Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

I went to a graduation at the rehab a couple of weeks ago. Morgan’s Mercy Mansion is a drug and alcohol rehab center for women here in Winnsboro. The women spend six months at the mansion then graduate. I love their graduations. And I have to admit part of the reason is because they always have cake.

But the graduations are magnificent affairs. Families come. Long-time graduates come to support the new ones. A lot of the church ladies from our bible study come to support them. They pass out certificates for all the classes the Mansion offers, there's music and speeches.  And, best of all, they end every graduation with The Hedge. The Hedge of Protection is one of their most intrenched traditions.  Every evening before they end their day at the mansion, they gather in prayer and end with a unison recitation of Psalm 91. 

Psalm 91 is one of the longest psalms in the bible so reciting the Hedge is one of the most astounding pieces of memorization I’ve ever seen. Memory work is one of the requirements at the rehab. They memorize scripture because you might not have a bible handy at the exact moment you need the Word of God the most. So they memorize whole chunks of scripture.

I took this picture mostly for my own enjoyment. This was the largest circle of residents and graduates I've even seen.  Their circle is growing.   There are more and more alumni who return for each new graduation.  They bring their parents, their husbands and their children.

Sherrie Hansen usually updates us on the mansion statistics at a graduation.  How much the program costs, how many women  they currently have (and lately they've stayed maxed out and have a waiting list). Their limit right now is 14 only because they have a 15 passenger van.   My favorite statistic of all is their 78% success rate for the women who complete the program.  

For those 78% the Mansion saves lives. It saves families. The circle grows. The long time alumni gather around the three or four recent graduates like a sorority and love them, counsel and uphold them. And they pray together.

And pray, they must.  Because they know that  all the certificates in the world won't guarantee that someone will be able to stay clean and sober.

I have given up trying to predict which woman will make it and which won’t. There is no predicting. And it breaks my heart ever time a woman relapses.After studying the bible together with someone for six months you get to know their personality, their families, their potential.   Apart from the success rate there is also a girl who died from an overdose. There are others who we never hear from again and we worry about them and remind ourselves of the hard truth: some of them don’t make it.

A while back, when I went to our weekly prayer meeting one of the ladies was finishing her six months the next day. She has a husband and job waiting so she won’t be staying in the transitional housing the Mansion has. She asked if we could say the Lord’s Prayer together. We don't often say the Lord's Prayer together but sitting there in our quiet circle the words came to me with new meaning, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”

I don’t know what causes addiction. I’m certain there is no one factor but a whole assortment of causes. I know in my case there is a genetic propensity toward alcoholism. Like my blue eyes, I can say I inherited it from my parents. But there's usually a secondary reason a person becomes an alcoholic.  With my dad, you had to factor in secondary issues like World War II, with my mother it was the mysterious death of her father when she was 14.  With my sister...well, she just had a whole luggage cart of baggage--enough to make a psychotherapist very rich.   And by the time I was finished sorting out all my own childhood stories the therapist was driving a Porsche. (Really. They should never allow the therapists to park in the same lot as their patients.)

I also know addiction hits some people harder than others. When I decided to stop drinking 18 years ago it was hard but not nearly as hard as I see that it is for some people. So, I decided on two things: the therapist deserves the Porsche and the most important factor in any job is getting mental health benefits.

Addiction doesn’t stop at just drugs or alcohol. There’s a whole Overeaters Anonymous program and  I might be just as good a candidate for that one as any addiction around.

Snacks. Snacks in front of the TV. Just a touch of something with sugar in it. Any carb will do. And it is far more difficult for me to end the day without over-indulging in sweets or carbs than booze. Booze was easy to eliminate from our house- we just quit buying it. But food is sort of a requirement. Every trip to the grocery store is an opportunity to make stupid choices that seem harmless at the moment.

I’ve seen women leave the rehab with everything going for them—jobs, great support systems, beautiful children and husbands—and still they relapse. The key is to get right back on the wagon.

One girl explained that she simply found herself on the bus with a six-pack of beer sitting in her lap and no memory of how it got there. She lost custody of her daughter because of that one six pack. I know her baby outweighed the six-pack in her heart, soul and mind. And I’m just as puzzled as she is over how stuff like that happens. To her credit, she went back to her AA meetings and got back on the wagon. But sobriety is an on and off situation for some people. They count the days and try their best.

I have found myself with a bowl of ice cream on my lap in front of the TV with that same feeling of not knowing how my own discipline or judgment took such a vacation.

Chaos sits at the door and knocks. And sometimes all the rehab certificates and prayer and love in the world fail to keep the door shut. And I don’t understand how or why it happens. And I would never recommend that anyone bet money on even my own sobriety.

And so we pray. Dear God in Heaven, keep this door shut. Please. Keep this door shut.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

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