Hello, and happy holidays from Change Of Heart!
The old Christmas song says…”It’s the most wonderful time of the year”. As a recovering alcoholic I’m not completely sure about that sentiment. Talk about triggers and stressors…the holiday season has got it ALL. 🙂 But when our hearts and minds are in the right place, it’s all good!
Last time we chatted (see “Serving Others…in the Twilight Zone“), I told you about an experience that started with a rather unorthodox job resumé. Then I proceeded through an interesting employment interview. The interview included several slightly uncomfortable (and if heard in a slightly different context…they would be completely inappropriate) questions I’d NEVER dreamed would ever be a positive part of a job interview. Then at last, the process ended with an exciting job offer.
And now, here I sit at my desk at the DBH Receiving Center at 3:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Between my 15-minute checks on sleeping clients, I find myself reflecting on the past few weeks, and looking toward the weeks to come. Changing jobs is always a little stressful. Changing careers is worse. Taking a huge pay-cut, 3 weeks before Christmas to make it all happen…has been, to put it mildly, more than slightly disconcerting. And exhilarating. Not to mention terrifying. And inspiring. Stressful. And UPLIFTING! This only confirms to me that God led me to this place…because seldom (if ever) does He ask me to do stuff that is NOT firmly outside of my comfort zone!
Change is easy…except when it’s hard!
The learning curve involved in going from driving a garbage truck to being a mental health worker is steep, but in a refreshing sort of way. It’s been a L-O-N-G time since I’ve done anything that stretched me on a professional level. My “lived experiences” from a lifetime of being “little ol’ addiction-prone me” qualified me spectacularly for my new position as an “Addiction Support Specialist”. What life has not prepared me for is the mountains of documentation, rules and regulations, all those acronyms (literally hundreds of ’em), and all the other joyous trappings that are part of working in the health-care field.
Up until a month ago, I had not even heard the term “peer support”, and now somebody’s actually paying me to do it! And I’m suddenly a true believer! go site annotated bibliography reference https://shepherdstown.info/conclusion/jane-eyre-and-rebecca-essay/17/ https://riversideortho.com/viagra-in-hungary/ viagra singapore sale follow site enter site se puede combinar viagra y alcohol severe headache viagra viagra wholesale china https://easternpropane.com/savings/qual-o-valor-de-viagra/87/ 365 pharmacy uk follow site argumentative essay standardized testing standard font for research paper how i am become a good writer essay he took viagra see flow stress academic papers apa citation for free taking viagra 19 go to site watch go here http://kell.indstate.edu/chapter/divorced-parents-essays/51/ click where can i buy viagra in leeds go site source site nexium calm intestines concluding classification essay here Peer support ROCKS!!! I love the opportunity to share the story of my failures and successes with those who need to hear it…it’s challenging and rewarding. And clients are much more open to seeking treatment when the person guiding them through the process says: “I’ve been where you are, I know how you feel, I’ve come out the other side in one piece, and you can do it too“.
Many of the same things that work as treatment and solutions for addiction recovery often work in other areas of mental health. These techniques are also vital tasks for each and every one of us…regardless of our afflictions (or lack thereof). As I participate in LDS Addiction Recovery meetings and work with clients at Davis Behavioral Health, I realize that EVERYBODY should go through their own version of the 12-step program.
I love this definition:
Recovery | [ ri-kuhv–uh-ree ]: Return to a former and better state or condition.— dictionary.com
Remember the book “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten“? I’m developing my own version. It’s called “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Primary“. For those not “in the know”, Primary is the Junior Sunday School program in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s where all those wise “little people” ages 18 months to 11 years of age learn gospel basics. In return, these little angels unintentionally share priceless spiritual insight with their adult “leaders”.
As a little boy in Primary, I learned this song:
I lived in heaven a long time ago, it is true;–Children’s Songbook (p.4) “I Lived in Heaven”
Lived there and loved there with people I know. So did you.
Then Heavenly Father presented a beautiful plan,
All about earth and eternal salvation for man.
It’s taken a lifetime of learning to appreciate the importance of the concept that 5-year-old “me” sang about in primary, but here it is in a nutshell:
We are not human-beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
It’s been said that none of us will get out of this life alive. Perhaps, even more distressing, it seems none of us get through this life unscathed… Some of us are recovering addicts. Some of us are recovering from mental issues or physical challenges. And some of us are in a place in life where the best we can do is to HOPE for recovery.
But here is the bigger picture: No matter who we are or wherever we are in our journey, we are all in spiritual recovery. Our spirits are trying to RETURN TO A FORMER AND BETTER STATE.
In other words…we are ALL humans in recovery.
So, in true Change of Heart fashion…LETS TALK ABOUT RECOVERY!
As I mentioned in “Of Magic, Muggles, and Miracles“, my “lived experiences” include at least 20 years of excessive exposure to all things Disney. One of my favorites is a little off-beat look at a really unique thing…the Olympic Jamaican Bobsledding Team. Yup…true story: In 1988, Jamaica had it’s first bobsled team in the Olympics. Today I want to comment on a couple of things I learned from the movie “Cool Runnings”.
No Little Thing
The first piece of “Cool Runnings” wisdom is something that I’ve used repeatedly with my daughters. Whenever one of them comes up with some weird off-the-wall thought (or better yet, a wild off-the-wall ACTION), I give them a puzzled look and do this:
Good parenting technique?? You tell me. I particularly like the slam-the-door-in-the-face part…SO satisfying!! 🙂
However, the words themselves (especially when spoken in a gentle, teasing tone) never fail to put a smile on kiddo’s face and occasionally it even breaks the ice for some deeper discussion of a problem.
Let me ask you…
Are you an addict? Do you suffer from mental health problems? Are you sad, lonely, depressed, discouraged, or just having a really bad day? Exhausted and tired of life? Are you having a crisis of spirit?
Or (sometimes this one is the worst…) did I just describe somebody you love???
(…do you have your “spiritual ears” on? Listen closely.)
Whatever is wrong with you…IS NO LITTLE THING.
OK…did it feel like I just slammed the door in your face??! What right do I have to declare that what torments you and keeps you up at night… is NO LITTLE THING? Isn’t that already obvious? Let me reword a phrase I used just a minute ago:
Here’s a secret I learned in recovery. It makes hard things easier. Listen closely…it only took me 30 years to learn it.
This is deep wisdom which I want to give to you free of charge….
Wait for it…
My secret is this…
“IT IS NO LITTLE THING!“
Sadly, I still have to work hard every day not to forget this simple concept. It has far less to do with how I view my problems, but is far more about how I view myself. As an alcoholic, my problems were big, but I mistakenly thought I was bigger. My challenges were difficult, challenging, even insurmountable, but I thought I could solve them all by myself.
Then one day, my bishop handed me an LDS Addiction Recovery Program manual. I opened up the book to page 1, and there it was in black and white. I was told to…
…admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your _____________ (insert YOUR problem here) and that your life has become unmanageable.LDS Addiction Recovery Program (ARP)
–Step 1: Honesty
NOPE! This was nearly 12 years ago. I looked at Step 1, thought “Nah…I’ve GOT this!”, closed the book, and promptly took another 10 years to reach sobriety.
A few months ago, I finally opened up the book again. I turned to page 1. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Yup, after all my struggles, there was the answer…right where I left it 10 years ago!
So here is where it all begins: WE NEED HELP!
Whether it’s addiction, mental illness, or just the every-day curve balls life throws you: You by yourself are NOT ENOUGH to solve your own problems. Your problems ARE bigger than you.
And believe it or not, that is all part of God’s plan for you.
OK…go ahead and scream at me! I’m digging the pit deeper and deeper instead of helping, right? Look closely. I’ve only shared Step 1 with you. If this was the end of the process, all would be lost.
What’s next then?
Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health.LDS Addiction Recovery Program (ARP)
–Step 2: Hope
Decide to turn your will and your life over to the care of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.LDS Addiction Recovery Program (ARP)
–Step 3: Trust In God
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what DO we believe? Joseph Smith wrote thirteen concise items detailing some of our most important beliefs. Many of us memorized these statements IN PRIMARY (…everything I need to know, I learned…where?? …you got it!!)
Article of Faith #2: Justice requires us to be punished when we fall victim to our own human weakness
(Step 1- We are powerless to overcome our weaknesses by ourselves)
Article of Faith #1: We have a loving Heavenly Father
(Step 2- He can restore us to complete spiritual health)
Article of Faith #3: Christ’s atonement fulfills the law of justice and gives us access to His Grace
(Step 3- Turn your will and life over to God and his son Jesus Christ
That’s our first three Articles of Faith (in a slightly different order…). The next Article of Faith (#4) talks about the first principles and ordinances of the gospel.
Q) What is the first principle of the gospel that makes all of this possible?
A) Faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ
I love the scriptures. And I love how often the most profound stuff is hidden in plain sight. Most of us have read this verse before…it is part of the account of Joseph Smith’s vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ as found in the Pearl of Great Price. To place this verse in context, Joseph’s vision has closed, the pillar of light had just dissipated, and the Father and the Son have left the scene:
… When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was…Excerpt from Joseph Smith History, Chapter 1, Verse 20 (Pearl of Great Price)
Do you see it? The message to us that is hidden in plain sight? Look again.
Before I show you, let me repeat something I said above: “Are you an addict? Do you suffer from mental health problems? Are you sad, lonely, depressed, discouraged, or just having a really bad day? Exhausted and tired of life? Are you having a crisis of spirit?”
There are 9 words of wisdom in the Pearl of Great Price scripture above that tell you exactly why you are feeling so weak:
“…When the light had departed, I had no strength…”
Let me say that again: …when the LIGHT had departed, I had no strength. Wow!
We’ve talked before (“Empty Houses–Part 1“) about light and darkness. The Light of Christ is what gives us all the strength we need. It is a gift given to all men and women.
A Matter of Chemistry
In the cases of addiction and depression, there are distinct physiological reasons that we can not feel the Light of Christ. A previous post here (“The Landscape Of The Mind“) discussed how the addict’s brain functions differently than a “normal” person’s brain. In her book “Silent Souls Weeping: Depression, Sharing Stories, Finding Hope“, Jane Clayson Johnson (who is also a huge advocate for peer support) discusses the physiology of depression and how depression actually changes the brain chemistry, blocking our ability to feel the spirit. She relates:
“For me, depression blocked all feelings, including feeling the Spirit. I didn’t feel God’s love for long stretches of time. It was as if the most important part of my soul had been cut out of me. This is perhaps the most distressing aspect of depression and why getting treatment is so critical.”–Jane Clayson Johnson, Silent Souls Weeping: Depression, Sharing Stories, Finding Hope
She points out that while the brain chemistry of a depressed person (and, I would add, the addict) prevents them from feeling God’s spirit, it does not mean that God’s presence and Christ’s Light have ceased to have effect in their lives. On the contrary, my experience with the Spirit in ARP meetings tells me that God and Christ love those of us with brain chemistry imbalances just as much as others, and in many cases, Their Grace is manifest in our lives even more…we just have a hard time feeling and recognizing that Grace, in part because of our imbalanced and impaired brains.
Not Easy…but worth it.
As we slide toward the finish line today, let me share one last “Cool Runnings” moment. Throughout the show, whenever one of the team got bumped or bruised, a team-mate would ask “Are ya dead, mon?” And the joking response was usually “Yah, mon.”
The makers of Cool Runnings took some pretty serious artistic liberty with certain aspects of the show, but this part is terrifyingly real. Part way through the team’s final Olympic run, they experienced a spectacular crash. In the movie it is portrayed as a mechanical failure on the sled, but for the real-life 1988 Jamaican bobsled team, the problem was, speaking frankly, that somebody screwed up.
(Once again, I ask you to think addiction recovery, and to listen with your spiritual ears and read with your spiritual eyes.)
The pilot, under pressure to perform, under-experienced, and feeling prideful and invincible, took a corner too high and fast.
The resulting crash caused the sled to overturn at 80 miles per hour. One of the survivors related how the friction of the ice rubbing against his helmet actually caused the plastic of the helmet to melt and smoke. He said that one of the most disturbing parts of the crash for him was actually the SMELL of his burning helmet.
Here’s what it looked like (and by the way, the footage of the crash in this clip is video of the actual 1988 event, including the grotesque-looking twisted neck at the end–that was the guy with the smoking helmet):
I want to end today on a real “feel good” moment, complements of “Cool Runnings”. Take a minute, watch the clip, and we’ll wrap up.
Throughout the movie, most people did not take the team seriously. They were teased, bullied, and belittled.
In spite of this, Darice Bannock (the team captain and sled driver) looked to his peers. Feeling (and in all honesty, being) woefully inadequate, he looked toward people who had, once upon a time, been inadequate beginners like himself. He watched, analyzed, and then implemented in his training the things he saw them doing right. Sometimes he got it right, other times, not so much, but he kept trying. And in the end, though the journey was messy and painful, he finished the race and won the respect of those peers.
The movie ends with this final statement:
My hope is that no matter how bad life gets, you and I can always reply “No mon, I’m not dead”. Remember what it says in Ecclesiastes:
“…the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”Ecclesiastes 9:11 (Emphasis Added)
Like Darice in the movie, you and I have issues. We are woefully inadequate and need help overcoming our problems. If we only look around us, we have peers who have been through what we have been through; people who can say “I’ve been through what you’re going through, I’ve come out the other side in one piece, and YOU CAN DO IT TOO!”
And more importantly, if we look to our absolute source of power and accept his grace, our Savior Jesus Christ and our loving Father in Heaven will make all things possible to us.
It won’t be easy, but I can testify to you that we WILL finish the race. Certainly not in the manner that we anticipated, maybe not as gracefully as we had hoped, but we will finish.
The hosts of Heaven will cheer. We will return to our Father as heroes and live forever as equals with our peers.
Don’t You Quit…!
In the Church, we are told not to have a “favorite” general authority or apostle, but if you’ve been paying attention to my previous posts, you probably already know who mine is; His words speak to my soul. I take great comfort in these words from Elder Jeffery R. Holland:
“Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”― Jeffrey R. Holland, Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ
No matter how many times we fail, and no matter how many times we slip up and have to restart the process of recovery, I can testify, one addict to another, one imperfect person to another, and one child of God to another, that our loving Father in Heaven has a vested interest in you and me. The more times we fail, the more he loves us and wants us to succeed. As Elder Holland said, there is help and happiness ahead…sooner, later, in this life and in heaven.
During this holiday season, and throughout the year, let us celebrate and remember the birth, life, and atonement of Him who makes all things possible. I testify in His name that if we will only embrace the gospel and the grace of Jesus Christ, everything will be all right in the end.
As always, I invite you to share your successes and failures with me. I am inspired and uplifted by your efforts and by the stories of your journey. Comment below or private message me at Kyle@ChangeOfHeart.LIFE