Life After Rehab: Step 3…

Wow.  What a weekend!  Helen celebrated her 8th birthday for 3 days solid.  We are all a little partied out at the Goeke household. 🙂  She wanted to be surprised, so we gave her three days of mini-surprises, all of which were revealed to her by secret codes and riddles.  We had a little bit of “surprise and fun” withdrawal Tuesday morning.  Only 45 seconds after awakening, Helen announced that she was bored.  Oh, to be bored…if she only knew the thrill of having nothing to do. 🙂

Now that the craziness of the weekend has passed and I have pretty much recovered from my back issues, AND my secret code writing… it’s back to our Life After Rehab Steps…

 


 

Step 3: Keep Follow-up Appointments.

“Drug rehab programs sometimes work on a stair-step model, where the care provided becomes less and less intense until the person is handling sobriety alone, without assistance. Often, this means that people must head to appointments with counselors in the early days of recovery, even though the formal rehab program is over. Therapy might help people to process feelings regarding work, deal with family transitions, handle relapse triggers, set goals for the future, and strengthen skills. Life can get hectic and demands on time can build and build, but skipping follow-up appointments isn’t advisable. The work should continue, and each appointment should be considered vital to long-term success in sobriety (http://www.michaelshouse.com).


For life after Family Rehab, I’ve got to keep my follow-up appointments. First, I’ve got to keep my appointments with Jesus. Spending time in the Word and placing my struggles and fatigue into His lap will remind me of His sovereignty and love for me and my family. He will fill me with His Spirit and remind me that He lives in me. He will empower me to have continued victory over frustration and impatience, as well as all my other struggles.  He will forgive me when I fail. He will help me process my feelings by filtering them through His Word and He will strengthen me with His peace.

Secondly, I also will need to keep my follow-up appointments with my husband. We are a team in this whole marriage and parenting season of life, which means we are in it for the long haul.  We have got to be on the same page. We have got to advocate for each other in prayer and support the specialized work to which God has called each of us. If there is even a hint of feeling alone on the home-front, we’ve got to address it. If one of us is overwhelmed or sick, we have to step in and love and care for the other, as well as take up some of the work load. If we aren’t regularly checking in with each other, than it is so easy to miss the ever-so-slight downward slope that we can get caught on. The little frustrations or the little overwhelming moments slowly knock us down to nothing. We need to keep those follow-up appointments when things are seemingly ok, because we can rejoice together as well and build each other up. We bought two chairs for a little nook in our bedroom just for the purpose of helping us keep our follow-up appointments with each other. When we see those chairs, we will remember that we bought them with the intent of looking at each other and connecting over conversation. We needed the physical reminder…(plus, they are really cool chairs.) 🙂

But let’s be honest…there are some nights when the last thing I want to do is sit in my chair, face his chair, and talk.  Either one of us can be tired or just simply “done” after a long day of listening and talking.  These are the nights when despite the lack of words or chair conversation, we speak grace to each other in the most profound way.  We don’t have to force conversation for conversation’s sake.  We can rest in the peace and grace of Jesus knowing that skipping “catch-up” time and just resting in silence or the lull of the Tonight Show doesn’t define the state of our marriage.  The chairs are to bring peace and relationship, not legalism.  So we speak grace to each other in those times of fatigue, reassuring each other that Jesus wants us to rest together just as much as talk. That grace-filled interaction puts us on the same page that is so important to our sobriety in life after rehab.

We also need to keep our follow-up appointments with those sober-minded friends, mentors, and counselors.  (See steps 1&2 from earlier posts.)  Who doesn’t need therapy?!?!  Forcing myself into conversations that expect honesty and vulnerability will only keep me honest and vulnerable with myself. I can’t live life only at surface-level, evaluating life by face-value standards and skimming life’s moments and learning opportunities. When I am forced to dig deeper into discovering what God has for me in the every day experiences, I am getting the most out of life and enhancing the lives around me.  And for some reason, this week in particular, I am discovering more and more that my own deep thinking usually needs to be tested on a sound board.  Despite what popular culture says, it’s usually not a good thing for me just to follow my own heart.  It’s pretty full of sin and is all jacked up, so I’ve got to run all my introspective thoughts by a professional…or at least a close friend.

(sigh.) I almost missed mentioning these next set of appointments that I need to remember.  These appointments are crucial.  And as evidenced by the fact that these important people almost went unnoticed, I struggle the most with these meetings.  MY KIDS!  (I just spent the last 30 seconds hanging my head in shame slumped over the keyboard.)  Pretty embarrassing for “family-rehab-lady.”  These steps are really proving to hit me in the gut.  It is so important for me to connect with my children on a daily basis…probably even more.  They need to know we have a relationship that is more meaningful to me than the requests for help around the house and help with their baby brother.  They need to know and be reminded constantly that they serve more of a purpose than simply their birth order in our family.  They need to know that I want to know their interests, their opinions, their fears, their failures, and that with all of it, I still love them deeply.

These appointments help me remember how blessed I am, and that those little people are here because they are just that—little people.  They are not merely extra hands around the house.  They are not merely living creatures to feed.  They are not merely entertainment.  They are not merely here so I can find my identity as a parent.  They are not merely adolescents.  They are treasured, valued, gifted and talented vessels of God’s grace.  Being in their presence (if I am in the right frame of mind and filled with the Spirit) should remind me that I, too, am a treasured, valued, gifted and talented vessel of God’s grace—which leads me to another reason why I should keep these appointments:

When I keep my promises and personal goals to spend quality time with my children, I am giving time and space to speak the Gospel into their lives.  The facts that 1) Jesus gave up His life for us, despite our imperfection; and 2) His same Spirit that had power over the grave and death now lives in us, relate to every facet of our lives, whether adult or child.  It is my privilege to listen to my children and apply this great news to the thoughts, feelings, and details found in their dialogue.  My goal should be that eventually they roll their eyes at me when I start to speak of Jesus’s great sacrifice for them, because they have heard it so many times before.  I want them to hear it so much that they start to anticipate when I am going to “start in again with the Jesus spiel.”  They will start to hear it in their heads before I even say it, which is good practice for when they are older and on their own.  I kind of like the challenge of engaging their hearts with the same message over and over again.  The promises of Jesus don’t get old or lose their gripping satisfaction.  I might get old and struggle to always be creatively rich with my words.  However, Jesus will never fail them.  I want to avoid sending them the inadvertent message that my failure to keep my promises and appointments with them  is a reflection of His promises and His desire to meet them in a personal way.

It’s so easy to forget all of these appointments. It’s so easy to let other things take priority. It’s so easy to get busy.  It’s so easy to play 2048 instead of opening up my Bible and journal.  It’s so easy to let the chairs just collect laundry to be folded. It’s so easy to get bored with the content of my conversations with my children.  It’s so easy to assume I’d have nothing deep to talk about or nothing to learn from a friend or a counselor.  However, committing to these appointments with Jesus, my husband, my kids, and my sober-minded mentors can keep me from slipping into a previous way of living.

But for when I do lack the commitment and the resolve to keep these appointments:

“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15).

Stay tuned for Life After Rehab: Step 4…

 

Life After Rehab…Step 2

So Family Rehab has concluded and summer reflection time begins.  Earlier this week, I posted about Step 1 of Life After Rehab, drawing from seven steps I found on a drug rehab site.  The steps are written to help addicts as they transition from a time of intentional learning back to real life.  If you didn’t happen to read about Step 1, please take the time to check it out, as the thoughts after each of the seven steps support all of them.

Before diving into Step 2, I have to take a moment to mention how thankful I am for this thinking and processing time.  God has been overwhelming me this summer with His provision of time and space to think and write.  I feel like I would be “hiding it under a bushel-oh, no!” not to mention the way God has been caring for my heart in a very personal way during this time.  From anonymous donors who have made babysitting possible, to my mom who has given up her week to come and help me while I work from bed with a thrown out back, I have been inundated with blessing.  I hesitate to even write publicly about His provision, because I don’t want others to compare and feel bad about their current situation.  (I say this, because that’s exactly what I have done and would do…)  But the amazing thing is that the same God who has been so generous with me is the same God of everyone who is reading this.  His love for everyone else is just as deep as it is for me.  His generosity and provision no less for anyone else.  I know that at another time, in another season, I will read someone else’s blog and feel jealousy well up within me because their life seems so blessed.  I can hear my own, “Well aren’t you lucky…” sassiness in my head.  I’ve been there before and done that.  Maybe the next time I will remember writing this and will eat my own words.  Hopefully, I will just thank their God for being my God and for taking care of all of His children.

Okay…on with Life After Rehab…


Step 2:  Evaluate the Neighborhood, and Move if Needed.

“For some people, the old neighborhood contains a plethora of reminders about substance use and abuse. They may be walking by their drug dealers on a daily basis, and the street corners, local bar fronts, and green parks might remind them of the times they spent getting drunk or getting high. These memories can be powerful triggers for addiction cravings, and they could be too much for people to resist. Other people may find that their homes are, similarly, unsafe. For example, a study in the journal Substance Use and Misuse found that female heroin users often lived with a current user or a former user. When rehab is over, these people might return to homes filled with drugs, and a relapse might quickly follow. Moving to a new neighborhood can push the reset button on cravings, providing the person with new vistas and new opportunities to explore. The neighborhood might be safer, with fewer available drugs, or it might just be different enough to push the old memories away. If the old neighborhood is unsafe or it’s too hard to live under the burden of memory, moving might be an apt choice” (http://www.michaelshouse.com).


HA! I laughed out loud when I read this step. This is NOT why we moved away from Buda! Nevertheless, I get the point and see how our move to Katy is further evidence that God was at work in our Family Rehab year.  While we weren’t fleeing from unsafe people or places, we did find ourselves in “new vistas” and with “new opportunities to explore.”  Honestly, we haven’t really done a lot of this work, so this step is still very applicable for our family.  We don’t want to get swept up in the chaos of American dream setting and fast-paced living that we neglect the hearts of our children yet again.  And the struggle to end up there again is even greater in a new place with the pressure to fit in to our surroundings.  Before Family Rehab, the majority of our time was committed to people and places outside of our home (for us, as adults, as well as for the children). These commitments were all with good people and were for healthy reasons.  But with every “yes” to other people we were saying “no” to focused time with our children.  Having them home for school has dramatically changed the amount of hours we have alone with them.  For this I am grateful and see the benefits of spending my days with them.  Our conversations are not limited to the dinner table or at bedtime.  This is one area where we dramatically changed our surroundings during Family Rehab.  For life after Rehab, this might be a change in lifestyle that we choose again next year.

The fact that I don’t really know anyone yet here in Katy has helped me in not spreading my schedule too thin. But, I know the time will come when the temptation to over-commit will call.  More concerning than over-committing time away from home, is the temptation to misuse the time I do have with the kids.  Am I looking past them to the calendar for my next mommy-break?  Am I easily frustrated that they just won’t go to bed because I am more concerned about sitting down and doing nothing than I am about discovering the state of their little hearts?  Once our new house becomes our home, I am certain that these temptations will become a part of our new norm…honestly, they already have.  But, it’s because of my weakness in giving in to these areas that we started our year of rehab in the first place.  Moving to another house or city will not be an option when these selfish cravings pursue.  I’m not sure what the right step will be, but I do know that likely God will ask me to do something that causes change and shakes things up a bit.  I need to be open to that.  I need to prepare myself now because that time will likely come and sacrifice will likely be asked of me.  A life of faith-risks and ultimate trust is what is asked of me.

Perhaps what is worth noting from this step is exactly that–being willing to do the “crazy” thing for the purpose of sobriety—sober-mindedness (see previous post).  Think for a minute how huge of a deal it would be to just pack up and pick up and move to another part of town, all for the purpose of getting away from temptation.  That’s a pretty extreme step for the sake of healthy living.  Especially if what you are tempted to do is widely accepted, joked about, and encouraged in our culture.  But, if you consider doing it for your kids, that might become a different story.

Consider this:  If your child was being bullied by a young neighbor down the street, or a predator was stalking your teenage daughter, relocating for the sake of their safety wouldn’t be that much of a stretch.  So if the culture I am living in and submitting myself to encourages me to neglect and be disappointed in my children because they are “in the way”, then are my kids really safe with me—in my home?  So what dramatic changes will I need to take if we find ourselves living in the neighborhood of busyness, impatience, fear, and neglect?  I have to at least be willing to consider that changing something might be the right thing to do, not just for the children, but for all of us.  If it upsets my comfort, is an inconvenience, or requires sacrifice, than I’ve got to remember that I am the only one who can be asked to take such drastic measures for my children.  God has entrusted me and my spouse with them, called me to care for them and teach them, to facilitate their growth into little men and women of God.  (Deuteronomy 6:7)  I can’t get out of this one… (sigh).  I can’t look to the Sunday School teacher or the swim coach to take over this responsibility.  Am I willing?  Will I be willing when even more is asked of me than just “Family Rehab?”

This is a really hard question to honestly consider.

[silence]

Yep…that’s about as far as I let it sink in for me, too.  It’s a hard question to consider until we are at the crossroads of the sacrifice and the decision to follow-through.  My prayer is that for all of us, when we are asked to deny ourselves and pick up our crosses and follow Him, that we will find the courage to do so.  I pray that God will give us all a clear enough picture of the destructive drugs we are being asked to run from that when sacrifice is required in the fleeing, there is no doubt that giving them up will be worth it.

We can incorrectly assume that life after rehab means all the hard work and incredible sacrifice is over.  But it’s not.  There will always be more opportunities to refine who we are and adjust our thinking and priorities.  There will be new drugs, new temptations, and new addictions.  The humbling thing is that God in His mercy provides joy in the midst of sacrifice.  That joy is the overflow of a thankful heart that sees and recognizes the mercy and grace of the Father.  The temptation to “just get through” the day instead of invest in those with whom you share the day, the drug-like highs of productivity, busyness, and stress that cause a back-lash of hurtful behavior towards the ones we love, the culture that lures us into lazy and slothful parenting—God lifts our heads above these things.  He gives us hope to overcome these things, because He already has and He simply just cares that much.  He rescues us from the entrapment and slavery of these things.  For that, we have reason to be joyful, to give Him praise, and to worship Him.  Even if we are asked to sacrifice time or comfort, or even neighborhoods, knowing that we have been freed up to be freed from our addictions gives us thankful hearts and joy in the midst of sacrifice.

“And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord” (Psalm 27:5-7).

Life After Rehab…Step 1

“IT’S SUMMER?!?!? WHAT? WHO? WHERE? WHEN?!?”

So it hit me the other day that summer is here.  Oh, don’t misunderstand…I know that it is summer!  We have been looking forward to the days when there’s no school and there are more hours to play.  (Although, with our recent relocation, we’ve really been acting like it’s summer since Christmas.)  So it wasn’t really the fact that summer has arrived that caught me off guard.  What was profoundly shocking about my realization was that our year of “Family Rehab” is over.  When we started this crazy adventure, we committed to taking one school year at home to rehabilitate our family and our hearts.  Wow.  The school year is over.  Those 9 months went by incredibly fast.  This surprising conclusion has raised many questions concerning Family Rehab:

“Was it worth it?”

“Did we succeed and change?”

“Did we learn anything?”

“Are we better for it, or worse?”

“If we’ve learned anything during this year, how do we keep from reverting to old habits and behaviors?”

When a person enters a formal drug treatment program, they don’t stay there forever.  They go through months of overpowering therapy and work, learning how to live in a world that entices them back to their addictions.  It’s an intense time created with the purpose of preparing the person to one day leave the facility in better physical, mental, and emotional health.  When a person is leaving a treatment facility for drug or alcohol abuse, there can be a lot of similar questions to my Family Rehab questions:

“Was is worth it?”

“Did I succeed and change?”

“Did I learn anything?”

“Am I better for it, or worse?”

“How am I going to survive out there?”

“How can I keep from falling off the wagon?”

I did a little research and found 7 helpful steps from a rehab website (http://www.michaelshouse.com) for those re-entering life after rehab.  I think these steps are helpful for our family also as we consider life after Family Rehab.  In the posts to come, I will cover these steps and how they relate to all of us in our every day walk.

First of all, it’s wise to note that going to rehab of any kind, whether for substance abuse or for Family Rehab, doesn’t fix a person and take away their struggles.  Rehab is designed to concentrate on the tools needed to face the struggle head-on and to lead a life of sobriety.  1 Peter 1:13 says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  Our struggles with sin, with parenting, with relationships, and with coping in this world rely soley on the saving grace of Jesus.  Our hope lies in Him–not in improving our performance or trying harder.  So these helpful tips for diving back into the real world after a season of intentional learning and healing are not the saving secret codes to life.  They are merely help in maintaining that sober-mindedness.  They are merely a way to keep the mind prepared for the action that life throws our way.  These 7 steps I will share over the next week can help make the transition from a slower pace of intentional living back into regular life a little less stressful.


 

Step 1:  Find Sober Friends

“Addictions often form through the influence of other people. Studies on teens, such one published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, clearly demonstrate that peer pressure is a powerful motivator for drug use, as those teens who spend time with pro-drug friends are more likely to use when compared to teens who spend time with sober friends. The same could be said for adults. Those who have friendships built on drugs may find it hard to go to parties, share meals, or otherwise interact and stay sober, as the temptation to use might grow and spread. Sober friends can be vital, as they may be willing to engage in fun activities that don’t involve substance abuse. Temptation levels might fade when people are surrounded by others who are sober” (http://www.michaelshouse.com).


Using this logic from a drug rehabilitation program as a guide, step 1 for Family Rehab is also to find sober friends–that is, sober-minded friends.  1Timothy 3 speaks directly to sober-minded influences or leaders and overseers in the church:

“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:2-7).

It doesn’t take much thought to see the wisdom in seeking out sober-minded friends.  When surrounded by people who demonstrate the qualities listed above, peer pressure alone makes us better people.  But, in the book of Titus, Paul explains the the relationship with sober-minded people is not just one that consists of merely being surrounded my these people.  They have been called to be teachers and we are to allow ourselves to be taught by them.  He writes to these teachers:

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:1-10).

Wow…I want to be around someone who has been charged with all that and is willing to take on the challenge.  I want to learn from them, study them, and become like them.

In the next phase of our “sobriety”, I think it is important that each member of our family find sober-minded friends.  Not just friends, but mentors–people from whom we can learn.  For Paul and I we have various mentors already in place for different areas of life.  But I think we need to look forward with the goal of really seeking mentorship in the area of parenting specifically.  There are couples God has placed in our lives whose families we admire.  Their children are respectful and follow Jesus with a passion.  Their marriage seems strong and steady.  They speak of their spouses with the upmost grace and care, never slandering or damaging them.  They deal with stressful situations with calm and peaceful ease demonstrating a firm belief and trust in the Lord’s plan.  I want to encourage my children to seek out mentors in older children as well.  (Of course, we have to approve their choice.)  But we want them to start now looking to older and more seasoned believers for guidance and wisdom.  We are naive if we think our children will come to us for advice on all areas of life.  We are also naive if we think we can go through life as parents without mentors.  I want us all to learn how to recognize and make relationships with sober-minded friends.  (Us ladies, find ladies.  The guys, find guys.)  This, however, doesn’t mean that we circle the wagons and cut-off relationships with those who are outside our circles of faith or condone the particular sins others struggle with.  It does mean that those relationship look a little different.  If a women is struggling to respect her husband and is filled with frustration, she probably shouldn’t go vent to her girlfriend who is constantly husband bashing.  That won’t bear any good fruit or set her up to battle her temptation to sin.  Likewise, the man who is struggling with lust probably would not do well to go hang out with a group of guys from work whose relationship is built around frequenting the local strip club.  It also will not bear good fruit, nor set him on a path away from temptation.

Who we spend time with, learn from, and let influence our decisions is important.  In our American culture we tend to think our opinions and convictions are invincible.  But in reality we are so easily impacted by popular trendy beliefs, voices of “intellect” and status, and by merely unconsciously observing the lives of others.  Just like the addict, spending the weekend with a best friend doesn’t seem like a potentially dangerous plan in which safety has to be questioned–and maybe it’s not.  But the purpose of rehab is to train ourselves to at least be willing to ask questions about the people we let speak into our lives…whether the person is as close a relative or spouse, or as distant as Oprah.

Not only do we need to ask questions about current relationships, but we need to seek out sober-minded friends and mentors.  This is a hard process…especially when in a new area like our family currently is.  But, the hard and awkward work of getting to know people and learning about them is all worth the effort if the result is having relationships with people who are courageously marking a path of sobriety before you, and setting up boundaries in relationships that might discourage positive headway on the journey.

My prayer is that God leads us to these good relationships and gives all of us, but especially our children, the discernment and wisdom to identify sober-mindedness and the courage to engage and learn from those who possess it.  I also pray that we cling to those relationships that are already established and have been proven to bear good fruit.  Through all of our life after rehab I pray that we don’t forget our most valuable lesson from the past year—that our greatest friend and influence is Jesus.  His faithfulness is unmatched.  His sobriety amidst trial and temptation is above that of anyone else.  His relationship—a priceless treasure.  His forgiveness—unending.  His love—relentless.

Psalm 25:14 says, “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.”   He makes known to us His faithfulness to His great promises.  Whatever “Life After Rehab” will look like, we can trust that in His friendship He will let us know the “what, who, where, and when” of each moment.  He has promised to love us, to never forsake us, and to guide us.  And we can trust that He will open our eyes to see the fulfilling of those promises.


Keep an eye out for Step 2 of Life After Rehab…