Her Name Was Becky…

True story…

Becky (not her real name) showed up faithfully for church every single Sunday. Usually with alcohol on her breath.

She was kind. She was bubbly. She was pretty and sweet. With grown children, she and her husband managed to settle into life in an empty nest.

Sunday School was a passion. She loved her Sunday School class and frequently brought her home baked yummies to share on any given Sunday morning. She asked them to pray for her, and she prayed with fire. She had an unwavering faith on most days.

But dark days were frequent and alcohol, her safety. It had been her friend… for over twenty-five years.

Becky sought help. And she sought it often through AA and other faith based groups. Oh sure, she quit drinking. Dozens upon dozens of times she turned her addiction over to God and cried out for deliverance and for a few days, it would seem like He answered her prayer.

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At her worst, her brain chemistry would betray her and she’d threaten to end it all. How many threats did her husband endure? Was it twenty? Maybe thirty. I can’t remember exactly, only that after so many times, he stopped dropping everything to rush to her aid. His soul was drained.

But he kept praying, though. Generously. He loved her deeply and I swear, if it had been in his power to trade places with her, he would have. Just to give her some relief and peace from that which threatened to drown her. He was tired, broken in many ways, but faithful although it was clear his hope was dwindling.

The toll on the marriage is simply indescribable. Sweethearts since high school, they’d routinely enjoyed their drinking times together. When they found Jesus, Becky’s husband quit drinking but Becky? Well, Becky was already facing the struggles of addiction by then. She found solace at our church, and she found hope in the God of miracles that we insisted existed.

Altar calls never went unanswered. Becky was usually the first to kneel before God. She repented, and repented again, and then again in the hopes that God would see fit to rescue her.

She did everything right and she did everything wrong, that Becky. She certainly tried with everything she had.

The ‘prayer for the sick’ didn’t heal Becky. Nor did anointing with oil or casting out the demon. None of our spiritual, supernatural solutions made a difference once that noose was tied.

Her son found her in the basement. Dark and alone… and hanging.

Three days later, my husband preached her funeral. I sat in a darkness of my own as he spoke, wondering… What was her last prayer? Did she cry out for God to save her? Why was she not healed?

Does. God. Heal? 

Becky’s son couldn’t bear to attend the funeral. Her long journey was over. His sojourn would continue… without her.  But not without her pain.

This wasn’t the first time while we served in ministry that it had appeared to me that God didn’t show up for one of His children. Nor was it the last. But it was one of the worst. 

 

 

 

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14 thoughts on “Her Name Was Becky…

  1. That’s very sad. You had an interesting perspective as a pastor’s wife – an observer as he did his difficult work. I’m sure that overall, you did more than simply observe. But during the services you were able to watch and listen. As you thought your thoughts while watching your husband, did you wonder what he was thinking too?

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  2. Hi Marty,
    There were many layers to this particular tragedy. My husband paced the floor for hours and hours as he prepared the message for her funeral. Many Christians believe that anyone who commits suicide is bound for hell. Some believe it’s the ‘unpardonable sin.’ My husband wanted to comfort her family and friends with a message of mercy and forgiveness. So he faced it head on assuring everyone that God had welcomed Becky with open arms. That He doesn’t punish addiction or any other affliction with eternal damnation.

    My husband and I talked a lot about his funeral sermon before he delivered it. I was proud of his compassion and his meticulous choice of words. It appeared that his message did serve some degree of comfort to the family. Given the circumstances, the service went as well as it could have gone.

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  3. I’ll be the devil’s advocate and ask, was her life really getting adversely affected by her addiction or by her repeated failures to quit? Some people have an ability to maintain a stable addiction which definitely affects their health in the long term but they still manage to remain functional in the short term, and they manage to continue working (see Hitchens for example), be alright with their families etc. Some other people tend to lose this control and their addictions escalate until they reach a terminal stage where the amount of substances they use increases as time goes on.

    So, which one was she? And did her husband’s decision to give up alcohol put her into an impossible situation, having to accomplish something she naturally couldn’t? Putting the whole “sin” label on addiction, especially one as hard to beat as alcoholism would only mean that her stress, guilt and shame every time she fell back to drinking would exponentially increase.

    So sure, some people might be able to trade one addiction (alcohol) for another (Jesus) provided that they could quit in the first place. But some other people might end up getting even more discouraged if they not only feel they’re disappointing themselves and their families, but “the creator of the universe” as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for commenting! I always enjoy your point of view! Adds good food for thought.

    I don’t see your comment as Devil’s Advocate at all. It’s just a secular viewpoint. While everything you point out is valid as hell, from a Christian standpoint, none of that should have stood in her way of her promised healing. For us in the church, The Ultimate Healer did not ultimately heal even though scripture is plain that He will, in fact, deliver the sick.

    Churches routinely preach God’s promises. In our ministry, we taught them, prayed them and trusted them because they were in God’s Word. Here are just two: Jesus said, ”You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” and “Truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” Does anything include deliverance from alcoholism? We certainly thought so.

    As Christians, we encouraged one another to “take God at His word” and to pray the prayer of faith because “The prayer of faith will save the sick” (James 5:15). I was personally vested in this as I taught it as ‘truth’ in my bible studies and as the leader of our prayer team at church.

    Well… Becky prayed the prayer of faith. She did that A LOT. I’m sure she did it wrong – I’m sure she did it right. Name her state of being, I’m betting she prayed from right there, expecting God to meet her where she was. And yet, her deliverance was denied her from the One who promised it.

    Was her life really getting adversely affected by her addiction or by her repeated failures to quit? Probably both but the bottom line is this: She sought the God of deliverance. Either way, He didn’t keep His promise.

    Did her husband’s decision to give up alcohol put her into an impossible situation, having to accomplish something she naturally couldn’t? I’m sure it did, but God promised deliverance. He promised healing. She wasn’t healed. She was dead. In her darkest moment in a dank basement, there was no rescue.

    I had to ask myself after decades of trusting in God’s Word… haven’t you given this thing a fair shot? When do you stop doing what doesn’t work? At what point do you realize “The Great Physician” isn’t doing his job very well?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. To clear up my point a bit, the or in “was it drinking or failing to quit that was adversely affecting her life” wasn’t an and/or but an exclusive or. The implication I wanted to make is that using Christianity to cure addictions pretty much ignores the actual mechanics of addiction and might even be to blame for the failings and the suicide. So it not only fails to help but might be making things worse in certain cases. Psychological withdrawal from alcohol manifests as anxiety, depression, restlessness etc., and using a treatment modality that causes further anxiety is bound to send you back to the bottle. The physical effects pass quickly and it’s actually the psychological effects that start to manifest after a few days. That leads to relief drinking. It can take up to a year or more (post acute withdrawal syndrome) to really get rid of the urges and the psychological symptoms.

      So there’s a sociological, psychological and human drama dimension here that’s really important, besides the theological implication that relying on the Christian God for getting rid of addictions fails spectacularly. Some people who have quit might be perfectly honest when they recommend Christianity as the cure for addiction to other addicts, but in reality they might be harming them instead of helping them because different methods work differently for different people.

      The psychological mechanics in AA are very similar so it’s not surprising that she failed both faith-groups and AA. Suffice to say, these are merely popular and well-advertised methods but not panacea.

      (By the way, you might want to add some links to some other addiction treatment at the end of the post. Addiction is a strange beast and recovering addicts can be very sensitive and susceptible to the slightest cue that it’s all for nothing which might cause them to fall back. Having some suggestions to other options would help.)

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  5. Both my post and your comment are saying the same exact thing: “…relying on the Christian God for getting rid of addictions fails spectacularly.” LOVE how you put that! It’s powerful in its brevity. And it true!

    The point of this post is NOT alcohol addiction, and perhaps that’s the confusion (if there is any). It’s about the promises in the bible and how I struggled as a Christian with God’s failure to make good on those promises. We preached and taught that God heals. Name the ailment: addiction, cancer, liver disease… it didn’t matter, nor did the mechanics. We believed nothing was too big for God and that “the prayer of faith would save the sick.”

    Early in my Christian experience, when this message of healing was new to me, I prayed, fully expecting God to answer. With each passing year, prayer failures stacked up in my life and my faith in this teaching waned. In time, I began to see it was not true, you cannot “take God at His word” as I had been taught. Supernatural healing didn’t happen even with “the prayer of faith.”

    You make a case for the ‘mechanics of addiction’. For Christians, all of that falls under the “it’s not too big for God” category. But what I learned through decades of this was, “Nothing fails like prayer.”

    Basically, this post was an attempt to illustrate through a true story what you have put a finer point on in this last comment. Somehow I get the feeling you think we’re at odds? We are not. Not at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The confusion might arise because I used the “devil’s advocate” phrase in the beginning and that’s usually a prelude before a disagreement comes in. I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, I’m on board with everything in the post. “Advocating for the devil” in this instance is where I’m more or less saying that besides Becky relying on a potentially harmful way (asking Jesus to fix the problem) to quit drinking, there were also social and family dynamics at play which make the whole thing even darker.

      You say that the husband truly loved her and honestly tried to help her. And I believe that’s true. My suggestion (the devil’s advocate thing) is that the way in which he tried to help her could also be her undoing if you think about the way addiction works. Just because the husband was able to quit drinking after he turned Christian (it can happen but its explainable), doesn’t mean that the same method would work for her. It put extra pressure on her and gave her false hope that prayer alone would take away the withdrawal symptoms. So, the husband’s success to her was a constant example of how she’s a complete failure. And maybe that somehow she didn’t deserve help from God but her husband did. These are pretty toxic ideas to recovering addicts. See how this interaction of Christianity, family dynamics and addiction psychology can lead to suicide and prolonged addiction?

      What I’m basically saying is that it isn’t just Christianity to blame here. It is what happens when Christianity and its simplistic philosophy about everything is applied to complex things like addiction mechanics and makes people have unrealistic and unnatural expectations. I’m basically taking what you said and going into more detail, not disagreeing.

      Also, my suggestion to include a recovery alternative at the end is because whether Christianity works in curing addictions or not (and it works on par with AA because of pretty normal psychological phenomena and not because of Jesus), it is still being used for that purpose by many people. In the hypothetical scenario that a recovering alcoholic who uses faith-based groups to recover stumbles onto your post, he/she is likely to get pretty discouraged and give up. That’s why a positive alternative is required, even if the post isn’t strictly about that.

      I’m not defending the crutch (Jesus) but I’m thinking about the people who need a crutch to get by. You clearly mean well to attack the crutch, no argument against that, but the example you used here is very sensitive and requires pretty gentle handling to avert some potential vulnerable random reader taking it as excuse or indication that it’s pointless to continue trying to give up their addictions because Jesus doesn’t help.

      It’s the same as writing intensely pessimistic posts regarding suicide. The person writing it might be making a philosophical point or simply using it as an example and they might not be suicidal at all. Freedom of speech dictates that they can say and write whatever they want. But at the same time, as I’ve said before, our words especially when they end up floating on the internet for unpredictable lengths of time, might end up being the one thing that affects someone down the line. It’s not always a positive effect so at least when it comes to my stuff, I’m really careful to provide an alternative when there’s a possibility that someone vulnerable might read something I wrote and take it negatively in a major way.

      Here’s a site that deals with providing information on recovery, rehab and has helpful articles on how to go about it https://www.thefix.com/

      The misunderstanding here is pretty odd. Do my comments look too convoluted or something? It might be the coffee.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Your comments aren’t convoluted at all! Maybe it IS the coffee… or maybe it’s me!

    I gather from our exchange that for you, adding links for addiction help would be a way to counterbalance any possible negative influence to a reader who struggles with the content of this post or with addiction itself. If I’ve gotten that right, your point is not lost on me! I have two alcoholics and one recovering drug addict in my family, so these issues are not only real, they are right here in my life at this very moment as I write this.

    Have I been irresponsible in posting this story because of the risk that someone may react adversely to it?

    I struggle with the possible repercussions of this blog every time I post on it. Daily I consider taking it down. Could a reader’s hope, (hope that gives them strength to hold on), diminish because of my words in this post? Is the crutch that’s saving them (albeit false) still be saving them a measure of heartache? These things are possible.

    I struggle equally with NOT telling my stories because there are repercussions there, too.

    There are countless Christians out there just like me who believe dangerous dogmas and often act on them. Sometimes with tragic outcomes. Countless Christians sit in their churches Sunday after Sunday wondering why God isn’t intervening when He promised He would. They pray and they wait and they count on God. Prayer for the sick is one of those promises that keeps some Christians from taking the action they need to take.

    Many Christians who pray for intervention are left secretly contemplating, “Why not ME, God? Why won’t you help me?” It’s impossible to calculate the psychological damage when God doesn’t show up. To this day, I still feel I’m living on the periphery, while all the rest of you are fully involved and important in the world. While this mindset is fading, it’s still there. This is a direct result of the damage of religion and religious dogmas to my psyche. My personal struggle with unanswered prayer, misogyny, healing, the bible (and more) kept me in a constant state of confusion, depression and hostility.

    Words and dogmas have power.

    My target audience isn’t addicts. It’s Full-Gospel Charismatic Christians who take the bible and God’s promises to heart and then act on them. This story happened to include an alcoholic who turned to God for deliverance and didn’t get it. Becky is most certainly not the only Christian addict with a tragic ending. I hope this post DOES influence an alcoholic to NOT look in the direction of heaven for a miracle but instead, look to treatment under a doctor’s care. Prayer keeps people in a state of inaction, constantly on the lookout for their miracle. Addiction requires action. Seeing a doctor is a powerful step in the right direction that offers far more hope and a more likely positive outcome.

    I have to add that not EVERY Christian will relate to this post. Many have no idea of the extreme ideas within the Full-Gospel/Charismatic movement. Never in a million years would they rely solely on prayer without the help of medical science when needed. My hope is that this story influences the Full-Gospel, literal types of Christians… I’d like them to doubt what they’ve been taught.

    Should I include links to addiction help? I’m actually more inclined toward including links to help Christians out of Christianity since this blog is about my journey into and out of Christianity and not addiction. ExChristian.net is an interesting and helpful site, even for those who still call themselves Christian.

    I know nothing about thefix.com and because of that, can’t endorse it, but I appreciate you posting a link you feel would be of value to any addict reading this post or our exchange. As for me, I encourage any addict reading this to stop reading and call your doctor. For the Christian addict, stop praying and call your doctor. There are many actions you could take… that would be a powerful place to start and a courageous move to make.

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    1. Why do you think Full-Gospel Charismatic Christians aren’t addicts? Monotheistic-Abrahamic religions smack of addictive or addiction-causing elements. Negative reinforcement (sin, damnation, social ostracism by the Christian congregation/flock/crowds) and positive reinforcement (heaven, miracles, a sense of belonging, spiritual experiences, gnosis, altered states, healing). The standard response to wanting to quit this addiction is “have another fix” (pray more in your closet, ask God for signs, go to Church, confess). The whole thing is essentially based on the idea that Christians are dependent on Jesus to make it through life. Dependence being the key word. If you could compare the most common reasons an alcoholic has for getting drunk with the reasons many hardcore Christians have for praying, you’d find lots of overlap.

      I’m actually in the tough love-tell the truth no matter how much it hurts-always face reality camp as well and I’ve been there for a very long time so I’d never say that you’re being irresponsible for voicing your opinions. It’s not as if you’re saying anything wrong anyway. I don’t self-censor what I’m writing either and you’ve seen that when I write about Christianity, I’m not exactly cuddly about it. But I’ve also learned the hard way that telling the truth, although always necessary, can create some complications, like the one I’ve pointed out about a potential reader getting discouraged.

      So while I’m always trying to be as truthful as possible, I’m also trying to think of the repercussions and how to avert them in a practical manner. Telling someone that his writing style sucks for example might be accurate and honest but at the same time, it might ruin his confidence and he might never write again. Offering constructive criticism and suggestions on how to improve and what the weak points are in a polite manner does the same thing and avoids discouraging someone. I’m still pretty bad at doing that but I see how important it is.

      So it’s not really about responsibility and irresponsibility, truth always needs to come out and I’d say that to tell the truth is a universal moral obligation. The whole problem is how we deliver that truth in a way that’s as beneficial as possible. It’s the difference between diagnosing a patient and telling him he’s got cancer and leaving it at that and diagnosing cancer and then telling him about all the various treatment options.

      (I’ve personally had to deal with addictions, with seeing how the Christian God doesn’t answer healing prayers, with seeing mentally ill people who should be getting proper psychiatric care getting old-school exorcised as a “Christian method of treatment” and so on. I’m extremely hostile to Christianity for a million reasons. But I have the outmost sympathy for the people that Christianity preys on, who in moments of weakness and because they were ill-informed or misled, ended up relying on it. That’s the basic reason I’m pestering you about all this. God forbid I defend Christianity. But you know, bathwater, baby and stuff.)

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  7. Of course Full-Gospel Charismatics are also addicts. I said at the end of my comment, “For the Christian addict, stop praying and call your doctor.”

    For the life of me, I’m trying to figure out… Do you think I should NOT have posted this story? Or is it simply that I neglected to include helpful links? OR is it HOW I presented it? And if so, in what way is it problematic for you that I expressed my personal turmoil of faith in light of Becky’s death? If that’s the issue, what approach would have been better?

    Her suicide totally threw my faith for a loop. Should this not be expressed or simply expressed some other way than the brutal way in which I experienced it?

    I apologize if I’m being dense but I AM one of the persons Christianity preyed upon and this story illustrates exactly that.

    Just found an interesting article about the religion as an addiction: https://valerietarico.com/2016/04/21/can-religion-be-an-addiction/

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    1. I’m not saying that there’s anything morally wrong with sharing your story. Far from it. In fact, your whole blog has a very important function in exposing the inside view of this particular brand of Christianity and how it feels and looks like from within.

      Your post concludes more or less by saying that expecting the Christian God (almost wrote Dog there heh) to cure not just addictions but pretty much anything is a waste of time. That’s absolutely correct and absolutely needs to be said, no problem with that, moral or otherwise. But since your post revolves around two really heavy subjects, alcoholism and suicide, and since many people are trying to help themselves get out of those two black holes with Christian methods, concluding it on a note of pointlessness leaves them hanging. Okay, you’ve made the point that Christianity doesn’t cure stuff. But what are they supposed to do now? That’s where some alternatives would come in.

      We’re having a hard time understanding each other because we have different backgrounds. Christian preaching, which you have a ton of exposure to, frequently uses the themes of life and death, addictions, suicide, births, marriages etc. to make a moral point. I’m coming from a more secular/distant environment where public talk of addictions and suicide isn’t regularly used to make moral points and it’s never used to make religious points. In general, it’s avoided (in the public/mass media sphere) because talking about these subjects without offering an alternative or some sort of hope to potential sufferers has been observed to increase the copycat effect (under certain circumstances anyway). Check this out to get an idea http://jech.bmj.com/content/57/4/238.full In my particular background, mentioning real cases like Becky’s needs to be coupled with some sort of upside, a way out so that no harmful effects might come out of mentioning suicide.

      That’s my best guess at why what I said seems so strange to you. I’m sure you’ll have a ton of interesting insights if you consider why Christian rhetoric and preaching relies so heavily on human drama. (I’m not saying that you’re preaching, by the way.) Unless I don’t know, it’s the full moon or something.

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  8. I think you did clear a good bit of this up for me.

    To avoid this story or my other numerous stories like it would mean there is no blog. And to give answers to the question of, “If God doesn’t work, what now?” betrays the fact that (as a preacher’s wife) THAT is exactly what was happening to me. My whole world at that time was one big fat religious context. All I could think in the face of this particular huge prayer fail was, “What now? I’ve believed this stuff my whole life and it doesn’t work!”

    Worse… I was teaching it.

    It is a hard story. It was hard for me then, it’s hard for me now. And it is what it is.

    You’ve most definitely given me much to consider and I’m most grateful.

    (Anytime I type “Holy Spirit”, it almost always starts out “Holy Spit.” Heh heh.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry if I became frustrating with all my comments here, I kinda do have that effect and it’s easy for me to forget that even if I have a similar cultural background with someone (Western World, Christian society, representative democracy, capitalist country and so on), it’s the personal cultural background that might matter even more. Thanks for being patient enough until I realised what the difference was.

      To be honest, I’m not entirely sure if your type of Christian preachers followed this pattern but in my experience, the kind of Christian preaching I’ve known tended to use appeals to emotion constantly and loved to use a particular false dichotomy. “See those godless heathens that do not have God in their hearts? Look at all the murders, rapes, addictions, suicides, deaths, abortion, homosexuality, mental illness. But we’re spared of that because we’ve got Jesus. Look at all the miracles and the happy families and the children in our congregation.” And so on. They’re only able to do that by throwing all the Beckys and their skeletons in the closet, to keep all of Jesus’s failures out of sight. You’re doing a great job bringing out those skeletons in plain view. I’m sure that they’re not just kept in the collective memory closet of each congregation but also in the personal memory closet of each Christian who decides to avoid thinking about those obvious failures of their worldview because they’d bring their whole faith down. It can’t be easy and it’s incredibly important.

      But you know. This false dichotomy presents both sides through tinted glasses. Life with Jesus is said to be great without pain and misery even before you go to heaven as long as you pray or fast or repent or receive holy communion versus a life full of misery and all sorts of ills. Life outside Christianity isn’t terrible at all, it’s not always full of misery, disease, addictions and the “consequences” of sin and there are all sorts of treatments for disease that rely on science, all sorts of philosophies to cope with the hardships of life and all sorts of life models to follow that are just as good or better than Christianity, many of them completely and entirely secular to the core.

      One side (Jesus) represents hope and reward and the other one punishment and fear (misery, pain, damnation). I guess I was really trying to say that both sides of this dichotomy need to be attacked and exposed for what they really are: complete fabrications. But I only mentioned the potential social outcomes without explaining my thought process really well. Sorry!

      (And you’ve got all that heck, darn, gosh stuff in Dixie anyway, why not dog darn and holy spit? I vote in favor of including them in low-key cussing.)

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  9. It’s been said of me that I have the patience of Job. Conversely, I’ve also been called a bitch. So, there ya go. Life is full of dichotomies. I’m a walking one like everyone else. :o)

    I’m glad for our exchange in that it did make me think. In the end, this is a blog about my experiences in Christianity and my exit from Christianity and not addiction or suicidal ideation so I’m satisfied that telling this story has its place in outlining my struggles throughout my Christian journey. I know for a fact that many Christians who face the loss of someone by suicide or other means face faith issues as I did. Hopefully my story will help them be more honest with themselves about feelings that I refused to face for way too long.

    One thing in your last comment struck a chord, one that I’ve been noodling for weeks now: Life is full of dichotomies. Living life with God wasn’t all daisies and ice cream and living life without God isn’t either. That’s why I wrote the Pro’s-n-Con’s article and plan to write more.

    I haven’t and I won’t claim that life as an atheist is perfect now that God is gone. It isn’t . But it is different.

    Have a great day Son of Earth!

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