Archives For Addiction

hauerwasI’ve read nearly published word he’s written several times over. Indeed, as CS Lewis is for Tim Keller, Stanley Hauerwas’ work is so much a part of me that, in interviews, I often know how he’ll answer a question before he answers it.

I even know where the pregnant pun or the pretense-clearing curse word will go.

Last night, though, was the first time in 12 years I actually heard Stanley Hauerwas deliver a lecture in person, and what he said- preached is a better word for it- hit me in a way that was more personal than it may have been for others.

Hauerwas’ stated theme was ‘Why Peace Requires Conflict.’

He began, as he often does, by articulating what is the central Christian presumption for nonviolence; that is, in the cross, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the power of Sin and Death have been defeated once for all.

Christ unmasked the Principalities and Powers, as Colossians puts it.

Christ’s sacrifice is the sacrifice God uses to end all sacrifices, as Hebrews puts it.

The lamb that appears as if slaughtered now rules the nations, as Revelation puts it.

Christians are called then to live according to a reality that is more determinative- if still unseen- than what passes for reality in our world. Better yet, Christians are those people called to make visible the reality that is otherwise unseen by the world. Nonviolence, as Hauerwas likes to say, is not a strategy by which Christians attempt to rid the world of war but rather, in a world of war, as followers of Jesus Christ Christians cannot conceive of any other way to live.

Lest anyone think Hauerwas is an idealist: For Hauerwas, the Gospel contains a bitter, disarming truth:

God’s Peace took flesh among us and we killed him.

That God’s Peace lived among us only to die by us reveals both the depth and propensity to our self-deception; therefore, any commitment to Christian nonviolence requires a correlative commitment to truthfulness.

To truth-telling.

Because, according to Hauerwas, the violences in our relationships and in the world at large are aided and abetted by the half-truths we tell ourselves, by the illusions we prefer to keep and by the realities that are sometimes too painful to bear.

1779709_649372177667_2135790934_nNo where is this more clear, Hauerwas pointed out, than in the fury that erupts in a marriage when there’s no more floor space to avoid stepping on eggshells- when the truth about our spouse can no longer be ignored.

Christian nonviolence then is not merely a discrete decision followers of Jesus bring to bear at times of war.

Christian nonviolence is instead a lifelong commitment that requires the everyday habit of truth-telling.

And an everyday habit of truth-telling will inevitably no surely will provoke conflict.

Ask any married person, no spouse wants to hear the ugly truth about themselves. Often it’s simply easier to live with the illusion we hold about our spouse than to deal with the shit storm that comes with facing the truth about them. That same reluctance to hear the truth applies when extended to neighbors, communities, organizations and governments.

 

Christian pacifists aren’t people who avoid all conflicts; Christian pacifists are those people who are willing to provoke more conflicts than other people.

Accommodating lies and sleepy half-truths are just easier for us and, it seems, a better strategy for survival.

Okay, before the word count gets too high, I promised that this hit me personally and it did so in this way:

Growing up with an alcoholic father, I learned quickly how to step around eggshells with all the delicateness of a ronin. Living the lie and accepting the calm was preferable to the eruptions that any truth-telling would provoke.

Living with someone’s addiction results in everyone else being addicted to avoiding conflict. Which, as I’ve learned in my own marriage, creates habits of conflict avoidance that perpetuate themselves in the next generation.

It’s Hauerwas’ whole argument but in reverse, which surely points out that addiction is but one of the ways we’re still in possession to Sin.

So then, I’ve read and listened to Hauerwas enough to know he’d connect all these dots. He’d point out that thinking of Christian nonviolence exclusively in terms of war only reveals the extent to which we’ve ceded the breadth of the Christian faith to matters of personal piety.

He’d probably point out, as he did last night, that if you want to see Christian nonviolence in practice you should check out Jean Vanier’s L’Arche homes where those with profound disabilities are cared for with gentleness and patience.

And then, on this point at least, he’d finish by pointing out that the Church’s ministry to those in addiction is not an add-on to its Gospel mission but, when rightly done, is but a practice of our commitment to our nonviolent King. That helping people to speak the truth to their loved one and helping people hear the truth from their loved ones and accompanying them out of addiction is another way to glorify the Prince whose Peace requires truthfulness.

 

 

 

 

 

Sobrietease

Jason Micheli —  February 5, 2014 — Leave a comment

imagesEvery now and then I have one of those fortuitous moments that I can chalk up to providence.

Just the other day, I ran into a woman from the community, someone whose face I knew but whose name I knew only vaguely. After the usual chit-chat and polite pastor banter, she took a chance on telling me her story.

The story of her journey from addiction to recovery redemption.

She did so with the kind of unselfconscious yet wonderfully self-aware honesty that makes me wish I saw more of it in people. She wasn’t embarrassed or afraid to share her shame. She didn’t even let on that she noticed the slightly uncomfortable, I-can’t-believe-you’re-talking-about-this glances coming from the people around us.

There’s that cliché about not sweating the small stuff.

I think a better, Jesusy riff on that goes more like this: Someone who has experienced grace doesn’t sweat the sin or the shame.

I was moved by her story.

More importantly, I was encouraged by what I learned of her supporting cast. Apparently through out her long, winding road to recovery, she’s been aided by a couple of Samaritans from my own congregation.

And I had no inkling they were up to such Gospel work.

It’s encouraging whenever I hear of people being the Church without needing the church.

I’ve spoken too much.

Here is one of her reflections from her blog about her experience.

I encourage you to subscribe to her here.

More importantly, I know how addiction is something that touches nearly every family to some degree.

Forward her blog on to someone you know in whose life it just may make a difference.

Now I (Am Starting to) Understand

One year.  365 days. 8670 hours. 525,600 minutes.  Without a single drop of alcohol.  Not one drink.  Not even a dose of NyQuil.  No mouthwash with alcohol in it.  If you had told me on the first day I stopped drinking, Memorial Day of 2012, that I could make it a year, I would have told you that you were insane.  As I looked down at my hands shaking, I didn’t think I could make it an hour.  Yet here I am, one full year later, sober, stronger, healthier, and happier.  Some days were easy.  Some were hard.  Some were downright miserable.  And for some I just had to stay in bed.  But I did it.  I went from shaking to calm.  Hungover to energetic.  Bloated and heavy to fit and 15 pounds lighter.  Lost to finding myself.  Alcoholic to recovering.  But still an alcoholic.  That will never go away.  But I will be a recovering alcoholic with one year of sobriety under my belt, and a shiny coin to carry proudly.  Now I understand the will to change and the meaning of endurance.

 
One year ago today, I woke up in NYC (sounds eerily like a Ricky Martin song….) after a late night with some friends on a girls’ weekend.  I was a strange shade of green, head throbbing, stomach roaring, brain trying desperately to grasp some idea of where I was, what I had done the night before and what was going on.  As I started to stir (and probably moan), things began coming back to me in bits and pieces, and I felt my friend take hold of my hand.  That simple act meant more and said more to me than any words ever could—that I wasn’t alone and that somehow everything would be okay.  (“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention” Oscar Wilde eloquently penned).  One thing I knew for sure was that despite how humiliated, embarrassed, ashamed and badly I felt, there was an enormous weight that had been lifted from my shoulders.   My life was going to completely change that morning.   It had to.  Now I understand why they say “change I must or die I will”.
 
Admitting I had a problem was a huge step for me, and the first move for most people toward any sort of recovery.   I knew it deep down and had denied it for so long, rationalizing everything as much as I possibly could to convince myself that I didn’t have a drinking problem.  It still amazes me how hard it was for me to admit, and amazes me even more that I could ever actually say the words out loud.  Some people have admitted their addictions to therapists, doctors, priests, parents, siblings or close friends.  I, of course, had to admit it that night in New York to my friend who had recently lost her husband to alcoholism.  Great choice, huh?  Because why wouldn’t someone who endured a horrific battle for two decades with her spouse, who eventually lost, not want to deal with it again with a friend?  It would have been completely understandable for her to bail and say  ”I just can’t do this again” and point me in the right direction to get some help.  But she didn’t.  She told me she would help me through this and has been there every step of the way.  She hasn’t missed a single day in an entire year of checking in with the same text every morning–Good morning sunshine, how are u?”    Now I understand the true meaning of the word friendship.
 
As I have said before, everyone has their own trials and tribulations and crosses to bear.  Sometimes we are strong for our friends.  Sometimes we need them to be strong for us.  I honestly couldn’t have made it to this point in my sobriety without the help of my friends, without their strength, devotion and commitment, and without their confidence in my strength.  So to my friends who didn’t give up on me, were my wingmen, called me at 5pm on Fridays and went for a walk with me, stocked their fridges with flavored seltzers, literally pulled me out of my bed, made my exercise group come chase me down when I tried to hide, convinced me that I was still fun to be around without alcohol, told me they were proud of me, offered to help with my kids so I could get to a meeting,  helped get me to focus on other activities that didn’t involve drinking, helped me see that life can be so much better and brighter, and, despite their fights with their own demons, showed me that they cared and held my hand……thank you from the bottom of my heart.   As Shakespeare said, “a friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”  Now I understand unconditional love.
 
One year down, hopefully many more to go.  But, as they say, one day at a time.  Today it’s time to stop, breathe and take a minute to pat myself on the back.   Now I am starting to understand that it’s a choice.

On Addiction

Jason Micheli —  February 3, 2014 — 1 Comment

Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman-1527808

One of the unexpected pros of this blog is that, from time to time, readers send me something to contribute to it.

A reader recently emailed me this reflection on addiction. I’d put in the queue of things-to-be-posted and nearly forgotten about it.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s passing brought it back to mind. His death, and the connection many people my age felt to him through his work, brings the following close to home even if our own families are unfamiliar with addiction.

The surprise which Hoffman’s death provoked underscores, I believe, the extent to which addiction is an ordeal many families suffer in silence.

Here’s the reflection:

One of the hardest parts of parenting is stepping back and watching your child make poor decisions, even if it’s part of their learning.  Whether you have a young child at home or an adult in their 30’s, no one enjoys seeing someone they love in pain, or struggling with life’s lessons.  Our job as parents is to care for and love our children; to guide and teach them.  When they do stumble, we are there to encourage them to pick themselves up, brush themselves off, and move forward.

But what if they don’t move forward?  What if they are stuck in a pit and can’t get out?

A mother approached the wooded, deserted area near the side of the road; her heart was pounding.  She had to prepare herself for the worst.  Either she would find her daughter high on drugs, or she would find her dead.  Both options were terrifying.  She kept walking further into the foliage until she saw her daughter’s shoe under a bush.

“Susan?  Wake up Susan!”

Amongst all the empty convenience store wrappers and drug containers, the mom spotted her daughter lying down, using a flat cardboard piece as a mattress.  The stench in the air was awful: a mixture of dirt, trash, and drug residue.

Looking up from the ground, Susan opened her eyes and made contact with her mom.  “What are you doing here,” Susan said.

“I’m here to take you home,” said the mom.

As the daughter tried to stand up, the mother put her arm around her daughter’s small, weak, emaciated frame.

“Come, get in the car. Let’s go home,” said the mom.

This wouldn’t be the last time this mother had to rescue her daughter.  Nor would it be the last time she would cry herself to sleep fearing for her child’s life.

Later that week, the mother received illegal drugs in the mail.  Her daughter denied that she had ordered them, and when the mother tried to throw them away, the daughter lunged forward and grabbed them out of her mother’s hands.  It was a tug-o-war fight until the daughter finally secured the drugs in her hands, and cursed her mother as she ran out the door and drove away.

 

Meanwhile, younger siblings watched the event unfold with large, fearful eyes; unsure what would happen next.

 

The mother walked down the hall toward the siblings, once again pushing her pain aside and gearing up to explain and comfort those left in the aftermath.

When our children are engulfed in sin, we feel powerless as parents.  Sin deceives; even our best efforts as parents can’t compete with sin.

Sin promises freedom but brings slavery.

That night before bed, the mother closed her eyes and prayed.  She prayed God would restore her daughter.  She prayed God would hold her together and heal the pain inside.

We can’t control our children’s behavior.  We can influence their decisions, and give consequences for their choices, but the final decision is up to them.

Most often, children will learn from their mistakes and correct their behavior.  Addiction, however, is a difficult beast to conquer.  There are no easy solutions.

Drug addiction is one of the most devastating of all psychological and physical disorders that can affect a family.  Parents of addicts are wrought with feelings of guilt, sorrow, helplessness, and anger.  They’ve learned that no matter how you raise a child, they are powerless over the pull of addiction.  Seeing a child battle the cycle of use, withdrawal and relapse is such a tragic, helpless sight.

Families are the ones day in and day out that are left to pick up the pieces when friends get exhausted from the seemingly futile attempts to help the addict.

Unlike cancer, diabetes, or other diseases, addiction has a stigma and empathy is rare.  Families are usually silent about this affliction for fear of unwanted looks or assumptions; as if a parent or loved one caused the addiction or could have prevented it.  Anyone who has studied or experienced addiction knows this is a farce.

Although addiction is considered a disease, it can be controlled if the user is willing to get treatment and stop using.  Treatment for both the addict and the families is crucial in understanding and coping with addiction.

Many times, there are underlying mental health issues combined with the addiction.

There are so many wonderful organizations to support both the addict and their families.  Spending time researching various local support organizations is imperative for families.

The first step in getting help is to pray. Pray to our Lord and Savior for guidance and healing. Pray for your child and pray for your family. Let the comfort of our Lord Jesus carry you through these difficult times.

In addition to prayer, lean on professionals for advice and your church for support.  Families in crisis need help.   Don’t be afraid to ask. Let the church be a community that supports families in crisis.

Let your faith be a source of strength and promise.  The road to recovery is usually long and tedious with many setbacks.  Remember the promises and covenants God has made. Wrap your faith around this promise of God until it comes to pass for you. We have a covenant with God. Fight in prayer.

We never know what trials and tribulations will happen in our lives. Loving a child unconditionally brings immense joy, but it can also bring immense pain.  In loving us unconditionally, our gracious Father provides the strength and comfort to our suffering, and embraces us with His ever-present grace.