Day 8339: Continuing to Face the Challenges of Living Life in Recovery

Recently, I’ve been reminded of how challenging sobriety is. I’ve lived in recovery for over 8,300 days. 8,339 to be exact. Even after all that time, I’m not guaranteed sobriety tomorrow. It’s a decision I make first thing in the morning when I get up out of bed. Every day.

“I’m going to live sober today,” I say to myself.

“Yes,” my Self replies.

Keep in mind that I do this even though I don’t always feel like it. Yes. There are days where the fight to stay clean and sober is difficult. Even 20+ years later. And I still run into people every day who don’t really understand addiction or know what to do with former addicts like me (that’s ok–I don’t always know what to do with myself either).

Recovery isn’t’ something I got right the first time. It took a few tries. I wavered between stringing a few days back to back and over a year of sobriety. That’s right. One year. It ended like this:

“Want a beer?”

“Sure,” I shrugged. And off to the races we went.

For me, alcohol is the key that unlocks the door to a wild ride. Prior to recovery finally sticking, I went out on a 33-day binge that nearly killed me. My binge was fueled by a ton of things I won’t mention here. I don’t want to glorify them. I don’t want to tell you that you can do them and live. You can. Most people don’t. Those that do, usually wind up in jail. A fortunate few of us get rescued, finding refugee in the Halls and solace in the Rooms that offer us a free space to be ourselves. There’s no judgment in the Rooms. At least not usually (we are human after all). I guess a better way to say it is that there isn’t supposed to be any judgment. We each have our own story to tell; our own truth to share.

I’ve seen addiction steal lives. I’ve witnessed addiction destroy dreams. I’m grateful that I found a way up from the Bottoms. Although it’s something I had to do first and foremost for myself, it’s not something I did alone. A lot of people have helped me overcome my innermost personal demons. It’s because of the love and kindness of others that I can claim to live in victory today.

Semi-colons mark a point where a sentence could have stopped; a spot where the story could have ended. But by the grace of God…my life didn’t end with my addictions.

semicolonAre you struggling with addiction? Has alcohol or have drugs taken control of your life? You aren’t alone. You don’t have to keep suffering. You don’t have to keep living a lie. You don’t have to keep leaving a wake of devastation wherever you go. You can change. Life can be different. But you got to want it…

Start here or here.

man-2933991_1920

Like Love, Prayer Is a Verb

The line of men waiting to pray last Friday night after chapel was long. I lead a team from our church that travels down to the Union Gospel Mission once a month on 4th Friday to minister to the 300 or so men at the shelter. Some of them are staying there, participating in the discipleship program. Others are there for the night, while some are bussed in for the evening from other shelters, to have a meal and hear a message. While a group of volunteers and staff are feeding the men physically, our job is to feed them spiritually. Our job is to meet them where they are, much like Jesus did when he sat down next to the Samaritan woman. We worship with them, we share a biblical grounded message with them, and we pray with them, corporately multiple times throughout the service and one-on-one at the close of service.

This past Friday I had the opportunity to experience powerful prayer time with several of the men. I prayed with one man who wasn’t sure that he could trust God. I prayed with another man who was in dire need of physical healing from a disease that may lead to his death. I found myself dumbfounded and nearly speechless as I prayed with a man who confessed to me that he had contemplated suicide and that our being there that night saved his life because he heard us speak of a God who loves him and values him. He understood that even though he was homeless and his life had been turned upside down, he still mattered and God had not forgotten nor forsaken him. I prayed with a young man, full of joy, who prayed Psalm 23–the Lord is my shepherd–in my ear as I prayed for him. These are just a few samplings of the prayers expressed Friday night. It is a glimpse of the prayers we hear each time we go. It is through these prayers, God affirms that He is in control and He is indeed at work in this world.

Prayer Works

Lately, I’ve seen and heard a lot of discourse about acting “apart from prayer” or “instead of prayer.” There are even people who are convinced prayer is a waste of time because it doesn’t work. And I guess if you’re not a believer, that should be the response I expect.

I think that prayer, like faith, should often be accompanied by additional action. But prayer isn’t like an ATM machine either. In fact, it’s more of a conversation between me and the God of the universe. Perhaps you find my belief in God, let alone a powerful, personal God alive and at work in the universe, a fool-hardy endeavor. That’s certainly your right. You don’t have to believe what I believe. You don’t have to agree with what I think. But for me, it’s too hard not to believe that there is a God. I’ve simply seen Him at work too often. I’ve experienced answers to prayers too many times. I’ve witnessed God at work in my life and in the life of others. I’ve found myself in far too many God moments to discount that He exists.

Yes, prayer alone may not end gun violence. But that’s not my prayer. I’m praying for God to transform minds and change hearts. To reduce incidents of gun violence, including mass-shootings, drive-by violence, and domestic disputes, certainly requires we act. I don’t believe locking up everyone’s guns is the answer. I know it’s not. People have been killing each other far longer than we’ve had guns. I grew up when gun laws weren’t as strict as they are today, yet it seemed like we had less gun violence. I agree, something’s changed.

R Bantau 2017_edit

I think we value our own life more and we value the lives of others less. We are more transactional than we are relational. The only god we worship tends to be the one we see in the mirror.

Personally, I don’t think the effort to decrease the permanence of faith in the various aspects of our lives is unrelated to the outcome that faces us today. As imperfect people, we don’t always express our faith perfectly in our daily walk. Yet, faith values life. All life. The born. The unborn. The living and the dead. The here and now and the eternal hereafter.

Do we need to figure out how to keep weapons out of the hands of madmen? Absolutely. Do we need to improve our outreach to those who find themselves on the fringes of society? Probably. I’m not sure they want to be reached. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Do we need to recognize that our self-identity shouldn’t rest on the opinions of others or measured by our level of celebrity? Damn Skippy. As a believer my identity rests in Christ. I am who he says I am. Redeemed. Forgiven. Free. Servant. Minister. Warrior.

Prayer is an essential part of my life. It serves as a reminder that I have much to be grateful for and it helps me get out of my own narcissistic perspective and train my thoughts on the concerns of others. It helps me work through my own stuff too. Which is good, because I’m a hot mess most days.

When I’m praying, I am doing something. Just ask the people I pray with, pray for, and pray over.

Like love, prayer is a verb. It is one of the most powerful actions I can take. I have personally witnessed prayer change lives, circumvent courses of direction, and alter outcomes. I’ve witnessed the healing power of prayer as well as experienced the comforting solace prayer brings. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a physical component that needs to accompany our prayers, just like love is often accompanied by a smile, a hug, or a kiss. Believe it or not, prayer works. 

Blessings.

Time Time

 

Beyond Blessed: Never Stop Learning

Friday night, May 18, certainly goes down as a memorable life moment that I was honored and privileged to share with fellow graduates, university faculty,  friends, and family. It marks the culmination of years of effort and investment, both on my end, but more importantly on the part of others. I am not a self-made man, but simply the return on investment nurtured by so many incredible people. I was proud to have the love of my life, Sweet T accompany me across the stage at the Amberton University graduation. What an honor to celebrate this achievement with someone who has stood by me, encouraged me, and believed in me. This would not have been possible without you. I think back to all the teachers, recent and long past, who shared their time and knowledge with me. And I recollect the counsel and support of family, friends, and mentors that got me to this point. Without you all, I would not have been able to accomplish this goal and achieve this moment of joy. I am beyond blessed. 

Me and T

I’m not one who thinks that college is for everybody or that believes you need to get a degree to be successful in life. I know far too many people who have found success without ever getting a degree. But, for many, a college education opens doors it wouldn’t otherwise. And as one of our speakers noted on Friday night, knowledge and an education is something no one can ever take away from you. Regardless of what you do or what your calling in life is, I urge you to never stop learning. Be a life-long learner.

adult-education-3258944_1920

It is true that I didn’t take the traditional route to get here. That’s been true for most of my journey on this road called life. I learned long ago that life doesn’t always follow a straight trajectory. Perseverance, resilience, determination, and a ton of prayer can get you from here to there. You just got to find a way to keep on keepin’ on. And you’ll definitely need the support of others along the way.

I am eternally grateful to the sea of teachers, instructors, and professors who helped me along the way. Yours is truly a worthy profession. Thank you. To my myriad of mentors, who the Lord so graciously provided: Thank you. To my family and friends—thank you. To my precious Mom and my parents-in-law–Thank you.

To my bride—Sweet T—Thank you.

With the completion of one adventure another one awaits. While I’m not entirely sure what the next stretch looks like, I do know that God is good and that as the next chapter is written, He will be walking alongside me. Never lose your sense of adventure.

Yes! I am beyond blessed. My prayer is that you may be also.

Amberton 2018