Wednesday, January 19, 2011

From playmate to inmate…how I got here – Part 11

Boiling frogs, cross-eyed = “the fall”

Not too long after I was arrested in September of 2009, for going into someone’s home and taking their prescription pain pills, a former student of mine from the Christian discipleship program I used to work for called to see how I was doing. The grapevine does move rather swiftly. 

In the early days after my “fall”, I didn’t take many phone calls nor did I return many messages – I was ashamed and embarrassed (if I didn’t call you back…please forgive me) – but, this guy was persistent.  He left me several messages letting me know that he loved me, still respected me, didn’t care what I had done, and that he just wanted to talk about HOW this had happened, not the 4-1-1.  He went on to say that my fall had got him thinking about his own life, specifically about his relationship with God.  I appreciated the candidness and sincerity of his request.  I called him back.  

This would be the first of many times to come 

that I would witness God use the mess I created for His good.

True to his word, my friend didn’t probe me for details about my crimes.  He just wanted to talk about how I got to such a point of desperation that would cause me to do what I had done.  I explained to him, as I’ll now explain to you, that the onset of my fall started way before I committed my crimes, as well as how it was kindled by unresolved and covered up character issues.

I don’t know when or where I first heard it from, or from who I heard it from – or really, for that matter, why you’d want to do such a thing in the first place.  Perhaps it has something to do with cooking….or….perhaps not.  I may have heard it from one of my redneck buddies somewhere down the line  (no slam intended – merely a term of endearment; I think Lump may have a little redneck in her…or secretly wishes she did).  I don’t know.  I can’t remember, nor do I think the when, where and who are that important.  What is important is the process – the how.  The process of how one goes about…

boiling a live frog.

First of all, you can’t just throw a live frog into a pot of boiling water and expect the little fellow to stay in there.  Although frogs may not be considered to be the Einsteins of the animal world, they’re certainly not the bottom of the barrel when it comes to stupid.  If you throw a live frog into a pot of boiling water, more likely than not, he’s going to jump out – it’s only natural.  (Now, I know some of you observant brainiacs have already said to yourself,  “put a lid on the pot”…but for playing along purposes, pretend there is no lid.  Ok?...good.)  On the other hand, if you first put the frog down into a pot of room temperature water the frog will swim around – or sit there as some stubborn frogs do – enjoying his fresh dip in the H2O that he is very much familiar with.  Next, as he settles in and makes himself comfortable, slowly turn the heat up on the water until it finally comes to a boil.  Completely unaware of the danger of the rising temperature, the soothing comfort of the familiar environment of the water will slowly lull the frog to the point of complacency.  Degree by rising degree, bubble after bubble, the heat from the boiling water will slowly suck the energy and zap the life from the unsuspecting amphibian until finally, unable to battle the smothering heat, our little leaping friend will leap no more.

A moral and spiritual fall are somewhat similar to boiling a frog.

I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to become addicted to pain pills again.  Like the frog, I slowly boiled myself in a pot of self absorption until I became cross-eyed – my focus became ME instead of God and others.

It all started with getting comfortable where I was.

Now, when I say comfortable where I was, I don’t so much mean location as much as I mean comfortable and complacent in regards to my spiritual life.  Some of you may not understand or agree entirely with this next statement – a statement based solely on my observation of other people’s lives as well as experiencing it in my own – but working in ministry at a Christian university can be one of the easiest and hardest places to grow in your relationship with God.  Bear with me and let me explain.

It can be easy because you are constantly surrounded by incredible worship, dynamic teaching and powerful experiences.  All of this taken in the correct context and applied with your own personal time of meditating and studying God’s word, growing in the wisdom and knowledge of Who HE is will lead to what He promises us – an abundant, free life.  But when the incredible worship, dynamic teaching and powerful experiences become the substitute and only source for spiritual growth, comfort and complacency can find a place to root in rather quickly.  This is exactly what happed to me – and with my past, this is not a healthy scenario.  I became unfavorably comfortable and complacent concerning my relationship with God.  It was like I flipped the auto-pilot switch on and allowed my ministry position and complete absorption in the activities of the university to become my sole source of material for personal spiritual growth.  I began to completely ignore my own personal time with God and rely entirely on being at numerous weekly services and experiences (that my position required me to be at) in order to keep me spiritually afloat.  

My eyes slowly turned inward 

– cross-eyed – 

the focus of my attention became ME.

Although those around me may not have initially picked up on it, I began to feel the change within myself.  I developed a very negative attitude.  The joy, peace and happiness I had experienced in my life began to be replaced with envy, jealousy and selfish desires.  I became condescending and sarcastic in my mind, not only towards people but towards Christianity all together.  I became very critical – a very dangerous place to be spiritually.  Like a parasite, my diminishing attitude drove me away from my community of believers.  I pulled away even further by relinquishing my responsibilities – specifically mentoring and teaching, two things that I loved very much.  Furthermore, just like I did as a child, I began to isolate myself, dissolving all accountability around me – self- centeredness soon gave way to selfish behavior.  Slowly but surely, just as the heat from the boiling water sucked the strength from the frog, my gradual pulling away from God left me cold, hard and ineffective spiritually.  I was primed for a relapse.  All I need was a good excuse – or a half- hearted one for that matter. 

My excuse came in the form of an injury and a trip to the doctor.  Knowing good and well that I shouldn’t accept the prescription for the pain medicine, pure selfishness kicked in and over road any logic that I had bouncing around in my head.  I remember telling myself “just this one prescription and that’s it.  Besides, I am injured and the doctor is giving them to me.  Yea, just this one and I’ll quit.” 

Yea right!

Addiction doesn’t’ work that way.  As soon as the beloved chemical hit my brain sending the all too familiar soothing, warm and fuzzy feeling to embrace my body – put a fork in me I was done.  Of course, one prescription led to another and another and then…well, you get the picture.  Active addiction had been resurrected, and it takes no prisoners.  Its goal is to win at any cost.  My tolerance level for the chemical picked up right where it left off and it quickly skyrocketed.  It was soon followed by the paralyzing fear of withdrawal.  I was spinning out of control.  Even I couldn’t believe how fast and far I had fallen as well as the depths of what I was willing to do in order to get what I needed (wanted).

Which brings me full circle – September 4, 2009.  The events of that day were really an end to something that was very close to taking my life, as well as the beginning to a whole new level of freedom.  

God heard my prayer…and He’s still answering it today.

When I started writing this blog series some three or four months ago, I had no idea what direction it would really go.  As I stated in my very first post, I simply began writing because I felt as if that was what I was supposed to do.  The cool thing is when I got to about part five or six in the series, I realized that God was using the blog to help me get brutally honest with my life and uncover faulty character issues.  I never imagined that I’d do this through a form of social networking.  I guess, in more ways than one, I’ve grown from this initial series of posts.  Who knows?...I may even open a Facebook account when I get out.  The end.

Thanks for reading this series!

Stay tuned.

Big Love!

…from the inside…ray-ray

Thursday, January 6, 2011

From playmate to inmate…how I got here – Part 10

The Journey.

I wish I could vouch that from the time of my spiritual conversion on I never gave into the selfish corrupt nature I had fostered nor ever abused prescription pain pills again.  But obviously from where I sit today, you’ve most likely figured out that’s not the case.

No one ends up in jail on a winning streak.

I’ve heard testimonies of people who upon being regenerated by the Spirit of God never again picked up another drug or took another drink.  My journey is not that.  Do not misunderstand me…I fully believe the power of God can miraculously and instantaneously change a person to that degree.  In fact, I believe in the power of God so much that I believe, if God wanted to, He could wake me up tomorrow a one-legged Chinese man.  Further than that, I believe if God wanted to, He could wake me up tomorrow a one-legged Chinese man and make me believe I’d always been a one-legged Chinese man.  I guess what I’m trying to convey is that it’s been my observation, as well as my experience, that more often than not, when it comes to God molding and shaping His children, “the journey” most commonly contains a series of trials and errors – peaks and troughs.  The height, depth and extent of such are different for each person.  The miraculous aspect being that through these trials and errors, peaks and troughs, we children begin to personally know and understand the fullness of His grace, mercy, forgiveness, faithfulness, kindness, trustworthiness, truthfulness, and most of all – His BIG LOVE for us.  It will serve us well to realize – 

There is no “cookie cutter” journey –

yours is yours, 

mine is mine.


As I wrote, in part nine of this blog series, when I truly came to BELIEVE in Christ, my life resembled a train wreck – train wrecks take time to clean up.  The rebellion of my youth had aided and produced a lot of hidden hedonistic behaviors that needed to be identified and dealt with.  All the various doors of pleasure and excitement that I had kicked open along the way needed to be addressed as well.  Not to mention the corrupt moral nature – used to appeasing itself whenever and however it wanted – needed to be corralled.  The years of a self-serving lifestyle had accumulated a myriad of hurts, habits and hang-ups (none of which God ever wastes) that only God could heal and straighten out.

Try as I may, the first few years of my journey out of addiction were riddled with relapses.  Although I sincerely did not want to live a life dependent on pain pills any longer, I continued to go back to what I knew would provide me with a sense of relief from everyday life as well as instant gratification – pain pills.  The problem was I’d lived in pill popping mode for so long that I didn’t know how NOT to live without them.  For nearly ten years, pain pills had been my comforter and counselor – my coping mechanism when I experienced unsettling feelings of insecurity or inadequacy.  Above and beyond that, they had been my recreation and everyday life enhancer.  My life was accustomed to revolving around the synthetic and pseudo pleasure that pain pills produced – nothing was fun without them.  And then one day…that mode of living was to be no more.

I was left holding the shattered remnant of a life 

frayed and mangled by addiction and very poor choices.

I didn’t know what to do.

I had lived in a chemically aided state for so long that I had literally forgotten how to live sober.  I had no coping mechanisms – pain pills were the extent of my coping skills.  I had no grasp on how to deal with life on life’s terms…and the pile of twisted wreckage that best described my life…are you kidding me?  I had not a clue of how to sort through it and begin to put it back together.

I needed HELP! 

Through a series of events I learned of a one year residential Christian discipleship program that assisted people with life controlling issues such as mine.  Though initially a year sounded like a long time to me, my inability to successfully stay off the pills and my immense desire to change nudged me to enroll in the program – so I did.  It was there that God met my effort and began to heal and repair the years of damage I had inflicted on myself.  How you ask?  By showing me Who He was through the Truth of His Word.  As He did this, I began to understand more and more of

Who God is – 

who I am – 

but most importantly, who I am in Him.  

As God began to renew my mind and heal my wounds, true life and the world we live in began to make more sense to me.
After graduating from the Christian discipleship program, I stayed on a few more years as a staff member.  I eventually left to take a position at a Christian university.  I sheepishly smile and chuckle to myself when I recall the prideful confidence I had in myself at various stages of my spiritual growth – thinking at times that I had matured fully and “arrived” as a Christian – completely unaware of the fact that there was much more refining that needed to take place.

The reality of this need became grossly apparent to me shortly upon arrival at the university.  Although in my mind I thought I’d reached the Super Bowl of Christianity, I quickly began to experience feelings of inferiority and inadequacy because of my past and background.  I felt as if I didn’t belong.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that I had not “arrived” and that this step along my journey was not the Super Bowl.  The truth of the matter was I really had only been transferred by God to another location of His school of life.  I had no idea how deep and revealing the curriculum would be.  God would use this new location as a giant x-ray machine – revealing to me faulty character issues that stealthily loomed below the surface.  

In the end I would have my opportunity to get brutally honest.

…from the inside…ray-ray