Monday, August 26, 2013

Are You In Recovery?

In my past I was many things. I was son and brother, friend and co-worker. I was drug addict and drug dealer, lover and fighter. I would say I cussed like a sailor, but I have never known a sailor to hear what they cuss like. Instead, let me just say that vulgarity was my verbiage of choice and I spoke loudly in public while waxing prose. My music contained a lot of vulgarity and was mostly about violence and drinking/drugging.  I liked to play it loud so everyone would hear it, also.
I did not have any respect for myself based on my choices, so why would I have respect for anyone else? My music and language in public proved that. My lifestyle also painted a picture of who I was. Was I really that person? I would say, deep down inside me, I was never the person that I presented to people. I had been severely hurt and was terrified of being hurt again. I found that numbing myself with chemicals, seeking thrills and conquests as well as putting up walls of testosterone kept me safe.
It created a persona. I adapted to the people that my persona attracted. For the most part, we were the dregs. We were truly anti-social in our behaviors, even though the behaviors were not who we really were. I adapted to my surroundings and friends so that I could survive. Any weakness would get you at the very least used and taken advantage of. In the worst case scenario it could get you killed.
I became someone that I was not. I like to see people happy and laughing, yet I hurt people physically and emotionally on a regular basis. I am an honest person, yet I told lies so frequently that it became second nature. I would lie just to lie, and sometimes I would tell the same lie so often I would begin to believe it myself.
I enjoy my freedom, yet I got to the point I would go to jail with the money in my wallet to bond out and would stay in there for a week just to rest and catch up on sleep because JAIL WAS LESS STRESSFUL THAN MY LIFE OUTSIDE. I was smart, yet I refused to use it. I love my sister and respect her more than anything, yet I used her repeatedly.
I was a walking anomaly. Even after I stopped using drugs, I still was vulgar, violent and whorish. I was incomplete and miserable. I would feel all alone at an after party with 50 people there. I was hopeless, because I was not who I really was. In order for me to improve my life, things had to change. Some people work long and hard for that change. I was blessed. After being an Agnostic for 20 plus years, I gave God a chance.
I was transformed. I have not used drugs/alcohol, smoked a cigarette, gotten into a fight outside of a ring or had premarital sex since that prayer over 4 years ago. Even though I was transformed, I still had things to prove to others if I expected them to believe that the new me was really changed and not just an act. So what to change? Everything!
I stopped listening to music that had vulgarity or extolled the virtues of sex, drugs, alcohol or violence. I switched to contemporary worship music. I actually found good rap and metal acts to listen to that only had positive messages (they are all Christian artists). I stopped watching and reading pornography. That was a struggle, because it was so accessible. I also became more aware of the impact my actions and words had on those around me.
I had been cussing most of my life. It was who I was, as was drinking, doing drugs and fighting. If I was going to quit one, I might as well quit them all. They all were part of my past criminal and addictive lifestyle. Why would I want to hold on to any piece of that? If you want to stay clean, you cannot dance in the mud.  It was a going out of business sale. My past life was bankrupt and everything had to go!
I gained humility. Even though I could argue that I did not care what other people thought or if I offended them so what, it was not true IF I were in recovery. Sobriety or abstinence yes, but never in recovery. A lot of the people that I have encountered failed to remember that although it starts out a selfish program, it does not stay that way.Addiction is egotistical, abstinence can be selfish but recovery is altruistic.
So, for those who feel that they are in recovery let me ask you a question: Do your actions and words show it? Or are you still holding onto your old, addictive, criminal lifestyle in one form or another? People can not judge our hearts or intentions, only our words and actions. We are to be beacons of recovery, shining a light into the world that accomplishes a couple of things.
1.       We should make people who are still in their active addiction want to be in recovery. Stop being such a “Negative Nancy” and buck up!
2.       Why so angry? It would appear that getting sober has sucked based on your attitude and language. Stop showing that you carry the addiction with you and let it ALL go, not just the using. New comers aren’t going to want what you have.
3.       Share sobriety and recovery with those coming to the meetings. When you are telling a 10 minute war story, it defeats the positive message. How did you get sober? What helped you stay sober?
4.       Stop using the rooms as a dating service. You are doing nothing more than taking advantage of emotionally vulnerable people and that could cause them to never come back to a meeting or trust a sober person again. Stop victimizing people!
5.       We should be vocal about where we once were outside of the meetings so that people can see that not only do we get sober, but we change and become morally upstanding members of society who give back TO SOCIETY! Is making coffee at a meeting a good thing? Yes, service work is important. But, do we represent recovery in our community and do COMMUNITY SERVICE?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Are You Comfortable?

Today I was thinking about two words, comfortable and complacent. These two words scare me to death. They are the last two words I ever want to use to define my life. I don’t mind words like struggling or challenged. In fact, I welcome struggles and challenges. They are the reason that we grow. Let us look at the word complacent and comfortable in a couple of different contexts.
For starters, I am in recovery from an addiction to more. Yes, I preferred methamphetamine then alcohol but I would use whatever was available. My addiction did not stop there, either. I was addicted to money, power, women and violence. I have been in recovery for 4 ½ years now. I work in the field of recovery and have for about 6 years (4 ½ years in recovery but 6 in the field may puzzle you. I consider abstinent and recovery two completely different things). I sit in multiple meetings every week, since I conduct them. I go to trainings and read the latest research on addiction and recovery but I know I do not have it figured out. 
I can never allow myself to get comfortable and complacent. If I do, I might lose focus. You see, my addiction is not gone. It is at work in the back of my head; lifting weights, running on the treadmill and doing research on the internet. My addiction gets smarter, stronger and more cunning. It is searching for a way to take my life over again. Comfortable and complacent has caused me to relapse once before. I cannot relapse again. I am pretty sure that I don’t have another recovery left in me.
How about work? I work in the field of addiction. I am currently a counselor for an organization that has DWI and Drug Court contracts, so I work with clients and teams from those 2 courts. I have been doing that for 5 plus years now. I have also in that time period worked with residential and outpatient clients. I feel that I am pretty good at what I do. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology, a Master’s degree in Social Work and I am a LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker). I have 4 ½ years in recovery after a 20 plus year addiction. I am street and book educated in this field.
I can never allow myself to get comfortable and complacent. My clients deserve better. Comfortable and complacent tell me that I don’t have to go the extra mile for them. I can kick back on my laurels and coast. Absolutely not, this is so much more than people’s freedom. It is their very lives that they can lose if they go back out there. If they do, is it my fault? No, but I want to know that I did everything I could to give them the best interventions and support I could. Complacency does none of that.
How about faith? I have been going to church for about 6 years and got saved 4 ½ years ago. I know the songs and I raise my hand when I worship. I tithe like I should. I pray. I don’t judge and I am accepting of all people. In fact, I love the services I go to and I feel accepted and know that I am doing what I need to be doing after I hear them. I know the primary message of the Bible and it comforts me because I know Jesus loves me and that I am saved. I love that everybody can go to my church and not feel called out and no one will judge me if I make mistakes here and there.
I can never allow myself to get comfortable and complacent. When I think of Christ and the early Christians the last thing I think of is warm and fuzzy. They lived a radically different life that led to many of them being killed. We are called to be Christ-like. Christ told us people would hate us at they hated Him and to daily pick up our cross. Those two things do not sound comfortable nor do they fit into a complacent life. I should be talking about feeling the Spirit move, not how rocking the band is.
In the end, complacency kills. It could cost me my job. It could cost me my sobriety. It could cost me my eternal soul. This is not something to mess around with. I should challenge myself all of the time. I should surround myself with people that help build me up and people that I can help build up. I should not live my life comfortably. We are called to lead by example, to be salt and light. I can’t do that when I live a comfortable life, blend in with everyone else and never call anybody out for their actions. That is ordinary. I don’t know about you, but I was born to be extraordinary!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics Chapter 7: Is the New Testament Reliable?

Until the 1450 when Johannes Gutenberg made the practice obsolete, all books were handwritten. So for 1400 years the New Testament was vulnerable to corruption. The New Testament was written by the church. Not all churches had all of the books. When a church received a document from an apostle, they wrote copies of it and sent it to other churches, who in turn did the same thing. They also highly valued the books, so great care was made to transmit them word for word. With that said, mistakes were still made.
There were two general ways to copy books. One way had a scribe who would take the book he wanted to copy, sit it in front of him, then copy it word for word. The other way used a text with several scribes writing while someone read aloud the text. This way was much quicker, but there was a problem with the second method that the first method did not have. Some words sound very similar yet contain different meanings, such as to and too or pare, pair and pear.
To deal with the issues of differences in texts, textual criticism was developed. In this, all extant copies of a manuscript are compared to each other. From there they use various techniques to identify which of the texts are the oldest. If differences are found in the text, then earliest texts are preferred. There is another method, which looks at what text the majority of the copies uses and adopt that.
Needless to say, the more copies of manuscripts we have the more accurately we can decipher the original text. With the New Testament, if we only were to use original language manuscripts we would have over 5,300 copies. Some of them date from as early as 125-130 AD, less than 50 years after the book was written. The Magdalen Papyri is dated to 70 AD and 7Q5, a Qumran fragment, has been dated between 50 BC and 50 AD.
To compare, the writings of Aristotle date 1400 years later and the total number of any one book is 49. Tetralogy by Plato has an earliest dated copy 1300 after he wrote it and there are only 7 manuscripts. The New Testament has 5,300 copies in original language, another 8,000 Latin Vulgate from the 4th Century and 9,300 earlier version in Coptic, Armenian, Nubian and Syriac.
There are about 200,000 variants in 10,000 different places. Most of these are misspellings, interpolation of words or orthographical. Orthographical differences would be theater and theatre, where both are correct. There are the previously mentioned textual criticism methods to sort out differences, but there are about 400 words comprising 40 verses where the original writing is just not known. They contain no essential Christian doctrine.
Archeology and non-Christian writings have also been helpful. Archeology has consistently and repeatedly confirmed the New Testament. There are also the Jewish historian Josephus, the Roman historian Tacitus, Pliny the Younger (governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor) and the Greek satirist Lucian who speak of Christians, Jesus, the crucifixion, John the Baptist and James the brother of Jesus.
As for the word being inspired by God, Mr. Powell looks at the claim by other books to be divine. To decipher which is, we must first determine which is a reliable historical document. The Bible is backed up by archeology, non-Christian writings as well as a remarkable number of ancient copies. Then we look to Jesus claiming to be God. If the resurrection arguments are compelling, t hen we must take Jesus at his word. If Jesus in turn considered the Old Testament to be the Word of God, and what we have just discussed above in this paragraph is true, we have good reason to accept it as well.
Thanks for reading, hope to see you next time when we look at Chapter 8, which addresses if the Old Testament is reliable.

Monday, August 12, 2013

To My Daughter on her 1st Birthday

My precious little Addison, this is the first letter I have ever written to you. I promise it will be the first of many. That is the first promise I have to you. This letter will contain several more:

Addison, I am writing this letter to wish you a happy first birthday. It has been a real joy to share the first year of your life with you, and I look forward to many more. This first year of your life has flown by for me, and I wish I could have been in it more.

Your mother has been able to stay at home with you and she gets a lot more time with you. If anything, I am jealous of the time she shares with you that I cannot because I am working. The bond you two have is awesome, and your love for each other is impossible to miss. Above all else, I would say that you are well loved.

Although you are not old enough to read this, you will be before I know it. I want you to know how great it has been to share the first year of your life with you. Your smile lights me up when I am down, and it has since the first time I saw it. It was right after you were born. I remember that first smile well.

They handed you to me and closed the curtain between us and your mom. She was having complications and I was scared for her. You went from screaming to quiet and when I looked at you there was a smile. Your smile let me know that everything would be okay. It comforted me when I was stressed and worried. It was the first time that your smile calmed me. Here I thought I was supposed to be here to comfort you. I knew right then how special you were, and that I would be there for you no matter what happened. I knew that I would never let anything happen to you, and that as long as I was there you would be always be safe.

Unfortunately, I have already struggled with that several times due to you being born with cataracts and a heart murmur. I know that I will struggle with it on occasion in the future, too. There are some tough lessons you will surely learn from life that I cannot shelter you from. That said, I will always be there to pick you up, brush off the dirt and comfort you when those things happen.

Your older brother was in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and I did not get to hold him for the first week of his life. I stayed awake with you for the first two days of your life so that would not happen again. I finally fell asleep and when I woke up you were gone. While I was sleeping, they had taken you to the NICU. It was the first time I felt helpless after you were born.

 The next time that I felt helpless was when you were two months old and they took you to have surgery on your right eye. A week later, they took you to have surgery on your left eye and I felt helpless again as I watched them take you out in your bed to surgery. I knew you were in good hands, but I knew that things were out of my control and all I could do was pray.

Those surgeries showed me what a fighter you were. Both times that you came out from anesthesia after surgery, you were cooing and smiling. It showed me how strong you were. It was almost like you knew how fragile I was and did not want me to break, so you were strong for both of us. Those were the next times you comforted me when it should have been the other way around.

I see that same strength and spirit in you today, as you balance on your feet preparing for that first step you will soon take. You have dimples on your face and a glint in your eyes that says, “Look what I can do.” I know that first step you take will be the first of many that lead you on to greater and greater things. I promise to be beside you on that journey if I can.

I may not be there for a lot of your journey, because there were choices I made when I was younger that could lead to me dying young. I have changed those things, but they may still come back to haunt me. Remember, the choices that you make when you are younger and feel indestructible will come back to haunt you later.

Fortunately, you have a mother that cherishes you and a big brother who dotes on you. They will be there for you when you need them to be, too. Know that for all the poor of choices I made when I was younger, you mother was my polar opposite. Because of that we have gained two different sets of knowledge. Together there is so much we can teach and show you.

As long as I am here, I promise to take you on a father/daughter date once a month. I also promise to do my best to raise you well. That includes me never doing anything that I would not want you to do or see whether you are there or not. If it is something that you should not do, I have no business doing it either.

I will set an example that I hope you follow. Look at how I live my life. See the good that I do for others and the way that I treat people. I expect you to live the same way. Treat people with respect even when they do not respect themselves. Always make sure that you live your live to be better and help those around you become better. If you are not living that way, there is something wrong.

Observe how I treat your mother. See the love and respect I have for her, and how that is evident in my actions and speech when we talk. Use that as a blue print for how the man you someday date should treat you. If he does not treat you as I treat your mother, than you need to find a gentleman who will.

I am human, as are you. We will both make mistakes and poor choices. I promise to continuing growing with you, sharing what I learn as I grow and encouraging you to share what you are learning with me. Never be afraid to admit your mistakes and always be quick to say you are sorry. If you acknowledge your mistakes you can correct them. If you don't admit mistakes, you are sure to repeat them.

See that your words and your actions always match up. Remember that people cannot know your heart or your intent. Instead they will gauge who you are by the things you say and the things you do. Never give them a reason to doubt that you are who you say you are and try not to be good friends with people whose actions don’t match their words. Other people will see you as being the same way.

Never settle for less than the very best, for that is what you deserve. Never stop making improvements in your life, whether through education or application. I do not want you do good, I want you to do great. That means always asking questions, finding answers to them, than making informed choices that will guide your life in the right direction. Know that there is nothing you cannot do, for you are fierce. 

If you ever have any questions, please ask them. I promise to always tell you the truth. I learned most of my life lessons the hard way. Most of us do. Asking questions and coming to your own conclusions from them can help you avoid some of the stupidity that comes as we experience life. I hope that my life being an open book will help you avoid some of the choices I made as I grew up.

There are times you will get mad at me. I am your dad, not your friend. At times the rules I set will upset you. There may be times that you tell me you don't love me because of them. Don't worry, I will never believe you mean it.

In all that you do and where ever you may go, always make time to pray. Take time out of every day to pray and meditate on the direction God leads you. That is the single most important piece of advice I will ever give you.

In closing, I love you princess! I wish you the happiest of birthdays today as you turn one. I look forward to seeing you become the lady you were created to be as we celebrate many more together in the years to come.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Weight Loss Wednesday - My 90 Day Challenge pt 2

As you can see, the Visalus has dropped from the 90 day challenge I am on. I forgot when I started that I am basically broke. After spending about $600 for the first two months, I realized something. That is entirely too much money. Almost $300 a month for the transformation kit was not worth it. In fact, if I followed the calorie restriction I would be hard pressed not to lose weight if I exercised too. First, let me tell you that I am not bad mouthing Visalus. The shakes tasted amazing and I went from 244.8 pounds to 233.6 in a little over a month while still cheating on the weekends and doing no cardio. I lost over 10 pounds, which puts me well on my way to meeting my 25 pound 90 day goal. Visalus is just too expensive for me. So instead, I am going another route. I weighed 233.6 Monday morning when I began the second phase of my 90 day challenge. I am now lifting for only 25-30 minutes, then doing 30 minutes of cardio. I am also taking 1st Phorm’s 1 DB Overdrive and Thyro-Drive. When my sweet tooth kicks in late I am making a protein shake using 1st Phorm’s Level I Cookies and Cream protein. I was working out but with a partner that could only work out at night, so my workouts were not that motivated. I am an early morning workout guy, so I had to switch back to early mornings. That way I can guarantee that nothing comes up that might interfere with my workouts. Secondly, my workouts were too long to fit in cardio, too. Therefore, the workouts I was doing had to be improvised to get my lifting time down. They are briefly described at the end of this blog and if anyone has any questions or wants the routine let me know. I take the 1st Phorm pack (Overdrive and Thyro-Drive) as soon as I wake up. Thirty minutes later, I am in the gym and I can feel the difference. I have more energy than I have had before, and I sweat more. That is probably a good combination for weight loss. I take them one more time about an hour before I eat lunch, and I am good to go for the rest of the day. My water intake this week has increased, from about 100 ounces to 150 or more. I also don’t feel as hungry and my cravings have been reduced. So far it is all positives and far cheaper than what I was spending. I am curious to see where I am weight wise at the end of this month. I will let you know the first Wednesday of September, as I complete the third month of my 90 day challenge that month. Super positive that I will hit my 25 pound goal……….if not exceed it! Here is what I am doing in the gym now. I am hitting one body part at a time. On Monday, it is back and biceps. On Tuesday, it is chest and triceps. On Wednesday, it is legs and abs then Thursday I do shoulders and traps. For the first body part, I pick 3 exercises. I do 3 giant sets of 8 reps each, taking a minute rest after each set. Then I pick one exercise and burn it, doing 5 sets of 12 reps with a 30 second rest between each set. For the second body part, I pick 2 exercises and do 3 supersets of 8 reps each with a one minute rest between sets. Then I pick an exercise and do 5 sets of 12 reps with a 30 second break. I want to work up to 7 sets on the burn portion eventually. This is not done for legs, as I hit legs pretty hard one set at a time, but I do the burn sets to end my quad portion as well as the hamstring portion. This allows me enough time to end my workouts with a 30 minute cardio and still be out in about an hour. I am also going to try to add at least two more 30-60 minute cardio sessions during the week on off days.

Monday, August 5, 2013

To Judge or Not to Judge, that is the Question

Matthew 7:1-5 reads, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

I have heard many a person say that we are not to judge. They always use the first part of verse one when they say it. In my experience it is generally quoted by Christians that have sinned and are being ministered to. It is also used by non-Christians who take issue with Christians who evangelize. Finally, it is used an excuse by Christians so they do not have to minister and instruct others. When these instances occur, Matthew 7:1 is frequently quoted.
Honestly, I would say that Matthew 7:1 is one of the most quoted verses. It is also one of the least understood and frequently taken out of context scriptures in the Bible. People say that Matthew 7:1 tells us not to judge. They are correct, kind of. Matthew 7:1 does say, “Do not judge” but it doesn’t stop there. That said, what if it did. What if we never judged?
Imagine your life if you never judged.  You would always take the first job you were offered. You would never know who to vote for, because you would not be able to discern between candidates. You would not care about the neighborhood you lived in or the school your children attended. You would not care who worked on your car or even who watched your children. Based on just these few examples, it is obviously vital that we judge.
In fact, verse 5 says that we need to be able to see clearly so that we can remove the speck from our brother’s eye. So, what does it mean not to judge. First, we add the rest of the verse, “or you too will be judged.” This means that we need to be cautious about judging others, because we too will someday be judged by God. Here are wrong ways and reasons to judge others:
1.      To avoid looking at their own sin
2.      To minimize their own sin
3.      To look down on people
4.      To condemn people
5.      Mindreading – This is where people judge someone’s motives or heart, which they cannot know, instead of judging their conduct.
Those are wrong reasons to judge others. They are probably the most common reasons and ways that people judge others. There are also proper reasons to judge. That is what we will look at next. These are some of the reasons that we should judge:
1.      To know right from wrong – 1 Corinthians 2:15 says, “The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things.” If we are to be Christ-like, we must insure that our actions and words speak to that. By discerning what is right from what is wrong we are able to better live our lives as Christ lived His.
2.      Discipleship - Whether it is as a mentor, a parent or a friend we are to lead people in the right direction. Imagine a parent who did not judge their children’s actions and the company they kept. That would be an epic parenting fail! We lead by example and then build up those around us. Never forget, iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17).
3.      To build up those around us – In Matthew 7:5 it says that we need to see to remove the speck from our brother’s eye. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that scripture is beneficial for, “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training.” We are told to help those around us using Scripture as our guide
4.      To make ourselves better Christians – 1 Corinthians 11:30-31 says, “That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment.” We fall victim to the sin prevalent in this world because we are afraid to judge ourselves and what we do.
So in closing, before we judge make sure that we are in line with living our lives as Christ lived his. When dealing with others, do not do so with condemnation but with love. Most importantly, clean your own house before you attempt to help someone else clean theirs. If you are still living in sin, do not come to someone else and point out their faults. That is how we alienate people, because no one likes a hypocrite.
Judging is done to build someone up, not to tear someone down. The people we build up are the same ones that will call us out and help build us up. We do not judge on our opinions, but from the words of Jesus Christ in a loving and reasoning manner. So, before you come to someone in need have your own house in order (or at least be working on getting it in order), insure the problem is Biblical in nature, pray for guidance then use tact and love when you speak to them.