Sarah woke up with a morning
ritual. A cup of coffee, an open journal
and an open Bible were all on the table in front of her. She took a sip of coffee and closed her eyes. The coffee slid down her throat warmly and
she allowed herself to enjoy it. In her
mind she saw Michelle as a little girl, maybe two or three years old. They were at the park and Michelle was afraid
to go down the slide. Sarah pleaded with
her to come on down. From the top of the
slide, Michelle was crying and refusing to go.
Other children were behind her waiting their turn. It was only a moment before their patience
was out and they were yelling at her and calling her names. Sarah saw herself move to the end of the
slide and coax Michelle down the slide, “I will catch you honey.” Michelle looked at her mother and pushed
herself down the slide. Sarah scooped up
Michelle with a big hug at the bottom of the slide. After that it seemed that Michelle was
fearless. She would go as fast as
possible on the merry go round. She insisted
on swinging as high as possible. Then
Sarah remembered a time when Michelle must have been about six or seven. They were at the same park having a picnic. Michelle insisted on taking a sandwich and a
cookie to the homeless man that seemed to have set up camp near the slide. Sarah was proud of her baby that day.
Sarah opened her eyes and said, “What
happened?” Sarah began writing questions
and thoughts in her journal and then opened her Bible and started reading. She began with Psalm 23 and then went to the
Gospels reading a section. When she was
done she started to put away her journal when a folded piece of paper fell
out. Sarah opened it slowly and looked
at it. It was from a blog that she had
read long ago and had printed out. She
tried to remember who wrote it but coming up with no answers she simply stopped
to read it again.
we are going to talk about learning to brake.
Stopping once in awhile is a great idea. It will revolutionize your life. To be honest it is not rocket science. Pick a place that does not have distractions,
have a notebook and pen handy, and sit.
That is it. Think about the day’s or the week’s challenges and think
about solutions. I am a solution focused
type guy. My take on it is that if you
focus on the problems, your problems get bigger. If you focus on the solution, your solutions
get bigger. But however you do it, sit
and think. Consider your health, your
dreams, your family, your faith or whatever else comes to mind. Chase after any positive thought train and
take a pass on any negative thoughts. Typically I will also focus on breathing
and praying. What a difference it makes
to simply stop and breathe and allow my brain to catch up with my body. I find myself to be more effective,
optimistic and productive.
smiled and put away the paper. That is
when she realized that is what happened.
When Michelle turned eleven, Sarah had gone back to work fulltime. Sarah was going full tilt, always aiming at
that next promotion. She never took a
day off and was constantly on the phone with “the office”. Sarah never stopped to brake. There was never time for Michelle or for
Sarah’s husband. Nothing would stop her
from succeeding. Friends had warned her
slow down. She needed to spend more time
considering how she would stop more often.
Mike walked quietly down the street. He really did love the days that they had the
Freedom Clubs. These men and women had
become his friends. He still felt the
pain of what he knew was a relapse by Bruce.
Long ago he had quit blaming himself.
There was nothing he could have done to prevent this from
happening. It still hurt though. While it was fairly warm out, Mike could see
by the movement of the clouds that it was likely going to rain.
Roger sat in a little café not far
from the mission. Occasionally he had
stopped in here to drink coffee just so that he was not alone. Today, he actually ordered a full meal. Glancing around he noticed that the people
eating there were all very different from each other. Some were skinny and some rather plump. It seemed like a good mix of races and
cultures were represented. There were a
few in nice clothes and others were shabbily dressed. The only thing that seemed the same is that
they all appeared to be happy as they ate their burger or their pie. Roger nibbled a bit and just enjoyed the
moment of being alone. He could almost
sense the strength of being in a community.
He wondered why he had never noticed it before.
The sky might have been overcast but
not anywhere in Rosie’s world. When she
woke up Fredrick was gone. She did
wonder where he was. As she cleaned the
house she also wondered what to do now.
She also puzzled over why he didn’t use his key to come in the night
before. While she had planned on
changing he locks that simply had not happened yet.
Angie fixed her hair in the broken
mirror. “Someday I will need to get that
fixed. Maybe I can do that when my life
slows down a little.” Looking around the
small bathroom in her apartment she wondered when it had gotten so cluttered. “Angie you are living like a pig. Pull
yourself together, girl.” Angie put on
some lipstick, grabbed her keys and took off out the door. Moments later she was racing down the
interstate weaving in and out of traffic.
In her mind she was a NASCAR driver outsmarting and outthinking other
drivers. A couple of times she cringed a
bit as she nearly bumped other cars.
Suddenly, the road ahead seemed to clear out. Angie smiled and put her foot down hard on
the gas. Her Mustang was her pride and
joy. Rarely, did the highway open up
like this and Angie was ecstatic as the engine roared. That is until she saw the police car around
the bend and knew instantly that the officer had her number. Most of the cars that she had so stealthily
passed earlier slowed down as they passed her.
Shame overcame her. In the mirror
she watched as the officer walked up to the window with a ticket in her
hand. Handing it to Angie she heard the
officer say, “You really need to slow it down.”
Bruce sat in the library trying to
find a safe place to sleep where no one would notice him. He could never understand why the librarians
would not simply let him get some sleep.
Michelle fidgeted in her orange
jumpsuit. The judge had allowed her to
do some community service to work off some of her fines and the supervisor was
on his way to get her. Looking in the
mirror, Michelle fixed her hair. She was
hopeful that she would see her boyfriend.
There were only a handful of places where they took the workers. He would be looking for her, of that she was
After a moment she felt embarrassed
and decided to leave him alone. Stepping out the sky was darker than she had
expected. Clouds were coming in. Slowly, thoughtfully Sarah walked down the
sidewalk. In her mind she was constructing
a letter to her daughter. She would be
getting out of jail in the next couple of days and would need a place to
stay. Maybe it was time for her to begin
restoration with Michelle. As Sarah carefully crafted the letter in her
mind, she crossed the street. Suddenly, she was startled out of her imagination
by a car slamming on its brakes. For a
moment Sarah did not breathe as the car came to a sudden stop. Lightly touching the hood, Sarah waved in
embarrassment and prayed a prayer of thanks for good brakes.
Fredrick stepped out of his car that was parked mostly on
the driveway. He wiped his eyes and
stumbled toward the front door. At one
point in his life he had been a great showman.
People would applaud him as he introduced acts that astounded and amazed
them. As the ringmaster he was always
the center of attention. Now he worked
in the storeroom of a discount tire store.
With the exception of his boss and a couple of co-workers most would not
even notice if he did not come to work.
He was pretty sure that no one knew that he usually took long lunches
where he could put away a few drinks and forget how far he had fallen. After work he would stop by the bar on the
corner and tell stories of wild love affairs and life on the road. In the bar he again was the center of
attention and he loved it. In the bar he
felt his life was complete. The events
of the big top always went on perfectly with no mishaps and everything going
exactly as it was planned. In his more
sober moments he knew that was not the reality.
Almost every night something would go wrong and Fredrick was good at
hiding that from the audience. Most who
watched the show never knew about the injuries, the broken relationships and
the pain of the circus. It was his job
to make sure they never knew.
Halfway up the sidewalk Fredrick stopped. Something was different. The lights were not on. In fact there were no lights on. In his drunken state his mind was too cloudy
to make any sense of things. Again he
tried to find his way to the front door.
Stumbling over a garden gnome, Fredrick stopped again to try to figure
out what was going on. He had an innate
sense of when there was trouble and every fiber of his being was screaming out
that he should get back in his car and drive away quickly. Taking a deep breath though he spoke out into
the darkness, “I am the ringmaster. I
control what happens here. I am in
charge.” He laughed to himself again and
tripped up the three stairs and turned the doorknob. Nothing.
It was locked. He looked carefully
at the house number and tried to remember if the numbers matched his
Reaching into his pockets he found his keys and first tried
the car key and that didn’t work. Then
he tried one of his office keys.
Nothing. Finally he tried the house
key. It slid in but it would not
turn. He scratched his head and tried
again. Again it simply would not work. It was two in the morning. He was hoping to sneak into the house so that
Rosie would not even know when he got in.
The plan had been to tell Rosie that he had to work late. Big tire sale coming! But if he knocked on the door Rosie would
know that he had been out drinking. Shame
covered him. He tried the key again.
Sitting behind the door, Rosie listened to him. She had fallen asleep many times but had been
jarred awake by her husband’s brake and the flurry of cursing that came from
his mouth when he tripped over the gnome.
She trembled in fear. Rosie could
feel her resolve weakening as she listened to him debating what to do with himself.
Fredrick sat down next to the big oak tree in the front yard
to ponder his options. After a few
moments he fell asleep. Rosie too fell
asleep resting against the door, tears had stained her face.
Sarah stared at the computer screen. The words were written in her head so easily but somehow they were just not coming as they had the night before. Last night her words were romantic and powerful. They were filled with just the right amount of grace and truth. She was proud of her words. But now all that came to her mind was mush. There were no words. How could her relationship with Michelle deteriorate into a contract? Her heart broke multiple times but she got it written .
I was fourteen I literally ran away to the circus. I was in love with the ring master. He had me on the tightrope. My parents had never really been there for
me. They were not terrible people but
they had other priorities and I usually felt like I was just in the way. I figured they would never miss me. Well I married that ringmaster and my life
has been a high wire act ever since. I
often wonder what my life would have been like if I had been a priority in my
looked at Rosie and tried to imagine this plump woman walking on the high wire.
seemed to be able to read their quizzical looks. “I was skinny back then,” Rosie said with a
laugh. Santa continued his lesson.
balance is tough. Most of us growing up in the 80s remember the Karate Kid
having to learn balance by standing on the bow of a boat while Mr Miagi is
rocking the boat. Balance in life is
more important than simply knowing how to stand. But of course we must do that as well.
in life is following the example of Christ.
Luke 2:52 tells us that Jesus grew physically, mentally, Spiritually and
socially. My opinion that if the Son of
God had to grow in those 4 areas than we are arrogant to believe that we do not
need to do so as well.
one of incorporating balance in your life is to plan that balance into your
daily and weekly plan. I use
highlighters to color code my week. I
really love the events that actually hit 2 or more areas. Things like church get me a workout in the
Spiritual and social realm. I have
broken down my social growth down to family and community so I actually get
three areas. More bang for my buck. While I am running I listen to podcasts. Double the benefit! I work to make sure that all areas are as
much in balance as possible for the week.
I have not found it possible to be balanced by the day since work and
opportunities are unpredictable. But I
can typically do this easily by the week, IF I plan ahead.
all begins with the basic structure of the week. Work to ensure that overall that you have a
plan to lead a balanced life.
Unfortunately we are only at the beginning. That is only balance in your own personal
development. You also need to find a
balance with work, family, children and marriage. Wow!
This gets tougher and tougher. I
must work so my kids can eat. But I need
to spend time with my kids so that they grow up healthy emotionally. No pressure.
Add in if you desire to be a leader there are routines that you must
work in to develop as a leader.
me this is difficult. But as we build
grit remember that we do these things not because they are easy but because
they are hard. This is how we live
heroically and excel. It can be done and
you have the raw material to make it happen.
Plan your week by whatever system works for you. I know many different folks all working to
pull this off and most have their own systems.
I color code my planner. Yes I
have the information of appointments and standard meetings on my phone. But I like to look at my week. Am I lacking somewhere? Am I out of balance? Who is getting robbed?
if you are robbing work for your family make a plan to pay back your work next
week and vice/versa. That work, home and
life balance can happen. But you must
live deliberately for it to be real in your life.
within each of these areas of professional development (physical, mental,
Spiritual and Social) we must be balanced as well. (Balance within work and home is different
and I will discuss those much later so stay in touch.)
I was in high school I knew a guy who was a focused weight lifter. He could out
bench just about anyone that I knew. Day
after day he worked his arms and chest until he rivaled the chest of the
Arnold. But he did not work out his
legs, ever. He had these skinny little
chicken legs and on his huge muscular frame they looked silly.
people I know when it comes to physical fitness find their favorites and stick
with them. That is good. But if you are a runner you still may need to
lift a VW off of your wife someday. All
of that running will do you little good in that case. If you are a body builder
you may not have the endurance to run through the forest to save the damsel in
distress on time before the villain slays her.
So stay with your passions but expand yourself to do more in other
areas. Also consider practical exercise
like chopping down a tree or lifting bricks.
Those muscle groups will serve you well.
Just make sure that you are allowed to chop down the tree first.
As Mike shared earlier, Jesus is a great example for us. Jesus had the toughest mission ever given. He had to live a perfect life in the midst of a sinful, fallen world. As modern day warrior monks our mission is tough. We are surrounded by temptation and called to live pure and holy lives. In order to pull that off we must live a life of balance just as Jesus did. The same idea goes for our mental health. We must read, listen and learn in a diverse number of ways. Too many people get stuck with one mode. You can learn from anyone if you simply pay attention. I love to read but I can get stuck reading only those things that I already agree with, so to strengthen my mind I sometimes need to read the material of those who live in opposition. Sometimes it turns out they are not evil, they just disagree on some point. It is even possible that I can like that person despite our differences. Talk to people of different races and cultures with an intention of learning how they think and act. Do that without judging but simply to learn. This is a mental exercise. It will help you remain balanced. Obviously we are moving to Spiritual health and any truth that you read or learn needs to be in harmony with Scripture if it is to be taken as truth. But go out and listen to podcasts, read blogs and books and magazines, watch Utube videos and attend ITUNES University. Do it all and learn, apply and live a healthy mental life.
Spiritual disciplines have been lacking as of late. They don’t market very well. There are no 5 easy steps to being Christ
like. Many books have inspired men and
women to read their Bible, memorize Scripture and fast; but people following
through are short lived at best. Why is that?
Physical, mental and even social growth can only really help us in this
life; but Spiritual growth catapults us into eternity. Why will we not take time to focus on these
theory goes like this. To be like
Christ, we must live like Christ. It
sounds nice in a Hollywood sort of way.
Many will dismiss this as impossible and not even try. But those that do strive will discover what
Jesus is really calling us to, what it really means to be like Christ. What they discover is that the truth of the
Gospel is that we who are His followers, must suffer as He suffered. Everyday Jesus saw people who were going to
Hell. That had to break His heart. Throughout His ministry Jesus hung out with
Judas and longed to tell him that he was going down the wrong road. However, being obedient to the Father meant
allowing Judas to make his own calls.
When you serve Christ, honestly, you will experience pain.
Gospel of suffering was bragged on by Paul, predicted to come for all believers
by John and James tells us what it is all about. If you want to grow Spiritually you must be
willing to suffer.”
in the class looked overwhelmed but Rosie made a few jokes and they closed in
walked with Angie on the way out. Sarah
stayed to clean up a bit.
you need a safe place to stay?” Angie asked quietly. “Maybe, but not tonight,” whispered
Rosie. “Tonight I am going to clean the
house. Every bottle of booze will be out
of the house. I will make a nice dinner for my husband and then I am going to
share with him the new rules of our home.
I am going to establish our foundation.”
Angie stopped walking. “And if he
says no or comes home drunk?” “I am also
going to change out the lock on the front door.
If he is sober he can come in.
It’s time that we put our lives back on the solid ground.” Angie looked impressed. “I will be praying.”
I will need it.”
As Sarah left ahead of Mike she saw
him go into the chapel. She watched him
as he knelt on in front of the prayer bench. Sarah realized that she had no
seen a prayer bench since she was a child.
Her mind went back to memories of her childhood and being at an evening
service for many hours while adults cried at the prayer bench. Others would be walking around praying out
loud. Tears welled up in Sarah’s eyes as
she remembered consistently waking up at home.
She must have fallen asleep and been carried home because the adults
prayed so long. “They took their faith
seriously. I wonder why we don’t do such things anymore at my church?”
parked she noticed her husband’s car parked in the driveway. She was nervous and uncertain if she should
go in. But with all of the talk about
overcoming fear, she felt she had no choice.
Her thoughts raced as she wondered which version of her husband she
would see tonight.
got back to the mission the door was locked. “Man, I’m only twenty minutes
late!” He thought about cussing and
demanding to be let in when the door opened just a crack. “Come on in Roger. We know what you are going through. Call me next time when you are going to be
late. I was worried because you usually
are early,” a jovial country boy said way too loud. “I thought maybe somebody beat you up and
left you down by the river the way they did Jonny last month.” Roger came in, loosened his tie and smiled an
appreciative smile as he wandered into the Gospel Rescue Mission.
returned to her nearly empty apartment and kicked off her shoes. Looking in the fridge she found some
leftovers that did not seem too old. She
couldn’t remember when she had cooked up the original, but it smelled
alright. As the microwave did its job
she began her list of fears.
microwave had even beeped she had developed a pretty amazing list. The bowl burned her hand as she pulled it out
of the microwave and she quickly set it down and fumbled through the drawers
for a potholder.
morning Sarah and Angie again met for coffee.
After a short review of last night’s class, Sarah shared her list of
fears with Angie.
“Wow, how do
you get out of bed with all of these fears?”
reading and smiling as she came across some that seemed unusual. “You are afraid of zippers?”
didn’t get a job after an awesome interview.
When I left I realized that the zipper on my slacks was undone the whole
time. I convinced myself that is why I
did not get the job. Anytime I wear
pants I am checking constantly.”
that she understood. “Where did all the
rest of these fears come from?”
“I don’t know
for sure. Some make sense to me. I fear white dogs because a white dog once
bit me. But most of the others defy my
memory. More importantly I need to start
facing some of these.”
about a recent movie they both wanted to see when Sarah’s phone rang. Angie watched as Sarah started paling as she
listened to whoever was on the other end.
Sarah was asking questions and as she did; Angie could visibly see
confidence fill Sarah’s face. “I will
come by tomorrow and visit you, but I will not be bailing you out.” Sarah had to pull the phone away from her ear
as the voice on the other end was yelling.
Angie could hear swearing clearly.
“Look, honey if you are going to talk to me that way I am going to have
to hang up. You made your choices. I am here for you, but I will not be bailing
you out. I do want to see you,
though. Tomorrow I will try to
visit.” Sarah calmly hung up the
phone. Then she started to cry. Angie let her.
“Last night I accidentally burned my fingers on a bowl that I pulled out of the microwave. The burn reminded me of all those times that Michelle has burned me over the years. I did not break the bowl or hate the bowl. I simply went and found a potholder. I created a boundary between me and the bowl. Michelle does do what she does because she does not know better. You would think she would, but the drug is ruling her life. I did raise her better than that. But she is an adult now. I did the best I could to raise her right. But she is not thinking clearly. This is true I am convinced of all of those with addictions. Until you can help them think differently they will be imprisoned always. Stuff will never be the solution. Fixing the problem for them will never help. I know that fear says she will hate me for not bailing her out. But she will get over it. Ultimately, she will be able to hear that you did not rescue her because you love her. Right now she simply cannot hear that. For now she is a dish that will burn you. Put on pot holders and love on her.”
impressed. “You learn fast. It sounds like you already facing your
fears. Now, how about facing your fear
of mice?” Angie pointed toward Sarah’s
feet and Sarah screamed. Angie simply
laughed there was no mouse.
young petite Rosie gingerly stepped out on the high wire. To the audience she looked terrified and
definitely out of her element. But to
Rosie that was just a part of the act.
Every few steps she pretended like she was going to fall and was only
going forward because she was afraid of losing her job. The ringmaster had just told the whole
audience that even though she was hired as a clown she needed to cross the
tight rope because the normal tight rope walker was sick. Over the course of several moments she had
caught several balls and juggled them, had done a handstand and other
remarkable acts. Finally she made it to
the other end. The crowd loved it! Rosie took a bow and then went back out on
the tight rope and did several more tricks before dropping down into the safety
woke up early that morning. He had been
dreaming of his daughter and for some reason he thought he knew where she
was. As he sat on his bunk, he scratched
his head and thought about it. She could
not go back to her old house. That house
was long gone. But she might go to see
her mother’s grave across town. Would
she remember where it was? He laughed at his absurd plan. After getting dressed he found a cup of
coffee. Carefully he wrote a note
telling his daughter that all was forgiven.
He poured out his love for her and that he wanted to help her. He confessed that he had been a lousy dad
after her mother died. With a sigh,
Roger reported that he was a new man.
That he was now clean and sober, now for over five years. He told her that he wanted to see her and
wrote the address down to where she could find him at the Gospel Rescue Mission. After asking for an envelope he delicately
placed the letter in the envelope and went to the cemetery. There he taped it to the backside of his
wife’s gravestone. In large print was
his daughter’s name, Joannie. He prayed
quietly and turned to leave so that he could get to work.
felt better than she had in ages. All
week long she had been exercising regularly and though she had not heard from
Michelle she sensed that somehow this whole thing would work out. Sarah was almost skipping as she moved toward
the old church where the Freedom Club meets.
The weather could not be better.
As she approached the door she saw Mike sitting under a tree.
look energized!” Mike almost laughed
when he saw her.
taking control of my fears. I guess that
the fear has been an incredible weight around my neck for a long time. This week I decided that I am only going to
be concerned with things that I can do something about.”
nodded as he slowly stood up.
word from Bruce?”
called with a story about a job that would take him out of town for a few
days. But he is lying. I hate it when he lies. But what can I do about it? His pattern tells me that he will be back
about this time next week. He will run
out of money and he will get over the fear of disappointing me. Sadly it will be hunger for food that will
bring him in first.” Mike said the whole
thing like it was predictable and was actually bored with it.
wasn’t sure how to respond so she gave him a sideways hug and walked with him
to the club meeting.
two got the meeting room set up quickly and others came in and as per normal
found chairs as far away from others as possible. Several of the folks here were new and looked
horrified that they might see someone that they knew. Sarah did what she could to calm their fears.
was wearing an almost professional looking outfit with a polo shirt and slacks as
he started out the meeting.
Mike pulled out his tattered Bible and started reading,
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
the way goes through
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.
You serve me
a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.
and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.”
Many sat thoughtfully for a moment. Others went and got coffee. Mike was just about to get started when Roger
ran in trying not to make a scene but of course did because that is what
happens when you are trying to be quiet.
to see you Roger!” Roger blushed with
his face almost matching his red tie.
are going to talk about balance. You see
we need balance to stabilize us if we hope to grow and if we are to survive the
storms that life throws at us.”
as if she were living in a dream from long ago.
was little, we taught him how to plant seeds.
We had bought a couple of different kind of seeds and explained that it would
be silly to plant the carrot seed and expect to grow a tomato. Bruce was smart so he totally understood
quickly. Well at least I thought that he
did. A couple of weeks later he brought
in some bird seed and wanted to grow a bird.”
decided to go with it. What else are you
going to tell a three year old?” Mike shrugged.
“We planted the bird seed. I thought
that I would figure out a way to make a bird come out of the pot the way a
magician gets a rabbit out of a hat. But
Bruce would dig up that seed every few minutes and would cry that nothing was
happening. That is when I taught him
about balancing sunlight and water so that it might grow. Bruce was dedicated to that little potted
plant. I got busy and forgot about it. I came home one day and there was a
sprout! Bruce was so excited. I was so confused!”
continued to nurture and care for the plant that turned out to be a sunflower.
Tonight we will talk about creating a nurturing environment so that your loved
one in addiction has a chance when they are ready to blossom. Take out your Bibles and turn to Matthew 7.”
After a few
moments Mike was able to look around and see that everyone had found it. He was surprised to see that Sarah had
brought her own.
start at verse 24.” Again he gave it a
few moments before reading.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Mike had his Bible open but did not actually read from
it. This came from his memory but only a
few folks seemed to notice.
“If we are going to have any chance of growing we are going
to need to find stability and offer that to our loved ones when they
return. If Bruce did not quit digging up
that seed he would never have been able to grow that sunflower. So we must establish some predictability in
our lives. Like the verse points out I
believe that for our personal lives that the only sure foundation is found
right here.” Mike pointed to his Bible.
“That is step 1. Find
your foundation and set some boundaries.
No matter how old they are you can let them know that they have a curfew
and possibly drug testing at any time.
They may accuse you of not trusting them. Remind them that they are right. You don’t trust them, but you love them. If they are really ready for change they can
live by your rules. If not you may have
to make the difficult choice to let them go live somewhere else. The key here is that you make a formal
agreement right from the start. Include
everything that is important to you.
Include chores or any other expectations. Also include in the agreement how they can
earn trust back. “
“Step 2 we learn again from Jesus. The Bible says that He set His face toward
Jerusalem. He knew what awaited him
there. But He knew His purpose. He would not bend. We must find our focus and move only in that
direction. Create a picture of what life
can be like in sobriety. Think of bigger
life purposes. What benefits me most here is my front site post
scriptures. These are just six short
verses that I have memorized that keep me focused on God when things get scary
or when I face temptations. Notice Jesus
in Matthew seven told us WHEN the storms come.
They are going to come. Be
Many were taking notes and nodding.
“Finally step 3 again we can learn from Jesus. He never quit. I am sure that he felt the pain of rejection
when the Apostles abandoned Him on His arrest.
There was pain throughout the entire process. But He did not give up. Step three is to determine that you will not
After taking some questions, Mike encouraged everyone to go
to small group. Before they could go
though, Sarah asked if they could pray for Mike and Bruce and all who were
still trapped. Together, they prayed and
cried and pleaded for their loved ones to be safe.
In small group, Sarah shared how happy she was that Michelle
was in jail. They had just had a good
visit and it sounded like Michelle was willing to consider going to a long term
treatment center. “In fact the judge is making her go to treatment or go back
to jail for a very long time.” Sarah was
Roger looked uncomfortable but a look of resolution came
over him. “I don’t see court ordered
treatment working very often. My
daughter was sent to one and she just walked out. She found that it was easier to escape
treatment than the jail.”
The room was silent.
“But maybe if she really is ready she will stick it out and make
it. I’m sorry I didn’t want to burst
Sarah had tears in her eyes but thanked Roger for his
Tonight’s group was again led by Santa. Sarah thought she really needed to learn his
me share with you a little known fact from history. Do you know who William Wilberforce was?”
looked at Santa blankly, a few glanced at the clock and others scratched
Wilberforce was the man who really led the efforts in the British Parliament in
the late 1700s and 1800s to end slavery in the empire. He led a group of men and women for several
decades with the expressed purpose of ending the slave trade, while he dealt
with his own addiction issues. In the
movie about his life that came out a few years ago called “Amazing Grace” he
overcomes his addiction. But that was
part of a happy ending version of the story.
Anyway that is a different story.
The story I want to talk about this evening is about his son.
son of William Wilberforce was a determined supporter of the south during the
Civil War. Now I commend William
Wilberforce for his efforts to end slavery in the British Empire. It took his entire life to accomplish that
feat. However, that passion and desire
was not passed on to his children. In
fact it is possible that William’s passion for his dream and his goal actually
turned his son against the people that William so wanted to set free. I imagine his son wanting to spend time with
dad was rebuffed and put off because William was out working to free
slaves. Ultimately this son saw the slaves
as stealing daddy from him.”
raised her hand. “Can I tell everyone something?”
gave her the floor.
I was fourteen I literally ran away to the circus.
Santa started “Tonight
I want to focus on fear. I had a
different plan. But I know that we are
all thinking of someone who is out there lost right now. The fear makes us stupid. We simply cannot think clearly why we are
allowing fear a voice in our head. I
don’t know about you but my imagination is pretty incredible. Whenever my mother goes missing, every time
the phone rings I assume that it is the police telling me that my she is
dead. Sometimes I even hope that it is
true. I hate that. But I want to be honest. I hate the pain.”
“I feel so powerless,”
whimpered Roger. “I simply don’t know
what else to do. Over the past two years I have lost jobs, driven halfway
across the country and gone out of my mind.
My baby is so lost. Even before
she disappeared almost a year ago, she was not the little girl that I held in
my arms so long ago. There was this lost
look in her eyes.” Roger broke down and
could not continue.
“Mine still calls every
few months, telling me of some new get rich quick scheme that she or her so
called boyfriend has come up with. They
need just a few bucks to get the plan rolling.
I have sold most of what I own to keep her close. When I don’t have cash she accuses me of
lying and I don’t want her mad at me.”
Angie was trembling now.
“Sometimes I think it would be better if she simply vanished from my
life. But I really can’t imagine my life
“Fear shakes us to the
core.” Angie looked resolved.
Others shared some
stories of loved ones who came and went.
Even Rosie opened up a bit more about her loneliness and what it was
like to have a husband who came home every night but did not even seem to know
that she was alive. That is unless she
did not make meatloaf on Wednesday nights.
If she failed that mission he became her worst nightmare, unless he was
As the room got a bit
quiet, Santa decided it was time to share the lesson for the night.
“Right out of high school I joined the Army so
that I could get the GI Bill and get much of my college paid for. Right after
basic training I got the opportunity to go to Airborne school. I could hardly wait to get there. Let me tell you a bit about Airborne School. Airborne school is at Fort Benning, Georgia and
is designed to prepare soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines to jump out of
airplanes and silently fly through the air and when landing be a viable
fighting force. The school is
essentially two weeks of learning how to hit the ground hard. Each day feels like
late summer two a day football practices.
Imagine falling to the ground hundreds of times each week, learning how
to fall so that it does not hurt.
Several training evolutions deal with dealing with fear. I remember looking at each challenge and
initially being frightened. My mind
would always imagine the pain that I would feel if I did it wrong, or even
worse the emotional pain of not being able to do it right. We were trained to deal with our fear. Funny thing is each challenge started out
scary but turned out to be a total blast.
Once you had done it a couple of times you wanted to keep doing it. Always before you though is week three. Week three is when you will jump out of the
airplane in flight. You have been taught
all of the things that could go wrong.
The night before our first jump it seemed that everyone in the barracks
was living deep in their minds, most got religion, and the barracks was
silent. The next morning we arrived at
the airfield and that airplane had our full attention. Was that our make shift coffin? While normally there was lots of horseplay
and fun conversations before a training evolution, there was none that
day. Silence ruled the morning. Sergeant Airborne (the training instructors
all have the same name) gathered a group of us together and asked us if we were
afraid. Everyone said, “No.” Knowingly he looked around and told us that
were idiots. A smart person would be
terrified to jump from 3000 feet in the air and depend on some canvas to save
your bacon. We all smiled. He told us that we were stupid to trust in those
who packed the parachute. “What if they just got dumped by their best girl or
guy or were otherwise distracted?” Wow
he was not helping matters any. But then
he told us the most important piece of information that I received during that
training. Courage is not the absence of fear.
Courage is being afraid and doing it anyway. Typically, you don’t need much courage in
normal every day circumstances when all things are going well. But how do you summon that courage when you
paused for a moment but went on quickly so no one would disrupt him. This was the first week that he was leading
this group and he actually was pretty nervous.
“Step one is that we must embrace fear.”
looked up at him for a moment a bit surprised.
particularly seem reluctant to admit when they are afraid. I know for a fact that they often are
terrified. Many have been the times that
I have clenched up and braced for the worst.
It would be impossible to count the number of times that I hesitated to
answer the phone when it was someone I know who could be passing on bad
news. Some strive to rid themselves of
all fear. Let’s be honest here. If you are going to be successful at anything
and make a real difference you must take risks.
Real risks require danger. Danger
leads to fear. Embrace the fear. Let it motivate you. Allow it to make you smarter in your
preparation. One of the most common
fears is the fear of failure. This one
is mine. I own that I fear failure. Every day the potential to fail is huge. I took on a mission to turn around an
organization that may have invited me in too late. I moved my family, left my friends and took
on this challenge. I risked failure and
it scares me from my deepest core. Now I
could have let that fear prevent me from taking the job. Another possibility is
that I could avoid it by cowering in a corner and hoping for the best. But the fear drives me to work harder, to
develop new ideas, and to keep experimenting until we find the right direction
that will cause us to succeed. I have
embraced that fear. Another fear that I
struggle with is the fear of ending my days in a nursing home. Several times I have visited these
places. Every time I think, “I don’t
ever want to live here.” Again I embrace
the fear. I think of that nursing home
when I want to eat a piece of cake or that dozen donuts. When I don’t want to exercise I imagine
myself there in the wheelchair staring at a tv with the volume too high sitting
next to a guy that is sitting in his own poop.
No I will exercise. I will push
myself. I will live a healthy life. Embrace fear.
think of my mother and how I know that somewhere she has hidden her booze and
her pills in her house I am terrified. I
could use that as an excuse to break off all ties with her. But because I love her I embrace the fear and
risk being the one that finds her dead from an overdose. I risk confronting her when she has a
hangover. To do that I must embrace the
fear of offending her.”
All in the
room thought of times when they had confronted and it had gone poorly.
is that we must face the facts. Lies and
denial will never help our loved ones to find freedom.”
paused to let everyone take a few notes and then continued.
“Most of the time the things
we fear are pretty unlikely to actually take place. If you watch enough of the news you can get
the sense that we are going to be killed by terrorists or the latest
plague. It is true that all of the
people who died of those things did not expect that to happen. They most likely believed that it happens to
other people. But face the fact. Nothing can stop those things from happening
to you if they are going to happen. How
is worrying about it going to help? Face
the facts. Of the billions of people in
the world the number of people killed by terrorists and the latest plague
really is miniscule. If you start to
feel afraid take some time to do research.
What are the actual odds of this happening to me? The things we fear most really are usually
unlikely. Those things that are more likely
usually offer some escape. If you fear
lung cancer, quit smoking. If you fear
diabetes maybe quit eating too many donuts.
If you fear your spouse leaving you, treat them better than they can
even imagine. Face the facts and make the
needed changes. Bring in evidence of
their addiction. Confront them with
truth. To do this effectively we must do
it without all of the emotion that so easily gets us flummoxed. Remember what Mike said a few weeks ago about
those in addiction trying to confuse you?”
nodded, but most looked confused.
said that when he used to confront Bruce that Bruce would change the subject or
in some other way confuse the issue.
Denial always came first, followed by very creative and often convincing
lies. If you want to win, then we must
confront with love and truth. Bring
evidence when you can. But stick to the
truth. Give me the facts, just the
why Mike recommended leaving the mess that my husband makes around the house
when he is drunk?” Rosie interrupted.
“Step 3 is
“For several years I was living in Oklahoma
where the Apache chief Geronimo is buried and that gave me a special affection
for this legendary warrior. Just the
fact that men who are wanting to summon courage shout his name shows you
something of his character and strength.
He is not the only symbol of courage in our world. Do some research. There are tons of books out there about men
and women who lived incredibly courageous lives and overcame all those fears to
accomplish great things. Study their
lives. Hang out with other courageous
people. Having been a soldier I can tell
you that courage is contagious. Being
near courageous people will enable you to take on your greatest fears. Yell out
Geronimo! That is why I love this
group. There are those who are
survivors. Others are still in the midst
of battles. Others really don’t know
what is happening.”
paused to let everyone catch up on their notes and give a time for anyone that
might want to ask a question. No one
seemed to have any so he pressed on.
is handle your fears”
As he said
this Roger started to get up, “I’m sorry
but I am running out of time I need to get home. Curfew, you know.”
two more minutes and you will have it all.”
been said that if you can keep your head while everyone else is losing theirs
you will be an incredible success. This
has been proven by warriors and sages throughout history. Learn to manage your emotions and handle your
fears and suddenly you will be asked to lead.
Consider the glory of your achievements like a seven year old boy about
to jump his Big Wheel over his kid sister.
Handle your fears by thinking of the triumph. Set aside all of the things that might go
wrong. Put your mind on what will happen
when you succeed. When you do that you
will be able to handle your fears and succeed.
We all made
the jump that day, we all lived and the barracks was rowdy that night as
always. But that truth has sat with me
ever since. I went home from airborne
school feeling invincible. I have often
been filled with fear but I press on anyway.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather being afraid, going
finished there was complete silence in the room. His passion in the conclusion was
unbelievable. Suddenly the entire room
burst into applause. Roger looked weepy
but said nothing as he stealthily moved out of the door.
much animated conversation around his lesson.
“Fear seems to be the common factor in all of the addictions that I know
about,” said one middle age man. “I am
afraid that my fear of losing the relationship with my daughter kept me from
addressing the obvious,” whispered Sarah.
In her mind she determined that this week she would make a list of all
her fears and she would begin to face them.
Well maybe not all of them at once.
That very thought scared her.
A few yawns
and stretches later the group was all heading out the door.
Rosie seemed more
subdued this week and Mike noticed that she was just not as jovial or bouncy as
normal. She still wore very bright and
colorful clothing and was dressed to impress.
There was something in her spirit though that was lacking. Mike had noticed it earlier and planned on
chatting with her before they went to the small groups.
raised his hand.
“Mike, how do you
Mike considered the
question and scratched his neck. Roger
was looking at him hopeful and sincerely.
This seemed like an important moment.
“There is more that I
want to say from Genesis but maybe next time.
I want to answer this question.
Does that seem ok to everyone?”
Many were looking at
him nodding. Mike got the impression
that many had the same question.
Suddenly the weight of the class seemed to sit on Mike. These people were looking up to him. One portion of him felt pride and
excitement. Most of him though felt
sad. He considered that no longer would
failure only hurt him, but others as well.
“Over the years I have
struggled with doubts. Walking this path
with Bruce has had its great moments.
Some days I have started with celebrating God protecting and giving us
freedom and ended the day doubting God existed because of a relapse. To be honest I often blame God for the
relapse, even though I know that it is not His fault. I remind myself in those moments that God
loves Bruce more than I do. I want to be
a man of faith like Abraham, more often though, I am more like Lot. I see myself or others moving toward sin and
I sit on the sidelines wringing my hands.
Prayer must be our first tool. Roger,
you asked how I pray.”
Mike looked into Roger’s eyes and everyone
noticed that Mike was glassy eyed and they all thought that he might cry. Sometimes when I am lacking energy or just am
not feeling it within myself I simply pray written prayers either from the
Bible or other great Christian men and women.
But nearly every day I will pray using the following as a guide.
Speak Lord for your servant is
listening. (1 Samuel 3:10)
Here I am send me. (Isaiah 6:8)
Let me inherit a double portion of Your
Holy Spirit. (2 Kings 2:9)
From there I simply
listen. What is He saying? I then read from His Word. Sometimes He speaks quickly to me other times
He takes His time. I also journal
consistently, seeking to find His voice in my life.”
Many were scribbling
notes and quickly writing down the points.
Several times Mike had to repeat what he had said before everybody felt
like they had it down.
“Now before we go to
small groups. I am feeling led by the
Spirit to make a confession to you. I
have not seen Bruce since last week. He
made that cake and left it for me while I was out running errands. But he has been hanging out with some of his
old friends. I don’t know if he has
relapsed yet. I am certain though that it is coming unless God intervenes. I also need to tell you that I ate that half
of the cake. I realize now that I was
medicating the hurt.”
The entire group sat
stunned. Just last week they had met
Bruce and had instantly taken a liking to him.
He had come so far and most in the room had wished that their loved ones
were doing as well as Bruce was. Some
remembered feeling envious of Mike for getting his son back. Now the room seemed to lack oxygen. Emotions welled up. Some cried, some sat and stewed in their anger. Mike was now openly weeping and a few of the
group came and surrounded him. A few
held him; others put their hands on his back and prayed quietly. After a few moments a peace fell among them
all. This is why they gathered every
week. Sometimes it was their own hurt,
sometimes the hurts of others. But
together they felt they could overcome the pain of loving their loved ones
through addiction. Reluctantly the pile
of people at the front of the room began to split apart. Some cut another piece of cake and grabbed a
cup of coffee before going to their small groups.
Sarah kept her peace
and wondered what had told her that Bruce was heading to a relapse. She tried to picture the meeting and all that
happened. How could she have known? She wrote the question in her journal to
consider later. Now she was feeling
guilty because she felt she should have told Mike last week what she was
seeing. She argued in her head and
decided that Mike would have dismissed her as someone who simply did not know
what they were talking about.
Roger sat in a group
surrounded by others who were focused on alcohol addiction. Rosie bounced in and seemed to be closer to
her old self. “Sometimes I think I am
the only one and a night like this reminds me that I am not alone. I am so lonely!” Roger smiled knowingly. His daughter was still missing, somewhere,
out there. He looked out the window
almost expecting to see her. He thought
to himself, “Now that is silly.” He had
spent everything he had to find his daughter.
She had started with alcohol as her addiction and moved onto many other
drugs of choice. The last time he saw
her it seemed as if no drug was off limits to her.
Sarah peeked in and
decided to join this group. Some of the
other options may have fit better but she knew that Angie was in this
group. Choosing a seat near the door she
took a deep breath and sat down. Angie
came in right behind her holding a cup of coffee that looked to be more cream
and sugar than coffee. Angie sat her
coffee down and reached into a cloth bag and pulled out her notebook. An
older gentleman came and sat down. Sarah
remembered seeing him standing in the back of the room. He had not come up to pray with Mike. She could not remember his name but thought
he looked a bit like a young, athletic looking Santa Claus.
Sarah had meant to get up early and go for a jog but somehow the
magnets on the couch kept her firmly horizontal until it was too late to get in
a run before she needed to head into work.
Initially she was
disappointed. “This was supposed to be a
new start and I am already failing.” She
said to the mirror in the living room.
“Maybe I should just give up now before I make an even bigger fool of
myself.” But then she looked at the
list. It was in that moment that she
realized that she had just enough time to walk to work if she didn’t sit around
the apartment feeling sorry for herself.
That afternoon Sarah met Angie for coffee. “I know that I told you about my aunt last
night. I can’t do anything for her
now. But let me tell you about my
brother.” Angie shared with Sarah about
her brother who was one of the hardest working guys that she knew. Ever since
she could remember, he would be hired for a job and within a few months would
get a promotion to be the boss. She
remembered that he was the lead lifeguard at the city pool. When he got fired he accused his supervisor
of being jealous of him. A few years
later he was the lead dishwasher in the college dining facility and was
fired. Again he said that it was because
others were jealous. Angie stated that
she always believed him. That is until
she stopped by to visit him when he was the daytime manager of that hotel. When she arrived that day to surprise him,
she was shocked to see him being chewed out but a man in a very nice suit. She hid behind a pillar as she listened
in. The man accused him of all sorts of
mistakes that apparently her brother had made.
When it got quiet she saw the angry man, turn to her brother and put his
arm around him. It looked like he was
apologizing. Then a few minutes later
she noticed that the man in the suit gave her brother a card. Later she found out that it was for a
treatment center. Two days later he was
checked into the treatment center for about a month. He came out and looked like a new man. He again worked hard and became a supervisor. But even that did not last. He again relapsed and lost that job. Angie had watched this dozens of times. “I keep hoping that he will somehow figure
out that he needed to quit drinking so he could quit starting over.” Sarah nodded and wondered what it would take
for someone in addiction to learn their lesson?
The two ladies reviewed the outline of the basic lessons they had learned the night before and resolved to study more on them in the days to come before the next meeting. Sarah resolved that she would definitely attend the small groups next time. It was strange because she had not expected to go to more than one meeting. Yet here she was technically continuing one meeting and look forward to a second one. Weird. Angie read the list of the five phases from her notes.
Do not fear
Learn to brake
Learn to steer
Maintain your sanity
was at the meeting a bit early and helped set up some chairs. Mike asked her to set out a couple of Bibles
on each table while he started the coffee.
Sarah noticed a cake sitting on the table. Thick icing of red, white and blue hid the
chocolate cake underneath. Almost half
of the cake was gone. “My birthday was just
a couple of days ago. Bruce made that
cake so we could celebrate. This is what
is left. I thought that I would share
the rest tonight.” Sarah smiled as she
remembered several great birthday parties while her Michelle was growing
up. Princesses and ponies covered most
of the cakes. When she turned thirteen
she just wanted a black cake and then after that it got weirder. Sarah had been afraid to question it. This week she realized that she should have
the next twenty minutes people started coming in. Sarah recognized Roger and Rosie and shook
their hands in greeting. She remembered
Rosie’s name but not Roger’s. He did not
seem offended when he reminded her. “It
was Mike’s birthday this week and he is sharing his cake.” Others came and soon there were twenty of so
folks sitting around chatting quietly and drinking coffee. Icing stained some of their mouths.
walked out of a room down the hallway and looked frustrated. As he entered the room he stuffed that
frustration and shared a big smile with everyone.
might notice that this week there are Bibles on the tables. Feel free to pick one up and follow
along. I have shared here before that
really there is no freedom for families apart from the power of the Gospel. Those in addiction need our prayers. While we talk about lots of things that we
should do and not do for our loved ones trapped in addiction in this club. I want to communicate clearly that all of
those things are good and right. But
honestly only Jesus can heal and restore our families. Let me open in prayer and tonight I have a
devotional to get us rolling.”
The Lord is my
shepherd, I lack nothing.
me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
You prepare a table before me
the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
had read the twenty-third psalm everyday this week to get her day going so it
felt familiar and a taste of comfort like smelling bread baking in the
oven. She reflected on the past week and
the changes that she had taken in from the first week. No longer would she be afraid. Sarah realized that all of her troubles were
light and momentary compared to the eternity that was awaiting her. Tonight she was ready to learn.
finished the prayer and seemed to breathe in the atmosphere of the group. His eyes were still closed. A small smile crossed his face as he almost
was much banging of chairs and people getting up to get another cup of
coffee. A few scurried to the bathroom
or went to answer their vibrating cell phones.
took a breath and looked around the room.
Sarah stood up with a big smile.
Birthday, Mike. We should sing.” A few folks groaned but enough went along
with it to sing along. As the song
finished, Sarah noticed that Mike had a little tear.
us look at Genesis 19. I will start at
was some rustling as the Bibles were flipped open.
two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway
of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his
face to the ground. Genesis 19:1
For those who are not so
familiar with the story. Let me share
with you that Lot is the nephew of Abram who is eventually called Abraham. Back in chapter 13 of Genesis Lot and Abram
were hanging out together and realized that they were both too prosperous to be
together so they agreed to part company.
Abram though the elder chose to give the choice of where to live to
Lot. Abram was living a life of
surrender. By the way that is a great
character trait to develop.”
A few were scratching
that thought into their notebooks.
“Lot chose the valley where Sodom was
located. It looked beautiful and he felt
that he could best prosper there. Notice
he is looking out for himself where Abram is thinking of others.”
There were many nods.
“In chapter 14 Lot had
been taken captive being caught in the middle of a war. Abram had come to the rescue and set him and
all of his possessions free. There are
many other events but when chapter 19 arrives.
Lot is no longer in the valley.
Sodom was known as a sinful city.
Ezekiel 16:49 tells us that there biggest sin was pride and
arrogance. Not only that but they did
not share with the poor. It is true that
some theologians debate the nature of the sin of Sodom. For the sake of this lesson, let us call
Sodom a picture of sin. What happens in
the case of all sin, not just addiction, is that folks move close to sin. They may not actually get involved but they
get close to it. Maybe it is in the
music or movies they watch. Over time
they draw closer to it; ultimately some fear or some situation draws people
into the sin. In Lot’s case it may have
been the kidnapping situation that pushed him over the edge. It is hard to say, but the point is that when
someone is already close to sin or addiction it only takes one event to send
them there. When we look at verse 1 of chapter 19, Lot is
right in the gate of the city. Many of
those we love, and often we ourselves sit right on the edge of sin. Lot is not in the sin but not away from it
either. He has moved from the valley and
moved closer and closer to the sin.
From Genesis 12 where we
meet Abram to this chapter we are looking at, we see Abram stops and worships,
talks with God and build an altar.
Nowhere do we see Lot worshiping, talking with God or building an
Many in the class were
quickly thumbing through the pages of the Bible looking to see if what Mike
said might be true. Mike paused to let them
“One thing in this that
gives me hope is this realization that Abram did not want his nephew to get
close to sin. He did allow it. But he did not encourage it. Our loved ones are stuck in their sin and
addictions. But it is not our fault.”
A few of the group were a
misty eyed just a bit.
“I try to put myself into
the stories of the Bible and when I put myself in Lot’s shoes I think about the
kidnapping. That would be traumatic to
say the least. One day he was enjoying
the prosperity of the land and the next day he was a captive wondering if he
was going to live. But then I wonder if
maybe, just maybe, if Lot would have prayed and worshiped he could have
overcome the fear that drew him into the sin that so easily entangled him. Understand that prayer is our greatest weapon
against addiction and sin.”
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.
Change my phone number.
Start exercising tomorrow
Share my story with someone this week
Pick up a book on addiction and read it before the next meeting
Go to bed no later than 10:00 pm
Attend Sunday School next Sunday
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
With that Sarah fell asleep with a smile on her face.
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
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.”
believe they did. Go ahead and get ready
for bed. I’ll have your dinner ready for
you in about 20 minutes.”
walked slowly back to the dorm so he could get out of that suit.
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.
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
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
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
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
Sarah agreed and they figured out a good place to get together.
“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
“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
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.”