Monday, June 11, 2012

Powerlessness = Choice

I met a man recently who is a lot like me. I don't want to be like this man.

Psychiatric hospitals are places you will always meet characters. Some you forget; some stick out.

I'm bipolar and 37, but look no older than 25. He is also bipolar, but 45 and looks no younger than 65. We are a lot alike. Both have succumbed to our manic states. Both experience disabling depressions. Both have lived years of abusing alcohol and drugs with bouts of binges. Both have ruined ourselves financially. Both have divorced. Both have alienated friends and family in the past. Both have been in trouble with the law. Both have received undeserving grace. Except.....

....he is 45 and was coming down from a recent binge and living with his parents. That's the future I don't want to be.

"Keep coming back."

It's what's said in recovery programs when you're new, when you're just barely hanging on, or when you obviously haven't given up control of your life to God.

"Keep coming back."

The program works. The truth that's being spoken is clear and transformative, but it can penetrate only so far, so quickly, through the filters of our addictions and preconceptions.

Sometimes the most important thing is that you don't give up, and sometimes all you can say to the person with the thick filters is, "Keep coming back."

So long as you're still coming back - to group, to church, to God, and ultimately to the brokenness, unwilling to give up quite yet - you're not a cynic. You may be a doubter or a prophet or a reformer, or you may simply be in a bad fit in one setting or another; but doubt and change and searching for a good fit are all good things.

The cynic is the person who hears the invitation to come back and responds with "Yea, whatever." In the world of recovery programs, cynics die.

In the world outside recovery programs - and since all of life is recovery, there isn't really a world outside of recovery - cynics die.

When you admit powerlessness, you get choice. The man at the hospital realized just that.

Powerless over both illnesses, bipolar and addiction he succumbed to pawning his own father's possessions for drugs. Yes, he plays a role in the responsibility. But he racked his brain trying to figure out if he relapsed from his addiction first and then stopped taking his medication for his bipolar or first relapsed from his bipolar and stopped taking his medication and then relapsed from his addiction.

Finally admitting he will die unless he gets help, will put him in a place where he gets to choose his help, where the bad news stops being a death sentence and becomes something much more like the truth that will set him free.

I have thought of this man I met in the hospital often since then. A very nice well mannered respectful man. But he was stable and on his medication. One wouldn't be able to tell of his Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde capabilities otherwise.

My thoughts drift to seeing a man I never want to be. A middle aged man who has rattled my body to look twenty years older and living with my mother after losing everything all because I'm too stubborn to admit I'm powerless. That's the man I would and don't want to wind up.

Meeting him made me realize that while there is no question Celebrate Recovery has brought my insides back to life - I'd never realized some were dead until I started to see how different I had been made - I'm still not doing many of the things I know I should be doing to improve myself.

I don't want to be the happy man, dead. The phrase keeps rattling around inside of me: happy man, dead.

I think it's the cynic. I think I've tried enough other things in the past, and failed and have beaten myself up about them that I don't want to hear it anymore. The cynic doesn't believe I can change. Nor does that part of me want to get burned by the next failure. So the cynic tells me to sit still and risk nothing, to be smarter than the snares that have tripped me before and surely await me now.

The man made me see that I could've been on the same path as he, slave to the same brokenness of thought.

But brokenness applies to far more than just bipolar and addiction. My faith, my relationship with God. My relationship with my wife and kids.

I think about everything I have faced in the past and compare  it all to what I felt like. Being a husband, a father, all with bipolar and fighting addiction. And with no father of my own to ask hard questions. I have felt my way through as I went along.

Many times I had felt I had no business being those positions. So much had been at stake. Being that young with that much to handle, I was bound to make the sorts of mistakes that leaves marks on people souls.

I have learned much about myself, and about the grace of God. I have been left a better person, and I've learned an important thing. When trials come, cling to hope and use trials as opportunities to learn, grow and seek truth. Every one of us has so much to be hopeful for.

I know I will never be the man that is so much like me. I'm blessed with a wonderful wife and children who has never given up on me in spite of the mistakes I've made.

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A Recycled-Dad with Bipolar & Parkinson's, reflections on fathering and family life and other stuff thrown in'll love my Soap Box Rants

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Why I call myself a Recycled Dad

I call myself a Recycled Dad because of the struggles with remarriage and being a step-parent and weekend dad. This is also about my life living with bipolar and how it affects me personally, my family and my job. It also reflects on the grace God has poured out on me throughout recovery from alcohol and an eating disorder. Recycled Dad is about my reflections on the wisdom God teaches daily on fatherhood and being a better husband in spite of being bipolar.

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