Working with Angels

I remember once, at a group home where I used to work, celebrating the fact that a client actually used the toilet instead of her chair. The next time wasn’t quite as spectacular, but there for a minute, we were All-Stars. 

When I went off to work I jokingly (or not) told my hubby that it was a good day if I didn’t get poop actually ON me. That night, I told of the amazing feat of my lady actually using the bathroom facilities for a change. I knew he wanted to support me, but his face had kind of a blank look whenever I shared this kind of news. Fair enough. I didn’t fully appreciate the goings-on at his place of employment, but I was glad to see him happy. Probably the same way he does me. 

Sometimes when I’ve had a client with me out in the community, people have said something like “It takes a special kind of person to do that kind of work.” I appreciate it. I guess it does take a special something to do this work, but no more special than any other job that requires a lot of emotional weight-lifting, along with the usual physical manipulations of assisting an up-to 250 lb. infant/toddler go through their daily activities…

I mean, everything that an infant or toddler relies on their parents for, our clients depend on us to do for and with them. There’s kind of an inside joke among myself and my co-workers, that the bosses get us to start working there for super low pay, knowing that we’ll fall in love with our charges and basically put up with (no pay increases ever) any Managerial shenanigans so that we can be sure the clients are getting cared for by people who genuinely care about them. It’s the Hotel California trick. 

When we moved across the country last year, I was of course really sad that my older boy wasn’t coming with us, I still am every day. But he assured me that he  was a Big Boy and didn’t need me anymore.  So I gave him the benefit of the doubt,  and we moved. 

But deep inside of me, where I hadn’t even realized they were hiding, were my feelings about leaving behind “my” (non-verbal) little client. I really love working with the individuals who don’t speak. Possibly because of my personal experience in having to read body language as a child, and also because I know that they are the most vulnerable of any people group. 

The lady I had been working with before we moved was just as close to being an actual angel as I’ve ever seen. It’s not that she was beautiful by society’s standards, but her spirit shone through. When she was happy, her entire body shook with joy. And she was happy a lot when I was there. She loved going to church with me and her roommate, and the people at church fell in love with her, too.

Some of the other staff at the group home would get irritated with me because when she saw me come in, the world stopped and she did her kind of lurching goose-step over to me and hugged me fiercely. She watched for me to arrive, and would have hugged me all day if I would have let her. It was really nice. Like having a daughter, I suppose.

But then we had to move. Leaving that  sweet little girl behind was more difficult than I’d expected. Times when I’ve been home-sick, her smiling face has always come to mind. 

I know she is ok. The staff there are very compassionate and capable of caring for her, complicated medical issues and all. But I’ll probably never forget her, and I can’t wait to see her in her perfect new body in Heaven…

I was back home briefly over the summer, and the first thought  was to go see my special friend. Then I thought it through. And decided it would be selfish as hell for me to stop by & then leave again. So I didn’t go by the house where she lives. 

I know for sure that the rewards of this field of work are monetarily minimal. But the intangible rewards can make it surprisingly easy. I’m amazed when I think of the trust I’m given, when caring for my clients. Whether it’s pushing a wheelchair, coloring a craft, changing their pants/diapers for the umpteenth time or going through the “feelings” flash cards again, it is a privilege. 

Just another phenomenal blessing of sobriety. 

“And for that, I am responsible.”

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Religion vs. Spirituality

pexels-photo-1245066Like a lot of folks, ​I remember being beat up and put down, physically, emotionally, and spiritually for such a very long time. Some of my misery came from my own poor choices, to be sure, but a lot of it was a response to trauma and/or mental illness.

Regardless the causes, the blackness where my spirit had been eventually became too much for me to bear. No amount of self-medicating was enough to relieve the pain. So I began investigating options.

I found my way to a place where they said they wanted to care for and help me. They told me about a Savior who loved me, and then they shamed me for having scrapes and bruises. Their words and actions told me that my wounds were my own fault: I’d not sought God enough, I’d not suffered enough, I hadn’t conformed enough for them to give me the love I so desperately needed…so I changed my hair, my clothes, my makeup, prayed more, I cried more, and I did my best to be who they seemed to want me to be.

None of that was enough for the people I met there, who claimed to represent HIM. And I didn’t know any better than to believe them.

I left there more wretched than I’d arrived. I left with no hope, where at least when I had arrived, I had a glimmer of hope. I went to other places where “God-loving” people congregated. The results were the same.

Having once had an ENCOUNTER with the Spirit of God (and the feeling of complete love and acceptance in SPITE of my sins), I knew that the problem here wasn’t HIM. But these folks were seriously doing me more harm than good, so I had to go.

I went back to the gutter where I’d crawled out from, back to the mire. This slow death was familiar; at least there was no false hope. Nothing to cause me to think that life could be better, and simultaneously rip out what little there was left of my heart and soul.

This is the story of a sick and dying person who sought help from pious, uncaring  religious people.

The street life sent me seeking the safety of a loving God. Churchianity sent me back to the streets. At least I knew what to expect, there, and was familiar with what came next.

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Once mental illness, addiction and spiritual bankruptcy had adequately broken me, (or more to the point, I found a REASON to live that was greater than what I’d ever had before) I started looking for a spiritual solution. Again.

Thankfully, I was allowed to observe someone I’d admired, as he began to climb up out of a similar place of pain and misery. He had tried to find answers in traditional religion, as well. But, like me, he had come out of the church seeking for MORE.

I mean, when you think of God, at least in America, don’t you usually first think “church”?

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Anyway, I found that when I began to earnestly seek to know Who God really is, He showed Himself to me. I bought a new Bible, w/o the highlighting that someone else had influenced. I looked for the FULL picture of God’s personality. Is He angry? Not usually. Does He want to discipline his children? No, actually. He goes to GREAT lengths to keep from having to do so.

A thing that I learned about God is that our idea of Him is MASSIVELY affected by our relationship  (or lack) with our earthly dad. It was a turning point for me when I looked at God and purposely did not impose my ideas of human men onto Him.

Today I am still learning and growing. I know for a fact that God loves me and is on my side. Like a strongwilled child, sometimes I may rage on, wanting MY WAY. He lets me rage. He loves me too much to let me have my way, a lot of the time. When I am finally exhausted from struggling, He holds me and gives me good things.

Firstly, seek Him. Learn about Jesus. Dont put too much stock into what most folks tell you. People will always let us down. He NEVER has, and NEVER shall.

God didn’t send His son to condemn the world, but that through (Jesus) the world might be saved.

Finding Your Joy

What brings you joy? That’s a simple question that can be difficult to answer. Is it working in the garden that soothes your soul? Or teaching a child how to fish? Or is it sketching a landscape? Or maybe working on a car is when you’re in The Zone. Or perhaps it’s caring for an elderly person? There is no limit to the places and ways that we can do things that make our hearts sing. The trick is in finding out what it is that does it for you.

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Happy happy joy joy

The thing is, as a recovering person, having joy as a part of my daily life wasn’t something that I had ever considered. Joy, as in, “I can find joy in my vocation”. What do you mean, I can go to work doing something I love? Noooo, that’s not people like me.

The World is My Oyster (on the half-shell)

But, it turns out that it CAN be a reality, even for a lower-middle class, former alkie/druggie. The question is, what are you willing to sacrifice to get there? Going back to school is absolutely not easy when you’re working and managing a household. BUT, what are the rewards that will come after you’ve achieved that Certification or Degree? I know that when I was a single parent, more money in the bank would have made all the difference. Single parents are stretched more than Stretch Armstrong, and finances are only a part of it. And education seems to be a strong start to getting ahead monetarily.

High School Lessons, 20 years later

I had never really known about setting goals and then figuring out how to get to them, little by little. I mean, like most of us, I wanted to win the Blue Ribbon without ever running the race. But once I got wind of the possibility of ME actually being more than I thought I could be, the wheels began to turn. I sought through prayer and meditation to find what my Higher Power’s will was for me. Then I began to investigate how I might be able to make that happen. God certainly will help us, but we have to do the footwork. Nobody came up to my door and offered me a grant so that I could go to college. BUT, once I started the ball rolling in that direction, doors began to open. It makes sense that God would want us to be educated when possible, considering that one of the wisest men in the Bigger Big Book said that there’s nothing better under the sun than finding pleasure your labors.

Ask, Seek, Knock

I’ve been told that it’s much easier to steer a vehicle that’s already moving. I think that applies to doing God’s will. If I am seeking counsel from people wiser than me, and following suggestions, after a while finding His will for my life won’t be such a mystery. In the process of looking for His will, I found that He has put desires in my heart that He wants to help me accomplish. However, I have to do the footwork. The first step being NOT PICKING UP for one day. Then repeating that, tomorrow.

Keep it Simple. It works!

In my early sobriety, God’s will was a huge mystery to me. How was I supposed to know what was God’s will and what was MY will?? I was such a manipulator that it was my normal to lie to myself and believe it. All day every day. I began to understand that each day that I don’t choose to relapse, I’ve done God’s will, at least in that aspect, for that day. That’s a LOT more than I ever did His will while I was out runnin’ and gunnin’. So that was my starting place.

Not my will, but Thine.

After doing the footwork for a few days, weeks, months, I began to find my joy. I sought out ways to get assistance going to college, and I waited. Some days it was like finding bread crumbs on a white beach. But I knew that if it was God’s will, it would happen, if I didn’t give up. And so it did. I returned to school after over 20 years away, and had a blast learning about the academics of Substance Abuse Counseling. I felt more fulfilled than I could remember feeling in a long time. In fact, I began to comprehend the word serenity!

Joy comes in many different vessels. What will yours look like?  While happiness is fleeting, joy is what lasts.
So, how about you? Have you found your joy, yet? It’s not too late.

Posted from my hut in the forest.