To the One Who Loves an Alcoholic

There is someone in my life who I adore. I love her so much that my insides ache when she’s hurting. Unfortunately she is in love with an alcoholic. And as some of you reading this have experienced…we are capable of causing the worst kind of pain. 

Looking back over more than a decade in recovery, free from alcohol and all it brings with it, there are things that I know to be true. Things I can see now that I couldn’t see before. Things that just, are, no matter how much I wish they weren’t.

So, I wrote her this letter and now I’m sharing it with you.
Not to provide all the answers for what you’re going through, but to hopefully shed some light on the person whom you have continually given the ability to hurt your heart.

I will be removing any personal information with generic wording and adding quotes so that you can insert the name of your person.

Friend,” this is truth…

He” is married to alcohol. Drugs are his mistress. Anything else…anyone else, is just a side thing. He always returns to what he knows. Alcohol.

It’s one of the most difficult relationships to sever. It can be done, but it takes more work than most people are willing to put in.

It’s not you.

Truly. It isn’t.

It’s that cunning, baffling bitch known as alcoholism. And without a Higher Power, complete Surrender, and the Willingness to change by dying to self, there is no hope.

You’ve laid awake countless nights, bartering with God.
Your bartering has turned to begging.
Your begging has turned to weeping.
Your weeping has turned to exhaustion.
And just when you’re about to give up…there he comes…back in the picture…full of empty promises that you want so badly to be true.
And the vicious cycle starts all over again.

This has gone on for years.
You say things like, “…but I love him! When you really love someone, you don’t just give up on them.
That may be true, but…
as a human being, a beautiful child of God, born with great purpose, you must see the wasted moments on this person who is blissfully unaware of your worth.

You don’t, do you?
You can’t.
Something in you, like in all of us, grasps on to the smallest ounce of hope and we refer back to that speck even when we are surrounded by the mountains of proof that say otherwise.

This is where I have done my share of begging God.
For reasons unknown to me, He hasn’t lifted the blinder that covers your eyes.
I know He can.
I know He wants you to be whole and live in the light of His glory and grace.
And yet knowing this, doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

There is a reason why so many alcoholics lose their battle with alcohol, at times taking entire families down with them.
Like the blinder you wear, he too wears a self-inflicted blinder.
The difference in yours and his is that he can remove his at any time.
All if takes to begin is a choice to change.
One choice can change everything.
After that one choice is when the real work begins.
I can’t even call it rebuilding. That can’t start until all of the wreckage is sorted through and hauled away.
This is a grueling process.
It’s the part where most people give up.
After all, it’s much easier to have a drink than to feel the weight of our current reality.

Here’s that most difficult part for you and for most people…
Are you ready for this?

There is nothing you can do to change him.

You can’t wish him sober.
You can’t force him to get sober.
You can’t make him see the disaster he leaves in his wake every time he comes around.

Here’s what you can do.

You can accept that nothing is going to change until he actively participates in recovery. (By this, I mean, pursues it like he would his next “fix.” It’s the only way to freedom.)
You can acknowledge and release the time you have given him and that he has squandered.
You can look at yourself in the mirror and say 2 words, “Not Anymore.” followed by 4 words, “From this moment forward.”
You can sincerely speak into your child’s heart and mind that you are her protector, provider, greatest advocate, teacher, mother, and that you will do whatever it takes to provide a life that’s healthy physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. One where she can grow and thrive, because you know the time that you have with her is short and you will lay a solid foundation that she can always stand on without worry of losing her footing.
(The way you can be 100% confident of this is because it’s what Christ does for you…and for her…everyday.)
You can recognize that even though you didn’t plan for your life to play out this way, there are so many people who love you and want to come alongside you, if you will let them.
You can cry when you need to cry, scream even, when staring at the difficult truth that your child’s father isn’t present. (This is no place to linger. You feel the feelings and move on.)
You can look in the mirror, straight into your own soul and breathe in the grace that you will need on a daily basis to do life.
You can repeat in your head and out loud as much as needed, I am not alone. I am capable. I am strong and I am worthy of love.”
You can say these same affirmations to your daughter. She will need to know them. There may come a time in her life when they seem the only thing to cling to in the midst of the storm.
You can put one foot in front of the other and know that there will be days when you are in a groove and moving like a champion as well as the ones where every step towards tomorrow seems to sucker punch you back into yesterday. That’s okay. We appreciate beauty all the more when we see the purpose of the rain. (Didn’t you tell me that?)

“Friend,” You are so very loved.
We see you.
We hear you.
You matter.

And…it’s time to walk away.
We’ll be right beside you every step of the way.

Love and Grace,
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5 Reasons to Spend Time With a Mother and Her Young Children

JCP-8081I had the opportunity to spend part of my morning with my friend Melissa and her two children, Alex (2 years) and Eliana (10 months). I’m so glad I had my camera, because what I captured tells the story better than my words can.

1) Be curious. Wonder. Participate in life from the ground up. Don’t be afraid to mess up. You can always start again.

2) Ask lot’s of questions. (Even if you think they’re silly) Life is about learning and growing, no matter your age.

3) When having a serious conversation, eat chocolate… and laugh… throw your head back and let loose. (Chocolate and laughing make everything better.)

4) Play and Explore (Be resourceful)
Build a drum set from the buckets you just took off your head when you were being a robot. Play hide and seek with the nearest blanket. Sit in the rocking chair backwards.

“Mommy, wanna go look for giants with me?”
This question from Alex diverted me from all other conversation.
“Melissa, did he just ask you to go look for giants?!” I asked.
“Yes. We look for giants at least once a day.” she replied.

 

5) Take naps. Even if you don’t think you’re tired…
Feeling grumpy? Chances are, ya just need a nap.

Children are the best teachers. And most of them don’t even use words. They use action. It’s not always the right action, but it’s action nonetheless. They don’t sit around, talking about it and wait to see what happens.

When did we (adults) stop learning by doing?
When did we choose to walk away from a challenge and instead immerse ourselves in a Google search or social media for the answer?
When did we stop playing?
Why don’t we laugh with abandon?
When was the last time you sat on the floor, observing your surroundings?
Some of us need to revisit childhood. If you don’t like the one you had, ask someone to take you back with them to theirs.
Come back and tell us about your adventures in the comment section.

Other things I learned on my morning excursion…

A single shoestring can transform a toddler into a giant-slayer.
JCP-8049Egg cartons double as very hungry caterpillars.

Robots get hungry too.

What are you learning from your kids…or friends kids…or nieces and nephews, grandchildren or students in your class? Have any great pictures that tell a story? Email them to me at joycannisphotography(at)gmail(dot)com

I turned around and he was gone

JCP-8406We had just enjoyed a delicious dinner on the most beautiful day you’ve ever seen.

Realizing we needed a few things at the store, Chris said that he would go and I could take the boys to the car. I gladly accepted as the grocery store triggers my OCD like nothing else.

One minute both boys were with me and the next, I turned around and didn’t see my oldest son anywhere.

He loves to hide and scare me when I walk by so thinking that’s what he was doing, I handed everything to my sister-in-law and walked a few steps down the sidewalk expecting to see him behind the big column.

Saying his name as I turned the corner, I braced myself for the “BOO!” I was in for, but he wasn’t there. I said his name again, only this time with more emotion. I looked down the alley to the right and in front of me. I scanned the parking lot for creepy vans with no windows and scary looking people.

My heart was pounding as I headed towards the grocery store entrance, it was crowded and I pushed my way through mumbling, “I’m looking for my son. Please…excuse me…I can’t find my son. What the hell is wrong with everyone? Get out of my way!

The thoughts flooded my mind. You know, the horrible thoughts that no mother ever wants to think could happen to her child. The ones that make your stomach twist into knots and send the acid up into your throat until you taste it on the back of your tongue.

Just then I looked to my right and saw Chris standing in the check out line. As I moved a step closer, there he was. He turned and met my eyes and I was furious and scared. I leaned down, holding onto his shoulder and in a not so loving way I said, “Don’t you EVER do that to me again! You scared me! You. scared. me! Don’t you see what a nervous wreck I am?!” (At this point, now that I knew he was safe, it became all about me.) Then came the tears…for both of us.

Chris knew not to say I was overreacting. Instead he was consoling our son saying, “It’s okay. Mommy was scared. She didn’t know where you were.” I responded with, “He should cry! He scared me!”

The adrenaline was pumping and I wasn’t calming down anytime soon. The lady in front of us was now looking at our son with concern in her eyes. I wanted to tell her to mind her own business. She didn’t understand the torment endured over the course of the last 3 minutes.

The three of us walked out of the store together and climbed into the car.

I was relieved and angry, sad and grateful all at the same time.

The car ride home was quiet. When we got back to the house, unloaded the car and walked to the front door, my little boy turned around to me and said, “I’m sorry I scared you mom. I didn’t mean to.”
“I know you didn’t darling. I’m sorry I made you cry.”

And that was that. I think I will have calmed down by tomorrow. Sheesh.

Talk to me. Tell me you would overreact if this happened to you. Or has it happened to you? How did you handle it? Did you use your meanest mommy voice like I did?

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How to have Children without ruining your Marriage

This Man 1.) Speak the truth in love. Your spouse can’t read your mind. Honesty, spoken kindly, leads to intimacy. I am convinced of that. I have lived it.

My beautiful man2.) Create a “What I need from ___________ (insert partners name)” list. Encourage your spouse to do the same.
Keep it short and concise.
Use bullet points.
Print it out.
Place it where your significant other will see it… every day.

3.) Rest when you can. This used to really piss me off when someone who had raised children would say, “Sleep when the baby sleeps!
Seriously? You don’t understand how much I have to do while the baby’s sleeping.
Turns out she was right… When I am exhausted I am ineffective. And it is such a short season. Soon you’ll be back to the laundry, house cleaning, cooking and all of those things you thought you needed to rush back to.
Remember… Exhaustion = Ineffectiveness

4.) Ask yourself if you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. I realize this sounds hokey to many people, but it works. Grab your lipstick, eyeliner, dry erase marker, chalkboard marker… whatever will wash off and write H A L T on your mirror. Why? Because this will be hard to remember when you’re sleep deprived, so have it handy.

DSC08219Before having any discussions, before making any decisions, before making any assumptions, ask yourself if you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired. You may be a combination of all 4. Or a bit of 2. And then be honest with your partner about what you’re feeling. There have been many times when I’m hangry (hungry and angry). When I can’t think logically before I’ve had something to eat which then calms me down. Usually chocolate…

This is the most important one. I cannot stress it enough.

5.) Have a friend, who (really) knows you and will speak truth into your heart. It is crucial. I had to learn, that my husband is not my girlfriend. There are some things I am not going to take to him to process through, because he can’t fix them and they are stemming from emotions anyway. Emotions change. That’s why we don’t ever make permanent decisions based on temporary emotions.IMG_3685

I have learned this lesson the hard way. However, I have a wonderful friend who has known me my entire life and on the days when I needed to put my boys in their car seats, drive around until they fell asleep, call her and do the ugly cry, she was invaluable.

You may not be a Jesus freak like I am, calling out to God every other minute to guide my thinking. You may not be someone who prays out loud in their car not caring that the person next to them at the stoplight thinks they’re crazy… like I do.
That’s okay.
There has to be someone you can cry out to in times of uncertainty.

I had to make sure that I had (and still have) a support system. Whether it was 1 other woman or 5, I had to build a community of women who were either in my stage of life or had been there. Who wouldn’t judge me. And who would give me sound, applicable guidance on how to journey through this season without losing my mind or suffocating my husband in his sleep.photoI’m not going to lie… Having young children was one of the most difficult things that Chris and I have ever done. We had to decide and still do, that we are on the same team. It is not you fighting your significant other. You’re not going to agree on everything. That’s a given. You must know how to say “I’m sorry” and do it quickly even if you don’t think you were wrong.IMG_4482

I had to remember that Chris is a little boy with long legs. He went from being the center of my universe to having this miniature person consuming all of my quality time, many times leaving him with left overs. He deserves the very best of me. He came first. Without him, I wouldn’t have my children.

Believe me, I know how hard it is to show affection after being pulled on all day by our little ones. Again, this season is just that, a season. Sandra Stanley described it so beautifully when she said, “The days are long, but the years are short.
Your husband will be the one there when your children no longer require your attention for their every need.

There is so much more to talk about here. Let’s make it a two-part post.

Share your thoughts in the comments of what else we should discuss that will encourage moms who are in the trenches and I will use those to build part 2 of our discussion. Men are welcome to share their experience as well.

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The Monster in my Mouth

This is how my day started…Breakfastbecause there were blueberries in the bread.

Really?!” was my response. I began mumbling under my breath about all the children, right here in our city, who would love to have bread with blueberries in it…

I always told myself that I would never guilt my children into eating with the phrase, “There are starving children in… (you fill in the blank)” (Did you happen to catch the two key words in the sentence before last? Always and Never) These two words will make a liar out of you quicker than anything else.

I have and I do tell my children about the child who doesn’t eat dinner before bed and only has breakfast when he’s able to eat in the cafeteria before school. I think it’s important that they know right outside our door is a world of struggle unparalleled by anything their minds can conceive.

However, maybe breakfast after dragging said child out of the warm bed he was, only moments ago, fast asleep in, isn’t the time to lecture him. Maybe if I considered that this is my child whom;
A. Likes to sleep in. (he’s like waking a hibernating bear)
B. Avoids change at all cost. (the never before served blueberry bread)
and
C. Has no problem skipping breakfast all together if he doesn’t feel like eating. (why put an empty stomach in front of taking a stand?)
I would have been wiser in my approach.

In the same way that I don’t want to nag my husband, I don’t want to nag my children. I want to respect and appreciate their different temperaments without catering to their outbursts.

Jud Wilhite said something in a recent message that struck me right in the heart. So much so that I made it into a pretty little instagram saying.
patienceMy lack of patience has always been a glaring character defect and I know better than to pray for patience! But when I view it as the difference between my grace and my wrath it takes on a whole new meaning.

More times than I want to admit, my children are met by the monster in my mouth. My words are harsh and my temper short. I can say with all truth, 99% of the time it’s not the boys who provoked the monster, it’s my lack of time management or lack of sleep or lack of coffee.

It’s an area where I am lacking (and I know it) rising to the surface and lashing out at the nearest target. Even so, I am learning because of all the grace that has been shown me, that “a bad moment does not a bad mama make.” I cannot press this upon your heart enough. Children are quick to forgive. We must be quick to admit fault.

I’m not justifying rants or misdirected anger. I’m saying that when I unleash my untamed words on my children, there is always room for an, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

The days when I am able to catch and reel in my spoken thoughts before they are released for others to hear are evidence of my progress. Some days I fail and in those moments I will recognize them for what they are, moments.

So…there it is…just one shade of my ugly. It’s all about progress (attainable), not perfection (unattainable).

How important to you are the times right after waking and right before sleeping?

 

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3 things never, ever to discuss in bed

I’ll even go so far as to say, “Keep these 3 things out of the bedroom altogether.”Messy bed

MONEY – Whether it’s bad or good information, keep it out of the bedroom.
I don’t care if you just won the lottery and want to cover the sheets with benjamins so you can roll around in it. Trust me! Don’t do it. It will start out fun and then lead to statements like these,
“Think of what we could have done with all this money 5, 10, 15 years ago…”
“Why didn’t we save more? I always said you spent too much money…”
“How much do those highlights cost again?!”
The bedroom is where the magic happens, NOT the budget!

WORK – Nothing kills a sex drive quicker than talking about your newest project at work or the girl who dresses like she’s going to a bar. Maybe she is going to a bar. Leave her alone! You’re in bed with someone who you don’t have to pick up in the bar. STOP TALKING ABOUT WORK!
The bedroom is for words you wouldn’t use anywhere else, NOT for debriefing about your coworkers.

FAMILY – This includes but is not limited to…
Your beautiful children that you love so much you could just “eat ’em up!”
Your sister’s recent vacay.
Your brother’s girlfriend and all the reasons you know it isn’t going to last.
Your aunt’s cat’s arthritis.
Your cousin’s new band and the business plan you wrote that he hasn’t asked you for.
Your mom. (Especially, your mom)
Your dad’s latest hunting story. (My man loves a good hunt, but the moment I bring up my father when we’re trying to set the mood, forget about it. Ain’t gonna happen.)
The surgery that your stepbrother’s dog is being prepped for and how much it’s going to cost.
The seating chart for the next holiday get together.
The bedroom is a reservation for two, NOT a family reunion.

Now, if you find yourself wanting/needing to talk about one of these things, get up, go sit at the kitchen table or on the sofa and talk about it there. Better yet, wait until tomorrow. Chances are things will be a lot clearer and you’ll be in a better mood.

This is a decade worth of wisdom that you don’t even have to thank me for. Just stop bringing baggage into your bed. It’s much easier to move around that way.

You’re thinking, “It can’t be that simple?” It is. It’s that simple. Everything else can wait until your next therapy session.

I know there are like a bazillion other no-no’s for that fragile time before (whatever your code word is for sex) happens. Go ahead, tell us in the comments what you’ve learned never to talk about in the bedroom…

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For the Volunteer

Dear Volunteer,

I am a mother of 3 and have experienced every children’s ministry environment offered at Buckhead Church. I was watching Large Group in Waumba Land Sunday morning when years of memories came flooding in. As the children raised their hands in worship, I was overcome with gratitude.

I wish I had thanked you sooner. Only, I didn’t have the words. On this day, while standing in the back watching men and women, with busy lives, volunteer to surround our preschoolers with truth and light, the words came faster than I could process them.

UpStreet, thank you for welcoming and ushering in my 7-year-old with bed head and a half eaten pop tart in his hand. Little did you know, just 5 minutes before, I was sitting in my car contemplating not coming in. You removed the weight of the world in those few moments at check-in.

Transit, thank you for sacrificing your time to my confused middle schooler (now in high school) not only on Sunday, but for retreats, special outings and all the texts/calls/emails in-between when you were the only voice of reason. In those times when my words fell on deaf ears, yours were heard, felt and followed. You didn’t know that the weeks leading up to boot camp she had contemplated suicide. Thank you for praying that prayer with her on the last night of camp. You were able to speak hope in a way that I couldn’t. I wonder how many souls have been saved because of your investment?

Waumba Land, thank you for greeting my child with a warm smile at the door when he had arms crossed, furrowed brow and feet firmly planted outside the room. Thank you for playing referee when he was “the runner.” And the times you took his hand while looking at my worried face and said, “Go to service mom. We will be just fine here” as he screamed and kicked, were the days I got the most from the message. You didn’t know this, but when my alarm went off that morning I hit snooze and strongly considered staying in bed. Your interactions with my child motivated me to get up and out even when it felt like staying home was avoiding a battle.

Host Team, thank you for making sure I don’t get lost in the crowd. I have been attending for years but there was a Sunday, last year, when I must have looked lost because several of you welcomed me and asked if you could help me find where I was going. “No thanks.” was my response, but the fact that you took notice and offered to help meant so much. You didn’t know this but the next day my 36-year-old friend passed away 9 months after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She left behind a husband and two small children my kids ages. We had grown up together and I felt like part of my childhood was buried with her that day.

Parking Team, if maintaining a highly functioning team of hundreds to get people in and out of one of the busiest areas in Atlanta was an Olympic sport, you would, without a doubt, take the gold. Thank you for showing up, rain or shine, putting on a vest and a smile and waving your flashing wand. You may not know that more than once I have tried to use the excuse of “traffic” and my preschooler would say, “Mommy, can the ninjas in orange vests with lightsabers show us where to park?” What can I say to that? Out of the mouth of babes…

Facilities and clean up crew. Thank you doesn’t even seem close to appropriate. Wow, you have a tough job and you do it seamlessly. Without you, no other environment would function and thrive.

I know you hear how much you are appreciated from those in leadership. It’s one way I’ve rationalized not writing to you. I’m just a face among many. There are thousands just like me. Unfortunately, we avoid writing letters like this one because of fear. The fear that I will leave someone or something out. The fear of not saying what I really feel…of not being able to wrap words around the impact you have had and continue to have on the lives of those you don’t even know. The next few sentences sum up the essence of this letter.

You need to know that, because of you, my life is better. My children are better. My family is better. Don’t you see, your commitment to show up week after week is changing the world outside our door. It’s enriching lives and encouraging families towards each other instead of away. What you’re doing is being the change that most only talk about and rarely do. You are leading by example and because of that, people are being reached in ways that would not have been possible were it not for your decision to serve.

Evermore thank you. From the depths of my heart….I am truly grateful.

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