Surrender

We Do, You Will Recover

Early morning dew covers the windows, a sure sign of high humidity outside. My heart is heavy with mourning the news of devastation from coastal Texas. Rockport and Port A are destroyed, while 85 percent of Houston is underwater.
Hurricane Harvey is one of America’s greatest natural disasters and probably the most horrific to ever hit Texas.

The images are heartbreaking. Like a moth to a flame, I’m drawn to the news, to friends’ reports, even to the detriment of my heart. There’s no survivor’s guilt; we’re too far away for that. But for the first time since I’ve lived in this Big Red state, I feel a sense of pride as I watch my fellow Texans reach out and down and over to lift a neighbor or a stranger.

One of the photos I saw last week on Facebook was the entrance to River Oaks, one of, if not, THE, most affluent neighborhoods in Houston. Water was at least halfway up the massive stone entry, proving that natural disasters, like addiction, have no respect for how much money, property or prestige a person holds.

That’s why the outstretched hands I see of National Guardsman, rescue workers, regular people, means so much to my aching heart. They are hands of hope, not really so different from the hands of recovery. In each case, we must surrender to a power greater than ourselves, as well as to the helplessness we feel in whatever our current situation.

I suppose the thousands–tens of thousands, in all likelihood–displaced by Massive Storm Harvey will similarly feel all the disaster-related feelings of early sobriety, like anger, grief and intense sadness. I am so very sorry they must go through the gut-wrenching pain that comes with substantial loss.

And yet, they go on. Somehow, they live day-by-day. Thank God for the faith that so many have. They’ll need each other and will no doubt lean on the kindness and generosity of strangers.

As with early recovery, each 24-hour period is made easier when we choose to not go it alone. Talking, sharing our feelings and fears with others who know exactly what is on our hearts and minds builds a healing bridge, a bond that can last for a long time.

I hope and pray that folks in South Texas–Port Lavaca, Port Aransas, Rockport, Lagrange, Corpus Christi, Galveston, and Houston–will feel the love that their fellow Texans are sending their way. I know that my Dallas-area family is stretching it’s collective reach with money and time and heartfelt love.

Brothers and sisters to the south, know that our minds see you as healing from this unfathomable tragedy. We’re here for you, no matter how long it takes. Let us know what you need and it’s yours. Consider us your recovery sponsors, through the ups and downs of this early recovery road.

May God bless you and keep you warm and soothed–and dry.

Juneteenth: Freedom From Bondage

Juneteenth: Freedom From Bondage

Today is Juneteenth, the day that commemorates and celebrates Union soldiers who landed in Galveston, Texas in 1865 and emancipated Texas slaves, two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery.

Can you imagine an African American slave learning that she was free from oppression, that his chains were forever broken, that they could leave the plantation?

For some of us, imagining comes fairly easily if we’re still shackled to a hurtful relationship or a harmful behavior. Far too many of us hide behind personas because we believe others want us that way. We make choices that are not really ours because we don’t know what it’s like to choose without fear of being shamed or denigrated in some way.

The Rev. Dr. Irie Session, a Christian Church, Disciples of Christ clergywoman and resident pastor for New Friends New Life, a Dallas non-profit that restores and empowers trafficked teen girls and sexually exploited women and their children, spoke at my church yesterday. More accurately, she preached a rousing sermon at Cathedral of Hope, United Church of Christ, about freedom and how the very air of freedom is often silent.

Rev. Irie focused on the Bible text of Acts 16 that describes a slave girl “who had a spirit that enabled her to tell the future (Verses 16-26).”

As the story goes, the unnamed slave girl made a lot of money for her masters. But her spirit would not and could not remain silent (You can read the passages for yourself.) As a result of her expressing her true self, spiritual circumstances were arranged to later unchain and release all the prisoners locked up with Paul and Silas, the two men with whom she traveled.

We read all about their freedom but not the slave girl’s. We don’t even know her name. In fact, we never read another word about her.

What keeps you silent?

I believe the slave girl represents anyone who struggles to name the things that keep them chained. While today is Juneteenth, this idea of finding freedom from bondage goes way beyond African Americans to include all people of color, sexual orientation, sexual identity, gender or religious affiliation.

Rev. Irie asked, “Where in your mind are you experiencing oppression?”

How am I holding myself back with sabotaging thoughts of doubt or inferiority?

Am I afraid to speak up for fear of rocking the boat?

Could I be withholding or shaving off bits of my truth so that someone else looks good or remains unsettled?

In this post, the first one in six months (but I’m baaaack now!), I’d like to issue a challenge for you:

Go figure out who you are.

Do whatever it takes.

Then be that person.

No matter what.

Find, as Rev. Irie said, a way out of “no way.”

If you don’t, if you choose to remain chained to whatever holds you back, you are living beneath your privilege, she says, because “human beings were meant for freedom.”

Let freedom reign.

Surrendering to Election 2016: Let’s Move On!

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Election 2016 is nearly in the books. Nervous anticipation hangs everywhere; the words, “I’ll be so glad when it’s over,” are exchanged again and again in coffee shops, at train stops and every other locale where two or more are gathered.

Throw in a stewed  mess of negative campaigning (what an understatement!) that stirs people into an emotional frenzy and I’m beginning to believe that our next president will need a divine intervention to repair the damage done to the collective American psyche.

My Australian friend Patricia says watching the American presidential campaign is like watching the best reality TV ever!

Too, too much!

I find the entire spectacle childish and sad. There’s a downside to living in a time when our culture is seemingly controlled by social media. Don’t get me wrong, I love the connectivity and potential for good that social media affords us, not to mention that I make my living working with social media platforms.

But for months, every sound bite and pictorial moment among the political candidates has become embedded in the global Twitter feed and therefore deemed newsworthy. My journalist’s heart weeps.

In Texas, we can choose to cast an early ballot so last Wednesday I approached the polling booth, not with excitement as I usually do, but with trepidation. I did not want to vote for either candidate. I felt a surge of resentment just as the polling judge announced, “We have a first-time voter!”

The young woman looked so eager and fresh-faced as she waved to the room.

“Bless her heart,” I thought to myself. What an awful, worn out election to be casting her first presidential vote.

Then I found myself wondering who is blessing the nation’s heart.

A Sunday surrender

At church yesterday, I got the reminder I needed of who is blessing us all. As dark as our nation’s time seems right now, God–insert your name for the Divine–always offers light. The beauty of humanhood is we get to choose to walk in the light and to send the shadows away beyond our hula hoop.

With light comes hope and who among us doesn’t want to carry that torch? I was also reminded during Sunday service at Cathedral of Hope, United Church of Christ, that choosing to bear the light of hope is carrying the mission of countless other masters of hope and peace who came before us. Certainly Jesus, but also the Buddha, Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. were saints in that they lived and walked in light and love.

We would do well to emulate them. And we do.

You are an everyday saint when you speak words of hope to another and each time you encourage inclusivity instead of division. You are an everyday saint each time to listen thoughtfully without judgment or derision. You are an everyday saint when you see the world with eyes of compassion and when you touch someone else with your peace.

The votes that we cast in this presidential election are crucial–I’m praying for a future filled with optimism and goodwill among those who win their chosen offices.

But we have a higher calling. May you be blessed with an abundance of hope, love and peace this week, and in your blessing, pay it forward.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile:maryhere

Celebrate Recovery Month 2016

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A friend of mine sent me a text yesterday saying she relapsed with addiction. She asked me to take her to a 12-step meeting–we’re going tonight so she can establish a new sobriety date.

I’m proud of her for reaching out. But why wouldn’t she? If she suffered with food allergies and ate chocolate cake even though chocolate and gluten cause an allergic reaction, would she tell me?

With every other health condition, when we “relapse,” we get the help we need, whether it’s medical, behavioral, spiritual. There is no shame, no blame, no judgment.

Addiction is different.

I’ve often said that if I relapse I don’t know if I could face my recovery support system–my friends, my sponsor, my meetings. Man, talk about internalized shame.

But if I practice what I preach–that shame and stigma should be eliminated from every facet of prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery from addiction–then I would hold my head high and say, yes, I did relapse into my disease. The chemicals in my brain rearranged my thinking and caused me to take an action I knew would be harmful.

If I practice what I preach, I would say, although I relapses, I’m here now. I’m grateful that I have X amount of time in recovery, in spite of this relapse. Yes, I have a new sober date but I’m ready to move on.

That’s likely what I’ll say to my friend tonight.

Every day is a miracle day, a day to celebrate recovery from addiction.

If you’re nice to people, do good things for others (including animals–definitely animals!), apologize when you’ve been an ass, treat yourself decently and remember to thank the God of your understanding for your recovery, then addiction stays in the back seat.

Recovery isn’t rocket science; it’s actually fairly simple. But my magnificent, magnifying mind can eff it up in a heartbeat.

When I start thinking about my needs, my plans, my desires, I’m screwed. Maybe not today. Maybe not even next week. I might be able to get away with grisly behavior for a few days, but not much more than that.

Did I run my needs, plans and desires by God? Did I pause when I was agitated or did I say the first asinine thing that came into my head? Who exactly has been in the front seat driving my MINI?

Lucky for me those errors in judgment that make me and those around me crazy have not sent me back to alcohol or other substances. I don’t know why I’ve been spared that hell on earth while others around me die every single damn day from addiction.

It could be me tomorrow. Or my beautiful love. Or my father. Or my friend.

But today, please God, let us be sober. Let us feel your power and your love, feel it surging through us like water surging at Niagara.

Then, let us turn to our brothers and sisters who struggle, to their families, and figure out a way to help them find peace. Show us how to reach out, how to open our hearts and our minds to help another who suffers.

Let us do what you would do if you were here. Let us love unconditionally as if our lives depended on it, because, in fact, they do.

Happy Recovery Month.

Champions of Change, Survivors of Storms

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In and around the Texas Gulf Coast town of Rockport, there are magnificent centuries-old oak trees that grow nearly horizontal to the ground.

We saw them recently, on a few days respite from life in suburban Dallas. I was astounded by these incredible examples of God’s enduring strength, these champions of change and survivors of storms

There’s a lesson here about learning to lean where I’ve previously stood flat-footed and braced against the storms of life.

You can learn to lean and not break

There are times when the winds of this world threaten to snap you into  two pieces. I really don’t think I’m the only one who experiences the destructive nature of howling winds that slash at my metaphorical windows. They screech at you until, in your anguish you just know that you’ll be ripped from your moorings. Life as you know it will be finished.

Remember: those bent oak trees are still beautiful in their bentness. And you, no matter how storm-battered, are still beautiful too.

The trick to withstanding the storms of life is learning to pause, assess and respond without reacting.

How to get onPAR (Pause, Assess, Respond)

It’s okay to take deliberate steps away from crushing news. Lord, I can see how people become surly and jaded. When I’m exposed to nonstop news, including the diatribe on social media, I tend to sink into quicksand of sarcasm and criticism.

At those times when I find myself overwhelmed by life’s grittiness, I’m trying to pause (I’m not always successful!) before getting sucked into the grime.

I assess the situation. Do I need or want to play? Is there an option to walk away and not participate?

Once I determine my part, then I respond instead of reacting (the former being a proactive stance).

Here’s an example: Say there is some sort of work drama that affects my department or my piece of the work plan. I can’t walk away but I can choose to sit quietly and keep my mouth shut!

That’s only one example of two trillion.

I’m fortunate that as a contractor, I work alone in my home office. I don’t get pulled into the vortex of office life. But that doesn’t mean my world is always peaceful! Here’s what I do when faced with daily vicissitudes:

I take a break. I write. I pray. I take the dogs for a walk and I deliberately notice the stillness of the water in the lake. Peace, be still.

I breath and I bend, grateful for my flexibility.

One day at a time, I lean toward flexibility and fluidity searching for a profound sense of grace and fortitude. All will be well because all IS well.

So long as you bend but don’t break.