Category Archives: Addiction

A Visit to Rehab: The Greatest of These is Love

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who fight mental illness, addiction, and abuse  (c)2018  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

This past Sunday, I drove to Chicago.  The director of alumni events at a rehabilitation center had invited me to speak with residents on Monday. 

Morning came early. While much of the U.S.A. was arising and heading to work or school, these women  continued the fight  to gain recovery from addiction, eating disorders, mental health challenges, or all three. Excited and a little nervous, I left the hotel to join them.

Women in the rehab program advance in liberties as they progress. This time, my audience consisted of women in the process of learning to make healthier choices without constant supervision.  They are well on their way to going home, clean and sober. In fact, a few of them  graduated that day!

Most people in recovery have been told numerous times they are worthless, many since childhood. As part of my story,  I shared the reality of God’s love and message. I added, “I am a Christian, born-again, a follower of Jesus. But those are only words. Hopefully, my life reflects who he is.” Everyone nodded. 

America today hears much rhetoric about Christians, evangelicals in particular, and the mix of religion with politics as if faith in Jesus and a certain political party are one and the same.  It is difficult for those who do not know, to grasp who Jesus actually is. 

In some ways, the standard for Christians is raised. Show me you mean it. Show me you do not hate or despise me. Match your choices to your words. Prove your faith by your love. In extending love and compassion, and sincere non-critical acceptance to people in all stages of their journey, we represent God as the Bible reveals him.*

Mental health treatment in this country is greatly lacking. It is not available everywhere,  and is expensive for most.  Parity in the insurance realm is inconsistent. There are few standards by which to measure how long a patient should stay in a hospital.

In my opinion, stigma and lack of knowledge are the primary reasons we do not take care of mentally ill and emotionally unstable people. There is judgment – “I do not believe in mental health disability, I just don’t.”  “Depression is not an illness,  with enough faith (or strength) anyone can snap out of it.” “You are adopting the principles of the world if you give psychology any merit.” 

All these have been said to me, about me, plus many more accusations of failure. If I could describe  the beauty of joy and hope in the faces of the women I met on Monday,  perhaps more could see the value of mental (some call it behavioral) healthcare.  Maybe  God could get some credit for knowing what he is doing in each person’s life! 

Meanwhile, it is tremendous joy being vulnerable and open with people in the middle of the struggle. They, as do we all, respond to love.

Today’s Helpful Word

Mark 10:46-52

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

-woman pic by LUSI on rgbstock.com; Jesus pic from freebibleimages.org

*This does not imply avoidance of the topic of sin. As seen in my work s a whole, my emphasis is how we approach people. Are we interested in gaining insight into another person’s struggle? Jesus showed sincere non-critical acceptance to hurting people, and in the context of meeting their needs, taught them to know him.   

Delicious and Deadly: Cycles of Self-Defeat and God’s Solution

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who fight mental illness, addiction, and abuse  (c)2018  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

After searching the store for turkey roast, my son, who was with me,  finally found one.  Yesterday, I threw it, various vegetables, and some cream of chicken into my crock pot.  Almost everything but the soup was frozen. 

On the low setting, I allowed it all to cook for 10 hours. This is a no-brainer. Dozens of times I have cooked frozen ingredients on low for long periods, both in the crock pot and in the oven.   It always works, and everything is tender. 

No one in 37 years of home cooking has become sick on my food. (That is not to say my boys did not hate spinach when they were little!) However, after chilling the turkey stew in the refrigerator for 2 hours, I ate a bowlful and was sorry very quickly.

I have no idea what, if anything, I did wrong. Possibly the ingredients were already bad, and in their frozen state I could not tell. This one thing I do know – it was delicious and deadly.  (I am ok, by the way.)

Pacifiers are delicious

This stew is not the only time something delicious has been deadly in my life.  By “delicious” I am describing temptations of any kind.  In our humanness, we feel needs and wants. From a distance the solutions we choose appear delightful. 

For example, some of us live with a giant hole in our psyche left there by neglect, abandonment, rejection, abuse, or any type of lack of nurture.  That is hard, and learning to deal with it can lead to many tempting forms of relief. 

You know what they are – substances, food, sex, workaholism, co-dependencies … the list is endless. Chosen pacifiers that we come to believe we must have to survive, unfortunately are many times delicious, and emotionally, spiritually, and even physically deadly. 

Letting go of the temporary for the permanent

I am not going to sidestep what is of the essence with this issue. We are, (I too many, many times) trying to lean on toppling fences.  Because we see them and understand their power of relief, we assume they can hold us up.  Then comes the day that they do not. 

This week, I had to let one such pacifier go.  It was interfering with my ability (oh let’s be honest – my willingness) to trust Jesus in all situations. This dependency has served as a false god,  idol worship if you will.  It seemed easier and more substantial to run to it than to lean on the solid fence of God’s unchanging good (holy, love) nature. 

I feel freer, less burdened.

The good question to ask is, what have any of us gained by returning to those wobbly fences? The answer is pain, exhaustion, confusion, sorrow, and threats of death  because fake gods, or temporary pacifiers, will let us down.  Yuck.  Still, like a yo-yo I kept spinning back to this specific “solution”  as if the result would be different after a while. Insane. 

It makes much more sense to rely on God’s unfailing love, and the eternal salvation offered through faith in Jesus. This week, my emotions, mentality, and even physicality are taking on the challenge of letting go. It is rough, but I am full of praise for the loving arms of Jesus who has never let me fall without lifting me in his compassionate love and meeting every need. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Jeremiah 4 :1,2

 “… says the Lord, if you wanted to return to me, you could. You could throw away your detestable idols  and stray away no more. Then when you swear by my name, saying,  ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ you could do so  with truth, justice, and righteousness. Then you would be a blessing …”

***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

*pics by ALEXBRUDA of rgbstock.com

 

 

“Help, Church Leaders Don’t Want Me to Divorce Husband with Porn Addiction”

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who fight mental illness, addiction, and abuse  (c)2018  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministries

In April, the following message came using the contact form on this website. (printed by permission)

“Thanks. Your articles were helpful. My Google search that led to your page was – ‘help church leaders don’t want me to divorce husband with porn addiction’.  We separated, with the elders wanting that time to be for us to work towards reconciliation. I still see abusive attitudes that are so tied up in the porn use. They see [his] tears and ‘repentance’. They haven’t spent time with me or the kids – only him. The emotional abuse is so HEAVY. That is what I feel most compelled to run from – someone who plays the victim while he is abusing himself, his wife, kids, and those used to make the content he has indulged in. I think this is the part where wives and kids need help – after YEARS/DECADES of this cycle (sin comes to light/tears and repentance and new accountability partners/ etc.) – when is it finally enough? Their argument is that he seems genuine this time – so who am I to not give him another year? These guys haven’t even chatted with me. That happens too often. And if we say, “but that seems unsafe to me” – we are told we’re being unsubmissive. I wonder how many people have been completely finished off by that sort of spiritual abuse. I hope you are able to help others still love God and trust Him, but navigate through these murky waters. Thanks again.”

The writer’s articulate description of the cycle of cheap grace hopefully draws you in, dear reader. Perhaps you’ve lived it, or are seeing her point of view for the first time. 

Cheap grace 

1) Sin comes to light. 

2) Tears and repentance

3)New accountability partners

4) Sin continues

This wife’s story draws tears to my eyes because she, her children, other watching families, and the testimony of Christ are twice hurt.  Both the husband’s sins and the church’s short-sighted response to pornography in Christian families have emptied grace of its beauty and power.  Along with her, I ask, when is it finally enough? How many observers have been completely finished off by that sort of spiritual abuse?

Here’s the thing, dear reader.  In my experience, most believers and followers of Christ want to do what is right. There will always be power-hungry leaders among us, however they are relatively few. The rest of us make these mistakes based on lack of knowledge. 

Christ’s grace

1) We all sin and fall short of God’s holy nature (Romans 3:23)

2) People return to sin like a dog returns to its vomit  (2 Peter 2:21-22)

3) Our “righteousness” is as pure as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6)

4) Enter Jesus. He lives the life we cannot – one without sin (Hebrews 4:15)

5) He pays the blood-price for our forgiveness (1 John 1:7)

6) We confess our sins and turn away from them with his strength (Romans 8:5-9)

7) We become more and more like him, loving others as he did (Philippians 2:5)

8) In marriages, we lay down our selfish ambitions and pursue loving each other as Christ loved his church, and gave himself for her, submitting to each other as unto the Lord. (Ephesians 5:1-21)

Where does adultery, lust, and addiction fit in this picture? Where is the false repentance (that is actually only remorse) in God’s story? Did not Esau sell his soul for a pot of porridge? And though he begged for forgiveness with tears, he could not receive it. That is because his tears were remorseful, not repentant. (Hebrews 12:15-17)

True repentance is observable

Repentance accompanies  deep, honest and humble confession,  true understanding of the pain one has caused others and God,  long-lasting change (with the family as the star witness, not tears),  continuous humility,  and a blame-the-victim, blame-society, and blame-God ceasefire. By the way,  “I can’t help it” is blaming God. 

Cheap grace sounds as the wife in this story describes it (Romans 6:1-3).  When is enough?  In my opinion, it is easier to accept someone’s tears than to do the hard work of exploring their heart. At the very least,  I wish her church leaders would chat with her and the children!

There are common misunderstandings

  • Forgiveness and trust are confused
  • Submission as unto the Lord is diminished into enabling and endorsing sin
  • Separation and divorce are equaled with remarriage
  • We are unwilling to do as God did – allow divorce due to the hardness of mens’ hearts
  • There is little concept of the connection between porn and adultery, or porn and abuse
  • There is little respect for the death sentence emotional abuse hands down to victims 
  • Legalism trumps holiness. 

Thank you for reading today’s blog, and I pray you are encouraged by the truth written here. Let’s do our best to understand wisdom, and to love these families harmed so deeply by pornography.

Related Posts:  Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse pt 1, pt 2;   Series on Emotional Abuse in Christian Marriages pt 1, pt 2, pt 3, pt 4, pt 5and An Open Letter About Porn to Christian Husbands, Pastors, and Husbands-to-be

Today’s Helpful Word

2 Timothy 2:15

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

***** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

*help sign and typing pic from kozzi.com

Part 3 Silence No More: Go from Voiceless to Heard by Overcoming Procrastination

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness, addiction, or abuse   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

I was reminded today how, when in crisis, our world seems so small. This is one reason it is important to reach out for support, and hear other perspectives.

Emotional struggles, mental illness, addiction, and abuse,  may lead to shame and silence.  Three obstacles stand in the way of finding your voice. 

False beliefs (part 1)  Fear of what might happen (part 2) and today’s third obstacle, round out this series. 

Obstacle # 3 :  Procrastination.

Putting anything off until tomorrow is the bane of students, entrepreneurs, and Monday mornings. We perceive an action as too hard, too painful, or not worth our time. Avoidance techniques like eating, drinking, and other substances and behavioral habits only make our situation worse. 

Silence has that effect as well. Speaking up and finding your voice is often a matter of self-motivation and self-encouragement. Part of finding your voice is discovering it within.  

Needed:  Motivation

You have your mind and right to make decisions. Take a logical inventory. What has silence already cost you? Familiar suffering is not superior to freedom. List what you have tried that did not work, and what you have not tried that might work.

In cases of abuse, chances are you have tried denial, excusing the abuser’s behavior,  offering forgiveness and multiple chances,  walking on eggshells,  and perhaps even questioning the value of your life. Silence has not protected you emotionally or physically. 

In addiction, likely you have tried cold-turkey, “final decisions”, denial, independence, and a sense of control. Silence has not led you to health. 

Untreated or under treated mental illness or emotional challenges have left you with self-disgust and a sense of failure.  Perhaps you have lost friends, work, or home. Denial has helped you cope. Silence has prevented you from a positive solution. 

Is this what you want?  

Needed:  Encourage Yourself

Rah-rahs help sometimes. Positive thoughts may give us some courage. However, there are there more practical ways to build your chances for a better future.

If past efforts at speaking up did not end the way you want, go back to part 2 of this series and study your options.  Did a therapist or psychiatrist not work out well? Learn what to realistically expect, and try someone different if you must. Did you not follow expert advice? Go back with a teachable attitude.

Learn from others to escape the tapes stuck on replay in your head. Listen to first-hand experiences.  Many past victims of abuse escape saying, “I should have done this sooner,” or “I waited too long.”  Testimonies of recovery repeatedly press the point, “You have to admit you are powerless.”  For me, overcoming major depression and suicidal thinking took a deliberate decision to discover what enjoying life means.

Your voice counts because (insert your name) matters. You matter to the One True God, his Son Jesus, and to those good people in your sphere. You matter to the world because your success gives the rest of us hope.  You really are loved.

Challenge your false beliefs,  reach out for support, and do not put it off. 

Be heard. Be free.

 Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 31:7 –  song to Yahweh

I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,
    for you have seen my troubles,
    and you care about the anguish of my soul.

******COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

Pics: Climbers top by AYLA87; Raised hands  by LUSI ,  both of rgbstock.com

Part 2 Silence No More: Go from Voiceless to Heard by Overcoming Fear

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness, addiction, or abuse   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Secrets and shame lead to silence. Whether your story is about emotional struggles, mental illness, addiction, or abuse,  you may feel voiceless.  

Silence no more!  You can speak up and be heard.  Three obstacles likely stand in the way.  The first is false beliefs,  discussed in part one of this series. This post and the next cover the other two.  

Obstacle # 2 : Fear of what will happen once you speak

Let’s face it. Silence has its pay-offs. Status quo is familiar, and familiarity is comfortable.  

We also know that fear is paralyzing, and interrupts our joy.  Same-old is tiresome, and possibly dangerous.  Continuing to make the same choices that never worked, or ceased  benefitting us, will keep us stuck. 

Needed: Support

Asking for help means admitting to your challenge.  That’s okay. You are not alone. There are systems already in place. Whether you need to escape abuse, find recovery, or deal with mental health issues, trust those systems.

We are fearful of change, and do not know what these organizations or people can do to help. They are the experts, who gladly answer these questions.  We have to trust safe people who have devoted their lives to helping.

Domestic violence shelters are led by trained personnel, able to guide you safely through the uncertainty of child care, finances, work, and legal issues.

Mental health professionals are ready to help  with troublesome thoughts and emotions.  If you are in crisis, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. 

Rehabilitation Treatment Centers require some proof that you are investing in your recovery. Go through those hoops and take it seriously.  Once in, follow the advice of worthy men and women who know what works. 

Who to contact

If you can find no help in your area, search online for reputable sites.  (Be careful, do not  offer identifying information).  On my resource pages, you will find  emergency numbers  and links to sites offering the information you need.

The Truth About Abuse       Addiction Recovery          If You Are Depressed or Anxious 

What to Do/Say When a Loved One is Depressed

Needed: Back-up

It is a good idea to have that initial support in place before you broaden the scope of your voice.  Chances are, like most of us, you set-up a façade in the past. The false image that all is well has helped you cope. Taking the mask off will surprise those who know you.

Some people will not believe your story.  Others may walk away.  Be prepared.  

If you can, practice using your voice with those who  relate and are non-judgmental.  In support groups, group therapy,  and anonymous 12-step groups,  you will find non-critical acceptance.  If these are scarce in your area,  perhaps a healthy online service is an option. (Again, be careful.  Do not use your real name.)  

With support from people who build you up on an ongoing basis,  your voice will grow strong.   

Next 

Stay tuned for a solution to obstacle #3, procrastination.  

 Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 121: 1,2   (A song for pilgrims)

 I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

    

******COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

Pics: Climbers top by AYLA87; Climbers bottom  by MIMICA,  both of rgbstock.com

 

Part 1 Silence No More: Go from Voiceless to Heard by Overcoming False Belief

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness, addiction, or abuse   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

The freedom to live by your values is not out of reach!

Secrets and shame equal silence

Emotional struggles, mental illness, addiction, and abuse tend to embrace secrets and shame.  We who live with them may feel voiceless and unknown.

Silence no more!  You can, with help, release those chains and stand up for yourself.  There are three obstacles to overcome first. They are covered in this and the next two posts. 

Obstacle #1:  False beliefs

My almost complete silence about experiences that were slowly destroying me, was based on false hope.  Unaware of facts, emotions,  or my role,  I scrutinized truth under a misaligned perspective.  I believed the wrong people, and did not trust my instincts.  False beliefs had no strong challenger, and served to enable abusers and prolong my shame.

This is not unique. 

False Belief – “My story is unimportant.”

This idea holds back many if not most of those who suffer. One’s experience is held up in comparison to all the evils in the world, and judged unworthy of attention.

Truth is, we all have a genuine basic need for validation.  This means simply having someone believe us, agree our pain is real,  and respond in a way that proves our experiences matter.

By dismissing our story as unimportant, we essentially deny ourselves a solution.  One therapist told me, “I have never really seen anyone move forward without validation.”

Crisis workers, helpline volunteers,  and professionals in the fields of mental illness, addiction, or abuse, may be better suited to meet this need than well-meaning friends, family, or clergy.  That is not disrespect. It is acknowledging that significant supports do not always know how to give quality validation under circumstances they are not trained to understand.

I found this safety in therapists – your experience may be different.  Keep looking until you are heard.

False Belief – “I do not matter” or  “It is selfish to waste time on myself”

Perhaps your sense of personal value is shaky.  Remember that any of us who have moved out of silence and gone on to help our families and other people, had to first invest in ourselves.

Self-doubt is powerful.  Continue learning.  Listen to positive feedback, and do not dismiss it.  Collect affirmations on a list.  Ask people you trust why you matter to them!

Believe in God’s love and your inherent value. You can start to grow this faith by reading first the New Testament Book of John in the Bible.

Finally, please consider the messengers who filled you with your sense of worthlessness, helplessness,  and fear. If they are liars, haters, narcissists, self-protective at all costs, emotionally immature, or stuck in their own false beliefs, they could be wrong, couldn’t they? What if all those negative messages are false? That changes everything!

Next 

Stay tuned for a discussion on obstacle #2, fear of what might happen if we speak up. 

 Today’s Helpful Word

Proverbs 2: 6-10

For the Lord grants wisdom!
    From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
 He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest.  He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him.  Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair,  and you will find the right way to go.  For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy.

 

******COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

Pics: Climber  by COLUMBINE ; Raised hands by COSTIQ , both of rgbstock.com

 

Alcoholic? Recognize the One Thing that Sets Alcoholics Apart from Other Drinkers

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness, addiction, or abuse   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Alcoholism is complex yet simple.  Its complexities are in the mindset, the fallout,  and the lies. They are how the alcoholic treats people, the money spent, and where he or she sleeps at night. The addiction itself is more basic;  it is the inability to stop drinking.

Lying to one’s self that all the other lies protect people, save face, or avoid arguments, only supports denial.  Believing one’s self a victim of alcohol, keeps an alcoholic stuck in defeat. 

We all know the stories about a guy in the ditch who loses his home, job, and family.  Some of us have jeered at a drunk friend falling down and slurring his or her words. We make assumptions that alcoholism looks only like that…

Or drinking during the day.  Or the fifth DUI.  Or anything that is not what we do. 

Two accounts: who is an alcoholic? 

A man’s story:  I started drinking with my friends as a teenager.  By college it was difficult to concentrate on schoolwork because all I could think about was Friday night. Saturdays were hangover day, and Sundays I did my laundry.

One Sunday, Friday seemed too far away.  So while my laundry turned, I finished off a bottle of beer. No big deal, right? Except now, my thoughts began to focus on Friday night and Sundays. That beer didn’t mess me up on Monday, so why not? 

It took a while to realize I had no control. I didn’t lose control,  I’d never had it.  Alcoholism was part of me, and had been since the beginning.  I’d made fun of anticipating weekends along with everyone else. The difference seemed that while they could drink recklessly, alcohol was never off my mind. 

I drank and quit off and on for years. No one at work suspected.  My wife and children knew not to count on me on weekends,  but I did not see the problem. I worked hard. No one was ever hungry.  Why wasn’t that good enough?  

It’s not that I didn’t love my family. It’s that the next drink was on my mind when my daughter showed off her dance moves, and during my son’s ballgames.  My wife would describe her day, and afterward I had no idea what she said.  I wasn’t  present.  

Eventually, the drinking showed up on weekdays, then every afternoon on my way home from work, and then in early mornings.  My big wake-up call was my daughter’s graduation. I missed it.

I’ve been in recovery for fourteen years.  I will never stop needing AA.  In a flash, for no reason other than compulsion, I could lose everything for good. 

A woman:   My problem with alcohol is what most people would call nonexistent.  In college I noticed that I never forgot any drink I had, and that it would still be on my mind months later.  Cravings continued even though rarely satisfied due to religious misgivings.

It became evident very quickly that my choice of alcoholic drinks was never intended to quench my thirst or satisfy my palette.  I drank for one reason, and one reason only. Escape.  One was never enough.

Alcohol did not take over my life, for which I am grateful. I’ve been an almost perfect teetotaler for 40 years, having decided to not drink anymore at age 19.  I doubt very many people would call me an alcoholic or problem drinker.

Yet on the four occasions since college that I have had a drink , one was not enough.  Those four occasions equal more than a dozen drinks and a couple of bottles. They remain on my mind years later.  I’ve lied about them, too.  Still, some would say that’s not enough evidence.   

What anyone dubs me is of no concern at all.  Alcoholism, like any addiction, affects how one thinks.  Alcoholic is not a term I use to describe myself. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t fit. 

I’ve attended AA for years. Fact is,  if I pick up another drink, it won’t be the only one. There is no guarantee I would ever stop again. That’s all the evidence I need to know I have a problem. 

Find help and information

 Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 119: 31,32

I hold fast to your statutes, Lord;
    do not let me be put to shame.
I run in the path of your commands,
    for you have broadened my understanding.

 

******COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

Pics: Bottles by MATCHSTICK, runner by ARINAS74 on rgbstock.com

More than Cutting: Understanding Self-injury and What You Can Do to Help Someone Stop

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Yesterday a friend joked about cutting, a serious self-injurious behavior some people fall into for a variety of reasons. It is commonly viewed as an adolescent female problem. My friend meant no disrespect to those who struggle with this, but I realize it must seem very strange to someone with limited knowledge of this behavior.

What self-injury IS

Clinically known as non-suicidal self-injury or NSSI,  self-injury is a coping mechanism for dealing with difficult emotions and mood.  

Self-injury is deliberate mutilation of one’s body through cutting, burning, and other injurious behaviors.  It crosses all age, gender, economic, national, occupational, social, sexual, racial, religious, and educational lines.  Clearly, self-injury is not limited to adolescent girls.  According to  studies, at least 35 percent of self-injurers may be male. *

For a more in-depth article from the American Psychological Association on self-injury and it’s relation to social issues, mental health,  eating disorders, and future suicide attempts, see Who Self-Injures by Tori DeAngelis.

What self-injury IS NOT

Let’s be clear on what “self-injury” is not. It is not tattoos, piercings, plastic surgery, or nail-biting unless the goal behind these choices is to deliberately cause pain and harm to one’s body. 

Self-injury is certainly not normal, and is often confused with suicidal tendencies.  People who self-injure are often doing what they know to do to face life, not die.

How self-injury WORKS in the body

Endorphins are a biological calming chemical that  release during and after self-injury.  

My dad used to joke when I complained of a stomach ache, “Let me stomp on your toe and you’ll forget all about the stomach ache.” This is a loose interpretation of one of the purposes behind self-injury; it draws one’s attention from strong emotions, anxiety, or numbness one does not want to feel.

The DANGERS of self-injury

Self-injury teaches nothing about healthy coping skills.  It does not improve any circumstance, relationship, or self-image. It creates a false sense of control, and must be repeated to continue to work.  It is addcitive and difficult for a self-injurer to stop. The behavior will have to increase in frequency and level of damage to achieve desired results. Later, regret over scars may interfere with a positive self-image, human connection, or intimacy.

What does NOT HELP someone who self-injures

When someone we know is engaging in self-injury, it is not helpful to make a comparison to what we or anyone else in the world is suffering. “You do not have it so bad,” or “I had problems with my family too, but you don’t see me cutting myself,” is the same as dismissing a person’s emotional pain as not worth taking seriously.  Instead of recognizing an obvious need for expressing and learning how to manage emotions,  we add more rejection to the mix.

We cannot stop his or her self-injurious behavior. Each person has to decide whether to practice self-care.  A more effective means of influencing the situation is to avoid panic and other reactionary responses fueled by high emotion.  

Often, it is best to not bring up the topic of self-injury unnecessarily and to avoid discussing details of injuries or looking at scars because this can trigger compulsive behavior.  

What WILL HELP someone who self-injures

Distraction may buy time until an impulse lessens. One young woman would go for a run when she felt the urge to cut. She acknowledged it did not “cure” the urge to self-injure, but used up adrenaline and bought her time to change her mind.  Perhaps there is an activity you and a recovering self-injurer could do together. 

Understand the problem is not self-injury.  It is the self-injurer’s unmanaged emotions or mood and perhaps the relationships or circumstances surrounding the struggle that need addressing.  Point a self-injurious person to competent and often professional help.

Discuss the situation openly without judgment. Listen to his or her needs even if those needs do not make sense to you right away.  When love is compassionate instead of controlling, it is gentle. It supports each person’s value and ability to learn healthy ways. Love also celebrates each step forward.

Today’s Helpful Word

1 Corinthians 13:4  

Love is patient, love is kind.

 

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, addiction, and abuse. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

*From Who Self-injures by Tony Deangelis on the American Psychological Association website. Retrieved on March 17, 2018 from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/07-08/who-self-injures.aspx

Find Joy: 5 More Building Blocks for Rebuilding On Your Ruins

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Find Joy: You Can Rebuild on Your Ruins -part 1

Find Joy: 5 Building Blocks for Rebuilding on Your Ruins  -part 2

Warsaw

Ancient Jerusalem is not the only city built on its ruins. Another example is how the people of Warsaw, Poland responded when their metropolis was destroyed by WWII. To rebuild, city planners used historical paintings as guides. Citizens collected tons of rubble to mold into usable brick. They even incorporated ruins from other destroyed towns.*

What great inspiration! Abuse, addiction, and mental health challenges do not have to define you today.  You too can use your ruins to rebuild.

5 more building blocks for the precious rebuild of your life.

6. Embrace a greater purpose.  Ruins brought me to despair until I realized hope thrives beyond circumstance.  Hardship can grow emotional muscle. Your life struggles are worthwhile when the part of you that survives emerges from the rubble carrying new tools. With these you build a stronger faith,  a wiser mind, and insight so you can meaningfully help others. 

7. Live by your values. Too often, pain from brokenness seems to take control over a person’s ability to make choices. While memories, scars, and disability do affect how we face life, they are not dictators. 

You are in control – you decide how you want to respond. Write down what character traits, relationships, and goals are most important to you.  Ask, “What kind of person do I want to be? What steps will I take today toward becoming that person?”

 8. Accept your humanity.  Life is full of struggles. We each experience loss. At the root of common confusion and hurt is this one factor: we are human. 

Accept that as a fallible human being you are supposed to feel weak at times. It is normal. Needing support is reasonable.  Guidance from a mental health care professional or trusted mentor may be vitally helpful.  Allow yourself the right to take only one step at a time. Slow progress is progress after all!  Allow mistakes, failures, and strong emotions. Yet also embrace your triumphs no matter how small. As a human, overcoming tough challenges is amazing. Be kind to yourself.

9. Accept the HIghest Power.  On the other hand, as a mere mortal, you cannot hold the wisdom of the ages. Tomorrow is a mystery. Guidance and peace come from a relationship with the Creator of wisdom.  As the christian story goes,  God’s love redeems your past. You are why he sent his one and only birth son Jesus to die on a cross. Jesus rose again so you can have connection with him forever.  That is  love worth considering.

10. Appreciate the present season.  Urgent or painful circumstances may pressure you to adjust long-term goals, and you can feel as if life is out of your hands.  Truth is, life passes in seasons.  

Remember, this too will pass. Moods change.  Situations change. Time proves that most of what we worry about never happens. Try to focus on the present and not be in too big a rush.  Patience is peaceful.  

 You, yes you, are able to rise

You may believe that abuse, addiction, or mental illness has destroyed you.  You have  given up on the coulda-beens. I have felt hopeless and victimized by people, circumstances, and depression. This list of ten building blocks came from that destruction. 

Struggles teach.  With willingness to take the first step, you too will rebuild on your ruins.  

Today’s Helpful Word

Jerusalem

Philippians 3:12-14 

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

 

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

*From Story of cities #28: how postwar Warsaw was rebuilt using 18th century paintings, retrieved March 9, 2018 from https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/apr/22/story-cities-warsaw-rebuilt-18th-century-paintings

Warsaw pic by MZACHA on rgbstock.com; Jerusalem by MICROMOTH on rgbstock.com

Find Joy: 5 Building Blocks for Rebuilding On Your Ruins

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

The rubble of ancient, conquered, and razed Jerusalem lies under and around the modern city.  It was rebuilt on its ruins. About 2600 years ago, a prophet said this would happen. It is recorded in the Bible book of Jeremiah.   “Jerusalem will be rebuilt on its ruins” (Jeremiah 30:18).

That can happen for you and me, too. We can rebuild on our broken pasts of abuse, addiction, or mental illness. See  Find Joy: You Can Rebuild on Your Ruins.

 5 of 10 building blocks for the precious rebuild of your life.

1. Forgive.  Letting go means admitting what hurts.  Look thoughtfully at the responsibility of all concerned, and forgive yourself if you played a role in causing harm to yourself or others.  Allow people to be human, wicked, thoughtless, and careless. By this I mean, do not carry their burden of guilt.

Make amends wherever doing so will not hurt someone else.  Anger and resentment keep us stuck in the middle of our ruins.

2. Accept the losses and acknowledge your emotions. Trying to convince yourself that something does not hurt, or that it shouldn’t hurt, is to do yourself a huge disfavor. Please take this advice from a woman who buried emotions for 50 years. Emotions teach us if we will listen. Then it becomes possible to deal with them and move on. 

3. Do not isolate. Do talk about your challenge and listen to another perspective.  Your thoughts can be unsafe and may need interruption.  Listen to warnings. When you will not open up, what you perceive remains your only understanding of truth.

4.  Refocus on present positives.  There is good happening all around for which to be grateful.  Life offers up profound moments of joy and inspiration, and at the same time,  sometimes devastating news.  It may be cold and bitter weather, and simultaneously clear and beautiful. It takes some practice,  nonetheless, focusing on the present good helps you to find today’s safety and withdraw from your past. 

5. Develop and utilize boundaries.  You cannot control external events or another person’s choices.  Therefore your boundaries  are meant to stop you, not someone else.  You can change your “I’m stuck in this problem” to “I’m not going to allow so-n-so to abuse me, or a substance to ruin me, or a mental health challenge to hold me back.”  You decide what to let in and what to keep out of your life. 

You do not have to do this alone

Rebuilding is possible and doable. It may be difficult and require much time.  You may have ruins, nevertheless you are not ruined

There are people trained to help. Mental health professionals, organizations to help abuse victims, rehabilitation centers, and other qualified resources. Check out my pages of references for Abuse, addiction, and depression and anxiety. 

Remember too, the same God of the BIble that Jeremiah knew is Who is on your side today. In my next blog, you will receive the other 5 of 10 building blocks. 

Today’s Helpful Word

2 Corinthians 5:17 

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

 

 **********COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.

NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

Construction workers pic from kozzi.com; building walls pic by COLINBROUGH on rgbstock.com