Phil's Story

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I take care of other people and their problems. It’s part of my character makeup and it’s part of my job. And it’s a good thing, until it isn’t. When I started realizing how good I was at recognizing what was going wrong in the lives of the addicts I know, and how bad I was at recognizing what was going wrong in my own life, I got scared. I knew my relationship with my family wasn’t the secure relationship I’d assumed it was, with my frail, inflated ego calling the shots. I might be good at helping other people with shattered lives, but I was this close to shattering my own life.

That’s when I quit seeing the principles of recovery – admitting my life’s unmanageability, getting honest with myself and God and others, getting myself out of the driver’s seat, etc. – as something good for chemically dependent people, and I started seeing them as vital for my own life. That’s when I quit talking in safe generalities and started talking about my own specific defects and shortcomings. And that’s when I started letting go of my hope of being perfect, and I started seeing progress – “Progress, not perfection” became more than a recovery slogan to me. I thank God, and I thank the people who are brave and caring enough to be honest, open, and willing to change and to show people like me the path. 

Phil

Marlys's Story

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The turning point in my life came when my three year old came to comfort me as I lie sobbing on the floor.  She held out her “blanket” to dry my tears.  What had I become?  How can I be a good Mother to this dear child?   Where could I turn for help?

In my depths of despair, I never thought to turn to my Savior.  Why?  How could he accept me with my unending list of dark sins?

Knowledge told me AA had the best track record for recovery, yet a couple meetings didn’t seem to help. In our town was a 5-Step treatment program which accepted me and I completed the program.

Since then, I’ve become closer to my Lord, hear “program” in every Sunday sermon, and know that I’m a forgiven child of a God that loves me.

The best part?  My daughter never knew she had a drunk as a Mother! 

Marlys

Jason's Story

"It was impressive how well I had concealed certain facts about my life, my character, and my habits. Like the hypocrite in Jesus’ teachings, I had a plank in my eye that needed to be removed. I could see it clearly in times of self-reflection. But as soon as I turned away from the mirror, I forgot what I had seen. 

Instead of taking the plank out of my eye, I spent time focusing on my circumstances or on superficial issues that did nothing to fix the problem. While in Resilient Recovery group, I began to address the real issue. The Holy Spirit used scripture to convict me of my sin. Against the backdrop of Christ’s perfect love, my sins were obvious and unmistakable. Unlike Christ, I had a profound unwillingness to accept difficulty; I demanded that life be easy and problem-free. When frustrated by even slight challenges, I reacted sinfully. At different points in my life, I drank heavily, or dropped out of college 4 times, or flew into fits of rage that resulted in damaged property, or sulked around blaming my wife for my troubles, or had panic attacks that resulted in trips to the ER. The common denominator was my belief that I was too great a person to ever have to suffer any difficulty.

What helped me reach this conclusion was time spent in a Scripture-saturated, Christ-centered recovery group. In this group, I followed an ancient pattern of confession and absolution. Each week I delved deeper into two biblical truths: I am wretched sinner [law] and I am forgiven by the grace of God [gospel].  Each truth clarified and complimented the other. Because of the confidence I was given through the gospel, I was able to safely examine the depth of my sins, not worried that I would uncover a problem that would cause God to reject me. And by plumbing the depths of my sin, the gospel became ever more precious to me. I learned that he who is forgiven much, loves much.

Through God's grace, the result of this weekly pattern of law and gospel is that I have achieved years of sobriety and stability. 

Jason

Faith's Story

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My first marriage at 19 was to a guy who was abusive and a porn, drug and alcohol addict. I knew this going into the marriage but I was young, idealistic and knew “I would be the one to change him.” I would spend 1-2 hours each night finding his hiding places and destroying his treasures. The most creative spot was inside the wheel well of the car! But he always had more by the next day. Finding out he had a 14 year old girlfriend was finally when I had enough of that relationship. My way of dealing with this was to try to be perfect at everything for the next era of my life---even though I failed miserably.

My youngest brother, numerous relatives, my current husband’s extended family and friends have many addictions. After too many crazy years of trying to stop the addicts in my life from using, a very close WELS friend introduced me to Al-Anon 13 years ago. My friend and I took our two oldest daughters on a 3-day backpacking trip. On the trip, she brought 3 heavy hardcover daily readers. (I would have made copies!) She read them aloud each night along with devotions. God worked in me during that trip as I found a group the very next week. Although I didn’t say a word at the meetings for the first six months, I was slowly learning the 12 steps of recovery and how sick I, myself, actually was. I was continuously trying to control everyone’s life but my own. At one point, my daughters who were in high school commented that they had no idea what I did at those Tuesday night meetings, but they did not like being around me when I would miss a few. Al-Anon has truly changed my life. 

My friend’s husband suffered much with the disease of alcoholism. He lost his beloved job, his family for a time, and eventually his life. Sadly, there wasn’t much available through the church for him and his family.  Also, there were many people from my church that would come to Al-Anon meetings but stopped going, as they didn’t feel comfortable with the group prayers.   

My personal mission since my friend’s death has been to try to get Recovery groups into WELS churches. Although I planned to start a WELS version of Al-Anon at my church, God had a different idea as people with various addictions were attending. Now the group is open to anyone with any addiction, depression, anxiety, and/or has a friend or relative with an addiction. Then, I started connecting with others in the WELS that have or want to create groups in their churches. Some of us meet monthly in a virtual meeting to support each other. I pray that in the future each WELS church can offer a recovery group to support those that are working through the pain and suffering caused by diseases of addiction and mental illness.   

Faith

A Struggling Yet Blessed Mother

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I have lived the struggle and subsequent blessing of heroin addiction in my immediate family.  The heartaches and terror of it could fill volumes. Yet, the blessings and lessons learned are equally numerous.  A beautifully restored relationship with my son and God’s faithfulness and absolute provision shine through the wreckage even today.   God was and is the Peace amidst the pain and suffering.

One life saving provision and blessing for me is the gentle and practical AL-Anon Program.  The meeting structure, a safe, complete-acceptance, no-judgement setting, allowed a place to release my terror and trauma so that I experienced firsthand the healing power of sharing an unfiltered story.  The “no judgement and no advice policy” allowed The Good Shepherd to be my primary teacher. Hearing others’ raw stories (their experience, strength and hope) showed me how dysfunctional my behavior had become.  The practical, effective tools instructed me how to move forward in the current and upcoming mine fields. And a strong, experienced sponsor, who walked step by step with me as I set long over-due, difficult boundaries, gently reminded me – “yes, it will likely get harder and could end in early death – that’s why you must cling to your Savoir”.

As I reflect on the blessing of hard lessons learned, I can say that the Lord taught me bit by bit, and at times abruptly, these refined and precious jewels:

  • It is wise to learn about the addiction-disease much like one would learn about a rare cancer-disease afflicting a family member. I learned my son was ill and he was not out to hurt me.

  • It is essential to approach all situations, especially those involving sociably unacceptable, and thus shame-ridden, diseases with unconditional love, to lead with deep compassion and a patient, sincere desire to understand and to check my judgement at the door.

  • God taught me to let go of what others think, worldly trappings and accomplishments and to seek authentic living with Him and others.

  • He showed me that He would carry me as I set clear, tough boundaries.  Boundaries allow a broken relationship to heal.

  • He taught me that I could not control this disease much less another person.  I can control the words I speak to my adult children (and others) so I must choose my words prayerfully and wisely.  

  • I’ve learned to choose connection and respect over judging, lecturing and preaching; it may provide an opportunity to influence.

  • I came to understand that when I isolated and withdrew, my shame grew and I got sicker.

  • He showed me that I had relied on myself for our survival more than Him and that my children had become mini-idols.

  • Finally, I learned to put my son and his disease in His loving, all-powerful hands and to place it back there when I pick it up and worry.  

At this point in my journey, I wish my son had not experienced this horrible struggle.  I am grateful for the resulting blessing of being desperate for Jesus. It was in the desperate moments that He sustained me and our relationship deepened.  When we call upon the name of our Lord and Savior, when we seek Him, we find Him. And in Him, we find peace, comfort and assurance. Now, I want to help others suffering from the socially unacceptable addiction-disease.

Romans 8:28

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

A Struggling Yet Blessed Mother