A Search for Soul Food

Smoking Jointphoto © 2007 Wiros | more info (via: Wylio)My favorite way to spend a Friday night is to camp on the couch, set Pandora loose with one of my favorite songs and catch up with friends on Facebook and Twitter.  God always uses that background music to draw my attention to ordinary moments and turns them into divine encounters.

Today it was these words from the secular artist Jewell’s song “Little Sister” that got my attention:

My little sister is a Zombie in a body
with no soul in a role she has learned to play
in a world today where nothing else matters
but it matters, we gotta start feeding our souls
Not our addiction or afflictions of pain
to avoid the same questions we must
ask ourselves to get any answers
We gotta start feeding our souls
have been lost to the millions with lots
who feed on addiction selling pills and what’s hot
I wish I could save her from all their delusions
all the confusion
of a nation that starves for salvation
but clothing is the closest to approximation
to God and He only knows that drugs
are all we know of love

These words resonated deeply with my own reality.  We have been working hard with our friends in Hillside, many of whom have become like family to us.   Our friends voice a desire for employment, but like the “little sister” in Jewell’s song, are like Zombie’s whose bodies have been taken over by addiction.  Week after week I watch as good people make bad choices related to drugs.  Marijuana seems to be the drug of choice for many of our younger friends and no matter how clearly we articulate the dangers and consequences of abusing substances, they continue to act as if it does not matter.

Like the older sister in Jewell’s song, I wish I could save my friends from the delusions and confusion that plague the Hillside community.  I wish I could save people from the demon of drugs that is robbing them of the abundant life God desires for them.   As I was reflecting on my feelings of helplessness in this matter, the words “We gotta start feeding our souls” leaped out at me.

My very wise friend Charles Fitzgerald who has himself overcome a 33 year addiction through the support of The Healing Place program often says, “If you miss the spiritual part of the program, you miss the program.”  We all know the battle before us is spiritual in nature.  We can continue to invest tremendous energy into vocational mentoring and job readiness programs only to have substance abuse undermine those efforts for many of our friends or we can get serious about helping people feed their souls.  I am not sure yet what form that soul feeding will take.  I am just sensing God is calling us to focus our efforts in that direction at this season in our journey.

I would love your input into this conversation, especially those of you who have experienced challenges related to substance abuse personally or with family members and friends.

What kind of soul feeding helped you break free of drug addiction?  For those who have walked alongside those with addictions, what kind of soul care did your friend or family member find helpful?  What advice would you give us as we seek to come alongside those trapped in addiction?

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10 Comments

Filed under Spirituality, Stories from the Street

10 responses to “A Search for Soul Food

  1. Nancy Waldo

    After over 25 years of dealing with an eating disorder and PTSD from sexual abuse, and walking with others dealing with similar issues, I believe each person has to reach the point of deciding to live, to say YES to life, rather than the many NOs that our addictions tell us. Then the deep inner work of soul-rebuilding can begin. Until that decision point comes, all efforts to change a person from the outside will be limited in success. But no one knows the point at which a person will make that decision, and yet every hand outstretched to help, offer of love, support effort needs to be offered, with patience; even when no or few results are visible, all is part of the process that may one day tip from NO to YES.

    • wmccaig

      You echo the wisdom of all my wise councilors. Are there any particular practices that can be introduced in the context of community and relationship that can help awaken that desire to live?

      • I need to take some time to pray about this question. I believe that the practice of reducing or eliminating shame as much as possible is key. This means in those who offer support to addicts AND in the addicts. We all have shame, so this is hard work.

        In service providers/ministers, it is also really important to practice detaching from outcomes, to keep offering the hand of support, the love, the opportunities for healing, without expecting or waiting for visible results. So we do these things because they are ours to do, because we want to, hoping that a difference will be made. But if we are not aware of our attachments to outcomes, it will be very hard to maintain patience and stay the course of doing this kind of work, because we will keep feeling like we have failed or our efforts were for nothing.

        In seeking to reduce/eliminate shame, I am not talking about eliminating guilt, or, as Rudy said, “deny[ing] you your consequences.” I am speaking of what I have been learning the past several months from the work of Dr. Brene Brown, a sociologist/researcher who spent 10 years delving into the dynamics of shame (www.brenebrown.com). She makes the distinction that shame= I AM bad, guilt=I did something bad, and she believes that shame is at the root of addiction as well as many other disorders of self. She has developed a curriculum (http://www.brenebrown.com/connection-curriculum) to help people coming out of prison to deal with shame and begin to learn “shame resilience,” because she has seen shame drive so many right back into the arms of addiction and crime to support the addiction and abusive relationships.

        I highly recommend both of her books: I Thought It Was Just Me (about her research on shame, very clinical/professional, NOT a book to give anyone who is deep in shame, but very powerful for growing understanding in service providers/ministers about the dynamics of shame; and The Gifts of Imperfection, about 10 practices to develop shame resilience. You can also hear more about her work on healing shame in this YouTube video:

        She also did a TEDHouston talk on The Gifts of Imperfection, which I highly recommend.

        This is really long, I know, but your blog post and your question about practices really struck a chord.

        See you next week!

  2. rudy green

    before i start off, i would like to say two things that you might already know. 1. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. 2. Only God can save! As a person who has come through what I call hell and came out of the other side, I know first hand how so many people had tried to “save” me. But i had to surrender to God in order to be saved. I had to get to a point in my life where i knew that i had to find God or find a funeral home. As you know, i have a sister who lives in and out of adddiction and i used to get so upset because i thought that she should’ve seen what happened to me and learned from it. But i had gotten caught up in trying to “save/help” her. That wasn’t my job. My job was to be a good role model and love her no matter what and let God do his thing. We are blessed with what i would like to call a human spirit, the spirit that allows us to go out of our way to help people who really don’t want to be helped. It would take us to doing more for them then they would do for themselves. And we both know that this is wrong. When we do this we take god out of the equation. We learn from our consequences and god allows us to go through this in order for us to see. It is not my right to deny you your consequences. I can give you information and you have go through what you go through. It may be hard on me to watch, but it during these times that God is working. On them and on me. And instead of dwelling on the people who you haven’t helped, look at people that you have helped. If one person has been helped by you, your job is a success. So continue to lead the horses to water and allow God the time to get them to drink. Jesus didn’t make people get saved. he gave out some information and people came and he dealt with them. And the spiritual part of the program is doing the next right thing. Once you start getting that way of thinking, things will start to change, ie, your thinking and then your actions. Don’t fret, you have helped me in more ways than you would ever know. Just me answering this post is a result of your work. I’m not God but i think that he/she would say : Don’t worry my child, you’ve done well now move over and let me drive.

  3. rudy green

    I hope that i have helped you a little, addiction is a tricky thing to tackle. Your willingness to be helped changes from moment to moment. So all you can do is be there when its time and help when you can, and don’t get disappointed when things don’t come out the way you would’ve liked.

    • wmccaig

      I LOVE your quote “It is not my right to deny you your consequences.” I am going to borrow that one!

      I have Charles working with a number of our more hard headed friends. Some of them are really young and he thinks they are just following the crowd and have not fallen all the way in yet. I remember your dream of mentoring young men, if you were in my role of trying to create systems to help keep them from falling all the way in, what would you do?

      • rudy green

        there are two things that i would do immeadiately, one would be to educate them, not by just sharing stories, but take them to places where drugs or alcohol played a big part in ruining peoples lives. Somewhere like, the scared straight program at the city jail, or to a HIV clinic so that they could see first hand where they’re headed. Let them see people their age dealing with the consequences of drug, alcohol, and behavior problems. Second, you have to give them something to occupy their minds. When i stopped using, i had to have something to do to fill in that get high time. That’s one of the reasons that the healing place has the guys doing something up until it’s time to go to bed. And with kids it’s worse because of their attention span. You can’t just keep telling them what happened to you, you have to get their attention in a drastic manner. For some reason, the younger you are, the more you think that it can’t happen to you. Let them see that it can happen to not only them, but to people who were in a better position in life than they are.

  4. wmccaig

    Nancy,

    Your insights into shame are really resonating with me. One of the most painful relationships I had was with a beautiful woman whom I believe fell back into the pit of addiction largely out of shame. This will be a very helpful conversation and resources to share with my team as we start to unpack this.

  5. wmccaig

    Thanks Nancy –

    I really enjoyed the video. These were the quotes from the video that resonated with me:
    “Shame is an intensely painful feeling that we are flawed and unworthy of connection.” Also liked the connection between perfectionism and shame and the role of culture and it’s promotion of the “perfect” life.

    “It is our imperfection that allows us to connect with one another. We can not connect unless we are authentic.”
    Shame resilience –
    1.) physically recognize shame and resist the temptation to act out
    2.) practice critical awareness
    3.) reach out and talk about moments of shame
    4.) name it as shame, it can’t hang on when it is named

    “Shame can not survive empathy so to help people overcome shame we need to empathize with them and connect with that feeling in the other.”

    “Shame corrodes the part of us that believes we can change, so when we shame people we can undermine them.”

    “Shame – I am bad. Guilt – I did something bad. Need to focus on behavior and not the person.”

    “Vulnerability helps people move through shame. Vulnerability is how we sit with fear. ”

    Thanks for sharing such a thought provoking comment!

  6. wmccaig

    Hi Rudy,

    Thanks for the suggestions with our young friends. I thinking keeping them occupied especially during high temptation times is a real challenge. Charles has been saying the same thing but I am not sure how to help folks with no cars, no money, no network move beyond their own circumstances. I will keep praying on that! Thanks for the great feedback.

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