Tuesday, July 4, 2023

More on Starting Over

Relapse is common in recovery. In fact, the relapse rate is 40-60%. 

When I first went to treatment in 2015, I felt so good sober that I could not imagine ever again taking a drink. 

I was finally free of a toxic marriage and unhealthy work environment. I had a brilliant idea for a new business and was creating a new life for myself, one in which what I wanted and dreamed could be real.

The Teen Challenge outpatient group leader and peers referrenced relapse quite often. Wondering why it was such an over-discussed topic, I halfway ignored it and doodled in my notepad. 

It wasn't until I woke up in jail in early June 2016 that I realized relapse is a real thing, it does happen to most addicts, and it can never be completely unexpected. 

In fact, there are plenty of warning signs. I was in relapse long before I took a drink. 

I just lacked the courage to face those things I spent so much time avoiding until it was too late.

So then I did the only thing I could do. I started over.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Trace the Thread

There's some unfinished business over on this here blog.

On Sober Day #623, I've been thinking about some history, especially in relationship to my family. 

One recurring thought is this: we were an experiement of hope for our parents.

More to come... 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

It takes courage to wear white.

I look at people who do it all day and manage to avoid looking scruffy.

I don't have that skill at all. By the time I've left the house, there's already a splotch of something I won't notice until I've already left the driveway. Or a paw print. Or a bunch of dog hair. 

I realized today that those who avoid looking scruffy aren't keeping their whites any whiter than mine. They're just wearing their splotchy whites with confidence and gusto.

I wonder if it isn't the same about our inner selves. 

I wonder if all those people walking around with confidence aren't hiding a spirit as splotchy as my own.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

On that Day in 1988

Darling Auntie Iris gave me a photo of my family taken on my graduation day in 1988. It's a nice picture of my dad with my mom and I in happier days. My dad looks so young in this picture and my hair looks so big.


My parents gave me a pearl necklace at the time of my graduation. I still have it, though I rarely wear it. But I see it now and then. I cherish it. But I don't clutch many pieces of my family tightly. I think it is far too painful.

On that day in 1988, I was young and fresh and vibrant. I had the whole world at my feet, and I believed I would conquer it. I knew some basics about Jesus. I was a daughter with parents still married to each other. I was a sister to Staci and Scott. I was a girlfriend to a man I reckoned I would marry because he was so good at always doing what he said. I was a friend to an eclectic group of people. I was college-bound with a bright future. I thought I knew who I was and who I would contiue to be.

I didn't know then how many of those things that seemed like promise would actually hold me away from the life I was made to live. I didn't know then that changing my mind was an option. I certainly didn't know then how to listen for the Holy Spirit to guide me to the right path. I didn't know how much of myself I would lose and how uncertain I would become about everything - even to the point of no longer knowing who I was or what I was supposed to be doing.

I thought I had it all on that day in 1988. And for the next several years it only got better. College went well. I married my sweetheart. I had my babies. I went to work with my family.

When my life feel completely apart and I was left separated from my family and my spouse and my friends and my career and my church, I was devastated and truly floundered for several years. What took the place of all those years of expectation and rejection and emptiness is truly beautiful. God has done great work in me.

I am blessed.


Monday, January 7, 2019

Get Your Armour, Man! The Battle is On!

I wonder if there is a soldier alive who would march into battle unprepared, armorless. Certainly over the years armor has changed. Neverthless, all soldiers have their own armor they don for protection. And none would think of engaging in battle without it.

The Armor of God (from Ephesians 6:10-18)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguiush all the flaming arros of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

There's more on armor in Wisdom 5:17-20: The Lord will take his zeal as his whole armor, and will arm all creation to repel his enemies; he will put on righteousness as a breast plate, and wear impartial justice as a helmet; he will take holiness as an invincible shield, and sharpen stern wrath for a sword, and creation will join with him to fight against his frenzied foes.

And still more in Romans 13:12-14: The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenenss, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and ndo not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Evidently, the instruction to don our armor is important.

What is it we battle? Demons are real. Satan is real. Hatefulness toward ourselves and others is real.

Still, the exortation is not to go and fight out own battle. To the contrary, every piece of armor points us to trust in God for our strength and our protection. So we pick up these spiritual tools, lean on and in to God, and march into battle, fearless and courageous. We were told in Isaiah 54:17 long before that "No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgement you will condemn. That is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from me," says the Lord.

Christians who live with and by Holy Spirit live embattled. Spiritual warfare is a real thing. But those weapons formed against us? They powerless until we give them power. We give them power by hearing the lies, by condemnation, by letting sin have freedom.


Take up the armor. Salvation. Righteousness. Peace. Faith. Truth. And Holy Spirit. Do it by resting in the Word. Share it with others. Worship. Breathe it in.


Sunday, December 23, 2018

On Reconciliation and Revisiting

I'm back, beloved Blogger; how I missed you!!!!! I'm not certain how long I'll stay, but here I am!

Today at Passion, we heard Pastor Herzozog talk about reconciliation. Great teaching, friends! And linked to the beloved hymn, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." Check out this lyric:
"Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the new-born king!
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled."
Here'a YouTube of one of my favorite versions of the hymn.

Pastor shared the story of the Christmas 1914 in Belleau Wood when the solders - many barely more than boys - put down their weapons and met across the battlefield to sing "Silent Night" after which they spent the night in fellowship, connected by their faith in Christ rather than sitting in their trenches separated by the hatred they had been taught.

He spent the rest of his sermon talking about reconciliation. Here are some high points:

  • Jesus himself brought peace in a radical way to the early Church: "for he himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing his flesh in the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in himself he might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity" (Ephesians 2:14-16). In Christ, in other words, peace is not an option. If we believe in what Christ did on the cross, we believe we are made for peace, here on earth. 
  • We are not promised peace in all things - that there won't be wars or struggles. No. We are not promised that. But we are promised that we can have peace - personal peace - right here on earth in the midst of whatever else is happening.
  • On reconciliation, Paul tells us this truth: "Now all these things are from God, who  reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses agains them, and he has committed to us the word of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). So. We are ministers of reconciliation, which is so very different from engaging in conflict resolution. Let's forgive. Let's learn to let it go. Let's love one another fully.
  • Conflict resolution is coming to terms with transgression, in a sense. It's really allowing each party to the conflict take part in resolving an issue and often the resolultion is not completely agreeable to any party, but is a compromise to appease each party. Reconciliation, to the contrary, is bringing the balance to zero. Accountants do that when they reconcile their bank or other accounts. For Christians, bringing the balance to zero means there is nothing left over after the reconciliation occurs; the transgression is gone and the balance is zero.
  • Even earlier in his letters, Paul tells us how God wants us to practice love. In 1 Corinthians 13, there is a list of what love is (Remember this one? Love is patient, love is kind...?), and Paul clearly states: "Love keeps no record of wrongdoing" or as stated in NASB: it "does not take into account a wrong suffered" (5).
  • When we pray like Jesus taught us, we say "forgive us our trespasses/sins as we forgive those who trespass against us." I guess, if I want forgiveness for my sin, I need to offer forgiveness to others for their transgressions - and I need to offer that forgiveness whether they ask for it or not. And why not do that? We've already been promised forgiveness by Christ himself.
  • Hatefulness, bitterness, the failure to truly love... those things are like cancer. And cancer never stays where it starts. Forgiveness is the cure for that particular cancer. 
Pastor always leaves me with so much to think about. And when he said today, "if a certain person walked in the room, would you feel weird about making eye contact?"

I examined the corners of my heart and realized there is not a single person I would fail to look in the eye. I would not feel any discomfort. I've made my amends. I've done my work. I've walked in forgiveness until I felt reconciled. And the best thing about it is that I feel like I'm done agonizing over the things that have happened to me and the things I have done. I don't even want to talk about them anymore. It's been a long five years of work and revistiting the past to get here, but holy Moses in a handbasket, here I am!

I cannot predict how the people who have actually wronged me would feel, but they are not my problem. I'm worried about my side of the street, and baby, it's clean over here.

Amen! and Peace!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ending This Story

This weekend I went to Minnesota Tres Dias as a servant.

I won't give away any details of the weekend; you have to get there for that.

Some stuff happened that I will share.

Three men offered me some Grace.

The first one told me that we get our sense of God the father from our earthly fathers.  Our sense of the Holy Spirit comes from our mothers.  How we perceive Jesus comes from our brothers and sisters.

Well, holy yikes. I don't have a clear view of what any of those relationships are meant to be. But the picture is starting come into focus.

The second one talked to me about his vision of the Holy Spirit in me specifically. "Why are you resisting the Holy Spirit."  Here's why.  I don't know the steps.  What do I have to do to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying.  "Nothing, beautiful warrior princess, daughter of a heavenly king. There's nothing to do; you just have to be."

Well, I don't know how to do that yet. But I'm close. Soooooooooooooo close!

The third one wrote me a letter about what he sees at work in me. That letter... Well, I'm going to cherish it.  He spoke to me as his sister, as a loving and gentle man of God, and his words resonate. There is work to do for the Kingdom and I have a role to play.

Just before I left for my three days with Jesus, I spoke to my counselor about my changing role in treatment: "You are now a senior peer. You have a strong voice in recovery. I see you making a difference in people's lives. Don't be afraid to be who you are. Share your story."

I may not be able to hear the Holy Spirit myself yet. But you know? My truth holders can. And I can hear what they're saying.

There is something magnificent happening.

And I'm going to let it happen.

There's no place for Satan or any of my past demons, there's no place for hatred, and there's no place for doubt.

So, friends, this story ends right here, right now. I am breaking the chains of the past.I'm opening a new chapter, with a new plot, a new storyline, and some ass-kicking new characters.

If you want to come with me on this new journey, send me an email to: kari.kounkel@gmail.com for the linker.