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!
No, this is not a blog about Facebook, but it could apply to it. Those initials could also apply to your Favorite Boy, Favorite Book, Faith Based, Fresh Bread or Favorite Brave (as in Atlanta Brave). Alas, it is none of those.
Instead it is about Frustration & Boredom a double dose of addiction relapse triggers. So I will take them on briefly one at a time. Frustration can turn into resentment and anger very quickly or we can turn it into as asset of growth. Here are two examples:
Today while talking to a friend in recovery who has been in virtual isolation with elderly family for the past year due to COVID restrictions etc. she mentioned an incident where frustration with her relatives narcissism led her to wanting to virtually strangle her (I know you've been there), then she went into her room, briefly thought of using but instead poured out her frustration to God in prayer. It worked, happily no strangulation.
But despite Jesus instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness to pray. Luke 5:15-16 NLT
One textbook example of how to handle frustration from a recovering addict that followed the example of the one who may have experienced frustration himself that some may have come for the miracle but not the message. That may be exactly why relapse occurs, we skip the prayer step because we have missed the message.
Then there is Boredom, and for that I will quote words from an old A'A. buddy, "When we are in our own mind, we are behind enemy lines." The obvious key to winning any battle is to stay out of a danger zone. Thus allowing ourselves to do positive activity prevents boredom plus gathering with like minded folks (meetings, church and good recreational activities with friends) allows us little time to be bored.
And then quoting the words of Jesus again, which are doubled up in Step 12, "Go ye therefore....", in other words go help somebody else, go tell them the good news, go teach them what you have learned, go ye and give back what you have been freely given. Get out of our own mind where boredom breeds discontent & causes relapse.
What do the words of Jesus and AA have in common? They are both healers, all it requires is your Faith to Believe!
While calling on extended stays and convenience stores to let them know about our Under The Bridge event this weekend, I asked one store manager if they had any homeless folks come in to buy food etc. Her response was "We try to keep them out of here".
Not telling you what I wanted to say, but I did ask if she had ever been homeless? I asked that question to our Monday Night Raw group last night and half the room raised their hands. If you haven't been there you may not have the empathy to understand their plight. But Jesus did.
Sure, some choose to stay that way, they feel like outcasts and become rebellious toward any kind of structure. Others are addicted and lost. Still others have been forced out for a variety of reasons and are looking for help. Lets see how Jesus looked at all of these situations.
For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick or in prison and you did not look after me. Matthew 25:42-43
And then added "Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me". I don't believe he is saying we should all run out and find these folks, rather, when we find them do help them as if it were for him. God pointed me and ATB toward these folks through a series of events and his Spirit has not let up inside me to help.
For others, helping these people may be outside their comfort zone, but I don't read in those words any qualifications as to who should help. It truly says helping them is helping Him. Yes, it can be messy and uncomfortable, but it can also be the most wonderful thing we ever did. And we do it for Him.
May we always ask ourselves is Jesus welcome here, and are His people, which are those people, welcome too? If so ask another question so popular on that wristband, WWJD, What Would Jesus Do?
Then ask ourselves one more question, what will I do?
Lots of excitement here in the ATL for our sports teams, the Hawks are over achieving in the NBA playoffs and the Braves are back in town. May even take my grandson to a Gwinnett Stripers game tonight because the hot dogs are $2 on family value night.
That phrase is a song that is sung at baseball games often, "Take me out to the ballgame...buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks..."! An old tradition that seems to be fading away in the light of modern technology. Things always change but it is always good to participate in anything that promotes a family value.
So true in our addiction community. we have all sizes, shapes and forms of people, some who are so willing to get clean and sober that they will go to any length to do so, and others who are not sure what's up or are just plain here for a momentary pause. Doesn't matter, they are all in the ballgame of recovery and always considered family.
Sounds a lot like what happens when we give our lives to Christ, we are adopted into God's family. Someone once said heaven will look a lot like Walmart, and of course there are some crazy shoppers, as well as some just looking for a good deal. Most importantly they are all shoppers for value as spectators are also looking for those $2 hot dogs.
There is a point here somewhere, and I believe it is this, doesn't matter how you come to Christ, broken or unbroken, wise or not so wise, staggering or standing, we are all wanting the same thing - a win! And the only way to win in this life is to take the unbeatable God on our journey and let him take us out to his ball game.
May his will be done! Go Hawks, chop on Braves! Go to Walmart and look around, then buy you some peanuts and crackerjacks, that is if they still sell them. Just remember one thing will never change, heaven will always be there and always a win for those who decide they want to go there.
And also think of the words in that song, "Oh it's one, two, three strikes and you're out at the old ball game"! Don't delay, God is waiting for your attendance, go to any lengths to be there!
Fire symbolizes the guiding presence of God among the people. God appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush (Exodus 3:2). Fire portrayed God's power, holiness, and protection over his people. The word fire appears 510 times in the KJV version of the Bible, and it appeared when the Apostles needed to be fired up for their faith:
"Then what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each one of them" Acts 2:3
Last night at our Monday Night Raw meeting we handed out one year and six year chips, and one of the men receiving the 6 year talked about how Jesus had changed his life. Then many comments followed where folks talked about a deep healing they received from either a faith decision or a process of working the 12 Steps. When I left after the meeting I knew that the fire of God had settled on me as a result of His presence in others. And I wasn't even supposed to be leading that meeting.
Often we get complacent in our faith walk, misdirected by the cares and troubles of this world, as well as the multitude of duties of daily life. Things become redundant. We need to have a change of focus and purpose when life beats us down and look back to the original excitement of our faith change. God knows this and sends his Fresh Fire on us in a variety of ways as chronicled in His word.
While we may feel that fire in ministering to others, he often uses the dramatic life changes of others to light the spark within us to realize that spreading the word is all he asks of us and then His Spirit takes over to light the fire in others. When I looked around last night I was encouraged, I was lit with an inexplicable joy to see how he has worked in those that we may have impacted.
And then God brought home the point. Virtually all His greatest warriors were reluctant to serve, David being an exception. They all needed to be lit up with the power of the Lord before they were effective in spreading the Good News. All we can ask is that our sometime reluctance to lead or serve can be fueled into action by that same Fresh Fire.
Bring it on Lord!
Having lost a son to death, I understand the grief a parent has in losing a child. Having lost my parents, best friend and a daughter-in-law I understand that pain. And, having lost friends in Viet Nam, still another part of death is all to familiar to me.
Then, when the tragic van accident happened and we lost Normi yet another aspect of death struck home, the loss of someone who made a huge difference in so many other lives. She was a friend to friends, an inspiration to strangers and a constant volunteer to help others. Despite struggling with her own identity she helped others find a light of hope and offered support with her words and actions that were so authentic, right from her beautiful heart.
She and I had many conversations, my favorite one being about her faith decision to be baptized. Little did I know at the time that we provided her a pathway to heaven that would solve that identity crisis, but would also leave such a huge void in our recovery community. If you come into an ATB meeting on any day, you will still see her favorite chair reserved for her, and her pictures hanging on our tree for all seasons.
When she passed there was a tremendous outpouring of loss in our community for her, one that if she were present would have overwhelmed her with love that she felt was sometimes missing in her life. She would have been thrilled that so many loved her for being Just Normi.
Now she knows, and now her life really counts for something way beyond what she would have ever imagined. And I promise you she is volunteering for something in heaven, bugging God much like she always bugged me to serve. In fact I will bet that she becomes his forever Recovery Angel.
Farewell Normi, that empty chair can never fill your void, but it reminds us of the void you helped fill for so many others!
I must admit the truth. Hearing of Ashleigh Paris death in the tragic van accident about a month ago hit me the hardest. Just the night before, she and her best friend Morgan had helped a homeless man at our building and we shared some very meaningful conversation.
It was not just for her that I grieved, but also Morgan who I knew would be devastated. The next day at our impromptu gathering to support the program folks involved and others who joined as well in support, she sought me out in the crowd and wept in my arms. It was Ashleigh who convinced Morgan to come out of addiction and into recovery and at every encounter I would make sure to remember Morgan's name because Ashleigh told me not to forget it. She treasured her best friend and others as well.
Many times Ashleigh would come into ATB and head straight for the Women's Clothing Closet, and I would ask her did she not have enough clothes? Her response was that she was getting some for her roommates. That was typical Ashleigh, more concerned about others. She and I had multiple conversations about how she and her mom made spaghetti and how she would make some for me, and as I stared at her slightly crooked but beautiful nose, I saw the Italian, knowing that would be a special treat.
But my favorite moment with her was when she asked me to baptize her. Maybe asked is too gentle a word - she demanded in a strong way that I do so as soon as possible. Maybe she knew something, but there was no doubt this woman, regardless of her young age and past had made me think of her as a daughter, and more truth be told I have cried through typing this blog.
I miss her badly, as I also miss the other courageous women who perished. But I know heaven just gained a most beautiful soul who earned her angel wings on her last days on this earth!
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.