Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Tuesday Nights


Tuesday nights are hard.

If you know me, just stop.  If you are in my inner circle, don't write.  Don't call. Don't message.

I just need to write this morning.

For me.

Tuesday nights are hard y'all.

Tuesday nights are Celebrate Recovery nights at my church.  If you aren't familiar with Celebrate Recovery, look it up.  Research it.  It is an amazing program.

Celebrate Recovery ("CR") is a Christian-based recovery program much like Al-Anon or AA.  Only CR claims Jesus as their Higher Power.  No vague ambiguities or claiming whatever Higher Power you feel is yours.

It is Jesus-based and focuses on His love and His power as the recovering addict's anchor and hope.

My church asked me to work CR many months ago.  At the time, participants were rotating and taking turns watching each other's children while the rest of the attendees were meeting in large and small groups.  This rotation worked, but it resulted in people missing two hours they counted on - and needed - each week to remain accountable, to learn, and to share.  To alleviate the issue, leaders of CR decided to hire a few adults to work and watch the attendees' children each week.  I was the first one they approached.  I readily accepted.

Working CR turned out to be a financial God-gift to me.  My Counseling sessions at New Name Ministries cost the same as what I was going to receive from CR, so my own healing was going to come as an outward gift of love from a program that was already helping so many others heal.

What I didn't expect was that the program would also become a personal gift to me, as I began to meet the attendees and share supper with them every Tuesday night before their meetings.

Each person's story.  Every personality.  The heartaches.  The hurts.  But also the joys.  The healings.  The laughter.  Their personal accomplishments and goals achieved.

I will tell you that my CR family, although I am not a recovering addict, is probably the closest knit group of people I am a part of these days.

They are the first group of people I see when I walk into my church on Sunday mornings.  They turn around with coffees in hand and shout exuberantly across the lobby, "Good morning!"  I see them filling up the entire center section, second row, every Sunday -  standing, arms raised, and praising their Savior - our God - so emphatically.  I see them after church, lingering in the lobby laughing, sharing stories, and giving out more hugs.

Our CR group has turned out to be one of the dominant saving forces in my life right now, and Tuesday nights have turned into one of my most favorite nights of the week.

They might have needed me at the beginning, but it turns out God knew I would need them just as much in the end.

But, as I started out writing above - Tuesday nights are hard for me.  They may be my favorite night of the week, but they are also possibly my hardest night of the week as well.

You see, to back up for a minute - every Tuesday, David used to come to CR with two of his family members.  It was healthy and cathartic for all three of them.

And after so much counseling for myself and with so many alcoholics reaching out to me (I am up to ten families at this point that I have interviewed, sat and talked with, and listened to), I have learned that David needs CR as much as the two family members he drops off at the front door.

When there is an addict present within a family, there is something called enmeshment (that I have written about before) that encapsulates the rest of the family.  The chains of enmeshment are extremely difficult to break.  They are easy to see by those of us not affected or bound by them, but they cannot be broken from any of us on the outside.

Chains of enmeshment can only be broken by the individuals affected by them.  Breaking free must come from the work of the Holy Spirit deep inside a person, motivating them to see their chains and dysfunction, and then it must be paired with a recovery group such as CR or Al-Anon for moral support.

But also, in addition to self-awakening, realization, and CR, I have learned from my interviews, most recovering enmeshment victims gained the majority of their healing from on-going Christian Counseling.  A weekly place where they can focus on themselves, share their feelings and struggles, and learn how to be healed fully and completely.

Recovery is usually ongoing and a constant fight against oneself.  It is difficult to obtain freedom because enmeshed individuals believe their family is normal and closer than other families surrounding them.  They believe they love and support each other more than other families and that outsiders "just don't understand" the closeness or love inside their family circle.  All outsiders are viewed as "enemies" trying to break the family circle.

I was the enemy in David's family circle.  I was the outsider who didn't "understand."

And when CR hired me, David quit coming inside to group meetings.  Not only did his family members lose their support from him, but David lost valuable and intricate healing he needed as well.

Each week, I see the family pick-up truck pull up outside the church doors.  I see David inside the truck driving, and I see two family members get out and come inside.

Every Tuesday, it is hard.  It is hard seeing David's face again.  It is hard watching him drive away.  It is hard seeing his family members come inside.  People I dearly love and who once told me, "I love you" every time I visited.  It's hard being the one pushed out so the family can stay intact (and dysfunctional).

But, without groups like CR and individual outside Counseling, the cycle of dysfunction remains.  Families with addicts nestled inside of them continue to believe they are "normal" and continue to shield their circle from outsiders.  I was forced to learn about this world because of my experience.  It is truly heartbreaking, but I am forever grateful to the co-workers and friends that helped me understand and gain knowledge.

Last night at CR, it was Chip Night.  A night when participants are celebrated for their time sober and being free from addiction.  They receive different-colored chips signifying the amount of time they have been free.

Since I had three friends receiving Chips, I went into the large group meeting to witness their achievements and celebrate with them.  I had never been inside a meeting before.

I will tell you that what I witnessed inside that meeting was extremely powerful and cemented what I already knew about my new friends at CR.

What an extremely supportive and loving group of people!  No wonder they are happy and so close-knit.  They have been through hell together.

As I watched all the people receiving Chips go up front, tears flowed.  Their stories were (are) amazing.  Their achievements real and raw.  I watched my friends receive their chips, and my heart burst with joy for their accomplishments.

And then, after the Chip ceremony had ended, the group transitioned into singing a song together as a group.  I stood in the back of that dark room and listened as the music played and lyrics flashed on the screen in front of us.

I didn't know the song, but my tears started flowing, as the Lord brought David's face to my mind again.  A vision of David in that pick-up truck driver's seat earlier, dropping off two family members.  And my heart quietly began to break one more time.  Only it was different this time...

Grief is a funny thing.  The stages of it flow in and out, in no particular order.  You can go through one stage, thinking you have made it through. Then, a previous stage will circle right back around and take you hostage again. Sweeping you off your feet unexpectedly.

I have been through the anger stage of grief with this relationship and breakup.  At the time, it felt good to release those emotions.  I remember thinking, "I'm done.  I have released it all to God."

And then - last night happened - unexpectedly.

God was not finished yet.  He still had much left to teach me.  I still had much to learn.  And all at once, I felt the gravity of the situation.  I felt the sweet presence of the Holy Spirit speaking to my soul. And I suddenly understood why I was in that large group meeting yesterday.

As the song continued to play and the CR group sang about God's sweet grace, all my mind's eye could see was David's thickly-bearded face in the front of that pick-up truck a few hours earlier.

As the tears continued to fall, I prayed, "Lord Jesus, I want to fully forgive him.  I want to.  Please reach into the deepest parts of my heart and let me FULLY and COMPLETELY forgive David for the hurt and abandonment he has inflicted upon myself and my family.  And Jesus, I want to love David the way YOU love him.  I want to be able to see him as YOU see him.  I want to see that pearl, that jewel - that person that YOU love and died for.  You died for DAVID because you love him.  I want to love him like that, see him as YOU see him.  Please help me to see through YOUR eyes."

There may have been more words, more tears, and more prayers, but they are best left at the foot of the Cross between Jesus and myself because they were deeply personal and feelings I needed to share with God.  The Holy Spirit had spoken to my heart.  It was time to learn to love through God's eyes, not my own.

Y'all.  Tuesday nights are hard.  Have I mentioned that yet?

Last night, I was with the most amazing group of people I have ever met, and yet, I was also in a room with people I once called family and thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with - loving, sharing holidays with, and taking care of.  People that no longer make eye contact with me, speak to me, or embrace me.  People who believe I am only at CR to use them for my own personal gain.

And then there is the face of David I see each week through the front glass of our church.  Silently sitting in a pick-up truck, dropping off people he loves and wants to help heal, and then quietly driving away.

Driving away with no healing for himself.

My heart breaks. It just plain 'ole hurts. Because my heart no longer breaks for me and my relationship with David.  It hurts because I see brokenness and captivity.  A man who is lost to a world of addiction and chains of enmeshment.

A man who has learned the behavior of isolating himself from stress, so that he is never quite able to adapt and acquire the skills needed to deal with what life throws him.

I see chains where I know there can be freedom.

Resilience and the ability to deal with life's stresses can be learned with the proper tools of group therapy (like CR, Al-Anon, and AA) and Christian Counseling.  Without them, the mind and spirit remain in a weakened state.

My prayer is that Tuesday nights continue to get easier with time.  God has been prompting me on a few things I need to do on Tuesday nights.  I know what He keeps laying on my heart is going to be hard - mentally, emotionally, and of course - physically.  But He has laid these thoughts on my heart so many times, I am pretty sure it means He is pressing me into acting and following His lead

Pray I can be God's hands and feet.  And that after six months of turning inward, I can listen to His words on my heart and turn outward to serve the people that need serving.

Newsflash y'all - it's not all about me.  It's about Jesus.

Tuesday nights are hard.

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I was in that large group meeting last night for a reason.  I believe that in addition to watching my friends receive their Chips, I was also there for God to speak to my heart. So I could see - through His eyes - what He wanted me to see.

A moment of God breaking through my hard outer shell to take the focus off me and put it back on Him.

If you are struggling with any kind of addiction or have a family member struggling with addiction, please seek out a local Celebrate Recovery group, as well as Christian Counseling.  God loves you. He wants you to experience freedom.  All you have to do is take that first step.

You can break the chains of enmeshment the devil is using to keep you captive.  Break the blindness of isolation and learn what true love and normalcy really look like.  I have faith in you, and I want to see YOU as God sees you.

Happy Wednesday my friends.  Blessings.

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