A Border Immersion Experience

A Border Immersion Experience – by Mark Ruch

On a completely different note, I would like to share some information about a ministry I have come to care about immensely – the lives of people living along the border of Mexico and Texas.  I recently participated in a “border immersion experience” in El Paso. The Border Immersion Experience is an opportunity to learn about the issues that affect lives of people living on the border.  The program included:

  • ​Fellowship at El Paso-Ciudad Juárez fence
  • Presentations at various social justice ministries
  • Assisting with After School Program
  • Personal accounts of border life
  • Exposure to Mexican & Mexican-American culture
  • Tour of the detention center in El Paso
  • Tours of colonias (rural settlements) in El Paso and Juarez
  • Visit to ministries in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico
  • Daily processing and Bible Study available
  • Bilingual worship at Cristo Rey – the church which hosted us.

border immersion 1 Iglesia Luterana Cristo Rey (“Christ the King Lutheran Church”) belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  Located in the heart of a low-income Hispanic district in central El Paso, Texas, Cristo Rey ministers to people on both sides of the international border. The worshiping congregation provides an inclusive place for cultures to meet and share their gifts.  The congregation primarily consists of first–generation Mexican immigrants and their families but welcomes people from all backgrounds.

The program was well organized, as they host 10+ of these experiences each year.  The stories, shared from all sides of this complicated issue, were touching and thought provoking.  The food that was fantastic.  And the fellowship and personal growth was priceless.  There were 6 in our group, but they can handle groups up to 12.

I would encourage anyone to step out of your everyday life — out of your comfort zone — and into in-depth, experiential learning and cultural immersion.

border immersionABOUT THIS COLUMN SERIES
The people of our community and our congregation have many needs. Knowledge about how to serve God by caring for ourselves and one another covers many topics. This column will be a weekly series of short articles to provide information and resources that are commonly relevant. Subjects may include addiction, parenting, how to collaborate with medical professionals to get the best health care, what to say and not say to a grieving person, and others.
Authors will vary according to topic. If you would like to write about something you know
about and think others would benefit from, please contact Tana Blair at tanamblair@gmail.com.



Care Ministries at Lord of Life: Some Ways to Reduce Anger

Some Ways to Reduce Anger

If the goal is to reduce anger, there are steps you can take.  Notice the word ‘If.’  There are times when the anger needs to be maintained in order to use the angry energy to accomplish an appropriate goal.

If a company refuses to pay you what they owe, you will need to maintain a calm, polite, and steady pressure on them until they do.  Ultimately, you may even have to bring in law enforcement and lawyers.  This is no small project and will require a great deal of effort.   To remain calm and polite does not mean that there is not significant angry energy needed to sustain the work.

The angry energy must be focused and purposeful in order to be most useful.

Does that mean that you will always do this perfectly?  No.  Even the best of us occasionally gives in to the impulse to retaliate verbally or actively.  It does not serve your cause well when you do, but it does not always completely destroy the process either.

”Slow and steady wins the race,” says the tortoise.  That motto can be your guide.  If you fall off the track, you can regroup and continue on.

Now, what if you wish to reduce your anger?  First, you can AFFIRM YOURSELF.  It can be helpful to remind yourself that you are a good person who has done many useful things and is loved by many people and by God.  It might be good to review some of your better times.

Second, you can ask yourself a question.  “WHAT ELSE DO I FEEL?”  Feelings seldom walk in single file.  They tend to travel in clusters.  Anger is never the first feeling.  Fear comes first.  Anger is a response to a threat.  It can be a threat to your physical safety, self-esteem or reputation.  It can be a threat to your convenience or comfort.  Whatever is at stake, there is fear that some harm will occur.

We cannot fix the anger.  To fix the situation, we must address the thing threatened.  Thus, we need to identify what we are worried about and address that.  It is not always easy to discern where our anger is coming from.  Writing and/or talking about the circumstance can sometimes help us determine why we are so intensely upset.  Perhaps the situation or person reminds us of something from our past about which we have intense unresolved feelings.

 

Third, YOU CAN COME UP WITH FOUR DIFFERENT ALTERNATIVE EXPLANATIONS about the cause of your anger.  If I have a flat tire on the way to work, I can explain it by saying that my husband doesn’t love me.  Because if he did, he would check my tires before I leave for work each day.

I can say that it is my fault, because I can never do anything right.  I can blame the county because they did not fix that pot hole I just drove through.

OR I can remind myself that I can be resourceful and find a solution to this problem. I can use my cell phone to call a roadside service, or I can get out and change the tire.

A friend does not show up for a lunch appointment.  It could mean that she is mad at me.  It could mean that she made an honest mistake and wrote down the wrong date.  It could mean that she is always irresponsible.  It could mean that I am mistaken about the time, place, or date.

I need to remind myself that I just don’t know why she did not come and suspend judgment until I have more information.  Then if I still have reason to be angry, I can let her know.  “I gave up something that I wanted to do in order to meet you for lunch.  I felt disrespected when you did not show up because you changed your mind.”

My boss snaps at me and criticizes my work unfairly.  It could be that he does not like me.  It could mean that he just saw the sales report for this year and that it is even lower than last year meaning that he will not get the bonus he needs to pay for his wife’s surgery.  It could mean that he failed to correct me for a mistake I made a month ago and is still upset with me and with himself that he did not speak up.  It could be that I made a serious mistake that I had not noticed. The point of creating these explanations is that we don’t know what other people are thinking and feeling.  If we make up an explanation, we need to be aware that it is not fact, but fiction.  We need to keep an open mind until we have more information, and even then we probably will not know all that is relevant.  A fourth way to put your anger in perspective is to GENERATE ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS.  There is little to be gained by continuing to dwell on the problem and why it occurred.

Maybe you could use an “I” message.

“I felt hurt and embarrassed when you criticized my work in front of the whole staff.  Please help me understand what you were concerned about.”   If this negative behavior from the boss happens a lot, maybe you could go to human resources or ask for a transfer or look for another job.  You could use the support of friends, deep breathing and meditation to help yourself cope with a situation you cannot change.  You could ask for ideas from other people, not at your workplace, about how you could handle the situation.  You could search for a solution that you are most comfortable with given the limitations of the situation.

These ideas about anger do not cover all the information that is useful for understanding this important and complicated feeling.  There is much more to learn and understand about ourselves and other people.
ABOUT THIS COLUMN SERIES
The people of our community and our congregation have many needs. Knowledge about how to serve God by caring for ourselves and one another covers many topics. This column will be a weekly series of short articles to provide information and resources that are commonly relevant. Subjects may include addiction, parenting, how to collaborate with medical professionals to get the best health care, what to say and not say to a grieving person, and others.
Authors will vary according to topic. If you would like to write about something you know
about and think others would benefit from, please contact Tana Blair at tanamblair@gmail.com.


Care Ministries at Lord of Life: What Can I Do with All This Anger?

angry-old-manWhat Can I Do with All This Anger?

The psychological world used to tell us that we had to get the anger out by yelling, stomping, or tearing things up!  Finally, good sense emerged, and the advice became to utilize the anger in some constructive manner.  That could include confronting someone in a reasonable manner.  It could also mean talking our feelings through with another empathic person.

Shouting is, at times, useful because it gets people’s attention.  If we always shout, people learn to tune our words out and to avoid us or to be afraid of us or both.

Exercise is a good way to expend angry energy while we reflect and work to gain perspective.  Vigorous physical activity reduces anger if we shift at some point from how awful the other person or situation is to the good feelings of physically releasing the tension and energy.

Otherwise, shouting, talking, exercise, writing, etc. becomes rehearsing our anger and increasing it rather than appropriately directing it or reducing it.

Anger can be directed toward the target of our anger, or it can be transformed.  If the cashier at a store is brusque and abrupt, we might feel annoyed.  But if we overhear a co-worker ask him how the funeral went, we might have an entirely different feeling about him.

Writing and drawing or painting about anger and other feelings can reduce their intensity and help develop perspective. These methods can also help us identify the correct target for our anger.  Sometimes, we are unable to identify the source of our anger and either feel angry without knowing why or direct the anger to the wrong target.

“I” Messages

“I” Messages provide a way to confront people without attacking them.  You can express your feelings about a situation without blaming.

The “You messages” that are so common are accusations and attacks.  “You forgot my birthday again! You never remember anything important.”  “You aren’t sensitive to my feelings!”  “You never listen.”

“Your room is a mess.”

Attacks invite counter attacks.  Arguments begin and escalate.

Below are some examples of “I” messages followed by examples of “you” messages.

i_message_sentence_starters“I feel hurt when you compare me with other kids.”  Or  “You always ask me why I can’t be like my sister.   Well, my sister is not always so great!”

“I feel angry when you walk on the clean floor with muddy feet.  I would like for people to wipe their feet outside the door or take off their shoes when they come into the house.”  Or “There you go again with mud all over your shoes – messing up the floor I just mopped.  Don’t you ever think about anybody but yourself?”

“I feel worried when you don’t come home after school and I don’t know where you are.”  Or “You have no consideration for anyone.  You don’t care how much I worry when I don’t know where you are.”

With an “I” message the speaker takes responsibility for her own feelings.  The listener is free to respond responsibly or not.  However, she is more likely to respond rationally to an “I” message because she is not being attacked.

I may feel insulted by a remark made to me when an objective observer may not see the remark as insulting.  Nevertheless, my feelings matter and need to be recognized.  Then, the intent of the speaker can be considered.  With an “I” message, I can express my feelings and have them acknowledged.  Then I can be given information that may change how I feel about the remark or not.

“Hi Honey.  Fred’s wife made the best tasting snacks for the meeting last night.  You should get her recipes.”  “What do you mean criticizing my cooking!  I always get compliments on food that I prepare.” Or  “I feel criticized for my cooking.  That hurts.”  “I did not mean to disparage the food that you make.  I just liked the spreads that she made with Indian spices.”

The formula is “I feel _________ when you ______________ (describe behavior in non-judgmental terms, i. e. no adjectives).

care ministries blog picI could say, “I feel that or like you are inconsiderate.”  That is not a feeling statement.  It is a statement of opinion.  Our culture has the strange idea that to say “I believe,” or “I think” is somehow egotistical; so we say, “I feel that taxes should be cut,” instead of the more accurate and more honest, “I think/believe that taxes should be cut.”  Anytime there is a “like” or “that” after “I feel,” what comes after is definitely not a feeling.

With practice, one can modify the phrasing some so that it is not so stilted.  More information and more examples of “I” messages can be found by Googling “I” messages.
NEXT:  Four Things to Do to Reduce Anger 
ABOUT THIS COLUMN SERIES
The people of our community and our congregation have many needs. Knowledge about how to serve God by caring for ourselves and one another covers many topics. This column will be a weekly series of short articles to provide information and resources that are commonly relevant. Subjects may include addiction, parenting, how to collaborate with medical professionals to get the best health care, what to say and not say to a grieving person, and others.
Authors will vary according to topic. If you would like to write about something you know
about and think others would benefit from, please contact Tana Blair at tanamblair@gmail.com.
 


Care Ministries at Lord of Life: What if the Smoke Alarm Went Off and You Didn’t Know What to Do?

What if the Smoke Alarm Went Off and You Didn’t Know What to Do?

angerWe live in a culture where many people believe that telling someone off or taking revenge is the right thing to do when they feel that they have been wronged.

Too often we don’t know what to do when the anger alarm goes off in our gut.  Sometimes we think that to be angry at all is a sin.  Other times we feel a need to get even.  Frequently, our knowledge of options is limited.

Anger is an essential emotion just as salt is an important nutrient.  With either too much or too little salt, we do not survive.  Anger has several purposes. One of the most important is that it is a warning signal when something is wrong.  The anger does not tell us whether the thing that is wrong is serious or minor.  It just calls our attention to a situation.  We get to assess what it is that is bothering us and how important it is.

A second purpose is that the energy the anger generates can be used to take appropriate action.

Sometimes the smoke alarm goes off when somebody burns the toast.  This would not be a cause to call the fire department.

If the alarm goes off because something is smoldering in the attic, we should not disconnect the alarm or delay making a decision.

If I am feeling annoyed with my children; and I consider why, I may realize that I am just really tired.  All I need to do is back off and allow myself some time to rest and refresh.

If my friend says something that hurts my feelings, it is very important that I take time to think so that I can tell her how her words have affected me.  If I tell her off, or pretend it did not happen, I risk losing her friendship.  If I tell her off, I push her away.  If I pretend it did not bother me, I pull myself away.

It is not easy for me to confront my friend.  I need the energy of my anger to channel my response to appropriate action.

NEXT:  More thoughts about anger and what to do about it.
ABOUT THIS COLUMN SERIES
The people of our community and our congregation have many needs. Knowledge about how to serve God by caring for ourselves and one another covers many topics. This column will be a weekly series of short articles to provide information and resources that are commonly relevant. Subjects may include addiction, parenting, how to collaborate with medical professionals to get the best health care, what to say and not say to a grieving person, and others.
Authors will vary according to topic. If you would like to write about something you know
about and think others would benefit from, please contact Tana Blair at tanamblair@gmail.com.


Care Ministries at Lord of Life: What If Something Very Upsetting Happens?

What If Something Very Upsetting Happens?

ImageUpsetManNearly everyone will experience something extremely stressful and possibly shocking at sometime in their lives.  A loved one dies suddenly, an acrimonious divorce and custody battle, a terrible accident, a difficult and prolonged illness with stressful medical interventions,  an argument and falling out with someone who used to be very close, a tornado, hurricane, domestic violence, rape, child sexual abuse, being robbed at gunpoint, continuous bullying.  These are examples of events that can be very disruptive and disorienting in a person’s life.

Most of the time people recover their sense of themselves and their equilibrium within a few weeks.  In the mean time, they may experience any of a number of possible stress reactions.  Everyone is different.  Some may show several stress reactions and others may seem not to have any.  The important thing is to be aware of NORMAL reactions to a very stressful event so that you don’t become unnecessarily concerned about your welfare.  Sometimes people think that they are going crazy when they are simply having normal human responses.

Below is a list of some of these common symptoms.

EMOTIONAL – Fear, Anxiety, Depression, Sadness, Grief, Feeling hopeless or helpless, Felling numb, Irritability, Inappropriate emotional responses, Anger, Guilt, survivor guilt, survival guilt, Phobias, Denial, Excessive worry about others, Agitation, Feeling overwhelmed.

COGNITIVE THOUGHTS – Confusion, Difficult concentrating and making decisions, Memory problems, Shortened attention span, Overly critical, Preoccupation with the event, Flashbacks, Overly sensitive.

BEHAVIORAL – Social withdrawal/Silence, Hyperalert to environment, hypervigilance, Suspiciousness, Emotional outbursts, loss of control, Changes from typical behavior, Avoiding thoughts, feelings or situations related to the event, Changes in communication, Change in sexual function, Increased consumption or alcohol and/or other drugs.

PHYSICAL – Nausea/Diarrhea, Shallow breathing, Twitches/Tremors, Dizziness/Faintness, Chills/Sweating, Easily startled/Jittery, Fatigue, Changes in appetite, Sleep disturbances and nightmares, Headaches, Grinding teeth, Feeling uncoordinated.

Of course, you may have some of these symptoms unrelated to a critically stressful event or circumstance.

If you have some of these stress responses after a critical incident, they should subside within about 4 weeks after the event.  If they continue beyond that, it would be a good idea to visit your friendly neighborhood psychotherapist.  Typically, all that is required at that point is to talk it through some more.  However, sometimes people can develop an adjustment disorder, acute stress disorder, or even PTSD.  That can often be prevented with good mental hygiene.

Good mental hygiene involves the following suggestions.

If there are thoughts, images, smells that are uncomfortable and won’t go away, the quickest way to detoxify them is to talk about them in great detail.  Pick someone who will let you talk and not try to “protect” you by changing the subject or cutting you off too quickly with assurances.  Some people are trainable.  You can tell them that you don’t need them to fix your situation.  You would just like them to listen and try to understand how you are feeling.

If the person you are confiding in cannot let you talk, move on to someone who is better able.  People need to tell the story and how they are thinking and feeling about it as many times as they need to.  If you put a pencil mark on a piece of paper and want to erase it, you don’t just make one pass with the eraser.  You rub the eraser back and forth as many times as you need to in order to remove all of the marks.

woman-upset-136038_w650You can also help yourself by writing your thoughts and feelings – or drawing about them. Singing and dancing can express your experience too.   The important thing is to get the ideas and pictures out of your head.  Spelling, grammar, and talent don’t count when you are trying to process experience with these methods.

Sometimes people think that the best way to deal with these unpleasant thoughts is to not think about them.  WRONG!  If you push them back, you will have to continue pushing them back for a very long time – probably the rest of your life.  It takes an enormous amount of energy to not think about things.  You will end up with rocks in your gut that never go away.

You are in charge of when and how you deal with these things.  You can pace things according to your ability to manage them.  You decide with whom, where, and when you will process the experience.  Just don’t wait too long.

It can be helpful to choose a time each day when you will think about the disturbing experience for a defined period of time e. g. 10 or 15 minutes.  If you do that, the thoughts may not push in as much throughout the rest of your day, and your subconscious mind will have an opportunity to sift and sort through all the aspects of the experience to figure out what it means in your overall understanding of yourself and your world.

Alcohol is for the good times.  It is a depressant.  You may numb the bad feelings for a short time and then experience them even more acutely with an greater sense of hopelessness and helplessness a couple of hours later.  Be kind to yourself.  Save the drinking for a better time.  That goes for other drugs as well.

Exercise helps dissipate the stress chemicals in your mind-body.  Plan to engage in vigorous, cardiac intensive exercise as soon as you can after an upsetting event and continue it regularly.  Running, fast walking, swimming, biking are all good exercises.  Lifting weights is helpful, but does not give you the same circulatory boost.

Eating healthy gives your body the strength to deal with the stress.  Go easy on the junk food and eat fruits and vegetables along with dairy, whole grains and lean proteins.

You may need more rest than usual for a while.  Adults need a minimum of 7 hours of sleep a night.  Some people require more.

It is OK to distract yourself some of the time so long as you don’t use distraction to avoid processing.

If the traumatic experience is very severe and hangs on without abatement, there is a trauma treatment technique that may be able to transform it with considerable efficiency.  It is called EMDR and requires a psychotherapist trained in that technique.  If you want to look it up on the internet, look up EMDR-IA which is the international association.  There will be a little bit of literature about it.  Then you can look at other sites.  Some will say it is wonderful and others will say it is not.

People do not need to restrict their lives after an accident or other trauma to avoid reminders of the bad time.  EMDR, in many cases, has the power to neutralize toxic memories.

Knowledge of typical responses to really bad events will help you comfort others who have traumatic experiences.  You will be able to assure them that many of the things they may be experiencing are the result of their healthy autonomic nervous system’s acute stress response (also known as ‘fight or flight’).
ABOUT THIS COLUMN SERIES
The people of our community and our congregation have many needs. Knowledge about how to serve God by caring for ourselves and one another covers many topics. This column will be a weekly series of short articles to provide information and resources that are commonly relevant. Subjects may include addiction, parenting, how to collaborate with medical professionals to get the best health care, what to say and not say to a grieving person, and others.
Authors will vary according to topic. If you would like to write about something you know
about and think others would benefit from, please contact Tana Blair at tanamblair@gmail.com.


Care Ministries at Lord of Life: How to Get Your Child to Eat Vegetables

How to Get Your Child to Eat Vegetables

Very young children are able to regulate themselves about when they are hungry and how much they need to eat.  This ability continues throughout their lifetime if not interfered with.  Well-meaning parents who try to make their children clean their plates whether they are hungry or not or who insist that they eat certain foods, unintentionally cause children to lose their ability to listen to their own bodies.

Furthermore, if there is pressure to eat certain foods and not eat certain other foods, the child often grows up to hate and avoid the forced foods and to overvalue and overeat the forbidden foods.

To have children who eat a variety of foods and attend to their bodily cues when they have had enough, don’t interfere.  If children are offered a healthy variety of food and allowed to decide what they will eat and how much, healthy eating habits will develop.

Growing children go through stages.  There are times when they seem to have bottomless stomachs. (If you want to keep your grocery bill down, don’t let them sign up for cross country track or swim team.)  At various times in their development such as around three years old, their appetites may be less for a time.  It is not because they are sick or rebellious.  They simply do not need as much food then.  Offer food, but let them decide how much they need.

If you, as the parent, eat a variety of foods including fruits and vegetables, your children will too.  The less you say about food you don’t like or that children say they don’t like, the better. 

Children sometimes become picky eaters because it is rewarded with a lot of special attention.  What they like and don’t like is not a subject for discussion. 

Unnecessary power struggles can develop when parents try to control what a child eats at a meal.

Family meals are prepared by parents with an eye to balance and health.  They are offered.  If the child chooses not to eat certain items – so be it. Do not beg, cajole, or threaten. Ignore.  It may take months or even years for children to eat and enjoy some foods.   If the parents eat a lot of different foods, eventually the child will too.

Nobody likes everything, but most children who have parents who model healthy eating and present healthy choices will eventually eat most of the foods offered.  You might try to have at least one item that you know a child likes at each meal.  If the child chooses not to eat a certain meal because she doesn’t like it or is not hungry, don’t jump up and become a short-order cook.  Dinner is what is set on the table.  The child can make herself a peanut butter sandwich if she doesn’t want what is offered.  No heroic efforts should be made to make something special for her.  Be aware that she may protest by eating the peanut butter sandwich every night for more nights than you think you can tolerate.  If you don’t react, she will eventually get bored with the rebellion because you are not giving her anything to rebel against.

Discreetly, (never within earshot of the child) seek support from other adults who understand what you are trying to do.  You cannot get permission from the child to set necessary limits for him.

If bad habits around food have already evolved, force will not correct them.

There are a number of things parents can do to try to correct bad food habits.

Have the kids help prepare meals.  Probably they will be more likely in the beginning to help with a meal that you know they like.  Even young children can slice bananas, stir pudding, wash vegetables, and more.

Get them involved in the grocery shopping – picking out the best produce or locating a certain item.

Help the children plant a small vegetable garden.  If space is limited, you can raise a tomato plant in a 5 gallon bucket.  Two or Three bean plants or a few radishes are sufficient to produce some enthusiasm

Take the kids to a community garden or to visit a farm.

When they become involved in making meals, choosing some dishes and learning where food comes from, they may be more open to trying new things.

There are many good suggestions online to help picky eaters.

The main thing is to offer healthy food and refuse to fix different foods to accommodate pickiness.  Refuse to discuss food preferences.  Keep a light and pleasant attitude.  The kids won’t starve, though they may want you to believe that they will.   Calmly wait out their determined efforts to make you cave in.  The ordeal will last at least 30 minutes longer than you think you can stand it for another minute. 

When they finally begin to eat what is presented, make no comment.  Just serve them what they request from the dinner you have made.  If you gloat over your victory, you will lose quickly.  You can celebrate discreetly with your spouse and adult friends later.

ABOUT THIS COLUMN SERIES

The people of our community and our congregation have many needs. Knowledge about how to serve God by caring for ourselves and one another covers many topics. This column will be a weekly series of short articles to provide information and resources that are commonly relevant. Subjects may include addiction, parenting, how to collaborate with medical professionals to get the best health care, what to say and not say to a grieving person, and others.
Authors will vary according to topic. If you would like to write about something you know
about and think others would benefit from, please contact Tana Blair at tanamblair@gmail.com.



Care Ministries at Lord of Life – Say a Prayer for Me

Say A Prayer for Me  by Sandy DeSelms

 

As a retiree, I got the pleasure of watching the Pope’s visit to America on TV.  Yes, I went to Mass daily, I heard some glorious music, I prayed, I watched the pageantry evolve at each stop.  But as I think back about why I watched, it was because I couldn’t look the other way, or push that off button.  I was totally enthralled with what was going on.  I saw love, unselfish love, expressed in every way.  Pope Francis said to pray for him, and I did.  (While I was at it, I also said a prayer for Pastors Gary and Jennifer.)  He said to pray for the sick and handicapped, and I did that too, as I know a few who could use my prayers.  I watched how diligently he loved the children, in such little ways, and I’ve tried to do the same. That pat on the head, the smile on his face and the twinkle in his eye said it all. Best of all, there should be no shouting in families. Pure love! Sitting there on my sofa watching him work so hard, I got tired.  He had to be tired, too.  But he seemed to gain strength through what he did.

I have been blessed by a former Pope, twice; but I did not feel any excitement about it.  This Pope is different.  He kept talking about and showing the love that I think Christians should show and be. As the leader of the Catholic Church World Wide, I was proud to see my Christian faith displayed throughout.  Even though we differ in many ways, he is exposing Christianity to the world in a way that I respect.  I consider myself a Reformed Catholic — we call that  Lutheranism. As Christians, we all need to work together more.   I believe firmly in the words of the hymn, “One Bread, one body, one Lord of all; one cup of blessing which we bless, and we, though many throughout the earth, we are one body in this one Lord. Gentile or Jew, servant or free, woman or man, no more.”  John Foley,

On Saturday, while I was watching, a friend from out of state whom I had spent time with recently, called to tell me her plight.  She sees a specialist this week to determine for sure if she needs a surgery that would require up to 6 weeks of immobility. She’s struggling with this.  She has no one who can help her, her mother is 95, and she is struggling with how to get through this.  She had already told me the positive feelings she had toward the Pope’s visit (and  she comes from a Jewish family).  I found myself saying to her that she needs to adopt the Pope’s request and say to her friends “Pray for me, please.”  She hesitated, and then she agreed, we don’t always ask for what we need from our friends.  We choose to worry and fret over things we cannot control.
I think this is a good lesson for all of us.  Ask for prayers when we need them.  Spend more time in prayer for others (as well as ourselves).  Involve others in our struggles, particularly our church and Christians friends who will say a prayer.  Please, remember our retirees in your prayers. Retirees, praying for others is a good way to stay involved In the daily lives of those around you. Develop your prayer life. And say a prayer for me, PLEASE!



Care Ministries Addiction Series: PAWS Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

PAWS Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

After the initial withdrawal period in which a person may experience a number of physical withdrawal symptoms, there is another post acute withdrawal stage.  Every person is different and may experience the acute withdrawal in his own unique way.  However, with post acute withdrawal, most people have some emotional, neurological, and psychological symptoms and the symptoms are pretty much the same for everyone.

The PAWS symptoms usually last only a few days and are the result of your brain working to rebalance the brain chemicals.  These periods of PAWS can last intermittently up to 2 years.

Post-Acute-Withdrawal-Syndrome-SymptomsThe symptoms are mood swings with emotional volatility, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, high and low energy, loss of interest, difficulty concentrating, problems with short term memory, clumsiness, and sleep disturbance.  It is important to be prepared with knowledge of PAWS so that the sobriety program does not get derailed with unrealistic expectations of a continuously smooth recovery.

A good support group of other people in recovery is a help during these symptomatic times.  People not in recovery are not likely to understand these extremes of behavior that seem to come out of the blue.

CAN PEOPLE GET AND STAY SOBER WITHOUT 12 STEP PROGRAMS?

Yes.  People do end their addictions without 12 step programs.  Sometimes a spiritual experience breaks through their denial and leads them to clean up their lives and live sober.  The caution here is that some people use talk about spirituality to avoid actually making any changes. Furthermore, interacting with others who have had active addictions can be especially helpful.  Non-addicts don’t really understand the dynamics of addiction and cannot offer the understanding that can be healing.

Simply ending the use of alcohol or other drugs by itself is better than continuing, but is not sufficient for a quality sobriety.  Remember the “dry drunk.”

There are other support groups to deal with addictions.  Information about several different groups can be found on the net.  Smart Recovery is one.  There are certain characteristics that best support entering into recovery.

Positive, supportive connections with other people are important.  Supporting an addict’s self-respect while encouraging a responsible approach to repairing whatever damage from the abuse can be repaired is needed.  Accepting continued vulnerability to relapse would be important.  Reaching outside of self is critical.  Building a positive life with positive goals helps.  You can’t build a life around NOT doing something.  The primary goals have to be on developing a satisfying and productive life without chemicals.

A Final Thought

A very high percentage of accidents, crimes, health problems, relationship problems, and productivity problems are caused or escalated by substance abuse and chemical dependency.  As a society we have practiced denial by minimizing, rationalizing, and ignoring the problem.  When we sincerely try to help we often do things out of ignorance that exacerbate the situation.  WE NEED TO EDUCATE OURSELVES AND WE NEED TO LOOK AT THE ATTITUDES WE PROMOTE.  Even G rated movies present drunkenness as funny.  It’s not.
If you or someone you love is struggling, seek help or contact our pastors at Lord of Life.
ABOUT THIS COLUMN SERIES
The people of our community and our congregation have many needs. Knowledge about how to serve God by caring for ourselves and one another covers many topics. This column will be a weekly series of short articles to provide information and resources that are commonly relevant. The first topic will be chemical dependency and continue for several weeks. Other subjects may include parenting, how to collaborate with medical professionals to get the best health care, what to say and not say to a grieving person, and others.
Authors will vary according to topic. If you would like to write about something you know
about and think others would benefit from, please contact Tana Blair at tanamblair@gmail.com.


Care Ministries at Lord of Life – Understanding Addiction

AA meetingTreatment, Detoxification, Recovery, and Relapse Part I

A person who understands that she has an addiction and that it is causing damage in her life, can often get sober through a 12 step program without having to go to rehab.  Guidelines for success in a 12 step program as the only treatment for chemical dependency include attendance at meetings at a minimum of 3 to 5 meetings a week.  Ninety meetings in 90 days is preferable.  In the greater Houston Area there is an AA meeting almost every hour of every day.

If alcohol is not the main drug of choice, then NA (Narcotics Anonymous) may be the better choice.  There is only one disease of addiction, but there are a few minor differences in the populations of the different drug abusers so that a specific 12 step meeting has some advantages.

The next step would be to acquire and read the AA Big Book the actual title of which is Alcoholics Anonymous.  It is called the Big Book because it was originally printed on cheap thick paper which made it about 2 to 3 inches thick.  The Big Book was written in the 1930s and is written on a 6th grade level.  The language is somewhat quaint because of the time period it was written in.  It explains how AA got started, how the 12 steps work, and gives stories of recovery.

NA and CA (Cocaine Anonymous) and other 12 step groups have their own “Big Books.”  All of them started out using the Big Book of AA.

At meetings, the new person will do well to get the names and phone numbers of several people with a year or more of sobriety.  Then, if abstinence from alcohol, or other drugs begins to feel difficult or if life itself begins to feel difficult, or if there are stresses small and large, calling one or more of those numbers would be helpful.  One does not have to be craving the chemical or thinking about drinking.  Learning to reach out to another human being simply to report ordinary stresses is an antidote for addiction.  If there is overt craving or thinking about using, the call is even more important.  People in the program are far more helpful than those who are not.  Non-addicts do not understand the disease or recovery and will often fail to recognize important signs.

Healthy people share their burdens with other, trusted people, and their stresses are lessened.  They may also talk to God which is a way of sharing burdens.  However, God wants us to give and receive support from one another as well.

Soon after beginning to attend meetings, a person needs to get a sponsor.  At meetings look for someone of the same gender whose sobriety you admire and who has more than a year in the program.  You can ask that person to be your temporary sponsor while you become more familiar with the program.  In this way, neither of you is committed for the long term, and you both have a chance to determine whether the two of you will make a good match.  You, very well, may find someone who is an even better fit after you have been in the program for a while.

A sponsor will guide you through the 12 steps and will be available to talk with you whenever you are facing something stressful. The sponsor will help you decide how to manage pain medications if you have dental work done or surgery.  Sobriety is abstinence from all mind altering substances.  Thus, any prescription or even over the counter medication that has mind influencing qualities needs to be monitored closely —  preferably with someone other than the person taking it.  To deny the need for this is to deny the power of the disease which is a major risk for relapse.

hope_callAA has open and closed meetings.  Anyone is welcome at open meetings.  Only people willing to say that they are alcoholics are welcome at closed meetings.  Spouses, other family, and friends may attend open meetings with the chemically dependent person or by themselves.  Such attendance helps the chemically dependent person’s important people better understand the disease and the program.  However, it is important for chemically dependent people to attend most meetings without family or friends so that they are free to concentrate on themselves and their recovery.

There are 4 kinds of AA meetings.  There is a general discussion meeting in which a chair selects a topic with the help of the group and facilitates sharing around that topic.  No one is required to speak.  If called on, one may simply say that s/he passes or is just there to listen. The meeting opens with the Serenity Prayer [God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference].  It closes with all in a circle holding hands and reciting the Lord’s Prayer.  At some time during the meeting a basket is passed around for donations.  The money is used to pay for the facility being used.  If you have a dollar, put it in.  If not, don’t.

aa logoThere are Big Book Studies in which one part of the book is the focus of the sharing.

Speaker meetings present a person who tells her story – what it was like when she was using, how she got sober, and what her life is like now.  It can be helpful for both the chemically dependent person and his family and friends to attend speaker meetings.  It can help clarify the ways that the addiction has influenced the behavior of the addicted person.  There are many very competent, responsible, and respectable people in 12 step programs.  When they were active in their disease many have acted in ways that were not competent, responsible, or respectable.

It is important to separate the person from the disease.  In the course of their disease, chemically dependent people may do bad things.  They, as persons, are not bad.  That does not mean that they have no responsibility for their behavior.  A robber still goes to jail even if he was in the throes of his addiction at the time of the robbery.  Yet, his value as a human being is not diminished, and in recovery, he may return to more desirable behaviors.

Regularly, each AA group has birthday meetings.  A person who has achieved a year or more years of sobriety is awarded a chip representing the number of years of sobriety.  People often invite family and friends to this celebration of sobriety.  It is a very happy time.

A lot of people don’t know that AA has dances, picnics, weekend retreats, holiday dinners, and other events.  It is truly an enviable fellowship in which a person can go anywhere in the world and immediately be accepted as a member of the group.

CAUTION!  A person who has been drinking heavily for a considerable length of time may need medically supervised detoxification before other treatment.  Such a person can die from withdrawal.  It takes a week to 10 days to detox from alcohol.  After that, if abstinence is maintained, the body and nervous system will continue to heal and repair for a year and longer.

To find 12 step meetings, Google AA (Alcoholic Anonymous), NA (Narcotics Anonymous), Al-Anon (a 12 step meeting for friends and family of an addict), or other addiction support groups.  You may also find all of these by calling information or looking in the telephone book.

For information about treatment programs, call The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston which has been rebranded as The Council on Recovery at (713) 942-4100. Some health insurance policies pay for treatment.

Next:  Treatment, Detoxification, Recovery, and Relapse Part II
If you or someone you love is struggling, seek help or contact our pastors at Lord of Life.
ABOUT THIS COLUMN SERIES
The people of our community and our congregation have many needs. Knowledge about how to serve God by caring for ourselves and one another covers many topics. This column will be a weekly series of short articles to provide information and resources that are commonly relevant. The first topic will be chemical dependency and continue for several weeks. Other subjects may include parenting, how to collaborate with medical professionals to get the best health care, what to say and not say to a grieving person, and others.
Authors will vary according to topic. If you would like to write about something you know
about and think others would benefit from, please contact Tana Blair at tanamblair@gmail.com.


Care Ministries at Lord of Life – Understanding Addiction

Special Populations:  Teens    Women   Elderly

Assessment of chemical dependency in adolescents and children is complex and needs to be done by a professional with chemical dependency training and extensive experience working with you people of that age.  It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a kid who is experimenting with and abusing chemicals and one who is addicted.  Many young people take a terrible chance with their health and safety by abusing substances in their youth, but wise up when they get older and quit substance abuse.

Parents who are concerned about a young person’s behavior and use of chemicals can call PDAP and make an appointment with one of the counselors to consult about their kid.  These counselors have a lot of experience with the adolescent drug scene and can be very helpful. Also, it can be helpful to attend some of the PDAP parent meetings.  Palmer Drug Abuse Program is a 12 step program for teens that meets regularly.  281.528.7908  It is always efficient to learn from other people’s experiences rather than having to go through it all yourself.

Women have special needs in chemical dependency treatment.  They experience an even greater stigma from society for their disease.  They often have primary care of children and need treatment settings where they can have their children near them.  They may carry heavy loads of guilt because of the effect of their substance abuse on their children before and after they are born.  Because of societal training to be caretakers of men, they progress better in all women treatment groups.  Also, they frequently have histories of sexual abuse and family violence that they deal with most effectively in all women groups.

Elderly People with chemical dependency can get sober too.  The idea that they should just be left alone to drink/drug in peace does not acknowledge that no one experiences peace in chemical dependency.  They experience depression, self-hated, isolation, and do not feel well physically.
care ministries addiction d
If you or someone you love is struggling, seek help or contact our pastors at Lord of Life.
ABOUT THIS COLUMN SERIES
The people of our community and our congregation have many needs. Knowledge about how to serve God by caring for ourselves and one another covers many topics. This column will be a weekly series of short articles to provide information and resources that are commonly relevant. The first topic will be chemical dependency and continue for several weeks. Other subjects may include parenting, how to collaborate with medical professionals to get the best health care, what to say and not say to a grieving person, and others.
Authors will vary according to topic. If you would like to write about something you know
about and think others would benefit from, please contact Tana Blair at tanamblair@gmail.com.

To find 12 step meetings, Google AA (Alcoholic Anonymous), NA (Narcotics Anonymous), Al-Anon (a 12 step meeting for friends and family of an addict), or other addiction support groups.  You may also find all of these by calling information or looking in the telephone book.

For information about treatment programs, call The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston which has been rebranded as The Council on Recovery at (713) 942-4100. Some health insurance policies pay for treatment.

NextWeek:  Treatment, Detoxification, Recovery, and Relapse