Tag Archives: grace

A Bunny, a Fawn, and Some Geese Walk into a Bar….

19 Aug

rabbit

A big bunny.

A fawn and a doe.

A flock of Canada geese.

Add, “Walk into a bar,” and you might have the start of a good joke.

For about a month, up until about a week ago, nothing in life was funny. Not my usual television guilty pleasures. Not the antics of my niece and nephew. Not the daily ironies of life I typically relish. The entire world’s sorrows, all of life’s tragedies, all of my personal failings – my bucket runneth over with the double whammy of the murder of Michael Brown in MO and Robin Williams’ suicide. I had no more room. Cannot process. It does not compute. No more tears can fall. Cannot feel any more. Full. Danger, Will Robinson.

I have frequently shared on this page my journeys with addictions of various sorts and my battles with the black monster of depression. I occasionally have to slay the dragon known as recurrent major depressive disorder. The good news is, thanks to among many other things, a proper diagnosis, insurance, a wonderful therapist, an awesome spouse, and tremendous self-awareness, the occasions are few and far between. Ninety-nine percent of my life is spectacular. But, oh, that one percent. Scary.

When in the clutches of this monster, it is easy to feel you will never feel free. I tried my usual go-to ideas. Reengage the therapist. See the doctor and increase the meds temporarily. Talk to those close to me about how I’m feeling. Get outside more. Get off all media for a while, including Facebook, television, radio – when I say all, I mean all. Phone a friend. Meditate. Color. Eat ice cream. Read the Psalms.

Nothing. Was. Working.

Last Thursday, I opened the gate to the driveway, and there staring at me was big bunny. Big bunny is what my wife and I call the silly rabbit that shares his home between our yard and our neighbors’. He didn’t move, and I didn’t either. We just looked at each other for about 10 seconds as if we were saying, “Good morning.” He turned and slowly hopped away, and off to work I went.

Last Friday, I left work at my usual time of 6:30 p.m., which meant the last person had probably walked the path to the parking lot about 90 minutes prior. As my eyes looked up from the pavement, I looked right into the eyes of a fawn. I stopped and we looked at each other for a few seconds. I heard some rattling in the woods and I saw the mama. The three of us just stood there looking at each other. I slowly backed up and walked sideways down the pavement because I didn’t want to scare them.

I got into my car and as I pulled up to the first light on my way home, I noticed a huge flock of Canada geese gathered on the sidewalk pooping all over. I burst out laughing for the first time in a month.

How much harder could the Holy have tried to show me that I am not just connected to tragedy but to beauty?

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The theme for our August synchroblog was a one word prompt and the word was: “Connection”

Here is the list of contributors this month. Go read them all and leave a comment!

Jerry Wirtley – Connection
Sara Quezada – Can You Really Know Someone In A Different Language?
Ford – Interindependence
Michael Donahoe – Connection
Minnow – Our Dis-Connect
Justin Steckbauer – Connection in Love, it’s what Life is all about!
Carol Kuniholm – Disengagement and Connection
Wesley Rostoll – Finding Jesus In Different Places
Leah Sophia – Touch of Life
Karen “Charity” Aldrich – Wuv True Wuv
Abbie Watters – Connection – Addicted to the Buzz
Liz Dyer – Human Connection and the Power of Empathy

The Loneliness of Addiction

5 Feb

(Warning: addiction and depression triggers)

addiction

The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman brought the usual spectrum of responses in cyberspace, some of which both angered and wounded me deeply. Among the responses I read:

  1. How selfish
  2. We all have the same demons, some people are just weaker than others
  3. Predictable
  4. He needed Jesus
  5. Why do people care what celebrities do?

I didn’t know Mr. Hoffman, but I know a bit about addiction. I am an addict. I’ve been addicted to drugs (alcohol, crank), sex, food, love, religion, drama, bad choices, pain, and many combinations thereof. I am still addicted to some of these things. I often say I am glad I was never a smoker because I believe that’s one of the most difficult addictions to break. I have been clean and sober for 25 years, 7 months, and 2 days as of this writing, one day at a time, and sometimes one moment at a time.

I am doubly blessed–or doubly cursed–depending on one’s perspective, to also have depression. In my case, there is a definite connection between some of my addictions and the depression. In my case, there is a definite biochemical component to both my depression and my addictive personality.

  1. How selfish.

    This is a common refrain when reading that someone has committed suicide or come to a bad end that was seemingly preventable such as in the case of a drug overdose. If you’ve never been suicidal, I can see where you might think committing suicide is selfish. Having been there, I can tell you it is not. It is actually a selfless act. When you are there, you think you are doing the rest of the world a favor in relieving the world of the burden that is you.

  2. We all have the same demons, some people are just weaker than others.

    This is laughable on many levels. The only truths in this statement are that we all have demons and we are all weak. The only reason these are truths is because we are all human. I am not into comparative suffering (i.e., a person who lives in a wooden shack in a third world country is automatically “worse off” than someone who lives in a mansion in Manhattan), and I am not a demonologist per se. Let’s just say we all have our struggles and our battles.

    Being an addict or being depressed are not signs of weakness. They are signs of medical conditions. This is despite what you may be taught at church or at school.

  3. Predictable.

    Some believe Mr. Hoffman was destined to die of an overdose because of some combination of his previous history of use and his celebrity. This does great disservice to those who have maintained sobriety as well as to those celebrities who do not have addiction issues. It is also snarky and pessimistic.

  4. He needed Jesus.

    This is the response I found most offensive, for several reasons. First, I doubt the authors knew Mr. Hoffman and therefore did not know his relationship with Jesus. Second, just because someone is an addict or is suicidal does not mean the person does not know Jesus. In fact, I would say that being an addict or suffering from depression as a Christian may be more difficult than it is for a non-Christian because of the judgment and stigma many Christians attach to it.

    People assume others use drugs or are depressed because something is missing and Jesus is the missing thing. This may be true for some, but is not true for all. You can no more pray away the addiction or the depression than you can pray away the gay.

  5. Why do people care what celebrities do?

    Many people do not. Those who take time to ask this question must on some level, otherwise why are they taking time to comment?

    People who care deeply about people care about all people, whether or not they know them personally. Such people care about the lost potential. Such people care about those left behind, particularly children. Such people typically grieve when natural disasters hit, even though they do not personally know any of those people either.

For me, at the root, my diseases of addiction and depression are diseases of loneliness. In my moments of greatest despair, I believe there is not one person on earth who knows how it feels to be me. There is not one person who hurts as much as I hurt. The world would be better if I were not here to mess it up further. Intellectually, of course I know these things are not true, but my addictions are of my soul, not of my head.

What saves my soul? My family. My friends. That which I consider Holy. Those who have gone before me–my guardian angels–my Grammie, my Nana, my Auntie Mo, my bestie Greggo. Good doctors and therapists. Good medications. Journaling. AA. Gratitude.

Where Is Grace?

31 Jan

Image

Where is grace when you let the door slam on the person behind you rather than hold the door open?

Where is grace when you park in the handicap parking spot for “just a few minutes” when you don’t have a placard?

Where is grace when you cut your server’s tip because the food took too much time coming from the kitchen?

Where is grace when you beat yourself up over something you did or didn’t do years ago when you didn’t have the wisdom you have now?

Where is grace when you punish the child for the sins of the mother or father?

Where is grace when we are more concerned with how many words a football player says at a press conference than how many words we say to our own children?

Where is grace when you’re in too much of a hurry to return the smile of the stranger on the street?

Where is grace?

Dear God,

You shower us with kindness and mercy because you love us, not because of anything we have done.  Help us show more kindness and mercy to one another and to ourselves. Help us find grace. Help us be grace. Help us give grace. Help us act gracefully.

Amen.

 

Angels Among Us

1 Jan

Hebrews 13:2: Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Image

Rolled in a ball, more insect like than human, pressed into the corner of the darkness outside the Jersey turnpike rest stop entrance. Male? Female? Young? Old? Awake? Asleep?

Something just didn’t look right.

Scores of people, in and out, in and out; no one looked. I stopped. I saw a couple of men hovering nearby. Runaway? Prostitute? Addict?

A face looked out from the hooded jacket. Sullen. Crying. Fearful. “Are you in trouble?” I inquired? “Do you need to borrow my cell phone? Do you need gas money?”

“No, I’m not in trouble.” The men got closer. “Are these men bothering you?” “No, that’s my brother and his friend. We’re on our way back to Florida from New England. They brought me up there to see a psychic about my father.” Continue reading

We Are Not So Different

15 Jul

You look at me

You think I know nothing

Family worked fields on our land

Put on coffin ships starving

Sent to strange land

Need not apply

We don’t want your kind

Go nurse other babies

Clean toilets, dig graves

Invaders still hold our lands

Names changed language removed

Bearing names of killers

Facial features of masters

We are not so different

I clap on the downbeat

We all assume

We all need to ask

What’s your story?

It must be Nice to be Perfect

19 Jun

Image

“There was only one perfect person in the history of the world, and look what they did to him” – Eleanor “Marie” Mannion (AKA, my Mom)

Surveys on our fears reveal that the number one fear is not death, but public speaking. Perhaps this is because people tend to be kinder to our dearly departed memory than they are to us when we misspeak, say something someone does not like or agree with, or are not politically correct.

You would think sharing the number one fear would mean not many people criticize verbal foibles, but the opposite seems to be true. I guess it is difficult to criticize someone for dying, right? (Although, I’ve seen that as well. It is true there are some you just cannot please!)

Every few years, a contestant in one of the scholarship/beauty pageants gets vilified for making a whopper of a statement. When asked if evolution should be taught in schools, a Miss Nevada replied, “Evolution definitely should be taught in schools … everything evolves, we evolve as communities … evolution can be taught in many different ways, it doesn’t necessarily have to be about people.” A contender for Miss South Carolina, when asked the most important event in U.S. history, responded, “Pearl Harbor, because it ended the great depression.”

Former vice president Dan Quayle famously could not spell “potato” and former president George W. Bush once told someone, “You’re working hard to put food on your family.” President Barack Obama once said he had visited all 57 states. Continue reading

Therefore but by the Grace of the Holy, Go I, Again (Part III)

7 May

This is the last part in a 3-part series about my struggles with alcoholism. In Part I, I wrote about how former NBA star Allen Iverson’s battle with alcoholism really hit home with me. Part II covered my early days of sobriety in the hospital up until today, and mentioned how I have put together a toolbox to help me when I feel like drinking, get depressed, or get stressed. This final part covers my toolbox and other lessons I’ve learned in my 24 years of being clean and sober.

Let there be no mistake, there is such a thing as a “dry drunk” and I do not believe the desire for alcohol ever goes completely away. I loved the taste of beer and of the “hard” liquor I choose to drink; I’ve often thought how lucky I am that all these specialty brews and flavored alcohols were not in vogue back when I was still drinking.

The real benefit of (too much) drinking was not the taste, but the temporary numbing of feelings. The problem was, as soon as the buzz wore off, I not only had to face those feelings, but also deal with the hangover and other consequences of my behavior. Continue reading

Therefore but by the Grace of the Holy, Go I, Again (Part II)

28 Apr

In Part I, I wrote about how former NBA star Allen Iverson’s battle with alcoholism really hit home with me. I ended Part I just as I stopped drinking because I checked myself into a psychiatric ward for 10 days.

Even though I volunteered for the 10 day stay, I fought most of the programs and activities. I thought things like art and music therapy were the biggest waste of my time, and group therapy was torturous. Being there, though, gave me the opportunity to look (literally) into what we, the patients who had free reign to walk about, called the “koo-koo ward.” Peering through the glass door, we could see several glass enclosed bays with patients who were wearing strait jackets or sitting screaming or God knows what else. You couldn’t help but feel you weren’t that bad off because you weren’t like them, but it began as a sort of smugness with no concept of thankfulness or grace at all. Continue reading

There, but for the Grace of the Holy, Go I, Again (Part I)

23 Apr

Ephesians 5:18 – “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit.”

A recent story in the Washington Post about how former NBA great Allen Iverson has fallen on hard times really got to me. I could write a dozen blogs on different topics after reading this article – the scandal that is the National Collegiate Athletic Association, friends who are not really friends, there’s always room for redemption, etc. But this story really hit my heart when it comes to alcoholism and alcoholics.

Unbeknownst to my parents, I started drinking when I was about 12. The father of my best friend at the time made homemade wine. We’d drink that occasionally, but most often we’d get our booze by giving a few bucks to someone outside the town liquor store to get it for us. The liquor store was conveniently located within walking distance of our junior high school, and we favored the types of sweet, syrupy drinks you might imagine pre-teens and teens would go for – cherry brandy, crème de menthe. We did it because a) it was wrong and b) that stuff tasted good.

Before you judge my parents too harshly, it is important to note that during this time my mom was in effect a single parent of four, including a newborn. Due to changes in base structures, my dad was forced to work at JFK airport in NY for several years instead of in Albany; he commuted home on the weekends. What better time for a rebellious oldest child to get into trouble? (I am grateful that considering this was the early 1970s, I never dappled in other drugs that were plentiful.) Continue reading

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