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Quest to Rescue the Addicted

Quest to Rescue the Addicted Part 4

When Sarah got home she flopped on her couch.  Her house was nearly empty.  Over time she had hocked nearly everything to help her daughter.  Much had gone to treatment centers that apparently didn’t work for Michelle.  If Sarah was to be honest, though, most of the money went directly to Michelle in some fashion.  Her husband was gone; he just couldn’t take it anymore.  He had told her to quit giving Michelle money, but how could she watch her baby starve?  Much of what she heard tonight could have come from his mouth.  “I chose Michelle over him. Why did I do that?  He is a good man.”  Sarah also thought about her church.  She always got there at the last minute and left usually before the service was over.  Each day she was terrified that someone would find out about her daughter or ask questions about her husband.  Kicking off her shoes she looked at these expensive shoes.  “I wonder what people would think if they knew that I am nearly broke?”  Sarah realized how much fear had controlled her over the years and now she was getting angry.  How long would she let this fear destroy her life?  “No more!” she said out loud to the empty room.  

Sarah opened her notebook and looked at the notes:  Do not let fear control you.  Fear cannot be destroyed it is natural.  But it can be used to focus you toward making new choices.  Sarah ripped out a piece of paper and started a list.

  1. Change my phone number.
  2. Start exercising tomorrow
  3. Share my story with someone this week
  4. Pick up a book on addiction and read it before the next meeting
  5. Go to bed no later than 10:00 pm
  6. Attend Sunday School next Sunday
  7. Be at the next Freedom Club meeting early

With all of that written, Sarah felt an excitement that she had not felt in years.  In some strange way she felt as if she was going on vacation.  While chewing on her pen she decided there was one more thing that she needed to do.  She bowed her head, “Jesus I know things need to change.  This change must begin with me so here I am.  Help me to become a woman who can take on these challenges.  In fact, thank you for believing that I can handle all of this.  But I confess that I really can’t, at least not without You.  Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and empower me to live a life that honors you.”

With that Sarah fell asleep with a smile on her face.

***

After the last person left the Freedom Club meeting Mike locked up everything at the church and took a deep breath as he started up his motorcycle and kicked it into action.  Slowly, Mike scanned the neighborhood around the church.  He was not really certain what he was looking for, he just felt slightly unsettled for some reason.  After shrugging it off he took off on one of his favorite night time rides to unwind for awhile before going home.

***

As he checked in at the front desk of the Gospel Rescue Mission, Roger loosened his red tie and smiled at the guy in the office.  “How was work?” asked the man without looking up.  “
“Pretty much the same as always,” replied Roger as he looked around to see if anyone else was awake.  “Did they save me any dinner?  They don’t give me much time to eat during the work day.”

“I believe they did.  Go ahead and get ready for bed.  I’ll have your dinner ready for you in about 20 minutes.”

Roger walked slowly back to the dorm so he could get out of that suit.

***

Rosie pulled into her driveway and stopped.  Instead of getting right out of her car she waited and listened.  She hated that her husband’s car was in the shop.  Now she wouldn’t know if he was home until she walked through the door.  Cautiously, she opened the front door and scanned the living room.  No sign of anything out of place.  He wasn’t home yet.  Rosie was filled first with anger, then dread then absolute fear as she thought about all of the possibilities.  Finally, she locked the door and sat down to watch television while she waited for him to come home.

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Quest to Rescue the Addicted

The Quest to Rescue those in Addiction Part 3

 Rosie looked around to see if anyone was agreeing with Mike and then blurted out, “That’s a bunch of hogwash. When my husband gets home from a bender I better be there waiting or there will be real trouble.  He would tear the house up to show me who the boss is.  I don’t have children to hide behind like some folks.”

“That sounds like it’s a dangerous situation and we can talk later if you like to discuss your specific situation.  But I do want to clarify that having children rarely stops an abusive person from trying to control his world.  Every situation is different that is true.  My point is that you will be better able to handle the situation if you have had a time to have some fun and if you have had some rest.  Sitting around the house worrying will cause you to lose control and your conversation will be more fight than moving toward solution.  Really that needs to be the goal of these confrontations.  If you are attacking with your words there will not be peace or solutions.  Many times those in addictions are looking for a fight so they have an excuse to go out and use.  Would it be ok if I make a wild guess about something?”

Rosie nodded reluctantly.

“After he tears the house up, you clean it up while he sleeps off the bender.  When he wakes up he doesn’t even remember the damage he caused?”

Rosie looked surprised that Mike would know that.

Sarah looked at Rosie in a different light now.  Here was a woman who was in an abusive relationship and was hurting deeply, yet she liked to put on a show.  In Sarah’s mind she remembered seeing a sign somewhere that said, “Treat everyone as if they are hurting because they probably are.” 

Mike continued, “As families we must do what we can to take care of ourselves or we simply will not be able to show them compassion when they are ready to receive it.  Be careful not to make empty threats.  If you decide that they are going to go, or if you are going to leave than do not threaten, simply do it.  I recommend having a plan in writing about what you will do on the next relapse and then stick with the plan.”

There was some murmuring as someone knocked over a water bottle and someone rushed to get a towel. 

“In a few moments we are going to break down into our support groups.  But I want to remind everyone of the phases of building your resiliency.”

A few people brought out notebooks and prepared to write or reread old notes where Mike had covered this before.

“Phase one, overcome fear.  We must bring our fear under control.  You will not be able to go forward and consistently do what is right while you are controlled by fear.  Also you cannot get rid of fear, it is a real emotion and very powerful.  But you can use fear to strengthen you toward doing the right things.  Phase two is: Learn Balance.  We must learn to balance or bring into harmony all that is part of us. I like Luke 2:52 that let us know that Jesus grew physically, mentally, spiritually and socially.  If you can balance those four areas you can do wonders in your life.  Phase three is to learn to brake.  If you are always on the go you will wear yourself out and will again not be worth much in your attempts to help others.  Phase four is to learn to steer.  This is a complicated world with many difficulties and challenges.  We must learn to navigate our way through the pains and joys of sobriety and relapse that we will all experience.  Finally phase five is simply maintaining our growth and healing.  This does not mean that we are going to quit being vigilant.  It means that we will be consistently analyzing and examining our lives to make us better than we were before.”

There was much scurrying of pens.  Sarah thought about all of that and it made some sense but was not too sure of it all and wanted to ask some more questions at a later meeting. 

With a bit of direction all of the people split up into three different groups.  One group was for multiple addictions, one was for mental illness and one for alcohol addiction.  Sarah decided that she had enough and was ready to go when she was stopped by Angie.

“I bet your taking off, huh?”

“I think I’ve taken in as much as I can.”

“Can we get coffee tomorrow?” Angie smiled and threw in, “I’ll buy.”

Sarah agreed and they figured out a good place to get together.

Categories
Quest to Rescue the Addicted

The Quest to Rescue Those in Addiction Part 2

“Let’s take a break for a few minutes.  Have a snack; try to get to know some of our new people.  You know how you felt when you first came here.”

Sarah glanced over to the exit sign and considered running through those doors.  This was all too real to her.  That boy was an addict too.  Anger filled Sarah as she thought about the lies and the deception.  She stared over at Bruce and questioned everything about him.  He looked so innocent and polite.   Sarah remembered that sometimes her daughter would sometimes still look that innocent and sweet.  That boy was no better than Michelle.  Sarah somehow knew that the boy was covering up, he was planning a relapse.  Michelle was always most vocal of her life and expressed pride in her sobriety right before a relapse.

“Nervous?”  Sarah looked at the woman who had earlier patted her hands.  The woman appeared to be about Sarah’s age but maybe a little younger.  Her bright red hair gave her a glowing appearance.

“Why do you ask?”

“Oh just thought that if you weren’t I’d get you some fruit since you are looking to chew your fingers off.”

Sarah realized that she had been tearing up her normally well manicured nails.  This whole day was simple foolishness she thought.  Sarah considered sharing her thoughts but maybe this Bruce guy was different.  Maybe those with addictions are all different.  But what if she was right? Sarah didn’t know what to do.

“I just don’t know what to do.”

“It all starts with taking it one day at a time.  They talk about that in most recovery groups but that may be even more important to the families.  We love those knuckleheads and they have to know that they are destroying their lives. 

“My aunt drank herself to death about fifteen years ago.  At the time I knew nothing about addiction.  The whole family had lived with an underlying fear that this would happen to her eventually.  But we thought, hey quit drinking, you know it’s ruining your life.   Over many years she did one month programs, six month programs and would usually do great for awhile.  She had always been a hard worker and was well loved by everyone who knew her.  I remember watching how quickly she would be promoted where ever she worked.  Most of us knew that eventually she would drink too much and lose the job.  You know, I believe she would have been a CEO of some type if she didn’t have to keep restarting her life over.  Anyway she would do great and stayed sober sometimes for months at a time.  Some family function would come up and of course there was lots of beer.  Typically she would simply drink soda or water for the first couple of hours.  As the crowd grew though eventually someone would ask her to pass a can of beer down the row of seats so others would not have to stand up and push through the crowd.  At first she would simply pass it down.  After a few rounds the can would take a pit stop as she took a small drink.  Sooner or later she would turn up drunk and someone would take her home.  She wasn’t typically trouble when she drank.  It was just that she couldn’t stop, once she got started.  Eventually she would have to call in sick to work and when you do that enough you lose your job.”

Sarah listened to all of this and was amazed at how transparent this woman was. 

“My name is Angie, by the way.”

“I’m Sarah. I’m here because of my daughter but I am not ready to talk about it yet.  I feel so stupid.”

“Honey, there is no reason to feel stupid.  Those with addictions are great liars and deceivers.  They would fool Einstein.  Don’t let that hold you back.  But it’s ok not to share, eventually you will be ready and you will learn what a family is supposed to feel like.”

Mike was coming back to the podium.  Bruce was nowhere to be seen.  Sarah noticed lots of folks had bottled water and little plates of fruit and was sitting down.  She could hear music coming from somewhere.  Sarah assumed that it coming from the church’s sanctuary but could not be sure.

“Bruce needed to take off so he will need to finish his story next time.  I hadn’t really planned on him telling you that much.  But I am sure that portions of his story resonated with some of you.”

There were many nods.

“Tonight I want to focus on natural consequences.  First this does not mean that you get to berate your loved ones when they are drunk or high.”

“Tonight I want to focus on natural consequences.  First this does not mean that you get to berate your loved ones when they are drunk or high.”

A few folks looked disappointed but let out laughing smiles.

“Let us say that they have been doing great.  Maybe three weeks of sobriety.  You are proud of how far your husband has gotten.  He is working on his problem and they even have a paying job that you approve of.  You decided that you are going to treat him and your whole family to dinner and a movie.  All of you have been looking forward to it all day.  The movie starts at 7:00pm so you plan to leave as soon as they get home at 5:30pm.  It’s 6:00pm and he is not home.  You try to call but there is no answer.  Now you are worried.  You figure though, he got off late and is driving so he can’t pick up their phone.  At 6:30pm you know that dinner is out the window and you are now certain that he has made a little stop at his favorite bar on the way home.  Now you have a choice.  The choice that most families make is to simply scrap the whole night and stay home.  They wait and panic for their loved one and when they finally do come home drunk or high you fight.  Everyone has a lousy night.  Eventually they pass out and forget it.  The kids are upset because they are hungry and scared and they didn’t get to see the movie that they bragged to their friends about seeing.  Option two is what I want to propose is the better option.  You still have thirty minutes to make it to the movie.  Pick up some fast food on the way, encourage the kids to eat it quickly in the car and get to the movie.  Have a blast.  They usually have so many previews you will most likely not miss anything.  When you come home he may be passed out.   Quietly get the kids to bed.  You take a shower, read a book and go to sleep.    In the morning he would have experienced the pain of not being with the family on their adventures.  Allow the kids to tell dad all about what he missed.”

Categories
Quest to Rescue the Addicted

The Quest to Rescue Those in Addiction Part 1

Freedom Club Week 1 (The beginning)

Together:  We cannot do this alone.

Sarah was heartbroken and embarrassed as she walked sheepishly into the dark basement of the small brick church.  For years Sarah had walked by the church since her favorite restaurant was just down the street.  Sarah didn’t know too much about the church.  She attended a different church, one that was bright with lots of new carpets and cool programs.  This place seemed drab by comparison.  She continued to ask herself why she was even here.  Maybe she should skip it all together and simply go out to eat and go home.  But this church, St. Luke’s, was the only church that her pastor knew of that offered what she needed.  Sarah had, for years, hidden the painful truth from pretty much everyone. At least she thought she had. But the actual truth was much worse than she thought.  It seemed that she was the last to discover that her daughter had been using methamphetamine.

   Sarah shamefacedly looked around and hoped that nobody would see her entering the building; she was terrified that someone would recognize her so she had worn a hat and some second hand clothing that she had bought at a local thrift store.  Until recently, she only shopped upscale stores but the embarrassment was overwhelming her every thought.

     Sarah had hoped to be the last one in and be able to simply sneak in, maintaining her invisibility; but that hope was dashed when a young man was waiting to hold the door for her. “He was very polite,” she thought.  A part of her was also angry that her daughter, Michelle was not like this young man. Certainly she was raised better; instead she had chosen a life of addiction, prostitution and other shameful behaviors.  Sarah remembered how Michelle used to be when she was in grade school.  She used to recite the Gettysburg Address in a very masculine voice as if she was Abraham Lincoln, himself.  Sarah also remembered her daughter at her sister’s wedding.  The reception was just getting going, Michelle, who had gotten drunk, threw up all over the dance floor getting some on the wedding dress.   In those days, Sarah had just written it off as a child experiment. But now she knew better.  While she still hoped it was just a phase; now 15 years later her beautiful 27-year-old girl was strung out on heroin and methamphetamine.   Sarah did not even really know where her daughter was living or when she would make another appearance to ask for money.

It had been more than three weeks since she had talked to Michelle.  Michelle had a plan on how she was going to make a million dollars, easy.   Actually the plan was hatched by Michelle’s latest boyfriend who could hardly keep his pants from falling down as he spoke in enthusiastic terms even though it seemed he could barely keep his eyes open.  This boyfriend of Michelle’s knew a guy who would help them start a business from the trunk of their car.  They just needed a little start up cash.  Sarah knew that they were being swindled and tried to explain it to Michelle.  Sarah finally said in exasperation that she simply did not have the money to invest in such a scheme at this time. In anger Michelle had thrown countless angry and unrepeatable words at her before storming out the door and out of Sarah’s life.  Sarah wondered if she would ever see her daughter again.  That memory is what was stirring her to walk through these doors now.  She could see little hope and had no other ideas on what to do.  Sarah felt as if she would suffocate.  The meeting hadn’t even started and she was already crying but she couldn’t tell you why.  This was more painful than childbirth she thought as the young man rushed to get ahead of her so he could open up the door to the meeting room.

     Inside scattered around metal chairs were an older couple, a man who looked as if he had been in Vietnam and wore his patches proudly, and a smiling oriental man.  Standing by the coffee maker was a man in a nice suit with a white shirt and a red tie; he seemed to be taking his time. Preparing his coffee it was obvious that he was thinking deeply. No one seemed to be talking; that is until Rosie arrived.   Now Rosie was the life of every party.   She was wearing a bright flowery dress that almost looked like it was glowing.  While most would not call her beautiful she had an air about her. She had confidence and strength; she laughed easily and told exciting and entertaining stories.   Sarah tried to hide behind a pole and not be seen.  Even in this room full of people she felt alone.  However, there was a part of her that wanted to be alone.  At this moment her greatest desire was invisibility. However, when she moved the chair it scraped the floor and made a loud sound that sounded like someone passing gas. Sarah was horrified, everyone was looking at her and then Rosie laughed. Not a simple chuckle but a whole body laugh; Rosie’s fat rolls danced up and down.

    When the laughter died down everyone found their seat.   The man in the suit came over and introduced himself, “My name is Roger welcome to the Freedom Club.”  Sarah still red in the face tried to get out who she was but nothing seemed to come out of her mouth so she just wept instead. Roger reached into his pocket and pulled out a little package of Kleenex and handed her the whole pack.  “We were all like this when we started,” someone said, Sarah was not sure where that had come from.   A young woman who seemed to appear out of nowhere came over and sat next to Sarah and simply held her hand.  Normally Sarah did not like to be touched by strangers, but today it seemed right.

    As Sarah regained her composure she noticed that the boy who had held the door open was sitting next to the Vietnam Veteran and they were talking quietly.  The boy was suddenly looking nervous and the Vet was giving him some instructions.  Slowly, the Vet stood up.  Somehow the room had filled up with a wide variety of faces.  There really was no shape of pattern to how the chairs were set out.  It seemed everyone just found a way to get comfortable.  There were a few folks at tables and most had a Styrofoam cup of coffee in their hands.  Except for the occasional cough and shuffling of chairs the entire room was silent.

Sarah noticed a lectern in one corner with some sort of sound system behind it.  The Vet made his way to the lectern and began reading.

“The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need  He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths,   bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” 

Even though he was reading the words that Sarah knew were from the twenty third psalm she recognized that he was saying them more than simply reading them.  He was expressing them as sort of a prayer.  Sarah looked around and unlike most church settings that she had attended everyone seemed focused.  Rosie sat with her hand raised as the Vet spoke.  Everyone in the room seemed to consider those words and the Vet let the words simply hang in the air for a moment.

“We have some new comers here tonight.  So that you know my name is Mike.  I am a facilitator of this group but I’m not really in charge.  I don’t want to embarrass anyone by having them introduce themselves.  I once read that the two greatest fears were meeting new people and public speaking.  Both of those came out ahead of death by the way. I heard a comedian once say that most people would rather be in the casket than reading the eulogy”

A few folks smiled but the room still felt serious and Sarah was having trouble breathing. 

“I am going to do some teaching here in a bit.  But before I do I want to introduce my son Bruce to you all.” 

The young man who had held the door for Sarah raised his hand quickly and put it back down just as quick. 

“Bruce was who put me on the path that led to the Freedom Club.  For seven years Bruce was trapped in Methamphetamine addiction and more than once I thought I had lost him.”

Mike seemed to choke up and took a moment to recapture his emotions.

Bruce smiled, moved quickly to the lectern and put his hand on his father’s shoulder.

“Let me tell them what happened, at least how it started.”  Mike sat down toward the back of the room.

“I am twenty five years old,” Bruce began, “for most of the past five years I have been on the streets doing whatever it took to get my next fix.  But it was not always like that.  Sure I drank in High School like most of the guys that I knew.   I chased girls and enjoyed life.  In grade school we had this police officer come and he told us about all of the dangers of using drugs.  I remember vowing to never go down that road, so I was clean all the way through school.  I was third in my class and played football.  I received a scholarship to study business and was ready to get going.  Mom and dad had been divorced for a few years and it had actually gone pretty smoothly.  Well that summer I was going to spend as much time as possible with my mom since the college was closer to dad.  To be honest I really wanted a different scene.”

Sarah looked around and it seemed like everyone was listening attentively; but their thoughts were somewhere else.  As she scanned the room she noticed that some were wearing nice clothes and others looked pretty rough.  Somehow though, she felt as though they were all on the same team.  Normally she would have looked down on some of these people but this room seemed to be a great equalizer.

“Mom lived in a small apartment and worked as a waitress in a dumpy greasy spoon.  She was always a talker so she made good tips and typically had no issues with money.  Everything started out great!  We laughed and ate together.  I would watch movies until mom got off of work and then we would go for walks or play cards.  I met her new boyfriend and right away I had this anger well up in me.  At the time I thought that maybe it was just the thought of her replacing my dad.  Looking back I realize that he was a jerk.  He talked down to her and let her know that he was not happy having a kid hanging around.  She made excuses. I watched them fight more than once.  He would storm out of the house, she would apologize, make excuses for him and then light up a cigarette.  She would tell me that he wasn’t so bad and that when I wasn’t around he was adorable and sweet.  We would go back to being normal for a day or two.  The stress of being there though was getting to me.  I felt as if I was ruining my mom’s future.  I kept hearing her say, ‘He is nice when I am not there.’ Though to be honest I don’t know now if she actually even said that.”

Bruce paused as if he was reliving the event.  Sarah noticed that Mike was weeping quietly.  Glancing around she noticed that many were wiping eyes and others were stoic. 

“I guess I wasn’t sure what to do with the stress so one day I borrowed one of mom’s cigarettes and started smoking.  It didn’t take long for her to find out that I had started smoking; but she didn’t seem to care too much.  More than once she told me that they were bad for me and that I shouldn’t have started.  Soon I was buying my own packs and even smoking cigars since that seemed much more sophisticated. 

Anyway the summer went on and most days were incredible.  They felt like the end of an era or the beginning of a new one.  The boyfriend would come sometimes and most days he really tried to get along with me, but the tension was always heavy.  More and more the visits ended with fights.  I saw him push my mom but I was too afraid to do anything.  I felt guilty about that too.  Everything in me told me that I needed to defend her.  What was I going to do?  I was just a kid and this guy was tough.  Total uncertainty hit me hard one day and I decided to go blow some money at the mall.  I don’t know how long I was gone but I do remember that I smoked an entire pack of cigarettes that day.  When I got back the door was open.  When I think back on it, it was a bit strange.  I should have known that something was wrong.  Mom was a stickler for safety.  I thought maybe she had bought some groceries or something and had her hands full when she came in.”

Bruce stopped and seemed unable to go on.  Mike came up and the two hugged. Then Mike told everyone what happened next.

“When Bruce walked in he found his mother in the bathtub.  She had been killed.”

Sarah found herself crying, she was not even sure why.  She didn’t know these people why should she care?

Bruce found his voice, “I hated the boyfriend and I hated myself. It was entirely my fault.  I was sure of it.  That was the first day that I decided to smoke marijuana.   Over the next couple of weeks, I replaced all of my college bound friends for those that were content to waste their lives away.  That is when I met Lisa.  Lisa was the most beautiful girl that had ever paid attention to me.  She made me really happy.  Lisa introduced me to meth.  The first time I used it because I did not want to lose Lisa.  But soon meth owned me.  I would use and then take off for several days.  Lisa would not know where I was.  She always assumed that I was out scoping for other girls.  Dad worried a lot but he didn’t know what to do.”

Mike nodded and then came up to the podium. 

“Bruce was now all that I had left.  Part of me had hoped to reunite with his mom though that was always fairly unrealistic.  I was a selfish man and I don’t know if she would have ever come back.  That is one of the challenges of dealing with these addictions is that the reasons people use make sense in many ways.  Bruce used drugs to medicate the pain of losing his mother.  Someone else uses drugs or alcohol to fit in.  But really it all stems from medicating pain.  We all want to be significant and the drugs make you feel significant.  By the time that you figure out it is a lie it is typically too late.  You are hooked and destined for the long hard road of recovery.  I don’t like to be negative but there is not a quick fix.”

A hand shot up from the man in the suit.  Mike pointed at him with his whole hand and motioned for him to ask the question.

“What about Naltrexone and other medications that I have read about that can help with preventing relapse at least for alcoholics?”

“That is a tough one really.  I know that they do seem to help some folks.  Those that I know that have used them never got off of the new drug and most had to take a series of other pills to deal with other symptoms.  My thoughts are that if you go that route there must be a plan to wean them off of the new drug right from the start.”

The man in the suit looked like someone had stolen his puppy.

“I don’t want to be all negative here.  But I care about all of you.”

Mike looked around the room and seemed to be mentally hugging the entire group of at least twenty five or so folks who had gathered. 

“You must understand that we are fighting this fight together and it will not be a short battle.  Instead it will be a prolonged conflict that will involve your every resource.”

With that statement another hand shot up from a woman who looked to be in her sixties and took good care of herself.

“I am on social security.  Treatment programs are expensive and I simply cannot afford to help my grandkids.  I do love them though.”  She seemed embarrassed that she had said that last line.

“I know that some of you are on fixed incomes but I am not talking about money.  Yes you may need some money to help your loved one get into a treatment program.  But really any program will help them if they are ready for freedom.  The problem is that we lack the emotional resources to make them face their own mess.  We keep rescuing them and think we are doing them right.”

Mike paused for a moment and took a thoughtful breath.  “But regarding money, how much have you spent bailing out your loved ones.  Maybe from jail, but also out of what they called desperate situations?”

Mike could see that several people were doing some mental calculations.  Many had paid electric bills, bought them food, some even gave cash that ended up who knows where?

 “My guess is that we have spent quite a bit around this room allowing our loved ones to stay in their addiction.  Maybe we can spend some of that money to set them free.”

Bruce stood up and walked up beside his dad.

“My dad is right.  I wouldn’t have said that when I was in my addiction of course.  I saw him as my escape valve.  I totally took advantage of him.  One moment I would be spitting on him and the next I would be asking him for money.  I never asked for money for drugs.  No, I knew he would never do that.  I asked for rent money, food money or shoes.  My friends with children used the needs of their kids to talk family members into helping them out.  As long as someone was paying my rent I could spend my money on my next hit.  When the food bank gave me three days worth of groceries I did not need to spend that money on food.  Sometimes I would even take the canned goods to a grocery store for a refund so that I could have some extra cash.   I am sure that it is tough but you must cut them off from all support.”

The woman who had a question before took a deep breath and stood up.

“I borrowed money from my sister to take a taxi to visit my son in jail.  I love to visit him in jail.  I know that sounds terrible.  At least there I know where he is.  When he is on that stuff I might not hear from him for weeks at a time.”

Mike looked knowingly.  “Does anyone else relate?”

Looking around Sarah could see that nearly every hand had reluctantly been raised.  Mike pointed back to a tray of fruit and then toward the coffee set up. 

“Let’s take a break for a few minutes.  Have a snack; try to get to know some of our new people.  You know how you felt when you first came here,” Mike almost whispered as he looked around whimsically.

JOIN US NEXT WEEK AS WE CONTINUE OUR STORY

Categories
Quest to Rescue the Addicted

The Quest to Rescue the Addicted






Introduction

    It was Christmas night and my Aunt Anne was too drunk to drive her and her children home that night so I took them to their apartment.  Her beautiful little girls were small and highly energized from all of the day’s activities.    I struggled a bit with what to do with the presents they were bringing home.  Of course I was going to help carry them in, but what if Anne has any trouble and starts to fall.  It was icy out and so this was a concern even if she was not drunk.  Somehow, we all made it inside.  The girls put on their pajamas and Anne invited me to sit with her for a bit.  I did not realize it then, but she wanted me to help her.  I was pretty oblivious to how to help anyone with addiction issues at the time so maybe that is why I missed her pleas.  She talked about how she had lost jobs and relationships because of her drinking.  Multiple times she stopped to thank me for getting her home.  I’m not sure if she knew that I also had previously had a drinking problem; but she did know that something had changed in my life.  She knew that I had started going to college and was consistently going to church.  I told her about my dreams of being a missionary and helping people.  She smiled and beamed as only Anne could.  The idea of helping people made her happy.  When she was sober she would help just about anyone she could.  I told her about my Christian salvation experience as being the base that encouraged me to do this sort of work.  This resonated with her as she reflected on all that she had learned in her Catholic School upbringing.  As the night wore on a bit the girls had all gone to sleep and she asked if I could come back and explain all of that Bible stuff to her.  I said I would and scheduled time a couple of days later to set up a Bible study at her kitchen table. 

 While it seems silly now, all I could think about on the way home as I reflected on this conversation was, “If you see that alcohol is ruining your life.  Just quit.”  I now realize that if it was that easy everyone with an addiction would do that.  The method does work for some people.  I had simply quit; but I had the help of the Holy Spirit.  At that time I still did not comprehend how much help that the Holy Spirit had given me and how success had more to do with Him than with me.

Over the course of that week I met with Anne and the girls a couple of times.  I gave her a protestant Bible and worked through a couple of Bible study worksheets.  When it was time to go back to school I handed her a worksheet with questions and where she could look the answers up in the Bible.  I prayed with her and let her know to mail me her answers and I would send her more questions.  When I came back in the Spring I would visit with her more. 

She did a couple of sheets and we both got busy and didn’t think much of it.  When spring came our schedules never meshed and I did not see her during that break.  While we did see each other from time to time over the next couple of years, we never regained the momentum of that first visit.  Stories would get to me of her doing well at work, falling off the wagon, getting fired, losing her housing, going into treatment, doing great at treatment and then restarting the cycle.  I prayed for her to beat this addiction but I kept thinking she should simply quit drinking.  She never did.  A few years later she choked on her own vomit after binge drinking and passed away.  I was the one who had to tell my dad that his sister had died.  I hated that. 

Her brother, my Uncle Mike struggled with drugs of all sorts.   The one that really tore him up though was methamphetamine.  The addiction made him look prematurely old; he too had struggles with keeping a job.   After a short stay in prison, it looked as if he had beaten the addiction.  He had a home, a somewhat steady job and he started a beautiful family.  Unfortunately, the years of abuse weakened his body and when sickness arrived he could not get well and ultimately he too was taken from us too soon.

Over the past several years I have learned much about addiction and I have learned to deeply hate what addiction does to lives, families and communities.  I have also learned that while folks love their addicted family and friends they really don’t know how to help.  My whole being believes that if I knew then what I know now I would have both my aunt and uncle with me today.  I am confident that you love your family and friends too and that you want to see them alive and free.  Now let us begin that quest.

There are many things that must be done if you wish to help others who are trapped in addiction.  Be aware that this is a challenging mission that you are taking on, consider carefully the cost.  It will cost you tears; it will cause old wounds to be reopened.  Insecurity will rain on you as you engage the man or woman who is trapped in addiction.  There are costs that will be more personal that I cannot imagine warning you about in this writing. 

    Also I feel compelled to warn you that all of those that you want to rescue may not want to be rescued.  Do not give up on them.  But only change tactics

    Others that you try to rescue might not make it out of their prison.  Overdose and suicide are very real possibilities.  Brace yourself.  Allow that reality to be a fire in your gut, motivating you to get to work and get on your knees.

    Be bold, be strong.  You are not alone in this battle.  The prize is the return of the men and women that you love to an abundant life.  When they are free they will look around and say this is the Derek or the Marie that I was meant to be.  With all that I have said fear may be coming to you.   Do not worry we will deal with that fear and we will work together.  You are not alone.

    Part one of this series is a parable that tells a story that outlines the concepts and ideas that will aid you in the mission but the story will help you to remember the points and maybe prepare you for what lies ahead.  Hopefully, the format will answer many of your questions.  If you have further questions feel free to contact me through Facebook, Twitter or email rich.schaus@grmmuskogee.org

   Part two of this series will lay out the simple facts without the story format.  This would be a good reference or if you don’t have time for the story you can jump to the facts.

    Finally, I invite you to start support groups to help other families deal with addictions and the challenges that go with it.  I would be happy to help you in any way that I can to get you started.

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Volunteer Stories

Jack’s Story

Volunteers are one of our most precious resources here at Gospel Rescue Mission. Even though some of the tasks don’t always feel super “rewarding,” like doing dishes or manning the front desk, it is making a HUGE impact on the guests, whether you see it or not. The peaceful presence of a volunteer can sometimes calm a frustrated person or sharing a story with them or even just a conversation can spark a fire. You hardly ever get to see firsthand how what you do here, or what you give, makes a difference, but it really does. And not just in the lives of our guests. Just ask Jack.

When he was first saved, he was asked to go into prison ministry. At first, he was reluctant because he knew it would be a big commitment, and after all, he was a new Christian, still trying to get his own bearings down. He agreed to do it though and after a time, he developed a craving for serving God in whatever capacity that he could. The more he served, the more blessings he received. Not financial blessings, but something much more rewarding: spiritual fulfillment. He knew had a calling to serve, so he expanded his reach, helping not only in prison ministry, but branching out into the homeless sector. He started working at a shelter in Tulsa, and eventually he became a leader in their program. Watching how God was working in the lives of, not just the guests in their Mission, but the volunteers and himself as well, was miraculous.

He made his way back to Muskogee and that’s when he decided to start serving at the Gospel Rescue Mission. He is confident that when you serve, it really seems to work double time. It’s helping others, but it’s also helping yourself. It just makes you feel good. “Fulfilling is really the best way I can describe it,” he said. “It leaves you with a big smile on your face.” He continues to serve in the prison ministry, and has been for over 29 years, with over 10 years simultaneously in homeless outreach. It hasn’t been an easy or convenient road, but he feels that it’s been so worth it.  

With so much time invested, it’s important to keep his own fire fueled so he spends a lot of time in scripture. In Matthew 25, there is the parable of The Sheep and The Goats, where it talks about Jesus coming to sit on his thrown, and he will separate the sheep from the goats. The sheep are the ones who are blessed by the Father, and during His time of need, they helped Him. In the parable, the sheep were confused because they didn’t remember helping him at all. In Matthew 25:40 it says, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” This parable really sticks out to Jack. To him, serving people is just like serving Jesus himself.  “Who wouldn’t want to do something for Jesus when he’s done so much for you?” he asked.

Jack serves with Seventh Day Adventist Church on Saturday evenings. They feed the guests physically by cooking and serving a hot dinner, then they feed them spiritually with a sermon in the chapel. Jack and his church are an important part of our volunteer team, and we are so thankful for all their help. He had mentioned that he wasn’t sure whether what he was doing was really having an impact, but he knows it’s what God wants, so he obeys. If you have thought about serving but aren’t sure whether you would really make a difference, I encourage you to read our guest stories. Not all of them are ready for life change, and that’s ok! For the ones that are though, the volunteers and donors make a HUGE impact on them. Anyone that serves, donates, or sponsors events at GRM can know that they played a part in every success story that we have. You can make a difference!

If you would like to get involved by volunteering, email Charolette at charolette.sander@grmmuskogee.org, and to get involved financially, email Nycky at Nycky.miller@grmmuskogee.org. We would love to schedule a tour and show you around our amazing facility!

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Guest Stories

Tammy’s Story

Her world was shifting. Brain cancer, the doctor had told them. She almost couldn’t believe the news. Her husband, a veteran, had been diagnosed with brain cancer, and within weeks, had passed away. She should be sad, she told herself. However, this former-teacher-turned-homemaker had been asked to quit her job, stay home, and take care of the house. She was on time limits any time she ran an errand and the feeling of being controlled was completely oppressing. So, sad? No. More like relief. But, what do you do when you’ve been a homemaker for the last several years, there’s no health insurance money to fall back on, and now you’re being evicted from the house that you’ve been renting? These were the questions that Tammy needed to answer, and quickly.

She had nowhere to go. As soon as the landlord caught wind of her husband’s passing, and knowing that he was their provider, she was served an eviction notice as soon as the payment was late. Fortunately, her daughter took her in for a short time while she was sorting everything out. Despite Tammy’s master’s degree in education administration and bachelor’s degree in elementary education, plus 20 years of teaching under her belt, Tammy was hard-pressed to find work. She couldn’t go back into the education field because she needed to be re-certified, having been out of teaching for so long. Unfortunately, that cost money, which she didn’t have. She was overqualified for most other jobs. Where you would think a dazzling resume like that would be a good thing, when it comes to factory work or even fast food, it was not. She was between a rock and a hard place.

Then she reconnected with an old friend. They were hanging out all the time and having a blast; it was the best she’d felt in years. Her natural extrovert personality was suddenly brightened by finally having the friendship of someone besides her husband. Her friend’s health issues were a huge concern though. She wanted to help, so she tried to get him to eat healthier and be more active, but it wasn’t working. One day, he knew something wasn’t right, and he knew he needed to get to a doctor. He decided to drive himself but had a stroke on the way there and crashed his car into a ditch. When police arrived on scene, they rushed him to the hospital. Tammy was by his side, but within 3 days, he had passed away. She was devastated. First her husband, then her friend. The hurt and grief was more than she could bear. So, she withdrew. She closed off the world, closed off herself, and closed off her heart, not letting anyone else back in for fear of the pain of losing someone else. She wasn’t working, she was drinking, and things at home were getting rocky.

Not sure what else to do for her, her daughter brought her to Gospel Rescue Mission. Since being here, Tammy has opened her heart up a little, just enough for some of our women to get through Tammy’s wall. “I was able to find me again,” she said about coming to GRM. “There’s something healing about being around other people that can share their stories, especially when they’re based on Bible verses.” What’s Tammy’s favorite verse? Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” And she’s finally starting to look at life with this in the back of her mind. She has a great relationship with her daughter now, she got her re-certification to teach, and she’s back on the job hunt. Tammy is working towards a better life for herself, and while she’s not where she needs to be, she is trying to get there.

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Quest to End Poverty in America

The Quest to End Poverty in America Final Post

I honestly don’t know if I have all of the answers.  The more research and thinking I do around this topic of poverty the questions that I have.  What does compassion look like?  How can we help those who refuse to help themselves? How can we tell who really is helpless? 

What I do know is that what we have been doing for over a century now is simply not working.  Look at the numbers.  The numbers of people living in poverty in this nation of opportunity are increasing.  The desperation is increasing.  More people are hungry while at the same time more people are growing obese.  How does that happen?  Morals and values have been thrown out the window.  We must try something different. 

Poverty and homelessness is much more complicated than just give someone a job or a home. We must get to know individuals and empower them to experience a new life. We must quit treating these men and women as animals to be herded and treated as a group. Each person and each family is unique. What got one person into homelessness will be different than another person’s cause.   

  Handouts simply will never work.  We must transition to a hand up.  It will take strong leadership and compassionate people to make a difference and change the direction of the rate of poverty.  Together though we can do this.  Let me know how I can help.  Email me at rich.schaus@grmmuskogee.org

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Quest to End Poverty in America

The Quest to End Poverty in America Part 13

Where do we go from here?

For those who feel entitled to handouts

This is where our biggest challenge will be.  I once met a man who showed me an x-ray of his broken pinky finger (just the tip looked broken).  He insisted that this should qualify him for disability.  The truth is that his disability is that he was lazy.  He expected his live in girlfriend to bring in the bacon, care for the kids and clean the house while he would hang out with his friends and play basketball in the backyard.  What can we possibly to with men or women like that? 

As long as his girlfriend supports him there will be little that we can do.  This man will call every church in town (using his smart phone) to plead, beg and ask for help in order to supplement her income.  The poverty mindset is that as long as he is a lover and fighter he is a keeper.  Eventually, though that woman will come to her senses and will want to be with a man that will take care of her.  She deserves more and when she realizes it than we can help him out with job training, etc. 

Assuming that he rejects that, we must allow him to feel the pain of his choices.  A safe and secure group home where he has limited rights and privileges might be in order.  While living there he would be offered opportunities to overcome the disease of laziness. With work will come freedoms and more opportunities to live a good life.  By the way, we already have these, they are called prisons.  What I am recommending here for those that desire to be a drain on society is that they get compassion and help but that they pay for that care by giving up a portion of their rights.

For those ready to move ahead

Now these are the people that most excite me!    

Imagine that they move to a life recovery home.  There would be separate wings for married couples, single men and single women.  This place would offer food and shelter in a safe and secure environment.  During the day they would attend classes and participate in job training.  At night they return to their home.  They would still have curfews like the other homes but this location would have more variety of food.  They would have a later curfew.  Along the way house parents would help them learn basic life skills to include parenting, home cleaning, budgeting and other important skills.  Graduation requirements would require them to have a job along with good attendance and participation in all training.  Most people would need to spend 18-24 months in this training.  But those that graduate would be entitled to apply to the tiny houses program listed below.

Tiny Houses

Imagine a small gated community where the neighbors all know each other.  Each home is owned or is being paid for by those that are living inside.  The houses are not very large.  But they all provide a kitchen, bedrooms and a living room for family times.  This community requires everyone to attend a weekly community meeting to resolve conflicts and any other issues.  Drug and alcohol use is strictly prohibited in this little community.  Neighbors watch out for each other and encourage each other.  In the back yard of each home is a small vegetable garden growing the owner’s favorite veggies.  Close to the house lining the sidewalk up to their homes are rows of flowers that highlight the fresh flowers growing in flower boxes below the windows of the home.  In the center of the neighborhood is a large hydroponics plant where some of the residents work.  Others work to sell the vegetables and the fish to nearby restaurants and grocery stores.  Profits would be used to make neighborhood improvements.  When the family has stabilized and is doing well they can choose to stay or if they desire they can sell their home to others who are graduating the program.  This will give them the starter money to purchase a home in the regular world.

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Quest to End Poverty in America

The Quest to End Poverty in America Part 12

Time Banks

    Imagine a fairly standard neighborhood.  Within this neighborhood are businesses, churches, schools and residents.

    The churches take the lead in reaching out to their neighbors.  Pastors would no longer simply be a pastor to those who walk through their doors, but instead would serve as a shepherd for the entire neighborhood.  Most neighborhoods here have multiple churches.  Regardless of denominations pastors could choose to work with other churches on this portion of the community.

    As they get to know their neighborhood businesses and residents they would assess the needs.  The churches could act as a connecting service.  A resident needs a job, they would connect the person to the business.  The business needs employees the churches would connect the residents to the business.  If a resident needed help with a broken appliance.  The church would examine the ranks of their members and connect the expert to the problem.

    Churches would encourage everyone in their neighborhood that they are valuable and can add something to the community.  The residents would be encouraged to work, be employed and serve the neighborhood.

    The churches would also adopt the local school and again provide connections between resources and students.  This might include tutors, school supplies or after school care.  This would also include celebrations of students graduating or preparing to go to college.

    As part of this process the churches would serve as the central connection point for the time bank.  What this looks like is that in the neighborhood is a single mom who is really good at house painting.  She would paint the house of the mechanic down the street who works too many daylight hours to get to the task.  The mechanic buys the paint. The Mechanic fixes the car for the widow around the corner.  Again the widow buys parts but the mechanic puts her car all together.  The widow watches the single moms kids so that it is worthwhile for her to go to work.  Everyone is giving and everyone is receiving.  It won’t always be that clean and some work will be put into the bank to be used at a future time but the church can manage a single neighborhood.

    An important note is that the churches are not to provide all of the resources but rather to serve as a simple connection to the needs.