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The Anchor

Have you ever had something appear in places that brings you comfort? Maybe a ‘sign’ of some sort to let you know that God, your Higher Power, or maybe your loved one who passed away is near?

I’ve been having an anchor follow me around and appear starting a little over a year ago. I know, without a shadow of doubt, that it’s God or the Holy Spirit telling me, “I’m here”.

I was never one to believe in ‘signs’ or anything like that. But I definitely believe that God has a way of showing me (and others) that He is near, He loves me (and you), and to keep my (and your) eye focused on Him. Maybe not so much a ‘sign’, but Him using a person or thing to grab my attention to make sure I heard or saw very clearly that He is near.

This anchor and I met without itself as an object. The first time I met this anchor, it was through hearing all about it. I listened to a guest preacher at my church (which happened to be a revival week- talk about being revived!) preach a message on how no matter the storm you’re in; the peace of God can hold you steady. Although you may move a bit and sway around, tossing and turning out on the raging sea, He’s got you, and He doesn’t just have a light touch on you, He’s holding you in place, strong, just as an anchor does.

I’ve heard sermon after sermon about anchors and all the different ways you can use an anchor to make a message. Each message about an anchor I always found so beautiful because they all boiled down to the same point; God is faithful.

This one specific message caught my heart in a different way. I was in a place in my life that I was unsure if I was in the right place, doing the right thing, going the right way. And it wasn’t even about my ‘right’, but I wanted to be in God’s ‘right’, His path.

So, because of that service, I found a peace in an anchor. I became in love with how an anchor represents Him.

I started looking up every bible verse about anchors. I started studying why the word was used and what its’ context was. Then I came across this verse:

“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…” Hebrews 6:19

That verse spoke to me and I remember praying, “Lord, please help me to remember that You are my anchor, no matter what storm I’m in.”

Then I met the anchor in person, as a tangible thing. I was at a store and saw rearview mirror decorations. I saw that there was an anchor that you could have dangling from your mirror. I immediately bought it and put it on mirror and thought, “when I can’t drive (spiritually, emotionally, literally) or I have no idea where I’m going, I’m will look at this anchor and let it be a reminder who really has control of the wheel.

I had no idea that this metal anchor hanging from my rearview mirror was going to have so much influence on me. I notice that I tend to have my ‘alone time’ and ‘I need to break down and cry time’ in my car. It’s a place where I am alone, can migrate to a different spot, can put myself in a helpful surrounding, and can cry or scream as loud as I need to. But now I had something with me in the car; this anchor. I don’t find it coincidental that on the moments I was tempted to pull into the Projects and relapse or consider self-harm or not show-up to where I was going (discouragement seemed to be the common theme here), I glanced at this anchor and not only was I reminded, but I felt the peace of God. It reminded me to pray, to stay strong, to push through, or sometimes to just hold on tight and remember that the true anchor is doing everything to keep me from drifting away.

After those moments, anchors started appearing everywhere. But I noticed that they would appear in three different (or all of them combined) scenarios:
1. When I’m extremely discouraged
2. When I’m being faithful to something God put on my heart
3. And when I’m on the fence of trying to figure out if I’m doing the right thing or on the right path

Allow me to be more specific:
I saw an anchor after every single time I shared my recovery story.
I saw an anchor after every single work-related event I would be a part of.
I saw an anchor after telling someone about God’s love
I saw an anchor after saying no to self-harm, relapse, and any other self-destructive behavior
I saw an anchor when I kept the faith that no matter the situation, God is always up to something good.

I literally saw anchors appear places and many of the times, they were only visible in my exact spot that I was standing or sitting.
Let me just tell you about a time that an anchor appeared and then you tell me what you think.

I was invited to speak to a youth group. They wanted to hear my story of recovery because many of the teens had been struggling or knew someone that was. This was a BIG youth group; 115 teens to be exact. Earlier that day, I received news that an old friend had passed away from an overdose, a mother was calling me frantic that her son was missing after leaving treatment, my ‘best friend’ was missing and I was being told she was prostituting for heroin, the guy I was in a relationship with told me that ‘he just needs a break from me’, and I had many other personal concerns going on. Basically, everything that could go wrong that day was going wrong, but EXTRA wrong.

Do you actually think that I had the energy or desire to go and speak to teens about how fabulous life in recovery was? Definitely not. I didn’t want to be a fraud. I didn’t want to get up in front of them and be all YAAASSS RECOVERY! Meanwhile, deep inside, I am not feeling fabulous at all.
But I guess that’s where the “faith-it till you make-it” part comes in.

I will never forget how much I complained on my way to speak to this youth group. I was filled with anger, frustration, and pain. Before walking into the room, I prayed as I usually do before speaking. I asked God to clear out all of the clamor in my mind and help me speak to these kids. I remember I even told God that I didn’t want to speak to these kids because I was feeling drained and hopeless.

I stood up in front of these teens and shared my testimony. It was difficult at first because of a combination of nerves and everything going on that day. However, as I kept speaking, my nervousness went away and that peace I long for from God came.

Just as I finished saying my final words to the teens, they started clapping. I thanked them for welcoming me as their guest and I glanced at the youth group leader to turn the conversation over to her control. Just as I was extending my hand to pass her the microphone I was using, my heart stopped at what caught my eye. This microphone was in my hand for the past 40 minutes and I didn’t see it; God didn’t want me to see it quite yet. Maybe it was a test of faith, I’m not so sure…

The manufacturer who made that microphone had its name and logo on the microphone.
“Anchor” with a picture of an anchor.
That was the name of the manufacturer.

I chuckle when I see an anchor. Sometimes I cry. But I always feel a peace and know that He’s right here, never left, never going to leave.

I continue to find anchors where I go and they continue to make me laugh and smile when I see the interesting ways God allows me to see them. I’ll never forget when I went to speak to students at a High School and as I was waiting at the security desk to finish making me a name badge, a student approaches me and says, “hey Miss, do you like my new belt?” The belt had anchors lined up all over it. Coincidence? I think not. Or the time I went to speak at another high school and as I was walking through the hallway, a kid had cut in front of me and she had an anchor-print backpack on.

My mom sings at my church and I’ll never forget a song she’s sang many times called, “The Anchor Holds” I am so glad that my Anchor always holds.

Do you have something that you see or maybe hear? Is there a comforting item or noise that you experience?

anchor

Faith-it Till You Make It

Time for me to switch up my usual story-writing technique and just give you guys the unfiltered version of Ally today. Not to say I’m not authentic in my other posts, but today it’s time to just tell it like it is. P.s. Why am I defending myself? The struggle of a self-esteem/anxiety issue is real, man. Ugh, anyways…

Have you ever heard of the term, fake-it till you make it?

As much as I feel as if I do that, it doesn’t sit right with me…

I’m not faking. I’m not good at faking. Why do I have to fake anything? Why can’t I just be?

So what is it that I’m feeling? Am I just putting on a good face? Am I simply putting aside my stuff so that I can focus at my task in front of me?

Or am I practicing faith?

Yeah, faith. That’s it.

I’m holding onto the faith that I will get through whatever feeling or situation is at hand. I’m “faithing-it till I make it”

Today is Wednesday and on Saturday, I will have two years in recovery. This is the longest time that I have ever been able to maintain my recovery since experimenting and abusing substances.

YAYYYY, right? Well, yeah, but it hasn’t been so “yay” for me lately.

So as many of you know, The Monkey is my addiction talking. He definitely has a love-hate relationship with anniversaries.

He loves to use them to try to stop them from even existing.
He loves to try to convince me that they are not worth celebrating.
He loves to try to use them as an opportunity to prey on my weaknesses.
He hates when I celebrate them, he hates when I continue in my recovery. And he hates when I don’t fall.

Literally for the past few weeks I have been overwhelmed. Someone had told me that it’s really common around the time for a recovery anniversary to be feeling this way. I’m definitely not some singled-out person, but MAN, it’s been difficult.

Let’s start with school. (pause: I’m already fighting the good fight by staying in school. Ally 1, Monkey 0)

Since I’m studying to be a Drug and Alcohol Recovery Counselor, take a wild guess of what I learn throughout the day: Drugs. People using drugs. How people use drugs (yes, actual videos and images of people getting high).

I can either have the perspective of:
A) Wow I’m so glad that’s not me anymore, I can’t wait to go out there and help people!
B) I could totally do that and no one would know.

You guys all know which perspective came from The Monkey right?

I was able to shake that off. I’m not gunna lie though, it was tough. EVERYTHING HAS BEEN EXTRA DIFFICULT THESE PAST FEW WEEKS. I mean, after watching a video of a young girl shoot up heroin (aka me two years ago), you’d think I would be like eww… but The Monkey, my addiction, wants me to focus on the head nod the girl gets, the way her eyes close as she falls into a world of relaxation and calmness.

Thank God (really, thank you Jesus) I focused more on the other parts of the video: the part where she couldn’t get a vein, the part where she was dripping with sweat and her hand was shaking when trying to inject because she was in deep withdrawal, the part where she sold her body to purchase the dope, the part where she waited hours for the drug dealer. Those parts kept me sober. (Ally 2, Monkey 0)

Work has been fine. Work is always great actually. My supervisor snuck a sweet cheering-me-on message on my calendar for me. My co-worker is encouraging me to celebrate. My colleagues are congratulating me. Speeches have been a bit tough. Standing in front of hundreds of people trying to make recovery look happy is difficult when deep inside you have The Monkey screaming at you saying, “YOU AREN’T SH*T!!!!!”

But remember what I said before, I’m Faithing-it till I make it.

Social life/home life: My family is the best, they really are. My mom was so empathetic towards me when I told her how much pressure I feel like I’m under. My dad is his usual uplifting spiritual self. My friends are great, the few I have (ew, did you hear that passive aggressive complaining I just did, smh!). Not gunna lie, I’ve been a hibernating bear lately. But I like to call it self-care. Cozied up in my super cozy-themed room watching a show with snacks (specifically Smartfood Popcorn falling into my shirt) and my furry son Pete, is literally the best.

But, I’ve definitely been extra cranky. Definitely snappy. Definitely rude.

I’m so sorry to anyone I’ve been cancelling plans with and have been snappy and sassy and just straight up evil towards.

Well, phew, that was quite the venting paragraphs.

If you skipped over a lot, here’s where you want to pick back up.

Those moments I’m feeling: overwhelmed, agitated, hateful, pressured, not good enough, worthless, useless, hopeless, and filled with sorrow…

I have to stop and think, “is this from God?”

It isn’t.

But God, I feel like this because blah blah blah blah blah”

Again, no matter how justified I am in a worldly sense of my feeling, God’s not giving me that.

He may allow it, but, what the enemy meant for evil, God allowed for good. (Genesis 50:20)

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

“But God WHYYYYYY why do I have to feel like this?! It’s overwhelming, I can’t do it, I’m going to break” – said me, billions of times.

Because no matter what, God is always good. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The same “good God” that I claimed He was when He lifted me up, held me tight, grasped my hand to guide me, and blessed me with recovery (and a job, school, family, food, shelter, etc) ….

Is the same “good God” that is allowing me to go through this trial, this temptation, this discouragement. When I am weak, He is strong. “Greater is He in me than in the World” (1 John 4:4)

But how do I see His goodness, when I’m being proud by being selfish and consumed with my own stuff, struggling to get through even just the seconds of the day?

Faith, humility.

(and sometimes mixed with some of my stubbornness because I’m not perfect)

God allows storms in our lives for so many reasons. Some we may never know, but some become known in ways we would never have imagined.

I never thought that my addiction and all the pain that came along with it, was going to happen to me so that I can help someone else.

I have to remember that these feelings that I hold onto don’t need to be stuck on me. I can give them to God and hold onto the faith that He will get me through them.

I thank God that He always, always gets me through every temptation, trial, barrier, and harmful feelings. He’s in the healing business, not hurting.

So as my two year anniversary is a few days away, I’m gunna continue to faith-it till I make it, because that’s truth, that authenticity.

Faking something doesn’t seem right, because you are really doing it, even if it’s just externally or even internally.

No matter how many different ways my addiction tries to stop my anniversary, recovery has a different plan.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1

Faith

“I don’t think I can do this.”
I whispered these words as the feelings of defeat and discouragement came over me. I dropped my head as tears started to fall from my eyes. I was sitting on the edge of my bed and started to lose the strength of sitting upright. As I slid off my bed and found myself on the floor, I cried out to God for help.

The past few weeks before this moment, my anxiety was in full throttle, my job had become very stressful, my best friend was incarcerated, and many other things were going wrong. As they say, “when it rains, it pours”, and I was drowning. The downpour began when I got the call that the guy I was in a relationship with no longer wanted to be a part of my life. I was devastated. How were we talking about ring styles and searching for places to live together one day, and then the next day we are breaking up?

With everything else that was going on in my personal life, this was the brick that made my load officially too heavy to carry. I didn’t want to show up for life. I did not want to put on that mask that everything is ok, when I felt like it was far from it. The Monkey was so loud, telling me all the benefits of getting high would be. He told me of the pain I wouldn’t feel, the sleep I would be able to get, and he reminded me that he was always there for me when I wanted to feel better.

The loudness of The Monkey’s voice was so overwhelming that I had to cover my ears thinking it would muffle the sound. Unfortunately, The Monkey’s voice is in my head and it doesn’t quiet down by plugging my ears. I prayed, I grabbed my bible, I called people in my support network, I journaled, I put on music, I put on the TV, I did anything to distract myself from feeding into the things The Monkey told me, because he sure sounded convincing.

So, what was left to do? Give-in to his ideas? I couldn’t. I wanted to so badly, but I HAD to fight the good fight. “Whatever you do, don’t pick up” was a quote running through my mind. I laughed at every quote and any encouragement that I was being told. It was almost impossible for me to believe that I wasn’t going to give-in to this stupid monkey in my head.

Then one word came to mind; faith. Have faith.

Faith? How was I to have faith to get through these situations I was facing, especially with my anxiety and depression in full throttle? How do I create faith when I can’t find the courage to create it in the first place? What is faith?

Faith is defined in the dictionary as, “complete trust or confidence in someone or something” or “belief that is not based on proof”.

In the Bible, faith is defined in Hebrews 11:1 saying, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Having faith can sometimes be the most challenging thing for me to have in recovery, especially when the tough times come. I basically have to somehow believe that God will make a way and I will be able to get through this, even when I can’t see any way possible for that to happen. However, there is evidence I can see, which is all the times that God has gotten me through those tough times. There are times when The Monkey tries to convince me that God runs out of grace and that God won’t pull me out of the fire.

However, faith tells me different. Recovery tells me different.

If I have just a tiny bit of faith, it really can move mountains. Just the act of not using, is a form of faith because I’m still holding on, still fighting the good fight. Even if I’m on my bedroom floor breaking down, I’m still practicing faith. Every SECOND that I don’t pick up a drug is practicing faith. I’m holding onto the promises that God gives. I’m holding onto the trials He’s already gotten me through. I don’t even need the size of a mustard seed of faith for Him to help me and give me strength, most of the time it’s so much less than that and God still blesses me for it.

When the fire comes, I let it refine, mold, and shape me. It’s not easy, but faith makes it bearable. When the storm rages, I hold onto the anchor that keeps me. I increase my recovery and decrease my addiction.

Now, because of faith, I was able to get through another trial SOBER. I learned from each difficulty I was facing in that moment. What my addiction wanted for evil, God allowed for good. Recovery was practiced and The Monkey was silenced again.

The Votes

“This poem was written many years before our current political situation. But it resonates very well with our times. Still the intention was to generate humor but I guess its about politics too.” – Kevin

There goes an old woman in a long nylon frock

Following the trail down the highway hill
Praising the name of David Phil
He is a good man they say, he is the man to run the main
And so the party people followed making their victory begging raid.
Well, they judged the candidates wife
“I believe she is pretty,” one man says
“She will make a fine first lady and I like her fashionable ways.”
“I heard she is from India
A humble lady,” someone says.
The wife prays for the party’s win
And the farmer prays for good
The lawyer prays for lower excises
And the janitor prays for higher wages
While the party president finds a perfect place, in that perfect day, to hibernate.
 The people of the nation; their thinking’s are ill
They vote a man in power with low credit and a high bill
The government full of doctors, but not accordingly they behave
And while the people wrestle to strive
The sovereign minds comes to a ‘still’

 

 

CCAR Young Adult & Family Program Open House

CCAR (Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery) welcomed dozens as they celebrated the opening of their new location in Bridgeport for their Young Adult and Family Program. TurningPointCT.org, along with several other young adults, mental health organizations (DMHAS, Facing Addiction, etc) and outreach programs, shared in conversation as project manager, Carol Cruz, excitedly toured us around the space. This center is dedicated to providing recovery support services and resources to young adults & families utilizing Telephone Recovery Support and Recovery Coach Training.  Parent and family support is provided through education and peer support networks that also emphasize empowerment and advocacy skills training.

For more info and photos on this feature, check out our Featured Events section on the website – Explore Featured Events

Myths that Religion Taught Us

Too often LGBT youth are reminded that the church or whatever it may be is not the place for us to be who we are.
For some of us, our stories with religion end with rejection, abuse, trauma, just to name a few.
And I can understand the frustration and anger because quite frankly, a lot of us feel betrayed by society and our religious intuitions.

Just Monday another case was brought before the Supreme Court in New Jersey by conservative Christians to challenge the ban on conversion therapy in the state. Luckily the Supreme Court rejected this case which of course is a big win for the LGBTQ youth who may not have a voice when faced with gay conversion therapy.

Growing up, going to church seems ever so normal until we begin to realize that popular theological interpretations of religious doctrines do not view us as moral people.

At some point, I stopped believing… wasn’t sure if I was an atheist or not… but I was very angry, not only at Christianity but at all religions that perpetuate societal violence against LGBT people.

Somehow, I had absorbed a lot of damaging lies. For a few years I had no intention to renew my faith because the message I received and the people who embraced it didn’t make much sense.

I was forced to accept that being gay was a choice and conversion therapy was effective. In my perspective, back then, there was just no logics, no rationale for the lies that I was told.

Among the lies:

You can’t be christian and gay

The idea that the Bible, as it is, condemns homosexuality is an old age rhetoric that was never true.
“You are a reprobate and you are going to hell!”
Leviticus 20:13 and 18;22 are all too familiar like the beating stick that was meant to make us straight. Religious fanatics who are only as religious to the extent that they hate gay people, based on their standards, stoning a man to death can divinely resolve one’s sexuality. Needless to say, it was taught that gay people are not welcome in the faith.
What the pastors failed to tell us was that the Bible does not address the subject of homosexual acts between committed gay couples, because the ‘concept’ of a person being homosexual did not even exist at the time the Bible was written.

God hates the sin but loves the sinner

First and foremost, according to many theologians, this saying is not found in the Bible in so many words.
Many religious conservatives believe in a magical spell that could remove the sexual orientation from the person.

The implication here is that the ‘gayness’ and the beholder are two different things.
Not True!

“All Religions condemn homosexuality”

Notwithstanding that Christianity does not explicitly reflect the bigotry of many of its followers, and bearing in mind that both reform and conservative Jews are usually accepting, there are still many other religious groups that are affirming or accepting of gay people… such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, among some of the most popular.

Altogether, we all have different faith and we are entitled to our beliefs but it’s ungodly to use God in the name of bigotry. It’s senseless to believe that the intention of a loving God, for this world was to punish humans for things beyond their control.
Not true!