A Structured Life: Courtney’s Testimony

Structure is comfort. We know what to expect and there is no parting from it. I remember being conscious of my need for structure when I had my first born. You did not divert from the plan. Our lives do not work out how we planned. I recall the Jewish saying: “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Here is my friend Courtney’s story…

I have always preferred structure to chaos, predictability to adventure. I prefer implementing a well thought out plan versus a go-with-the-flow and see where it takes me way of thinking. I can see now why God chose to match me with a husband who is my polar opposite in this way. Perhaps this is why I was attracted to him in the first place, because God saw that my inclination toward desire for structure and predictability needed to be balanced.

Growing up, I had the sense of predictability and structure, which I craved. Though the day in day out routine tended to bore me on occasion, it more often brought me comfort. My parents had clearly articulated expectations, rules and guidelines. We went to church every Sunday and I was involved in youth group as I became older. I am thankful for the background in faith, which helped build a foundation of knowledge, growing still today. I knew what to expect and what was expected of me. I had grounding and a sense of safety, an understanding of commitment and fortitude. Because my life was predictable I assumed the whole of my life would be as well. I was going to do all the things right I had observed others doing right, and was going to avoid making poor choices which would lead me to a broken marriage, kids that are unruly and a job I clock in hours at miserably so. I was good at seeing the pitfalls others had experienced and avoiding them – or so I thought.

It’s not surprising that at 23, soon after our marriage began, life started to unravel. The comfort I craved in predictability was not present. I chose a profession that was stable, with predictable hours and weekends off. My husband chose one with irregular hours and an irregular schedule, which often stretched into the late evenings and weekends. This did not innately provide regular time for us to connect. We created unhealthy patterns related to communication, and were both very self-centered in our approach to life together. This drove us apart at a time in our marriage when we should have been building healthy patterns and a strong foundation. We were floundering. Because of my insecurity in the unknown, the unpredictable nature of our relationship and my inability to control my husband and his actions toward me, my need to control began to creep in. My husband grew distant and apathetic. The more he fought against me, the more I tried to reign him in. I spoon fed him every bit of what I needed – to the extent that he would patronize me, do the bare minimum to keep me “happy” momentarily until the next thing came up and the cycle continued. My need to control grew out of my fear that I would not have the life I had planned. I wanted God to work in my life, but I wanted him to work things out the way I wanted them to go.

Added to the cycle of control and apathy, my husband and I both have a strong sense of independence. We both tried to do it all ourselves –  whatever that was, without seeking much if any wise counsel. Our independence grew into isolation. I, being the planner, thought I could plan my way out of the mess we had created single handedly. If I just figured out what steps 1, 2 and 3 were, and my husband went along with my plan, we would be fixed. I did not need anyone else to teach me the way to go, I would get myself (and my husband) out of this mess. He on the other hand was seemingly fine going about his day-to-day doing what he wanted, when he wanted.

On the rare occasion I shared the truth of our lives and the poor state of our marriage, the advice I received though well intentioned, was from others who had not travelled a similar path and who had not lived much more life than me. It offered little perspective. I was accustomed to going to God with my weakness, but avoided sharing my struggles with his body of believers. I knew that God knew everything about me, so there was no use in lying to Him about anything, but was afraid if I shared with others they would blame me. And my biggest fear, that they would be right in thinking I was the cause of my husbands distance.

As this unhealthy pattern continued, I had no idea that my husband’s coping mechanism relied on numbing his discomfort. The more discomfort he felt regarding life, including my efforts to control him and his choices, the deeper he went into addiction— though it would be several years before either of us realized addiction was a part of our lives. I remember sitting at lunch with my co-workers after a major argument with my husband the night before – as they chatted about their pets and what they had cooked for dinner the night before thinking, they have no idea regarding the reality of my life. What would they say if they knew? What would they think about me? About him if they knew the truth? The reality was, my husband and I were always either fighting, or he was ignoring me. He was staying out drinking, or not coming home at all. When he was home, I was miserable toward him, and he ignored me. I nagged and cajoled to no avail. How did we get to this place? How could we get out of this pattern? How could this be fixed? The truth is, we got there slowly, and we couldn’t get out of the mess we had made. The only one who has the power to fix the mess we created is Christ.

While I had maintained a steady relationship with Christ through most of my life, I wasn’t willing to give up control. I was desperate, but wasn’t willing to trade what I knew, for the unknown even if it could have been better – much better. Fear and control wanted to hold onto what I knew. What if God decided to fix this? But what if He didn’t? What if – what God had for me was worse than my current reality? This was a bold lie I believed for far too long before learning more about His nature and what He is really all about. Because I had nowhere else to go, I began to seek. I was anxious, weak, tired, broken, and confused. I slowly began to surrender. I began reading my bible regularly and searching God’s word for truth. The word and the Spirit worked together to replace the mountains of lies I had accumulated for mountains of truth.

I can cast all my anxiety on him because he cares for me1 Peter 5:7.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously. Joshua 1:5

My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

People who know their God will display strength. Daniel 11:32

Where the spirit of the lord is, there is freedom. 1 Corinthians 3:17

If God is for us, who can be against us. Romans 8:31

God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. 1 Corinthians 14:33

In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world. John 16:33

I meditated on his word. I sought Christ in my life as I never had before. During the most unpredictable time in my life, He brought me peace. I saturated myself in His Word, on His promises and in prayer. He began to put people in my life that had been where I was. I found a Christ centered counselor who had experience in addiction and mature Christians to serve as a sounding board for me. He began to build community for me. We are intended to be each a part of the body of Christ, not lone soldiers out there fighting a battle alone, in vein. I began to give up control and realize that my sense of control was a fallacy. Christ’s control (guidance and direction) over our lives is enduring. I began to intentionally seek community in Christ followers and build relationships with mature believers in Christ.

While all this was going on, my husband remained in his addiction, and it became worse than it had ever been. I had to learn how to stand for God’s truth over the noise of the world’s. How to make hard choices – telling my husband our marriage was not healthy, and was not functioning as God intended and that he needed to leave.  I did not and could not have known which direction my husband would choose to go – toward Him, or away from Him and from us.

For a while, my husband chose to run, to fall, and I had to learn that it was not my responsibility to save him. That was in God’s hands, and in a choice that my husband (like all of us) has. The changes I could affect were in me, through Christ. I had to get to a place where I was confident that I responded to my husband in a way that honored God and in a place where I could sift the truth from the lies. God gave me the wisdom to be able to recognize them clearly.

My husband decided to surrender some of his independence and pride, and take his first real step in seeking help; his first step in admitting his brokenness and addiction and God began rebuilding. He began to form a firm foundation. But my husband was not ready to give up the battle with self and pride. As he acclimated to his new life, I did not know that he was still holding onto his addiction. His patterns at home had changed significantly, but there was something that was still off. After a year into his road to recovery he confessed to me that he had been holding onto a piece of his addiction, and had been lying to me about it for almost a year. That whole year I had been patient, continuing to seek Christ and apply his truth to my life. I knew that I could not continue through another unhealthy pattern in our marriage. I did not know what God’s plan was, but I knew that whatever it was – it was good. And I stepped back.

I initiated a separation, knowing how severely what little trust had started to rebuild was in shambles. We were separated for 2 ½ months. 2 ½ months of not knowing what would become of our marriage, but knowing that God is good all the time. You see – we make mistakes, big ones, and a lot of poor choices. But God had been teaching me. He can make beauty of our messes. He can restore the years the locust hath eaten. Joel 2:25. I believed that He could, and He would.

I didn’t know what my husband would choose….Christ, or not (Christ), and all that comes with that. I knew that one day I would have to answer for myself, and my husband would have to do the same, and completely released control to the one who saves. And save he did.

I am not sure why God chose to speak to my husband in such a clear way and call him back home during our separation or why my husband chose to listen to that calling, but I am so glad he did. There are not words (in the English language anyway) to describe how grateful I am for what God has done in my heart and in my husband’s.  It is truly amazing what an awesome God we serve. He is a very real God who is alive in us, and who loves us in spite of ourselves. In spite of our running and control and selfishness and all the things we hold onto. He loves us, has forgiven us, and seeks after us. 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” I believe this verse should be followed by a few exclamation points! Even better, the Amplified version which I love because of the elaboration, so descriptive in articulating what we have both experienced first hand: 2 Corinthians 5:17 AMP “Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].” Amen!

So here we are. Not a year into our new life together, and married for 13 years. I thought it would take years to rebuild. I’ve learned that the walls we build, brick-by-painstaking brick, God can smash down in an instant. I love the visual that creates. In less than a year since the lowest point in our lives thus far, I have experienced forgiveness, hope, joy that is not from man. Christ has given me a heart for others, and perspective regarding our short time here on earth.  He has taught me that my planning nature is not a pitfall, but something He has created in me intended to glorify Him. My husband’s sense of adventure balances my need for predictability and pulls me out of my comfort zone and into the arms of Christ. Our marriage is a beautiful dance as Christ intended it, with Him at the center. The process, this life, was never comfortable- in fact painful. Those moments when I was weakest He stepped in. I learned He can use me even in the midst of my imperfection. Look at Abraham! Gideon! Duh! Right?! He has taught me the importance of community and forming relationships with others who have walked some of the same paths and are through them. They are the body of Christ. All parts of the same body, designed to work best as they were designed, but together. I look forward to the many adventures ahead; both the mountain top experiences and the valleys which draw me into sweet communion with Him.

The word thankful does not do justice for the gratitude I feel for the work He has done in my life and in the life of my husband. We have an AWESOME, loving God. He desires you dear brother and sister and wants you to experience abundance and fullness of life in Him. 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. 2 Corinthians 12:9. Rest on His word, and seek Him. Surrender and He will do miraculous things in your life and give you not just goodness, but abundance. John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

ABUNDANTLY.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or imagine. Ephesians 3:20.

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:19.

tes•ti•mo•ny: Kevin’s Story

Lifeonthewagon has turned 3 years old! In celebration, I decided to freshen the look of lifeonthewagon.com (when you have a chance, look around and see what’s new), but more importantly, I decided to do a series called: testimony. I asked several friends to share their stories. I am praying you will be inspired by their courage to share. I will be posting their testimonies over the next few days, so be on the lookout for each one. You will not want to miss the blessing of hearing their stories! To God Be The Glory!

The first testimony comes from Kevin, a graduate of the same ministry program my husband attended. You can leave comments on this post for Kevin if you feel led. I am thankful for his honesty and willingness to share….

Kevin’s Story 

I am honored to share with you my testimony and story of how God has saved me and restored my family. I am a native of Boone, born and raised by hard working parents.

 My battle with addiction began in my teenage years, though I did not see the signs early on. A verse comes immediately to mind in John 10:10, “The thief comes not but to steal, kill, and destroy.” It all started with alcohol, but quickly moved on to methamphetamine abuse shortly after high school.  My father owned several tractor trailers, so the natural progression was to follow in his footsteps and become a driver as well. Being a long haul truck driver for many years really enabled me to be someone else while on the road. Those years took a huge toll on my wife and children. The physical and mental abuse that I bestowed on them was completely out of control.  I would frequently have thoughts of suicide, becoming so fed up with the direction my life was heading, and I blamed everyone except myself.

I attended my first 28 day secular rehab program in 2001; and sobriety lasted for a short time before returning to the hog pen, as I call it, again. During those years of sobriety, Tracie and I built a new home; and we were blessed with a third daughter. Of course, these blessings came with their own set of stressors which led me back to drugs again, because I didn’t possess the tools I needed to deal with the problems that arise every day. 

In 2010, I attended Hebron Colony Ministry for the first time. Life returned to normal again for a short time, but I decided that my family needed more money to live; and I found myself missing the road. The opportunity presented itself to buy another tractor trailer and I jumped at it feeling this was the right move for our family.  All along I believed this was Satan’s plan to pull me and our family back into his grip, like the thief he presented himself again. 

Things went fine in the beginning of my newest venture, but then I became tired from the high expectations and long hours that are required to be successful in the logistics business.  I began using drugs again to enable my body to stay awake and deliver the loads in a timely manner.  I justified my drug use by comparing myself to King David, telling myself I was making money for my family. Brothers and sisters, was I wrong!  Over a short six month period, I was deeper in that hog pen than I had ever been.  Our home that we had worked so hard to build ten years earlier was foreclosed on, my wife and children left me and moved to a small apartment while I was left living in my car.  One day, driving into Boone, God saw His opportunity and took it. He had brought me to my lowest point in order to save me from myself.  I cried, begging God to help me and fix the mess I had made of the life He had given me.  I knew it was time to go back to the Mountain of Miracles, Hebron.

I made my way to RD Hodges’ office, a man who now I am proud to call my friend and brother in Christ. I was ready for a lasting change in my life and the staff welcomed me with open arms. They had prayed that I would find my way back and those prayers did not go unheard.  Though my wife had left me and was so fearful of me that she had a restraining order in place, she agreed to be my sponsor and drove me to Hebron that Saturday morning.  She knew the man I could be and longed to have that godly man back in their lives. The last portion of John 10:10 “I have come that you may have life abundantly” rings true and I have not looked back. I graduated on August 18, 2012, and then God blessed me again, allowing me to extend for an additional 12 weeks and then 6 more months as volunteer staff assisting Gene Dooley in the kitchen. The pastors laughed, telling me I was the first student to actually request to be assigned in the kitchen and I was blessed to have godly men like Gene in my life.    

Our lives are now full of happiness and joy.  My wife and I have a closer relationship than ever before, and although two of our daughters now have homes of their own, we have an exceptional relationship with each other.  Our youngest daughter Maggie is now 9; and she trusts me and my decisions. I still go to Hebron every Saturday where I enjoy helping the ladies in the office and meeting the new men.  I also enjoy doing the sound for each Saturday graduation service.  Maggie goes with me and enjoys the services as much as I do. 

I have said all this to say that when I truly surrendered everything in my life to God, He gave me an abundant life right here on earth and the tools I need to maintain this life, being in His Word. God gave my family back to me, a nice home to live in, a great job that I like and a heart to help other men who are just like me.  I praise God for the life he has given me because without Him my life means nothing. God can take a mountain of mess and turn it into a mountain of miracles like me.

Yours truly,

Kevin 

Graduate 8/18/12

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Phil. 4:13

 

My husbands testimony

One of the most sacred things that Christians have is their testimony. We must protect it at all costs. No one can shut it down with their own philosophies. It isn’t a bunch of words you are talking(preaching) about. It is the action of your life. It is your story.  It is the moment when Christ began a good work in you. It is ongoing, it is always changing as seasons of our lives transition from easy “normal” days to the most difficult days we have ever known. Recently, my husband was asked to give his testimony in the newsletter that his ministry sends out. Now that it was in print I thought it was the perfect opportunity to share it on this blog.

On Thanksgiving of 2008 while attending the Hebron program I received an index card that had a simple quote stating: “An extraordinary plan for your life will mean an extraordinary trial to prepare you.” They also referenced James 1:12. It is not signed and I’m not really sure who wrote it, but I have held on to this card for many years. It permanently resides on the front of my refrigerator. James 1:12 (NIV) says: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” This verse (and quote) that we reference daily didn’t have much meaning early on in my new walk with Christ. Later though, it would prove as a daily reminder of God’s grace and mercy upon me and my family all the while giving direct instruction for our new lives in Christ.

My trials with alcohol started at an early age. Fast forward through a “lively” college era and a prosperous professional career and I arrived at 2008 where alcohol had become the center of my life. In 2008 I was coming off some of the most lucrative professional years of my life. I was married to the most beautiful Godly woman and we were expecting our first child. Life was good…Right? Well, despite all of God’s numerous blessings I found myself going into in a very dark place until my entire life became unmanageable due to alcohol. It was nothing short of a miracle that I learned about Hebron Colony Ministries and I began a journey that was no less miraculous.

I have my family to thank for paving a firm foundation in my life. I grew up with positive Christian influences in my life. When I embarked on attending Hebron Colony in 2008, it came with loving support from not only my expecting wife, but also my immediate and extended family. I looked forward to seeing God’s plan for my life unfold like many powerful testimonies I had heard from men who had taken the same journey through the Hebron program. The feelings of anxiety I had when I first arrived at Hebron Colony were quickly replaced with feelings of love and security that I had not experienced in long time. There are still no words to put it into proper perspective.

It was not long after arriving at Hebron Colony that I learned about the power of prayer and what a “relationship” with Christ really looked like. God used these men, the staff and ultimately His word to draw me back to Himself where I eagerly recommitted myself to Him for His purpose during my time at Hebron. While in the 10 week program my wife wrote me a letter. In that letter she spoke to me about what our life might look like given our new life. What I realized is that she was sharing this with me as a hope and a prayer. It was how she envisioned herself standing up and giving a testimony at Hebron for what we would have been through and how the Lord brought us through.

This is an excerpt from her letter:

“This is my husband Kirk and we have now been married for almost 5 years and we’re blessed with two beautiful children. Life wasn’t always so grand though. Our second year of marriage when I was pregnant with our first child his drinking became a severe problem and wreaked havoc on his health, our marriage and our families. There were many sad nights and days that seemed to never end. I cried out to the Lord alone in my room to heal him and protect me. I felt like the hand of God had left our marriage and was in a complete state of despair all the while Kirk slipped deeper into an alcoholic coma – there is no other was to describe it. Finally the Lord brought Hebron Colony Ministries into our lives and not a moment too soon. I was 4 months pregnant and 70 days seemed like a long time but the darker days could be coming to an end. When Kirk came home right before the birth of our baby he was a completely changed man. The Lord had restored peace in his heart, and a commitment to stay clean and sober not by his own strength but by the strength God gives us when we call out to him for help. I am so grateful that he was here for the birth of our first child and could believe that he would be the father he had always wanted to be. Since that time in our own lives the Lord has continued to help us through as a family and we are stronger than we could ever hope for on our own. To this day Kirk has never had a desire to drink again and I have continually supported this by not letting it be a part of my life. So here we are 5 years later and I am so in love with my husband, my children and most importantly my Savior Jesus Christ. He saves us from ourselves and He rescued my husband from himself and gave him back to me as a new man, changed forever by the grace of God.”

This letter had a profound effect on me. I keep it to remind myself of where we are now, how far we have come, and all that God has redeemed in our lives.

I returned once more to Hebron in 2010 broken beyond measure having turned away from God’s plan and will for my life and not understanding why. By God’s grace I was allowed to return and experienced radical transformation. By this time I was on the verge of losing everything. My wife, my child, my family, my friends, my job. What I came to realize this time is that I had only surrendered 99% of my troubles, burdens and self at the foot of the cross. It was out beside the Hebron Chapel that I fell to my knees. I said a simple prayer asking God to reveal to me “the known and unknown” that was deep seeded in my heart. Instantaneously, God revealed to me what it was that was fueling my drunkenness and pain: feelings of abandonment, resentment, shame, guilt, etc… It was that remaining 1% that I was finally able to turn over to Him. When I came to I saw one of my Hebron brothers passing by and for a moment I looked at that man with eyes of Christ. He allowed me to experience for a moment the outpouring of love Christ has for us. I believe God showed this to me for a reason and placed a calling on my life to serve Him. This was April of 2010 and I was a new creation saved by God’s grace.

In April of 2015 it will be five years since that calling.
We shall always remain amazed at His love for us and how He graciously answered that single prayer and hope that my wife wrote so many years ago. My wife and I now have a beautiful 5 year old daughter and a one year old son. God continues to provide for our family and we thank Him each day for allowing us to serve Him in the very ministry that provided an opportunity to change our lives forever. We thank God for our “extraordinary” lives and even the trials we’ve endured not our own strength but His alone.
In His Service,

Kirk M. Hamilton, Jr. Graduate 2010
Administrative Staff, Hebron Colony Ministries

Hamilton Family Final (46)

Why we need transparency

I am sure there are plenty of friends and family that wonder why I chose such a public venue to tell our story piece by piece. It’s a good question! Why be so public about it?? I think the answer is pretty simple: Because it’s real. It’s called being authentic. Can you be authentic quietly? Yes. But I don’t think that helps anyone. Part of the reason we are given challenges is to give people hope that they can overcome it, too. No one wants to go through the journey of life alone. Especially not to suffer through the many realities of life alone. I believe my mothers generation and the generation before that frowned on airy dirty laundry. But I don’t think we can call it dirty laundry anymore. I think we should call what it is: part of the human experience. I tried supression for a long time and all that happened was resentful build up. Then it started to pour out of me in unhealthy ways like getting raging mad at the little stuff or saying hurtful things. We become angry people. My husband and I were talking about angry people the other day. You know, the ones who always have something negative to say or like to put people down. They aren’t fun to be around. But what you realize about people like this is that there is a reason for their negativity. Something is happening at home and they have no outlet for expressing what they feel. It’s a lonely place to be. When recovering from addiction you NEED other people, you NEED an outlet to express how you feel, and you NEED honesty.

One of the most difficult parts about the road to recovery is regaining the trust that was lost. There is no road map on how to do this because each person in your life has to be handled differently. Please know that everyone will NOT agree with everything you do when making amends, but don’t give up trying to make amends with them if it’s not working. Time is your greatest asset. The more time you have to prove you’re recovered the easier this amends process will be. You will have a foundation. Reconciliation takes time. Sometimes the addicts or the family want immediate resolve. For the addict, their first focus for the first year should be on themselves. It sounds really narcissistic to say and hard to swallow since the addiction has already claimed so much selfishness, but it’s a fact. Every day of the first year is a battle. But if they are transparent with others about what they are going through, what they are fighting for then understanding and time will (hopefully) be given. When an addict starts to claim this new life, recognize the disaster they made of the old one, then you will know that they are making great progress. Let them come to terms with their past. I suggest writing letters or if they are in a recovery program, sometimes a family week is offered. Go. You might be angry with them, but this is the opportunity to unload and leave it behind. They will need to deal with what is unloaded but this way it is out there and dealt with in time. All family and friends really want is acknowledgement of the chaos and hurt. The addict can’t fix it at that moment. But they can hear it, process it, and decide how they want to handle the reconciliation. BUT it needs to be reconciled at some point. This is all part of the transparency process. Acknowledgement, reconciliation, honesty…these are words that need to part of the recovery process as a whole group.

Now that my husband and I have gone down the road a bit in this recovery, we are even more convinced on the importance of being honest and open about what we have been through. I know that we won’t get support from everyone and that’s ok. We aren’t doing it FOR everyone. We are doing it for those that really need to hear it. That want to know how to make their story turn out differently. For those that think there is more to life than painting this pretty picture of their lives. Our lives are being painted right now and I would prefer mine to be painted in a way that lines up with the actual photo. You see, the picture I inserted below…I love this photo. My husband is saying something that is really making me laugh. It’s a beautiful day and my daughter is behaving, somewhat, and it’s a perfect moment. What you don’t see is the battle we went through in the last 3 years to have such a beautiful, authentic moment. But we fought hard for that photo. I hope we have many more moments like this in our future and by God’s grace we will. A picture only tells 10% of the story and you have decide how to get real about the remaining 90%.

Hamilton Family Final (23)

In perspective, we are all the same

dads camera 122
I had a friend send me a message on Facebook letting me know that she liked the blog because it gave it her perspective on addiction. That is definitely something I had intended to do and glad that it is coming through. What I have realized through research and real life experience is that people still don’t know a lot about addiction and there is great divide between what is known, the stereotypes and the perceptions that people have toward addicts. There is definitely a sense of superiority between those that don’t have any issues with addiction and those that do. It’s an actual sense of strength versus weakness. I would hope that through some of what I write here, people who do not suffer from addiction would at least feel a deeper sense of empathy for those that do. Because we all have our hang ups. We all have things that we are addicted to, that we use to escape. It’s just that some things are more harmful to ourselves and to others. Unfortunately addiction doesn’t really get noticed until it is at the “affecting other people” stage. When the money starts to dry up or work suffers or jail/car accidents happen. Those are the moments when we wake up and think “ok, there may be a problem here.” But like I said in a previous post, the threshold has been passed at this point. If life is going well, if work is good, you can buy the house, the new car and no one gets hurt…then whats the problem?

I have seen this scenario play out. The result is always the same. Somewhere, at some point, you do not control the drug. It controls you. It’s like a light switch that goes off and you are hooked. Just one extra pill a day and then it becomes two. Just one drink at brunch, one at lunch, one mid afternoon, two after work, two at dinner, and then 3 before bed. You wake up the next morning with hangover and repeat the cycle the next day but this time you tell yourself you will at least wait until after work. So you do wait until after work but you have 3 then, then 2 at dinner, then 4 before bed. You wake up the next morning with a hangover and vow you won’t drink that day. And you take the day off. Good for you. You can go a whole a day! Then the next day comes and it is back to it again because you proved to yourself that you can go a whole day and be just fine. Here’s where I have to add in some “perspective”. One day, Two days, and even 3 days proves nothing to yourself. You have just fed yourself the LIE. It is a false sense of security. Alcoholics, Drug Addicts, Shopaholics…they ALL repeat this cycle. We don’t want to have a problem. We are all the same in this way.

Here are some statistics about alcohol that I found to be pretty shocking:

•Alcohol is the number one drug problem in America.

•People with a higher education are more likely to drink.

•Higher income people are more likely to drink.

•Americans spend $197 million each day on alcohol.

•There are more than 12 million alcoholics in the U.S.

-one-third of all suicides involve the use of alcohol

•Three-fourths of all adults drink alcohol, and 6% of them are alcoholics.

•In the United States, a person is killed in an alcohol-related car accident every 30 minutes.

•A 2000 study found nearly 7 million persons age 12 to 20 were binge drinkers.

•Three-fourths of all high school seniors report being drunk at least once.

•Adolescents who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics than their counterparts who do not begin drinking until the age of 21.

One perspective that I would like to offer is on the family dynamic. Because alcohol is so socially acceptable, it is often difficult for an addict to hear that they drink too much especially from members of their family or loved ones who drink heavily. The first thing an addict will do is want to remind them about the 3 fingers pointing back at them. But do you blame them? Its like an overweight family member telling another family member that they need to lose weight. Or a smoker telling another smoker that they need to quit because the other smoker smokes a pack instead of a 3/4th of pack. It doesn’t balance out in an addicts mind. The addict becomes extremely defensive. This type of intervention is usually not effective because of the source. This goes back to what I was saying before about it being a family issue. In order for an addict to truly get well, the family has to get well also. All habits need to be examined by each family member. When I started to realize that I could have my own issues with alcohol it really helped my husband not feel so isolated. Like it was just HIM with a problem. Yes, I was angry for awhile about it but then I just thought to myself, “whats the point? What has alcohol, to date, given to ME as a person? The 100% truthful answer: nothing but pain and heartache.” When everyone in a family starts examine themselves then you have just increased the addicts odds for a full recovery. If that is truly what you are wanting to happen for them the work needs to start within each of you as well. Time to take some personal inventory on yourself and any hang ups you could also work on. The best time to do this is when the addict is getting the help they need. Let them know that you are looking at yourself too. It’s amazing what kind of boost this can give to them while recovering.

Just recently my husband and I watched the documentary on Bill W., the man who started AA. Something very poignant was said about him as a man. Something I thought ends this post nicely: (in reference to his seeking out other alcoholics to connect with)

“He had a real thirst for more, but will it ever be quenched? We are all meant to thirst so the question then is where do we aim what we thirst for?”

I think this says it all. I think God made us this way. We are all meant to thirst for Him and until we find Him, we will keep trying to quench it with everything else the world offers. In this way, we are all the same.

A Dwelling Place

I love to watch travel shows. I always seem to get sucked into the PBS Explorer channel and anything that Burt Wolf or Rick Steves are commentating. Our Honeymoon was spent in Italy and I had 4 lovely weeks there in college and so I happened to catch Burt Wolf doing a tour of Rome and its incredible architecture. One comment he made about the Baroque style architecture of St. Peters interested me. Something I missed along the way after going in college and AGAIN in 2006. The Baroque architecture was a counter response to the Protestant Reformation and stripping down of some of the existing churches. The Protestant churches were devoid of paintings, ritual and overall plain but humble. Baroque is over the top, bigger, ornate…rich.

“Where would God want to dwell?” is the question the Roman Catholic church was trying to invoke in people’s minds. Somewhere ornate with marble columns, gold leafed ceilings, high reaching domes, and amazing frescos OR the stripped down, plain walls of these Protestant Churches? And then it hit me. We do this! We work hard on making the outside look good that we forget about the heart. And so it is with addiction. The addict feels the need to cover up because they feel unimaginable shame and guilt by the chaos they have caused. They can’t imagine anyone wanting to forgive them. And most of the time, they have run out of people who are willing to help them. The shame and guilt they feel can be completely paralyzing. So much so that they don’t even want to ask for help because of all that they may have to expose. They are finally having to face all of the repercussions of their choices. Basically, they have to come face to face with who they really are…like we all do at some point in our lives. We realize we will never be good enough much like there is no church ornate enough for the Glory of God. It all falls short. The Roman Catholic Church was creating a visual ladder to heaven but the ladder has already been built. It is called the cross. And it leads us straight to God.

Addicts feel like they are so unworthy, but truthfully we are all addicted to something. It’s the human condition. We could be addicted to affirmation, to knowledge, to relationships, food, sports, physical achievements, exercise, work accomplishments, wealth and the process of accruing wealth, acceptance…the list goes on. If you are on the other side of a one-sided relationship with an addict then you need to know that you cannot feel superior to them. Because we don’t deserve God’s grace and forgiveness anymore than the worst person who has ever lived. IT IS ALL A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD. We have a tendency to feel self-important if we have self-control but there are plenty of things that we absolutely fail at. I know I fail at follow through. I get jealous. I don’t always think before I speak. I have lied to get what I wanted. I want acceptance more than I should. My closet is a nightmare. I am lazy when it comes to cooking. I use pregnancy as an excuse for not doing things when I am entirely capable. The list of flaws is endless. But I have been saved from myself. I now want to be better because I love God not because I know it will in any way affect whether I am able to get to heaven. So it doesn’t matter how you paint the outside. The inside is still corrupt, sinful…broken. But Jesus has washed the slate clean. When an addict realizes this for the first time they can actually experience complete freedom. When they accept Jesus as being who He said he was, accept that He died on the cross for them and that HE conquered death then the chain can be broken.

Freedom. It always comes at a price, but in this case we didn’t pay the debt. It was paid for us. No amount of money can buy it. No material goods can fill that void. For some people it seems too easy. They can’t accept that is all it takes. They feel this need to do more, to be more. But they can never DO enough because it was already done. It can blow your mind sometimes that this is all it takes because we are reward driven. Unfortunately, I find myself offering the reward driven option to my daughter way too often. “If you eat the green beans then you can have a popsicle”, “if you go to bed now then we can do something special tomorrow”, IF you do this _________________ (fill in blank) then you can have this _____________ (fill in with a reward). This is why the simplicity of the gospel can be so hard for people to accept. And this is why the addict feels they are unworthy to get well: “I have done too much damage, I have hurt too many people, I have caused too much chaos, I am too far gone to be saved”. Maybe you have driven people to their limit and the line is in the sand but God can handle whatever you think is too much. Trust me. If He can handle my stuff, and Lance Armstrong’s stuff, and Bernie Madoff’s stuff, and the worst criminals in the worlds stuff, then He can handle yours too. AND THAT IS THE HOPE that God brings us. SO it doesn’t matter how the church looks, or how the people inside look. All you need to worry about is the condition of YOUR heart and bring that to Him. I have heard people use the phrase “he had a heart transplant” to describe what it feels like when they have recovered from addiction and I agree with that. It’s when you get rid of the old, defective ,deceitful heart and you get a brand new one. Yeah, you are going to mess that one up too, but this time you have a loving Great Physician to patch it up, repair it, and make it worthy to be His dwelling place. 225954_1026248094394_6937_n

1 Corinthians 6:19
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.

Home

A friend of mine from high school sent me a sweet note of encouragement about the blog and told me I was amazing and that she had always known I was. I appreciated the words but I don’t feel amazing. I think I feel average at best. More importantly though it took me back to those days of high school and thinking about who I was then and who I am now. I started to reflect on how I got here and how long it took me to get back to the person I started out wanting to be. Not a particularly special or popular person but a person of deep faith.

I think about my daughter (and son on the way) and what they will be like when they are teenagers. It is an almost paralyzing thought because you want so much for them not to make the same mistakes you did. To stay on the straight path. We want that because we know how painful it is when you go off that path. How much those lessons can cost you and everyone around you. But then I have to stop myself and remind myself of one very important fact. You can’t control what they do or the choices they make, but you can lay a foundation so that when they stray far from the path they WILL be able to find their way HOME. Not our physical home, but the blessed spiritual home: back in the arms of a merciful Savior.

What I have been through has lead me right back to where I started but I am not the same person. The faith I have now is deeper and more real because I have experienced so much heartache and yet every time I have cried out for God to pull me out He has. Every time I prayed for some relief He would give it, every time I asked for some sign that He was there He gave it, every time I needed anything He gave it…EVERY time. It didn’t always come immediately or in a way that I had imagined but it was always perfect and beyond my scope of how things should be. With this deep faith though and the story that has become the testimony of my husband and myself comes big responsibilities like sharing your story. I remember meeting with our church counselor (who helped us out tremendously making huge life transitions with my husband being recovered, moving to our new hometown and starting over in our professional lives) and after hearing our story she quickly said, “I have a feeling God is preparing you both for something big”. I liked the sound of it and then thought eh…I can see that…but not right now. I just need to get a job and get us out from my parents home! Obviously, My focus really wasn’t on the big picture, it was moment to moment. My parents had a second home up here so we were living there until we had both feet on the ground. I am proud to say (with God’s grace and help) we went from zero in the bank and essentially being homeless to both finding work and moving to our own place in 8 months! It was an absolute miracle. I thank my parents for giving us the opportunity for a fresh start. I know they didn’t want to but they did it anyway. I will be forever grateful to them for that gift.

I will also be forever grateful to them for laying that firm foundation of faith in me. For encouraging me, for talking about faith and showing me how to live a life with faith, for being obedient and teaching myself and others my whole life about what a relationship with Jesus looks like. My mom especially has shown me that you may be led to do things out of your comfort zone like giving testimony. When I was growing up she was heavily involved in Christian Women’s Club. Countless times she had to be obedient and talk in front of people which is not something she loved to do, but she knew her story would be relevant to someone there. And it was. People have come up to me and told me about how my mother was such an example to them and how much hearing her story has meant. How proud I was when I heard that! If anything, it made me think about the legacy you leave behind. That is really all you can give your children that will last. The legacy of being someone who is obedient and does what they are called to do.

Mom, you made your imprint on my life and now as a parent myself I am so thankful that you showed me how to get back home and I hope I can do the same for my own children.

Hamilton Family Final (60)