As I mentioned before, I am going to talk a little bit about framily, to steal a term from a cell phone company. Which is ironic, because I kind of hate the phone, but that’s another blog, lol. I will also touch on other sources of support, besides friends and family, that help those of us with mental illness on our journey of recovery.
Growing up, I had a large, wonderful family, and we did a lot together, from skiing, to swimming, to camping. We weren’t perfect by any means, and my parents divorced when I was around 13. Of course, those issues and others affected me growing up. I doubt there is a person on the planet without issues!
As a child, I had only a few friends at a time. Friendship was hard, and sometimes overwhelming! There was a book of rules, of which I had no idea – how you were supposed to talk, and dress, and be. You know, important stuff! I was never privy to that book. And then I discovered that there were friends who didn’t care whether you had the book or not. They just enjoyed your company, listened to you, and said, let’s go eat, or let’s go play. “Let’s go have a tea party.” Then, “Let’s go have a drink!”
I have to say that from the start you guys kept me alive. I wish I could name names but I am sure I would leave somebody out. So let me just say, Thank you. I absolutely would not be here if it hadn’t been for you.
Things changed after I started drinking. I started my own rule book. Number one was, if you don’t drink, I don’t have time. Oh yes, I had found a friend, of sorts, that “sticketh closer than a brother,” in my estimation. But it wasn’t a person; it was alcohol.
Then, I got sober (which is a whole ‘nother story). The rules changed. If you did drink, I couldn’t be around you. I mean! Come on. That was pretty black and white! Looking back, I have regrets. But I don’t know if I could have done it differently.
Then, when I got sober, I found out that alcohol had kept a lot of stuff down! I started therapy, and four little words were introduced: “Are you mad, sad, glad, or scared?” Ummm … not sure. But one by one those feelings began to assert themselves. So did some unpleasant information about myself, but I digress. Anyway, as a result of therapy, it wasn’t just friends I left behind. The brick wall between my friends and I became the Berlin Wall between my family and I. For five years, this wall kept me from my family. Let me be clear. I am the one who put up that wall. My family had nothing to do with that. The only one of those relationships that I kept was with one brother, who was also in AA. I figured he was the only one in my family who could understand. The only one who was “safe.”
Again, I don’t know if I could have done it differently, but it breaks my heart to think about the damage I did to those who loved me. Those relationships are still in disrepair on a lot of fronts. But I’m happy to say that God repaired the relationship between my parents and I before they passed from this world. Sooo thankful. And most of my siblings at least talk with me now. We could be closer, but building trust (on their end!) takes time.
Meanwhile, I made lots of friends in the halls of AA. Essential friends: sponsors, confidantes, friends with whom I could do sober things. However, I still kept most at arm’s length.
Because I was learning about something besides my drinking. Bring on … manic depression! Now commonly referred to as bipolar disorder.
And I saw the damage it could do. As I said previously, I’d left a suicide note for my sister back in 85. After I got sober, things did not seem to get a lot better for me. I was sober, but I was often stuck in bouts of depression, which affected my work, my relationships, and my son, who was born in ’87. Less often, I experienced mania, but I would manage to “forget” those episodes. My best friend for some of that time was my husband – but two very dysfunctional “adults” could not possibly stay together. The best thing that came from that was our now 27 year old. I also have a friend whom I met when my son was 3, and I couldn’t do without her today. How she puts up with me sometimes I’ll never know. But she refused to allow me to erect a wall. I fought that, but she wouldn’t hear of it.
I’m not doing too well at telling you how important support is when dealing with mental illness. Having friends is risky, as I said. But God did not put us on this road to handle everything alone. You’ve heard perhaps this quote:
“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.” — Mother Teresa
But I would take it further. God won’t give me more than I can handle, but He doesn’t expect me to handle it alone. Family, friends, therapy, groups, and other sources of help are available, and all of these are great sources of comfort and help. We’re not supposed to do this alone.
Unfortunately, it’s scary to trust other people when you have bipolar illness, or any mental illness, for that matter. People leave, people take advantage, people can scare you when they get angry (ok, that’s my little issue, lol). But God has put other people here to help us.
One of the best places to find those people, I’ve found, is in a church family. I have a wonderful one! But to be a part of that family, you need to be part of the family of God!
I’m not saying every single person in a church is trustworthy, but the odds are pretty good when the place that you meet is where you met your Maker. In a good way, lol.
And speaking of which: Many of us in recovery from addiction and other issues have learned to follow a spiritual practice of some sort. I pursued a number of methods and different belief systems that helped me with my sobriety, and with life in general. But they were really just a Bandaid, which didn’t always “stick on me.” What about after? I always had this dis-ease about after.
AA taught me a number of things that I still find useful. The Steps, the Slogans, you know, Let Go And Let God, One Day at a Time, the use of a Higher Power …
At this point I laugh. I remember several people who said “Hey, if you have trouble with a Higher Power, just pray to Something.” One guy speaking from the AA podium shared: “I use a doorknob, and I call him George. I kneel in front of him every day and give him my problems. Hey, at least I’m turning it over to Something ..”
But seriously, the fellowship of AA purports that “We [fellow AA’s] shall be with you [the hapless AA member] in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.”
Well, that implies eternity, and I took it to mean that, but …
It wasn’t enough. It was barely enough for basic ADL’s (activities of daily living). But there’s a reason for that. Really, the way AA has been adulterated from its basis, the Oxford Group, is scary. The Oxford Group’s primary purpose was to share Christ; AA doesn’t even mention Him.
And that’s where the change truly has to come: from a saving belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. Without His power we are merely pawns in Satan’s game. See, if you want to tell a lie, you have to come close to the truth to make it believable, and Satan has done so with the development of AA and similar groups. If you don’t mention Christ, then all you have is a (somewhat) Happy Destiny here on Earth, and you are not serving anyone but yourself. Even the AA principle of helping others is about staying sober, yourself. Besides that, and this is the rub: There is only one place where you will spend eternity, and that is in Hell.
Yes, that’s pretty harsh, especially if one has come to believe in a spiritual practice that is different from Christianity. But if you have not decided to accept Christ’s sacrifice, then you have made a decision – to reject Him. And that is a scary proposition. The Bible speaks of this in John chapter 3 verses 2-7:
The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest , except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered ,Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
But why would we need to be born again? Aren’t most of us pretty good?
Well, some of us might be. But God says in Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” and there are consequences for that. Every one of us has sin. We are born with it from the time of Adam and Eve. And did you ever need to be taught how to lie or how to steal? How many cookies did you sneak when you were a kid? And let’s face it, we’ve done worse, since. And God is Holy.
Revelation 21:27 And there shall in no wise enter into it [the city of God] any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Revelation 20:14-15 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
But there is a friend, a true friend, who is closer than a brother, and He will save you from this fate. Not by making us “good” or perfect, but by dying on the cross, because “… without shedding of blood is no remission [of sin].” (Hebrews 9:22). By believing on Him, we are made righteous in the sight of God! Then, check out Are You 100% Sure?
But there was a strong tower within the city, and thither fled all the men and women, and all they of the city, and shut it to them, and gat them up to the top of the tower.
For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy .
The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.