Posts Tagged ‘rehab’

The To Write Love on Her Arms movie has been out a little over a week now. Today’s post is the second in a two-part series answering commonly asked questions about Renee, us, David, and the movie. You can rent or purchase it from RedBox, Netflix (as of March 13th), itunes, Amazon, twloha.com, or Walmart online. It deals with sensitive subjects: Addiction, mental illness, self-injury, suicide, and sexual trauma. For individuals who struggle with self-injury, counselors recommend they watch it with a supportive community and have opportunities to talk about it afterward so that it won’t trigger them. Go to my blog from March 8th for part 1.

Were there any other hobbies Renee had that helped her cope with the inner pain?

Renee sports.Yes. Sports. She was always an athlete from the time she first started playing soccer at age 5. She and her siblings all loved soccer. She played on her school’s team all the way through high school and it was a great outlet for her emotions. In middle school she played on each team they offered (soccer, volleyball, basketball and track) and won the coveted all-sports award in eighth grade, a feat not many could attain (although I like to brag that her sister, April, accomplished the same thing that year as a sixth grader!). And her dad and I never missed a game unless we were sick.

How is your relationship with Renee today?wedding rehearsal - momma and her girls (more…)


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*Welcome today’s guest blogger, Betsy Bradshaw. I believe you will find much encouragement and hope as she shares her story with honesty and openness. She’s learned some valuable lessons and even found  joy on the journey.

This has not been an easy journey for me these past few years. Our older son was making poor choices where we were serving as missionaries winding pathoverseas, so we returned to the U.S. a year early for our furlough, to get him some counseling. When he continued abusing substances, we thought we might need to take him to live in a homeless shelter when he turned eighteen.

My husband and I decided that if he hadn’t stopped his substance abuse by his birthday, we wouldn’t allow him to live at home anymore.

But God answered our prayers, and today he is doing much better. It hasn’t been easy, though. He’s been through two rehab programs and three counselors. Except for two small slips, he’s been clean for almost a year.

Has he come to the Lord? No, not yet. (more…)

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As a parent of a child who suffers from addictions, any self-destructive behavior (like an eating disorder or cutting), a mental illness or a sexual identity issue, we tend to deny there’s a problem. We’re like an ostrich with it’s head in the sand. Denial is an obstacle we need to overcome to make progress in our difficult situations.

It’s so easy to get stuck. It’s too scary and too painful to admit that our child has a problem. There can’t really be a problem! Not my child! We don’t want to believe it.  As time goes by it gets harder and harder to make excuses, to keep believing nothing is wrong, to ignore all the signs.

Why does this happen? I think there are many reasons. One reason is that we love our children so much that we don’t want to believe they aren’t the person they used to be when they were little. But they have changed. They are not the same. We must accept this and stop fooling ourselves.

Another reason is that if we admit there’s a problem then we have to do something about it. Admitting this means we have to make some hard changes. We’ll have to stop enabling; or we may need to see a counselor, or begin attending a support group like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. We may need to take some strong steps like having them hospitalized or arrange for an intervention. We may even need to find a rehab program for them. We’ll also need to make the time to learn all we can about the issues they struggle with. These all demand a lot from us – time, emotions and finances.

We have a decision to make. Will we continue to live in denial or begin facing reality? Will we keep our heads in the sand or pick up our heads and be strong?  It’s scary, but if we arm ourselves with good information and support from others we’ll be okay.

Denial is a natural part of our journey, but we can’t stay there. We need to face our fears and move toward acceptance. This is where we want to go – to the land of acceptance. That’s where we can begin to find peace. I can always use more peace. How about you? Are you ready to move beyond denial?

A book that has been helpful to my husband and I is from Al-Anon, Courage to Change. The readings offer a lot of wisdom and insights. You can order Al-Anon literature from their website: al-anon.alateen.org.

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I can't. God can. I think I'll let him!

I can’t. God can. I think I’ll let him!

I really like the caption under this photo. I think it should be the motto of every parent of a challenging, troubled child. If your son or daughter is abusing drugs or alcohol, smoking cigarettes, cutting themselves, suffers with a mental illness, having sex, is suicidal, has an eating disorder, has a same sex attraction or is in trouble with the law – there is nothing you can do to change them if they don’t want to change. You are powerless.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try, especially if they are under eighteen. Of course you want to do everything in your power to help – counseling, an evaluation by a doctor or psychiatrist,  rehab or treatment – but ultimately, they must decide they’re ready to change – to begin a new life. Until then, it’s a 50/50 proposition. Sometimes after they’re participating in a program they may change their mind, but sometimes not. You just never know.

I tried this with my daughter. I was sure that if we took her to a counselor,  got her evaluated by a psychiatrist, started her on medication if needed, put her in a residential rehab program, brought the right people around her, etc. then she would be fixed.

I was wrong. I learned the hard way that I had no control. I couldn’t change her as hard as I tried. I was powerless. This feeling of utter helplessness was horrible. Seeing her destroy herself was pure torture. If you’re in this kind of situation then you know the gut-wrenching pain I’m talking about. There were many days I wondered if she would survive.

I had to learn to let go and wait. I’m sure our efforts did some good, but at the time, they were a deposit she could go back to and draw on in the future when she was ready. But until she was sick and tired of being sick and tired; until she wanted to be well no matter what it would take – wanted it for herself and not to please me or her dad or anyone else,  she wasn’t ready.  She had to want to live and only God could make that happen.

When the phrase  “I can’t.  God can.  I think I’ll let him.”  describes your attitude, then you can find some measure of peace in any situation, especially with your children. This is letting go and letting God. It’s taking our hands off and trusting Him to be the “hands on” in their lives, doing what we cannot.

Our problem may be big, but God is bigger.

We have no power to change our child, but God is all-powerful.

We don’t know what to do, but God knows.

We can’t do anything to rescue them, but God can.

He can even move mountains if that’s what it will take.

Keep giving your child to God, stay out of the way, and let Him work.

This Bible verse is what we need: “Have no anxiety about anything . . . bring your requests to God

and the peace of God will keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”   (Philippians 4:6-7)

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As parents we have a special relationship with our children.  We have a deep emotional connection along with a strong sense of responsibility.  When we bring our child into the world we eagerly watch them grow under our loving guidance.  We are full of hopes and dreams for them.  Then, all of that appears to be shattered when we realize they may be in trouble with drugs, alcohol, self harm, an eating disorder,  porn, same sex identity issues, or a  mental illness.

We try everything in our power to stop their behaviors….we forgive, make excuses, cover up, smooth out & want to believe everything they tell us.  When our first attempts at changing them or even denying their behaviors don’t work we try exercising our authority by making demands or controlling them…..but nothing we say or do works.

If our child lives at home we are sickened by the daily experience of living with unacceptable behavior.  We listen anxiously for them to come in at night, or sneak out at night.  We fear the phone ringing in the middle of the night, that it might mean disaster or tragedy.  We worry about the affects of their behaviors on their health, relationships, school, jobs, or if they will get arrested – their future in general.

Our constant companions are fear, sadness, frustration and anger.  We are afraid of all the what-ifs.  We are so angry with them, their friends, and ourselves.  We’re full of guilt and shame.  Some of my worst anguish came with my sense of guilt.  I would ask myself the painful questions:  “What did I do wrong?  How could I have prevented this?  It must be my fault, or how could my child be this way?  What should I do now?”  And the sadness — over what has happened, over all that is lost and what never will be.

Are we supposed to stop caring what happens to our children?  Of course not!  But we can become so obsessed with their problems and so afraid for their welfare that many of us neglected all our other relationships, including ourselves.  We need to learn to take care of ourselves and let go of our anguish over our children. We can do this by stopping our nagging, scolding and criticizing.  We need to stop reacting, stop trying to change them, stop trying to protect them and stop making their problems our problems.  Wow, that’s a mouthful of challenging things that sound so easy to do, yet . . . painfully difficult.  I know this firsthand.

This skill of letting go is critical.  It allows our children to experience the results of their actions and can actually save their lives.  We need to learn what responsibilities are ours and what are theirs. We need to resist the temptation to find solutions for their troubles.  Let them own what is theirs and we will own what is ours!  We can learn how!

We need to put into practice a courageous love.  Letting our children become responsible for their own problems.  Remember, they aren’t just our children.  They are God’s children, too.  For me, remembering this gives me the strength and peace to “let go and let God” work in my daughter’s life.  By doing this, I can learn to live with an unsolved problem and you can, too.  Even if they end up in rehab or in jail (or worse), God can use it to turn them around.  He can use it to bring good in both their live and in ours!

We also need to learn to let go and release them with love.  This helps us regain our serenity.  I know it’s not easy to do, but for us to be healthy ourselves we must learn how.  Sometimes our love can actually smother them.  Our kind of caring isn’t always helpful, so we must let go and detach.  We must give them back to God and ask Him to take care of them, continually communicating an unconditional loving attitude.  This kind of love is powerful!

We need to learn how to trust more so we will worry less.  When we place our trust in God (our Higher Power) and turn our anxieties and our child over to Him, we can live one day at a time.    We find relief.   We do not have to be chained to the despair we have known.  We can know that whatever happens – whether our child is ever “OK” or not – we will be alright.  We must surrender our children and ourselves to God, then we can have peace.  We can find serenity again because we are both in good hands!

I also can’t encourage support groups enough when you are living with an unsolved problem.  They give you a safe place to process your feelings with others who understand and won’t look down on you.  You find the help you need as you begin applying what you are learning.  As you hear others share who are a few steps ahead of you it encourages you to take those scary steps yourself.  If they can do it, then you can, too!  Al-Anon groups are great and Celebrate Recovery is, too.  You can google them to see if they are in your area.

You can learn to live with an unsolved problem in your child’s life as you stop trying to protect them, determine to show courageous love, let go and let God work.   For me it always seems to get back to trust.  I need to trust God more and more with all the problems in their lives that I can’t solve.  Put your child in His hands and know He is working, even though you cannot see it now.

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    “I can’t.  God can.  I think I’ll let him!”

I love this statement.  I think it should be the motto of every parent of a challenging, troubled child.  If your son or daughter is abusing drugs or alcohol, smoking cigarettes, cutting themselves, depressed, having sex, is suicidal, has an eating disorder, has a same sex attraction or is in trouble with the law there is nothing you can do to change them.  You are powerless.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try and do something.  Of course you want to do everything in your power to help them (offer counseling,  Baker Act them if needed,  take to a doctor or psychiatrist for an evaluation, offer rehab), but ultimately they must decide they want help or none of your efforts will do any good.  They must reach the point of being ready to change, ready to begin a new life.  Until then, sadly, all of your efforts to force them into another way of living will be futile.

I tried this with my daughter.  I was just sure that if we just took her to a counselor,  got her evaluated by a psychiatrist, got her on meds if needed, put her through a residential rehab program, brought the right people around her, etc.  etc.  then she would be “fixed”.  She would be just fine and all would be well!  I was so wrong.  I learned the hard way that I had no control over her.  I could not change her as hard as I tried.  I was truly powerless. This feeling of utter helplessness is so horrible.  The worst.  Especially when you see your beloved son or daughter destroying themselves and you can do nothing but stand by watch it happen.  Pure torture.  If you are in this situation now you know.  Gut-wrenching.  Makes you sick.  There were many days I wondered if my daughter would survive.

I had to learn to let go and wait until she wanted it for herself.  I am sure our efforts did make some deposits in her life that helped her when we was ready later on, but at the time, it was just that – a deposit she would go back to and draw on later when she was ready.  So of course you want to do that!   But until she was sick and tired of being sick and tired. . .  Until she wanted more out of life. . . until she wanted to be well no matter what it would take. . . until she wanted it for herself,  not to please me or her dad or anyone else,  she wasn’t ready.  She had to want a different life.  She had to want to live and only God could make that happen.

When the words  “I can’t.  God can.  I think I’ll let him”  describe your state of mind you can find peace in any situation, especially with your children.  I know it’s possible because I experienced it!   I think it sums up the concept of letting go and letting God pretty well.  It’s taking our hands off and trusting him to be “hands on” in their lives, doing what we can’t do.  We must keep trusting, trusting, trusting.

Our problem may be big, but God is BIGGER!

I have no power to change my child, but God is all-powerful.  He has all the power necessary to do that.

I don’t know what to do, but God knows exactly what to do.

I can do nothing to rescue them.  God can do anything to rescue them.

He can even move mountains if that is what it will take.

So, I will keep giving my child to him, stay out of the way and let him work.

“Have no anxiety about anything . . . bring your requests to God

and the peace of God will keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”   (Phil. 4:6-7)

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Flowers growing out of the ashes of Mt. St. Helens

My life felt like ashes, ashes.  I wondered if I could ever laugh or smile again.  The ashes for me came from my experiences as the mom of a former prodigal daughter, Renee (now 23).

Renee kept me on my knees much of her young life as a stubborn, strong-willed child.  Even as a toddler there were many moments I found myself on my knees by my bed crying and praying desperately for wisdom and strength.  Many times I told the Lord He’d made a mistake – I wasn’t smart enough, strong enough or wise enough to know how to parent her!

Don’t get me wrong, there were many wonderful times and most of her childhood she appeared to be very happy.  Out of our three children, having genuinely received Christ when she was 4, she was the one who had the greatest spiritual depth and insight at a young age.   However, puberty brought a great sense of angst, an identity crisis and an irresistible desire to rebel.  Today Renee says she always knew “I was going to have to learn things the hard way and sometimes I would even cry over that”.  I was completely clueless about the storm that was brewing.


A glimmer of the nightmare ahead began when she was just 12 and cut herself for the first time.  She was upset about something we’d discovered that she had done, knowing she would be disciplined for.  She said the idea literally came to her out of nowhere. She’d never heard of it before and knew of no one who did this to themselves. She struggled secretly with extreme self-condemnation, feeling she had to be perfect. Unknown to us, she had also been plagued with a sense of evil and darkness all around her for years.  We now know it was a combination of depression and spiritual battle.  She thought this was “normal” so she kept it all to herself.  Even today, this still causes me pain.

Renee has suffered the ravages of alcoholism, drug addiction, self-harm (cutting), rape, suicide attempts, hospitalizations in the psych ward, several near overdoses, and several stays in residential rehab programs.  She has also been diagnosed with depression, bi-polar, an anxiety disorder and an obsessive compulsive disorder.

All of this is quite depressing to hear, I realize. I share these things to give you an idea of what God has brought me through. Things I never, ever dreamed or imagined could happen to our family.  Not my little girl!  How could it be possible?  The pain so deep, so immobilizing and crushing.  My children had been my ministry, my mission, my focus.  I had given her my whole self.   I had done my very best to be the most godly, Spirit-filled mom I could be.  To love her unconditionally, without reservation, to teach her God’s Word and model living a purposeful, meaningful life for Christ, with great passion and enthusiasm.  So how could this happen?

I was full of so much guilt and self-blame.  What did I do wrong?  What should I have done differently?  How could God let this happen to my child?  I don’t understand!  I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide from the world.  I just wanted it all to go away, to have my sweet little girl back!

My journey as the mom of a child with these severe problems was typical of a person coping with severe loss, like a death.  For this was indeed a death of sorts, the death of my hopes and dreams for my child.  Much of what I experienced felt worse than if she had died, since it included rejection (when she left home at 18, 6 weeks before high school graduation, to pursue her destructive lifestyle) and my worst nightmares coming true.  It was a living death for me that I thought I would never, ever recover from.  I certainly felt like I aged rapidly during some of these episodes.   Shock, embarrassment, shame, anger, resentment, fear, denial, grief and bargaining with God were my constant companions. What good could come of this?   


So, how has God brought beauty out of these ashes?  In ways I never dreamed possible. “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places.”  (Isaiah 45:3)  I would never have sought these treasures, but I am far richer today than before this trial began.  I have made many discoveries – about myself, about God, my relationship with Him and all my significant relationships.  This terrible experience brought me many gifts.  Author Sharon Hersch says (in her book, The Last Addiction), “I discovered the gifts of addiction.” So have I.  God’s gifts often come to us wrapped in mysterious ways.   Here are just a few that I have been given:

1 ) I have come to know my Creator on a much deeper and more intimate level than I knew was possible.  Pressing in closer for survival brought a greater sweetness to our fellowship.  I was amazed at the nearness of His presence through many sleepless nights and pain-filled days of uncertainty.  Sometimes His nearness was almost palpable.  While at other times He felt far away. I had to walk by faith and not by sight.  Often numb, He had to be enough, even if no other prayer I prayed was ever answered again.  Could I be content and rest in Him even if my prodigal never came home?

2) Scripture became even more valuable and precious. Knowing I couldn’t make it without strength from God forced me to spend much time in the Scriptures until I received what I needed.  I was constantly amazed at how God would give just the right thing each day! Some days I read a few verses before I would come upon “bread” for my soul.  During these years I discovered many “golden nuggets” that will always be precious to me for how they met my needs and gave me such hope – the Holy Spirit assisted me in “mining” them out of the deep, dark caverns of my affliction.  Here are a three of my favorites:

Isaiah 55:8-13  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, declares the Lord….. my word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.  You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace…..instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.  This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.”

2 Timothy 2:25b-26  “…in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do is will.”

Isaiah 45:3  “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places.”

3) I experienced greater spiritual and personal growth. I am the kind of person who does not like conflict. I previously avoided it, but I learned to face it. Instead of run from it I am now able to be more honest about my feelings (though, I won’t fool you, it is still hard!).  I realized I was a rather fearful person.  Going through this trial I learned to face my worst fears, to accept unthinkable possible outcomes and find peace with an unknown future.  My prayer life deepened and I learned to pray more effectively. In short, I grew a lot.

4) I’ve grown closer to my husband and other children. Today we have a richer, deeper appreciation for each other and are able to discuss hard things a little more easily.  When you share so much heartache and pain together it can bring you much closer or it can tear you apart.  So, my husband and I chose to protect our relationship and make it a priority, being careful not to neglect it.  During one of our most difficult times he surprised me by whisking me away on a 3 day cruise, to celebrate our anniversary! We also put out extra effort to be sure our other children were not neglected and knew how loved they are.

In my next blog I will share 4 more “gifts” I feel I was given from being the mom of a self-destructive daughter.

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