Being of Service? Carrying the Message—for NAMI (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, October 9, 2014

NAMI mental anguish, mental illness

Being of Service? Carrying the Message—for NAMI (Feature Friday!)

This week, October 5th through 11th, is Mental Health Awareness Week. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is working to inspire others through sharing stories. Experiences of those brave people who face struggles with mental illness every day. This week, especially, NAMI and others all across the nation are working hard to highlight struggles—and victories!—with various kinds of mental illness.

Some weeks ago in a Feature Friday post, I shared my struggle with an especially difficult time in my life. After my second pregnancy, I developed severe postpartum depression. I did not even realize it until it was over. I was swimming through that desperate, gray, mucky water for some six months. And I cannot remember whether I came out of it slowly, quickly, or something in between. I just remember the sun seeming brighter one day, and my general attitude towards life being positive. And, the desperate grayness was gone.

For the most part, that is. Mild depression still returns, on occasion, but never like it was in postpartum depression! Looking back, it was horrific. Heartbreaking. And—I did not even know until it was over.

I want to talk a bit about my friend T. He bravely told his personal story this week, in order that other people with mental illness might not feel so alone. I am going summarize, and quote excerpts.

T used to be a church leader at a large church in the suburbs. Married, active group leader, deeply involved in several ministries. He continues, “And I was also a fraud. I had developed a pretty serious mental illness (bi-polar) and was an asshole husband.” T also developed several addictions to manage his increasingly erratic emotions.

The descent was rapid. T lost almost everything. “Separation [from his wife], restraining order, hospital, jail, long term mental hospital, GPS ankle monitor, halfway house, living with sibling, and basically hell on earth. And I couldn’t stop acting out…it was my one and only ‘tool’ for coping with life and loss.” He hit bottom. Or, the bottom hit him.

In the last two years he has gotten clean and sober and in a recovery program.

Recently, T met with several leaders to confess his shortcomings and make amends. He worked with them to be restored. He said, “I felt received, loved, and that they were ‘for me.’” Maybe Jesus does—as T says—indeed have a heart for messed up people. Thank God for grace, love, and mercy. Thank God that some people care, and listen, and welcome with open arms. And, thanks for sharing, T. There is a solution. One day at a time.

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Conference-Goer by Day, Pastor by Night

A Year of Being Kind blog –Wednesday, March 19, 2014

keep it simple

Conference-Goer by Day, Pastor by Night

Another day at the addiction and recovery conference. A rainy and chill day, this time. Good day to be inside. As I mentioned yesterday, I love being with fellow professionals. I enjoy getting a refresher on the area of my certification! (For those of you who are wondering, I have a state certificate in Alcohol and Drug Counseling. That’s on top of my master’s degree in Divinity.)

I loved both morning and afternoon sessions. Nothing too, too heavy. (Just kidding!) Seriously, just a seminar on grief and loss as related to addiction and recovery in the morning. This was followed by lunch and then a practicum on suicide. Both presenters were superb, and knew their stuff! I didn’t even mind discussing and learning more about such downer-subjects.

Many of the usual suspects—I mean, many of the same addictions and recovery professionals attend these sessions. I get the opportunity to hear from certain of them at the individual sessions. We all have some sort of service orientation, too. Many of these people are deeply concerned with and care about alcoholics and addicts, or drunks and druggies (as some people say). And oriented towards service? You bet! Such caring, loving service is natural for many in the addiction and recovery area.

I serve in the addiction community, too. I’m not currently employed as a counselor, case manager or worker at a recovery home or rehab unit, but I facilitate a spirituality group regularly at an inpatient drug and alcohol unit at a medical center several miles west. I’ve done it for the past nine years. (Gee, time flies when you’re having fun!) I do look on leading this group as service. Service to God (or, if you prefer, my Higher Power), as well as to the drunks and druggies who have just arrived in treatment.

A few years ago, when I was doing my two semesters of internship, I was able to serve as substance abuse counselor intern at this particular inpatient unit. After the ten month period of internship was over, I took the certification test, and added more letters to the end of my name. Oh, and I received a certification as Alcohol and Drug Counselor, too.

I praise God that I am available once a month to these good people at the inpatient unit, and facilitate the spirituality group. Many of those people in that unit are hesitant about religion. Understandable! If I had had similar experiences with church, religion, and dysfunction in the family, I probably would have a problem with religion, too! Since the recovery program and the 12 Steps are heavily spiritual (NOT religious!), this gives me an open door to talk about God.

Some prefer referring to God as their “Higher Power,” but I welcome any opportunity to let people know that God loves them, God has a plan for their lives, and God is with them—each day, all the days of their lives. One day at a time.


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