Sanity Restored – One Man’s Story

“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” That’s Step 2. It’s a faith step. It means that I realize there’s Someone bigger than me who can sort out my mess and restore my life.

For some of us, raised in Christian homes, that Power is the God of our childhoods – the One who has been with us all along, wooing our hearts in gentle, often-unnoticed ways. For others, with not-so-good childhood images of God, He is not the judging, condemning, angry God of our fathers, but an altogether more personal, intimate, gracious Friend – Someone who understands our story and longs to be the biggest part of it. When we discovery Him and His power to restore – we become a new creation. We are transformed!

That’s the story I want to share with you today – a story of transformation. It’s not my story, but that of a high school classmate. Back in the day, we called him “Pete.” Pete was loud, funny, and one of those “cool” guys who made life on our tiny campus interesting.

I didn’t know him well. Didn’t stay in touch after graduation. Didn’t see him for twenty years. But when I returned for our class reunion in 2008, it only took one glimpse of his face for me to know the lifestyle he’d been living since school. Being newly single, after watching my spouse destroy our marriage with substance abuse, I recognized all the signs. They are burned into my brain. It hurt to talk with Pete; hurt to witness the life path he had chosen.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard from him again. “Juliet, this is Petros Colla. I’d love to share my story with you.

After listening to what God has done in his life, I invited Petros to write a guest post for this blog. I want to share his story to give my readers hope for their loved ones, (or for themselves). It’s devastating to pray and plead for years, only to watch addiction cycle through a loved one’s life over and over and over again. When there’s a story of someone jumping off the crazy train, I want to share it! Here’s the story of Petros, my high school classmate and friend:

In May of this year my life changed! Five weeks prior to May 8, 2014, I was on my deck having a phone conversation with my sister, Nena, explaining to her that she should write me off. I was done! My street lifestyle and drug addiction had consumed me.

I can’t shake it,” I told her. “I’m not gonna change. Even God can’t help me because my heart is too hardened. I can’t feel anything anymore and I don’t care if I live or die. I love you Nena.”

Then God moved.

On May 8, 2014 I gave someone a ride to sell drugs. I had been involved in the drug culture for years, going from drug dealer to drug addict junkie. The person I was with was arrested and charged with three felony drug charges.

So was I. I faced three to twenty-five years in Federal or State prison. As I waited to see the magistrate, right there in Eastern Regional County Jail, I cried out to God. At that instant I turned my will and my life over to Him. The testimony that follows shows me that God keeps His Jeremiah 33:3 promise ~ to ME!

Jeremiah 333 Meme I already had two different court cases pending. One was a traffic violation, driving on a suspended license for the fourth time. The consequence for that was a minimum of one year in jail. The second, a criminal case, was for drug possession that could land me many years behind bars.

Upon my release from jail, I went to church and heard the ministry regarding the power of prayer by Jerry and Janet Page. I applied that teaching to my life and asked my friend Joe to be my prayer partner. We began to pray together daily – that I stay a free man, amongst other prayer requests and praises.

Because of my criminal record I was looking at being charged on the Federal level. You see, I have many other state drug convictions on my record. If my case went Federal, because of my background I was looking at up fifteen years in Federal prison.

I am a FREE man today ONLY BECAUSE OF THE POWER OF DAILY PRAYER! Two of my court cases have been resolved and my next court date is in November. I am looking at a light sentence with no incarceration! PRAISE GOD! No one and nothing in this universe can tell me any different – I am free because of my God’s mercy! I turn my will and life over to Him DAILY.

I’ve tried different ways to stop getting high over the past twenty-eight years. I’ve been to three rehabs and to counseling. The only way I have over six months clean time (drug free) is because of the power of intercessory prayer. This is the longest period of freedom in my life. I give my Heavenly Father all the praise and glory! He truly walks with me and talks with me and calls me His own!

I want to encourage everyone – if you are seeking answers in your life, get a daily prayer partner. God spells it out in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to Me and I will answer you…”

Petros’ story is a story of hope for all of us. It’s the story of someone who took God at His word and believed that He was the only Power great enough to restore him to sanity. I’m so grateful to be able to share this with you as we look at Step 2 in our series on the Twelve Steps. If you are praying for someone and are struggling with your faith, keep believing. Petros’ family prayed him through twenty-eight years of addiction. It was only when he realized his powerlessness and daily sought the power of One greater than himself, that God was able to restore his sanity.

Petros is now sharing his story of hope through the spoken word in poetry form. Below is his most recent poem. After watching him (via social media) share this prayer/poem with an audience this weekend, my faith is strengthened. God truly redeems the lives we thought were lost.

A Once Broken Man

Once a broken man, You heard me tell Nena,

“I am so gone, God can’t even help me.”

I love you Nena, but from this street life and drug addiction,

I can’t break free!

Five weeks later, May 8, 2014 –

with my hardened heart,

You brought me to my knees.

Lost and alone, forgotten how to pray,

I cried out in jail, “God help me please!”

To me, you have kept your promise in Jeremiah 33:3.

And your grace kept me alive to see,

My God is MERCY.

Greatest lie I ever believed,

of Your love I was no longer worthy.

Through daily surrender and reading,

You sent this junkie free.

Because of the power of intercessory prayer,

today I am not in federal prison.

Because of the power of intercessory prayer,

of my shame and guilt, I am forgiven.

For so many years I was filled with anger,

which I passed on to others.

Your forgiveness replaced angry with love,

now I called and my sisters and brothers.

My God is FORGIVENESS.

I came to you just as I was, a broken man.

My daily guide is Your Son’s nail scarred hands.

When I spoke, I used to take Your precious name in vain.

Now I use it to call on You to help me stay sane.

Today I no longer sling doubt.

I tell of my Savior’s mercy, forgiveness, and hope.

My God is HOPE.

During my drug feel days, I still heard your voice.

Your love saved me after continually making the wrong choice.

I praise Your name daily for the unconditional love You show me.

Once imaginable thoughts are now answers to prayer.

That’s my ministry.

You take the time to show me better than You can tell me.

That’s why with you I stand.

My God is LOVE.

Lost in a drug-filled haze is where the devil had my soul.

The greater miracle is how my God makes me whole.

The best part of my day is when You and I talk.

Today I have no fear because it is with You and I walk.

Joe and I prayed together daily, asking that You remember us in that final call.

Your mercy, forgiveness, hope, love, and strength is what he and I share with all.

My God is ALMIGHTY.

Heavenly Father, my body is weary

no longer on this earth do I wish to roam.

It is my prayer that you use me to finish your work.

I want to come home.

I praise your name for two parents who prayed for me –

without ceasing, for 28 years.

I praise your name Almighty God,

because You want wiped away my guilt-filled tears.

You have kept me alive

long enough to reveal to me, the beauty of Your plan.

I give you all the glory

for the miracle that I stand before you,

a once broken man.

My God is the ALPHA and the OMEGA.

Petros Colla
10-18-14

Petros Colla & Friends

My prayer partner Joe (far left), Pastor David (center) and me (Petros – far right) at Maryland Men Of Faith conference this year.
Petros Colla writes from Hagerstown, Maryland. Raised by Christian parents, he chose a street life for twenty-eight years. It is only because of God’s grace that he lives to turn his will and life over to Him daily. Through the power of prayer, Petros has been drug-free for six months.

Check Out My Guest Post On “A Virtuous Woman”

Hello Friends!

I‘m using this post to support a friend’s blog and to let you know how much I appreciate YOU!

First, please allow me to introduce you to Melissa Ringstaff. She, too, is a pastor’s wife. We met through our multi-talented mutual friend, Sara Asaftei, (https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahasaftei), who has a knack for connecting the dots between people who can benefit one another professionally, or otherwise.

Melissa serves with her husband in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of Southeastern Kentucky. She is a homeschooling mother of five plus four and Grandarlin’ to 14 (so far) grandchildren. Melissa has been blogging at A Virtuous Woman since 2001. She has written several titles including Spring Cleaning for the Heart and Home, The Homemaker’s Journal: Keeping House, and Christmas ADVENTures in Prophecy.

I‘m blessed to be able to share the most recent article on Melissa’s blog, written by…me. When we spoke about this particular topic, I told her I was quite passionate about how Fifty Shades has crept into the heads and beds of Christian women. What's on Your nightstand

If you’d like to read the entire article, here’s the link: http://avirtuouswoman.org/2014/10/20/should-christian-women-read-50-shades-of-grey/.

If, after reading, you are unsure whether Fifty Shades of Grey can be classified as “porn,” please consider this definition of pornography addiction from Segen’s Medical Dictionary:

Porn Addiction

A condition that has been defined as a psychological addiction to, or dependence upon, pornography, characterized by obsessive viewing, reading, and thinking about pornography and sexual themes to the detriment of other areas of the viewer’s life (http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Porn+Addiction).

That said, I also want to take a moment to thank those of you who follow and comment on my blog. I know it’s an extra step to come to the blog and click “follow” and to go through the process of commenting directly here, but by doing that, you are helping me to build a solid readership that is sincerely interested in the topics I write about. My prayer is that eventually, I will be able to show potential publishers for my manuscript that, “Yes, I DO have an audience who wants to read this particular book and the others I may write in the future.”

I‘m excited to announce that I’m moving to a new website in the near future & had the privilege of working with lifestyle photographer Kern Hercules from Hercules Images (http://www.herculesimages.com/) yesterday to create a new look for my site. If you are reading this, that means you care about me and the ministry God is calling me to. Thank you. I look forward to the day when I can sign YOUR copy of Same Dress, Different Day (or whatever my future publisher chooses to title this work).

May God bless you this week. I’ll see you here next time for the first in my next series on Recovery Step 2: “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

Juliet

Hostility Anyone? (Denial Series #5 of 5)

This post is my fifth and final in a series on DENIAL.Hostility

I’ve written about how we intellectualize (https://julietvanheerden.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/stepping-out-of-denial/), how we minimize and avoid in order to deny our truth (https://julietvanheerden.wordpress.com/2014/09/21/denial-baby-denial/), and how we blame others, rather than take responsibility for our situation (https://julietvanheerden.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/yoga-pants-you-are-not-my-bff/).

I’ve invited you to join me in unveiling the mirror of truth, and taking the first of 12 Steps: Admitting our powerlessness over our compulsions, obsessions and addictions, and that (in some area) our lives have become unmanageable. Having done so, perhaps we are finally ready come all the way out of denial and move on to Step 2. We’ll do that next time. For now, we have one more area of denial that hasn’t been addressed.

Today’s post takes a different slant. It’s written for those of us who have loved or lived with someone whose denial is destroying them. We’ve witnessed the up-close-and-personal ugliness of addiction – in our spouse, our child, a parent, or a friend. If we’ve tried to intervene, we may have been on the receiving end of their hostility. Hostility is denial when used by someone caught or confronted with problem behavior. It manifests as anger, lack of communication, or verbal and physical abuse (adapted from the “What is Abuse” session of the Door of Hope http://www.careforcelifekeys.org/pages.asp?id=53).

Denial is considered the “hallmark of addiction.” It runs rampant in chemically and co-dependent families. Darlene Lancer, MFT says, “Children of addicts often deny that their parents’ problems affect them, believing that leaving home, or the addict parent’s recovery put an end to their problems. They don’t realize that they’re still affected, nor [do they] think about their painful childhood. Even if they only had an alcoholic grandparent, this made their parent codependent, and as a result they’ve been affected as well” (Codependency for Dummies p. 65).

I’d like to extend what Ms. Lancer says to include parents and spouses who pretend that they are not affected by the self-destructive choices their kids and lovers make. We pull our heads into our self-protective turtle shells and close the door when we get “snapped at” by someone who is hiding behind a wall of hostility. If you’re like me, even a little snap inflicts emotional pain. Sometimes we snap back. Other times, we retreat and allow the person to continue their destructive behavior unchecked.

I remember trying to figure out how to broach the subject of my former spouse’s obvious relapse after several months of “clean” living after his release from a live-in treatment facility. He wasn’t volunteering any information, but the “red flags” the addiction specialist had warned me to watch for all waved vigorously. I wanted to catch him in the act, or in a lie, or with some kind of hard evidence because I knew that he would be hostile towards me and manipulate his way out of the confrontation if I had nothing concrete.

For weeks we played cat and mouse. I tried to trap him, but he weaseled out of every accusation. I remember calling my sister to tell her what I’d seen, begging her to write down what I said because I was sure that he would get me to believe something different. I didn’t even trust my own sober senses. I needed a witness to my life so that I would know I wasn’t crazy. Have you been there?

Denial sometimes causes people to express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways. While the addicted person denies his/her problem, responsibility, or behavior, and deflects intervention with hostility, we can respond with hostility of our own – getting caught in a firestorm over dirty clothes, unpaid bills, or other minor issues, while denying the deep emotional or physical devastation of their addiction.

What can we do? Living in a hostile environment eventually takes a toll on every aspect of our lives. Watching our loved ones destroy themselves is traumatic. Admitting that we have no control over their hostility and denial is our crucial First Step. Finding a safe place to express ourselves and be heard when our loved one cannot hear us is also vital. There are safe places. Al-Anon is one of them. Yes, it’s for family members of alcoholics, but is also beneficial for anyone who loves an addicted person. If you’d like a sample of the type of community Al-Anon is, here’s a seven-minute podcast: http://al-anonfamilygroups.org/TheSteps/using-step-one.

If you find yourself consistently meeting hostility with hostility (either passively or aggressively) in your own home, it’s time to get help.

May I encourage you to find a group like Al-Anon, Celebrate Recovery, or Codependents Anonymous? Yes, you have Jesus. But even He didn’t go it alone. He surrounded Himself with 12 people with whom He shared His life. No, they were not perfect. Yes, one denied and one betrayed Him, but he didn’t isolate Himself. He found hope in community. He was our example. Don’t deny Him the opportunity to work through others to help you in your particular situation. Let Him redeem the things you thought were lost. Let Him begin with you!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for Your example. Thank You for living Your earthly life within a circle of friends with whom You could be authentic. Forgive me for going it alone sometimes. Forgive me for fighting fire with fire when I see those I love making such poor choices.

Help me to “speak the truth in love” as You instruct in Ephesians 4:15. Give me the courage to own my disappointment and pain when I’ve taken a back seat in my loved one’s life while their addiction is at the wheel.

Show me how to love with my eyes wide open, like you did when Peter denied You. You didn’t turn the other way and pretend it didn’t happen. You didn’t shout at him or guilt him. You looked straight at him and held him accountable for his actions. Later, when he repented, You forgave him. I want to be like You, Jesus. Amen.

Why Fight Addiction With Addiction? (Denial Series #4 of 5)

Where does it hurt?” I knelt before a pensive five-year-old, trying to discover the source of his pain. As a substitute Kindergarten teacher, I was unfamiliar with the child’s history. He couldn’t find words to describe the hurt, but his little face spoke volumes. I sent him to the school nurse. After she hooked him up with a frozen sponge in a baggie, he was again able to happily participate in class activities. If only it were that easy to fix our inner boo-boos!

I am that child – at times unable to function in life because something hurts, and I cannot find the words to describe my pain. I need something that no substitute can give. I need to go to the Great Healer so that He can hook me up with His treatment plan for my life.Staring out the window

In my last post, “Yoga Pants, You Are Not My BFF” (https://julietvanheerden.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/yoga-pants-you-are-not-my-bff/), I mentioned that symptoms of DENIAL can be rooted in the abuse or neglect we’ve suffered, or in our own sin. I shared that I was “sinning in my yoga pants.” Let me explain: I’ve historically used food both to celebrate life and to numb or comfort myself from the pain of life. I don’t know how or when that habit began, probably sometime during childhood. All I know is that when something is hurting me, ice cream makes me feel better. If I’m stressed, chocolate is my friend. If I’m nervous or scared, I tend to find myself standing in front of the fridge. What is that?

What it is, is sin. Why? Because I’m turning to something other than Jesus, expecting it to bring peace, comfort, and order to the chaos of life. It’s idol worship. Ouch. Yeah, I said that.

So, here’s what happened over the past two years as I wore my yoga pants to “work” every day. (Well, not every day, but most days.) Writing a book is hard work. Especially when it’s a book that bares your soul to the world and exposes the inner turmoil of living with a chemically dependent person. In order to write well, one must place one’s self in the scene. Basically, I re-lived several hells as I wrote the story of how God redeemed the things I once thought were lost in my life.

When I lived my story the first time, I often numbed my pain with food. As I wrote my story, Candy Cornreliving those losses, I found myself reverting to the old patterns of running to the cupboard in search of something to relieve the emotional turmoil of remembering the accidents, the poor choices, the betrayals and the darkness of dealing with addiction. In essence, I numbed myself from the pain of the consequences of addiction with addiction.

Often, just like the Kindergartener, I couldn’t even name the pain. I just knew that something hurt. Rather than run to the kitchen, I needed to run to Jesus. He could have helped me figure it out.

Jeremiah 6:14 reads this way in The Living Bible: “You can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there!” God knows what He’s talking about. If we’ll just own the issue, He’ll give us so much more than a sponge in a baggie. He’ll give us the inner healing that we need. He will help us recover from the cycle of addiction.

The Addiction Cycle:

  1. Pain, distress, boredom
  2. Reaching out to an addictive agent, such as work, food, sex, alcohol, or dependent relationships to salve our pain
  3. Temporary anesthesia
  4. Negative consequences
  5. Shame and guilt, which result in more pain or low self-esteem, starting the cycle all over again

(http://www.recoveryconnection.org/cycle-of-addiction/)

Admitting powerlessness is absolutely essential to breaking the addiction cycle. We have to take Step 1 if we want to get off the crazy merry-go-round.

Step 1: “We admitted we were powerless over our compulsions, obsessions and addictions, and that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Where is your life unmanageable? Where are you compulsive, obsessed or addicted? Own it. Name it. Take it to the Great Physician. Don’t wait another minute. Get on with your abundant life!

Father, forgive me for allowing myself to revert to old coping patterns. I admit my powerlessness over using food to numb or reward myself. I ask for Your power and Your Spirit to give me self-control and the ability to run to You when something is hurting and I cannot name it. I choose to trust You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

P.S. If you enjoy this blog, please…Subscribe, Comment, Share! That will help me to find a just-right audience for my book. Thank you!

Yoga Pants, You Are Not My BFF! (Denial Series #3 of 5)

I don’t do Yoga, but the pants became my best friend. I’m not sure how that happened, but perhaps you can relate.Macarones 2-2

Our relationship began innocently enough; I was writing a book. At home. I could roll out of bed and begin keying in an unfinished sentence from the night before. Yesterday’s yoga pants called to me from the chair where I’d tossed them. Before I knew it, My Honey was home, and I’d nether showered, nor changed from those pants. That’s how I rolled through at least eight chapters.

Yoga pants are comfortable. No zippers. No buttons. That’s the good news. The bad news? No zippers + No buttons = No accountability. A few pounds can slip into place without proper acknowledgement. Before ya know it, the yoga pants are the only pants that fit! That’s a problem.

Welcome to blog post number two in my series on DENIAL.

What is denial? Basically, denial is maintaining that a problem does not exist in spite of evidence to the contrary.

Hindsight tells me I’ve used two types of denial in my yoga pant ordeal. I’ve used minimizing and blaming.

Let’s talk about minimizing for a moment. Minimizing is defined by dictionary.com this way: “Minimize – to reduce to the smallest possible amount or degree.” We maintain that although a problem may exist, it is not very serious.

I totally did that with my recent weight gain. “Oh, it’s just a few pounds. It’s not that big a deal,” I’d whisper unconvincingly to the mirror after realizing that half the clothes in my closet screamed at the seams when I attempted to wear them.

No problem, I can get this off with a few extra trips to the Y,” I’d promise myself, forgetting to factor in the fact that after forty, the “freshman fifteen” doesn’t budge as easily as it did during college.”

Whenever My Honey wanted to go out for frozen yogurt, pizza or Thai food, I’d minimize my feelings about gaining the weight and go ahead and eat like a teenager anyway. Then I’d come home and immediately put on my yoga pants. “Ahhhhh! That’s better. Please pass the popcorn. I haven’t gained that much.”

Now comes the blaming part: What is blame? Again, dictionary.com says, “Blame is to hold responsible; find fault with; censure.”

Blaming is denial because we refuse to accept personal responsibility for the problem, maintaining that it is someone or something else’s fault. We blame people and circumstances for our own problems or lack. Blame can become a way of life if we are not careful.

I stayed stuck in denial by blaming my husband. “You eat later than I’m used to. That’s why this is happening to me,” I’d say. Part of that statement was true, but he never forced me to eat. I could have had a cup of tea, or made different choices. “You tempt me with sweets that I usually don’t keep in the house,” I’d whine while munching a piece of dark salted caramel chocolate from the stash on top of the fridge. “You served me a huge helping. You didn’t want to share the entrée, so I had to order my own.” You. You. You… Blame. Yeah, I did that.

The truth is, when I am fully surrendered to God, through His power I can choose when, what and how much I eat. No one else has that kind of control over me. Even babies know that. (Try feeding strained carrots to a tiny set of resistant taste buds!)

It’s time to stop minimizing, stop blaming and start owning the fact that I must either buy new pants, or shut my mouth if I want to fit into my old ones. It’s my choice. My decision. My life.

What is it with you? Where are you sinking into the murky waters of denial through minimizing or blaming?

Sometimes our bodies will tell us when we’ve been in denial long before our brains do. Physical symptoms, like weight loss or gain, unexplained illness or pain, migraine headaches and other symptoms with unidentified sources are often the direct result of deep emotional pain, rooted in our lives. When divorce from a chemically dependent spouse became my unexpected reality seven years ago, I was instantly “cured” of debilitating chronic migraines!

Why do we wait so long before acknowledging pain or abuse? I waited until my scales showed a combination of digits I’ve never seen, before snapping out of denial. I waited until I had a grownup meltdown in my closet every time I needed to wear something other than yoga pants. Only then did I get serious about my weight gain.

Maybe it’s not weight with you. Maybe it’s something else that you are in denial about. Think about it. Pray about it. Ask God to reveal it to you before you, like me, have a long, unnecessary road ahead before you are back to “normal.”

If we are consistently doing or using anything to numb, hide, or alleviate emotional or physical pain, we may be in denial of the root of our suffering. That root, if left intact, then grows a trunk and branches and leaves that take many different forms.

These “leaves” can be shaped like shame or poor self-esteem. They may be depression-shaped or look like isolation or anger. Sometimes they resemble powerlessness or even suicidal behavior, but they are all just symptoms of some underlying root that needs to be exposed.

That “root” may be abuse or neglect that we have suffered at the hand of others. The root could also be sin in our lives. With me, it was both.

I was sinning in my yoga pants. We’ll talk more about that next time. Until then, may I invite you to join me in taking Recovery Step 1? It says, “We admitted we were powerless over our compulsions, obsessions and addictions, and that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Pizza Pie

Father in heaven, I’m coming to you today because somewhere I got off the right track, and I realize that only You can redeem the things I’ve lost (or gained). Forgive me for minimizing my problem and for blaming You or others for what I know is my responsibility. I surrender myself to You and admit that I am powerless over my compulsions, obsessions and addictions. This area of my life has become unmanageable. I am powerless. I need Your power. In Jesus’ name, amen.