A Hard, Good Life
By Claire Margit
I thought my bone marrow transplant (BMT) five years ago was as close to death’s door as I could get– I was wrong. Rehab is far deadlier a place. Not physically, of course. A BMT actually does deliver you right up to that decaying “welcome” mat; doctors want to kill as much of you and your cancer cells as possible before flushing all those clean and cancer-free cells back into your (almost) corpse.
When I laid dying in the hospital, I didn’t have a choice. Yes, BMTs are elective, but what new mom would choose a slow death by cancer?
This way, maybe I’d stick around a few years longer to watch my four-month-old reach Kindergarten. (I stuck around and she starts school in fall.) I did not, however, vote for the debilitating pain all the chemical poison caused. If I had known about the battle against chronic pain that lay before me, I’m not sure I would’ve signed up for that medical murder. The three years that followed brought pain, doctors and diagnostic testing, dosage adjusting and experimental treatments.
Finally, I gave up and gave in to the pain and the pain meds. Everything was prescribed by a doctor. Oxycodone to quiet the zapping nerves that chemo fried. Lyrica and Cymablta to aid the Oxy. Adderall to combat the drowsiness and fatigue from all the downers. And then, when it was time to unwind at night (or during the day), I had Ambien to put my stimulated brain to sleep.
I clung to the pieces of prescription paper more tightly than to God’s Word. Dinner dates with good friends bored me; it were those doctor’s appointments that excited me. Instead of gardening and taking walks, I sat on the sofa with food and television to keep my brain busy.
Don’t stop.If you stop, you’ll feel all the things you never felt. God had other plans.
Then, finally, I put my son in the NICU two years ago. My substance abuse put my son in the NICU. I represent the masses of addicts whose addictions are overlooked by doctors and excused by specialists.
Watching my son withdraw from everything I pumped into his sweet body during the pregnancy forced me to finally look in mirror—it forced me to stop. He slept, strapped to monitors, alone, and unable to move because of the methadone they gave him. Little and wounded, he needed help. I was just like him: little, alone, abused, scared. I was sick, also. And I needed help. I needed my own kind of NICU, a place to recover away from the weight of my world. I needed my own team of doctors and nurses who, instead of prescribing me pills to numb and disguise the trauma, would help rip off the oozing scabs.
If you haven’t been to rehab, you should go. It’s the safest and most deadly place I know of. Rehab encouraged the death of my “Self”, which stung more than actual physical death. Because after my false self died, I had to stay in that tomb until I found my true identity in Christ. Each day the stone rolled a little further away, slowly inviting the Light of Love in. Finally, when the brightness filled every little crack, I found her— I found Claire.
Rehab and recovery taught me to love little Claire. How to hold her. Rigorous curriculum trained me to choose my little, glorious true self over my fear, anxiety, food, control, alcohol, pain meds, stimulants—all of it. In rehab, Jesus re-entered the tomb and helped me courageously choose life and love.
Even my husband commented on the freedom of that sacred space, “I feel like I can exhale, like I can be myself here.” Not just because he was the least “effed-up” person there (he’s only been drunk two times), but because recovering addicts and addiction counselors understand something only broken and marginalized people can: God Loves. No matter what, God wants new life, resurrection, and coming-alive-ness for ALL PEOPLE.
Even for the mom who put her son in the NICU? Yes. Even for her.
Even for the dying loved one? Yes.
For a marriage crumbling? Yes.
And He wants it for you. Maybe you feel like your humanity, your secrets, your shames, your griefs are too dark and dirty for the loving embrace of good Daddy. Nope, when I completed my fourth step, the one where you have to confess all the yucky stuff, I became new. “You still love me?” I asked my husband after confessing my remaining three secrets? “Yep. And so does God,” he smiled.
No stain on the fabric of your gorgeous life-tapestry is too imperfect, inky, or black for the outrageous, wild grace of Jesus Christ. I should know, my three secret shames were unforgivable; or at least that’s what empty religion raised me to think. But Jesus wasn’t religious, was He? Jesus was love walking around, and His washing machine removes even the darkest stains, because He paid it all to get His punctured hands on the newest model.
So now I live a hard, good life. Pain lingers, always, but sobriety means that I get to feel it ALL—the zinging and zapping, and the glory of pea harvesting in early-summer afternoons with my (now) four wonderful, often-naked monsters.
We’re all addicts really. We all have scabs that won’t heal, and instead of entering them with courage and Jesus—we don’t.
Hear me when I say that you are worth healing. Hear me when I tell you that NOTHING can separate you for the Love of your Good Daddy— not cancer, not abuse, not death, not infertility or adultery or chronic pain, dress size, income, skin color, or voter registration.
Please– believe that healing, new life, and aliveness are yours, too. You’re a holy Love Hulk emboldened by the electricity of God’s Love. Now go and do something rad.
Claire is a recovering human seeking to empower people with joyful stories of a good, hard, wild, and loving God. She lives in Denver with her husband and their four miracle babies. She writes more at http://clairemargit.com/about-me/. You can also find her on Instagram: @Clairemargit.
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