were all those “little” illnesses beginning around April - intestinal issues that I blamed on diet, painful bloating I blamed on stress, acid reflux from I had no idea what, nausea and cramps I blamed on stomach flu - that all just kept recurring, and I thought it was all different things.  And I was sick to death of being sick all the time.  But  apparently they are all symptoms of an h. pylori infection of the stomach, which is now being treated and will hopefully be better in about another 6 weeks.

But then there was that other stuff, those other symptoms that started small and increased as the months went by.  The tiredness that made me need daily naps, and often had me in bed for the night by 7 pm.  The lack of desire to clean my house, wash dishes, do laundry or even shower.  I did those things, but it was so much like work.  Lack of care about much of anything.  Lack of patience with other people.  Not wanting to be around humans much at all.  I often found it hard even to carry on a conversation.  I did most of the things I absolutely had to do, but anything I could avoid doing - a social event or a visit, for example - I would.  I knew, of course, what was wrong, but I didn’t want to admit it. 

You know, I know better.  I have done funerals for suicides, and have said that their depression killed them just as surely as a heart attack or cancer.  I know all the symptoms and I know I can’t just power through it, but you know I had to try.  I had to tell myself that if I was just strong enough I could beat this.  I kept thinking that I couldn’t be that bad, because I am happy.  I am happier living and working here than I have been in I can’t tell you how long.  How can I have depression and be this happy? 

I was spiraling out of control.  I stopped even going to events I really enjoy.  I jumped on people for no good reason.  I could hear myself saying all the wrong things, but it was like I couldn’t control my mouth or my emotions.  A member’s mother died, and I couldn’t bring myself even to call.  That is when I knew I couldn’t do this anymore.  

I talked to my Spiritual Director, honestly, about my depression.  We talked about medication and how it has helped me in the past.  I agreed to talk to my primary care physician about a prescription, and I did that.  Two weeks ago I began to take anti-depressant medication and I feel a bit better.    I have more energy.  I am happy to do my house chores.   It will take a while before all the other symptoms go away.  It will likely take much longer to make up to my congregation for a year and more of my impatience and neglect.  But I will try.  

After all, admitting I have a problem is the first step, right?