Happy Codependent Mother’s Day

“Oh Julie, you have rug burns on your heart.” Eight months after boarding a homebound plane in Ukraine with my Honey and our newly adopted teenagers, I’m crying on the phone to my friend, searching for ways to describe the festering ache in my soul. I wince as her words trigger the memory of oozing rug burns sticking to my pantyhose. I was an athlete thirty years ago, but my knees still carry the scars.

Our high school gymnasium doubled as a multi-purpose building for many student activities, including church services, so the “Lady Tartans” played basketball and volleyball on carpet. Yes, CARPET! Visiting teams eyed our court in disbelief during pre-game warm-ups. I’m certain the Tartans wielded slightly more than a home game advantage. We were used to our unusual turf’s effect on bouncing balls and the teenage knees of scrappy girls who played to win.

Rug burns rake off a person’s protective skin, creating wounds that seep blood or pinkish semi-clear liquid. Time eventually creates a thin crust over each burn’s surface. When my team played two home games in a row, there was no time for our rug burns to heal before we again sacrificed knobby teen knees for rebounds or game points. I learned the hard way what happens when rug burns get layered—yellow white pus forms under the scab and oozes out when pressure is applied to the wound. Double rug burns are painfully slow to heal.

“Yes. Yes, I do have rug burns on my heart,” I reply. My friend understands rug burns. She was a Lady Tartan, too. She’s also lived a life story similar to mine.

After we stop talking, I turn off the bedside lamp and lay awake long into the night. I’m alone. My family is home. I’m traveling—sharing my testimony of redemption and restoration, sowing hope in hearts wounded by addiction.small plane

Do you even believe your own message? I’m stunned by the thought, as it strikes deep in my core.

Of course I do. But, I’m hurting and I don’t know how to fix this, God. How did we get here? What could I have done differently? What do we do now? Why don’t they let me love them anymore?

I toss questions toward heaven with the fervency of a baseball-pitching machine, not expecting Anyone to really answer.

I’m still sore from the sting of the H-word my son spewed just days before I left for this trip. “He doesn’t mean it,” the well-meaning people say. “Don’t take it personally.” Not helpful.

He felt hatred towards me. That’s why he said it. Of course he meant it. He also means it when he says he doesn’t want me to hug him or touch him. When he forbids me to say, “I love you” or to demonstrate any connection or affection at all. He means it. And it’s mean. And it burns my heart raw.

Maybe I could blow it off, recognize that it’s coming from a place of deep pain and trauma-triggered fear. Maybe it wouldn’t fester so bad if that were the only wound. But it’s not. There’s more. There’s my other boy-turned-man-overnight. Trying his wings, testing his limits, telling Honey and me all kinds of things we never wanted to hear. Building a wall a mile high and six feet thick to keep us distanced from his heart.

Here you are, talking on TV about recovery from codependency like you’ve got all the answers, when just yesterday you relapsed into fear-based control and tried to be somebody’s Holy Spirit. Again. Multitude of Counselors

The enemy taunts me with half-truths. Tries to silence me with guilt and shame. I cringe. It’s true. I project my pain from the past onto my kids when their rejection triggers old wounds that still ooze pus and blood. Wounds that stick to my emotional Spanx and rip the skin right off my soul, leaving me tender and vulnerable.

I am not healed yet!

There. I’ve said it. I’m not a perfect pastor’s wife, mother, daughter, friend or person. I’m painfully aware of my shortcomings, especially when pointed out by those who know me best. When I am afraid, I try to control circumstances or people. When angry, I punish with silence. When I am rejected, I tend to withhold affection for fear of further rejection. Sometimes I isolate. Or use guilt to manipulate. When I don’t know what else to do, I work, work, work. I am a mess. I need Jesus. Every moment. Of every day. I cannot do this on my own.

In preparation for taping this televised program, I reviewed the first Step of the Twelve Steps of Codependents Anonymous: “I am powerless over other people.” Once more, I am humbly reminded that I cannot make “minding other people’s business” my way of life, (even if those other people are my own family). I cannot put off my own good by determining to control, advise or guide others. I must surrender my compulsive drive to “fix the unfixable.” I am not anyone’s Jesus. By God’s grace, I will choose (once again) to ask myself two questions before jumping into control or rescue mode:

  1. Did this person ask me for this help?
  2. What does this have to do with God’s will for me?

Father in heaven, I choose to release my sons and the time frame for their emotional healing and spiritual growth to Your care. I choose to focus on my own spiritual progress and maintain healthy boundaries in all my relationships. I will not sacrifice my personal needs to meet the needs of another person, nor will I resort to unhealthy giving or serving from a place of fear or manipulation. I will allow You, God to be God in my life and in the lives of my sons. Thank You for your grace and your mercy, which is beautifully new every morning. Thank you for Your ability to heal the layered rug burns on all of our hearts. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

codependency lovingonpurpose

What about you, dear Friend? Are you expending valuable emotional, financial and physical energy rescuing, enabling or persecuting someone whose life is out of control because of a chemical or other addictive dependency? Are you allowing fear to drive your actions as you try to save a drowning loved one? Have you lost your sense of self by allowing your boundaries to be pushed back or knocked down completely? Do you need to take CODA’s Step 1 and admit that you are powerless over another person and that your life has become unmanageable? If so, it’s not too late to come out of denial. Take that Step. Admit it to yourself. Tell Jesus. Confide in a friend. Begin your journey to wholeness today. You are worth it! You are so totally worth it.

I Saw You. You Are Beautiful.

Compassion squeezed me until the tears spilled out. The room was a small space filled with big pain. Palpable pain. I was eye to eye with you, my target audience. You – who quietly read my blog while your loved one sleeps “it” off in the other room. You – who nod in understanding when a chord of truth resonates with your story. You – who carry on with your calling, despite the ache in your souls as you long for your loved ones to be free. I saw YOU last weekend. You simultaneously broke my heart and made me proud.

Heather Kopp, in her memoir Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up With A Christian Drunk, boldly claims, “…people bond more deeply over shared brokenness than they do over shared beliefs.Cross As we rubbed shoulders together, I understood what she meant. Your “game faces” melted under fluorescent lights as I shared my story. A silent, silken thread of shared brokenness wove its way through the room, making us soul sisters, regardless of our differences.

I’m thankful for you, for you represent every woman I write and speak to: every woman whose heart is heavy with the burden of someone else’s addiction. I knew you were out there, holding your heads up while your hearts break, serving others, as your own lives seem to unravel at the seams.

I’m proud of you… for being brave enough to attend a breakout session with an elephant in the room. You didn’t ignore it. You didn’t deny its presence. You swallowed your pride and spit out the seeds of denial so they could no longer take root in your lives. You embraced the pain and allowed your facades to crack as I held the mirror for Jesus as He turned your eyes toward the truth that you are not alone in your suffering. He is right there with you in every ounce of disappointment as you pour yourselves out for someone who cannot love you as they love themselves (because self-love is something addicted people have very little of). You wept as you allowed my story to penetrate your private hells and give you some survival tools and some hope.

Thank you for allowing me into your suffering. Thank you for the hugs at the door and the encouraging words of affirmation. Thank you for putting flesh on the souls of the women I’ve written my memoir for. I loved being able to share my heart with you. I loved connecting with you. I love you. As Kathryn Stockett wrote in, The Help, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” And you is beautiful!Hibiscus

I read Ann Voskamp’s blog post today. It’s entitled, “When You Feel Wounded By Your Own.” She says, “It is the wounded ones who make us heal.” I agree with her. When we share our wounds, our sorrows, our suffering, something healing happens. Healing takes place in community. Seeds of hope are sown in community. Sorrow is divided in safe, healing communities like Celebrate Recovery or Al-Anon. Please find one. Or, create one. Allow God the space in your busy life to finish the good work He has begun in you.

“He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The LORD has spoken!” (Isaiah 25:8, NLT)

(Find Ann’s entire post here: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2015/03/when-you-feel-wounded-by-your-own/ )

Happy Birthday to My Blog! (And Step 5)

Diva CupcakesToday marks exactly one year since I hit “publish” on my very first blog post. My goal was to post something authentic and encouraging once a week. You see – blogging would become my way of putting my very private toes into the public pool called “writing with real readers in mind.”

Although I’ve always been a closet writer, about two years ago, I felt a distinct calling to write my memoir – the one that begins with being the wife of a cocaine-addicted Christian, and ends with becoming the wife of a small-church pastor. Against my better judgment as an introvert, I obediently began to tell the tale of how God redeemed the things I thought were lost during those locust-eaten-years of my first marriage.

People close to me asked questions like, “Now that your life is amazing, why do you want to dig up all those old bones?” But once they began reading the first chapters, they quieted down and began encouraging me to continue. It has been a long journey. Blogging has helped to keep me moving forward – forcing me to remember, holding me to my self-imposed deadlines, and inspiring me with feedback from real people who are experiencing some of the same hurts that I survived as the codependent spouse of a chemically dependent person.

I know there’s an audience for my book. I believe that it will give hope and tools to those traveling similar trenches. I’m excited to announce that I’ve just signed up with Westbow Press! My book, Same Dress, Different Day: A Spiritual Memoir of Addiction and Redemption will be available in early 2015 on Amazon, Barnes & Nobel and elsewhere, as an e-book, or a “real” hard cover book! I am excited, humbled, and grateful for the opportunity to share my story with a wider audience.

(Since this post is officially supposed to be about Step 5 of the 12 Steps, let’s see how I can weave that in, so those of you following the Steps here won’t get lost in balloons and streamers of my little hallelujah party!)

Step 5 MemeStep 5 says:

“Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

That’s tough. When I do wrong, I want to hide. I don’t want to ‘fess up.

  • It’s easy to justify not talking to God about it by saying, “Why should I talk to Him about it? He already knows everything anyway.”
  • It’s easy to walk around in a bubble of denial, blaming everyone else for        what’s wrong in the world and justifying or ignoring my own behavior.
  • As an introvert, it’s more than easy to never talk to another person about my feelings or problems or mistakes. I can hide it all, stuff things down, get lost in busyness and never be real with anyone.

Yeah… I’ve been there, done all of that, and “worn the t-shirt” for years. I just have one thing to say about it: None of that hiding has ever been as fulfilling as being authentic, being heard, and being loved anyway.

The book, Serenity, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, says this about Step 5:

“This may be one of the most challenging steps we face in our recovery process, but it can also be one of the most fulfilling in terms of removing us from our isolation. In order to accomplish Step 5, the three-part sharing it endorses must take place. That is, all of what we discovered about ourselves in our Step 4 inventory is to be freely admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being…

…Because these areas are so sensitive and so very personal, it is important to exercise care in choosing the person or persons with whom we formally share our fifth step. Such individuals should be trustworthy and somewhat detached from the situations about which we will share. For example, one would not usually call on a spouse or immediate family member to hear this confession. In fact, it is quite common to choose a therapist or pastoral counselor for this purpose. Also, such individuals should be compassionate, not condemning.” p. 45,46

If you are ready to be authentic, transparent and real, please allow me to encourage you to find a safe person and a safe place to share your story. Healing takes place in community. When we are ready to be real with God, with ourselves, and with a trusted friend, counselor, or sponsor, we are ready for the next Step.

What’s it gonna be, friend? Will you give yourself the gift of healing today, on the birthday of this blog? Will you trust God and a friend to love you for who you are and not judge you for the mistakes you’ve made in the past?

Happy Blogday! Happy Book Publishing! Happy new-found-freedom-to-be-real! Happy me! Happy you!

She Dared Greatly

I‘ll simply call her, “She.” because you may know her. “She” may live in your community, too. “She” could wear high heels or flip flops, but you’ll recognize her, not for her shoes, but for her heart. Next time you see her, whoever “She” may be, give her a “Woo hoo!” for being vulnerable…for living Wholeheartedly. Let her know you’re in her cheering section!

She wore her rhinestone-pocketed jeans tucked into cowgirl boots. Her naturally curly hair was blonde and straight, her smile bright with expectation. I have not been quite so proud of a grown-up for a long time. Part of me wanted to run onto that stage and wrap my arms around her. Instead, I shouted, “Woo Hoo!” Texas-style, as she stepped up to the podium. Within seconds, I was silently glued to the pew, not wanting to miss one word of her precious gift to Jesus.

You see, she had promised Him that she would tell her story, after He, in a quiet moment, had asked her for it. At first, she shied from the real story, wanting to hide behind the fluff of other, brighter stories that would roll more gently off the tongue. But He persisted. She, wanting to please Him after all He has done for her, for us, relented in humble obedience.

I could feel a shift in the atmosphere as the women shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Most of us had been there, right there, in those shameful places she bravely described with tears in her voice. But most would never dare stand in rhinestones and boots baring our souls before hundreds of strangers. I applauded God as they applauded her. She resonated deep within souls who had come with unspoken expectations, but were completely unprepared for the splendor of sheer vulnerability in blue jeans. By allowing herself to be vulnerable, she connected to the hearts of her hearers. More importantly, she connected her hearers to the heart of God.

photoFor my birthday, I received  Brené Brown’s new book, Daring Greatly, How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. In the introduction, she states, “Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it, there is suffering.” When we, or someone we love messes up badly, or is stuck in addiction, it’s so easy to hide behind a wall of shame, pretending that everything is okay when it’s not. But, according to Dr. Brené Brown, when we do that, we are not living “Wholeheartedly.” In fact, we may not really be living at all. We may be merely existing.

Dr. Brown says on page 9 in her book, that wholeheartedness is “a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness,” and that (p.11-12), “The Wholehearted identify vulnerability as the catalyst for courage, compassion, and connection. In fact, the willingness to be vulnerable emerged as the single clearest value shared by all of the women and men who I would describe as Wholehearted. They attribute everything – from their professional success to their marriages to their proudest parenting moments – to their ability to be vulnerable.”

When I read that, my immediate thought was, Then all Christians must be “Wholehearted” people, because we believe that we are worth the very life of the Son of God. But in my spirit, I knew for certain that not all of us who proclaim Christ as Lord are living our lives from a Wholehearted stance. Way too many of us are hanging our heads on the way to the altar, if we can even crawl out of bed and make ourselves go to church. Sometimes we give up trying because the masks become too heavy to hold in place. It’s easier to just stay away. Our shame and fear have kept us stuck in a place that is far from the abundant life Our Savior has called us to live.

But, not my rhinestone cowgirl. No way. She’s living abundant life. She’s living Wholeheartedly, pouring out the oil in her alabaster box as she throws herself at the merciful feet of Jesus, just wanting to give the most precious contents of her life back to Him. I loved her for that. I loved Him for giving her the courage to be just that vulnerable.

Brené Brown’s research has shown that the Wholehearted “have developed practices that enable them to hold on to the belief that they are worthy of love, belonging, and even joy.” She says, “those who feel lovable, who love, and who experience belonging simply believe they are worthy of love and belonging.” (p.11)

We are, each and every one of us, worthy of love, belonging and joy! “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1 NIV) You are loved. You are worthy of the greatest gift heaven has ever bestowed. Will you walk that out today? Go ahead. Pull on those boots! They were made for walkin’ – Walkin’ out your wholehearted, vulnerable life. Make your Jesus proud. “She” sure did!

http://katiecouric.com/2012/09/13/daring-greatly/ (Click HERE if you want to see Brené Brown discuss vulnerability with Katie Couric.)