God’s Got A Treatment Plan For You

by:  Cris Corzine-McCloskey

I have been doing training for the past week. I am learning how to write a better Treatment Plan. A treatment plan is a blueprint created by a healthcare provider outlining what a client’s problems and goals are, and what the provider is going to do to get the client to their goals. The key to a good treatment plan is to tailor fit it to the individual. For that reason, I am convinced God has treatment plans with each of our names on it!

When I see a client for the first time, our initial meeting is spent doing an assessment. This is a tool I use to ascertain what a person’s problem areas are, and what changes are needed to help them thrive. Don’t you think God works the same way?

Face it, none of us come to Jesus because we have it all together. I was spending time with friends the other night, and we began telling our salvation stories. Not one of us had a story of a cushy life, but we all share a radical love for Christ. We have all been on very different journeys, headed to the same destination. Individual treatment plans, but the same goal for all of us. God wants to make us each look more like His Son, so we can shine light into this dark world.

I used to look at other believers and wish I was more like them. I love Joyce Meyer’s fearlessness. I admire Beth Moore’s ability to make the Bible come alive. Bill Johnson is my radical faith hero, and my Pastor, Jason Forby, has a healing an incredible healing gift. I would watch these people and feel a little jealous. I would want God to talk to me the way He does them. But I am not them, and the way God works with them is not part of my treatment plan.

I have come to understand and embrace the way He leads me. He talks to me plenty. It is rarely an audible voice, but more a gentle knowing when I read His word. He is also growing me in ways that He may not be doing in my faith heroes. He sees what the finished model of Cris is supposed to look like, and He promises it will be good. He knows how much I can handle before I get discouraged, and He knows when to push me for more. In other words, my treatment plan is perfect, because it is tailor-fit for me.

How do I know this is true? Because He said so! In Jeremiah 29:11, He says, “I know the plans I have for you. Plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” It also says in Philippians 1:6, “God, who began a good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished.”

In my business, the success of the treatment plan requires active collaboration between my client and me. If I am working harder than they are, it is time for me to have a conversation with them about client resistance. Sometimes, people have been stuck for so long they are afraid to be healthy. I think the same is true with God’s relationship with us. And just like I have had to abandon my treatment plans for clients and accept their unwillingness to work toward their goals, I believe God allows us to do the same thing.

I don’t think you are one of those people, though, or you wouldn’t have read this far. But maybe you don’t know how to start cooperating with His treatment plan. A great place to start is by asking God to show you His plans. Then open Psalms and start reading until you find a verse that speaks to you. That’s Him, showing you a goal on His treatment plan! Then wash, rinse, and repeat, and you are on the road to change!

High-Fives and Fist-Bumps

by:  Cris Corzine-McCloskey

I heard a story about a man who had been going through the trials of Job. Grief, financial loss, you name it, he had it going on. The man’s response was to place two chairs face to face. He sat down in one, pointed to the other, and extended an invitation. He said, “Devil, have a seat. You are going to watch me praise my Lord.” And, as the saying goes, he got his praise on.

As a therapist, I applaud this man for his creative use of coping skills. I also admire his determination not to let his circumstances define him. Science would also give him a thumbs up because Dr. Caroline Leaf has discovered when we worship God, our brains release dopamine and eliminate toxins. In other words, worship gives your brain a day at the spa.

But it is not the science side of me that is affected by this story, it is the believer side of me. Frankly, I want to give this man a high-five and a fist-bump. He one-upped Job. Job never cursed God, but he did sit around in pile of ashes. This man stayed out of the ash heap and worshiped. I admire his faith, and it challenges me. I want to be so unshakable that no matter what this world, or the devil, throws at me, praise becomes my knee-jerk response.

Why? Because in my gut I believe two things: 1. The struggle is real, very real. As a therapist, I see things every day that would make your hair stand on end. This world does horrible things to its inhabitants. Pain, grief, abuse, trauma, rejection. All of it is part of the human struggle, and all of it is very real. 2. The fight is fixed.

No matter what comes at me, no matter how long I’ve laid on the mat with my teeth knocked out, that count going on above my head will never, ever reach 10. There is a God in heaven who loves me, and I belong to Him. Even when I breathe my last, the count still doesn’t reach 10, because I will open up my eyes and see the face of Jesus. At that point, I would really like Him to be giving me a high-five and a fist-bump.

Until that day comes, I desire to live life with my boots on and ready to rumble. I know struggles will come, but they don’t define me. Jesus defines me. As Pastor Steven Furtick says, “It’s what you do with the pain that determines what it becomes.” I want my struggles to prompt worship. Then, I’m giving praise to the One who deserves it, I am giving my brain a day at the spa, AND I am picking up my weapons of warfare.

We don’t find victory in complaining, venting, whimpering, or whining. But when we start getting our praise on, watch out, because we are inviting the Almighty to come to take over. In closing, I want to share with you some lyrics from my new favorite song, Raise a Hallelujah, by John and Melissa Hesler. The first verse goes like this: I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies. I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief. I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody. I raise a hallelujah, heaven comes to fight for me.

Next time you are in a struggle, I dare you to pull up a couple of chairs, invite the devil to cop a squat, and start singing that song. See if you don’t feel Jesus giving you a high-five and a fist-bump!

The Search for Meaning

Netflix has a biography out about Billy Graham called An Extraordinary Journey. He was an ordinary man, completely sold out to an extraordinary God. Because of that, his journey was profound. He not only reached more people with the gospel than anyone before or since, but he also evangelized the Soviet Union during the Cold War, which helped bring down the Iron Curtain. Wowzers! He lived a life filled with purpose, which is something we all want.

The desire for meaning is ageless, and even in our modern self-driven culture, the yearning for a life lived with purpose is knit into the fiber of who we are. That’s because God put it there. And as a former hedonist, I promise you this, a life spent in self-indulgent pleasure is a meaningless life. As Jesus said, “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?”

As Christians, we know God gives our life purpose, but I am surprised by how many people are confused about what their purpose is. It’s like a Christian version of the Existential Dilemma. It’s almost as if we look at Billy Graham then look at ourselves and declare our lives to be meaningless. I promise you this, my friend, God does not see you that way.

When I was arrested, I met an inmate who had been in jail for two years awaiting sentencing. She said some things to me about the gospel that had me down on my knees, asking Jesus into my heart that very night. I never knew her name, but I will always remember the impact she had on my life. Every person I encourage, column I write, and prayer I pray, is laced with her fingerprints. Even in that stinking hell-hole, she was a woman called to God’s purpose for her life. She was on the front lines, advancing the Kingdom of God. She will never know, this side of heaven, what a vast ripple effect her words had.

The Kingdom of God is funny like that. Jesus compared it to a mustard seed. He said it starts off as something tiny, then it grows and grows.

Someone has put encouraging signs around town! I see them everywhere saying, “Don’t give up,” and “You are not alone.” The first time I saw one of these, I was having a terrible day, and the reminder that I wasn’t alone was just what I needed. From that, I had the strength to go minister to and encourage others. They, in turn, probably did the same for others they came in contact with. A little mustard seed grows into something huge when it’s planted by the Master Gardner.

I could tell you story after story of people around the community who are feeding the hungry, encouraging the bereft, and healing the sick. They are looking at the gospel, taking the directives of Christ, and going for it. This is how God’s Kingdom advances. Every time you stop what you are doing in your busy life, smile at someone, and offer them the hope found in God’s love, the Kingdom advances.

If you are struggling with the existential dilemma, I can help. Jesus said the only way to find your life is to give it away. That’s what’s happened to me. I met a woman who had given her life away, and she convinced me I had nothing to lose except my meaninglessness. The rest, as they say, is history. And while you may not be the next Billy Graham, you may very well create some ripple effects in this community that ends up making big waves in eternity.

God’s Idea of Good

by:  Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Last week marked the 12th anniversary of my release from Federal incarceration. My life has been a display of God’s faithfulness, regardless of who we are or what we have done. I remember the day of my release from the Halfway House. I was clutching a box that held my possessions. I was also keeping God’s promises in my heart. One of those promises was Romans 8:28.

Romans 8:28 says, “God causes all things to work together for the good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” The first time I heard that verse, I was a new believer preparing to go to prison. I did not think it could apply to me, because I didn’t see how God could possibly work out my being a Federal Meth Felon with a prison record for good.

It would be easy to look at my life now and see the external blessings of God and point to those things as the “good” promised in that verse. I have a home, a career, family, friends, and stability. All the trappings of the American dream. But those are not the things God calls good. What God calls good is found in Romans 8:29, “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.”

God knew before the beginning of time, I would belong to Him. He had a plan to use my childhood trauma, my addiction, and even my incarceration, to bring the ultimate good in my life. He used it to make me more like Jesus. My broken life caused me to reach out to Him, and once I asked Him to take over, He began giving me a divine makeover. My rage has been replaced by peace. My addiction has been replaced by radical love for Jesus. My anxiety has been turned to faith (most of the time). In other words, I am starting to be conformed to the image of Jesus, and God says that is good.

It’s crucial we understand this because if our definition of good is a white picket fence and a new car, we will be looking for those things as tributes to God’s faithfulness and miss the real miracle of a transformed life. And while I don’t think He minds us having a new car, I don’t believe that is His definition of good. I think a person who holds on to Him when facing unimaginable tragedy moves His heart. I believe He thinks that is very, very good because, in those moments, they look just like Jesus.

So in case being transformed into the likeness of Jesus does not excite you, maybe you need to take another look at the Gospels. I made a short list of some of Jesus character traits I saw displayed in the first few chapters of Mark. He was: bold, fearless, impossible to manipulate, confrontational when needed, not a people pleaser, lived to do the Father’s will, beloved of God, compassionate, wise beyond measure, a teacher, humble, approachable, an excellent public speaker, a revolutionary, chose friends wisely, loved underdogs, was not religious, knew His purpose, had supernatural perception, not a shred of selfishness, a champion under-reactor (never freaked out), perfect self-control, did not have rejection issues, healed the sick, raised the dead, and was full of faith and full of power.

There are a lot of things not covered on that list, like His ability to step out into a raging storm and release peace. I especially want that trait. But I must admit, I’m not there yet. So, until I get there, let the divine makeover continue. Now, pray with me, “Go ahead, God, be so good to me in my life that you make me look just like Jesus. Amen”

Dry Branches and Faker Fruit

by:  Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Last week I told you I have rearranged my priorities. I’m far more deliberate about spending quality time with Jesus. I feel renewed, and I know why. I had been living as a dry branch because I was not abiding in the Vine.

Jesus tells us in John 15 He is the Vine, we are branches, and as branches, we must abide in Him to have an abundant life. Abiding in Him means to have Him as the center of everything. When we do that, we are relaxed and peaceful. If we aren’t abiding, we have cut ourselves off from His essence flowing into us.

A lifestyle of being attached to the Vine yields what the Bible calls fruit (mindsets, emotions, and personality traits). The fruit that comes from healthy Vine attachment is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. We develop these traits because they are Jesus’ character traits. As we spend time with Him, we become more and more like Him.

Abiding in the Vine keeps us sated and enables us to have healthy relationships with others. We love people, but we are not clingy or easy to offend, because we are not dependent on them. We are free to want them without needing them.

However, when we are not abiding in Him, we innately yearn for that connection. In that state of need, our standard go-to is to seek out a person to fill the void. As a therapist, I see a lot of dry branches with unhealthy attachments.

People are out there looking for their “soul-mate.” That one person to “complete” them. The one they “can’t live without.” They also want friends they can share all their deepest secrets with and children to center their life around. Those are fancy terms for co-dependency and classic examples of dry branch thinking.

When a dry branch is looking to connect, they feel lonely and yearn for deep emotional intimacy. When they meet a person who seems to fulfill that longing, they feel euphoric. They think their empty place has been filled. It feels so good it makes them feel love, joy, and peace. They are kinder and gentler because they think their attachment need has been met. I call this “faker fruit” because it never lasts.

Another human cannot fulfill their inner longings and deepest desires, so, inevitably, the faker fruit season ends, and is replaced by the unhealthy fruit of not abiding in Christ. Where the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, kindness, and self-control, the rotten fruit of not abiding is neediness, stress, frustration, and vices that help them cope. Moreover, their relationship that at one time felt like the answer becomes another area of concern and anxiety in their life.

If this is you, please understand the relationship you are clinging to cannot be healthy until you are healthy. The only way to do that is to make Vine time your top priority. Stop clinging to whomever it is you are so attached to and relax your grip on the relationship. They cannot be your supply source, only Jesus can. When you do these things, you will find your relationships are better, and your faker fruit will give way to the real thing.

The Word I’m Learning to Hate

by:  Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Does anyone other than me feel like life is traveling at warp speed? I am so overwhelmed by my to-do list. I feel like no one gets the best part of me. Not my husband, my family, or my friends. Even Jesus only gets my leftovers. I am just too busy. There it is, the word I am learning to hate, “busy.”

I remember a day when I used to wear that word like a badge of honor. “Can’t do that, I’m just too busy.” I think the word made me feel important. Well, not anymore! Now it makes me feel defeated, like I’m failing at life. I know I am not alone in this.

For myself, my two arch enemies are my ever-expanding to-do list and my smartphone. Yet, I love my phone. I can bury my face in it and check out. It’s a great source of entertainment. It also eats my time with nothingness, which puts me farther behind on my to-do list.

I must admit, I also love my to-do list, even though I believe it may be killing me. I get a charge out of accomplishing things. Besides, all of the items on it are good things. I could even call them God things. But when the to-do list becomes more of my god than God, I have a problem. I have created an idol out of my goals, and it’s costing me my peace.

The life of Jesus astonishes me. He only had three years of ministry, and in that short time, He changed the world. Yet, He did it all without a smartphone or a to-do list. When you study His movements, He was always on the move, but never busy, stressed, or in a hurry. He always had time for people. I usually make people feel like they are inconveniencing me because I am too busy for them. That means I am definitely not doing life like Jesus.

I can have a first-class ticket bound for Heaven, but if my busyness here on earth takes away from my time for people or with Jesus, I am not living life the way God desires. It doesn’t matter if I go out and build great monuments on His behalf, if I do it at the expense of love for people or intimacy with Jesus, I’m missing what matters most. Jesus said, “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul.” My busyness is costing me peace in my soul. That means it’s time to re-think my priorities.

The next item on my to-do list is to pare down my to-do list. To get decidedly and deliberately un-busy. I’m going to slow down and enjoy my time with Jesus and invest in my primary relationships again. That means I’m going to start turning off my phone and enjoy more time with Jesus and people. Most of all, I’m going to trust God with the things that need to get done. If He can create the universe, surely He can keep my ducks in a row.

I wonder what is causing you to be overwhelmed and too busy? If running your kids to all of their activities are costing you the ability to enjoy your family, maybe it’s time to pare down their activities. If it’s working too many hours to provide a lifestyle that’s robbing you of your peace, perhaps it’s time to whittle down your lifestyle. Remember, just because busy is the new normal, doesn’t make it right or healthy. You may very well be gaining the whole world but losing out on what matters most, peace in your soul.

Whose Dream Are You Following?

by:  Cris Corzine-McCloskey

On January 2, 2018, Caring Counseling Ministries began operating at our new location at 11264 Route 37 in Marion. On May 20, 2019, we opened our 2nd facility on that property. The Caring Counseling Ministries Annex Building.

Before our move to Route 37, we had been operating out of a building generously lent to us by 2nd Baptist Church. It worked, but we couldn’t grow. For years we dreamed of having our own place. At board meetings, we would pray about expanding, but then look at our budget and wonder how God could make our dream a reality. What I didn’t know then was we were following God’s dreams, He wasn’t following ours.

Each day I drive past an old 2 story house I had considered as a location for our agency. It was affordable. It was also a rundown, termite infested, dilapidated shell of a place. All it had going for it was the price and potential of some good parking. I remember the look on my office manager’s face as I walked her through. She was ready to have me committed. I also remember the despair I felt as I considered the size of our dreams versus the size of our budget. I thought a ran down old dump was the best we could afford.

The Bible says God can do exceedingly and abundantly more than we ever dared dream, hope, or ask for. We were blown away when we were able to move to the building on Rt. 37. Not only was it beautiful, but it had two huge garages. One of which has now been converted into our new Annex building. In that building we have more therapists and the space for recovery meetings, Bible studies, and groups.

This has reminded me to stop putting limits on God. All those years we had been praying for expansion, God already had the location picked out, and He was getting it ready. When we thought our prayers were hitting a wall, He was moving mountains right up the road to prepare our future.

Prayer is like a seed you plant. You never know how long it will take, but eventually, God brings in the harvest. CCM is now in the harvest season. However, we could never have made it to this point had it not been for the vision and prayers of my predecessor, Kent Mattox. He was faithful to what God gave him to do, and Kent had the vision to see what it could be in the future. As we step into this new season of growth, I am even more aware that it’s as much his dream that is being realized as it is ours. It’s also the prayers of years of board members who invested in our mission.

God also blessed us with a fantastic contractor, Darren Vaughn, who believed in us enough to donate much of his time and talent to make our annex happen. His brother, Dennis Vaughn, and teammate Dane Vanscooten, and painter, Dennis Anderson were all on board helping. Jason Henson donated some of our materials, and the end result was beyond what anyone expected. It is truly a miracle, and I can’t thank these guys enough.

So now, when I drive by that old run down house that’s still for sale (no surprise there) I am reminded of the power of God. So how about you, are you waiting for God to fulfill a dream you have about given up on? Don’t settle for a dilapidated old shack when your Father in Heaven may have something way better. If you don’t believe it can happen for you, take a tour of our place, it will help get your hopes up sky high!

The Story of the Bummer Lamb

by:  Cris Corzine McCloskey

In this broken world, few of us escape the hurt of rejection. Whether the pain comes from a dysfunctional home, schoolyard bullying, or unrequited love, by the time we reach adulthood, most of us are bearing some scars. Since feeling rejected is a pain we find unbearable, we protect ourselves.

Pop quiz: Are you afraid of being hurt? Are you a people pleaser, scared people will leave you if you don’t keep them happy? Do you look for flaws in relationships so you can reject them before they reject you? Do you avoid emotional intimacy? Are you insecure? Hypersensitive to criticism? If you answered yes to one or more of these, you have rejection issues.

There is a reason rejection hurts so much. Studies have shown the brain reacts the same way to rejection as it does to physical pain. That’s why we get so stuck. Recently, someone told me she feels like a stray cat no one wants to let in. The animal reference reminded me of the story of the bummer lamb.

Sometimes, when a ewe gives birth to a lamb, she rejects it. She won’t allow it to nurse or accept it in any way. The rejected lambs are called “bummer lambs.” The rejection not only puts them on the path to starvation, but it also breaks their spirit.

Shepherds are on the lookout for these little lambs. A good shepherd will find the bummer lamb, place it close to his heart so it can hear his heartbeat, and takes it home. He bottle feeds it and keeps it warm. Throughout the days ahead, the shepherd will continue to carry the lamb close to his heart. He knows it needs nurturing, or it will die of a broken spirit. As the lamb rests near his heart, it learns the sound of his voice. It learns to trust him.

By the time it is ready to be released back into the flock, there is a new nobility to the little lamb. It no longer feels rejected. It feels special, and it holds it’s head high. It has been singled out by the shepherd. And when the shepherd yells, “sheep, sheep, sheep,” the bummer lambs are always the first that come running.

I am a bummer lamb. I know the sting of rejection from an alcoholic father who would not get sober to save his family. I have had betrayals in friendships and the pain of unrequited love. But I now know the love of the Good Shepherd.

The Bible says Jesus will leave the 99 to pursue 1 lost lamb. That’s what He did for this bummer lamb. When I finally stopped running, He picked me up and carried me close to His heart. And He rejoiced when He carried me home. I can’t tell you I’ve fully recovered from my scars of rejection, but I feel special, and I hold my head high. I feel loved in an extraordinary way by the Good Shepherd, and for me, that trumps the rejection of others.

I know there are a lot of bummer lambs out there. My professional practice is full of them. What is truly tragic, though, is how many Christians won’t allow the Good Shepherd to hold them close to His heart. They want just enough of Him to go to heaven but don’t want to get close enough to be nurtured to wholeness. Without the tending of the Good Shepherd, they are suffering from broken spirits. That is why the world is full of so many wounded Christians.

If this is you, I pray you will allow His love to be a salve for your rejection issues. You are precious to Him, and He longs to gather you close to His heart so you can learn the sound of His voice and feel the comfort of His heartbeat. Then, the rejection of the rest of the flock won’t seem such a big deal. And when the Good Shepherd yells, “sheep, sheep, sheep,” guess who will be leading the pack?

My New Goal

by:  Cris Corzine-McCloskey

It’s a sad day for the McCloskey household. This morning our oldest and most beloved dog, Pabu, could not walk. She’s usually such a tough girl. She is the alpha, ruling over the other dogs with an iron paw. But today she had to be carried out of bed and is currently resting on the couch, unable to get her back legs to work. We can no longer deny she has arthritis and needs medication. Seeing her like this breaks our hearts.

Both my parents just had birthdays. Another year older. My dad’s health took a turn last winter, and he is still fighting for a full recovery. Oh, how I wish I could freeze time and not let them get a minute older or ever suffer bad health, but I can’t.

All of these things, plus the mountain of tasks on my ever-expanding to-do list, tempt me to jump down the rabbit hole of anxiety. I am fighting hard not to over-think and analyze all this because as soon as I do, my peace will be gone.

One of my friends recently told me her husband paid her a fabulous compliment. He accused her of being an “under-thinker.” While she doubted he meant it as a compliment, she certainly took it as such. You see, she has a history of jumping down rabbit-holes and looking at worse-case scenarios. All of that led to her being depressed and anxious.

Evangelist extraordinaire, Dan Mohler, says analytical thinking, which is something we take such pride in, is not a blessing. He says God would never give us the ability to talk ourselves out of Him or out of being at peace. But that’s precisely what we do. We reason ourselves out of peace, and we pride ourselves on the process. We package it as disaster preparedness, so when that worst-case scenario happens, we will be prepared for it. But at what cost? I, for one, am tired of over-thinking and doomsday preparations.

I now have a new goal. I want to be an under-thinker. It sounds like absolute Nirvana! And I know how my friend got to this blissful state. She simplified her theology. She boiled it down to this, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Jesus, my friends, is perfect theology. He has to love you, He died for you. And if He loves you enough to die for you, it’s safe to assume He is an ever-present source of peace at all times. Including dog emergencies and aging parents.

When I am tempted to look down the road into my future, let me look no further than the fact that when hard days arrive, He will be there for me. Providing the grace and peace to get me through. In fact, it says in Psalm 139 that He “hems me in, behind and before, He has laid His hand upon me.” That sounds like a pretty safe place to be. He’s covering my past and going ahead of me into my future, and all the time has His nail-scarred hand of love on my life.

Today, I choose to enjoy my life. I’m going to go pet my dog, and relish in the fact that she is here, and such a source of joy for us. And truth be told, the Diva Dog is reveling in all this extra attention. This afternoon we are having lunch with my parents. We are going to celebrate those birthdays and soak up the pleasure of their company. They are Nathan and I’s favorite hang-out buddies. And if I get tempted to start analyzing anything in my day, I vow to repeat my new, under-thinker mantra, “Jesus loves me this I know.”

The Lottery You Don’t Want to Win

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Another person I care about died from addiction last week. He was young and bright, and he smelled like destiny. He had the potential to be a world changer. Now he’s gone. Destroyed by a disease that is killing more Americans each year than the Vietnam and Afghanistan Wars combined.

There is a disturbing story by Shirley Jackson called The Lottery. The tale is about a small town with the disturbing tradition of picking a sacrificial victim each year for a public stoning. In the story, the victim was selected by a random lottery, and their death was thought to ensure a good harvest for their crops. Everyone was accepting of the practice until someone in their family was picked. Then that family wanted it stopped and declared it to be awful and unfair. But by then it was too late. Their number was up, and their loved one suffered a horrible death.

That’s what addiction is like. People pay little attention to it other than what they see on the news. When it’s just a story, addicts are easy to disregard as “those people” with loose morals and no willpower. Then it hits someone they love, and their eyes are open to how horrifying a disease it is.

When it happens in your family, you get a ringside seat to watching your person get swallowed alive by a disease that wants to eat their soul. That’s a game changer. Then it becomes awful and unfair. Incarceration and death don’t feel like good answers when your family’s name comes up as the unlucky winners of this lottery. Then you want treatment options.

But as far as treatment goes, Southern Illinois is as far behind the times as the town in Shirley Jackson’s story. We are not a community that values recovery. You find that out quickly when you have a loved one you are trying to get into treatment. If you do get them in, there is no sober living community to support them when they get out. Good recovery meetings are hard to find and even harder to start. It’s not even easy to find a reliable AA sponsor. And good luck finding regular fun and fellowship when you are embracing a sober lifestyle.

You know what you can find a lot of? Bars and churches. It makes sense why the bars aren’t on the front-line fighting addiction, but what’s wrong with our churches? Why aren’t more of them getting involved?

I will tell you why. In our very Christian, Bible-Belt community, mental illness and addiction are diseases that are shrouded in shame and stigma. Many churches don’t want “those people” in their congregation. If they don’t have a heart for the population in need, they won’t give money to help fund treatment options. Instead, they will spend their money on carpet and drapes and building committees, while outside their doors people are dying of treatable diseases like addiction and mental illness.

Brennan Manning said if you want your ministry to line up with the heart of Jesus, you have to learn where the outcast weeps. It’s time for the church to learn where the outcasts weep.

My family knows what it feels like to be the unlucky winners of this lottery. We drew the short straw, and it was me that became addicted. I was stuck in the horror of my addiction for over two decades. It was awful for my family to have to watch me go to prison, but they did not have to bury me. In the recovery community, that is a success story.

For those families who weren’t so lucky, I grieve with you. Every family touched by this insidious disease grieves with you. And I vow I will not stop advocating, educating, and fighting until this disease is eradicated or I draw my last breath, whichever comes first.