Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

My name is Miranda Tase.  I am a 38-year-old widow and mother of 3. My oldest son Conner is 16, my second son Blake is 8 and my daughter Serenity is 6. I am a former addict. I have 15 years of sobriety. I’m going to speak today on the subject of mental health and addiction. I feel very fortunate to be able to speak to you on this topic I feel so passionately about. 

 

I will be sharing my personal testimony: explaining how addiction has affected my life and the lives of those around me; giving perspective into how these things are impacting our communities; reasons why we as Christians are called to respond; why what we are doing isn’t working; ways we can respond in a loving Christian way.

 

I was born into a family full of addiction and mental health struggles. I was abused by every person who was supposed to be safe in my life I was hospitalized with my first abuse related injury when I was 9 months old and both my ankles had been broken.  I was sexually abused by my grandfather who molested 3 generations before his passing. The attendance for his funeral overflowed. No would ever think of him as an abuser at church. Why? Because when he wasn’t drunk he was a loving Christian man. I was beaten horribly for the slightest offence by my stepfather and sexually abused by him frequently.  He beat my mother to near death frequently.  But no one would ever think of him as anything but the nicest person.  Why?  Because when he wasn’t high on coke he was that person. My stepmother used to beat us and cut us with knives as punishment. But no one would ever think of her as anything but the perfect housewife. Why? Because she had serious mental health issues that went unaddressed. 

 

I started using drugs regularly at age 11. My parents gave me the drugs I used. I had serious PTSD and suicidal thoughts. The drug use made it worse. I had my first suicide attempt at 12. My second at 16. I dated an abusive boyfriend who I moved in with at 14.  But you would never know it to look at me. There are people that can function and keep everything hidden. I married my boyfriend at 19. I had a good office job and went to college.  My husband left me for another woman when I was 20.  I got very deep into heroin.  I had a one-night stand and three months later found out I was pregnant.  The father who was also an addict wanted me to abort the child.  I chose not to and I got clean to have my oldest son Conner.  By the time Conner was 2 months old I would let family member watch Conner.  The people around me kept saying: “You can use.  You don’t even have him right now.”  So I did. I became addicted again.  I would give my life for my son but I couldn’t stay clean for him.  My mother had gotten sober 3 years earlier.  She called me to come over.  She confronted me with my drug use by standing me in front of a mirror, making me look at myself and saying “Look at yourself.  You are me right now to your own son.  Is that the mother you want to be?” This was probably the only thing that could’ve reached me.  My heart broke and I realized she was right.  And in that moment of clarity I realized this was not the life I wanted.  I began to change myself by changing my surroundings. I separated from the people I used with including my own family. I finished college and got a job as an executive at a large company.  Things were going well.  I thought my life was on track.  And then loved ones I had started dying.  Dying of drug overdoses and suicides.  I have lost 18 people who were close to me.  But we will talk more about that soon.

 

I met a man at work. His name was Dan. He had 2 daughters. He was going through a divorce and needed help.  He wanted to get clean and get custody of his daughters. If I loved him I would sell my house and buy a house with him.  Me, him, his daughters, and my son could be a family.  I did.  We got custody of his daughters.  We were a family and for the first time things were really happy.  Then he started being out all night and sleeping all day.  You see some addicts are easy to spot especially for a former addict.  I confronted him.  He became violent.  I called the police.  But they were his family.  You see, at the time his grandfather was chief of police for the county and his father was the local police chief.  They told me if I kicked him out I would lose the girls forever.  So I didn’t have him arrested that night.  I did start planning my escape.  The next day after he left and the kids were in school I went to the local Christian Women’s Center.  I filed a restraining order.  And I lost the girls.  They used my previous drug use years prior as a reason to never let me see the girls again. I talked to lawyers and family members about how to get out.  I made a plan but at that point Dan was on a 3-day bender and would do anything to find me.  I packed my things as fast as I could to go back home.  All I had to do was get my son Conner off the school bus and we would be gone.  I got Conner off the bus and brought him back inside to make sure there was nothing important left behind. We walked in and left the door open.  Only intending to take a moment. We walked into Conner’s room and heard a click.  I turned around and there was Dan but every trace I knew of him was gone.  This was not the man I’d loved for years.  This was something else.  He had a knife and a gun and his eyes were pinpricks.  I hid Conner in his room.  I talked to Dan the whole time like it was a normal day. I could tell he would pass out soon.  An addict will fall asleep anywhere. The middle of a conversation, into a plate of food, even while driving.  I watched and waited.  He fell asleep in front of the door and Conner and I escaped out a second story window.  I took Conner to my mom’s and was contacted by Dan’s family.  They needed me to come back as Dan was threatening suicide and would only speak to me.  I came back.  They kicked the door in as he would not unlock it.  He was in our bedroom. I tried to talk to him but Dan took his own life that night.  Dan might have been saved if his family had held him accountable for his actions.  We must hold people with mental health issues and addiction accountable. We need to draw hard lines with them and be honest about how their behavior affects themselves and those around them.  People with these struggles need more than love and support; they need professional help. 

 

I was devastated. I moved to a new town by one of my brothers.  I kept working.  I was a single mom.  And I fell in love with my brother’s best friend. His name was Zack.  We were so alike, he and I.  He’d had a traumatic childhood and was a recovering addict who had been sober 3 years.  We got married. He adopted my son as his own as my sons father could not be bothered to put the bottle down long enough to see the amazingness of having a child. We got pregnant with a daughter.  Our daughter did not make it to term.  We became pregnant again with our son right away but Zack wasn’t the same.  I saw the signs again.  But I felt I could help him.  Save him.  I forgot that only Jesus can save and that we are not meant to sacrifice our wellbeing for others.  He would go on benders and drain our bank accounts.  Pawn our belongings, steal from friends and family.  Come home in between, sleep it off, wake up and be the most amazing, loving, funny husband and father.  In those sober moments we were a happy family. I got pregnant with a daughter when our son Blake was 1 and Conner was 10.  Zach broke.  He robbed me his own wife of everything.  He pawned our children’s belonging.  Lost our home and car.  Anything to use.  I took him to rehab for the tenth time.  But this time I wouldn’t pick him up when he called to leave early.  I told him he needed to be clean 6 months before he could come home.  He left the rehab and chose to live on the street and use.  Zack was homeless 9months before he was found dead in an abandoned house of a drug overdose.  He called me 2 days before.  He said he wanted to see our daughter.  Our daughter Serenity was 1 year old.  The was the only time we spoke in a year and 2 months.  The amazing father who loved his sons more than anything missed the opportunity to meet his daughter for drugs. 

 

These illnesses affect lives in massive ways.  Potentials that will never be reached.  Families broken.  Sons and daughters without parents wives without husbands, parents without children.  All 18 of the people that I’ve lost were sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters brothers, aunts, and uncles. From friends I’ve known since birth to neighbors and family.  All different age groups and different demographics. 

 

Do you know what made me different?  What kept me clean, kept me an active mother, great wife, good sister and loving daughter? Jesus. Through all of this I prayed.  I prayed so hard and through all of this in the moments I couldn’t make it I felt Jesus with me.  I felt the Father’s love.  He carried me. Through all the horrible things I’ve done and the worst places I’ve been. 

 

When I heard my husband had passed I ran outside. So completely devastated.  I didn’t want my 3 children to see me that way.  I got on my knees in the garden totally broken and prayed.  But this time I prayed a totally honest prayer.  Why? Why me? Why all these good people?  How much can one person take?  And in that moment when I felt I was broken beyond repair and could handle no more, I felt a peace wash over me. I knew it was going to be alright.  I wouldn’t have to do this alone; Jesus would do it with me. I was 100% saved by Jesus.  I had struggled with believing that my whole life.  Thinking closeness with Jesus was something I had to earn.  You see people with mental health and addiction struggles are not welcomed in many churches.  They are often seen as unvaluable and not worth saving.  Seen as if they are getting what they deserve.  If they can’t stop using and get help they put themselves where they are.  We forget Jesus does not see them that way.  Families of people with mental health issues or addiction struggles are often embarrassed for other Christians to know.  Jesus does not want us to feel this way.  Alone in our struggles. Scared to reach out to the one thing we can always count on: our God. Our Christian brothers and sisters do not remind us he loves us.  And when we are down that low we cannot believe it ourselves.  I was scared to read the Bible until I was 32.  Raised in churches my whole life but never read the good book myself.  Afraid it would only condemn me further.  Why? Because the churches I was raised in did not help me when I needed them most.  When churches knew there were addiction struggles and mental health issues in my family it was seen by them as better to stay out of peoples personal business.  When my mother finally divorced her abusive husband, she was excommunicated.  When I got my divorce so was I.  I was told my oldest son could not be baptized as he was born out of wedlock.  I’ve heard the Christian community whisper about me since I was a child.  We need to change this behavior.  We need to show these people love and respect even when they don’t show it to themselves.  We can’t save them ourselves.  Don’t try it. It doesn’t work.  But we can show them Jesus and he can. Showing someone love in the way we are called to, as Jesus loves us, means loving them in the worst places as well as the best.

 

The Bible tells us how to love and who to love in many scriptures.  Today I have chosen 3.

Ephesians 4:2 – “Be completely humble and gentle, be patient bearing one another in love. “

We need to humble ourselves.  So that we don’t believe we are above addicts or people with mental health struggles.  We need to be patient and gentle with them.

 

1 Peter 4:8 – “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.”

Above all we are called to love.  You don’t have to agree with a person to love them and you don’t have to like them either.  Loving comes from the heart not the mind.  When this verse says love covers a multitude of sins I believe it is referring to our own as well as others.  By forgiving and loving other people in their shortcomings we show that we know sins can be covered by Jesus.

 

1 John 2:9-10 – “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.”

 

When we aren’t treating people with love and kindness we are making stumbling blocks for our own relationship with God. We are forgetting how mighty he is.  We are lacking in our own faith if we believe there is anyone in any position that Jesus cannot save.

 

I’m not telling you go out and give an addict money.  Do not.  Never cash.  I’m saying these are people with mental health issues they cannot handle.  They hate themselves more than you ever could.  They can’t stand to face the things they’ve done.  The hurts they’ve caused and experienced.  It becomes an endless cycle.  Generations get stuck with no way out.  The system is broken and underfunded.  I could go on for hours discussing the times I’ve been told a rehab has no beds, or a jail can’t take them just for being high. Told all I can do is call 911 if they start to OD.  You see the system doesn’t want these people either.  It’s much easier to put the burden back onto loved ones. Loved ones who are terrified this addict is going to die. They remember the amazing person the addict is when they are stable and without the drug. They desperately want that person back and have no one to help them get them back.  The church needs to fill that void.  We need to love these people right now where they are and by doing that show them Jesus does too.  To get clean you have to find a strength within yourself you didn’t know you had and that strength is faith.

 

 Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” 

 

Faith gives a person self-worth.  They start to view themselves as worth something.  In believing they are loved by their God they can start to love themselves.  A hope is born in them and the light of Jesus comes into the darkness.

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