Addiction

Step 9-Making Direct Amends: My Letter to the Good Guys

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So, when step 9 came around, my sponsor suggested that I write an amends letter to men, which upon my dismay she edited it to be an amends letter to the good men out there. Conveniently enough, I never got around to it. I never made that amends. Well, as those in recovery and anyone who believes in a loving higher power can attest to, sometimes God makes you do the steps that you didn’t want to do. With the #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen trend going around, I thought this would be a perfect time to write my amends letter to the good guys out there, so I can finally release my bitterness. So, here goes.

 

Dear Good Guys,

Hey, I guess I haven’t talked to most of you before, but I’m Noelle. I’m working the twelve steps and a part of those steps is making amends to all people we have harmed (except when to do so would injure them or others). I’m 30 years old at this point, so I guess I should make a point of apologizing to you. I apologize for generalizing you, for lumping you in with all the men that have hurt me. I was wondering the whole time where the f&%$ you were, but according to my sponsor, I can’t hold you accountable for something you did not know was happening to me, so I apologize for blaming you. I’m apologize for grimacing at you every time I walked by you. That probably wasn’t very nice of me. I apologize for assuming all men are sociopaths, when the percentage is actually significantly smaller and you were out there being a decent human being with genuine feelings and a heart for your fellow humans. To those of you I’ve gotten to know on an intimate level, I’m sorry for treating you like dirt, just because that is what had been done to me. I realize now that you, too, are human beings and I was being just as low as the men I’ve held so much resentment towards all this time. I’m especially sorry to the ones who fell into love/like with me and I ignored because I was annoyed by your “neediness.” I could’ve found a more compassionate way to handle that. Overall, I just want to say I’m sorry for being exactly like the a holes that have inspired me to build this gigantic wall around my icy, lifeless heart. From now on, I will do things differently.

Sincerely,

Noelle

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God has recently made it very clear to me that I’ve been holding on to this bitterness for dear life, and it is time to let it go. I honestly do not know how to function without it. All I have left protecting me now is Jesus Christ, and I know that will be more than sufficient, but I feel naked nonetheless. So, this is me, making amends to the good guys, and giving my dear, lovely, comforting hatred of the male species over to God. He’ll know what to do with it. Because honestly, it never has actually served me well.

Photo on 2010-07-09 at 06.35

 

 

Two New Prayers

One of my readings last week asked me about my roadblocks to God. I had said that I don’t let others’ hatred affect my relationship with God, but maybe I do. I get very frustrated with Jesus’ followers, and that can frustrate my own relationship with God.

The fact is, my relationship with God has nothing to do with anyone else. It is between me and God. I cherish the fact that only God can know the true level of my faithfulness. It is like we have our very own language.

Through my readings last week, both in the devotional I’m reading for class and in the book of Mark. I found two things that I want to pray for every day. In certain twelve step programs, they say, every morning you should wake up and pray for another day free from your addiction, and every night, you should thank God for another day free from your addiction. I’ve never really felt a connection to those prayers, as I feel completely set free from most of my addictive behaviors.

The reading that I had for class has a chapter/day on accepting Christ as your savior. But it also has a prayer option for people who have already done that. It basically says that you should thank Jesus for saving your life. And I thought, what a great daily prayer! So, my goal is to go to God in Prayer, and thank Jesus daily for saving my life.

In Mark 4:13-20, Jesus says: “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like the seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop–some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

When I read that, I thought, I want to be like the seed sown on good soil! Then, I decided that this will be part of my daily prayer.

Thank you, Jesus for saving my life. Lord, please make me like seed sown on good soil, so that I may hear the word, accept it, and produce a great many crops from it. In Your name I pray, Amen.

 

Resentment, Roll Away!

I know the holidays can be this expectation-filled, anxiety-ridden ball of stressful days in rapid succession.  Let’s be honest, once Halloween hits, you know it will be the new year before you know.  At least, that’s how it goes for me.  I know the year is over with pumpkins and costumes.  The rest of it turns into a blur of get-togethers, sugar overloads, and family reunions.

I know a few people who were dreading the days they would have to spend with family.  There’s a huge expectation of presentation and performance with holidays.  We have to put on like we’re happy, and we love our dysfunctional relatives.  We have to catch up, and cherish time spent together.  We have to make a perfect turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, or other goodies.  We have to spend money and give presents we can’t afford to make someone think we can.  We have to try our damnedest not to micromanage, helicopter parent, or argue.

Heck, I’m visiting my sister, and I have already argued with my dad who happens to be 3 states away.  It is a stressful time.  We have a performance to nail, and dealing with traveling doesn’t make it any easier.

happy-holidays

I’ve learned something in the process of working the twelve steps that helps me in these situations.  See, a big part of why we [drink, use, overeat, under-eat, self-harm, gamble, shop, or ___(fill in blank)___ ] is because we carry around resentments.  It is a big part of step four, to work through those resentments–to realize that the people who have hurt you are sick, and need your compassion and sympathy; and also, to see your part in things and remedy the situation as best you can.

A lot of people go back to their addiction(s) of choice because they get a resentment, and it takes them back into sickness.  This is why, as in step 10, we continue to take a personal inventory and when wrong, admit it.  Resentments will kill us.  Resentments keep us firmly rooted in the problem.

This is why, I tread lightly on the grounds of my anger.  I do not want to become rooted there.  I have noticed that when I become angry, I can step away from the situation to let my feelings work themselves out.  It is easy, after having a little time, to realize where you too might have overreacted.  This is very helpful, not only in recovery, but in dealing with people or situations that can overwhelm you, such as holidays.

Always remind yourself of how precious your time is.  October to January just flew past your very eyes.  Keep that in mind.  Years and lives fly in much the same way.  Your in-laws or family may rub you the wrong way, but your time with them is short.   This may either be a blessing, or a reminder to enjoy them while they are here.  Either way, it is a good thing to keep in mind.

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”~ Dr. Seuss

 

The Difference With God

The argument I hear a lot from people who get offended by my spiritual beliefs is, “What kind of God lets . . . happen?”

Now, let me start by saying this, I don’t argue about my spiritual beliefs, though I often find that people want to argue with me.  I don’t have a problem with people believing or not believing whatever they please.  I’m not here to change anyone’s mind.

I do however, argue with myself.  I pose these questions to myself, and to God, and give them serious thought.  I’ve thought about the question a lot.  Since I’ve been reading The Shack, I’ve had an opportunity to really think about the answer to that question.

This is a bit of a SPOILER ALERT, but the book takes an opportunity to teach us that, due to free will, bad things often happen because people make bad choices.  After a year spent in treatment, healing, and acceptance, I finally do accept that as an answer for some of the bad stuff.  Certainly, life would be meaninglessly dull were it not for free will.  We would all be the same, doing exactly the right things, the same things.  We’d be drones.  The relationship between us and God would be more of a dictatorship.

The truth is that people only come into a relationship with God through a choice, often made in a moment of desperation.  When I chose to know God, I was in a place where I had nothing else to lose.  Well, maybe one thing could’ve been lost; my life.  I knew that I had had glimpses of life, or happiness, and I wanted those more than I wanted to die.  And even though I had NO IDEA what a relationship with God would mean, I walked into the uncertainty knowing it was my only hope.  For the first time in my life, I made a commitment.

We come into this relationship, because we make a choice between what was and what could be.

I don’t want to be a puppet.  My relationship with God means so much more, since it was I who wanted in.  It was never forced on me.  We all, at some point, have that moment, that way in.  We all make this decision.

That being said, free will is both a blessing and a curse.  Because we are not forced into goodness, or perfection, we also have opportunities to choose darkness.  Because of that choice, people can be hurt or lost, for seemingly no reason at all.  Someone chose to hurt me as a child, and I was left to clean up the wreckage because of their choice.  This is common.

I kn0w that in the midst of pain, it is hard to accept this answer, but after a long examination of my beliefs, I do agree.

In my head, I’m still left to make sense of the things that aren’t caused by a bad person or a bad choice:  An illness.  A miscarriage.  A natural disaster.  The list could go on; a list of all the things that cannot be explained away by free will, and the nagging question: why?

What repeatedly arises is the difference, for me, between a life without God and a life with God.

I used to blame God for everything.  Why I even believed in God is still baffling to me, because I was angry at him, and blamed him for everything that went wrong.  Oh the moments I spent actually cursing at God with a grimace on my face and an angry finger pointed to the sky!  I do not understand why I believed in a God that was so horrible to me.  Why not just NOT believe in him at all?

But I did, and I gladly took every chance that arose to hate him.

At this time in my life, I looked at every bad thing as a punishment, or simply an act of a spiteful God.  Because I’ve had a chance to work through healing, I see things differently now.

I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore.  I used to start cursing at God if I dropped my books.  No big deal, but there I was having words with this hateful God of mine.  Those things don’t get to me anymore.  A pause.  A deep breath.  And there I am, picking those books back up.  No. Big. Whoop.  That changes a lot.

I see the value in free will, and I understand that there are people who use that to accomplish negative, and even evil acts.

Most importantly, I see the error of my own ways.  Working the twelve steps certainly gives me some perspective on the destruction I have left in the wake of my bad decisions.  I see now that I can’t control what others have done to me.  Wounds are left behind by sick people.  I was sick once too.  I hurt people too.  My job now isn’t to dwell on fixing what others have done to me, it is make amends for the things that I have done to others.  They call it “keeping your side of the street clean.”  I do my part in making the world a better place, making up for the hurts that I have caused, and doing things differently now.

Yes, I see things very differently now.  And when I think about the things that cannot be explained away by free will, I know that these are life’s experiences that make us who we are.  We have to struggle.  We have to face hard stuff.  Who would we be without these hardships?  These tragedies?  Just as we would be without free will: drones.  We would have nothing to bring us together, or make us unique.  We would be weakly little things, incapable of facing anything.

When I think about how strong I am because what I have faced, I know I wouldn’t trade a single experience.  I have the ability to say that I am a survivor.  I have a faced adversity, and come out on the other side of things; stronger because of it.  I also know, because of my past, that you can’t put anything before me that I won’t be able to conquer.

God, Guide Me Home

I don’t know where to begin with the struggles I have recently faced and the miracles that have blossomed out of them.  I know God has blessed me with a gift for writing, but I ironically believe that words can never suffice.

I kind of feel the need to fill you in about my journeys over the past 6 months.  November 20th of 2011, I entered residential treatment for bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, an eating disorder, and substance abuse.  Over the past few years, I have struggled with intense depression.  I experienced depression most of my life, but it had intensified over the past 3 years, and I was being hospitalized pretty regularly.  That was the main reason, I decided to look into residential treatment.  That is how things seemed from my perspective anyway.  Looking back on it now, I see so clearly how God had His hand in everything.  He chose where I was going to go, and the moment I would arrive and leave.  He carefully chose my treatment team, and my fellow survivors that I would meet along the way.

The work that I did from November 20-May 1 was the most intense work of my life.  It was incredibly difficult to face the most trying moments of my past head on, and conquer them.  We worked from 7 am to 10 pm daily, on dissecting and addressing our traumas.  In that process, we were strengthened and equipped to move forward.

I worked with some incredible therapists while at Timberline Knolls.  My primary therapist was a Christian therapist.  At first I was uncertain as to whether or not I could share the ugliest parts of my past with her, but we built the trust and she constantly reminded me that I needed to push forward.  She helped me to stay focused on the tasks at hand, my purpose of a life spent serving the God who had saved me.  He pulled me through before, she promised, He won’t desert me now.  Sometimes she was the only person who I could listen to, the only person who knew just what to say.

My family therapist sacrificed so much time to care for me directly, and was moved when she witnessed me evolve.  I worked with specialists, art therapists, expressive therapists, and DBT therapists.  We took every single angle in addressing every single issue.  I was blessed with a team that I felt truly cared for me and believed that I was capable of overcoming.

Aside from my team, I met so many other residents who proved to me that survival was possible.  They proved to me that some of the most beautiful people in this world, are the people who have been through the most.  And you would never even know it.  We would spend our brief bouts of free time, laughing, coloring, knitting, or in fellowship.  You would never look at these women and know the horrors that they had lived through.  Getting to know them on a personal level made me realize why I am so passionate about working against the issue of sexual violence.  It helped me face the need in this world to build women up, to help them know that they are valuable, lovable, worthy, beautiful, and strong.

I cannot say enough about the impact that these women had on me.  Through high school, college, and even in church, I feel like my strongest friendships were built with the women who were there to witness me break and rebuild.

May 1st, I left to go to “transitional living” in the Los Angeles area.  After a week, I left.

The weeks since have been incredible, difficult, reinvigorating, transformative, and inspiring.  It hasn’t all been fun.  I have had moments of incredible stress.  Two weekends ago, I started to fold.  I wasn’t finding a job.  I wasn’t finding a home.  I was starting to believe I wasn’t capable of accomplishing everything I had dreamed of doing.  I quickly felt as though the presence of God was draining out from around me.  I started to lose faith.  I started to lose hope.

Last Sunday morning, I went to a church that I had been looking into since I arrive in San Diego.  I was certain that I simply needed to find a spiritual community.  Initially, I found myself trapped in one of those, “Seriously?! Really?!” moments.  You know, like the Saturday Night Live skit.  Almost as soon as church started, I was worried.  The sermon was on TRUTH, and I started to consider what my pastors would say on the issue.  I imagined them saying that the enemy will lie to you, tell you that you are weak, or try to convince you that you are the person you used to be.  I imagined them reminding me not to listen to the lies, that the voice that told me I was capable and worthy and loved was the voice of truth.  That voice was the voice of God.  This sermon didn’t go anything like that.  If you can consider for a moment every single controversial political issue that has ever arisen in which churches felt moved to comment, that was in the sermon.  Abortion.  Homosexuality.  Other religions.  Evolution.  The pastor even fit the justification for rape into his angry rant, explaining that men have and natural reaction to scantily clad women… “they’re just wired that way.”  That was the point when I started frantically looking toward the doors.  Just so you know, if you ever start to question whether or not doors will be barricaded if you try to make a run for it… you should probably make a run for it.  I calmly headed to the doors, as if I was heading to the bathroom, but I just kept walking.

Let me tell you something that I genuinely believe.  I believe there are people who are directly being used by the enemy (satan, evil, etc) through the church.  The media has highlighted several of these recently in North Carolina.  I believe that this can be the devil’s strongest tool against God.  They are puppets for evil who hide behind the guise of Godliness.  On a daily basis, they are driving more and more people away from the love of God.  They are IN THE CHURCH, but working for the devil.  It is a perfect set up.  I am probably going to pay for this, but I am calling them out right now.  They do not work for God.

I have been in churches whose motives are genuine and true.  I have experienced churches where miracles are started, and hearts and minds are opened.  It is true that they are rare, but they are out there, I promise.  I didn’t not know, until recently that they even existed.  I did not know that church could be a spiritual experience.  I thought church was a punishment, a bore, and a waste of time.

When last Sunday morning unfolded, I was pretty pissed.  I didn’t resign myself to the disappearance of God, like I might’ve in the past.  I let the experience infuriate and motivate me.  That was NOT going to be my first experience of church in San Diego.  I was NOT going to let go that easily.  I set out for the rest of the day, focused on my recovery, and on turning things around.  I had a healthy, balanced lunch, and came home to find another option.  I recalled that I had looked at a church with a Sunday evening service, and I decided to try that one out instead.

I have missed my church back home dearly.  I was almost certain I wouldn’t find a comparable church anywhere else.  That being said, I was wrong.  My church in NC is awesome.  They are loving, welcoming, and intentional representatives of Christ.  Their hearts are moved from truth.  Their lives were saved by the purpose they found in God.  One of my church’s focuses has been children with special needs.  The Pastor’s sister is a special education teacher, and one of the most devoted families in the congregation is a beautiful family whose son has autism.  The issue is close to their hearts.

Being that my passion has long been the issue of sexual violence, I have dreamed of finding a church who was committed to working on the issue.

See, it was my work in Women’s and Gender studies that led me to God.  I was driven into the area of study by personal experience and a motivation to change the world.  The passion to do this work has been powerful and unyielding.  It is the very reason I titled this blog “Incurable Hope.”  Because the issue of sexual violence feels hopeless, but the glimmer of a hope that things can be changed is the only thing that has kept me going all along, even when I wanted to give up.  I could have easily given up on myself, but I couldn’t give up on the masses of people across the world whose lives are devastated by such violence.  There were times when I felt like one of the only people who cared about it.  I grew overwhelmed, daunted, and weary.  I was in a perpetual tug-of-war between letting go, letting go of this purpose, of this life, and of this fight; and holding on.  Just before midnight on March 27, 2011, I gave it all over to God.  I had come to the point where I wanted to quit, and I knew that faith would be the only thing that would pull me through.  It was quite a stretch.  I believed in God, but I was cynical, jaded, and bitter.  I was irritated by all this “He” talk, and I thought “God” was the hateful dude who was hatin’ on the gay folk.  I surrendered anyway, and hoped for the best.

What I have found on the other side of that commitment has been incredible.  It has not been easy, but behind all of it, I have found purpose.  I have seen grueling struggles give birth to huge life changes.  These are changes I have been craving for years, growth that I have yearned to experience.  I had been stagnant, and God had been waiting.

I had considered residential treatment, but God made it happen, with nearly 100% coverage from my insurance company, something that is incredible, and sadly, very rare.  I made plans in the months before treatment and in the weeks since, but God constantly reminds me that he has more in mind for me.  I have met people who have blessed my life.  I have heard stories that have fueled my drive and reinforced my compassion.  I have pushed through and overcome trials that can often cripple or kill people.  In short, the blessings have been numerous.

Last Sunday night, I found a home church here.  It is a different kind of church, a church focused on changing the world in a positive way… “not by making a point, but by making a difference.”  By being living examples of Christ’s love in a world that doesn’t know it.  Keep in mind that this world is not unfamiliar with that love due to a lack of churches.  Oh no, I come from a town where there are almost more churches than people.  They have had a KKK rally and a cross burning in the past couple of weeks.  Lack of churches is not the problem.  The truth is that church is completely useless if it is not conceived from the genuine nature of Christ’s love and compassion.  And how many churches do you know that are like that?

The church that I found has a ministry that is committed to working against sex trafficking, both here in the U.S. and abroad.  The moment I saw that, I knew God had led me to my church.  He led me home.  Thursday night’s service focused on impacting the world around us, being kind, lending a hand to someone in need.  Simple gestures that are huge in a cold and distant world.  It helped me realize why I had been guided here.  I have been driven to do this work, and what I found in doing it, was that I couldn’t do it alone, in fact, as Alcoholics Anonymous puts it, “No human power could…”  It is true.  Doing it alone would’ve killed me.  The world is largely unconcerned with the issue of sexual violence.  It is just too much.  I honestly believe that things can change with a sturdy spiritual foundation, with God behind the work being done.

I have been very active in AA, doing step work with a sponsor, and attending meetings regularly.  The entire concept mirrors how I came to believe.  We couldn’t do it alone.  We needed God to help us overcome.  And it is true also with other change.  I have watched women devote themselves to the work of fighting sexual violence, and drowning in the hopelessness of the issue.

What makes me laugh is that, as I reflect on my old view of this struggle, I see that I wanted to change the world.  The task seems far less daunting when I consider that it was already saved.

I don’t presume to know where things will go from here.  God’s plans for me are irrelevant until they come to fruition.  I move forward in pure faith.  I know he will not let me down.  I know he has my best interest at heart.  I know he has my back.  With that knowledge, what more do I need?  With God, all things are possible. 🙂

 

Back to Black: One’s Rock Bottom Can Be Another’s U-Turn

I recently watched seasons 1-5 of “Weeds” on Netflix streaming.  SPOILER ALERT: When U-Turn dies and Nancy gets a U-Turn sign tattooed on her ass, I was inspired.  I actually considered doing the same.  It just seemed like a funny message, and a clever/convenient double entendre.  Similarly, I’ve always been moved and energized by the (now classic) “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake.  You knowHere I go again on my own! Going down the only road I’ve ever known! Like a drifter, I was born to walk alone… You get the point, there’s a lot to be said for travel euphemisms?  I don’t know. I figured I should start my first post in a while with something nonchalant and silly.  But the truth is, I’m writing tonight because of a realization I had today.  I figured, at this point, if I have an audience, I don’t know who they are, and I’m a lot less concerned about that. I don’t have an agenda, besides telling my story.  For a moment there, I got so caught up in delivering a hopeful message, and doing it a certain way, that I lost myself, and stopped writing.

This morning, singer Amy Winehouse was found dead.  The rumor is that an overdose is what finally did her in, at the ripe ol’ age of 27.  It startled me for a second when I realized she was 27, and then saw her birth year.  I’m 27.  I too, was born in 1983.  We all know the rock star references that are made here… Jimi, Janis, Jim, Kurt, etc.  I’m no rock star, but I’ve been calling myself one for about a year now.  I grew a little worried after proclaiming such a title and then realizing my age.  My blog before this one was called “Musings of a Self-Proclaimed Rock Star.”  It was amusing, but also cathartic, and often raw.  I’ve decided to make it public again and you can find it.  Even since closing the blog, I’ve been tweeting under the name @RockStarMusisings.  Yes, I’m coming out.  I’ve come to realize you either hide nothing, or you hide it all.  Hiding shit is far too much work, and I’m far too lazy to work that hard to keep other people comfortable.

Amy’s death jolted me into this moment in a way nothing else has.  I read the parts of Russell Brand’s blog post on her, that were shared on msnbc.com, and I realized that Winehouse and I have a lot in common.  As for addictions, mine have come and gone, and the only one that has ever REALLY threatened my life, is food.  Mainly because cocaine is expensive; alcohol can be miserable; and sex become tedious.  Man!  Whew!  I had forgotten how refreshing honesty can be.

All that aside, I felt like Brand was really making an appeal to non-addicts to realize that addiction is a serious illness that kills people, and otherwise saying little about Winehouse besides the fact that she was distant, and a genius that we only saw at a glimpse.  Now, I know you’re wondering where I am in that description, but I’ll elaborate.  I don’t think I am a genius, but even now, it breaks my heart to realize that I, much like Winehouse, have  held the world at such a distance that if I died, the world wouldn’t realize what it had lost.  I agree with Brand.  I think Amy Winehouse was incredible, and the media reveled in her slow demise, and mostly missed the light that she brought to the world.  And this is our world.  It is shitty.  But what hurts me about what we have lost with the death of Amy Winehouse, is that we have no idea.  That sultry voice, that deeply rich, dark soul.  She had such a wealth within her, and we will never get to know it.  We can joke all we want.  When I first heard of her death, I blah blah blahed about who was next, Lindsay or Charlie.  But Amy wasn’t just another troubled soul, and musical genius aside, she was a human being.

I’ve heard through social networking that Amy’s mom commented about making mental preparations for this day, knowing it would (or thinking it might) come.  This takes me back to the days after my suicide attempt, when my mother was staying with me.  During a heated argument one day, she admitted that it is hard to move forward, and stay involved, because on some level she knew I would do it again, and I might just be successful next time.  She voiced to me that her distance was an attempt to keep herself safe, and to cope with that remaining chance that I won’t survive.  As inexcusable as that may be to many of you out there, who have no idea, I understand it.  Amy probably understood that.  As much as she probably wanted to be sober, and not let herself and her loved ones down over and over again, she probably understood their distance.  She probably knew that they had to keep themselves safe.

Tonight I was reflecting on addiction and I realized that it is a thin line between giving up on, sticking by, and enabling an addict.  You have to love them unconditionally, but you have to set boundaries.  You have to draw a line, but you have to let them know that you always want what’s best.  I know that a lot of times, to an addict it looks like loved ones are walking away, when in reality, they’re doing all that they can to save the addict’s life, and maintain their own sanity/safety.

I was truly blessed to have dodged hard addictions, but as I type this, I’m sitting in a chair in the corner of my room, next to a stain on my wall.  The stain is from my last suicide attempt, and the vomit left behind.  My walls are a pale purple, but around the stain, you can see an aura of pale blue, where friends came and tried to wipe away the evidence before I got out of the hospital.

I get that Amy Winehouse was one of those whose death was “bound to happen,” out of all of us… I get that.  But I also agree with Russell Brand: She didn’t have to be.  I know there is a misunderstanding about artists.  Most people think that your best work is done while you’re in the pits of despair, but one can only survive down there so long.  I get that you can’t enable, but I wonder who was fighting for her.  From where I’m sitting, there were jokes about her condition, just as there continue to be, but little else.  Of course, I don’t know about her personal life, but usually the people who are consistently surrounding an addict, are also addicts.  Generally speaking, addicts, when battling head-to-head with their condition, have one priority, the drug.  All others are simply extras in the movie reel of their lives, just background music.  Life isn’t lived as a series of moments, goals, accomplishments… life is composed of getting high, and the plans that you devise between highs to achieve the next high.  Funny how something so simple can completely consume you.

So, I’m not a musical genius.  So, I’m not in the public eye.  So, I’m not wealthy or producing records that are going platinum, or performing in front of thousands.  So, I’m not hooked on heroin.  So, I’m not caught by the paparazzi, wandering the streets at night, disheveled and distraught.  Do I need to be?  Frankly, I feel that this world knows more of me than it did of her, despite her fame and notoriety.  She was a ghost to us, and now the presence that we felt subtly, though oft ignored, is gone.  Will we realize the void, no matter how quiet, that remains in her absence?  Perhaps, not.  But this little earthquake that has left me thinking, and sometimes speaking out loud, to myself and those around me, “I can’t believe Amy Winehouse is dead,” perhaps there is something to be said for that.  I believe it is possible for our souls to ache for something that we don’t even realize that we’ve lost.  When someone accomplishes so far below their potential, we all lose something very great, especially in the way of art, which can inspire us so deeply and undoubtedly change the world.

I am 27.  For so long, but especially so over the past few months, I have held the world at a distance.  I am uncertain of why.  I suppose it is mostly out of fear.  There is always the fear of what people will think, and fear of failure.  As a survivor of sexual violence, there is also a fear of being revicitimized.  We fear trying, but not reaching our potential.  And to the contrary, there is a fear of reaching your potential and being disappointed.  I’ve feared losing people, only to push them away in the end anyway.  There is a fear of living, and all that “living” entails.  The rush of love, and the pain of loss; two things that, as hard as we try to force them apart, are always packaged together.  And there is a lot of pain, and certainly plenty of loss to be experienced out there.  People leave because they want to, or leave because time rips them away from us.  There are stubbed toes, broken bones, burns, cuts, and bruises.  There’s rejection, and dismay.  There’s fear.  Oh!  The crippling fear.  It all comes full circle.

I realize now that there are people out there, who are so gifted, constantly stuffing down their potential, for whatever reason.  I imagine Amy had something inside of her that haunted her.  It could’ve been huge, or just a twinge of pain that she couldn’t stand to feel.  She wanted to shut it up, numb it out, or kill it.  And eventually she succeeded, but for that, what did she lose?  And on a universal level, what have we lost?  Another little bit of hope that could’ve inspired the next step in improving this damned world?  Perhaps it was her voice on a tattered CD out there, that was playing on repeat for the kid who would grow up to do something great for this world, simply because her voice kept her/him going.  What voice will that kid hear now?  Or maybe Winehouse’s voice was the last of its kind, an endangered soulful echo that has now become extinct; and because of our blatant  lack of appreciation, the voices of generations to come will resemble that of Ke$ha or Rebecca Black. Dear God, the horror.

I understand that there are parts of my spirit that ache, but I’m willing to withstand it for the sake of something good.  If I have anything to offer, no matter how great or small, I do not feel it is my right to destroy any remnants of hope this world may have.  For all the fear, for all the pain, I have to believe that there is purpose.

Do I believe that there’s a reason that I (or any other troubled talents out there) am alive and she isn’t?  Well, besides the fact that heroin is like playing russian roulette with a nearly fully loaded gun, no.  Eating yourself to death takes more time.  I attribute my failure to stick with addictions to a short attention span, an empty wallet, the fact that I’m easily bored, and a fear of commitment.  In the grand scheme of things though, she and I have both toyed with our mortality, and any way you look at it, the game can only end one way.  When the game is over, one fact becomes blazingly obvious, there was a human being who is now gone.  On top of that, she was a human being who held a wealth of talent, the depth of which we can never know.  I think that’s what frightens me the most.  If I have more to offer, as I believe I do, it is scary to think that being entangled in fear and doubt could stifle that gift.  I too, could die without having shared of myself, or utilized my opportunity to contribute goodness to this desperate world.

We all have the potential to offer beauty to this world; in the end the big question is whether we will fight it or let it flourish.  I’d like to think that this realization is a bit of something good coming from tragedy, but I suppose only time will tell.  It is nice to believe that every screeching halt in one life’s potential, can cause a u-turn in another.  If someone was headed towards an early end, another sudden silencing of greatness, maybe Amy can be a reminder that there are other options, and so much more to see along life’s detours.

My deepest prayer for you, Ms. Winehouse, is that somewhere out there, you’ve been blessed with a peace that you never managed to discover on earth.  And if you’re down, I’m hoping that even on your cloud, you’ll still step up to the mic from time to time.

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“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you… It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

~Marianne Williamson

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How Grace Transformed “Let it Be” into “Let it Go”

I always thought that Christians were the most judgmental people in the world. So, in accordance with that belief, I accumulated a lot of friends who hated religion, and therefore anything having to do with God.   Even the word “God” was like a curse word to them.  Then I met a group of Christ-like people, who finally proved to me what I thought God was all about, all this time.  I’m now learning how judgmental the spiritually irreverent people in my life truly are. THEY ARE THE VERY THING THEY HATE… and they don’t even realize it.  I realize now that being nonjudgmental has nothing to do with whose side you’re on; just as being open-minded has nothing to do with surrounding yourself with like-minded people.  I have slowly made an effort to open my mind to people who don’t think like me, only to realize we have so much more in common than I had ever noticed; and also that what we do have in common is so much more important than our petty differences.

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The process hasn’t been simple, but the more I’ve given it over to God, the more I’ve watched the pieces fall perfectly into place.

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There are a lot of people in my life who think I’m completely insane, or that I’ve suddenly become extremely simpleminded.  You should recognize: I’ve always been completely nuts, and never have I claimed sanity.  I simply realize now, that I had a choice to make: one option would diminish my quality of life, and shorten the length of it; and the other would fulfill my life, and give me a purpose to move forward, with a complete disregard of the past hurts (and there have been a lot of those).  Based on that, my decision was really quite straightforward.

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I think even most of the people who have supported me in my journey to God, really don’t fully understand how perfectly it has all worked out.  The fact is, that I know my Source now, and nothing else really matters.

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For the people from my past who just can’t even grasp where I am, or how I got here; I know that it has been kind of ridiculous to observe.  This is mainly because, I’ve hidden my transition from a lot of people while it has been taking place.  I have been the only person to witness and experience the ENTIRE process, and it has been BEYOND mind-blowing.  I’ve arrived at a place in my life that I NEVER would’ve imagined I would find myself.

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I’ve come to a conclusion of the 2 places that I want to explore taking it from this point.  First, I need to write a book.  Written communication is my strongest gift, and the only way to attempt adequately conveying what this experience has been like for me.  It is clear that explaining it in a blog alone, won’t reach as many people, and will break up a testimony that needs to be expressed as a whole.  My second realization is that I want to go into counseling (of some sort).  These paths are crazy things to consider pursuing, so more processing is certainly in order.  But I do trust that these endeavors are crucial.

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To the people from my past, let me just say this: I’m not going to judge you because I suddenly understand God’s love.  Your fear of that is based on your own misunderstanding of God; for which I don’t blame you.  When I started going to church, I walked in with the same misconceptions about what I would find there, mostly based on my previous experiences with religion and church.  This isn’t about religion, or church.  This is about a relationship.  I’ve fallen in love with something that will never reject me, or let me down; and have unlocked my own capacity for unconditional love in the process.  I don’t mind that you’re filled with judgment when you learn of my new relationship with God.  It doesn’t bother me, because I know where that comes from, and your feelings are very valid.  This is about being in a power struggle with a world that was constantly fighting me, only to realize that it is neither them, nor me, in control.  It is also about the very concept behind this blog: incurable hope.

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Hope was the one thing that kept me going, and also the one thing that left me completely crushed when I realized how powerless I am in this world, despite my passionate drive to change it.

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I know that a lot of my old friends are terrified that I judge them now; or that I’m going to try to change them; or that they are suddenly different in my eyes.  If there is any difference now, it is simply that I love them that much more, and am that much more grateful for their roles in my life.  I’ve been blessed in so many ways, and even the pain of the past makes so much sense to me now.  I’m full of forgiveness, love, and gratitude.  I won’t say I’m not judgmental, everyone is; but I’m not any more judgmental than I was before, and I am probably even less so.

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Who is to say where things will go from here?  I’m filled with so much light, that my only hope is to carry that with me everywhere I go, and to convey it to those who are in the depths of where I’ve been.

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I’m not going to shove anything down anyone’s throat.  That would most certainly contradict the very things I’ve been working against my whole life.  Understanding God’s love, however, helps me to realize that I am not opposed to sharing that with others.  It is obvious, though, that this is most efficiently accomplished through acts of kindness, rather than hate and judgment.

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This is how many are:

Titus 1:16–They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. (NIV)

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And this is how we should all be:

1 John 3:18–Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and truth. (NIV)

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I think that people who live in God, and allow God to live in them, really cannot help but offer that to others, solely through the contagious nature of JOY.  Everyone wants to be happy; that’s why drugs are so addictive.  Unfortunately, addictions and basic consumerism are based on the concept of fulfillment as a commodity.  Let me save you some money… you can’t buy this.  If I could box it, or bottle it, or make it a pill, I would WOULDN’T.  I come from privilege, and I realize the way that being handed something seriously devalues it.  You can only truly appreciate something that you had to work for.  You can’t get this in Penthouse magazine, from a drug dealer, or in a luxury car, through a vast collection of Manolo Blahniks, on a yacht, within wrinkle cream, after liposuction, in a mansion, or in flight on your private jet, to get to your private island… you can’t find it in manipulation, deceit, or unstable relationships; by watching reality TV, and even in reading self-help books… you can’t even find it through the pages of  a Bible, at a church, in your best Sunday dress, or by following religions or various religious principles.  (And you definitely CANNOT buy it at Wal-Mart)  This has to come from within.  It is a process.  Though my process is my own, I had to go through hell to get here.  Honestly, it hasn’t even been something that I strived for.  Quite the opposite, I kept my feet planted firmly in the past, and fought this with all my might, for as long as I could.  I went through a lot of BULL to arrive at this conclusion; and this isn’t even where I intended to end up… NOT EVEN CLOSE.  But, this is where I am.  And I am so grateful to have finally arrived!

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While I was in the hospital last fall, we talked about the concept of “letting it go.”  I realized one day, while listening to a version of “Let it Be,” (by the Beatles) that this is where I was comfortable.  I could accept that things were the way they were.  Certainly, there was nothing I could do about the past.  I thought, for sure, that I would dwell comfortably there for the rest of my life.  I understand now, that letting things be, was the first part of letting them go.  You have to accept what was, in order to let go of the burden.  As Oprah puts is, “forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past can be changed.”  Before this moment in my life, the concept of forgiveness left me utterly baffled.  Now, I fully comprehend its purpose; and I’m filled with it.

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I definitely don’t want to lose friends as a result of my changes.  In the end, though, their reaction to it doesn’t affect how I feel, and it won’t affect me.  I suppose I expected more.  I understand the ways in which the institution of religion has traumatized many people.  I do recognize that such supremacy and ostracism are committed under false claims of God, and I won’t be a part of that.  It is simply my hope that those who are embittered by the representations they’ve seen of God, will hesitate to judge me according to the lies that they’ve heard.  And I certainly hope that, through my love and understanding, I am a more honest representation of just who God is.  I know that God’s capacity for goodness is perfect, and I never want my imperfections to hinder the communication of His LOVE.

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This entire transformation has totally turned my world upside down, in an AMAZING way.  All I know is, all the gaping voids in my life have disappeared.  My neediness has subsided, and has made way for LOVE.  The walls that I placed around my heart are gone.  I don’t rely on myself to filter out people who might hurt me (I never did a very good job of that anyway).  God is like an invisible electric fence around my life.  Only people who offer love, and incite growth within me, will know where the entrance is.  And anyone outside of that category, who just happens to make it in anyway?  Well, at least I know they’re there for a reason now.  I don’t think I’ve ever really considered the concept of grace.  I couldn’t define it for you right now, if I tried… but I TOTALLY get it!!! ❤

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AND OF HIS FULLNESS WE HAVE ALL RECEIVED, AND GRACE FOR GRACE. (John 1:16–NKJV)

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“If our hearts really broke every time we fell from love, I’d be able to offer you confetti by now. But hearts don’t break, y’all, they bruise and get better. We were never tragedies, we were emergencies. You call 911, tell them I’m having a fantastic time.”

-Buddy Wakefield

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[* disclaimer:*]

[*if you get too distracted by cussing to appreciate the possibility of poetry within it, just skip the following video 🙂 *]

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