A Family Disease

Addiction is a mean, nasty brain disease.

Sometimes people die.

Last week a 39 year old husband and father, married to a girl my kids grew up with, committed suicide in a very public way. A recovery friend said, “Addiction had him around the neck and destroyed his life.”

We hear a lot these days about the opioid epidemic. Many more struggle with alcohol. It, too, can be an addictive drug. Mental illness and addiction may both be present.

In the last couple of years, I’ve known at least 3 women my age who have had to bury GRANDchildren due to addiction/suicide. More have lost sons and daughters. I heard about another young woman recently who struggled to stay sober who fell out of bed, broke her neck, and died.

Death can be sudden or slow and painful.

Years ago, one of my daughters asked me why some people stay sober and others don’t. “You have to be able to tolerate some discomfort,” I told her. More in the beginning, then it can get better. Cravings ease. You’re left with Feelings. And Life on Life’s terms, as they say in AA. With nothing to numb you.

When I got sober, I had no idea how to do “Big Feelings,” as my granddaughter calls them. My family didn’t do feelings; we stuffed them. And the adults drank to make the day go away. My first therapist gave me a list of feeling words, a whole page of them!

I’ve been sober 32 years, thanks to a Higher Power, the love of my husband and my daughters and grandchildren, a lot of AA meetings, several sponsors, healthy and balanced friends, a great therapist, and never forgetting that I can’t drink.

Slowly but surely, I learned how to do “Big Feelings.”

Chances are you know an addict or someone who loves one. It is a family disease.

There is hope. Sobriety is possible. Help is available.

The young woman whose husband died asked on Facebook today for any video friends have of Tyson. His little son wants to hear his dad’s voice again.

Please find help if you need it.

For more information:

Alcoholics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous

Al Anon (for friends and family of alcoholics)

Nar Anon (for friends and family of drug addicts)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Published in: on May 21, 2019 at 5:31 pm  Comments (6)  
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What Kitchen Tool Am I?

(The title was a writing group prompt.)

When I looked around the kitchen I realized most of the tools are made to change stuff. They are the movers and shakers of food world. The potato masher smashes. The whisk stirs things up. The mixer combines. The different spoons stir and serve. Nothing ends up like it started.

I’m not a potato smasher. Too violent.

The mixer, maybe. I do like to combine people in groups.

Not the whisk. I try not to stir things up. I’m more a peacemaker.

I’m an ingredient rather than a tool.

An ingredient is “a component part of something.” (dictionary.com) It add taste and spice and color. Without ingredients, you have nothing to cook and serve.

I am a component part of several communities: my family, my friends, my church, AA, Triad Health Project. Sometimes I’m the spice. Sometimes I’m the humor. Sometimes I’m the quiet presence.

Each group I participate in has changed me. I’ve tasted new ideas, laughed and cried, and gotten to know people I would probably never have met otherwise. I am not the same as when I started.

Without me, those groups would be different. Something would be missing. They would be incomplete. Because I joined with them, they are not the same as when they started.

We all are part of God’s creation. Each of us is an essential ingredient. We each add a unique taste or spice or color.

Moment by moment, we are co-creating God’s world.

 

Published in: on May 8, 2019 at 2:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Thanksgiving Thought

 

What if you woke up tomorrow

and all you had

was what you thanked God for today?

From a man named Jim

who was HIV positive for many years

and died of cancer a few years ago

 

Published in: on November 21, 2018 at 9:23 am  Leave a Comment  

HOPE IN AN ARABESQUE

I live in the South, in a medium-size city in the central part of North Carolina. We’re 2-3 hours from the Appalachian Mountains and 3 1/2 hours from the beach. We have long, hot, humid summers and mild winters.

I grew up in the Midwest and we moved to North Carolina in 1968, when I was a sophomore in high school. I missed the worst of blatant segregation. The “Colored” and “White” signs were gone from water fountains and bathrooms. But the first time we drove east from Raleigh to go to the beach we drove past a billboard in the county next to ours that said “Welcome to Klan Kountry.”

50 years (!!) later, things are different. My city has been a haven for immigrants for years and we often hear other languages at the grocery store. We have a gay woman on the City Council and a Newcomers School for the kids of recent immigrants. At street festivals and concerts in the park we all come together peacefully–whites, African Americans, Asians and others from all over the world.

The other day, I went to our nationally known Aquatic Center for water exercise. While I bobbed and marched and skipped back and forth in a lane, I watched several instructors giving swim lessons to little kids. The kids’ parents and siblings sat together on some bleachers. Some were African American, some were white, some looked to be Indian or Pakistani and some were Asian. The instructors were white and African American, male and female.

One pairing especially caught my eye. The instructor for this one-on-one lesson was a massive African American man who looked like he had been a lineman on a college football team. The student was a little bitty white girl in a bright pink suit with a bright pink swim cap and bright pink goggles.  She reminded me of my granddaughter. She was reluctant to go in the water so he coaxed her down the long ramp for wheelchairs. She took a few steps into 6 inches of water and went into an arabesque ballet pose.

So did he.

They took a few more steps. Now the water was about a foot deep. She held the bar beside her and arabesqued again.

So did he.

After one more arabesque, they made it down the ramp and the lesson began. Today, two days later, I saw them again. They entered the water down the ramp the same ballet-ic way as before. When they got all the way into the pool, she was put her face in, kicked, and moved her arms to do freestyle and then tried backstroke. She trusted him to hold her up as she floated on her back. I think they were both having fun She hugged him when the lesson was over.

After she left, I had a chance to tell him how much I enjoyed watching them. He told me she was 3 years old and adamantly refused the first 2 days to get near the water. The day of the poses was her third day. I told him they were the best thing I’d seen all week.

Don’t give up, my friends.

We are making progress. It just doesn’t make the news.

Published in: on August 9, 2018 at 1:57 pm  Comments (2)  
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I Love Being Amma

I last posted original writing on this blog a year and a half ago. In that year and a half I had one medical issue after another–surgeries, infection, medication side effects, changes in my arthritis treatment, depression, and midway through all of it we downsized from our big house to a 3 bedroom apartment. Now I have days with little pain, no stairs and plenty of energy.

I am grateful.

And ready to focus on the world around me, not on myself.

My grandchildren, Adaline, Maggie, and Atticus have kept me going through all this time. They are 8, 6, and 6 (cousins, not twins). They’re all in public school  and thriving.

Let me tell you a story that shows why they could make me laugh (SUCH good medicine) when nothing much could.

One day last year, they were all here at our place with Adaline and Atticus’s mom. Atticus was in the living room playing with these discs you build stuff with (Brain Flakes) and the girls asked if they could go back in the guest room and play on the computer. The retired man I live with got them going and we adults were able to sit and converse for a while.

The girls were giggling–how nice they were having fun together! They called Atticus back to see something. Even nicer, right? They were all laughing in a way that caught my daughter’s and my attention. “Maybe we should check on them, she said.” She went back and called to us.

We all 6 huddled around the computer. I started giggling along with the kids. Adaline and Atticus’s mom tried not to. Grandpa Mike was kind of horrified but laughing at the same time.

Adaline, who was 7 and in 1st grade was learning to spell phonetically. So she googled “poop,” a favorite topic of conversation for all 3 kids. They found “The Poopy Song” on You Tube. (click The Poopy Song.)

I guess I have a very immature sense of humor. I thought it was hilarious. My daughter tried to get them to stop it. I wanted to hear the whole thing. 2 more of their parents came in shortly after. Maggie’s dad is much more proper than the rest rest of us. We all took them back to see it.

Now 8 of us huddled around the computer and watched it. Maggie’s mom didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, I think, and kept checking for Maggie’s dad’s reaction. I’m not sure he could breathe. He really was appalled, but realized he was outnumbered and left the room.

I LOVE being a grandparent.

(Update 7-27-2018: At our house today they found another giggle-inducing song about farting. Let One Go, based on the Frozen song “Let It Go.” They could be finding worse.)

Published in: on July 27, 2018 at 9:50 am  Comments (2)  
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Today Is World AIDS Day

Did you know that?

December 1 is still World AIDS Day.  There still is no cure.  People still get sick and die because of HIV/AIDS.

People are also living much longer and are taking medicines that really do help slow the progress of the disease.

The drugs that work are very expensive and state and federal programs that help pay for them are in danger of being cut.

Sometimes the side effects and the dosing schedule are so difficult and intolerable that folks stop taking the drugs.

I spend a lot of time helping out at Higher Ground, a day center for people who are HIV positive.   It is a free-standing program of Triad Health Project, the local HIV/AIDS service organization.  Three days a week, every week, local churches and other groups provide lunch for 25-40 hungry clients and volunteers and the one paid staff person who tends the souls and cleans the toilets for all who come through the doors.

Higher Ground is a place of acceptance for many who have been turned away by family, churches, and friends.  Believe me when I say, God is in this place and miracles do happen here.  Like crack addicts who are able to stay clean and have their own apartments for the first time in their adult lives thanks to case managers at Triad Health Project and the support and love of peers at Higher Ground.  Or men like my friend Bill who has been HIV positive since the 1980’s.  He had a leg amputated above the knee a while back because of HIV complications and was back at “The House” a few weeks later, smiling.  Many volunteers over the years, from high school students to those of us with gray hair, have been profoundly touched by the courage and faith of the men and women who pass through Higher Ground.

Did you know all this was still happening?

Today, there is much more hope.  But AIDS is not gone.  If you can, please donate your time and/or money to a local AIDS service organization (see below).  They still need you.

Triad Health Project’s vision statement:

We will stand together for as long as it takes until HIV/AIDS is no more, promoting enlightenment, dignity, acceptance, understanding, and love; demonstrating that we are not only enduring this epidemic, but also prevailing over it.

Still.

Originally published December 1, 2010

Link to donate to Triad Health Project:  https://triadhealthproject.salsalabs.org/donate/index.html

Serenity is…

A way of life absorbed slowly and practiced one day at a time.

Perspective.

Becoming aware of and accepting my many characteristics and not judging what’s “bad” or “good” but what’s useful to keep and what to release.

A spiritual journey without a destination.

Letting go.

Honoring my feelings without aiming them at someone else or letting them run my life.

Accepting what is.

A gift I choose to give myself.

Knowing that what works for someone else may not work for me.

Understanding I may be powerless but I’m not helpless.

Realizing my Higher Power does for me what I cannot do for myself.

Minding my own business.

Balance.

Relief from black and white thinking.

Understanding that reacting to life and responding to life are not the same thing.

Feeling at peace with my past.

Having my body and mind in one place at the same time.

Published in: on February 7, 2017 at 8:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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Finding Me In the Snow

The night before last we got 10 inches of snow. That much snow in a NC town means no one goes much of anywhere for a few days. To be fair, you should know (according to weather.com) our average snowfall is 3″. And we don’t always get that each year. So major investment in snowplows doesn’t make much fiscal sense. We have enough for the main roads to be at least partially cleared in the first 24 hours, but residential streets take days. Not to mention, most people don’t have real snow shovels or snow blowers. Can leaf blowers do double duty? See, I don’t even know!

My daughter went to the grocery store on Friday morning (snow was predicted for Friday night). She called me on the way home. “Mom!” she said in this tone of voice that always foreshadows something big is coming. “I just went to the grocery store and THEY WERE OUT OF MILK!” She’s 36, married 11 years, has 2 kids, 4 and almost 7. My response: “Well, honey, did you think they made up that story every year?” It’s a news story with pictures of empty shelves even when they only predict a couple of inches. I guess she never had to go to the grocery store on the day of a snow prediction.

I wrote before about being a 9 on the Enneagram and being a turtle and an introvert.(See here: I’m a 9 and a turtle)

Here are some tidbits:

Nines want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict.

Turtle naturally withdraws and goes within when in turmoil.

Introverts enjoy and sometimes require time to themselves. An introvert’s best and most creative thinking occurs when he/she is alone.

I didn’t like snow days when my daughters lived with us. I would forget every time that it has to be COLD to make snow. Proper gloves. hats, and boots were rarely required in our lives and, thus, hard to find or non-existent when needed. Yes, my kids sometimes had plastic bags over their shoes. And socks for gloves. You do what you have to do. Also, they never had snow pants. We did have warm coats.

Snow is wet, especially in the south where it’s not usually much below freezing when it’s cold enough to snow. So, kids without proper gear + the novelty of snow here  + a dad who grew up near Pittsburgh and loved all the excitement and wanted to teach his kids how to play in the snow + not much practice with being cold and wet = a LOT of in and out and the dryer running constantly.

Remember those personality types that describe me? Yeah, I’m not at my best in chaos and loud excitement and major disruption of the routine. I tried to be fun. It got harder after I stopped drinking in 1987. (Notice sometime–stores never run out of beer and wine. Those shelves are stocked.) Cookies and Doritos could only do so much for my mood. Plus, I either had to hide in the bathroom or share them. I swear they could smell Doritos when the bag opened.

Teenagers were no better. I had mine in the days of no personal electronics and no Netflix or You Tube. So they either slept (fine with me), were bored and bickering, or begging to watch something I considered inappropriate on cable tv.

I made hot chocolate and probably, at least once in a while, baked cookies. I’m not sure. We did make snow cream. I am sure we didn’t have much sugary-type treats because I was convinced sugar made my kids crazy. They still call me the Sugar Nazi. Though I’m much more lenient with my grandchildren.  Surprises them and, I think, annoys them a little, every time.

I don’t have small children  or teenagers anymore. They have their own little ones to deal with. They do better than I did. I hope so. They sure have more resources for entertainment.

Snow days now mean I’m home with the retired man I live with. He’s fine alone. We are still in our big house so we have room to separate and do our own things. We are on our 2nd day of snowed-in and still doing ok.

Usually, I like this kind of quiet time.  This time, though, it’s giving me a lot more time than I want to think about and plan for a situation that is just plain uncomfortable.

Remember these?

Nines want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict.

Turtle naturally withdraws and goes within when in turmoil.

Soon, I need to step forward, speak forcefully, ask hard questions, and lead some people to an end to a challenging situation. It would be so much easier to sit here in my warm house, next to my gas log fireplace, read a book and drink a cup of tea.

I keep forgetting to pray for strength and guidance. I don’t doubt that I can do what needs to be done. But inside me, there’s a 2-year-old screaming “NO! Don’t want to!”

Please pray that I will be led to the next right thing to do.

Thank you.

 

Published in: on January 8, 2017 at 1:41 pm  Comments (2)  
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Today Is World AIDS Day

Did you know that?

December 1 is still World AIDS Day.  There still is no cure.  People still get sick and die because of HIV/AIDS.

People are also living much longer and are taking medicines that really do help slow the progress of the disease.

The drugs that work are very expensive and state and federal programs that help pay for them are in danger of being cut.

Sometimes the side effects and the dosing schedule are so difficult and intolerable that folks stop taking the drugs.

I spend a lot of time helping out at Higher Ground, a day center for people who are HIV positive.   It is a free-standing program of Triad Health Project, the local HIV/AIDS service organization.  Three days a week, every week, local churches and other groups provide lunch for 25-40 hungry clients and volunteers and the one paid staff person who tends the souls and cleans the toilets for all who come through the doors.

Higher Ground is a place of acceptance for many who have been turned away by family, churches, and friends.  Believe me when I say, God is in this place and miracles do happen here.  Like crack addicts who are able to stay clean and have their own apartments for the first time in their adult lives thanks to case managers at Triad Health Project and the support and love of peers at Higher Ground.  Or men like my friend Bill who has been HIV positive since the 1980’s.  He had a leg amputated above the knee a while back because of HIV complications and was back at “The House” a few weeks later, smiling.  Many volunteers over the years, from high school students to those of us with gray hair, have been profoundly touched by the courage and faith of the men and women who pass through Higher Ground.

Did you know all this was still happening?

Today, there is much more hope.  But AIDS is not gone.  If you can, please donate your time and/or money to a local AIDS service organization (see below).  They still need you.

Triad Health Project’s vision statement:

We will stand together for as long as it takes until HIV/AIDS is no more, promoting enlightenment, dignity, acceptance, understanding, and love; demonstrating that we are not only enduring this epidemic, but also prevailing over it.

Still.

Originally published December 1, 2010

Link to donate to Triad Health Project:  https://triadhealthproject.salsalabs.org/donate/index.html

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Published in: on December 1, 2016 at 9:21 am  Comments (3)  

The Day Before the Election

Monday, November, 7, 2016

This evening, I’ll be in the Sternberger Elementary School cafeteria helping to set up for the election. While I am there,  members of my church will gather for a prayer service:

Breathe, Pray, Love

A time of quiet, music and prayers for peace and healing

I doubt we are the only church or the only people praying the day before this election.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll turn off my alarm clock at 4:30am. It is DARK at that hour. I’ll shower and dress and gather my supplies (green tea, Diet Coke, change of shoes) to spend the day as an assistant poll worker. Yes, I’m one of those nice, grey-haired ladies who checks you in, gives you an “I voted” sticker, and leads you over to the voting machine.

In NC, voting sites are open from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm. Anyone in line at 7:30 pm gets to vote, no matter how long it takes. It’s a long, long day. And we can’t leave, other than to go down the hall to the bathroom.

All the poll workers bring food. The chief judge makes crockpot soup that is available whenever we get a chance to eat. I made banana muffins. One (male) voter ususally brings us freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. I hope he didn’t vote early. There will likely be plenty of food.

Our precinct is majority white Republican and upper middle class so I don’t expect conflict or commotion. And I hope there’s no conflict or commotion at any polling place anywhere. I’m not confident that will be the case. I’ve never worried about that before.

I’ve been a politics geek most of my life. My Gramma Bryant taught my mother how to be a Democrat and Mom and Dad taught us. We always watched the news growing up and discussed current events at the dinner table. The retired man I live with and I did that with our children and I see it continuing with theirs.

My older daughter took her 4-year-old daughter, who said she wanted “the girl” to win, to vote early. She sent me a picture of Maggie with an “I voted” sticker. I posted it on Facebook with the caption “Voted for the 1st woman president.”

And my younger daughter will take her kids to vote on Election Day. I hope she lets 6 1/2-year-old Adaline push the button for Hillary so she, too, can say she voted for the first woman president.

If you haven’t voted yet, I hope you do. You have no right to complain, ever, if you don’t! Thank you to all the North Carolina voters who voted early–you’ve made Election Day much easier!

Remember to breathe as you wait for this long, difficult campaign to end. And please do pray for peace and healing. We all have to live together after tomorrow, whatever the result.

Published in: on November 7, 2016 at 4:13 pm  Comments (4)  
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