during this season of easter, i am going to share a few of my friends stories of hope in the midst of the real life. these might not seem too exciting to the un-trained eye, because they aren’t stories of complete and total 100% rock solid true blue victory over the darkness and struggle. i personally don’t believe that’s what healing looks like. what these stories are, though, are signs of hope that Jesus is alive and well, working in wild and unexpected ways. and that any sliver of hope is worth celebrating, especially in this harsh, broken, and beautiful world. i hope you find a little for you through reading them, too.
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one of the greatest gifts i get to participate in refuge life together is being with friends who are battling an addiction of some shape or form. i believe we are all addicted. yeah, even though i haven’t had a drink in 16 years, i am addicted to work and codependency in all kinds of wacky ways and continue to work toward greater healing on a daily basis. at the same time, some addictions are more life-destroying than others, and i can’t tell you what a joy it is to celebrate at our weekly gatherings our friend’s sobriety from chemical addiction. seeing the journey up-close-and-personal is so beautiful, and a constant reminder of the 1st beatitude (which folds directly into the 1st of the 12 steps)–blessed are those who are realize their need for God.
so here’s a little sign of hope for you this week. meet my brave friend janice* (like the out of the darkness and view from the margins series, all names have been changed because the world wide web is weird and i want everyone to speak freely. you first met her in God’s ghetto). she has almost 5 years sobriety from a 30-year cocaine addiction; we have been friends through relapses and starts and stops, and the one thing i am more clear of then ever–the journey toward sobriety is a bumpy road that a lot more to do with change than just stopping using. it’s about healing, letting love in, finding voice and strength, and learning to live in pain and freedom instead of run away from life.
- you now have over 4 1/2 years of of sobriety from cocaine addiction. congratulations, i am so proud of you! this is no small thing and definitely not for the faint-hearted. how did you get there? what has the last 4 1/2 years been like for you?
I got sober thru a 12 step program and a group of friends I call the God-Squad. The first 2 years I had to concentrate 100% of my energy on my recovery. It was like a full-time job. It was the most painful, nail-biting and yet exciting time in my life. After 2 years I quit going to meetings regularly, and even though I have stayed sober and am part of The Refuge, my sobriety has been in a sleep mode. I am clean but not moving forward, sometimes even backwards.
- what were some of the things you cried out to God during this season?
I cried for God to take the cravings away, I cried to him for the loss of friends that I had to give up. I cried for God to just take me home so I don’t have to face another day–sometimes I still do.
- recently, the pull toward using again became a little stronger when you hooked up with some old friends to catch up on old times. what happened?
I met 2 high school friends I haven’t seen in 25-30 years. One of them was someone I sold drugs with for many years. I really wanted to catch up on old times, but I knew it was a big risk, too. He suggested we take a ride and get high just like the old days. Thankfully, the other friend said he hasn’t touched drugs in years and things didn’t go that direction. The part that scared me was that I sat there and said nothing. I didn’t tell them I quit almost 5 years ago. It was like I had no voice.
- when you walked away from that moment with your sobriety intact, how did you feel?
I felt very lucky , thankful and somewhat sad. I admit, I miss those days sometimes. Even though I now have quality people in my life, I miss the quantity, the constant action that comes with drinking and drugging through life together. But I’m glad I am still clean after that close call.
- can you help people understand what the day-to-day battle looks like?
I have a lot of down-time due to being on disability. I have severe arthritis, a leaky heart valve and asthma. If I don’t make good plans with people or the weather is bad or I’m in too much physical pain, I sometimes go for days without any human contact, and that is when the loneliness sets in. The old days start to look inviting. Some days I’m pacing back and forth in my apartment because the pull is so strong. Some nights I have cocaine dreams that are so real that I wake up with the taste of coke in my mouth. The pull is always there.
- part of keeping your sobriety is helping others keep theirs. you are beginning a 12 step group at the refuge to provide a safe place for people across addictions to find on-going support and hope. how is being a catalyst for this group helping you?
It helps me get out of myself and my sh*t. I never understood how helping others would help my recovery, but I have seen healing for me many times while helping others. It’s a win-win situation. I still don’t understand it but I know it works. And I know right now in this stuck part of my recovery, I need to start taking it more seriously again. I want to be able to be in the kinds of moments I was with my friends and use my voice instead of stay silent.
- on days where the battle gets extra hard, what brings you hope?
I find hope in people who love me for me. I find hope going to the movies, lunch or coffee with people who care. A hug, phone call or even a simple (i love you ) text shows me glimpses of hope. Without people, I wouldn’t have hope.
- what do people who aren’t addicted need to keep in mind about friends who are?
Once you are an addict you will always be a addict. We need support no matter if we have 1 day sober or 4 years. We are 1 drink, 1 high away from our addiction. Keep checking in just to see where they are at. And never, ever, give up on them.
- what does hope look like for you right now? what’s surprising you about it?
Hope is a scary thing for me. Hope seems like I’m setting myself up for a letdown, but I’m trying to let more of it in. For me, sometimes hope is making it through this day and not thinking about the next one. And to somehow help someone else in their sobriety, too. That gives me hope and makes me excited about my recovery, too. I am hoping to find that voice and someday be able to totally close the door to my old ways
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thank you, janice, for this sign of hope–that against all odds it’s possible to be clean despite a gripping addiction. your story reminds me that the journey toward healing & sobriety is made one day at a time. and that one of the things that seems to give us the most hope sometimes is being part of others healing, too.