Friday, May 26, 2017

Solidarity and Unity...

Blame or Stewardship?


“Blame holds us back. Responsibility moves us forward. Constant self-blame is just as irresponsible as insisting that others are always to blame.”

Thom Rutledge

For those of us struggling with addiction and disorder, it is not too long before we encounter blame. It is an insidious creature; it is virtually impossible to escape.

Since our addictive natures are usually heavily intertwined with other complicated life issues, like abuse and trauma, blame often surfaces as a coping device, used to enable us to simply function in our lives. Survival is as far as we can go; healthy flourishing appears to be an out of reach luxury.  

Rutledge’s quote is a “no brainer,” at least, to our logical minds. It’s that emotional world, however, which trips us up and prevents us from facing, addressing and handling blame within our addictive reality, in a healthy manner.

I know this is a large chunk of the recovery work I, myself, do. And honestly, the jury’s still out on how well I am doing with it all. Objectivity is quite difficult to achieve.

But, a key factor which helps in my recovery process is that of Stewardship.

“Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.”

I believe we cannot even hope to attain any rung on the recovery ladder if we don’t, at least, acknowledge that blame is in the room, no matter how subtle or obvious it may be.

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”

No one is unscathed by it. It’s been there from the start. Check out the Creation Story in Genesis just to see its origins for humanity.

And, before we get too caught up in despair and discouraging feelings about blame, telling ourselves, “it’s too difficult; it cannot be done,” the challenge invites us to keep an open mind about the stewardship principle, what it is... and is not.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Stewardship is defined as...

“the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care”

Again, before we get too overwhelmed, we need to recognize the absence of one particular word in that definition: perfection.

And that has been a guiding and healing recovery revelation for me: stewardship is not perfection.

That’s an important thing to remember in this addiction/recovery reality. In our human, imperfect experience, there is no such thing as perfectly healed.

 “The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.”

 Proverbs 14:10

Another recovery adage I have come across as I bump along in life is this: “Hurt people hurt people.” And, of course, the emphasis here, in any recovery domain, is the necessity of forgiveness. It’s the other side of the blame coin.

We’re told over and over we cannot move forward or begin to heal if we refuse to forgive. And that includes the forgiving ourselves.

And so, the statement, “Hurt people hurt people” becomes the self-inflicted wound all too easily.

I know I may be taken to task here for being too self-indulgent when I say, for that reason alone, our choice to value better stewardship of the blame issue is to our individual advantage.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”


We need to get downright mercenary with our stance on it. We need to take that approach because it is, indeed, the most personal.

Everyone else aside, recovery and blame issues ultimately reside solely within each of us. And, no matter how we may try, we still cannot escape ourselves.

And, one more thing concerning stewardship as a treatment to the addiction/blame factor: it is the opportunity for us to use our gifts.

I direct you to the passage of Matthew 25:20-21...

 “And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”

I know it may be an extreme stretch here, but if we view our addiction struggles through the filter of being gifted with talents, the stewardship principle takes on an even more personal and meaningful tone. Our recovery is, in fact, the significant soul work we need to do to better ourselves- and others.

Maybe we can even see the resemblance to our Savior’s Gethsemane moment. No, we wouldn’t choose this pain for ourselves; likewise, our Savior, Himself, even tried to bargain against HIS purpose.

“Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’”

Mark 14:36

Nevertheless, we have the lives and the struggles we have. So, the question remains: what are we going to do about that?

The Most High never placed any limits on the promise of 2 Corinthians 3:18:

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

A transformation process is in effect.

We are different today than we were yesterday.

And tomorrow, we be different than today.

Blame- of anyone, including ourselves, curtails the full potential of our glory transformation process. Blame does not benefit us. Yes, pain happened to us; injustice happened to us. And it terrible and agonizing. But it is not unique.

“…time and chance happeneth to them all.”

Ecclesiastes 9:1

So, if we can challenge our thinking about the blame issue, taking on stewardship concerning even it, perhaps, we can view it as part of the deeper spiritual work which has been entrusted to us.

That’s right, I said entrusted.

Addiction- pain- blame- the stewardship principle itself- ALL entrusted to you and I right now.

What are we going to do with that?

Copyright © 2017 by Sheryle Cruse


The Two Daughters


St. Augustine once uttered this powerful statement:

“Hope has two beautiful daughters: anger, at the way things are and courage, to work for change.”

Upon reading it, my mind went first to the Serenity Prayer and then to how hope plays its role in addiction and recovery.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

Indeed, hope is not a neutral word. We have feelings about it, be they negative or positive.

And, maybe, that is the first stumbling block. Perhaps we get tangled not in this word and theory, but rather in its opposite representative: hopelessness.

“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick...”

Proverbs 13:12

For many of us, that is all we see concerning our addictions and our issues. And it spotlights a larger spiritual challenge: we believe our own skewed perception, rather than trusting in a higher authority. We entertain vain imaginations (2 Corinthians 10:5), erecting them as more powerful than the Most High’s Divine Nature (Jeremiah 32:27).

Proverbs 26:12 nails it; we are conceited.

“Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him.”

Still, eventually, life comes a-calling, requiring we rouse ourselves from the complacency and the self-defeating attitudes we possess concerning hope.

St. Augustine’s quote may not directly manifest verbatim. More often, a direct revelation slaps us instead:

“We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Maybe we are literally lying in a pool of our own sick. Maybe we’ve lost a passion for life. Maybe we’ve had hard destruction show us just how much addiction steals and kills.

But, part of Divine Providence’s great love for us involves the startling, uncomfortable wakeup call. And there is no longer any snooze button to press concerning ourselves. We are forced to admit...

“For what I am doing, I do not understand...”

Romans 7:15

The hope daughters, often nestled within the Serenity Prayer, show us we need to approach a number of things, including our attitude toward hope itself, differently.

First, we need to make the decision.

The crux of much of this component’s complexity involves the word, “grant.”

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change...”
“Grant” conveys we have picked a perspective; it is a call to action. Only, here, in the prayer’s context, we are asking for Divine guidance to take the lead.

When we ask “grant” in the Most High’s direction, it conveys we are decided His way is better than ours and much-needed. Therefore, hope’s two daughters, solidify our commitment to change and health instead of same-old, same old dysfunction and disease.

All well and good, unless we interrupt that with our disordered, stubborn selves and insist on taking the decision back and sabotaging that single-minded decision.

“A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

James 1:8

And come on, as addicts, this is natural and easy to do. For, whether or not we know it, many of us are still fixated on the hopelessness.

One can argue, I suppose, we are ADDICTED TO that hopelessness.

If things are bleak, why even try? If things are only doom and gloom, why not slide into oblivion with our beloved addiction? Nothing- and no one- else matters.

And it takes conscious, deliberate, unpleasant work to confront and replace that.

If we insist on remaining selfish, then, inevitably, we are here...

“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.”
James 3: 16

At first glance, we may delude ourselves into thinking we are living the life. Yes, things are exactly how we want them. Drunken stupors, binges, spending sprees, reckless behaviors and irresponsibility may be fun for AWHILE, but there is a price tag attached. And life is quite a collection agent. Sooner or later...

“...when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

James 1:15

Death often gets our attention. It doesn’t need to be the death of a person either. Death can happen to anything, including potential, relationships, career, good health and peace.

And, when this death comes, the hopelessness, again, rears its ugly head, attempting to convince us, of all things, Elohim is responsible, not us.

Pretty audacious, huh?

We all arrive at this misguided conclusion. Because it’s easier than being accountable for our hearts, minds and subsequent decisions and actions.

Yet none of that attitude will prevent spiritual truth. We are smacked with 1 Corinthians 14:33’s meaning. 

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace...”

However, many of us, especially if we are struggling with addiction, can tend to view this scripture as this...

“For God is not the author of difficult, painful solutions, but of easy, pain and change-free peace...”

We want a different book, author and reality; we want our passive indulgence. We’re not interested in, again, doing the work of hope.

But, until we hang out with the two daughters, our lives will continue to slide into further mess.

And, just like life, where we don’t have to like every person, we don’t even have to LIKE these two hope daughters. We don’t have to like “anger, at the way things are and courage, to work for change.”

But, if we are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” then, we’re going to have to embrace this conclusion...

We have to DO something differently concerning what we both accept and change:

“...courage to change the things I can...”

Addiction is not courage; it’s fear. Addiction cowers from challenging life circumstances in attempt to avoid the unpleasant truth. It hides, lies and denies.

“Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live: and let me not be ashamed of my hope.”

Psalms 119:116

We, as addicts, need not be ashamed of that fear. But we are not exempt from facing it. Courage is a skill.

We need to decide and act upon Divine hope’s two daughters in our lives; and that takes courage.

We are not left alone in that pursuit.

“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it, whenever you turn to the right hand, and whenever turn to the left.’”

Isaiah 30:21

As far as “the way” is concerned, it’s not as mystical as we’d believe it to be. Rather, it is often the practical, unglamorous and unpleasant.

“For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:”

Isaiah 28:10

It is such things as a Twelve Step program, an accountability-oriented sponsor mentoring our choices, unflinching therapy to address past trauma and, underscoring any and all education and help avenues, our honest willingness to participate in those “ways.”

Indeed, when we “stop fighting our help,” an unexpected result often occurs: hope-filled joy.

“Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.”

Psalms 16:9

Yes, rest happens. The burden is lightened, as our unhealthy addictive behavior changes enough to remove its destruction. Our Creator’s desired plans for us now have more room in which to flourish.

But, again, here is a tricky thing concerning even that rest: there is a work there. There is a decision and an effort we need to execute.

“The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,”

Ephesians 1:18

 And so, we need to piggyback on Ephesians’ instruction.

We realize we are not the only factor in the equation (cue Divine Wisdom):

“... and wisdom to know the difference.”

All roads lead back to our Source.

“O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.”

Jeremiah 10:23

The Almighty comes from a place of hope and infinite possibility. For us, this is often easier said than it is lived.

Nevertheless, hope’s two daughters challenge us with action, change, the unfamiliar and the dreaded “p” word: patience.

“But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”

Romans 8:25

Motivational anger and its wisdom show us there is more to who and where we are now.

“...anger, at the way things are...”

Divine discontent keeps us growing toward the fuller human beings we are created to be. Addiction stunts that process. And, of course, Elohim is not about stagnation.

Therefore, our Creator, wanting our ultimate good, will work with- and in spite of- imperfect circumstances.

“... and courage, to work for change.”

He will specifically create learning labs which work to improve our lives and enhance the blessing He wants to give to us individually.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go: I will guide you with My eye.”

Psalm 32:8

We all need to challenge and change our associations with and approaches to hope.

What many of us already believe about it is an effortless, passive reality. We don’t connect the dots between hope and decided effort on our part.

We just, somehow, hope that hope will manifest automatically, easily and magically fix things.

But this is unrealistic. Yes, hope is a wonderful blessing. But it is not far removed from a scripture most of us never consider:

“Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work.”

Exodus 20:9

It’s not to promote rigid legalism. Rather, we need to remember hope, recovery and healthy attitudes and choices are ALL daily habits. They don’t just arrive on their own. We need to do our part in the process.

If we choose to engage in this process, it is simply a matter of time before we realize St. Augustine was spot on about hope’s two daughters: they are, indeed, beautiful.

Copyright © 2017 by Sheryle Cruse


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Never Interrupt...

A Certain Darkness

Take Note of Spaces...

Over and Over Again...



“Once is never enough, never is and never was, uh-huh,

Here and now is all that counts, here and now in large amounts, uh-huh”

Adam Ant, “Room at the Top”

In our culture today, there is a go-for-the gusto acronym, “FOMO,” “Fear of Missing Out.” I see it influencing our behavior. It declares we need to pounce on living life, taking advantage of every opportunity, going for our dreams.

But I also see its addiction message too, mainly reflected in the bender/binge concept with which some struggle. Each of us must deal with our individual vulnerabilities concerning substances, food, chaotic behaviors and relationships- and any other tempting vice under the sun.

Two events which spring to the top of my mind are Fat Tuesday and Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.

‘Do not join those who drink too much wine
    or gorge themselves on meat,
 for drunkards and gluttons become poor,
    and drowsiness clothes them in rags.”

Proverbs 23:20-21

Fat Tuesday, a New Orleans spectacle, is all about that final blowout of everything hedonistic during Mardi Gras, before entering into the sacrifice of the Lent season. I’m sure, for example, you’ve heard about displays of wild partying in the street of New Orleans, along with the women who are encouraged to flash their breasts for the colorful Mardi Gras beads. And, of course, there is excessive drinking.

Fat Tuesday, however, expands to include indulging in any form of debauchery because, after all, each of us promises to “give up something we love” for Lent. After this bender, we’ll commit to being holy.

And Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest is not much better concerning the binge/bender reality.

On Independence Day, in America, besides parades, barbecues and flag waving, there is the Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest held in Coney Island.

Each year, competitive eaters (which IS classified as an actual sport) battle each other for the coveted distinction of biggest eater of hot dogs. These individuals are viewed as athletes and train in gluttony. The competitors, as an effective tactic, soak the franks and buns in water before eating them, enabling a faster consumption rate.

Last year’s 2016 prize went to that of nine- time winner, Joey Chestnut; he consumed 70 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes.

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.”

1 Corinthians 8:9

Both Fat Tuesday and Nathan’s contest have their own FOMO quality to them. There is the promised reward of prizes and pleasure. That can be the winning first place, acquiring the most beads, gaining attention, stuffing appetites, obliterating oneself through inebriation; it is the release of no longer being pent up in any way. That is soothing and alluring. Who doesn’t want to feel free, limitless, relieved of burdens? Who doesn’t enjoy “indulging?”

Perhaps you and I have never even come close to Fat Tuesday or Nathan’s contest. It still doesn’t change the excessive disorder principle in effect for many of us, nonetheless.

We can get addicted to anything and anyone. We can view anything through this FOMO lens.

What is our bender? What is our binge? What is that FOMO promise luring us with “you will be complete, happy, peaceful and safe?”

Is it the unrestrained Friday or Saturday night of drinking, snorting, shooting and partying, getting “blotto?”

Is it the rewarding “treating yourself” spending spree, maxing our credit cards, descending into crippling debt, all for the thrill of that impulse buy?

Is it risking financial stability to bet on the cards or the horses “just one more time,” ever- hoping this will be the big win which creates a life of luxury?

Is it the secluded, doors locked, carbohydrate binge of sugar, junk food or anything else labelled as our “comfort foods,” with intention to purge it all after the feasting session is done?

Is it the reckless affair arranged in a designated rendezvous spot, involving a forbidden lover who makes us feel like we “can finally be ourselves?”

There’s no cure for a disease here. “Fear of Missing Out” can, all too quickly, turn into devastating circumstances. Celebrating excess is not the answer.

This is not about shame; struggle is human.

For he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”

Psalms 103:14

Our human vulnerability to anything deemed our addictive Achilles’ heel does not lessen who we are as valuable individuals.

Rather, the caution concerning the seductive FOMO principle is a much-needed warning to stay mindful. To place it within the advisory context of Satan, himself...

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

This sober attitude concerning FOMO is, in essence, there to protect us, to make sure we’re safe and healthy.

“Let us not therefore judge one another anymore: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.”

Romans 14:13

Sometimes, it is not others for whom we lay these stumbling blocks. Sometimes, we only set them out for ourselves. Self-destruction, after all, is a very real tenet of addiction and unhealthy choices.

And certainly, this self-destruction of our lives is not the desire, will or plan of The Most High...

“‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you...thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.’”

Jeremiah 29:11

Therefore, honoring ourselves: spirit, mind, soul AND BODY is more like it.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of Elohim.’’

1 Corinthians 10:31

Let’s be honest: FOMO doesn’t necessarily guarantee any glorification to Elohim; it doesn’t guarantee a self-respecting attitude toward ourselves either.

The challenge- and it IS a challenge- of 1 Corinthians 10:31 is this: our healthy thoughts and actions in...

...What we eat...

...What we drink...

...Whatever we do...

“Whatever” covers thought, word, deed, choice, value system, delayed gratification- everything!

And we are all presented with a choice: to say yes or no when it comes to changing our thinking.

We can choose FOMO...or we can choose Divine Ways...

“... I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

Deuteronomy 30:19

Could it be, that when we choose The Most High’s life option, over FOMO, we tap into far more than we could have dreamed for ourselves?

“But as it is written, ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.’”

1 Corinthians 2:9

There doesn’t appear to be any “missing out” in that Divine Truth.

Copyright © 2017 by Sheryle Cruse



The Teacher is Silent


Recovery-from much of anything- is often not done in the steady hum of encouragement. It’s frequently done in intimidating quiet. Even with support groups, sponsors, treatment centers, churches and any number of “support structures,” we are still left with our true selves. And, no matter what affirmations we have heard and learned, we alone are left to apply them. There is no uplifting outside cheerleader. There is just our decision.

I know this comes across as negative, especially concerning “the Higher Power” factor.

As a person of faith, I’m not dismissing the role The Most High plays. Rather, I see how the Divine shows up in disguised forms, one of those being the unanswered quiet.

Years ago, I heard a statement which rocked my own recovery:

“When the student is taking the test, the teacher is silent.”

This went in tandem with my therapist’s advice; my recovery progress would not go unchallenged. I had to be prepared for any person’s “change back” attitudes.

“When a person does not accept your ‘no,’ they’re trying to control you.”

(Advice given from a self-defense expert, instructing females on their attackers’ viewpoints)

My “No” response has often not been accepted. Indeed, as I have worked to form and keep healthy boundaries, I have had to directly shut down my people pleaser nature and hold firm in the face of that negativity.

All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Matthew 5:37

Not surprisingly, “the people” on the other end of my response are usually not pleased. Therefore, they have tried to cajole, insult, threaten or force me to change my response to their preferred “yes.”

And, when I do not do this, this situation becomes even more awkward. It is a “silent teacher/student-taking-test” dynamic going on. That uncomfortable silence can often prompt a temptation for me to give in, but I need to remind myself if I do this, it violates me and sends the message to the other person: “I can be manipulated.”

And I do not wish to return to the harmful place from which I came.

For, in the past, certain family members of mine have attempted to shame me when I did not do things their way. They asserted I was brainwashed, forgetting where I came from.

But, many of these same individuals are currently locked in some abusive or addictive state. I am not saying this to condemn, rather, to illustrate how difficult it is to create health from a diseased state of being. These individuals have known about the dysfunction which is the family reality. And they choose how they respond concerning those facts.

Some have chosen to continue the harmful behaviors. They believe their loyalty to the unhealthy pattern must be prized and protected, even to the detriment of another person’s- or their own- well-being. To do anything beyond that, then, is ruled to be unrealistic, arrogant, and yes, disloyal.
Therefore, because of that unhealthy existing family dynamic, my more unfamiliar, uncomfortable approach to it needs to happen all the more. I cannot control others’ lifestyle choices. However, I do have some control of mine.

And that is also part of the student’s silent test: learning what one is- and is not- responsible for.

Part of my family’s toxic belief system also asserts there are some individuals who are not to be held accountable for their destructive behaviors, while, at the same time, there are other designated family members who are to be overly responsible caregivers and rescuers, making the unhealthy situation “okay” somehow.

Concerning my family member’s responses to my “no/boundary-focused” stance, they often do not expect that. They are convinced I will cave to their whims. And, I’ve heard it said you can tell a lot about who a person is when they get that “no” for an answer.

Personal experience-wise, what I have surmised is that family reaction is often straight-up anger.

“Do not befriend a hot-tempered man, and do not associate with one who harbors anger. Lest you learn his ways, and ensnare your soul.”

Proverbs 22:24-25

That’s not a surprise to me. After all, there are honestly very few people in this world who enjoy being told “no” when they’d rather experience a “yes.” That’s human.

We want what we want when we want it.

But, the problem comes in when an agenda to use coercion, shame or brutal force surfaces as the “logical and reasonable” response. It negates the validity of the person who just answered no. It reiterates that person has no such right TO that word.

But, again...

All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Matthew 5:37

Unfortunately, my experience with certain individuals has shown me there is no room for their understanding of anyone’s fundamental right to say “no” on any topic whatsoever. There is an impasse and little can be done concerning it.

More importantly, it’s not my responsibility to FIX this. Personal accountability applies to all.

Proverbs 19:19, therefore, has frequently sprung to my mind as it relates to my own navigation within these less-than-ideal family constraints.

“A person with great anger bears the penalty; if you rescue him, you'll have to do it again.”

When it comes to giving in to the person expecting/demanding my yes which could be harmful to me in any way, “'ll have to do it again.”

And, guess what? Concerning my recovery process, I do not want to do that.

Dealing with someone else’s disappointed anger is yet another “silent teacher/test-taking student” moment. I have no cheerleaders with megaphones, giving me an “Atta girl!”

I need to do that by myself in that quiet, awkward space of the truthful moment. It is not easy; it is not fun. But it is recovery work, nonetheless.

Do I wish things were different? Sure.

But, regardless of how things are now, I still must navigate. Each person is given free will to decide what he/she chooses. And some choose disease.

So, once I know that, their choice must not sway mine. And that is why I find my encouragement here:

 “And he took courage and rebuilt all the wall that had been broken down and erected towers on it, and built another outside wall and strengthened... and made weapons and shields in great number.”

2 Chronicles 32:5

To me, the recovery work principle is, indeed, found within this least likely scripture.

But we are all in process, on a recovery continuum, taking tests and learning how to simply be. We need tools, mechanisms, safe havens and power-fused words, like that of “no.”l We need to know our recovery is too important- WE are too important- to sacrifice health for disease in whatever dangerous, quiet moments are presented to us.

Be encouraged, dear student, as you take your next test.

Copyright © 2017 by Sheryle Cruse