Posts Tagged ‘Addiction’


 What follows below is my speaking notes from this morning, the pdf is just below for the power point slides noted in the bolded brackets throughout.

Men’s Prayer Breakfast, Centennial Presbyterian Church January 26, 2019 

mens prayer breakfast january 2019

Good Morning. We are exploring some aspects this morning of mental health and belonging, as was advertised it is a personal and professional faith journey. In our time this morning we are by no means going to touch upon the entire spectrum of mental health concerns, diagnosis, disorders and spectrums out there. I am going to share a bit about my journey, and the ones that have touched upon me the most. Now I am sure you are probably asking well who is this guy? 

That’s a good question, short answer in my name is Ty, and I have lived in Rundle my whole life, my goal in life is simple to make my own corner of the world a better place. I am currently travelling through the echoes of a life spent fighting back the darkness of our world, and creating safe courageous space for all to belong, but more on that piece later. I am a pilgrim, the ad described me as a monastic-psychologist. It is true, I hold a Doctor of Psychology, I sought it out because I needed to skills to aid folks in healing. I have a Bachelor of Arts from Alberta Bible College, and my Master or Arts is from Canadian Theological Seminary now Ambrose Seminary. Each degree earned with classes that aided me in my goal of making the world a bit better, not for any other reason. I am monastic, because at the core of my journey is a formation in the Franciscan Charism. St. Francis of Assisi founded an order about 800 years ago of the open hand, those that embraced justice, simplicity, and living out the gospel message of love. Many believe it is an anti-educational-intellectual order because of a teaching of Francis that you first must learn the first scripture before going to the next. He was not counselling us to be the frozen chosen, but rather to so live into the scripture that we are living it without even thinking about it, it simply becomes part of our DNA. 

For me, the journey of learning has been centered on the scripture that brought me into organized church and ministry, at 19 years old I was contemplating my 6th attempt at suicide. I had gone through a horrendous time for that time of my life where my then fiancée had decided to abort our child, and re-enter the sex trade to feed her addiction. I was at home, quietly putting things in order, giving/selling things. When I stumbled across the little red Gideon’s New Testament they used to give out in grade 5. It was in the bottom of my closet and the spine was broken open, and these little red letters spoke to me: 

(slide of Great Commandment) 

Something shifted in my depression, and I decided to go see my Nan that weekend, and try out this church thing, and the tumultuous seasons of my ministerial life would begin, as I started to be like the lawyer. 

(slide of Good Samaritan). 

This led me to a life journey involved in many aspects of church ministry, continuing an active writing and activism career that was already in place, building ministries, writing curriculums, entering into service in the homeless sector during the darkest times of our province, as austerity measures created a humanitarian crisis in Calgary where threat to human life was imminent each winter. I would also serve during my time as a chaplain to those with dementia, childrens and youth pastors, pulpit supply, college and university instructor from bachelor to post-graduate courses in a variety of topics, practicum supervisors, mentor for at risk youth and re-integration mentor for youth re-entering society from the young offender’s centre. I would do outreach in many of the cities in Canada for those in need, aiding those camping rough to find safety, and if they could not the next morning aiding authorities in identifying the bodies. Publish a few books. Oh and in the midst, I would find time to run for office and shape many policies for parties at both the Federal and Provincial level, but hey a man needs a hobby. 

Throughout this I began to shape a concept of belonging. That it is about aiding folks in understanding who they truly are, how the experience the world, and how we as community can aid them in achieving wholeness. 

(slide on mental health) 

In my teens and early 20’s like many Albertans I struggled with alcohol. It would not be until later that I would find out about my family’s predilection to alcoholism. But I made a hard decision at that time, after my one birthday where I woke up sore and alone at home, alcohol was not a good thing for me, it made me violent, it needed to end: 

(slide of Dix) 

Addiction comes in many forms.  

(addiction slide)  

It is a form of self-medicating, a numbing agent, a replacement for authentic belonging and authentic self. The challenge in our world, is that so many things that become addictive can be seen as societally acceptable: gambling we use to fundraise for our schools and hospitals and other non-profits, alcohol you are seen as abnormal if you do not drink in social settings- try being politically active and sober? Or a writer; work or fitness or religion- all things that are acceptable, but can also so overtake our lives that we can no longer function. 

(Opioid crisis slide) 

Today we are in a crisis in Canada as a result of our triage and siloed method of dealing with people in health care. We are in what the media and health care have termed an opioid crisis, it is due to the prevalence of Fentanyl. A drug originally designed for end of life pain allevement. Now opioids, when used for pain relief within medicine are not bad, that is the all or nothing view of our world. What is wrong, is those using them to self-medicate their own personal pain. Pain caused by our own inhumanity towards one another. What would change with the crisis if we moved out of isolation and fear mongering, into authentic community? A courageous safe space where we understand pain, we understand the journey of healing, and we are willing to believe and help at a deeper level. We are willing to allow belonging, knowing that the greatest fear in belonging is that when the person is no longer there, we shall mourn.  

That is why we avoid belonging. Whether it is belonging in our own skin (Love yourself) or opening space for belonging for neighbour (love your neighbour as yourself). 

(won’t you be my neighbour slide) 

I have already touched on a bit of my own struggle with depression. Depression is a normal reaction in the grief process of loss, it can also be more than short term however, and that is okay. It is how some experience life 

(Depression Slides) 

It is ironic, as a child I had convulsions, they were so severe in my toddler years I am told there was multiple times I stopped breathing and was blue. In the late 70’s early 80’s the treatment for such a thing was an anti-psychotic- Phenobarbitrol. It is a harsh long-term treatment, but it saved my life and my brain. Many children who were put on it, lost their lives to suicide or addiction in adolescence, or dropped out of life. It is still used in short term cases for stabilization before another anti-epileptic or anti-convulsant will be prescribed. I was on it from roughly age 2 to 9 years old, my convulsions left my brain scarred, and unbeknownst to us at the time, the medication had rewired things significantly. 

As my Mum entered into the journey of Breast Cancer that would eventually take her life; I was the Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries at a church; teaching and writing; working as a vocational coach for persons with disabilities; working on my Master’s oh and just for fun running for office while editing a political journal provincially, and a spiritual journal internationally is when the repercussions of what saved my life would hit. 

(I don’t wanna slide) 

Panic attacks. Tears or anger for no reason. Medication as my brain chemistry was out of balance. 

I was always and still am open about my own journey, if those who seek to facilitate healing cannot be open, how do we expect those seeking help to be open. There was a backlash, churches skittered away from me, as I transitioned back into a leadership role in the homeless sector I was abruptly informed that I was a weak leader for sharing my mental health with my team. That self-care and mental health care were not up to leaders to mentor staff in, it was their job to deal with the challenges of the job. 

Stigma. 

But through medication, self-care, what I termed soul work through spiritual direction and life coaching I emerged through that time on medication for a few years and things had improved.  It was also during this time that I lost my ordination by taking a stand that yes children with disabilities belong in God’s kingdom (but our journey of that is a tale for another time). 

As Shawna, my wife, is always proud to say, I taught many how to care for themselves, while caring for neighbour. Soul care, ensuring you can love yourself and are being the true you, while helping others become the true them. We did not expect what was to begin in 2016, but there are 4 scary letters out there that we need to remove the fear from: 

(PTSD Slides) 

Whether personally or professionally we as a family had created safe spaces for belonging, whether they found me through work, or showed up on our door step. Literally meals can be added to, coffee or tea can go on, kids can play, and life can happen as we just are: 

(Quote slide) 

I am going to share with you an article I wrote about what is happening in the now, it is the outcome of years of journeying in the darkness as the light, and taking a beating for views of belonging. A lifetime, as we spoke of before in a Franciscan way of learning how to live out the Great Commandments, and answer the question, Who is my neighbour? 

(PTSD-PNES Slide) 

613 is my number, what is yours? 

It is amazing the conversations one has as a parent, and then the journey it causes you to reflect upon. Before May 2016 sitting in an ER I never thought I would be here. See, growing up and throughout my life I admit to being socially awkward (to be kind), but there was something that always was wonderful, my mind. When it came to numbers it was something like Charlie on Numbers that the solution would come to me, but has no real idea what took me from problem to solution. My everyday mind would be able to focus on 3 or 4 tasks in front of me, while crunching solutions and dreams/plans for multitudes of other things (one of the main reasons I never took up this thing called driving). 

It is the blessing of this mind, with my heart for changing the world that allowed the drive in school (and the multiple degrees earned and given honourary); building programs; running for office; editing and writing; book publishing; teaching; outreach work; mentoring; life coaching; spiritual direction; public speaking; pulpit supply; and the list can go on in my short life I had packed in multiple life times. Standing in the darkness and walking with those in the midst so they could come into their light. Discover who they truly were; teaching and facilitating others in discovering their passions and ways to make a living at it. I believe my life showed that you can chase dreams, and still hold true to your core values, not having to surrender who you are to make a difference in this world. At one point I looked back on my time in ministry and realized I had the opportunity to speak into nearly 1,000 young lives for the better. 

But it started to shift in May and then October 2016 in the ER with weird brain activity, memory loss, chest pains and left-hand tremors. But I was told I was normal and fine, so carry on at discharge, after a day or two at home back at it. Back at the work of walking with folks to create home and community. 

In the later part of 2017 as summer approached, professional and personal griefs/stressors were there. Waying on one’s spirit. I felt tired, and my brain was foggy. Like I had taught so many though, back to the daily practice, self-care, seeking out those who can aid you in debrief and carry forward, keep yourself healthy. And why wouldn’t I be tired? It was a phase, been there done that. My vocabulary, and understanding of some basic concepts began to fail me. Again, I looked back on what was happening with those in personal and professional life passing away, assumed it was a grief cycle (my son’s friends were passing away, always hard). 

But then my birthday hit and the game changed. 

Seizures (Grand Mal and absent), multiple in rapid succession. Lost memory and time. Not only in the now, but lost memories, I could not recall things. It kept happening, I became the ER’s daily flier if you will…and oh so cold, my body had gone hypothermic, in retrospect to protect my heart. Medical science couldn’t answer the question. Weird things being vomited out. Tests were toss ups. 

But when the seizures hit, and I would come back so would the pain. The life of being a light in the darkness, but only the darkness would come back. Decades of being in the pain, looking back and having my mind lie to me saying that I was a failure, had not made a difference. My memories that would reboot, it was like an old DOS computer with dust on the floppy, the self-care wouldn’t come with it. My healing and growing of scar tissue were gone, it was rapid succession of the pain that cut to the very core of who I was. I tried to work through, my agency was wonderful in their support. 

But I was not me. My beautiful gift, my mind, was failing. Things that I knew by rote, and was simple neurological muscle memory were gone, fog was constant, stabbing pains, tremoring arm, in ability to sleep, hypothermic and I won’t share how when I went down finally for health reasons the days of weird chemicals I had been exposed to expelling from my body (oh and the constant daily seizures, at one point almost 40 a day). Tests of the blood, body and brain, but the flashbacks persisted. 

It wasn’t something that was expected. I had learned to take care of myself, to rely on supports, to keep healthy, to use vacation time and to chase passions. This was against the narrative. But it persisted. Advancing from basic neurology to complex, in hospital observational stays, and all the epileptoligists/neurologists looking at my brain scans and medical files to reach a decision on what was happening. Finally, in the last month or two having confirmed diagnosis, PTSD-PNES, and now due to the Third Way boondoggle that was Klein’s legacy, I wait for the aid to cure and move forward. In the mean time the seizures are not epileptic but bring all the fears of those types of seizures with them everything from falls to sudden death, with no medications that can be prescribed to control them. 

With each seizure my number reminds me of where I have walked. 613 that is 613 in my life of family, friends, children, parishners, and clients I was unable to do more than journey with to the final transition to the next life. Most I was present for last rites or the passing or performed the celebration of life, if not all of it. In the travels I continue to use that which some may say is fruitless. Yet I persist. I pay the price for the persistence to keep going, I am not as good as I used to be, not even close…but I keep trying, working on myself while I wait. 

This time I feel like Alice having stepped through the looking glass, or Kirk into the Mirror Universe. I have seen what the darkness unchecked has done to my soul. I know what the light is. I struggle to believe in myself once more for with each reboot I still have to work through the lies my heart tells me that I am a failure, for even if it is a simple spark I need to hold to it…that I make a difference simply by being. 

What is your number? 

 (Authentic you slide) 

The Great Commandment lays out a challenge for us. It is about realizing that we are created in God’s image. As such we cannot say we love God with our everything, if we do not love ourselves. To love ourselves speaks of belonging in our own skin, having our purpose, it is not about jobs, it is about knowing why we are here and having a means to live it out. It is also understanding we need to love our neighbour who is also the image of God. Creating the courageous safe space for belonging so they can discover themselves. Within that space journeying with one another in the same vein. 

People constantly ask me what’s next? I honestly do not know, step one is to get the healing work done, then look at a return to work. What will that look like? I do not know. In the mean time I have purpose, I write, I teach when I can, I do some research and writing for my Dad and his wife’s project, Countess Country Musuem. I am beginning to work on a family memoir on the topic of mental health and belonging to remove the stigma. Most importantly though in this time of healing, I am a husband and a Dad in an amazing loving family. 

I leave you with a question to mull, 

What’s next for you? 

(Christian Counsellors slide) 

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Good Night,

Sleep tight,

don’t let the bed bugs bite.

-Ancient bedtime incantation against the blood sucking buggars

Image result for bed bugsBED BUGS! Feel it. That uncontrollable desire to itch or scratch? Don’t hide it. I know you did. I spent years being the go to in infestation control for multiple buildings. It is a creepy feeling. I have seen infestations so bad that there was a symbiosis created by tenant and insect, to the newest ones that are picked up in life transit.  We have all heard the news reports of the explosions of bed bugs on airplanes, in churches, movie theatres, low rent motels, high rent hotels, and schools. These are travelers, see bed bugs are searching for hosts. They love our carbon dioxide. The ones in public spaces are seeking a person to take them home. There is so many because 1000’s can literally be born in days. The female bed bug is impregnated by thousands of mates all at once, and births the babies in a cycle.

They are translucent until they feed. There source of food? Us. If there is a huge infestation, and they cannot sufficiently feed I have seen situations where they will feed on a pet, but usually a pet in used as a public transit mechanism for them to go to other places and spread their colonies. By what are they making a comeback so strongly in Canada? Well, we had them obliterated, unfortunately the chemicals used to wipe them out were also wiping us out via carcinogens. Dang it.

Image result for bed bugsBy mechanical function how early an infestation is detected states how many sprays are needed (minimum usually two). If you rent, the landlord in Alberta is responsible for footing the bill for the spray (sorry homeowners, its on us for our own). The responsibility of the tenant (and the infested if you own) is to promptly follow through on all instructions laid out by the pest control company to ensure the efficacy of the sprays.

Appears very simple. One notes like the picture above or less and calls in; or has noted 3 clustered bites (breakfast-lunch-dinner)together resembling small or large mosquito bites and calls for pest control (keep in mind not everyone shows bites, for the bite showing is an allergic reaction so you can be being feasted on and never even know it, it is why in communal living like hotels, condos, and apartment blocks random inspections help by trained pest control).

Yet this is not a simple carpet beetle infestation where carpet replacement or vacuuming will cure, or flour beetles that require cleaning and food disposal. This is a very intimate type of infestation and that can be missed is that part of the process is mental health supports. Sadly in 2013 in Montreal, a gent with pre-existing mental health conditions completed a suicide due to recurrent Bed Bug infestations. Though I can attest one does not need pre-existing mental health or health conditions to provide an unkind end.

Image result for bed bugsBed bugs get in your most intimate spots–truly. They disrupt sleep. They interrupt sexual relations. If you talk to others about it, they recoil and stigmatize you. See we assume bed bugs equate to dirty lifestyle or living. That is a fallacy. Bed Bugs are seeking food (us), they do not care if you are a hoarder or a minimalist, hospital clean or junkyard mucky, young, old, senior, Millennial, wealthy or poor. They just want your blood.

One would then think, well treatment happens it ends right. No, it does not, one is encouraged not to abandon their resident during treatment cycles as you are literally the bait to contain the infestation. Best case scenario, after two weeks it is free and clear with maybe a lingering of psychosomatic itchiness. Worst case scenario, multiple sprays and many if not all belongings disposed of to ensure reoccurence stops. Literally losing one’s life (material, or completed suicide).

What can this do? Lack of sleep is never a good thing for the human body. Isolation due to stigmatization is never a good thing. Fear of an area of the house (usually happens with where you sleep), but can happen with the whole residence. During treatment cycles, prep, stress, already existing mental health concerns can be exacerbated or new ones can be created: panic attacks to psychotic breaks are not out of the realm of possibility for a rather mentally healthy individual (recurrence after treatment has also been termed Post Traumatic Bed Bug Stress Disorder). For addictions, they can get worse and reach crisis levels, most prevalent being gambling, alcoholism, and drug use. One can also become more open to addiction symptoms to deal with the stress and trauma of the infestation. Sadly as well, pre-existing domestic violence can increase rapidly around this as the infestation can become the focal point of rage and blame.

Knowing that inspection brings people into one’s sanctuary (home); treatment brings others into the sanctuary and tears it apart; living with the buggars has its own terrors. Is it any wonder that mental health is something that needs to be navigated, acknowledged, and treated during and after this time? If we ignore it, we are simply ignoring what is right for our neighbour and ourselves.

Best pest control company I have worked with in Calgary is Martin’s Pest Control.

Image result for bed bugs

 


As was written previously, anyone following any form of news media can see the political long knives are coming out for a blood bath in the 2019 provincial election. The UCP anger machine and NDP anger machine are in full throttle. Both are arguing over that Alberta Advantage, well, let’s take a look back from a perspective on life since the Klein era “common sense revolution”. The fact that this era normalized addiction, and no it was not because our Premier was a known alcoholic it goes deeper than that. This is not a debate about abstinence vs. harm reduction methods or safe use sites or methadone, etc…all those things work dependent on the chemical dependency. No, this is exploring how the drive to privatize normalized addiction for a province as a means of funding public services.

I note privatization, for it is the time period when registries, driver tests and liqour stores all went private. Short-term money makers, long-term impact. I still remember being in high school and knowing if the bars ever started IDing I would just have to walk into a registry with 50 bucks to get a legitimate ID with a false birthday. (There is much controversy recently with the Government taking driver testing out of private hands, but there has been many rumours and proofs that it is a necessity for road safety). Although as I moved into sober living, trust me it is a challenge as a writer or to be involved in politics alcohol free.  The privatization of liqour stores led to an explosion in neighbourhoods where literally I believe in the properties here in NE Calgary we have one in every strip mall. The more private retailers meant it was more easily accessed, and flowed more easily to all age groups.

Also saw more of a prevalence in checkstops, as drunk driving has become a plague in Alberta. Also though many excuses are given due to the ebb and flow of oil and gas and the Alberta economy for the reason behind high rates of usage, and domestic violence. But I liken these excuses to what the courts have ruled in the drunk defense for assaults and sexual assaults, it is not a get out of jail free card. We have built a province where it is acceptable to drink, where we actually don’t truly look down on the functional alcoholic that can still hold it together it is a communal reflection we need to look at in the mirror. The more alcohol used, the more money went into government coffers in “sin” taxes.

It goes hand in hand with the rise of other chemically dependent crisis whether it was crack, meth or fentanyl, all a way to dull the pain, a symptom of covering up the hidden pains as we push forward with the fallacy of the Protestant stiff upper lip cultural toxicity.

Due to the high cost of living for those below the upper-middle class cut off, what became normalized was a forced or adapted workaholicism. That is for some households it was multiple jobs for all involved to keep themselves afloat, or for one person to maybe white knuckle through recovery of another addiction to simply push forward keeping themselves busy. As the Third Way of health care wrecked havoc on things like P3’s for extended care, it meant many having to put in 3-5 years of work in a year span to simply cover the cost for their loved ones. But we grinned proudly to the world for looking at the hard working folks of Alberta.

As our infrastructure like schools, hospitals, roads and non-profits crumbled we got a “blessing” from the government. Or it is one that some have stated to me in spiritual centres, non-profits or schools (and hospitals). Proceeds from gambling. Whether it is lotteries, or casinos that non-profits can staff to reap the windfall from. It is putting out there that the responsibility of supporting things for the public good fall upon those things that can cause the most harm. It places non-profits in a position to wrestle through the ethics around taking money from what can be addiction fueled industries to fund their efforts in making a better world. For parents in a parent council, it lays out the challenge of needing to reflect on one’s own ethics and values for participation in a society’s that government has deemed simple things as computers, libraries and upkeep need to fall into fundraising initiatives and things such as Casino revenues.

Is it a blessing? Or is it simply a way to place a placebo happy sticker over an initiative that may be fun for some, but detrimentally harmful to others? A simple way to say “hey we care, look you can access this…” but not caring enough to actually direct appropriate funds. The Calgary Board of Education would scream that the loss of their ability of School Fees is why they have shortfalls, totally ignoring that Education Minister Eggen and Alberta Education had made up those shortfalls in their budgets. I could see the same screaming happening if the ability to use the addiction industries for funding were lost.

But here’s the challenge, what happens if we were to remove that funding stream and create appropriate government grants? What if we curtailed the availability of some of these forms of addiction? Would the need for services decrease? I do not know.

I do know as we head into the election, it is a discussion that needs to be had policy wise. Especially within a province in the midst of economic transition. It creates an uncertain space for many, where old industries are vanishing, new ones are coming in, cultural norms and economic norms are changing. It is a grief cycle our province is in, each of us at different points. Each point opens up a risk factor to addiction to null the pain, and if we place the onus on funding on those nulling agents, we are creating a cycle of pain that we may not escape from.

Ask questions. Discuss ideas. Think of all citizens. Create a province we can be proud of. Vote in 2019, not strategically but for what you value.

 


The past year since leaving work for disability to heal has brought much frustration and anger in our family’s steadfast in hope. Moments of convulsion that we know may be the last moment. Memory loss. Inability to formulate full thoughts and articulations. Seeking that diagnosis to know what the heck was going on, and how to correct it. It took a journey to reach that. In that journey was pain, and stress, and I thank my wife for standing with me in our love throughout it…we are not there yet but we are at the hump day of the healing week if you will.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

-Epistle of Second Peter 2:1-3 (English Standard Version)

It is these thoughts that resonate when one thinks of blaspheme. For some it is misuse of words, cursing using the name of God, or perhaps a heresy (making a firm decision on a matter of faith). But Pseudo-Peter takes us further into false teaching, into the idea of blaspheme being wrong living. That is corruption. Using good works to build ones own esteem, power and fill their bank accounts. Thus ensuring that as long as the outward sign appears “holy” the behind the scenes life does not matter. This is blaspheme, it is about all being cared for along the journey, and treated justly, not just the one in the lead who is about their “name” being made.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell[a] and committed them to chains[b] of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;[c] and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials,[d]and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge[e] in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

-Epistle of 2 Peter 2: 4-10 (ESV)

Religion. Sports. Politics. Education. In fact, anywhere people seek meaning and enjoyment of life there is monsters veiled as leaders/career makers/coaches. These monsters, are not all, but a percentage that usually excel at what they do. They excel so that the institution will protect them. Move them around, ignore or force the victims out. We are entering an era thanks to #metoo and #churchtoo where the voice of the victims are shattering the protective stone of blaspheme that is institutional protection. Perhaps, it will also lead to the proper end of some institutional lifespans, as those illustrated in the story…those that covered up removing personal agency; rape, sexual violence, domestic violence… they were swept away…

Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions,[f] while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery,[g] insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

-Epistle of 2 Peter 2:10-16 (ESV)

It is the testimony culture that rings through here. Now it may sound as a blanket statement. But within certain evangelical movements I had been apart of, it was not about sharing the life in the faith. Good or bad and what was learned. It became this game of one upmanship to show how messed up one could be before coming to faith, and how wonderful peaches and cream the world was after. It created this concept that the only way to have a “salvation” experience was to completely self destruct, otherwise God could not love you. You could not have been just someone who grew up in the faith. You needed “That” moment. Yes sometimes they happened, sometimes it was a quiet still voice in a moment of pain or joy.

But it became a game like in the helping world, where people try to make the most “trauma lived experience tale” about why they do what they do. It seems almost weird that one will just simply want to help because they have a good heart, and skills, and because of that are able to help others.

I have had my still quiet moments, my aha moments. My pain, and my joys. I know that there is a spectrum of ways to know oneself, and to renew one’s own understanding of themselves. I know I cannot drink alcohol. In the dark times over this time of uncertainty, yes I have wanted a stiff glass of scotch, 2 fingers- neat. Yet it is a case of one being not enough and too many. It is that I am a scrapper by personality, but become overtly aggressive with alcohol- sooo— it makes more sense for contentment within my life to abstain. With any substance that changes a persons demeanor, one needs to understand if it is addiction or social use, is it harming their day today life, is it something they want to change. If it something they want to change (you cannot force anyone to change), then you need to work with them to figure out if harm reduction or abstinence is the best course for them to reach true understanding. To make a firm decision on one course of treatment over another for a person, forcing them to change, is a blaspheme. For it is not honouring the image bearer before you.

17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves[h] of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

-Epistle of 2 Peter 2:17-22 (ESV)

It closes by pointing out that change happens within community. It leans a bit on the concepts we reflected on yesterday within 2 Timothy around Mentor-Peer-Protege functionality. It is that accountability that ensures the life being lived is not only authentic, but has integrity. It is ensuring that those who hold similar morals, ethics and values aid in your walk. It also ensures that one remains humble (quietly, assertive in what you know you can do, and what you need help or other skills to accomplish). Most it keeps the simple image bearer that is you and neighbour at the forefront.

What blaspheme have you engaged in?

What gremlins need to be exorcised to end it.

What new life do you need to step into?

 


Peter is writing during a dangerous time to be different. It can mean one’s own death, economic exclusion, poverty. An existence on a lower rung than property. He writes to the church of Rome, the epicentre of the hunt to encourage. Encourage those that this is something that is new, that the way through the pain is not to surrender to old ways, and join that which is familiar, but rather to be together encouraging one another to maintain the course.

I read these words and I ponder those that enter into time of crisis, time of health concerns. Is it possibly to look at someone struggling for a new life in addiction, but to heal means confronting that which created the symptom of addiction. The hard work, not only to heal, but to find those that do not encourage you to the old path. One can use words and deeds to argue harm reduction versus harm acceptance versus abstinence, but like the words of Peter it is a discussion in missing the point.

It is the person.

In pain.

Needing love of community and self.

One word:

B-E-L-O-N-G-I-N-G.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh,[a] arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

-Epistle of 1 Peter 4:1-11 (English Standard Version)

Be the community that allows for healthy change and for healing. Yet it goes deeper as it speaks to a proselytizing of the dead. Our brothers and sisters in Mormonism use this as a root of genealogy science, and proxy baptism to ensure everyone gets it. Yet it means more, and has been a missed point for the Mental Health of the community, and the person. I believe it speaks to the peace found in paradise whether one has succumbed to the old life, or taken their life. It is Peter reminding the church in crisis that we are here to love, and honour one another. That God’s love through Christ’s life embraces all.

It is also a reminder that everything in life comes from the same source of the Holy Mystery. In the journey of healing to trust in science, to know when it comes to mental health sometimes it is spiritual direction; psychology-psychiatry and/or medication– but it all works towards wholeness. In that wholeness you resonate with the authentic you. Those that preach-teach otherwise are missing the mark, and creating a community of harm, not love.

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory[b] and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
    what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”[c]

19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

-1 Peter 4:12-19 (ESV)

Peter is writing at a time of physical harm, and looming death for himself and many that had chosen a different than acceptable path. These words could be taken literally on the page, or one can dive deeper into the now of the world and see where religion creates oppression. It is in a system that says “if your faith were only stronger…” not realizing the harm that is done in creating the us-them dichotomy. For Peter shared the teachings of his friend, Jesus, and it was about living the authentic you. Trusting that what it took to heal and function properly was of the Holy. Moving beyond the pain and death to the true you.

It was about knowing the pain life, trauma and inter-generational trauma could create. The pain different human secular and religious systems could create. Standing steadfast in the knowledge of your holistic self in love.

It is pulling not only the person but the community back from missing the point.

It is the person.

In pain.

Needing love of community and self.

One word:

B-E-L-O-N-G-I-N-G.


Ah the reviews of “scary” or “terror inducing” for me were a bit over the top, but Haunting of Hill House (Netflix series, 2018) was good. Now, I must admit we will not be talking about the paranormal aspects of the show (perhaps another post, as I do love what was shown for the negative/dark side of paranormal, much like the Exorcist television show), but there is another topic that emerges within the confines of the 10 episodes and that is:

A-D-D-I-C-T-I-O-N.

And within the confines of addiction, the shame hierarchy of addiction so other addicts can hide and believe they are healthier than the other. The Crain family is the centre of the story.  A shared trauma when the 5 siblings were children,  which as they grew up each took their own path of suppression/repression/projection and psychological denial.

Luke’s addiction was the one that the rest could look down upon, as it was heroin. The eldest brother, Steven, dove into denial and repression through turning everything into a story to cover up what he believed was family psychosis and as a result created emotional walls to keep everyone out, and self-sabotage. Theo to avoid touch, wrapped herself in her work and the only release being one night stands not knowing how to love. The eldest sister became obsessed with death running a funeral home, and Nell became lost in trying everything to feel “normal”. Each had their own addiction…and while Luke chose the quickest way to numb the pain, each sibling as well showed that when their own path was no longer working they had no issue supplementing with hard liqour.

The most telling  scene being at a funeral viewing with Luke even though 90 days clean, still struggling with his own grief. The family’s liqour use on full display for drunkenness.

This is the question it raises. Addiction is not formed in a vacuum. It is not a choice. It is a coping mechanism for life, for trauma, for loss, for grieving, for lack of belonging. Feeling the eternal outsider and not knowing how else to silence the demons, or make the pain go away.

It is why 12 step programs still persist, because they draw people into community, and provide support on the journey. Create a safe port o call when the storms of life get too much. DBT/CBT (ala Smart Recovery) do the same, as it provides tools. Things that allow working through the symptoms, but it is striking at the heart of cause that brings release. How many do that?

In that journey, how many communities/families are willing to journey with the addicted?

It is in the journey when light is shone into the darkness that creates healing and ends addiction.

Recent studies on front line workers in homelessness/housing first have shown high rates of PTSD (higher than sexual assault victims) and currently peg 46% of active staff living/working with symptoms. One has to ponder, and possibly explore what is the functional/non-functional addiction levels of these staff for coping? As one struggles with flashbacks/anxiety/depression/pain and the darkness, reaching for what ever will bring relief/unconsciouness can be easier than working the healing. Discovering the light that the darkness has buried takes a lot (and requires a wraparound industry of support).

Yet for that light to shine, one has to look at their world…and do those around them create a safe port o call or simply a place where you can rationalize usage? Reflecting on Luke, he could very easily have looked at the other addictions and rationalized usage not healing. For the only difference in addictions, was legal/illegal.

The purpose behind was the same– numbing the pain of loss.

And that is the challenge for when it comes to addictions healing, we as the outsider do not necessarily want to admit perhaps our behaviours need to adjust for safety on the journey. The communal responsibility over personal right. It is a fine line, but one that shows the living breathing eco system within ourselves is how the community interacts with those in pain.

Are we going to be a part of the healing?


Robert B. Parker (1932-2010) was a prolific (to put it mildly) writer of fiction, and mystery-adventures. Usually character driven not suspense. Most will know of his because of the 1980’s t.v. show Spenser for Hire (and the 1990’s t.v. movies), which followed the exploits of super-sleuth, Spenser, his partner the enigmatic Hawk, and Spenser’s life partner Susan Silverman. Whose adventures have been continued since Parker’s passing by Ace Atkins rather admirably. That was on pocket of Parker’s universe, his writing also spawned the Sunny Randall series; many stand alone works. He also crafted the western series Hitch & Cole, which the first novel was used as the basis for the western movie Appaloosa (2008), with the novels being continued and this pocket of Parkerverse growing with the writings of Robert Knott.

Yet there is one series that I keep being drawn back to. It was started as Parker wanted to consider writing a series from third person perspective. It was the story of an LAPD Homicide detective, former minor league ball player, and active alcoholic hired by a corrupt town council for a fresh start in Paradise, just outside of Boston. Jess Stone was the character. He is complex and simple all at the same time. He is an alcoholic seeking redemption, still trapped in a weird co-dependence cycle with his ex-wife (who he slips up and calls wife). His psychologist, Dix, is also a former cop that is the inverse of the alcoholism of Jesse. Where Jesse drinks less because of the work, it was the work that caused Dix to drink.

That is just a sliver of the colourful characters that inhabit paradise. From Hastie Hathaway to Suitcase Simpson to Dr. Perkins to Molly to Rose State Homicide Detective Healy to a colourful repertoire of rogues that work for and against the work of angels. It is a journey of a man that has filled 9 movies, and 16 books. Told on the page by Parker, Michael Brandman and currently, Reed Farrell Coleman.  It is a series that shows the struggle of addiction from triggers to habit:

“I’m having 2 drinks at night.”

-Jesse Stone explaining his system to Dix

To what it means to allow people inside the armour that has been built to survive in the darkness, and the price that is paid when it backfires. That loss is not simply death, it can be losing touch, or not realizing when something has happened because you are lost in your own muck. It is also those moments of stepping outside of the norm, and seeing the person behind the behavior.

“You have a hyper-inflated sense of responsibility”

-Dix to Jesse

For taking responsibility for everything that happens in your world. It is an intriguing story, for he can be read as a tragic character, a failed human being or even someone that may not be highly likable.

“I am very fond of you Jesse”

-Hasty Hathaway

Hired to be easily controlled by the corrupt powers, yet having his own drive to prove he was not the fall down drunk he once was on the job. Not the failed short stop with the torn shoulder. Always willing to give someone else a second chance, but crawling into a bottle at his own failures and refusing to let go.

Image result for jesse stone 2018Following, reading, enjoying the story of Jesse Stone, is a story of a man on a journey of redemption. It is not outward redemption. But an inward redemption that needs to begin with himself. Will he ever truly find a release from his alcohol? Will he ever see that he is forgivable? Loveable? Redeemable?

Will Jesse ever have a moment of true reconciliation with himself. That is being able to accept his past scars and all, and enter into the fresh start he sought in Paradise, Massachusetts?

It is the story of you or I?

Are we able to begin a new?

Truly?