Chapter 11: Meds

 

I’m holding my son in the NICU.  I put him here, my drug abuse put him here.

***

Dear Atticus,

I am so sorry that I forgot.  Forgot about my divinity and perfection and worth, and therefore forgot about yours, too.  If I could do it all over again I would fight harder to ween off all the meds, I would go to counseling and finally show up on those sofas instead of manipulate the therapists for my gain.  I would reconnect with all my sisters and friends who helped hold me accountable and challenged me to Love well.

Who needs a friend when I’ve got oxy?  And Adderall? And Attivan? And Cymbalta?  And Ambien?  And Lyrica?  

Buddy, I was wounded, not wicked. (When you are old and wise you will come to learn that all evil is just unaddressed wounding.  Nobody is wicked, because God called our clay Good in the Garden).  They ripped me open to rip you out, and I think maybe something else tore apart, too.

For two weeks you laid in your plastic bassinet, healing and spending time with Jesus and nurses who didn’t trust me.  They called social services on us because babies who end up in those hospital rooms usually grew inside a mama who injects heroin.  Social services never came though because the nurses learned that my medications were prescribed by doctors, not drug dealers.

Once your caretakers witnessed my diaper-doing skills they stood down and let me close to you.  I wanted to be close to you always, but your sisters needed me at home, and our world was exploding.  Grandma held you under her shirt with your cords dangling out the bottom of her hem.

I need a NICU.  Where can I go to ween off the meds and rest with Jesus and nurses?  
Rehab.

So I left you again, this time for rehab, spending my nights in the Shake Shack.  No babe, that’s not where one goes to slurp down a paper cup full of blended mint ice cream.  In the Shake Shack you shake night after night while the chemicals slowly melt away from the heat of the fevers you spike.  In the Shake Shack angry Alaskan women who smell like kimchi threaten to punch you in the face if you turn on the lamp at 6:30am again.

If, by the time you are reading this, you have not been to rehab—you should go.  Because you won’t find a safer space to exhale, a more perfect place to be human.  Rehab is what Jesus wants the Church to look like.

The 12-steps are the only path I know of to true love, acceptance, contentment, and enlightenment.  That’s why Daddy and I teach them to you kids at the dinner table and on holidays and in the car on the way to school.  Because we are all addicts, we all want to feel better, and we will regurgitate any lie to keep us comfy.

Atticus, pain will stay a close companion, just like the blue stuffed elephant velcroed to your shirt.  Hard always rolls in before the Good.  The difference between recovering humans and not-yet-recovering humans is this:  Love.

People who have been brave enough to fail miserably and beg for God’s help understand the Gospel—understand Love—in ways others cannot.  Please don’t try to be perfect (but also please stop peeing on the wall).  Your dad and I just want you to ask for help, whenever you need it.  The Good News is that God doesn’t need you to be anyone else, okay?

The Good News is settling into the fact that God takes you AS YOU ARE and that God loves you AS YOU ARE.  The longer you marinate in that, the more you’ll taste like Jesus, who loves people AS THEY ARE

Repeat after me:  I can’t fuck it up.

Good job!  Son, you cannot fuck it up—ever.  Neither can anyone else.  You’re a human, and God adores humans.

When I recall the two weeks you spent in the NICU, shame, guilt, and darkness rush over to me and start painting my body black.  Because doesn’t putting you in the NICU mean I fucked it all up?  Most people stop drinking and taking drugs when they find out they are pregnant.

But your mama decided to increase the quantities of both, because they said I wasn’t able to have another baby, and my body needed time to heal, and I was consumed with fear about my pain increasing as you grew inside.  I forgot about the God of your Aunt Ellen, the God of Joshua and Mother Teresa and U2.

The doctors didn’t warn me about the pain that bone marrow transplants cause.  I wish I could’ve done it differently—but I am not ashamed.  Perfect Love drives away all those demonic artists who try to cover me in my darkest moments.

Wounded, not wicked.

The good news for you is that I doubt you’ll ever reach the levels of woundedness that I did, which means you probably won’t reach the levels of fuck-uppery that I did.  Even if you did I promise you that God’s love for you has nothing to do with any amount of debt, unplanned pregnancies, or even murders.

Let’s not murder though.

This is by no means a charge to go and shatter Shalom, to undo the perfect peace God is co-creating with us.  No, we are to love God, ourselves, others, justice, and mercy.  Grace is the safety net.  It’s is the swoop of a mama eagle rescuing her chick from the cliffs below.

It isn’t until one feels fully safe & loved that one can dare to live, serve, and cultivate something lasting with God.  Christians have forgotten that loving thy neighbor does not imply a sanitary scrubbing of one’s humanity before a seat at the dinner table is offered.  Other peoples’ lives are other peoples’ lives.  Let’s stick to spaghetti and meatballs and leave all our projections and judgments on the front porch.

Atticus, you saved me.  You tore apart decades of scar tissue the way no number of failed relationships, prescription slips, or prayer could.  Bucket loads of necessary death followed your birth, thank you for revealing all my fear & rage, my decay.

I see you with Jesus before your arrival, he is explaining the mission—your mission—should you choose to accept.  You, in all your justice-seeking glory, nod and even agree to take me as your Mama.  Thank you for your fire, your voice, and your golden baby hair.  Thank you for adoring me & all my humanity, for now.

I love you AS YOU ARE.

-Mama

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Bed Test

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This is a picture of my bed.  Don’t be fooled by the big down pillow and the crisp white sheets, because for 3 1/2 days last week it was a hellish place, a dungeon of healing and “rest.”  Long story short, I have back problems, like many of us do.  This time though, the usual tricks didn’t work and for more than 72 hours this was my station.  This post is partially dedicated to everyone who has ever been on bed rest for any extended amount of time,  God bless you.

We know that Claire has been through a LOT, physically.  I have a ripe perspective on pain, immobility, and anything having to do with broken bodies.  This, though, this tested me, guys.  After everything I’ve been though, bed rest got me in a way I didn’t see coming.  For three nights I cried myself to sleep, listening to hymns and David reading me scriptures including the words “do not be afraid.”  I had no idea when it would get better, when David could go back to work, when the kids would be able to see their mom walk, when I could tidy and clean, shower, get dressed, DO LIFE.  Imagine how triggering this would be for me, for everyone in our family.  Oh no, Claire/Mama is using the cane again, she is broken, we are all broken and doomed.  For the first time I really wanted Oxy, because I knew it could take the pain away— inside and out.  I knew it could get me away from real-life bed and into a bed with…Oxy.  When people feel afraid, we also get angry.  Enter anger.

The first night, as I felt the spiral approach, I resourced.  Resourcing is a meditation technique my beloved therapist taught me, used to help relieve the stressors and triggers that get me in angry, fearful tizzy fits.  After excusing myself to my bedroom, I breathe until I am fully present.  Then I ask God where I need to be.  Then I go there.  I don’t know how else to explain it; now you probably think I am nuts.  But it’s as real a travel as getting in the car and driving to the park or the market.  It’s not a dream, it’s not sleep, I can still hear what’s going on outside my old, wooden door.  But when I come out of it, I am new and different, looking like I just woke up from a 3-hour-long nap.  Email me if you have questions—I highly recommend it for mindfulness and a balanced, centered emotional state.

Lately, my resources have taken me to Eden.  I float in to Eden on the Still Waters mentioned in Ps. 23.  I get out and sit on the soft, sweet-smelling grass lining the Waters, and I wait.  I wait for a Lion, or a Lamb, or Jesus, or whatever else God knows I need to interact with in that moment.  This time though, as I floated in, my back hurt too much to even sit up, let alone get out and onto the river bank.  Jesus was there waiting for me.

“What the heck!?”  I said (though using stronger language), motioning to my broken bits.  “What is the point of this?  Why did this happen, during Halloween, during a work week, at all?!  Why did…”  His face changed a bit, like maybe I needed to pipe down, and His arm lifted to his waist, His hand making a “settle down” gesture.

“Sweetie, knowing the answer to that question won’t help you.”

“Okay then,” I replied, “What can I do to FIX THIS!?”

“Still not the words I can respond to.  It wouldn’t help you, knowing how to fix it.  I mean, it would, but fixing your back isn’t fixing your heart.  It doesn’t matter if your back heals up but your heart and soul go untouched.”  I rolled my eyes.  I rolled my eyes at Jesus.

Tears began trickling and soon I sobbed, my waters mixing with Eden’s—with His.  “Help me.  Please help me…”  He nodded and shed tears, too.

HELP ME, the battlecry of the broken human, the broken Mama.  Not why or what, but HELP.  I clung to this Word every moment of those 3 days, and they comforted; they reminded me that I have a Helper, a Healer, even. When I voiced and breathed them I remembered Jesus there at those Still Waters with me, shedding the same pained tears I shed.  Immediately I sensed the trickle of the river I rested in, it calmed me.  He made me believe it would all somehow be okay, that someday, at some point, I would walk again.  That I would step out of bed, leaping into Life and all it’s goodness again.  I had hope.

Am I all healed up now?  No, I’m writing this in a very odd position on the sofa.  It’ll be hard for the rest of pregnancy, for the rest of my earthly life.  We all have something like that, a thorn.  Or lots of thorns, sometimes I feel like I have lots of thorns.  But my time in that down-comforted dungeon got me thinking about something else…

Lucy is phasing out of naps, but she still really needs them because she wakes up so early in the morning.  David and I figured out that if we set a timer, if she knows for sure we set a timer (like, hears us telling Siri to “set a timer for one hour”) then she falls asleep—no biggie.  If we don’t, she fights naps in my bed just as fiercely as I fought my days of Bed Test (I’ve coined the term bed test instead of bed rest, because those days were anything but restful).  The timer is her little “help me.”  It’s her way of knowing that there is an end in sight, her hope of one day leaping into her exciting Life again.  It’s her safety net when she feels the spiraling and fear begin.  Just like her mama, she doesn’t want to be stuck in bed forever.

Maybe we all need a safety net.  What are the words you need to hear in order for you to believe that there is a Love Force, a God, out there bigger than anything we could dream up?  What would it take for you to ask for help, a net, to ask for a timer?  Do you believe that God is crying with you?  Do you want Healing?  Do you want Peace?  Do you want freedom from the darkness that keeps you in those dungeons?  Do you want to leap into Life again?  There isn’t always an answer to why.  There isn’t always an answer to what.  But we can always ask for help.  Every day I pray I am broken and brave and raw and real enough to ask for help.  Every day I want to beg God for the timers and the nets and the help to make it through the sufferings and glories of this life.  Every day I want help dressing the wounds all my thorns create.

Simply asking for help comforted me enough to quiet the stirring, exhausting fears in me.  I had to get angry, be angry, and roll my eyes at Jesus first, but then His loving challenge to dig deeper got me to the nugget, the Truth, the core.  Presence and mindfulness are at my fingertips, even when I am in incredible pain, if I would only ask for help, ask for hope.  Every single day, I need help.  So I must keep asking for help from the one true Helper, and from all you human helpers.

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It all started…

It all started last summer, when in the throes of my spiral downward, I felt Him say, “It’s in the journals.”  But why and how could God communicate to a wicked, drug-abusing woman like me?  The excited flutter flew away as I rationalized, created fears around the Word, and then eventually dosed up again.  Who needs the Words of God when you have oxy…

Then a literal ton of shit hit an enormous fan, and while I regained clarity after a few days in rehab I remembered, “It’s in the journals.”  You see, I’ve been journaling since I was eight.  My earliest entry is in 1996, I think.  And the longest stretch I’ve gone without journaling is no more than 2 weeks.  That means that it’s all written down already.  Which is great, because the PTSD I have makes remembering it all chronologically and accurately nearly impossible.  So I left rehab, entered an outpatient program, and then started intensive therapy.  Occasionally it would come up again, but I had no clue what He wanted done with them, the dozens and dozens of tomes in plastic bins in my musty basement.

Things started to shift a few months ago, when a speaker at a women’s faith conference I attended reminded me of the call of the Joshua: “Be strong and courageous.”  It was all I needed.  Once I started entering the fears I had around the power of the pages I’ve written, I got the next Word.  “Buy a scanner.”  God bless the *Enneagram 6 husband I married, because when I rushed through the front door after the second day of the conference and said, “we need to buy a scanner!” he responded with a handful of questions to determine the type of scanner we would need to purchase to get the job done.  It arrived in the mail a few weeks later, and it sat in the musty basement for at least a month.  Until I heard the third Word, “start scanning.”

To tell someone with my past to not only pull out all those journals, but OPEN THEM, to not only open them but READ THEM, to not only read them but SCAN THEM!?  Gnarly.  Those pages hold things I never wanted to remember:  What my dying 14-year-old sister said to me when we put on her first diaper.  How my biological father, who I had just begun to trust again, responded when he declined an invitation to my 6th grade graduation.  My mom spanking me with a belt until I was 14, and how ashamed I was because of it.  What I did to myself that required over 30 stitches in my left wrist, in an attempt to get to the sister I had just lost.  The medicine I stole from David.  The abuse I hurled at my children.  At myself… “Be strong and courageous.”  So I started scanning, and I kept writing.

Meanwhile, after seven months of intensive therapy my counselor said that just several layers remained until I was as defenseless as I could ever be.  The closer I got to those the more I realized what was going on in God’s heart and mind…  The journals are for the world, not for the plastic bins in the musty basement.  But I don’t write, I draw.  How does one even get a book written?  What if You’re right Abba, and this is a big deal?  How could I shamelessly market myself?  How will I love my family and friends well?  Jesus, You of all people know how out of control my ego can get, how proud I am.  I can’t let that lion out of the cage just when I’m starting to get a handle on it!  

“Shh… Sweet, sweet Claire, I am The Lion Tamer!  Be Strong and Courageous, Sweetie”

That’s when Paul Young, author of The Shack, showed up to speak at church one Sunday.  “Those first 15 copies I printed at Office Depot did all I ever wanted that book to do,” Young explained.  All I (Claire) ever wanted was for my children to know that their God is GOOD, all the time.

my sister Ellen.  The bravest person I know.
My sister Ellen. The bravest person I know.

It was a gift my sister Ellen gave me, her hope and faith.  That even if one has brain matter bulging out the back of one’s neck, it is possible to sing love songs to the One allowing it, or causing it… Just like Ellen I didn’t lose faith, and I never stopped begging for better.  If my children could know and believe that no matter what happens, all they have to do is keep hoping and keep loving, then I have fulfilled my purpose.   It was like he was reading my heart and my mind.  Then he went a step further.

He spoke of an experience one night in which God woke him up very suddenly.  He said it felt like a literal waterfall of creative ideas washed over him.  Some time later, after sitting, stunned & excited, in these brilliant, holy thoughts it occurred to him to write them down.  Immediately after that thought the waterfall stopped and God said, “Silly Paul, you don’t trust that this is a river!”  Young wanted to dam up the waterfall (representing creative, inspired genius), create a stagnant…thing…bottle up the soggy nuggets from God and exchange them for identity.  My jaw legit dropped open.  It was where my fear was rooted.  I didn’t trust myself, or Abba enough to let go of the Words regarding my journals, to let go of the journals themselves.  His journals.  I was afraid that if they made me “famous” it would feed my ego and bring to life the Claire that had been put to rest.

This is what a little death looks like.
This is what a little death looks like.

But I’ve spent eight months dying, every moment of rehab, every Monday night sitting on my therapist’s sofa, every tearful prayer.  Little deaths all along the way; more death than even my bone marrow transplant…  I’ve been dying for 27 years.  And I know this is Life Resurrected.  And I love a Lion Tamer.  And “BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS!”

Then the next Word, “it’s not just in the journals.”  Up until this point, I planned on doing all of this anonymously; on not “marketing” at all.  Anything to keep the focus off of me.  But someone strong in their view of how God sees their true self, isn’t tempted by what other’s think of them, right?  And what about prophets?  I read Herschel’s The Prophets years ago, and felt like maybe there were bits that pertained to me back then.  Every day for the last month or so I have looked at it staring directly at me from the big living room bookshelf.  So I started reading, and the pieces started to fall together, and I saw what was happening…  (Also, as all of this is going on I’m deeply enthralled with Enneagram and what it means to be a redeemed 4.  FOURS are prophets.  Artists. The most introspective type of person. We have felt the depths of nearly every emotion, and can continue to regenerate.  We listen and observe.  We help when we realize we are truly of service to others.  And when we are redeemed we create timeless pieces of beauty/art that help humanity.)  It all started to make sense.

Moses walked down from Mt. Sinai in glowing effulgence from his time spent with God.  Jacob limped away.  If I have something that God has given me from my time, my wrestle, with Him then I am the one glowing and the one limping; God needs me.  Not just the journals and the writing.  Sweet Claire, the same way you burn with a desire for your children to know about my goodness, my faithfulness, my love, my beauty, that is what I need My children to know about me too!  The restlessness you feel? The random tears you cry?  The drive to physically touch people who you sense have a secret pain?   The women your heart aches for?  The people who need to know that they are already enough, that they are worthy and good?  Those tears, feelings, thoughts & impulses are mine, too.  Herschel says it is embarrassing to be a prophet, and sometimes I am gripped by fear & shame about the things I know I will one day publish on this blog.  But if it helps people know that one can do things as fucked up as I did, and still He loves, then I will do it.  If it helps one person, a person who just received an earth-shattering gut punch, trust that He is good and Romans 8:28 is true, then I will do it.  Like Joshua, I will be strong and courageous.

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