Monday, April 28, 2014

You Can't Unpickle a Pickle

Sitting in the rooms I once heard a man say that you can’t turn a pickle back into a cucumber. He was saying that as a reply to another person who had asked if they would ever be normal again. That is what was said, and the subject was dropped at that. Basically, the answer was, “NO!!! You will never be normal again!” The guy did not seem very happy with that answer. I guess that he wanted to be normal again. He wanted to become a cucumber again. I felt sorry for him, so I had to reply. This is probably not word for word what I said, but it is as near as I can remember:

There are “normies” and then there are the rest of us. I am blessed and optimistic because I am part of the rest of us. Take a normie and the comparison used. A normal person is a cucumber. They have not had a lot of turmoil in their lives, not many tragedies and their struggles are minimal. Due to that untested nature of existence they have been able to remain a cucumber. That is fine for them. I personally like cucumbers. They taste good in my salad. That said, I could never enjoy them by themselves because they are just too plain and ordinary. They lack flavor.

Then there are the rest of us, the pickles. We started out as cucumbers, just like the normies. Unlike the normies, we have gone through a process that has changed us. We have felt the fires of life and had things thrown into the mix that have seasoned us. Through that process we have gained strength, experience and wisdom that normal people just don’t have. We have attaining a better existence due to a process many people will never know.

It is hard to appreciate what you have unless you have had nothing. That could be financially, spiritually, hopelessness, etc. If you go from having nothing to have something, it is amazing. Saturday I went on a 25 mile bicycle ride and about 15 miles into it I ran out of water. When I finally got a drink 10 miles later it was some of the best tasting water EVER because I had gone without. When I lived a hopeless life,  mired in addiction worshipping drugs/power/sex as an atheist then turned my life over to Christ I gained a relationship with God that was unlike anything I had ever felt. I crave that relationship because I know how miserable my life was without it.

You never know how strong you are unless you go through difficult things. Much like the cucumber, it will not change unless it is goes through the fire. Once it goes through the fire it becomes pliable and able to soak up the spices to make it what I consider to be a much better product in the end. The same goes for the hurts, habits and hang ups we struggle with.

I am a hope dealer. I am really good at what I do. I live my life for God with a focus on my family first and second dealing hope and decimating stigma that surrounds addiction and mental health that men, women and children struggle with every day. I am good at what I do because I was once a cucumber until the fires of life transformed me. Because of that transformation I can give hope to others that are hopeless. All because I am a pickle. A cucumber cannot do what I do.

You cannot help someone work through their struggles unless you too have struggled. You may not have had the same struggles, but you have to have overcome struggles. Addiction to food, alcohol, drugs, sex, codependency, pornography, power, anger, shopping, money, trauma, grief and loss, etc at their root are all very similar. I just want to know that you too have struggled.  That you are a pickle just like me. We have some common ground. So remember, the next time you get told you are a pickle and could never be turned back into a cucumber, be grateful. After all, what pickle in their right mind would ever want to be turned back into a plain, flavorless cucumber? I know I wouldn’t!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Better Life in Recovery: Dealing Hope and Decimating Stigma

 Better Life in Recovery, Inc. (BLiR) is an organization whose purpose is to deal hope and decimate stigma surrounding addictions and mental health diagnosis that men, women and children face every day through education and awareness events that celebrate people who are in long-term recovery. In the past, we have put on several events for youth in area communities to educate them on the dangers of addiction and the power of recovery. We are currently filming a documentary to take into schools and colleges. This year BLiR is working to reduce the stigma of addiction and recovery by giving back to our communities through service and awareness events.

We are partnering with Alternative Opportunities, Inc., the Recovery Coalition of the Ozarks, Higher Ground, Hands Extended Outreach, Victory Circle, Jericho Commission, Glendale Christian Church, local Celebrate Recovery and various other 12 Step groups, the Missouri Recovery Network and local business owners to organize and host several community events and community service projects. September is National Recovery Month, and we are having 4 major events this year to celebrate it as well as an outreach committee to find and plan community service projects.

1.       Recovery Day at Hammond’s Field – This event will be held on August 29th. We will have a parade around the outfield at 6 of people in recovery, their families and people in support of those in recovery as the score board displays information about Recovery Month and the 5K/10K Recovery Awareness Run the following week. We will also be throwing out the first pitch to start the game. Tickets for the game are available through BLiR for $10.

2.       Getting Dirty to Stay Clean 5K/10K Run and BBQ to be held on September 6th.The run will be called “Recovery Coalition of the Ozarks presents the BLiR Getting Dirty to Stay Clean 5K/10K Trail Run.” Location is yet to be determined. The post-race BBQ will feature live music, bounce houses, games, prizes, face painting and other family friendly fun.

3.       Keeping it Clean James River Float Trip and Campout –This event will be at Hooten Town on September 27th and 28th.Saturday evening we will have 3 speakers share their testimonies of long-term recovery as well as live music and BBQ. On Sunday we will start the morning with breakfast followed by a float down the James River and help keep it clean by picking up trash. The day will end with various prizes, including one for the canoe with the most trash picked up based on weight.

4.       Multidisciplinary Forum at Missouri State University is in the planning phase. It will be held during the month of September.

5.       Outreach Committee– This committee is setting up community service projects that will be completed by people who are in recovery. We are going to Cowden Elementary School on Saturday, May 3rd.We will be painting their playground and picking rocks off of their fields. We will be part of the United Way's Day of Caring event, as well.

Better Life in Recovery is working with multiple treatment providers, people from the Drug and DWI court system as well as various 12 Step and faith-based recovery organizations to reach our goals.  Our unity will allow us to have larger events that will make it easier for the community to see that we do recover. The more people we bring out, the easier it is to get positive attention to help offset all of the negative attention addiction generally receives.

We are real people with real problems who have real answers and we are transforming lives by sharing recovery. We are vital pieces of an effective, efficient community. Together we will spread the message that prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover. In turn this will promote the message that recovery in all its forms is possible, and encourage citizens to take action to help expand and improve the availability of effective prevention, treatment, and recovery services for those in need.
Our website's address  Our next planning meeting is scheduled for Saturday, May 17th at 1 P.M. We will be having the meeting at Day Spring, located at 2157 North Prospect on the second floor.
If there is any way you would like to get involved, whether that means sponsoring an event financially, making donations, volunteering to help set up/clean/entertain at one of the events, or just want to come to them to participate and would like more information reply to this or shoot me an email to:

Monday, April 14, 2014

I Hate Stigma

It has taken me over a week to write this blog. One of the reasons that it has taken me this long is because of things I am currently working on with other passionate people to decimate the stigma I will soon be talking about. Then I got sick and last week was in bed for the majority of Sunday through Wednesday. That illness resulted in me not posting anything last week. This week we will talk about one of my least favorite words, stigma.

Stigma is defined as a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something. To stigmatized is to to characterize or brand as disgraceful. I have pretty harsh feelings about those who brand people as disgraceful. I work with many of those who are stigmatized, and they are for the most part really good people who have made some bad choices. The worst part is that this brand of hate is being done by the people we live among in our fair city of Springfield, and they feel validated to share it.

This became very apparent to me as I read the comments pasted on the KY3 and KOLR10 Facebook sites after they posted the news of Philip Seymour Hoffman's death a couple of months ago. Some comments showed compassion, while others did not. "Just another dead junkie" and "See, they never stop using" were among my least favorite. Then I read the comments on the Newsleader Facebook page when a mugshot is posted. Not all of them, but a lot of them. "Can't wait until he meets Bubba" and "Throw away the key" were two of the first ones I read the other day.

Than there was a young girl by the name of Hailey who was kidnapped and killed. When the name of her abductor was released (I refuse to give his name any space on my blog), the speculation began. The leading speculation I read on various Facebook sites was that he had to be under the influence of narcotics, as in, "He had to be on something to kidnap and murder a little girl." As if him being on something would have explained the atrocity he committed.

I was disgusted by the attitude of the very people I walk beside every day. There is nothing that explains why someone would do such heinous things. High or drunk and evil are two completely different things. Not that evil acts are not perpetrated by people who struggle with chemical dependencies, but they are also committed by people who are not on anything. That is the truth. The community at large disagrees. This is the reason that there are $100,000 cuts at The Kitchen, which houses homeless who are often stigmatized as all being addicts, alcoholics and/or mentally ill. Stigma sucks!

I should know. I am in one of those groups that is stigmatized. In fact, I am in multiple stigmatized groups. I was sexually and physically abused as a child. I am an addict and alcoholic in long-term recovery. I am a convicted felon who has done time in prison. I have also been diagnosed as Bipolar disorder with psychotic features and several other diagnosis. I lived in shame for years because of much of this, afraid that people would find out. After all, I heard how they talked about people like me.

Then I realized that those people were by and large people who had never had to experience the things that I did growing up. They did not have to overcome the things I had overcome to be standing where I am at today. There were really just critics. I once hard that a critic is a generally committed as an act of ignorance or cowardice where a bystander runs onto the battle field and shoots the survivors. Hate kills people every day. Stigmatization is a byproduct of hate.

I deplore hate, so by proxy I deplore stigma. My goal in life is to deal hope and decimate stigma surrounding addiction, mental health issues as well as other hurts and hang-ups men, women and children face every day through education and awareness events that celebrate people in long-term recovery. We actually just had a meeting on Saturday and I will be putting a recap of the meeting on here later this week as well as when the next meeting will be held in May. I hope that if you share my passion you will attend the next meeting.

I know for a fact that there is a Better Life in Recovery, because I have found it! We will win. We will make huge steps towards eradicating stigma and spreading hope by using real people with real problems sharing real answers so we can transform lives by sharing our recovery! Thanks for reading!!

Why I Love God's Attributes

Have you ever taken a minute to really thing about what it mean when we say God is eternal, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God? 

God is: 

1.    Eternal: God has always existed. He has always been and he will always be. There is not a time when God has not existed.
2.    Omniscient: God has total knowledge. He knows all things that have ever been and will ever be.
3.    Omnipresent: God is in all places at all times. He is always present: yesterday, today and tomorrow!
4.    Omnipotent: God is all powerful. There is nothing that God cannot accomplish, nothing he cannot do. 

One day I was upset with my son over a choice he had made. Something in the house was broken, and when I asked him about it he did not factually report (clever way of saying lied) what had occurred. I was very disappointed in him, and after I let him know that I put him in the corner. As he cried his little 5 year old tears, I felt horrible. 

I do not like it when my son lies to me, and I wondered how many times he would be less than honest before he finally decided telling the truth was the way to go. I started thinking about,as a parent, having the ability to stop him from lying and being able to force him to tell the truth. Then I could force him to always do what I wanted and life would be so much easier; than I thought about God.  

God is omnipotent, and He really could force us to do His will. He could make us do everything He wants us to do, say only what He wants us to say and go only where He wants us to go. I thought about having that power over my son and my daughter. 

Then I thought how mind-numbing and horrible that would be. My children would be automatons, doing my bidding and nothing else. I would never know whether it was there choice or not, because they would never have an opportunity to make choices. I would rather they choose to do the right thing eventually then always being forced to do it and never have the freedom to make their own choices. After all, we learn from mistakes. 

God is omnipresent, and this ties in with His being eternal. Because He is eternal, He has no beginning and no end. He is the literal beginning and end, because he transcends both. He was here before our universe began, because He created it. Because He is without end or beginning, He is in all places at all times at once. We could not go to a day where He did not exist. This means that God can see all things at all times because He is in all places at once. 

God is omniscient. He knows all things that have been done in the past, the things that will be done in the present and because he is omnipresent He even knows the things that will be done in the future. If you are getting ready to do something, He knows what it is you are going to do before you even do it. God knows what you are going to do because a part of Him has already experienced you doing it. 

So when we combine all of these attributes into one being we call God, what does it mean for us? It means that we have a gigantic cheerleader that watches over us. God is never disappointed in the story of our life because He already knows the outcome. Let us look at a scenario to explore this a little deeper, my addiction. 

When I was using there were times that I wanted to quit. I went to rehab, and I got my families hopes up. When I came out of rehab I said all of the right things and actually attained 2 months of sobriety after I completed residential treatment before I relapsed. My family was shattered; they were disappointed and let down, frustrated and disillusioned. Some of them lost hope in me, and my word became worthless to them. They thought I would never quit using and refused to ever get the hopes up again because they did not want to be hurt anymore.
Let’s go back to my son. Imagine him not being honest with me. How frustrated could I get by his lack of candor? I want him to tell me the truth, yet he does not. The more he misleads me, the more frustrated I become. All I want to know is, “When will he tell the truth?” 

With God, these scenarios never happen. God already knows the outcome. He knew how many times I would relapse before I finally overcame my addiction. He was never disappointed in me. Instead of saying, “There is another relapse. He has relapses 3 times, how many more before he wins his struggle?” God knew I had 4 relapses in me before I would not use again. When I think back to my third relapse, I can hear the angels cheering, “Only 1 more relapse and he is ours!” 

God never gets disappointed, because He already knows the outcome. Sometimes the outcome is less than desirable, but He knows to expect it. I have some really good friends who have died, and if I would have known I could have at least cherished the time I had with them. God does that, whether we cherish our time with Him or not. That is a small piece, but there is a bigger message I took from this, and one that I hope you can use as well. 

God is never disappointed in you. He knows what you are going to do before you do it. He also knows the number of times you will slip and fall before you finally pledge your life to Him. Will you still slip? Of course, for all of us sin and fall short of God’s glory. But when we do, we can pick ourselves up and know God saw it coming and loves us anyway. He forgave us before we even did it because He already knew what we were going to do. 

How amazing is that? God and a myriad of angels are cheering for you in heaven right now because they are on your side. Through every victory and every defeat they are cheering you on. 


Because God already knows how your story ends!