I awoke this morning to my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds awash with people standing in solidarity with Paris. That is wonderful and reminds me of how connected we all are in our shared humanity.
I also awoke to a lot of political and religious commentary about Islam, the West, the Middle East, and white privilege.
What I have learned about grief is this: in the early stages the most helpful thing I can do is to feel the pain, shock, disbelief, anger, fear, helplessness, and sadness. I do that by standing with people in these complex emotions and simply recognizing the emotion, feeling it fully, and not judging it.
That's because the most healing thing I can do initially is to feel fully.
For me, entering into religious and political commentary too early--making conclusions about what we did/didn't do right--blocks that ability to feel, and thereby, blocks the necessary healing that feeling deeply brings.
This approach works better for me and enables me to come to more objective conclusions that are not colored by overwhelming emotion.
I believe it's normal to rush to political and religious conclusions--just not always helpful to the grieving process so early on.
I've been pretty transparent on social media the last couple weeks talking about life changes but haven't updated this blog.
Last month I resigned my position at The Recovery Place in Fort Lauderdale where I developed and directed a highly successful faith-based treatment program called Three Strands. It was a difficult decision but I noticed significant changes after new leadership took over Elements Behavioral Health, the parent company.
My decision proved to be a wise and strategic one because the following week after my resignation, Elements announced they would be closing the entire operations of The Recovery Place on December 4. It was a very sad and difficult experience watching a treatment center dwindle down to very few clients and witness a program I worked very hard to develop be brought to nothing. However, I am grateful for the two years I worked for Elements and the opportunities the company afforded me while there.
On October 19 I started as Director of Program Development and Outreach at Lifeskills South Florida in Deerfield Beach, FL. Lifeskills specializes in treating complex psychiatric and/or substance use disorders. Lifeskills is unique in that it is licensed both for psychiatric conditions as well as substance abuse. Many treatment centers do not hold licenses for the treatment of both. I will also be assisting our Intensive Outpatient Program in Delray Beach.
I am excited about this new part of my journey. If you know someone who is suffering from a mental health or substance abuse disorder, don't hesitate to contact me. I'll be happy to help, and if we can't help them at Lifeskills, will help you find the place best suited for them.
The Recovery-Minded Church offers a clinically-informed, theological framework for Christians challenged with how to relate to people with addiction. Each chapter is followed by useful discussion questions.
In the last few days, we've seen a number of provocative comments from influential voices on the religious and political Right.
Franklin Graham called for an immediate halt of all Muslims immigrating to the US and for them to be treated the way Japanese and Germans were in WWII.
Then Donald Trump attacked John McCain and veterans in this country as less than heroic if they were captured as POWs. He never served in the Armed Services so this makes his criticism of our veterans all the more appalling. Here's his follow up response and some more of his rhetoric:
While these statements expand these men's voices in the American culture wars, enough is enough!
I do not identify as Evangelical in my faith or as conservative in my politics. These are not ideologies I espouse.
Having said that, I do not think being Evangelical or conservative automatically makes one intolerant, misogynistic, homophobic, or anti-Muslim. I work and associate with politically and religiously conservative folks who are none of the above.
But these days I'm not sure it helps.
And that's a shame for the many thoughtful and intelligent people who get associated with this new brand of aggression, intolerance, and maniacal thinking.
This Ted Talk has been causing quite a bit of conversation which I think is good. Johann Hari offers a different approach to addiction than what many in recovery circles might like--one that is a bit more empathetic in my opinion.
While I do think we shame, stigmatize, alienate people with addiction--even in treatment and recovery circles--I still believe we need to maintain healthy boundaries with people in active addiction. This is for our own emotional and spiritual health--and their own.
I also feel he pooh-poohs the medical/disease model a bit too much and resorts to somewhat overly simplistic, reductionistic, or dualistic thinking. I tend to favor more of a holistic approach, one that offers both/and solutions rather than either/or. Why can't we take Hari's approach and combine it with the medical model, healthy 12 step fellowships, and good neuroscience? I in fact believe we can.
My father recently asked me to lead a healing prayer at church for people struggling with various forms of addiction. The response was overwhelmingly positive--as well as emotionally overwhelming because of the depth of need in people's lives. Many came forward for spiritual support and counsel.
He asked me to give 5 practical points to follow after receiving healing prayer for or after receiving counsel for an addiction--whether alcohol, prescription pills,* illegal narcotics, food, sexual acting out, gambling, or other unstoppable obsessions that seek to dominate one's life.
1. Pray. Start the day saying "thank you God I'm sober" and finish the day saying "thank you God you kept me sober". If you don't have a personal faith, just practice gratitude saying "thank you I'm sober" in the morning and "thank you I'm still sober in the evening.
2. Meditate. Take daily time in quiet solitude. Ask nothing. Only center on your spirit. Do this while listening to music or utilize a free guided meditation available on iTunes podcasts or YouTube.
3. Tell someone you trust. Ask them to keep you in their thoughts and prayers. But only tell someone who has earned the right to hear your story.
4. Go to a meeting. Find a support group such as AA, NA, SLAA, CMA, OA** or some other recovery fellowship such as Celebrate Recovery or Smart Recovery. Go daily.
5. Find a therapist. Everyone needs someone safe to confide who is not emotionally invested in us--someone will speak the truth to us in a professional manner. A licensed or certified clinician can help. Go weekly.
*Caveat: Don't quit cold turkey, especially if coming off alcohol, benzodiazepines, or some other sedative. Sudden withdrawal could put you at a seizure risk. Withdrawal symptoms from opiates (pain killers) can be especially difficult. So consult your physician if in doubt.