Yesterday was a great morning, so I thought. It was our first day of school with the kids, so everyone was on their A game waking up, getting dressed, making lunches, cooking a healthy breakfast, and everyone with their cute selves were out of the door on time at 7:30 to head to school. I stayed home to spend some time with Jesus and get ready before my work day. Except I opened facebook for a hot minute while I sipped coffee and saw my mom’s post.
A friend of Joshua’s overdosed. A boy he really loved and cared for. They met when they were both living in California in a sober living community there and doing so – incredibly – well. And when you’ve lived in people’s darkest valleys with them getting to experience seasons with them that are still hard, but a good hard – it is soothing to the deepest parts of your soul. Joshua loved Austin and truly cared for his heart.
Joshua and Austin were in Cali during Christmas two years ago, so my parents flew out to spend the holiday with him. Joshua couldn’t stand the thought of Austin being without family and fun and the Halls have learned how to do FUN despite brokenness, so Austin joined my parents and Josh for the day enjoying the wonder of family and being a Hall. We have always loved how Joshua loved people and easily drew them in and pulled them out of their hell holes. He was afraid of nothing.
As it should have, the news broke me. I just wept for Josh, for Austin, for us, for his family, for the day they were living and the days to come that only get harder. I didn’t grasp when those close to us who knew death said, “You are entering the hardest season of your life” the day Josh died really meant it. Like how is the day of death not the worst? It’s just not. Truth is, it’s just all the worst.
A mutual friend of Josh and Austin shared post of them together in video. I had not seen a video of Joshua in a while and it will likely never get easier seeing his life in action yet knowing that isn’t something we’ll see again for a very long time. I still hate that I have to hunt down videos to see Joshua living and active. It’s hard to do for me right now.
I’m hesitant in how I speak of Joshua and addiction because Joshua was not addiction, but addiction did take his life. The most powerful memory at this moment I have is still the night and morning he died . I have relieved every second of those hours at least once a day if not more since then. Funny how I use to fear his death and now that it’s been 100+ days I have lived it hundreds on hundreds of times l – i – t- e – r – a – l – l – y. Every part of that morning until the paramedic came out and just said she was so sorry is seared into my memory. After that, I am not really sure what else happened other than our family and friends flooded us with their presence, words, prayers, food, care, cleaning and probably more. It’s such a blur of comfort, care, confusion and heavy loss.
On that day, addiction showed its fullness and surely took something from us in the tangible. It’s been a wrestle since then to not give addiction any more presence and power while wrestling with how its presence in our lives the past 5 years changed every thing about us as family.
We’ve said it before and on this road of healing and acceptance we are on we have to be honest about everything and the truth is despite the loss – it changed us for the better. That is beauty in ashes, friends. It’s when the truth (addiction is stupid and deadly and powerful) is replaced by the supernatural (good can come during the stupid and deadly and powerful). The weight and grief and losses collected because of addiction by all those in its path is monumental. It evokes fear and impending loss and blows and shared consequences. It blinds you to the person, because the symptoms and mess is so great. It is deadly even if not to ones live but to ones peace, purpose and joy. But there is another way to live with those with addiction, there is another side.
It took us a long time to get there. A lot of counseling and honesty and healing in our hearts to learn the difference between the person and the addiction. Our person was Joshua, a very well loved boy, whose body was intensely and powerfully driven by a dependency. There were seasons he was ok, but there were triggers where his person would be lost immediately. There’s no way to sum it up here, but his body and soul were truly different parts.
The only reason we knew this was because we sunk into his loss, his addiction, and his life enough to realize he never chose drugs over us. He never chose addiction over us. He never chose addiction over freedom or his family and friends. It’s easy to make assumptions until you are in someone’s hell hole and worst moment with them. Then you have to own the reality that it is not that simple. I’ve met a lot of people from teens to old men struggling with addiction who have accumulated the greatest amount of losses. Yet, I have never met an addict who truly wanted to be an addict. Maybe there are some out there who are just selfish and unaware, but I assure that’s not what we encountered.
As I grew through the last 5 years and realized I had to be healthy and deal with my own junk to be the best contribution to my family and life, something beautiful happened. I realized that addiction is powerful, but it is not more powerful than God using us everywhere, in so many ways, and to reach a lot of people. Addiction is not more powerful than God’s reach, care, and passionate pursuit of his kids.
I mentioned in my last blog that Joshua’s addiction privy’d him to the broken and the anointing on his life allowed him to love people extraordinarily where they were. It did the same with us, too.
We are so much stronger than we knew. I have remind myself of that these days. That I am actually doing this thing. I am living out these days. I still was able to have a dream wedding and celebrate with friends for a few days. I am still going to enjoy marriage and these kids that fill ours days with humor and mess. I am still going to embrace the God opportunities and this journey.
Because the emotions of missing Josh, feeling angry, and just so incredibly sad at times are so REAL, I have to get my head out of my emotions (normally after a perfectly timed cry (lies! why can they not be timed better FOR THE LOVE) and remind myself that despite the greatness of this moment and loss – we will not surrender to it. Anger is a valuable part of grief. It has it’s own section. Rightfully so. But for every great loss I have relieved in the last few months, I have prayed that Jesus shows me his view from the other side.
There is always another side of our greatest pains and losses. ALWAYS.
It’s powerful to take this into our existing days and pains we face – to seek out the heaven in our hell. It is always there. I treasure greatly my mom is so great at this and my dad is the best cheerleader for her wild ideas even if they involved buying all of Sam’s so 50 men could get Christmas presents because they had no family visiting them for the holidays.
God was always actively using where we were to heal us, love us, and reach his kids in tangible ways through unique circumstances.
- Addiction positioned our family next to the most broken in our community – addicts and their families. It opened us up to a world that had already existed, we just lived unaware of. Not people different than us, people just like us.
- Addiction taught us we were capable of having our hearts broken into more pieces that we knew possible, but that we could still take a deep breath, wipe our eyes, and do unthinkable things to help someone we loved. Addiction isn’t more powerful than love. It taught us what real love in action is.
- Addiction stripped us of pride, excess, and opportunities we’d have wanted and traded us for humility, kindness, and asking the Lord to move in miraculous ways over the broken hearts in our midst.
- Addiction paved the way for us to ask Jesus to come and then to see him come and move on hearts through worship. I’ll forever love the Christmas Eve service I led worship at a men’s recovery program. We sang You’re a Good Good Father and How He Loves Us and still to this day the presence of Jesus was the extraordinary I have encountered, because even grown, broken men should know they are deeply loved and have a Father. It was a heaven on earth moment.
- Addiction took away holidays and traditional memories, but it gave us the chance to open our hearts to many who would have been alone on holidays had we not been there. Had my momma not been a party throwing girl and my dad a giver, we wouldn’t have spent our Christmas money as a family distributing gifts to those who needed love through toothbrushes and snacks and standard products.
I could keep going and for my own journal I will. Because every time addiction and fear wants to tell me of my greatest losses, I remind myself how God has used every single one to create beauty in the middle of pain. It would be nice to think the answer to everyone’s problems is simply the removal of the pain. That’s just not true though.
Whatever your pain is….it has positioned you by people you can love. It has broken you in ways so you can identify and connect with others sharing those same wounds. It has given you a chance to discover that Jesus is ALL sufficient, ALL loving, & ALL present. It has likely humbled you to accepting your humanity and need others. We need community. We need family. We need a tribe. Your pain, while powerful, isn’t the most powerful force in your life. I promise you that.
The great thing about the places our pain leads us that we realize we don’t have to be extraordinary or really talented to be impactful. We just have to use what’s in our hand, rally our community if we need more help, and together you will always leave a lasting impact.
When I remind myself of the good, the miracles, the power, and the presence of Jesus, it doesn’t make me miss Josh less and it definitely doesn’t make me happy he’s not here with us, but it does keep my eyes set on heaven – our real home. It reminds me even yesterday when all felt like enormous loss it will not be wasted. We will wait to experience what God is actively doing through us and through you.
Keep fighting friends. Your pain isn’t going to be wasted.