Books I am reading

Thoughts & Visions

Ramblings of a Sinner Saved by Grace
     I have been reading a lot about Jesus desire that we love one another, even our enemies. And I ponder what that looks like in real life. Jesus clearly expressed anger toward those who abused others and worked to only line their own pockets at the expense of others. So what does it mean to love our enemy?
     It occurs to me that by learning about the experiences that lead people to become jihadist or gang members or corporate leaders that care only for profit and not human need, we can begin to take steps to change the experiences of young children so that they do not grow up hating others and disregarding human life.
     I would love the opportunity to hear from jihadists, to learn about their lives, what experiences they have had that has led them to hate so deeply and to so easily take ife and abuse others. What can we as Christians do to change the experiences of young people so that they can respect others and care for the well-being of others.
    I would like to be clear that I am not excusing anyone's behavior. But I want to understand and then seek interventions so that the hatred and lack of life-respect can be kept from developing.
March 17, 2017

This is a presentation that I made to a church ministry group who work with older adults on Oct 11, 2013

      I.          Understanding Addiction – isolation and shame
Addiction is a disease, of dependency.
          If you use alcohol or drugs in a way that takes control of your life, the addiction is chemical dependency. But there are many other ways to be addicted too; shopping, gambling, over eating, sex, etc.
It used to be believed that addiction was a sign of character weakness and/or moral indifference. But we have come to understand that addiction is an illness. Our brain chemistry changes as we engage in addictive behaviors, which causes us to desire more of whatever that behavior may be.
Very few people are able to overcome addiction without the love and support and education from others.
I believe that people of faith have an advantage; I believe that one needs to seek God’s help and guidance in order to fully recover.
    II.          The older adult and addiction
Folks who grew up from the early to mid-20th C, have different ideas and values. Self-reliance was a necessity, roles were clearly defined in society, and there was a strong sense of right & wrong. People rarely asked for help, and those who did were often considered weak.
These characteristics are helpful in recovery, but can also make getting into recovery difficult. Saving face and looking good make it difficult to ask for help, especially when the issue is considered a moral one. But if one has a heart condition or high blood pressure, most seek treatment. If we can help folks understand addiction as a disease, it will make seeking help and support easier.
One of the major issues for older adults that helps addictions take hold is the greater amount/depth of losses endures. Loss of profession, work, spouse and friends, and status in society. It is easy to turn to addictive “comforts” to numb the pain of loss.
  III.          The dangers of mixing medication and drugs/alcohol
Alcohol and certain medications can create intensified effects, causing a person to more quickly become intoxicated. These combinations can appear as some of the symptoms people experience as they grow older: dangerously reduce alertness, reaction time (effecting driving, for instance), and interfere with sound judgment. Impaired memory may lead to an unnecessarily early reduction in independence.
And mixing alcohol or dependence producing drugs with other medications can lead to coma or death.
 IV.          How to recognize possible addiction – we are ALL sinners saved by grace
Since dependency can mimic the aging process (by speeding it up), the true core of the problem (dependency) can be overlooked. The symptoms of addiction may be assumed (even by doctors not familiar with dependency), to be the worsening of a chronic illness.
Often people closest to the person in decline know that chemical misuse and/or increases in drinking have been taking place, but due to judgmental beliefs, do not try to help the person who is addicted to seek help at early stages. And sometimes the addiction progresses so far that permanent damage has been done to the brain, liver or kidneys that reversal is no longer possible; the organs have been damaged beyond repair.
If all of us can accept that chemical dependency is a treatable illness, and seek to offer support and help so that a person can address their addiction directly, we can literally and spiritual help save lives. If we accept our own weaknesses and seek God’s support and the fellowship of believers, we are better able to approach others in distress with like-minded sympathy and understanding.
   V.          How to help and support someone
Approaching someone is a caring, nonjudgmental way is KEY. If someone you know has begun to show signs of mental or health problems, encourage them to seek help. If you are close enough to suspect the origin is addiction related, talk to them about your concern that their substance use seems to be increasing and is there anything you can do to help them.
A person must decide for themselves that they need help We cannot “force” anyone into recovery. As I grow in my knowledge of Green Valley and Tucson, and as we work more closely together in the future, I would like to compile a resource list of doctors and 12 Step meetings that support older adults. Our friends and neighbors will rarely receive the help they need from a doctor who does not understand addiction in older adults or from meetings attended predominantly by young people.

 VI.          The 12 Steps of Recovery
I am a strong advocate of 12 Step recovery. I aware that there are some other approaches that work better for some people, but since the 12 Step program grew out of a Christian fellowship program, it is solid in supporting people in seeking God as their primary support during recovery. This is one area where older adults more often understand recovery better than young people who have never been exposed to spiritual living.
I have included a “generic” version of the 12 Steps. It covers whatever your addiction may be. If you attend Alcoholics Anonymous, the Steps will refer to one’s addiction to alcohol.
Read through them if you are nor familiar with them, and, we can spend more time on 12 Step recovery and finding meetings in this area, if you feel that would be helpful at a future date.

The 12 Steps of Recovery

·        Step 1 - We admitted we were powerless over our addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable.
     Step 2 - Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 
     Step 3 - Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God 
·        Step 4 - Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves 
·        Step 5 - Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs 
·        Step 6 - Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character 
·        Step 7 - Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings 
·        Step 8 - Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all 
·        Step 9 - Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others 
·        Step 10 - Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted
·        Step 11 - Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out 
·        Step 12 - Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs 

This version of the 12 steps is an adaptation from the original 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous by the administrator of this site and is intended for general use with any addictive or dysfunctional behavior. We have also compiled a list of different versions of the 12 Steps.
Newcomers Guide
So you think that you might be interested in or desperate for (or somewhere in-between) working a 12 step program? How do you get started?
1. Review Step 1
Get acquainted with at least the first step. Explore some videos about the 12 step program.

2. Find a Meeting
Find a face-to-face meeting in your area. There should be people in those meetings with varying levels of experience, sobriety and wisdom. Don't be afraid of going. You may be amazed at the warm reception that you find. Many people have said that they finally felt like they were coming home when they went to a meeting. They no longer felt alone. Other good resources are online meetings or online social networks for recovery. They may be a little less personal, but oftentimes are more convenient, especially if there are not face-to-face meetings in your local area for your type of addiction. Our favorite online recovery website is at There is always someone online there for fellowship and they have many great resources.

3. Find a Sponsor
Do your best to find a sponsor or at least someone with whom you can have accountability. You will probably have to go to a few meetings and/or join some online social networks for recovery, ask a few questions and see who might be available and willing to be a sponsor or accountability partner. Use your best judgment in finding someone who will help you work your program of recovery.

4. Work the Steps
Work the steps of the program, beginning with step 1. Your sponsor or others in a meeting should be able to help you with this. There are also resources and tools on this website and other websites for helping you to work the program. There are12 step worksheets for helping you to write out the steps. There is Recovery Journal software for answering questions about the steps in a software journal format along with keeping a journal for other uses. The worksheet questions have also been prepared for use with a commercial journaling software package called LifeJournal. There are online references for some standard texts like the Alcoholics Anonymous' Big Book. And there are numerous links to other web sites that cover different aspects of recovery, for different types of addictions and with different perspectives.

5. The Sooner the Better
The sooner that you start asking yourself the right questions and giving yourself honest answers, the better your life will be. The sooner that you begin working the steps, then the sooner that you can see the 12 promises come about in your life, like numerous others before you.

How to Help Addicts: How to Support Someone With an Addiction
Updated July 15, 2011
People who know someone struggling with an addiction often wonder how to help addicts. The decision to try and get help for someone you care about who has an addiction is never easy. Fortunately, with your support, they have a greater chance of overcoming their addiction. Each situation is unique, but there are some general guidelines that will help you approach this task.

Expect Difficulties
There are many reasons that helping someone you care about with their addiction can be difficult:
There is no fast and easy way help someone with an addiction. Overcoming an addiction requires great willpower and determination, so if they do not want to change what they are doing, trying to persuade them to get help is unlikely to work.
However, you can take steps that will help your loved one to make changes over the long term, and will help you to cope with a loved one with an addiction.

Step 1: Establish Trust
This can be hard to do if the addicted person has already betrayed your trust. However, establishing trust both ways is an important first step in helping them to think about change. Trust is easily undermined, even when you are trying to help.
Avoid the following trust-destroyers:
·        Nagging, criticizing and lecturing the addicted person.
·        Yelling, name calling and exaggerating (even when you are stressed out yourself).
·        Engaging in addictive behaviors yourself, even in moderation (they will think you are a hypocrite).

Be aware that:
·        Although you just want to help the addicted person, they may think you are trying to control them, which can lead to them engaging in the addictive behavior even more.
·        They probably use the addictive behavior at least partly as a way to control stress. If the atmosphere between you is stressful, they will want to do the addictive behavior more, not less.
·        Building trust is a two-way process. Trust is not established by putting up with bad behavior. If you have no trust for your loved one, and do not feel it can be established at the moment, you should read Step 2.
·        People with addictions rarely change until there is some consequence to their behavior. Don’t try too hard to protect the addicted person from the consequences of their own actions (unless it is harmful to themselves or others, for example, drinking and driving).

Step 2: Get Help for Yourself First
Being in a relationship with a person who has an addiction is often stressful. Accepting that you are going through stress and need help managing it is an important step in helping your loved one, as well as yourself. Page 8 has some suggestions for getting support for yourself.

Step 3: Communicate
Although you may feel tempted to let your loved one know that their addiction is a problem, and that they need to change, the decision to change is theirs. They are much more likely to be open to thinking about change if you communicate honestly but in a way that does not threaten your loved one.
These tips on communicating with an addicted loved one should help.

Step 4: The Treatment Process
They may not agree that they have a problem. They may not want to change what they are doing. They may fear consequences e.g., losing their job, going to prison. They may feel embarrassed, and not want to discuss it with you. They may feel awkward about discussing personal issues with a professional. They may be engaging in the addiction as a way to avoid dealing with another problem that bothers them more.
Nagging, criticizing and lecturing the addicted person. Yelling, name calling and exaggerating (even when you are stressed out yourself). Engaging in addictive behaviors yourself, even in moderation (they will think you are a hypocrite).
Although you just want to help the addicted person, they may think you are trying to control them, which can lead to them engaging in the addictive behavior even more. They probably use the addictive behavior at least partly as a way to control stress. If the atmosphere between you is stressful, they will want to do the addictive behavior more, not less. Building trust is a two-way process. Trust is not established by putting up with bad behavior. If you have no trust for your loved one, and do not feel it can be established at the moment, you should read 

Step 5. People with addictions rarely change until there is some consequence to their behavior. 
Don’t try too hard to protect the addicted person from the consequences of their own actions (unless it is harmful to themselves or others, for example, drinking and driving).
Taken from:

Gottman PhD, John and DeClaire, Joan. “The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships.” Three Rivers Press, New York. 2001.

Hartney, Elizabeth, Orford, Jim, Dalton, Sue, Ferrins-Brown, Maria, Kerr, Cicely and Maslin, Jenny. "Untreated Heavy Drinkers: A Qualitative and Quantitative Study of Dependence and Readiness to Change." Addiction Research and Theory 2003 11:317–337.

Love EdD, Patricia and Stosney, Steven PhD. “How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It: Finding Love Beyond Words.” Broadway Books, New York. 2007.

Orford, Jim, Dalton, Susan, Hartney, Elizabeth, Ferrins-Brown, Maria, Kerr, Cicely and Maslin, Jenny. “The Close Relatives of Untreated Heavy Drinkers: Perspectives on Heavy Drinking and Its Effects.” Addiction Research and Theory 2002 10:439–463.

Orford, Jim, Natera, Guillermina, Copello, Alex, Atkinson, Carol, Mora, Jazmin, Velleman, Richard, Crundall, Ian, Tiburcio, Marcela, Templeton, Lorna and Walley, Gwen. “Coping With Alcohol and Drug Problems: The Experiences of Family Members in Three Contrasting Cultures.” Routledge: London and New York. 2005.

How to Communicate with Someone Who Has an Addiction: Be Supportive Without Letting Yourself Down
Updated September 19, 2013
No-one automatically knows how to talk to someone with an addiction. Although people who have lived and worked with people with addictions may have discovered effective ways to communicate, it is always difficult because of the confusion addiction creates in the addict, and in those around them. Add the shock of discovering a loved one has an addiction, and you have a recipe for poor communication. But there are ways of communicating that produce better outcomes than we might expect.
Communicating with an addict can be especially hard if you have been supporting the person's addiction by enabling them to continue with their addictive behavior. People with addictions can make this worse by denial and lying to you. Making changes in the way that you interact with the addict will put an end to enabling, while still showing you care about the person.
Always be kind to someone with an addiction Show you care through your behavior –- always act with kindness and compassion. This is the elusive secret ingredient to successful interaction with a person who has an addiction.
Listen to person with the addiction at least as much as you talk Whether they are a loved one or not, a person with an addiction is more likely to confide in you about what is really going on for them if you listen without interrupting or criticizing. Even if you do not agree with their behavior, addictions happen for a reason. Find out about their addiction by reading about it on this website, and try to understand what it is like from an addict's point of view.
Always be consistent Whenever you are with someone with an addiction, communicate through your actions as well as your words. Remain consistent in your message, so that they don't misunderstand what it is you want or expect of them. For example, don't say you think your partner has a drinking problem, and then share a bottle of wine over dinner.
Try to be predictable Addicts can be very unpredictable in their words and behavior, but setting a good example can help to turn this around. Be predictable in your words and actions whenever you are around someone with an addiction -- surprises are stressful, and stress feeds addiction.
Show unconditional love or concern Let them know that you still love or care about them, no matter how severe their addiction. If this is not true or possible, at least that you have their best interests at heart, whether or not they get help. This doesn't mean you will put up with anything, however. Let the person with the addiction know what you won't put up with, and don't be scared to set limits and follow through to show you aren't simply making empty threats or psychologically punishing them for their addictive behavior.
Support the process of change Let the person with the addiction know that you are willing to support them in changing, for example, by coming with them to family or couples counseling. Although your motivation for change may be higher than the addict's motivation for change, this may start to shift once the addict starts to benefit from counseling and realizes that you are also willing to look at yourself and make changes, too.
Do it their way Although you should be absolutely clear and firm about what is unacceptable in an addicted person's behavior -- for example, underage drinking or using drugs in your house, you can be flexible in how they makes these important changes. Offer to help in ways that they would like, without dictating what must be done. As long as you get the same outcome, and no harm is caused by the addict's own strategy for change, let them do it their way.
Seek information on where to get help People often feel ashamed of their addiction, and fear of being reported to the police or another authority may be one of the biggest obstacles to addicts seeking help. Offer to find and share information on where to get help. If the person with the addiction declines, focus instead on getting help for yourself. As well as helping you to cope with the situation, seeing you get help and improving your mood and functioning can be inspiring to them, as they see that change is possible.

10/9/13 How to Talk to an Addict

Posted 5/6/14

Saturday, May 4, 2013

I had a very vivid dream last night, so vivid I wanted to call my friend and make sure she wasn't really angry with me. Let me explain:

Grandma Stengl 1955
In my dream one of my best friends had hired me to help her with a PR project for her business. We had discussed the possibility a few times, but I was now "officially" meeting with her to get started.
She mentioned an idea we had floated at an earlier discussion, and I could remember none of the details. I asked her to refresh my memory, and she was rather short with me, saying something to the effect that had our pervious meetings been a waste of time. I was taken aback since we usually got along very well. I chalked it up to her having a bad day. But as we proceeded, it became obvious we had gone into a lot of detail in our previous chats, and I remembered none of it. My friend ended up walking away in disgust.
And then I woke up.
After my first thought that I needed to call my friend for reassurance, I realized how foolish that was, and, began to think about what it meant to me. It was all very obvious. My friend represented my competent, professional self, and I represented my current fears. I have been having greater and greater memory problems. I can't think of common, everyday words several times a day. I have always been bad with names of people I only see occasionally, but now it is happening with people I know well but don't see very often.
I have a fairly deep fear of developing dementia. I can't imagine the hell it must be for a productive person to gradually forget how to do things and who people are. My biggest, deepest fear is that I would lose my relationship with God and not recognize His presence with me or experience His comfort any more. And I certainly do not want to lose touch with my family and friends. ANd I don't want to put them through the heart-wrenching experience of my body still being present but the person they know and love not being there anymore.
My current walking program is partly to help stave off dementia as long as possible. I know I have good genes. My grandmother was alert and mentally "present" until a few days before her death. Pretty much the same with my mother. My dad died very young (52), but his mother lived into her 90's and still recognized her children when she died. So Alzheimer's does not run in the family. But I also know that physical and mental activity help decrease the chances of developing dementia.
It is my spiritual fear that runs the deepest. I do not want to let fear run my life, so I keep asking God for faith to believe He will be with me no matter where my life turns. And I am comforted by that, because I know there has never been a moment in my life thus far where He has abandoned me; even in those times when I didn't "feel" His presence, I knew on a deeper level that He was there. I am going to trust that this will be true until I take my dying breath. And then, I will be with Him!

My grandson, K, is staying with my husband and I for 2 days; his holiday vacation began before his parents' time off from work began.
I love spending time with K. He is now 7 1/2, and knows everything! He is so much like his father that I find it a bit unnerving at times, flashing back to A's childhood.
I enjoy telling K stories of my childhood, his dad's childhood, and, occasionally, his grandparents' childhood. These are the special times when I feel I am passing on some of the family heritage; that sense of connectedness to the world and to our shared history.
I grew up in the 50's, and, my mother's mother lived with us from the time I was 2 1/2 years old. There were many difficult things about having my mother and grandmother together, but one of the joys was crawling into bed with my grandmother, early in the morning. Sometimes she would put some of her 45 rpm records on and we would listen to Perry Como, Bing Crosby, and, Nelson Eddy, Jeannette MsDonald. She would tell me stories of growing up in Chicago, and living in an all Czech community, of not learning English until she went to kindergarten, and he father's work in Prague making music boxes. 
This summer, my brother went to Prague with his wife, KB. She has done years and years of work tracing our genealogy, and she had found an address for the house where our grandfather had lived shortly before he emigrated to the United States. We now have a picture of my brother standing in front of that house.
One of my favorite Bible verses is from Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

I think that growing up with the stories of my family gave me a sense of connectedness that resonates with this verse. I have a small sense of that "cloud" that has gone before me! And I want K to grow up with that sense of connectedness as well.