Ok, you’re sober…now what?

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin

Maybe because it’s the least touched on topic or because, truly, it is the one subject that is dependent on each person individually, but recovery will be greatest challenge of your life.  Declaring that you have a problem with drugs and alcohol is the easy part. Leaving a program and getting back to life is the hardest part. My husband will have 7 years in February and I can tell you that the biggest battle for us has been navigating life after the rehabilitation. So here’s the big secret to even having a shot at being successful: HAVE A PLAN.

Start creating a plan before you even go to rehabilitation. Start collecting ideas while you are in rehabilitation about next steps. If you are out of rehabilitation and floundering for what to do next, keep reading.

Rehabilitation addresses one part of a multi-faceted problem. It doesn’t fix your life from that point forward. It gets you on your feet but in order to make the transition you have to make a plan for yourself. I have come up with a framework based off of the last 6 years that will at least provide some structure or direction. 

1.Seek counseling: If you are married, if you are single, if you are in the process of divorce, if you are a family member of the recovered then put this at the top of your list. There are plenty of options for counseling whether that’s a church with a counseling component, a referral from a friend or through a local family counseling practice. Find someone. Ask about payment options. My husband and I contend that if we had not gone through intensive counseling after he came out of rehabilitation then we would have never made it. We needed someone to hear us, to be objective, to be a safe place to share our fears and concerns about this transition. If you are a family member then seek counseling for how to handle this transition of your loved one. A counselor can also be a mediator between the family and the addict. After you finally get a loved one into treatment they leave a giant wake of hurt and sadness behind for you to deal with. Deal with it but don’t deal with it alone. You need sound advice on how to proceed. Otherwise, you are left with battle wounds that never heal.

2.Get involved: Find a church, find a program you love, find someway to give back, and find something outside of a job that ignites your passion. You might find yourself with time on your hands if you lost your job so while your searching, volunteer! Idle time and old patterns slip you back into positions that you aren’t ready for and are ill equipped to handle.

3.Be careful about job hunting: For many people who just jump right back into their life they find themselves in situations that they aren’t strong enough to take on yet and wonder why they relapsed so quickly. The family expectation of getting back to work, the need for money, and the skills you are qualified for can be a deadly combination. For instance, if you were an on the road salesperson and you drank alone in your hotel room or found hotel bars to be your second home then perhaps returning to this job is a bad decision for the transition to a new life. You have to look for a job that keeps you out of those pitfalls and accountable. You may take a pay cut or have to change your financial expectations but you now have new goals and priorities in life.

4.Get REALLY comfortable with your story: one of the ways that I truly realized that my husband was going to make it is because he shared his story with anyone who would listen…no really, waitresses, the guy at the body shop, the person who picked up the couch from Craig’s List…everyone. It would make me cringe sometimes but then he would share what the conversation was about and I realized that that person needed to hear his story because, in that moment, they needed HOPE! We are all looking for hope and your story doesn’t matter until you share it. It also helps in changing your identity. You are different now. You have changed. Talking about it makes you comfortable with your new self. Don’t let it be something that sparks shame. Let it be something you overcame and continue to find strength in telling the story. I often wonder if people get tired of hearing my story…I wonder if they think “leigh, aren’t you tired of talking about it?” The answer to that is an emphatic NO. The Lord intervened in our life in a powerful way and not continuing to give Him praise for that would not honor the gift of the redemption story.

5.Educate yourself: I am not the most avid reader but when its a subject I am passionate about I will read whatever I can. If you are the spouse or the loved one of an addict then read books that apply to co-dependency and the enabling relationship. I encourage parents and spouses to really understand their role in recovery. If you aren’t aware of your role in recovery then you can actually increase their time in the cycle as opposed to helping. We naturally believe ourselves to be helpers and then end up interfering with a downward spiral that needs to occur. If you yourself are transitioning into a life after rehabilitation then find books on brain chemistry, addictive behavior, family genetics and addiction. It’s amazing how much easier it is to be in this process of recovery when you understand your bodies response to addictive behavior and how this happens. (We have several book recommendations located on the lifeonthewagon.com website.)

6.Open your Bible: Every day the Lord reminds us of being prepared, planning and putting on the armor. When you come out of rehabilitation you will be a prime target for temptation. The enemy does not want you to succeed. They delight in our failure and dance on our weakness. Prepare yourself for it. It may not be obvious, it may come from the doubts of your family and friends, it may arrive in a pretty package or a relationship that you think you are ready for but the Holy Spirit is telling you no. You need to navigate through this with your spiritual armor or you will fall. The arrows, the road blocks, the open doors that aren’t meant for us. It’s all very confusing if you do not know how to differentiate between where you should and shouldn’t go and the enemy loves to keep you confused. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

“The prudent sees danger and hides himself,  but the simple go on and suffer for it.” Proverbs 27:12

7. Understanding that consequences linger: you went down a dark road, you hurt people, you made some really bad decisions. Look, no ones perfect and I have made my own horrible decisions but one of the realities of this is consequences from the aftermath will continue to exist. People will see you differently. You will have to explain gaps in resumes. Trust isn’t automatic. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Some things that have been broken will never be the same. I don’t say all of this to shame anyone. I am proud of those who take recovery seriously and realize that this is going to be A LOT OF WORK. But the work is worth it. Family will begin to trust you again. You will become an encouragement to others but you have to be proactive in your own recovery. An attitude of passivity  lets things happen without creating opposition to it.  The Lord wants us to be prepared for the pitfalls. He wants us to get involved with life so that His plan can take shape.

8. Find someone to be accountable to: Your spouse and family are not your accountability group: I have seen it happen too often (specifically, with spouses leaning on their husband or wife as their accountability group) and this you need to hear. Do NOT place the burden of accountability with your family or spouse. They have been through too much to now have another role. Keep in mind they are in the process of healing, too. Look for someone older and wiser. Find someone who has been in recovery for at least 5 years. Find someone that had a similar path (i.e. children, spouse, single, divorced etc…) Call  your church and ask one of the leaders to help identify someone they know in the church. Go to your local AA meetings and be paired up with a sponsor. This is a person that will not judge you, that you can call when you feel weak or beat down. Your wife or your husband cannot do this objectively without slipping back into their own patterns of co-dependency. I wanted to drive my husband back and forth to Celebrate Recovery under the guise of us being a team however what I was really doing was controlling the situation and making sure he went. You can see why this is a conflict for both.

9. Old Friends and New Friends: You may also find a new circle of friends that think as you do now. If you aren’t strong enough to be around old friends then perhaps you can politely excuse yourself from their company for a while. You may become distant and that’s ok. If they are truly worth your continued friendship then they will be there when you are ready. Be honest with them though. Talk with them about your new life. They might understand. They might not.

10. Look for opportunities to build trust. I think I said it before but this new life will be a challenge!  If you are seeking opportunities to build back trust then you get to were you would like to be at a steadier pace. Show up when you say you will show up. Do what you said you were going to do…consistently. Call when you said you would call (don’t text… call…because if someone can hear you speak soberly then they won’t doubt you). Go above and beyond without expectation of anyone noticing. You might have moments when you want to rebel or give up. Don’t give into that. This was self inflicted chaos and the outcome of giving up is returning to a lonely life. In fact, it’s not living at all.

Remember your rock bottom moment? Don’t forget that moment. Remember what you told yourself then: “never again”? Remember how dark and alone you felt? Keep pushing forward, run the race, and stick to the plan. Good days will start to outnumber the bad. Thank God for normal everyday days. Those are the days and moments I treasured.

I still love ordinary days because I remember I prayed for ordinary days. Pray for those kind of days again. You worked hard for those days and when they start to come again be thankful that God ushered you through.

‘Tis The Season To Come Back To Life

We weren’t happy. I was miserable and this time of year, more than any other, made me really feel it.

About 8 years ago I dreaded Christmas. Really it was the whole season. I sound like the Grinch. I related to him I guess. Christmas represented dread, work, putting up a front, manufacturing joy and deception on another level. When you have someone in your life that is working on becoming an addict or right in the thick of full blown addiction, you understand what I am talking about. You are surrounded by delusions of perfect family life when in reality you are at home plotting how NO ONE can discover your secret or how bad it’s starting to get at home behind closed doors. There is a twisted sense of relief that when you go to a Christmas party you can feel normal and no one really notices because others are just as drunk as your husband or wife. But then the cruel dawn of morning comes. I remember some of our most heated arguments usually came at this time of year.  Did I mention how much I dreaded Christmas? It only shined a spotlight on my deep sense of hopelessness. The belief that I would never be able to send out that Christmas card with a family photo and feel like it was authentic. Like we had true Joy.  We took the photo and sent out the card but I knew in my heart the photo was such a lie.We weren’t happy. I was miserable and this time of year, more than any other, made me really feel it.  I looked at pictures from other people and envied the life I was seeing. One that I believed I was never going to have. I felt alone, desperate and empty.

Last night my husband and I were talking about this time of year and why the ministry is suddenly bombarded with phone calls from family who need help for their addicted son or husband.  I immediately knew what he was talking about because I was that woman. I was reminded about the feelings that this season brought with it many years ago. It all came flooding back and I realized I needed to sit down and write about this time in my life because right about now if this is you, YOU need hope.

The only hope on this earth where we are surrounded by darkness is Jesus. He was brought to earth to be a light in the darkness (Advent!). He brought with Him eternal Comfort (Matthew 11:28-30), inexpressable Joy (I Peter 1:8,9) , and never ending Peace (Philippians 4:7).  We can seek the whole world to find or manufacture what He brought for us but we will always come up short and be left with a lie whispered to us by an enemy that seeks to destroy any chance of finding these things authentically. This is why we are so incredibly distracted this time of year by everything that has nothing to do with what the season is truly about. Just one of the many reasons why addictions seem to grow exponentially during this time of year: The stress from a million little things that don’t matter, the reminders of imperfect families, the need to portray life as it isn’t, the constant stuffing of the holes in hearts with material gifts, the feelings of sadness or guilt over broken family relationships. We want relief from it all! We don’t want to stop and think about our true reality or the poor condition of our broken heart. Instead of “Just Keep Swimming” you find yourself saying “Just Keep Stuffing”.  It all comes at us in a very short window of time and it is ALL CAPPED OFF by the reminder of yearly failures as we celebrate New Years Eve. Then we wake up the next morning with guilt, shame or fear of what’s coming in the new year and a bucket full of horrible resolutions. Not to mention that New Years is a goal for many addicts “to make it to” and then quit and get help.  You might hear this: “I will stop after the holidays”. I can’t even begin to count how many times I heard this lie. For me, all of it was a haunting lie. Incredibly empty with a side of deep disappointment.

If all of this sounds like what you are going through right now let me speak directly to you. I know that you are feeling desperate. I know you are losing hope. I know that you want to run away. I know you want to stand at the edge of the cliff and scream into the abyss. I know you are so tired of holding this life together so your children will have little memory of this time in your marriage or family. For you, in this time, I want you to stop talking at them and start praying for them. The talking is done. You can’t say anymore and I can guarantee they won’t listen so just PRAY. Pray like you have never prayed before. Pray in the car. Pray at that party. Pray beside your bed. Pray in the closet. Pray through tears. Pray for God to intervene in their life in a mighty way. Pray that it will happen during this season. Pray like your life depends on it. Stop intervening in the spiral. You cannot control it. Just pray for God to open their eyes so they can see themselves. So that they really see that they need help. Real help. Not just a meeting. He can do it but He needs you to get out of the way.

Whatever that means.

The safety net needs to be removed and you have to let them fall. I know you are scared by what that means, but trust when I say that it is far more hurtful to see an addict continue down this path without fear because they know you will rescue them. Just pray.

Pray this prayer with me:

Heavenly Father, I am broken. I feel alone. I feel desperate. I need you. I need you to intervene in my life and the life of this person in a mighty way. In a way that only you can do. I acknowledge that I need to get out of the way of the work you are going to do in their life. I give them over to you and fully trust that you are going to handle this. I can’t handle this anymore. I have tried to fix and save but failed. I know they might not choose you Lord, but today I choose you. I need you to work on my own heart as it broken into a thousand pieces because of all they have done to our famly. They have hurt and abandoned me, our children, our family. Only you can heal that hurt in my heart and I ask you put balm in that wound. Keep us protected from the chaos while you intervene. Keep them protected while you intervene. I trust you Lord. I trust you know what’s best. Thank you for your promise of an eternity with you. Thank you for your Son who came to the world to give us Your peace, Your comfort and Your joy. I rejoice in that promise this Christmas. You are my hope. In Jesus holy name I pray this. Amen. 

He loves you beloved and He won’t leave you. Keep Hope. The Redeemer will redeem as He has done in my life and can in yours IF you let him. He calls out to dry bones Come Alive. He calls out to dead hearts Come Alive! “Tis The Season” to come back to this life of Faith we are called into. For you, for your loved one, for your whole family. The Light in your darkness calls out for you to Come Alive.

Skip the ad and listen to this song for a moment.

 

 

Potemkin Village

In 1787 while on a journey through newly acquired territory in Crimea, Catherine the Great toured a section along the Dnieper River with Grigory Potemkin, one of Russia’s highest military officials. Catherine was unaware that Grigory had set up fake villages along the River to fool her into believing that this section of Crimea was prospering.

While having a discussion with my husband about putting up facades, my husband recounted his time going to Pigeon Forge on weekends when he lived in Knoxville (almost a decade ago). He said he would pass by these large ornate theaters which always seemed out of place or too much for their surroundings. Curious to see what was inside and expecting the grand exterior to be reflected on the interior, he was surprised to find a small metal warehouse like building behind the large facade.

People are good at creating facades. All you need to do is go on Facebook and you will get the best version of everyone. You can untag yourself from less than attractive angles of yourself (I am totally guilty of this!) but you can’t untag yourself from realities of life. We are stuck with ourselves and our situations however not appealing or attractive that may be.  I was an expert at hiding my husbands addiction and pretending everything was ok. I realize now I wasn’t just fearful of people’s perceptions but I was also in denial of the horrible situation created by his addiction.

You can only keep the facade up for so long before people start knocking on the door. Then they find the exterior isn’t aligning with the scary interior.

I have spoken about transparency before but I feel more urgency now with our need to reach out and be honest about our struggles. We are worried about what people might think if we confess what’s happening in our lives but even more worrisome is coming face to face with the problem and what the fallout will look like. You ask yourself questions like “will my friends think less of me if they knew? What will this mean for our family and what will have to change? Will we have to get counseling? Will my spouse have to quit their job and go into treatment? Should I consider Divorce? What do I do?” Its a very helpless feeling. I have been through the seasons of denial but then it all started to unravel. I couldn’t control it anymore. I couldn’t control his drinking anymore. I couldn’t take the keys away again or worry about being out in public and feeling the embarressment. I couldn’t do IT ANYMORE. I was exhausted. I was running out of clever excuses and ready for him to deal with this addiction and frankly didn’t care what anyone thought or what might have to change in our family. I WAS DONE. I called my family and close friends. You see, when you give it up to the Lord you find out what true surrender means.

I’ve given my testimony a few times in the last few months and each time I am reminded about what the Lord did for us in that horrible time of our lives. How gently He guided us out of this facade we had created and gave us a new life. A fresh start. Free from the bondage of this delusional control. Light was now on the lies.

God knows whether we drink everyday or drink too much too often, or sneak that pain pill, or creep onto the computer for pornography. He knows when we tell people for the 10th time that our spouse isn’t feeling good when in reality they are hung over and laying on the couch again. He hears the excuses we give and the things we are afraid to admit. But He patiently waits on us to come face to face with our truth. He is ready to hold us through it. I have lived with secrets. I have held up the appearance. I have told myself the lies: “it’s not that bad” or “it could be worse.” The lies will consume you.

Your truth is this: It is that bad. It is a facade and it will get worse.

It will be painful to be honest about it. It will hurt your family. You may have to go through treatment or therapy. You may have to confront your spouse or family member. But taking that risk of the outcome is far better than continuing to live in this facade and believing this isn’t your life and this will never happen to you. I can easily say that when I stopped worrying about what others thought and started focusing on what I needed to face, I felt an amazing sense of strength. A willingness to be vulnerable is far easier than the exhaustion from hiding a secret life. Be authentic, face it, and knock down the facade. You might be surprised by how people respond to your honesty but more importantly you will get to know God through these circumstances and see Him do all that He has promised.

2 Corinthians 12:9-11

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

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Are you crazy?

Why give birth naturally? Are you crazy? I have gotten this response a lot lately. Its surprising and eye opening. I have now given birth twice. The first time with an epidural and the second time without any medical interventions. It wasn’t an easy decision. I must be honest, the moment that the nurse came to me while in labor and asked what my birth plan was…I paused. I had a chance to cave. I knew I wouldn’t be judged for it either. I was incredibly tempted at 6 cm to call this thing and get the epidural. But then I opted out and just looked at the nurse and said through near tears “no meds please”. She almost said “are you sure?”  I am glad she held back.

So how did I come to this decision? I knew after giving birth to my first that I would investigate this natural childbirth more in depth. I am one of those strange people who are interested in pushing the body to do what it is supposed to do and as women, we are created to give birth. I started my research by watching a documentary called “The Business of Being Born”. If you are pregnant now and interested in this process then I highly recommend this documentary. It gave me the confidence to believe that I COULD do this. If all of these women did it, then why couldn’t I? I wanted the raw experience because I will never be doing this again…so why not give it my best shot? After all, as a society aren’t we a little too quick to pop a pill when we feel any pain? I know I was. My husband just laughed when I told him I wanted to do this naturally. Then he realized I was serious. He knew my threshold for pain was very low. Well, that’s what I thought about myself anyway. I decided to challenge myself in a way I never have before. To make this body work like it is supposed to. It was one of the best MOST PAINFULLY FULFILLING decisions I have ever made.

As women, giving birth naturally can be one of the most emotional experiences we ever have. You are bringing a child into the world. Your body, for 9 months goes through an enormous upheaval and your comfort level decreases monthly. I am not one of those women who enjoys pregnancy. I will just get it out there. I would consider having another but the idea of pregnancy again makes me physically ill. It probably sounds at odds with the giving birth naturally. Aren’t you supposed to glow for 9 months? You are supposed to be serene, happy. Like an Earth Mother. You smile and only have to push once. Well, that’s not me. But I can’t complain about it. I am keenly aware that there are women who find out they can’t have children or struggle with infertility. They would trade places with me in a minute. So for that fact alone, I don’t talk about my disdain for pregnancy but for the purpose of this blog I am trying to give the whole picture and be honest about the experience. Even though I have these feelings about pregnancy, I can’t say that the end result isn’t worth it. It is. I am in love with my children. Now, back to the birth thing…I decided to use the 9 months to prepare for the idea of giving birth naturally. I looked at the positives and the negatives and the only negative that was in the “Natural” column was this: incredibly painful. If you think about it, that really isn’t a negative. It is just a decision you make based on how you deal with pain. When I was pregnant the first time, the epidural was a given. It is what you do these days. Most women choose it. You are in the majority if you get one. The thought of doing this naturally wasn’t on the table. I was so scared of the pain that I didn’t even want to consider doing the other. But isn’t that just like life: we don’t do what scares us the most for fear of the unknown? And why do it when you have the option of drugs?

With my second child I started to question all of this. I started to think about why we choose not to experience pain anymore. We don’t have to, right? If you have pain there is probably a pill for it. With my husbands battle for sobriety, I began to pay attention to the prescription pill addiction battle that is taking place right now in this country. Its not surprising to me that it has reached epidemic proportions.If the doctor prescribes it to you, then you should take it right? More and more we hear of celebrities dying from overdoses on prescription medications (usually pain killers are involved or the mixing of a sedative) and the numbers of women overdosing is surpassing that of men. I hear stories about moms taking Xanax, Klonopin, or Ativan to be better moms and how many stories of addiction start with “I went in for surgery on my back,knee etc and….”. My husband works at a mission for men with substance abuse problems and says that 1 out of every 3 men that comes in is addicted to some kind of prescribed medication. So why is this country in such a crisis with prescription drug addiction? I believe they are easily accessible and overly prescribed. I wont say that doctors all overprescribe but they are part of the problem. Some are becoming more diligent and regulating but at the tragic expense of many casualties that have lost the battle with addiciton. What scares me the most is that we are so afraid to feel pain that we don’t know how to get through life without a pill for whatever ails us. And for that matter, if the drug companies were in the business of making us well then they would, in effect, go out of business right? I am not saying all of this to point to a conspiracy but what I am alluding to is that we are ill equipping ourselves and our children on how NOT to deal with life. We have created an expectation that all must be good all of the time and if isn’t then there is a pill for that. The younger generations are not being told to deal with things. They are handed magic pills to help them study longer or not be sad or not have anxiety or pay attention better or get thinner. We are moving toward a society that won’t know how to deal with life in its raw form. It is a life without consequences for our choices. I am not an evolutionist but I do believe that we adapt. The tragedy is what we are adapting to.

SO am I really crazy for wanting to experience childbirth in its natural state? I chose this route to see if I could do it. To see if I could work through the pain. And I did it. It gave me incredible self confidence of what I can endure. The human body is an amazing thing. Our tolerance for pain (physically) is much more than what we give ourselves credit for. If we take away the highs and lows, the emotion, the sadness, the pure excitement and joy, the peaks and the valleys then we are missing out on the great human experience! Just this morning I heard Greg Laurie say to leverage your pain, don’t waste your pain (he was specifically talking about the pain of loss) and physical pain is a great analogy for mental pain. When we experience pain, both mental and physical, we learn to lean on God. C.S. Lewis said “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.” There is no pill for our heart. There is only one prescription for our heart and that’s Jesus.

http://offlabelfilm.com/

– Entered into the world naturally on April 19, 2013-

4 days old