Recovery: The Art of Repurposing Lives

My mother had an artistic ability to make everything beautiful. For instance, once with half-a-dozen children loaded in her old car, she spied a treasure in the trash about a block from our home in Lima. Mom gasped with pleasure at the sighting, but I was sure the old bookshelf had seen better days. Not to be denied, she marched up to the front door of that house and asked the elderly female owner if she could have the bookcase.

BookshelfThe dark wood was heavily marred with scratches, and it didn’t look like much of a prize. In those days, Old English furniture polish was the standard cure for distressed furniture, so Mom doused the entire shelf in the dark liquid. Almost magically, it seemed to breathe new life into the discarded antique. When the wood dried, she found a lace dolly that covered the deep gouges on top, and then filled the shelves with books and glassware. Even though I had seen her do it countless times, once more this resourceful woman created something of beauty out of second-hand junk.

Back then, we didn’t use terms like: repurpose, refresh, restore, or reinvent. There was no category of household items or furniture known as Shabby Chic or vintage, or stores filled with repurposed products. If something was used, it was simply that, “used.” It was to be looked down upon, rejected, or devalued.

We can devalue others too, overlooking the fact that the art of repurposing isn’t just about old furniture or broken jewelry. Rather it’s about putting back together the pieces of people’s lives that have been shattered by addiction. After all, it’s easy to look at individuals making poor choices, and to believe they are past societal or even spiritual redemption. Addiction is complicated, whether it is heroin, prescription painkillers, countless other drugs, or even alcohol. Since the battle with heroin began, many folks have forgotten that although alcohol consumption is legal, it can still be a dangerous substance if abused. For example, alcohol remains a contributing factor in divorce, domestic violence, and in 40 percent of violent crimes.

Headlines and nightly TV news stories tell us the harrowing tales of the wrongs committed by individuals plagued by substance abuse. There are murders, robberies, fatal car crashes, and overdoses that paint the picture of people whose lives are out of control. But that’s not the whole picture. Whatever the addiction, we can cast off these struggling human beings and offer them and their loved ones little hope for restoration forgetting that recovery is always possible. Celebrities including: Robert Downey Jr., Eric Clapton, Samuel Jackson, and many others have overcome drug addiction. Even the most lost and hopeless of cases can turn into the greatest advocates for change when provided with a fresh start.

Yet this is not a rose-tinted philosophy requiring little effort. Increased funding will have to be continually allocated to addiction and mental health issues, along with ongoing education to know how to better serve this at-risk population. Long-term affordable treatment centers, recovery programs for those incarcerated, and family support networks will have to be established. More twelve step recovery and faith groups will be essential, but prevention among the young will be key. In this recovery fight, there are those on the frontlines who deserve our gratitude for their dedication. Mental health professionals, law enforcement officers, court system employees, first responders, and medical personnel who are daily confronted with the first step in the plan to save lives. Also, twelve step leaders and courageous recovering addicts who share their powerful testimonies in hopes of preventing others from walking the treacherous path of addiction.

Our nation’s heroin epidemic took most of us by surprise, and we are still reeling from its existence. Yet burying our heads in the proverbial sand won’t make it go away. That’s why we should support those on the frontlines, and equip them with whatever assistance we can provide, while wrapping our arms around the families that have been wrestling with a loved one’s addiction in whatever way possible.

Key NecklaceThankfully, my mother’s lesson about reclaiming the vitality of a cast-off item stayed with me. That’s why not long ago, when I found a large rhinestone and silver-plated key at a church sale, I had to buy it.

I had no idea what to do with the sparkling key, but then I happened upon a necklace that had lost its own pendant. The key fit perfectly on the long silver chain, but it still seemed incomplete. I added a few more gems including: a miniature heart with a mustard seed, and a silver charm from a broken bracelet engraved with the words from Scripture, “If you have faith so small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Writing this column is having faith in the impossible. My mother taught me another lesson. When you don’t know what to do, do something. So I’m writing another recovery column, hopeful that keeping the conversation going is a way to fight back. For now, may we all take “one day at a time,” and work together to find solutions by rejecting apathy, refusing to give up, and reclaiming our communities one life at a time.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy and Ohio AP award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

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Finding purpose in life

iPhoneIt was one of those phone calls that you don’t expect to get. No, it wasn’t a middle of the night crisis, rather an early morning candid confession. “I don’t have a purpose anymore,” said my elderly friend with desperation.

In reality, there were still community events for her to attend, and restaurant lunches or suppers with friends. But there were no longer children to raise or even grandchildren to fuss over. Everyone had long ago grown up and moved away. My aging acquaintance’s body stubbornly refused to allow her to work or even volunteer for all the causes she had once so passionately supported. Quite simply, the fragile widow was searching for a reason to get out of bed each morning.

It is part of the human condition to seek fulfillment through what we do. “The two most important days in life are the day you are born and the day you discover the reason why.” This quote is from renowned humorist and author Mark Twain. Twain died over a century ago, but his wise observation remains relevant.

Purpose Driven Life coverProbably, the most well-known book ever written specifically about the subject is “The Purpose Driven Life” by Pastor Rick Warren. Originally released in 2002, the book had sold over 32 million copies by 2012 when it was reissued in an updated anniversary edition. Publishing experts never predicted this widespread success. The book’s subtitle, “What on Earth Am I Here For?” echoes Twain’s assertion. Apparently, learning the “why” of our existence continues to be a pivotal question for most people.

Besides, for much of the time we spend on this earth, we have defined roles. As a child we discover the world around us, and then assume the job of learning as students. We eventually find a career in the professional realm, and some folks embrace the awesome responsibility of becoming a parent.

Our days can be filled with mundane duties and tedious tasks that bear little resemblance to the lofty dreams of youth. It’s then we can experience burnout or become very disillusioned, which can result in a midlife crisis.

The Urban Dictionary online defines a midlife crisis as, “When a person regrets how they have lived his or her life, and they attempt to ‘correct’ their mental issue in a variety of ways which usually always harms themselves or those closest to them.” The satirical website says those “harmful” decisions could include buying an expensive convertible, or getting divorced. Society pokes fun at folks having a midlife crisis, since they are desperately trying to hold onto their youth.

Life is a journey, and we are all at different places along the pathway. “We may run, walk, stumble, drive, or fly, but let us never lose sight of the reason for the journey, or miss a chance to see a rainbow on the way,” according to songwriter Gloria Gaither.

We don’t want to rush through our days missing the precious moments that need to be cherished. Yet it’s good not to get too comfortable, because often our purpose changes dependent upon the season of life we are in. When things don’t work out the way we have planned, that’s when a wise individual reinvents themselves to discover meaning in each new stage.

Purpose Driven Life anniversary editionEven in unexpected tragedy like Rick Warren’s family experienced in 2013 when his 27-year-old son Matthew committed suicide after a lifelong battle with mental illness. In the past two years, the famous minister and his wife Kay, have become a highly visible force in the field of mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Within the national faith community, they are now championing churches to reach out to those individuals struggling with mental health issues.

Often it is our life circumstances that are the most difficult that result in new direction. The “why” we are here changes, and we have to adapt. Similar to society’s recent trend to repurpose everything from old furniture to broken jewelry, we have to pick up our own shattered pieces and figure out how to make something beautiful out of them.

No matter our age, if we are still on this Earth, there is more for us to do. Like my friend who was panicking because she no longer felt that her existence had meaning. I wish I was an early morning thinker, because in that instant I could have reminded her, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Christina aloneChristina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

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