Dads…and Being One

“I miss my kids. My ex won’t let me see em’ since we’re split. I was a good dad, I just messed up one time too many. My “best friend” and the ex hooked up…I shoulda never trusted him. But I’ll get even, you can bet on that. I’m a good dad.”

Those words, and words similar, I’ve heard many times in recovery meetings. I don’t question those young, and not so young men saying such. If I sponsor someone that is separated from their offspring, I offer what advice I can to help them. The recovering young men want to get straight so they can be involved in their children’s lives. In my humble opinion is that they have a vague conception of what fatherhood means.

Even “straight” men know little about being a dad, often taking what they see on TV and movie dads as the proper way of rearing children. Some have a twisted notion of fatherhood from what their father did, or didn’t do in their upbringing. You know that story, my father gave me nothing so I’ll make sure my kids get everything. Or, my dad gave me what I wanted, so I have to do the same. In both cases, things take priority, purpose and virtuous living has no place in their thoughts of how to raise children.

I am no genius. I see horrific mistakes I made in rearing my three children. I had many of these same ideas. I really thought keeping the kids active covered a multitude of sin opportunities. Entertainment, sports, and the like were priorities…I thought. There was one right thing their mother and I did. We TOOK them to church regularly in their adolescence, when they are the most teachable. The failure, I think, is my thinking that fifty-two plus hours at church yearly would teach them all there is to know about God. If they turned out bad, at least I did my part. How ignorant.

The public school system has over a thousand hours each year to convince our children otherwise. Biological evolution, random chance, meaninglessness, have become the tenets of disbelief we now fight to undo today. Sadly, from what they learn in society and not from their parents, young men and women in recovery rooms worldwide grow up thinking there is no one to answer to for their lives, no principles to guide, no committment to uphold….if it feels good, do it.

Well, it felt good, they did it, they sit in rehabs, jails, recovery groups, and in total confusion of why they are there, how it came to this, and why they cannot see their children. After all, “I’m a better dad than Homer Simpson,” some of them think.

So what should we do? How can I be a better dad? 
(Look in the Book, the Manufacturer’s manual. For the best results, follow the directions.)
“Hear my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” Prov.1:8-9

There is more to say than what I can put here in trying to keep this post short and readable. I will do my best to post again some thoughts I have learned as a parent, both good and bad. For now, think about this; what are you teaching your kids? They will be what you and their other parent are,…is that a good thing? Do you really believe you give enough time in training and teaching them right and wrong? Do YOU know right from wrong?

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all!

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People, Places, and Things

“I can’t give up friends I’ve known all my life. If they are drinking, I will leave so I don’t drink too.”


“I know that there is a lot of drugs there, but that is where everybody hangs out. I don’t want them all to stop being my friend because I don’t hang with them.”


“C’mon, what is wrong with doing this? It keeps my mind off of all of this crap I need to deal with!”

These statements above are statements similar to what is heard when dealing with people new to recovery. It isn’t unusual for them to buck the idea of giving up hanging around friends, going places, and doing things just like they did when they used and drank. Fear of losing old “friends” or being out of touch drives them right back to old haunts, where things everyone does leads to using, boozing, and losing again. 

Nearly every failure I have witnessed by those new to recovery came from ignoring this warning. You will, in time, be able to be with old friends without fear of relapse. You will also feel confident to go to old places, if you are actively doing the work of recovery. Things you love to do, won’t be a reason to ignore doing what is necessary to amend past behaviors, and deal with consequences.

When I first came into the sober life style, by God’s grace, I accepted the fact I was alcoholic. I took the advice given in recovery meetings and determined to stay away from triggers to drink or drug. After around six months, I had a hankering to see some of my old friends. I went to a local bar, had conversations with those I had missed, drank Mountain Dew, and left satisfied that they were still my pals. Had I tried that earlier in my recovery, it would have been a disaster.

I learned much in those six months. I had went to more than one hundred meetings in my first ninety days, at the advice of others who had success living sober. Not going around my friends was hard at first, but that saved me. The places I loved to hang out in seemed foreign, even frightful. 

The main thing was that I listened and believed what I heard. Don’t think it was easy, but it really wasn’t hard either…just different. There is a prize awaiting those willing to accept their addiction, the fact they are powerless, and want to experience life without drinking or drugging. The prize? That is really a package deal of perks that transcends what our pea-brains can contain. 

Everything…everything improves, nothing is lost when we give anything. God in His wisdom returns manifold blessings when we give. That is also giving up things as well. Conforming our will to His will, hearing others warning of staying away from people, places, and things that have brought us to ruin, is returned with new people, places, and things that lead to real life, joy, and peace.

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Why Relapse?

I can help myself stop thinking about it. I have a job now. I get to see my kids and have a place to stay. Things are better now than they have been in years…why can’t I just stop thinking about using again?

Last evening in a small group discussion, not one, but two men said these words. Others in the group nodded their understanding, going through, or having been through the same thing. The fear of relapse is heavy on them. So heavy, in fact, that they cannot see solutions, hopelessly rambling to relieve some of the pressure. 

“Keep doing what you are doing and you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.”

I heard this statement early on in my recovery from alcohol and drug use. That goes for recovery as well as using. If you and I keep doing what helped us get clean and sober, we stay clean and sober. If we keep using and boozing, we will keep losing. The one straddling the fence, however, has one foot in the past and one in the future and miss the concept, “just for today.” We only have a daily reprieve, and that is only if we do what is necessary to maintain freedom from addictions.

When most people struggle with their compulsion, they wrestle using willpower, doomed to fail and relapse. Forgetting how we received the gift of sobriety is where relapse begins, and that long before one actually does the deed. For some, they feel it would have been better for them to have never gotten clean, than to go back and do it again, killing their confidence, disappointing their loved ones.

“But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: A dog returns to its own vomit, ‘ and ‘a sow, after washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” 2 Pet.2:22

So if you are struggling to stay clean and sober, how did you get sober in the first place? If it came from being incarcerated, or from family insistence, or from most rehab programs, you have little to fall back on to maintain your freedom. If sobriety comes from getting to meetings, prayer, working the steps, serving others, etc., you have something to fall back on. Being diligent goes miles in recovery. 

In short, if you are having a bad time with the compulsions, get to your knees, ask God for help. Get to a meeting, get on the phone to your sponsor…or get a sponsor, get into your devotional readings, get out of self and help another. The word get implies action and diligence. Diligence from the onset of recovery can keep the desire to do it again nothing more than a passing thought. 

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Stay in the Fight

Giving up is easy. Standing your ground, refusing to accept defeat is hard. Are these statements accurate? People have this tendency to hang on to things they need to let go of, and let go of things they should really fight for.

Recovering from a bad addiction, or alcoholism is worth fighting with everything within you. No one plans to die alone in some back alley, or having a loved one find them dead having over-dosed. It happens daily. Why would anyone give in? Mainly they have had  too many failures, little support, or too many helping them when they should stop.

Arrogance is another problem. Many who like the dog returning to chow on his vomit, pride gives them this feeling of being unique, and this time it will be different. (Yep, I’m very frustrated)

I don’t want to give up, nor do I even look to that old way with a desire to drink or drug. I know with God’s help I can stand. Where I struggle today is from those I know personally who are so full of self-diluted pride that they don’t want help, or want to give help to others. They learned one thing well in their addiction…how to con, they think. But there again, that’s an illusion, their con is plain to all.

Don’t give up. Fight it out, fight to win. Take advice. Believe God will help you. And for you who follow my blog, pray for me, like Paul asked the church to pray for him:

“And pray for me too. Ask God to give me the right words so that I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jew and Gentile alike.” ( for everyone) Eph.6:19

Recovery is for all too, but only works for those who want it, not those who need it. Stay tuned.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Stormy Weather

With all of the beauty visible on this blue marble we live on, weather conditions can quickly turn beauty into ugliness. Tsunamis, cyclones, hurricanes, all have horrendous power, and can turn our lives upside down in seconds.

 In the realm we can’t see, a massive storm is gathering to change the face of our lives. I, and others that are in the thick of this storm have watched this force consume lives without regard. Addictions run across classes, destroying families, bankrupting wealthy, robbing good minds from rational thought, while most people sit quietly comfortable, until they are paid a visit or affected personally in some way.

Maybe, like all other evils that come and go, this storm may pass too.  Tell that to the families of the 350 people who will die of heroin overdose today. Give that info to the families of those killed on the highway by a drunk driver this holiday season.The attitude, “it’s their decision to take drugs,” is the wrong way to think if you say you care. Our approach and attitude like this has helped us arrive where we are today…in the thick of this silent storm.

What should be done?
Change. Whether we are directly or indirectly involved with someone using drugs or are alcoholic, we may feel it is wrong to interfere. Interfere anyhow. If we think it is wrong to speak out, speak out. If you don’t believe in prayer, pray. Storms don’t care who they destroy. We should rage against the storm when everyone says, “you can’t, it won’t work!”

Jesus was sound asleep as he and the disciples crossed over the Sea of Galilee. A major storm hit as they sailed. These men were seasoned fishermen, and knew this storm could destroy them. They woke Jesus up and said, “don’t you care we’re about to die?” He said,“where’s your faith?” He Rebuked the wind and sea, and there was calm sailing the rest of the way. (Luke 8:22-25) He could sleep through the storm because He is the Master of the storms…all of them, even ours.

Where is our faith? The situation is dire. We need God’s help to show us what to do. One thing for certain, something must be done. Pray, be aware that the storm here.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Holiday Triggers

For all who take a moment to read this post, I ask you to take another moment and ask God to help those recovering to stay strong through the holidays and beyond. Pray that God will remove pitfalls from their path, from those whose hearts are bent on evil and intend to tempt the recovering to returning to their addiction for their profit.

It may be hard to believe that during this time of year regarded as “holy,” the addicted and the drinker struggles intensify. drinking parties, football games, and melancholy draw their attention, temptation looms over their thoughts, “maybe I can just have a couple.” Yielding to one or two drinks or one little stop at the dope house, may be their final trip.
Anheuser Busch, Miller, as well as the makes of Crown Royal, Absolut, et al, would love to see you yield to the temptation. Since you stopped boozin’ their stock dropped. “Drink Responsibly,” their ad says. That means get drunk with our brand, but we have to say that in our ad so everyone thinks we are making the product only because people like the flavor…oh yeah, so you cannot sue us either. The holidays make these companies rich, which isn’t their aim. They just want to give the people what they want. What a kind service.
But also be prayerful for those with anger issues, families divided from bitter sibling rivalries, or from differing views how to raise children, from inheritances unequally divided. Those examples are not a rarity, most families have similar issues from their beginnings. Siblings often feel they do not get the attention the parents show to the other. Dysfunctional, non-communicating parents add fuel to the fire. Sadly, their anger and bitterness is passed to their children too.
So pray for God’s peace in your family, and those families you are acquainted with. Do something different, read the account of Christ’s birth in Luke 2, before opening presents or engorging yourselves with food. Try to see into the life of those around you, offer your ear, your shoulder, your help. These are real gifts that last eternally. We really don’t know their struggles or what they may be facing in life. It isn’t to spread their problems all over town, but to be Jesus to them. A burden shared is half a burden.

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Snitch

I never dreamed of being a rat when I lived the party life. That was death to friendships. It wasn’t only that people would isolate you permanently, it was that I would never be able to look at myself in the mirror again. No one wants anything to do with a tattle-tale. We alcoholics and addicts were a family, we had principles and standards.

Getting clean and sober caused me to change many things for me. Being a snitch wasn’t one of those changes. I was told early in recovery, “you only have to change one thing in recovery…everything!” Yet, that thought I struggled to keep, I could not sing to the law, no matter what, I won’t snitch!
Something I said to God each day in prayer was; “God I want to please you more than anything, show me what pleases you.” I also had this desire to devour the Word, the more I read it, the more I understood what pleased Him, and I became consumed by the Word.
This passage came to me as a moment of clarity, an epiphany, that changed my thoughts of keeping secrets for evil people bent on making money at the expense of the addicted and tormented. Also, watching those I knew personally die, and their families grieving, gave me the needed wake up call:
Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “surely we did not know this.” Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds? Prov.24:11-12
The son, the daughter, friend, or spouse that lost their life to overdose, drunk driving, as well as those incarcerated for driving drunk and killing others, would have loved the person who “blew the whistle” on them, if they knew what would be. But they didn’t. They died, or are in jail. Their families are in ruin, little children lost a mommy, or a daddy. At least their close friends, like me, didn’t rat them out. 
We let them kill themselves or others, and give little, or no thought of what became of their children. Maybe it would not have stopped them. Maybe they would still be around and the grief their families experience today would never have happened. And they may hate the one who snitched on them forever.
That’s okay. In recovery, we know the importance of doing the next right thing. Rescuing those set on dying, or trying to do so, is right. That old “honor among thieves” attitude is one of many deceptions of wickedness, ending in sorrow.
My desire to please God takes top place in my personal values. I will “drop a dime” on a drug dealer in a second, providing I know the facts. I am also full of righteous indignation toward what heroin, crack, meth, and booze is doing to our society. I have had enough funeral’s to attend that may have been avoided.
So don’t tell me if you deal dope, if you actively use it, or if you know of someone who does either. I don’t want you to die, or your family destroyed. I am determined not to look away, and face God knowing I did.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Recovery’s Light

I’m not sure why I write this post, I do not feel prepared, but here goes. I have had this feeling about feelings lately. Faith says, “don’t trust your feelings.” I get that, faith believes in the unseen. Feelings, however, tell me that I need solid evidence before I respond. I may, by faith, jump right into a bad situation knowing that God’s Spirit is guiding, He will help me fix it, figure it, or flee it.

Feelings
It is a grave mistake to look at my feelings as faith killers. God made me, feelings and all. Feelings can be a “spiritual thermometer” that notifies me when I have the sense of separation from God’s presence in my life. I know that feelings warn me of complacency in my recovery from addictive behaviors. It is as though a light is shined on past pain that drove me to ask God’s help. In other words, feelings light up memories of events that were painful enough not to desire the repeat performance.

“I say then, walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Gal.5:16 

Faith
Faith moves mountains, slays giants, laughs in the face of impossibilities. Faith is my surrendering fear of failure, or being rejected by others so I can do the next “right thing.” Without faith, I have no need to attend recovery meetings, work the steps, or pray…they will not work. With faith, a light shines so intensely I see through deceptions and thoughts of “I cannot,” to “with God, all things are possible!” As faith arrives, recovery goes from, “this may really work,” to “this works, and I am working it!”

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Rom.10:17

The Big Difference
How do you know the difference? Feelings and faith come with you as you arrive on the planet, a special value package from the manufacturer, so to speak. Both grow and develop as we mature. The importance of feelings is recognizing them and rejecting the false ones, embracing the good.

Faith can make us overly zealous and reacting instead of acting, like answering a matter before we hear the whole story. That can be disastrous, and I appear as a prideful know-it-all.

“If anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Gal.6:3

The light of understanding I receive in recovery from addictions, and in my journey with Christ Jesus, is that I accept faith and feelings as gifts. They are gifts that need balance, and much attention. If I ignore those feelings of God being distant or aloof, and just allow things to “happen,” the growth of faith will be “stunted,” complacency arrives, and every little unimportant matter takes preeminence over recovery and spirituality.

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all!

Still Needing Help

Make it to Meetings

A friend and I were standing outside of the AA biker club the other night, talking about recovery meetings. We were not talking about the meeting we were about to attend, who was chairing the meeting, or which meetings we preferred to attend. The conversation was all about our need to attend meetings, even after long-term sobriety.
Walt has over two decades of living clean and sober. When I first met him, I was very impressed, hearing what he had to say in meetings, and his eloquent appeal to those in the room to live in freedom, and to follow directions out of the hell they’ve given themselves to. He nearly lost his life to drinking and drugging. Walt learned the secret to sober living, and passed it on to others, like me.He said to me, “Keith, I’m still broken. I still need fixing, I need to hear what is said in these rooms.” His past was dark, full of sorrow and hurts. He never wants to return there, so he said, “I still need to come here.”

I share that sentiment with him. We have broken pasts that have had a great effect on our present and future. That effect is to infect as many as we can with the hope of living free from addiction, to stop attending meetings to just get help, and be a help. We both know we walk the razor’s edge when we stop attending, serving, and praying. Many have. Many have died because they did. He and I know we have to keep humility as an aim each day, asking God for help.

“There is a solution. Almost none of us liked the self-searching, the leveling of our pride, the confession of short comings which the process requires for its successful consummation. But we saw that it really worked in others, and we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it….there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our feet. We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.” 

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, pg.25
 
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Under The Influence

The end of 2013 is near, 2014 around the bend. I hope you had a good year in 2013. This year is not quite finished, but this is a time many people begin to contemplate goals for the next year ahead. However, those of us in recovery from addictions know the importance of living in today without long-term projections.

I never questioned the logic of the statement, “one day at a time” earlier in my sobriety. So many come to recovery with consequences from living a self-indulging life, and we cannot focus on the problems that lie ahead, or we may go right back to where we were. Today, after some time in recovery, not to plan can be as dangerous. We all need to understand this paradox, stay in today  plan for tomorrow.
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Alexander Hamilton
If you have read my past blogs, you know how strongly I urge the recovering to have a daily ritual directing the day focused on God’s help through prayer and meditation. Some take the advice, and have developed a strong sense of doing the “next right thing,” as well as dealing with daily challenges and confrontations that arise. We are either moving toward recovery, or away from it.
I have all of the respect for the devotionals offered through AA, NA, whether they are actual literature that is approved by the programs, or from Hazelden. The aim of these are for the reader to remain clean and sober, or free from whatever binds you. They worked for me in my recovery, but as a follower of Christ, I needed something more. As it turned out, so did many others in recovery.
The end result was my book, “Under The Influence.” The “more” I needed, as many do, was to develop a deeper walk with Christ in my recovery. The book delivers what I hoped it would, helping people to grow in recovery, in relationships with others, and in their walk with Christ. It seemed odd, why, I don’t know, but those without recovery issues have said it helps them, and they read it daily. I do not want to appear braggadocious, but grateful.
If you are planning for the year ahead, to begin a daily regimen with God in devotion. Check “Under The Influence” out. Here’s how to get the book:
Or you can get the book through Barnes and Noble, and it is available at any bookstore if you have the name and author correct. Or you can go to the publisher:
It is 388 pages, but only one page a day, one day at a time, and takes 5-10 minutes daily. If you want to send the book to an inmate, contact me at skeithbarnes.com. 
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.