There is nothing that prepares you for the loss of a child, short of a fortification of one's faith and certainly sobriety. Next to it is losing a spouse, sibling, parent and other close relative or even a best friend. Frankly with all the talk of mental health issues going on in the Olympics and other aspects of life, this one may be the most devastating.
Grieving this kind of loss is a process that tests the very nature of one's core character, challenges your faith and requires letting yourself just feel what you feel when you feel it and not try to avoid it. When I lost my mom, I remember standing in line to pay for a car at an auction and bursting into tears. Everyone looked at me like "that must have hurt" but had no clue of my deep pain.
When I got the call that my youngest son had died in a motorcycle accident my face and body went cold, and a few weeks later when I went back to work I remember staring into nowhere wondering why I was even there. To this day, almost six years later it affects me and the pain requires me to speak of it. Yet, I have found something that turns that pain into joy, and as the Bible says, you have turned my mourning into dancing!
By using the pain from the loss into fuel for remembering what we are missing, they remain with us as if they were here. May not make sense to some, but to me that fuel has been poured into ATB and look at how many people including me are dancing because of it. This all came about as a direct result of Paul's death when God spoke to my heart. That's why a relative fossil like me can relate to 20-30 year old's so well.
So too does having a scholarship** to remember the one we lost pour into the life of another who experienced that same loss bring about a certain amount of healing. By offering hope to another kindred spirit the healing multiplies and soon we dance with joy that the one we lost is now found in another's life. Instead of an organ transplant it is a spirit transplant.
Come to think of it, isn't that what Jesus did when he left us?
** Read details of the Catherine "Cat" Howard Scholarship on our News drop down on the ATB website (acrossthebridgeinc.com) and in our other social media platforms such as Facebook.
I am just thankful today to wake up with an attitude of wanting to do the right thing and not be destructive. There were many days in my addiction when my thoughts were on things that involved doing wrong and the results often kept me in a state of delirium thinking I was actually doing right for me.
The key was being so self-centered and selfish that I didn't even notice. Yet people said I was a nice guy so my state of euphoria remained and there was denial about my problems. This is what addiction does, your thinking pattern resembles a maize in that there seems no way out of the struggle until it reaches a point of pure desperation. Then, you hit rock bottom.
Thirty six years ago it hit for me, and it took a TV Evangelist to point at me through the screen and say, "I'm talking to you with the beer can in your hand" to illuminate my problem and show me a way out. He went on to say the answer was Jesus. And almost every day since that broadcast it has been clear to me that only He can keep me on The Right Side Of Wrong.
He changed my thinking pattern from destructive behavior to thoughts of doing good. The Bible shows the way, Whatever is good, whatever is pure, think of such things and real truth is that though those former bad thoughts do creep in from time to time, my life is now spent thinking mostly of those right thoughts.
The process of change is difficult and painful because it means setting aside all those things that used to make you happy to leading a life of self denial. So if my thoughts are on Jesus, the one who clearly demonstrated how to deny self, my whole attitude and outlook on life changes as it says in the promises of A.A.
I think of Him, and what I destructed, and how truly blessed I am every day now to be alive with a new freedom and a new attitude of gratitude,
What he did on that cross put me on the right side of all my wrongs!
Who wants to go on an adventure? Entering the state on the interstate there is a sign that says "Welcome to Georgia the state of adventure". That has certainly been my experience here.
Truth is many of us have given up on our dreams to be adventurous, instead piling up hours of couch potato time. In today's instant this and that world, we want the adventure, but at minimal risk. Either watching sports without participating in them, or doing drugs, alcohol or pornography from that same sofa as an escape. Problem is, that escape never matches the thrill of a real life adventure.
Think of this: Jesus was fierce and wild and romantic to the core. As a leader he showed us what it would take to make a difference and be adventurous. He took on the wild man at the caves, reprimanded the Pharisees, hung out with notorious sinners, and took on our sins through ridicule, torture and death on a cross. He was fierce!
He respected and spoke with women when it was not allowed by the culture of the day, he performed impossible miracles, and he showed his emotion in the synagogue by expelling the money changers. He was wild! Then he showed his love for everyone, especially children. He spoke of the greatest commandment that was all about love, love God, love your neighbor, love yourself. And he loved women who were at risk, the adulteress, the five time divorced woman, and the one who had a bleeding disease no one could cure. He was romantic!
What about Jesus says his three years of ministry was not an adventure? Men and women, we are not designed to be church pew Christians who live by the latest fad formulas, we are designed to be bold, risk taking, expressive and compassionate people who consider every day above ground a blessing to be lived out in an adventure. And that fear we have to do so, turns into a momentous thrill when we do.
From the book Wild At Heart: The adventure begins and our real strength is released when we no longer rely on formulas. God is an immensely creative Person and he wants his sons to live that way too. There are no formulas with God. Period. So there are no formulas for the man (or woman) who follows him.
Be fierce, be wild, be romantic, be who He intended us to be, and let that couch grow it's own potatoes!
Last time I spoke with Lauren we had a conversation about her latest relapse and what she needed to do to stay clean in the future. She was a beautiful woman with a beautiful heart. A few days ago she overdosed and was gone. May she rest in eternal peace.
Today the reminder is that we will lose people we love and respect to this cunning and baffling thing called addiction. That's why there is a Step Twelve that lays out what we need to do once we have gotten over the hump toward solid recovery. It's not about getting the right job, or in the right relationship, it's about remembering what we owe to ourselves and others.
Jesus urged his disciples to step up once he was gone, and he gave them the power to do so. The price he paid for us was to be spread among the nations as good news that there is forgiveness and redemption. They willingly became the next man up and they sacrificed much to be his messengers.
In recovery we can never get complacent, never rest on our laurels, or bury ourselves in relationships or secrecy to hide from our past. To grow we need to go. Jesus knew that, Bill W.& Dr. Bob knew that:
Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Step Twelve
There is no other way to carry it than being the next man up, the one who shares their story, takes the time to give someone a ride to a meeting, leads a group when they are so nervous to speak, or just makes coffee at a meeting and cleans up. We owe it to those who paid the price before us, who helped us to find God, and to those who overdosed because we are the messengers who had a mess but now have a message.
Recovery is a gift not a given. Cold facts, some make it most don't. But we who are privileged get to keep what we have been freely given by sharing that gift with those who need it. The Step says "we tried", and when one goes down we mourn, but we get back up the next day and try a little harder because we don't want to lose anyone else.
Fact, Jesus went after the one lost sheep. He must be telling us something we need to do, again and again!
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.