Category: recovery

Tuesday night is our Celebrate Recovery meeting. We start with an hour of singing and either a lesson or someone sharing their story. The lessons are the 8 CR principles which correspond to the 12 steps. It’s usually my time with the guys. I try to have some short videos playing before the meeting starts. It gets them in the chapel sooner because often the videos are humorous and we all need to laugh.

This week I pulled out the song we used as our theme song of the weekend when we had our annual camp retreat. The song, appropriately titled: I AM FREE.

The men, already on their feet, were into it from the beginning. Singing out, jumping up on the line “I Am Free to Dance” and then Felix happened.

 


There’s an instrumental bridge in the chorus. A rather lengthy one. So many men began hollering out what they’re free from I could barely distinguish their words.

“CRACK” “ALCOHOL” “SISTER-GIRL” “ANGER” “FEAR”

Their voices on top of each other. Not done yet, Felix, in sports-huddle style began hollering into the crowd. Again, I couldn’t make out the words as he turned to face the room, arm piercing the air as if he’s leading an army. He calls out, the men respond. Back and forth this goes until we all begin singing the chorus I Am Free.

I was taught you sing one of those “just above a whisper” songs to lead into prayer. Not tonight. Not tonight. This is in your face recovery and time for some big loud prayers. O.k. the prayer wasn’t that loud but the energy surrounding it was huge.

After the meeting was over Felix came and apologized. Apology? For what?  This is church, your church. This is an expression of worship and praise. Not an imitation but pure.

Just what God wants from us. The pure, honest expression of praise. It doesn’t have to be loud, sung or spoken aloud. Just true. And offered to Him because He is.

faith recovery Salvation Army

faith grace recovery Salvation Army


You’ve heard deaths from drug overdose are rising at alarming rates. These are our statistics. This is our county.

The sad reality of recovery is that even those who’ve experienced a year or more of sobriety relapse and sometimes, it’s fatal.

*Scott finished the program and left on his own. He came back earlier this year when a good friend of his, another graduate, was beaten to death in an alley known for drug deals and use.

*Roger came back for his third time. He had done well. He’d kept the same job over a year. But he’d left the principles of recovery and, as so many do, was doing it on his own. Then he and his girlfriend overdosed. He was resuscitated with Narcon but she couldn’t be revived.

Last year we noticed the rise in fatal overdoses from men who’d been in our program. The recovery community is close and word spreads quickly about relapses and ODs.

As the year came to a close we printed photos of those lost to addiction and put it on the Christmas tree in our chapel. It was a time of deep sorrow looking at the faces of men, some barely 30, lost to what many don’t see as a disease.

Earlier this year we attended Mike’s funeral. He was several years in recovery. Mike counted being part of his grandchildren’s life as one of his greatest gifts of recovery. He was in his late 50’s at the time of his death, a death contributed to from what is commonly referred to as wet brain. It’s a type of dementia caused by long-term alcoholism. The medical name is Wernicke-Korsakoff.

Whether it’s long-term or immediate death from substance abuse, friends, and family are left to mourn their loss.

Pat is 3rd from left

Alex in back

There’s a David Crowder song that makes me think of Pat. And it’s hard to get Alex’s dimples out of my mind. Some days I forget we won’t see them again. But the sting of death returns and my smile turns sour. Too young. Too soon. Too sad.

It’s tempting to think about the maybes and what ifs. If we’d kept him on restriction or maybe we missed something.

We could never continue in this ministry if we allowed those false thoughts to take space in our minds. Each person is responsible for their own recovery.

Good love has boundaries. But it’s grace is without limits. Perfect love, God’s love,

Perfect love, God’s love, is beyond our understanding. It’s a love that never fails.

“I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8:38-30 the Message

grace hope recovery

Even the deaf use words.

John signs as he uses his voice to speak to me because he really does talk with his hands. While I need the spoken word to understand, his comfort is forming the words with his fingers.

I thought John had been using sign language most of his life. At 18 months old he was sick with a fever that spiked so high it made him deaf. The only life he remembers is one of not being like the rest of his family. Not hearing when everyone around him did. His mother wouldn’t allow him to learn sign language until he could speak with his voice. He learned to form the words with his mouth by watching the lips of others.

John attended hearing schools. Somehow he kept up with his classmates but he never felt like he fit. It wasn’t until college that he found himself in his world, a world that would be silent to us but came to life for him. For the first time, he found his tribe, his place. He belonged.

Already his story is one of triumph and victory, overcoming limitations and finding new talents but it takes another turn. The college keg parties turned into alcoholism for John. Friends, family, the normies who can stop drinking at will don’t understand why he can’t. John doesn’t understand why he can’t. A marriage becomes a divorce as his family backs away. He is walking the streets of Fort Lauderdale with an art portfolio in his hand. His drawings are his only possessions now. The evidence that there is some good in him.

In a moment of clarity, he realizes he needs help but he finds place after place telling him they can’t help him because he’s deaf, until he comes to our door. We don’t have anyone who knows sign language. We have no interpreters. We only have space for him. It won’t be easy. But John has been in hard places before. Maybe it was his schooling in a hearing world that gave him the determination or maybe he was just sick and tired of being sick and tired but he made it. He made it through the group meetings where he strained to read the lips of the counselor, sometimes getting it, sometimes not. He sat on the second row in the chapel to get the best view of the speaker’s mouth shaping the words but too many words got lost.

William Booth as drawn by John T.

I’ve tried to imagine what it was like for John but I can’t come close to knowing the silence that surrounded him. Even now I hear the whirring of an air conditioner in the office and faint voices in the outer room. I have the luxury of turning down or up the volume.

John was recognized as Man of the Year for 2013, an honor that took him by complete surprise. He stays active in the recovery community and comes back for our Alumni events.

He happened to be in front of me in line at a convenience store one day. He turned around and said, “You saved my life.” I knew what he meant. It wasn’t me. It was God’s redeeming power working through all of us that gave him renewed purpose. What a mighty God we serve.

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When we were kids there was the boogie man. I wasn’t sure what he looked like but I knew it was scary. Left to my imagination, he would have been shrouded in dark shadows, hunched over with a wicked smile. Maybe a little like Ebenezer Scrooge.

For years I thought addicts looked like dead-eyed men, swaying on their feet in front of convenience stores asking for change. Their clothes were crusted with dirt as they hung from their bony frame. Their skin was weathered from the sun and their faces hadn’t seen a razor in months. Aren’t these the faces of alcoholism? Of crack?

What does an addict look like?

President Trump has declared an opiate crisis in our country. The word is out. It’s broadcast on the evening news and Netflix documentaries. We have a drug problem. Addicts are being made every day and they look a lot like me and you.

There are more people addicted to prescription medication than any other drug. Kids are more likely to get their drugs from their parent’s medicine cabinet or from the doctor to help ease the pain of a sports injury. Xanax will ease the stress and Vicodin will soothe the pain.

Let’s not forget our love affair with alcohol. The morning news anchors laugh about one more glass of wine. Wednesday is called Wine-day and the commercials show all the fun we’ll have with a Bud Lite in hand.

The problem isn’t necessarily the substances, the problem is us. We decide how best to medicate us. If one is good, two will be better. There’s a saying for alcoholics: one drink is too many and 1000 is never enough.

Steve, JoJo, Thomas, Anthony, Terrance, David, Matt, …none of these men look like addicts. They look like my son or your brother. You wouldn’t cross to the other side of the street if you saw them walking your way. Today. Today they are healthy, clean, employed and productive. They are still addicts.

We don’t look like sinners. We keep our secrets and hide our hurts, habits, and hang-ups. I know. I’m well practiced at this too.

When men enter our rehabilitation program, we start with the basics. We start with the outside. Collared shirts have to be tucked in and belts worn. Their hair can be no longer than their collar, and no beards. It’s about change. If you aren’t willing to change the small things how can you expect to change the big things?

Their outward appearance is a starting place. What we hope will change most in inside.

They don’t look like addicts but they can look like redemption.

All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God that yesterday’s gone
All my sins are forgiven
I’ve been washed by the blood

All My Hope, Crowder

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Randall comes from a line of artists. His grandfather designed Dugan glass, his oldest son teaches art at a university in the midwest and he is a floral designer. He also curates our silent art auctions, decorates our facility for every holiday including 7 Christmas trees, the Advent table and every holiday in between. Randall is my right hand. He’s also an alcoholic.

It wasn’t Randall’s decision to walk through our doors over ten years ago. His younger son gave him an ultimatum: get help or I’m done.

He was in the program when we arrived. He quickly told me he was good at making floral arrangements and volunteered to help if needed. I was hesitant. I asked him to show me something first. He’s made every arrangement we have since then. It’s not a talent I have nor something I think about other than something on the dining room tables.

Quite simply, he’s amazing and our building wouldn’t look as good without him.

 

 

Randall culls through the donated bits and pieces and fashions beauty from others have cast aside. In the right hands, the old and dirty are given new life. In the hands of a loving Savior, we are given new life too.

More than that, Randall has become a grandfather and it makes me smile when he shows new photos of his grands. He is a welcome part of his son’s lives.

His redemption story is played out every day. I’ve never seen him in a bad mood. He didn’t complain when he had to ride the bus to work. He doesn’t bemoan not having a high paying job. His life has struggles but he doesn’t need alcohol to cope with them.

We are thankful for the family members who’ve made the hard choice to demand their loved ones get help. We know it may be the hardest things they’ve done. But that is love. Love wants more. Love wants the best. Redemption answers with grace.

 

faith recovery Salvation Army

Sean looked tired yesterday morning as he sat in his spot in the chapel. We are such creatures of habit. We sit in the same place while we are trying to build new habits into our lives. It was early. The chapel was almost empty. I walked over to give him a hug and ask if he was tired and he mouthed “bad day”.

There are some things that happen over and over and the repetition numbs you. Even good things. But not this. Not when one who has celebrated such success has a relapse. A few weeks ago he was recognized as the runner-up for Man of the Year. He shared, with such freedom, his story to encourage others. The one-year medallion was waiting to be picked up. There was so much hope. So much promise and future. And a slip. A slip we have prayed will not be a long fall.

And a slip. A slip we have prayed will not be a long fall.

I never want to feel numb to the sorrow I feel. How can we show grace if we become numb? How can we love if we don’t feel?

 

My mind swirls with questions. Do we celebrate too much? Is the crown of success too heavy to wear? We have these monthly awards to celebrate sobriety. We recognize a select few as having shown outstanding progress in all areas, not just sobriety. Recovery is more than not drinking or using.

Is it too much? I asked that aloud yesterday. A few nodded their heads with raised eyebrows as if to say…maybe, yes, maybe it’s too much. But Eric, oh Eric I love your honesty. Eric said, “For what? A year?” He’s been doing these things for a full recovery a year. It’s not too much Eric says.

And I don’t know. I do know, I must always remember we aren’t responsible for another’s recovery. For the success or failure. We merely stand with arms open saying here’s my gift. Take it.

Isn’t that what God is doing with us? All of us. Here it is…Here I am….take it. My gift, my grace, my mercy, my love…to you.

Overwhelm me with that love so I can share it.

And surround Sean with your unending grace.

faith grace recovery

Old ways won’t work anymore. New ways are taught and shown. Having fun in recovery is as important as any other aspect. Whether you’re recovering from addiction, alcoholism or the wrongs you can never get right, tt’s about living this life the rest of our life.

So we celebrate.

Every day is a celebration of God’s redemption. We are part of His story.

SaveSave

faith hope recovery

I saw his grizzled face, breadcrumbs around his dry mouth, as he offered a smile that looked genuinely happy to see me. I returned the smile that probably showed more concern than joy. He didn’t look well, not like the last time I saw him. He was much thinner, unkempt, but his eyes eager to be seen, to be welcomed ‘home’.

He’s not the only one I’ve seen worse for wear lately. Jay is still too thin after being back a month or so. Joe looked good but he’s just come from jail and detox so he’s had time for life to brighten his face again.

This is our work.

Whether they leave or stay, for this moment, they’ve been rescued.

There are few who speak of being delivered from their addiction. The kind of deliverance church folks talk about when they said God delivered them from smoking. They put the pack down and that was the end. They never had a desire for another cigarette.

Can’t say as I’ve heard that in our 13 years of working with folks in recovery. I believe it happens, but not often.

The way we’ve seen it, delivery comes one day at a time.

Sundays my husband is at the pulpit, I’ve planned the service and we worship with this unlikely group of seekers. I sit in our small chapel, large enough to hold our 100 men and an extra twenty or so. They come in wearing the clothes we’ve given them: all in ties, some in full suits. Their shirts are always tucked, their hair groomed, faces shaved…We start with the small changes. My husband tells them they look like a room full of doctors or lawyers and collectively, they know plenty of doctors and lawyers.

We sing old hymns that only a handful of them know scattering some newer songs they’ve taken more of a liking to. They raise their hands when we sing Amazing Grace and every week we sing Amazing Grace because it is and they are living trophies of that grace.

Those sitting up front will get called on to be ushers and collect the offering.

Another will read the selected scripture for the morning. It’s as if we have a front row seat to God’s redemption story watching these men labeled addict, alcoholic and thief be part of this time of worship. Yes, they’re required to attend and some will be pulling their ties off the minute they’re out the chapel doors. Some will not hear a word of God’s message. But this is not for us to decide. Ours is to be obedient to sharing his message of hope and every one of us in that room needs hope.

“It’s God’s job to judge. The Holy Spirit’s job to convict and my job to love.” – Billy Graham

grace hope recovery Salvation Army

Redemption was just a word to me before we became part of this community.

It was one-dimensional, it was theology, a belief but not one made of skin and bones. I suppose that’s a byproduct of growing up in the church and hearing things without seeing them. Or maybe they were in front of me but I needed someone to say, “Look – that’s redemption!”

 

When we have a time of sharing I hear our men speaking words of rescue and faith as they say things like:

“My addiction has taken me to multiple suicide attempts the past year. I knew I would be welcomed here.”

“I’m working on step 4, where I walked away in the past. It’s hard but God is faithful and leading me closer to him.”

“Twenty-eight years of jail, prison, detox, psych wards but I’ve gotten a foundation here and my faith and gratitude are growing.”

“I have 3 months clean, still a baby but I’m taking a chance on God and recovery.”

Their simple faith is rescuing me from cynicism and judgment. From not seeing past the sign the panhandler holds.

Deliverance is for everyone. They are delivering me from despair to hope.

Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave

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