Maintaining Recovery With Mental Health Makes Us Look At Things a Wee Bit Different Than Others. A Story By Tony.

“My Grandpa George died when I was in a psych hospital. So I wrote him this story. Sometimes the truth needs a little myth mixed in to swallow it down.”

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“He Was in Heaven Before He Died”

“The following is not a story based solely on facts. I did have a Grandpa George and this was pretty much how he lived and died. But I didn’t make it to the funeral. Instead, I was in a hellish heaven of my own in the psych unit of Columbia Presbyterian.”


I got the call late at night that Grandpa George had died. He had lived a hard life.  He didn’t have the opportunity to get a good education. He never learned to read or write because his demanding father made him quit school to help in the fields. He worked hard to get by and managed to scrape together a living. He met a woman – Maize – at the tomato factory where he worked. She says he was throwing tomatoes at her, so she knew he liked her. They were married in less than 3 months. They stayed together “until death did they part” almost 60 years later.

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I drove alongside the cemetery in a rented Ford Focus, admiring the tombstones in the early morning sun. My mind wandered to Grandpa’s last days. He was able to die at home, thanks to Hospice and the care of family, especially his son Geoff (since Grandma was limited in what she could do). Geoff fed him when he was hungry, bathed him to keep him clean, and sought to bring comfort to this man who had hardly ever comforted him.

Grandpa George had not lived a perfect life, perhaps not even a good one. He was quick to become angry and had been accused by some of being abusive. He was known to challenge his supervisors to fights. He bullied Grandma and Geoff, who could never seem to please him. He certainly had skills – building his house from the ground up. He could be generous with his time, helping neighbors with necessary fix-up projects. Yet he had a temper that could flare up at the least misunderstanding.

Still, he could also be playful and gentle with children, rocking them on his knees or playing “Peep-Eye” (his version of “peek-a-boo”). He had pet names for all the grandchildren which were both endearing and practical. I’m not sure he could remember what our real names were.

I thought of his faith.  He went to church regularly for most of his married life. He drove the church bus and took great pride in rounding up children from homes where the parents were just happy to have them off their hands for a few hours. He had a simple faith: child-like even. I wondered if it brought him peace and comfort especially in his last days.

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The sun was full in the sky as I pulled onto the gravel road that led to a family plot. I looked at the simple white crosses to the side – the graves of soldiers who died before they could marry, have children, and raise a family. I saw the graves of infants, who escaped suffering as well as joy in their lives.

I said a prayer of thanksgiving for the life my Grandpa George got to live, the good and the bad, and prayed that he might be received into a new and better life to come. Later that day, driving the rental Ford Focus back to the airport, I looked out on the Wabash River and I smiled.

They say when you die you go “home to God”.  I have this hope for Grandpa.  
At least, I am glad that he was home when he died.  
I’m glad he got a little taste of heaven before he died.
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Delight in Disorder

Ministry, Madness, Mission

 

My name is Tony Roberts. I am a Christian and I have a serious mental illness.

Many of my friends who also have troubled minds wonder how it is I would hold onto faith after such an agonizing spiritual struggle with insanity.

Many of my brothers and sisters in Christ wonder how my mind can be so disturbed if I am a believer.

I believe faith and medicine, prayer and pills, worship and therapy are God’s essential graces to promote healing.

So, I’m telling my story in the hope of sharing Good News with those who have unquiet minds and shattering stigma about mental illness within and beyond the faith community.

I hope you’ll join the conversation by visiting my site.


Tony Roberts, Author

Delight in Disorder:  Ministry, Madness, Mission

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Recovery Thoughts About a Little of Everything …Family, Support, and Of Course, Gambling Addiction.

Recovery Thoughts About a Little of Everything …Family, Support, and Of Course, Gambling Addiction.

 Hello Recovery Friends, Seekers, and Visitors Happy 4th of July Week!

First I want to start by saying it has been too damn HOT here. It is the worst time of year to be living in Arizona lol. And why it’s called “The Valley of The Sun.”

We will be hitting 110 today. That is even too frigging hot to sit by the pool unless you want to get a Burn Up Suntan …Lol. Maybe I would like it more if I was 25 again but at 55 and taking meds, I just can’t tolerate the the heat like I used to.

It’s why I can not wait to move back to Oregon next year on the coast. 

So, I have been having some “happy times” flashbacks lately as we get closer to the 4th of July. Have no idea why or where it’s coming from. The Fourth was always an interesting day and evening around the “Townsend Family” home as we would always have a BBQ and light fireworks. This is when I still lived at or near home in So. Cal. We would do fireworks for my nephews as they were young at the time, and the adults would act a little cray-cray right along with them! Their dad, Mike, (my brother-in-law who we lost in 1992 to cancer) was a hoot! He was crazy about fireworks! Those were the “good old days.”

But as the dysfunctional family that we were many times, alcohol abuse seemed to ramp up closer to the evening after dinner. Waiting for it to get dark, we’d let the little ones do sparklers and Mike would dazzle my mom with some spinning flower bloom fireworks. My mom got a kick at of those! One time Mike put the flowering blooms and lit a couple in my parents’ mailbox so they would fly out, spin, and they hit the ground. LOL! That didn’t work out well as it blew up the mailbox so Mike had to buy my dad a new one and help dad put up. Lol.

Yes, there were many fun times to be had through the years. Now, remember, this was way before addiction had ever touched my life. But as we had fun, the alcohol consumed by Mike, Dad, my sisters and brother, the end always seemed to end up in some sort of argument and fight as my mom didn’t drink, but she loved to chime in and piss them off by verbally making fun or yelling at them that they were a bunch of Fu_  ing idiots! Then my dad and brother would get mad at her and we’d be off RUNNING!!

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It seemed almost all our family gatherings would end up this way. Day trips, camping trips. Sad really. No one in my family who drank alcohol had NO Control over it or when knowing when to stop drinking. This went on for many years. Today, my two sisters I feel are alcoholics, but they would say different. My oldest sister after Mike passed even racked up some DUI’S from drinking alcohol and driving. Which brings me to family, support, and fast forward to today. When my mom passed in 2003, my brother decided to open his new home and have relatives and friends come over to celebrate my mom’s life after the funeral.

And, again, early afternoon the alcohol began to flow. He had a pool, so many of us went swimming, and in the evening we hung out in the hot tub into the late evening they were still drinking. We were down to myself, my husband, my dad, brother and his wife, one sister and her hubby, and my older sister (single) and her boys now grown. Well, my sisters began to get a little rude and lippy and my brother chimed in. I and my hubby knew it was time to go, and we took my dad with us. Not till the next morning, we found out there were a few words spewed, pushing and things got a bit physical and the police were called.

Long story short, my brother and his wife divorced a few weeks later. My dad stopped talking to my brother. We just buried my mother and again our family is torn apart. This was a habit and behavior my mother carried on for years. If you didn’t do what she said or what she wanted, she would cut you out and stop talking to you. Life is to short for this and I would tell her so.

But she would just come at me verbally with things like “why do you think you are better than we are? or what makes you so special, I’m still your mother and can say whatever I want and like it.” Yes, my mom did NOT Like It when I set my boundaries. I guess I should back up a little. She knew how to get under my skin when I first began recovery.

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Tackle Childhood Trauma 1

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When I was a little girl born in New Jersey and lived until 6 1/2 then we moved to So. CA. My mom was a heavy-handed disciplinarian when my dad was gone overseas in Vietnam while stilling living in Jersey. Now, this is hindsight and connecting the dots and learning from the years of therapy and counseling in treatment that brought many old hurtful memories of my childhood back in order to process it, let go and forgive myself.

Growing up through the years, my mom and dad said many hurtful things to me and for some reason they lingered and just stuck inside me. When I got to my teens, I never could understand why she was like this to me. As I look back, since I was the baby of the family at the time, my daddy used called me his “little monster.” A nickname that later in adulthood hit me like a brick when my mom told me about these outbursts I’d have when I was little.

She was never like this or treated my older brother or older sister like she did me. She would say I told lies, I was an ugly tomboy, I didn’t love her or our family, I can’t be their kid and must have been switched at birth in the hospital and I can go on. I can remember times I would through tantrums I would not remember afterwards, she’d lock me in my room and I’d go crazy pulling out my drawers, clothes, pull the curtains down and then? …when it was over I would lay on the floor watching their feet walk back and forth between the space of the door and floor as they passed my locked door.

I think my mom just didn’t know what was wrong or how to control me when these came on. AND? It’s why I had agreed in 2002 with my Primary Doctor and Psychiatrist when first diagnosed with severe depression, mild bipolar and mania, anxiety after my first suicide attempt. I went undiagnosed for years until adulthood! And why I feel the way my parents raised us seemed to seep down into me so deeply.

I know this because as I grew into adulthood and finally disclosed all of what happened to me as a child when we first moved to So. Cal. I was sexually abused by not one, but two men from 8 to 11 years old. At age 30, in 1992 I was having a break down about all of it right after Mike died of cancer. That was before gambling addiction, but my first of many attempts at therapy for help. In order to begin the process of healing, as my therapist told me, “I had to disclose all to my parents, it’s time.” I told my parents and I felt abused all over again as they denied it, my mom very defensively said “I was making it up. My mom said she would have known if that was happening to me or happening in her house.”

My point in sharing all this? The good memories and the BAD? Since at this point I never got to finish my therapy with the therapist because I was embarrassed and ashamed of how my family took all of what I shared about, not only the sex abuse but also how those memories of the verbal and physical abuse by my parents hurt me as well.  It was then that more something changed with relationships with my dad, two sisters and brother became strained.

I think they all thought I was nuts or something. My mothers’ answer was, and her comments to me stayed with me and ended up giving me my “entitlement feelings” and added fuel to my gambling addiction when I later got entangled, abused alcohol, and crossed the line into addicted gambling. She told me:

“I don’t know why these things are bothering you when they don’t seem to bother my kids?”

I was speechless and kept hearing that in my head for many more years to come. Now, of course, here we are today and my all my siblings have had problems with broken marriages (my brother) drugs, alcohol, anger problems and nothing bothered her other children as I had become an addicted gambler. Today I now know most of my underlying issues and roots to why I turned to gambling addiction. Most of the above shared because I walked away from my first attempt of therapy racked with guilt and shame, I used gambling to ‘cope, numb out, hide, not feel, and get my anger out as I was enraged and destroying my life in the process.

“I wasn’t “getting back” or hurting them, I was sabotaging and hurting myself and my husband.”

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20171208_171651(My nephew Mark Lake and his beautiful family)

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I am happy to share that a few weeks before my mother passed away in August of 2003, I was able to call her twice a day every day until my dad moved her into nursing and rehabilitation after she became ill and off life support as she began to recoup. The family said there was no phone in her room so I could not call her anymore.

My mother and I talked about so many things before she passed. We made amends, she had apologized that she wasn’t there for me when all that was happening to me and for all of it, even my feelings around the verbal and physical abuse. She said “we were not born with a book or guide to how to raise kids.” She and my dad did their best, as she also spoke of how she was raised and learned some of it from her father.
I sure understand this still today …

Again, some points to as to why I am sharing these memories:

Many of us do have underlying pain and old haunting or issues that come from many different areas that need to be addressed. They need to be processed so we don’t use Addiction to try to cope or just try to not feel and forget. We stuff it down deep. It will at some point come back. As many are raised to know seeking out help is OK. There is nothing wrong with sharing how you feel, be it in therapy, counseling, and even in treatment, they know learning those roots and unprocessed events can help addicts be more successful maintaining recovery.

PARENTS: Be wise about how you discipline your kids. Children just want to be and need to be heard. They do want to communicate with parents without fear. I felt this way about always about the thought of talking to my own dad! You may still tell no, but please listen and talk with your kids, teens, and young adults. I feel if you don’t, if a child is being bullied, teens experimenting with drugs or alcohol, this also opens the door to what we are seeing now with too many SUICIDES.

As a trauma and child sex abuse survivor,  we have to learn it was NOT OUR FAULT that these terrible things happened to us. We need to process this and learn to forgive ourselves and begin the process of healing. We lose so much self-worth as a human being when we don’t. It could lead us to addiction, to self-medicate, and again, contemplate suicide.

For The Public: We need to come together and have more compassion and empathy for others who struggle with addictions, mental illness, and recovery. We never know one’s story. It is time to come together and learn how you can help shatter STIGMA around all the topics I shared about. Did the past pains hurt more because I had undiagnosed mental health issues which made my feelings more heightened?  Most likely. We need to help teach the public how to stop making us feel like victims filled with guilt, shame, or made to feel embarrassed or different when we disclose our feelings. Just because some are not as normal or as emotionally strong as other people, doesn’t make us different.

Well any of this sharing help stop addiction? Maybe or maybe not. But I can sure try by sharing my memories, truths, and my life story as I did in my memoir.  It is one of the ways for me to advocate and help raise awareness, help educate and hopefully to begin to shatter stigma. Thanks for taking time to read my journey and memories!

Catherine 

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Sharing My Friend Tony Roberts and His Inspiring Blog and Website: “Delight In Disorder”…Org

Sharing My Friend Tony Roberts and His Inspiring Blog and Website: “Delight In Disorder”…Org

I always get “Delight” in having and sharing my dear friend, author, and advocate Tony Roberts and his informative blog at  “Delight In Disorder” all about Mental Health.

He shares just how he feels and experiences as he raises awareness about living with mental health challenges. Also, way more than I do. He has such a beautiful heart and is full of faith as well. So I happened to really enjoy a couple of his recent posts and I know many of you will too and benefit from. I am hoping you will take a little time to visit his blog and give both a “Finishing Read.” They both are excellent topics and we all know that reading is being “In The Know and Powerful.”

 

“Fresh Hope for Mental Health Interview” ~By Tony Roberts

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A few weeks back, I received an unexpected message from Pastor Brad Hoefs from Fresh Hope for Mental Health. Fresh Hope is a mental health ministry that reaches out with an uplifting Gospel message for those who are often cast down. Their mission is to “empower individuals to live a full and rich faith-filled life in spite of a mental health diagnosis.” Toward this end, they have developed curriculum for support groups around the country, they are producing webinars on such topics as “What I Wish My Pastor Knew About Mental Health,” and distribute a podcast that is one of the best of its kind.


Pastor Brad reached out to me to be a guest on this podcast. Below is the link to the program and the show notes:

In this edition of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, Pastor Brad interviews Pastor Tony Roberts.

Pastor Tony Roberts was born and raised in the Hoosier heartland just south of Indianapolis. He grew up worshiping high school basketball and once had the honor of playing in a televised “game of the week.”

Tony went to Hanover College. After many detours into sex, drugs, and more folk rock than roll, he wound up at the seminary and became a pastor. It was then that symptoms of depression and mania culminated in a psychotic episode that became pivotal in his life, for better and for worse.

After graduating from Hanover, Tony obtained a Master of Divinity degree from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. While there, he did ministry assignments at a state hospital for persons with developmental disabilities, as well as at a women’s prison, and inner-city hospital.

Tony served two decades as a solo pastor. He then shifted to writing, speaking, and leading small groups. In March of 2014, Tony published his spiritual memoir, Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission. Having served in pastoral ministry and gone mad, it’s now his mission to bridge the gap between faith communities and the mental health world.

Tony now live in Columbus, Indiana, with supportive family and faithful friends who keep me honest and encourage me to be who God created him to be. Tony’s greatest earthly delights are my four children and two grandchildren, with one more on the way.

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In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; 

in the morning I lay my requests before you 

     and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5:3)

 

 

Why I Don’t Go to Church

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46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2.46-47)

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, early Christians were on fire. They worshiped daily, shared meals bountifully, praised God delightfully, and built a reputation for loving each other and others with precious passion and compassion. They were filled with a spiritual fervor that knew no end.

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I have had such spiritual fervor. What has happened to my faith?

I went to church this morning, the first time in a long while. For various reasons, I have been absent from the pews much of the year. I have many excellent explanations, but no good excuses. My faith family has been patient with me. More than this, they persistently care in spite of it.

People still stay in touch, frequently send texts or emails not to badger me about coming to church, but to ask how I am doing, let me know that they are praying for me, and offer to help in any way they can. No pressure. No guilt. Just checking in with a brother in Christ to express love and concern. As one sincerely expressed, “We are more concerned with how you are than where you are on Sunday morning.”

As I sat in the pew today, I thought of brothers in Christ who make a difference in my faith.

Some time ago. I asked a brother, Sam S., to serve as my prayer partner. We meet every two weeks to do a Bible study book. We share casual concerns, deep joys, and requests for discernment. I have shared with Sam specific spiritual concerns and he is intent to pray for me, particularly over the weekend, that I might be motivated to come to worship in the fellowship of saints.

Sam is the song leader at our church. His deep melodious sound rings out and surrounds the sanctuary with ancient Psalms, the songs Jesus sang, set to classic church tunes. When my soul is most troubled, I sometimes remain in my pew as people stand and, instead of singing along, streams of tears will flow down my cheeks as I hide my face in my Psalter.

Then there is Gary M, an elder. When I first visited Columbus Reformed Presbyterian (CRPC), Gary was quick to introduce himself and invite me to a weekly fellowship called the Grub-In. We would meet at Gary and his wife Cynthia’s home for food, study, song, and prayer. It meant so much to me when I was going through a separation and divorce to have another faith family I could depend on to pick me up when I was down and set me straight when I veered off course.

Pastor Andy M. is an unassuming man with an abiding faith and a gentle spirit. I have consulted him on a variety of issues, from marriage and divorce, finances, writing. I consistently find him to have an informed Biblical perspective which he shares humbly in the Spirit of truth and love.

Lately, I’ve come to know and appreciate Roger G. for his quiet support and kind encouragement. This morning he shared with me that he enjoyed my recent post on writing. It is such a blessing to know Roger and other men and women of faith are out there, reading things like this, smiling in recognition as if to say, “I get that.”

So, what has become of my faith?

 

I refuse to believe it is God’s fault. I am not angry at God for letting me down in some way. It is not the fault of the church. By and large, pastors and people in the pews are no more hypocritical than persons in the world who accuse them to be. I can’t blame it on the many distractions or worries; my illness is an inadequate explanation at best; I have no unresolved sin conflict in my life that would prevent me from presenting myself before God with a clear conscience.

 

What is it? Why have I lost my fervor for fellowship? My drive to worship? My passion for praise? What has become of my faith?
Well, I hope you will stop by Tony’s Blog and read WHY and the rest of this post!

Catherine Lyon, Author, and Advocate

 

Why I Don’t Go to Church

 

A Special “Uplifting” For Those Like Me and Many Who Struggle With Depression By My Dear Friend Author, Tony Roberts of “Delight In Disorder”…

How Does God Feel About Mental Illness?

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last week, Tony began a subscriber survey that has thus far proven very fruitful. He learned more about who his readers are and what they are looking for when they visit Delight In Disorder… 

“Some of the most revealing content came from the comments provided in the “other” category. When asked what sort of posts would be most helpful, one reader replied: ”

“… how God feels about mental illness and why He allows it. I know cancer patients, for example, feel the same way, but you won’t hear anyone abandoning them. Instead they receive love, prayers, and casseroles. Living alone with a debilitating illness is so hard.”

This thoughtful response raises many profound questions. I want to carefully and prayerfully respond. Yet, please understand that I am not an expert theologian or a mental health professional. Instead, I am a believer in Christ who has lived with a mental illness for over 30 years. This doesn’t give me all the answers but helps me better understand the questions.

How does God feel about mental illness? Why does He allow it?

I feel much more confident answering the former question than the latter. The depth of God’s love for us surpasses any love we could have for each other. When we look to Jesus Christ and his feelings for us, God’s emotions are revealed. Jesus became furious at religious leaders who were excluding “imperfect” (sinners) from full participation in worship. Jesus went to outer regions to reach out to those dismissed as “demon possessed” and freed them from the captivity that caused them to be separated from the faith community. Like the Samaritan lifting the bleeding man out of the ditch and caring for him, Jesus cares for those who are hurting, both physically and emotionally.

So, why? I want to approach this more as a prayer than an accusation. Like when the prophets called on God, “How long, Lord. Will you forget me forever?” In my prayer life, I have come to understand God’s mysterious role in human suffering as something beyond my ability to understand, yet something I can fully trust. I believe God has a plan for me much greater than my mental illness in this life. As the Apostle Paul says, “for this slight momentary affliction is not worth comparing to the greater glory to come.” ( 2 Corinthians 4.17). Like a woman in the midst of agonizing labor, it is next to impossible to believe this in the moment, but when her child is born…. AMAZING!

Why don’t people respond to mental illness with love, prayers, and casseroles?

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I hear this from many both within the church and beyond. Mental illness can be a life-threatening illness, given the number of deaths by suicide. It is, however, viewed by many as an annoying condition that could be overcome with self-willed faith, maybe a few extra push-ups, and good old-fashioned elbow grease. I have heard people comment that they grow weary of caring for family members and friends with chronic mental illness. It never goes away.

It doesn’t have to be this way. When I was first diagnosed, I was serving as a pastor of a small congregation in Northeast PA. I spent over six weeks in the hospital, while my wife cared for our children at home, ages 3 & 1. The church rallied to provide child care, meals, rides. It was wonderful. I was given leave for recovery time and welcomed back when I was ready. Churches can be havens of refuge, but too often we are not.

Living alone with a debilitating illness is so hard.

Amen! Damn, right it is! And, one of the debilitating factors is that our mental illness coerces us to do the very things that do us the most harm and fail to do the things that could most help. It does us no good to lie in bed for hours on end, but there are days the thought of getting up seems to us like running a 3-minute mile. It would be helpful to go out and spend some time with other people, but there are days where the fear of doing something inappropriate is just too strong.

This past year, for various reasons, I tried to live alone in an attic apartment in an unfamiliar city. On Saturdays, I visited my children. Sundays I went to church. The rest of the week I was on my own. I was not able to make new friends. I tried support groups, meet-ups, readings, dating sites. People scared me or I scared them. In this climate, I had 7 episodes that required intervention. In just 18 months.

Thanks be to God and the loving support of my family, I now have an apartment in my sister’s basement. It provides me a wonderful living space of my own yet I am not alone.

I know such spaces are hard to come by for persons with mental illness.

I pray you find yours.

Tony R.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

My name is Tony Roberts. I am a Christian and I have a serious mental illness. Many of my friends who also have troubled minds wonder how it is I would hold onto faith after such an agonizing spiritual struggle with insanity.

Many of my brothers and sisters in Christ wonder how my mind can be so disturbed if I am a believer. I believe faith and medicine, prayer and pills, worship and therapy are God’s essential graces to promote healing.

So, I’m telling my story in the hope of sharing Good News with those who have unquiet minds and shattering stigma about mental illness within and beyond the faith community.

I hope you’ll join the conversation.

Tony Roberts, Author
Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission is on Amazon & Amazon Kindle


Congrats To My Co-Writing Partner For Making The Front Cover & Featured Article At “In Recovery Magazine!”

Congrats To My Co-Writing Partner For Making The Front Cover & Featured Article At “In Recovery Magazine!”

 

“This week’s blog post of me and Vance’s co-writing of his Memoir is a Tribute to HIM since he made the July Front Cover of  “In Recovery Magazine”!!”

Yes, I did resign from the In Recovery Magazine in March in order to have more freedom to work on recovery projects and to co-write with Vance. It is where Vance and I originally met when I reached out to him to see if he’d like to do an article. Then our Cheif Editor at the time, Janet Hopkins decided she wanted to have him as a cover feature instead! And that was that. So in Honor of his issue just releasing, and Janet doing such a great job writing about Vance and his incredible recovery journey, we wanted to share it with all of YOU. It will be a condensed “taste” of what’s to come in his memoir.

 

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In Recovery Magazine Article

Lost and Found


My name is Vance Johnson, and I am an alcoholic.

My playbook began at an early age. I began to be involved in sports so I wouldn’t have to be at home. The family dynamic and chaos as I was a kid seemed less when I was winning and was the “little hero.” Sports became everything to me. As I got older it was my saving grace as I’d play and practice from 10 AM to 11 PM; I even had a key to the gym.

I was doing really well, often placing at the top in the state and even the country. I didn’t have a good relationship with my father and feared I might grow up to be like him, as he was part of the dysfunction within our Christian home. But that is another story in all for another day.

In my senior year, at the urging of my coach, I accepted an athletic scholarship to the University of Arizona. This gave me the chance to go to college and play sports while staying close to home. The following spring, I won the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) long jump competition. I ranked second place in football my senior year and was one of the collegiate athletic conference top receivers. Through high school and college, I never smoked weed, drank or took drugs. Sports were my high.

After graduating in 1984, I went to the Olympic Trials in track and ended up as an alternate. I could have gone to the next Olympics, but instead, I decided to try out for professional football. I wanted to make some money! I entered the 1985 National Football League (NFL) draft and was picked up by the Denver Broncos in the second round. The stress was tremendous.

 

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My first year in the NFL, I started dating a woman. We had been dating for a short time when, after a bad game where I dropped a punt, she told me she was pregnant. On the way to practice with some teammates, we stopped at a liquor store. My friends bought tequila, and I decided to try it. That tequila had lead to daily drinking mixed with the pills I took for anxiety and down a road, I had no idea how to travel down.

My girlfriend and I got married in Vegas. At practice sometime later, I overheard the guys talking about my wife. I ran home screaming and yelling and pushed her into a closet door. She hit her head and fell down unconscious; I thought she was dead. I carried her into the bathroom and splashed water on her face. Even after she came too, I was still angry and began punching the walls, just like my father used to do. Our marriage ended not long after.

By this time, I was getting high and using whatever I could to cope, but I was careful not to get caught. My life was a wreck and getting worse. I’d sober up on my way to the weekend games. Sometimes I’d get pulled over, but I’d offer the cops tickets to the games and managed to skate by without an arrest.

My domestic problems were always related to drugs. Through the years, I was married and divorced several times. I was an absent father to my children. My finances were a mess; I was bouncing checks and falling behind on child support. I also went to jail after crashing into my wife’s car. Through all of this, I was call myself a God believer, but I sure didn’t act like one. Somehow, no one realized I was an addict, including me.

In 1996, a year after my career in football was over, I tried to commit suicide. There I was, driving down a highway, crazy high and hallucinating. By then I was using drugs to manage all the craziness in my head, but it wasn’t working. When I got home, I pulled off all my clothes and lay naked in my garage, paranoid and banging my head on the ground as I cut my wrists. I called my attorney for help and told him I was losing my mind. I was desperate; to this day, I don’t know how I survived.

After wearing out my welcome in Ft. Collins, Colorado, I moved to Grand Junction, leaving my kids with their various moms. In 2007, after my fifth divorce, I remarried and tried to settle down with my new wife and my three now-teenaged sons. Running from my addictions, I scaled down the drinking, opened a couple of businesses and started attending church with my family. Although I had already damaged so many lives, I continued womanizing, smoking weed, full of sin drinking and taking pills.

My oldest son, Vaughn, who would always say, “I want to be like you, Dad,” was attending college in Grand Junction. Having blown the engine in his car, he was working for me to earn money for the repairs. One morning, he decided to take his motorcycle up to Ft. Collins to visit his grandfather.

I had been in the bar drinking Patrón at my restaurant when my ex-wife called me. “I’m broken,” she said. “Our son is dead.” Vaughn had been hit and killed by a drunk driver who had run a stop sign. I fell to my knees. I drank the whole bottle of tequila, then another, and walked through the restaurant and out the front door. My father threatened to kill me because I was acting so crazy, so I threw him on the ground outside the restaurant. Life as I had known it was over. I was never again the same person…

 

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I used to think I would get through it, but now I don’t want to.”

 

I blamed my dad. I blamed myself for not fixing the car that Vaughn should have been driving. Over the following two years, I drank, smoked, took pills and had relations with anyone who wanted to be with me. Slowly, but surely, I was killing myself.

When 2012 rolled around, I was going through yet another divorce and hurting emotionally and physically. My bloodwork was off, so my mom took me to the hospital where I fell into a coma. I remained in an induced coma for 26 days. My pastor prayed over me, my daughter and sister said their goodbyes. No one thought I would make it.

There I was, 50 years old, tied to a hospital bed. I wondered if this was how it was all going to end. As I lay in that bed, I had visions of dark shadows walking in the room as if to take me with them when I passed from this world. They came every day, but they never took me with them. When I was finally released from the hospital, I thought I could go back and work like I did when I was young. I tried this for a while. Things began to turn around again.

One day, I went golfing with some friends and decided I could have a drink. From that moment, everything went downhill fast. I quickly graduated to weed, more alcohol, and pills to help me not drink so much. Before long, I was peeing in glasses and on myself; puking blood; and even drinking from glasses of pee, which I mistook for whiskey in my drunkenness.

In early 2014, I was drunk and driving down the road, crying and screaming to God to help me. I had no money, no kids, no relationships, nothing to leave behind. I reached out to the NFL. They called Randy Grimes, a former center for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Randy had turned his life around and was working as an interventionist in North Palm Beach, Florida.

The NFL sent me to treatment. When I got there, I was surrounded by losers. I had assumed I’d be on a beach with other athletes talking about old times. It wasn’t like that.

One day, a voice in my head told me that I was sick, but I could get sober if I accepted the help being offered to me. I began seeing my peers in a different light. As they talked, I listened and began to understand my own underlying issues. I attended church and got into the Scriptures. I walked in His light and understood that I needed to become “sober-minded.”

 


“My journey was not just about becoming sober. I knew that I could not maintain my sobriety if I didn’t continue to learn about the disease and about my own spirit. When I left rehab, I stayed away from 
fame, the Broncos and everything that had destroyed my previous life. I went to meetings and really listened.”

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A treatment program offered me a job for $200 per week and a bus pass. At the same time, the Broncos offered me $2,000 per week to represent them around the country. I called my mother. “I’m not worried,” she said. “You’ll do the right thing.” I did. I got on the plane to Tampa for the $200 per week paycheck.

God gave me my true self back. I found my son Vaughn’s grave and promised him that I would never allow another young man to lose his life like I did.

Today, I speak around the country. I talk about my life, my children, what happened to me, and how things changed for me when I learned about my addiction. I tell people that they can change their lives, too.

Today, I am married, and I love my wife. We have amazing children, a twelve-year-old daughter, and an eight-year-old son. My wife comes first, then all my kids, then my job. God encapsulates all of it. Though sometimes things are tough, I never stop the journey. I attend meetings where there are newcomers. I’m involved in recovery every day – it’s my daily lifestyle.

I hope you will walk with me in this battle to end this addiction Epidemic…

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Today Vance is helping save lives from many addictions through his new venture of  “Vance Inspires”  as a motivational speaker, executive keynote, sober coach and escort, intervention services and more. He is also involved with the premier treatment options and rehabilitation services of  Futures of Palm Beach

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Vance Johnson is a certified sober coach, a sober escort, and interventionist. Off the football field, he is now reaching out throughout America and the world via social media to break the stigma and lead people to sobriety, one family at a time. He is also a speaker at churches, drug courts graduations, and high schools, and has been a guest on national TV shows including Oprah and Dr. OZ. Johnson is a member of the Mercer County Task Force which brings awareness of the pitfalls of addiction to surrounding high schools and town hall meetings in New Jersey through The Vance Project…

I Welcome Tony Roberts. A Man of Faith, An Author, and more. My Weekend Spotlighted Recovery Guest Blog.

I Welcome Tony Roberts. A Man of Faith, An Author, and more. My Weekend Spotlighted Recovery Guest Blog.

“I have known Tony Roberts for quite some time. We first met here on WordPress where he first had his blog. He has a new website that is AMAZING and I started receiving his new email newsletter. I was so thrilled to see his new site and asked him if I could “Spotlight” his site here on my blog. He has been a great friend, recovery and mental health support to me.

He IS a man that stands in grace in his faith in the Lord, and I have been blessed by our friendship! So, meet Author, Tony Roberts and his book and website; “Delight in Disorder”…

 

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About Tony Roberts:

This is me with Grandma McPeak. She died less than a month after making this quilt for my grandson. She was the first Bible I ever read. Her life overflowed with Christ’s love, in all she said and did.

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I  first sensed a calling to be a writer at the age of nine when I composed my first poem, “Ode to My Pet Rock.”

I was born and raised in the Hoosier heartland just south of Indianapolis. I grew up worshiping high school basketball and once had the honor of playing in a televised “game of the week.”

I went to Hanover College (alma mater of both Mike Pence and Woody Harrelson – go figure). After many detours into sex, drugs, and more folk rock than roll, I wound up at a seminary and became a pastor. It was then that symptoms of depression and mania culminated in a psychotic episode that became pivotal in my life, for better and for worse.

After graduating from Hanover, I obtained a Master of Divinity degree from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. While there, I did ministry assignments at a state hospital for persons with developmental disabilities, as well as at a women’s prison, and an inner-city hospital.

I served two decades as a solo pastor. I then shifted to writing, speaking, and leading small groups. In March of 2014, I published my spiritual memoir, Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission. Having served in pastoral ministry and gone mad, it’s now my mission to bridge the gap between faith communities and the mental health world.

I now live to write and write to live in Rochester, New York. I also have a “delightful domain” on Lake Caroga, the gateway to the Adirondacks.  My greatest earthly delights are my four children and two grandchildren.

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“What makes Tony’s devotional so compelling is that bipolar disorder continues to periodically beat the crap out of him, and he still believes.”

– David Zucker, Mental Health Advocate, University Presbyterian in Seattle.

 

Product Details

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About Tony’s Book:

Delight in Disorder is the story of one pastor’s battle with bipolar disorder. This spiritual memoir is a house of meditations where faith and mental illness co-exist, at times fueling each other to dangerous distortion, at times feeding each other to fruitful gain. It offers hope for those often neglected and shunned. It also fosters compassion for believers towards those with troubled minds.

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One of My Favorite Blog Posts From His Site:

Enemies Sprouting Like Mushrooms

In The MessageEugene Peterson calls Psalm 3 – “A David Psalm, when he escaped for his life from Absalom, his Son.” The words that follow reveal a haunted poet king, surrounded and scared.

God! Look! Enemies past counting!

Enemies sprouting like mushrooms,

Mobs of them all around me, roaring their mockery:

“Hah! No help for him from God!”(vv. 1-2)

David sees no escape from sure defeat, certain death. This does not keep him from crying out to God – in fact, it motivates him all the more to do so. He lifts up to God the torturing taunts of his enemies and then reminds himself just Who it is he’s talking to –

But you, God, shield me on all sides;

You ground my feet, you lift my head high;

With all my might I shout up to God;

His answers thunder from the holy mountain. (vv. 3-4)

No matter how insurmountable the odds, David believes and asserts that God’s defense is greater than human offense. God is able and willing to act mightily to answer the prayers of His children, like thunder from a mountain. This brings David tremendous peace of mind.

I stretch myself out. I sleep.

Then I’m up again – rested, tall and steady,

Fearless before the enemy mobs

Coming at me from all sides.  (vv. 5-6)

God’s answer to David’s plea for protection in battle is not to fight the battle for him, but to give him rest and courage to fight with confidence.

Some years back, on a youth mission trip to Washington D.C., we were “attacked by enemies” from all sides. One girl was displaying symptoms of an eating disorder. Another was on her hands and knees, compulsively cleaning the floor while others laughed at her. The boys were vying for attention from the girls and a few were “coupling off” – dangerously close to crossing sexual boundaries.

That night (actually early morning) when I finally went to bed, I couldn’t sleep. I decided to take a walk. As I strolled the streets of the nation’s capital, I prayed to God out loud. Had someone seen me, they would have rightly assumed I was a stranger with a mental illness wandering the streets – but I don’t think they would have known I was praying.

When I got back to my room, I noticed my body relaxed, and my mind was at ease. I was able to sleep soundly for several hours and woke up feeling refreshed. The next day we had a team meeting for prayer and Bible study. It was the start of the best day of the trip – a day where we clearly saw God at work in the world within and around us.

God doesn’t often fight our battles for us. Instead, God gives us the strength and courage to face our battles with confidence and claim the victory for Christ.
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So please visit my friend Tony Roberts new website for some “Spiritual Up Lifting” as he shares his life, his recovery, mental health challenges and LOVE and Encouragement with all who visit there. You can buy his book here on Amazon!
Connect with Tony on Social Media:

Facebook
Twitter

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Author/Advocate, Catherine Townsend-Lyon

 

Looking Inside A Man’s Life Within A Memoir. There Is More Beyond The NFL and Fame…

Looking Inside A Man’s Life Within A Memoir. There Is More Beyond The NFL and Fame…

We come to an age and place in our lives and seems we want to look back and take stock of what we have accomplished, especially when living recovery. Did we meet those early goals in life we set for ourselves?

How do I share what God has taught me? Do I have any regrets even though my path strayed? Would I change anything? What will can I leave behind in this world of my legacy for those still living and forthcoming in recovery?”

Many of these questions can be answered in book form. Though many of us may not feel comfortable writing a memoir of one’s life.  It seems when you are a person who has LIVED many LIVES within one? I feel you need to write about it. And that is what Vance Johnson has chosen to do. And after much research on my end to learn who he is? He has had an amazing life thus far that was screaming to be written about! Lol. My own opinion of course. The rest was God’s intervention.

So how did I become part of this project? Well, it started while I was still a columnist and reached out to him to see if he’d like to be featured at In Recovery Magazine.
Vance then was kind enough to reach out to me through social media and asked if I would be interested in writing a book with him. We met on LinkedIn and when I got the message from him there, I had to actually read a few times to see if it was real! LOL. Yes, I will admit I was a wee bit star struck for about 5 seconds! So, we talked by phone a few times and BAM! We are now writing his Memoir together.

Since this is my first full-length book writing project,  I think I gave him a pretty good deal on the cost of his project…Lol! Not only is he getting a writing buddy, but like he had when he played in the NFL having “his people” watching over him, he has ME now as his literary publicist and built-in book promoter too, not just a co-writer! Lol. So we have begun our writing journey and it has been awesome. So who is Vance Johnson? And why would readers want to read his memoir? WOW! TOO MANY reasons to list my friends! But let me tell you a little about the VANCE Johnson I know…

 


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One place Vance works for that keeps him pretty busy is at “Futures of Palm Beach”.
They offer exceptional addiction treatment and have a wide variety of programs. He is a Community Outreach Coordinator at Futures.  This is where Vance went for treatment and helped to reclaim his life back from addiction. Yes, sometimes our life path may have a direction many do not walk down. Vance, however, is living proof and is one of God’s Miracles, like I am who are beating addiction. Heavenly Lessons needing to be learned on our journey. Here is more of what he does for Futures:

 

Prior to joining Futures, Mr. Johnson was selected by the Denver Broncos in the second round of the 1985 NFL draft as a wide receiver from the University of Arizona. Mr. Johnson played his entire NFL career for the Denver Broncos from 1985 to 1995 and assisted the Broncos on three consecutive trips to the Super Bowl. Throughout his college career, Vance was also a world-class long jumper. In 1982 he won the NCAA championship and won the gold medal at the Junior Pan American games. In 1984 he just missed making the Olympic track team, finishing fourth and becoming the alternate in the long jump at the 1984 United States Olympic trials in Los Angeles.

Now celebrating over three years of sobriety, Vance offers hope to the struggling addict and their families by sharing his own journey from addiction through treatment and the strength of his faith. Mr. Johnson advocates for athletes seeking addiction treatment help and speaks at prisons, schools and other public and private forums.”

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As Vance and I continue to write together, we look forward to any and ALL feedback from all our friends, readers, writers, and ALL Denver Bronco Fans for your help in telling us what you’d like to read in his new book. We want to give a “little something” for everyone to read in his memoir. Have a favorite football game you’d like to know the back story to? Or perhaps a player rivalry you want to know about? Or you want to know about his recovery? Leave all the questions in my comments and I will make sure we look and answer each one!

We just thought it would be awesome to bring everyone along with us on this journey from beginning to THE END.

 VANCE INSPIRES ~ FEEL HIS PASSION, HIS HONESTY, His Faith! THIS IS The Vance I Know…

 

I MADE IT!  HAVE YOU? #Recovery #Faith

Connect With Vance and Catherine on Social Media!

The Vance Project  ~  Vance Inspires

His Website Vance Inspires ~ Driven By HOPE  ~ He offers Sober Coaching, Professional Presentations, Speaking, Awareness and more!
He Inspires on ~ YouTube

Follow Me on FaceBook  ~  Writing Tweets  ~  Recovery Tweets
My Recovery Blog ~ “Recovery Starts Here!”
My Book/Memoir Now Available on Amazon ~  “Addicted to Dimes, Confessions”
Let’s Connect on GoodReads Too!

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