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It’s Easier To Quit Than Fail

One of our volunteer instructors gave a personality test to our residents a while back.  One of the residents was astounded that he came out as a “perfectionist”.  He came to me and asked if I could believe that he was a “perfectionist”.  I was more puzzled that he was surprised than that he was a perfectionist.   It seemed pretty obvious to me.

Most addicts, at the very least, have perfectionistic qualities if they are not full blooded perfectionists.  They have high expectations, a great fear of failure, and a very strict, even harsh judgment of their failures.  They tend to be their own worst critic.

That’s why in the treatment of addiction the transformation of one’s identity is the critical key to success.

One of our residents in class the other day astonished me with the bold proclamation that, “It’s easier to quit than fail.”  I have pondered that thought constantly since he revealed it.  I think about students who quickly withdraw from classes in college to avoid a failing grade.  I consider all the employees, whether celebrities or just ordinary folks, who choose to resign a position before they are fired…or break off a relationship before the other breaks  it off with them.  We call it a preemptive strike, but isn’t it just quitting before one has to face failure and rejection?

In John Maxwell’s 2006 book, Failing Forward, he quotes H. Stanley Judd, “Don’t be afraid to fail.  Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure.  Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge.  It’s ok to fail.  If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.”  There is a lot in that quote, but what strikes me most is that growth comes through failure.  I have observed that most addicts are stuck at the maturity of their initial entry into addiction, typically around 13 to 15 years old.  At that point, the next challenge of maturity becomes to interact with the opposite gender and overcome one’s feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.  Sadly, for many addicts, their fear of failure here drives them into the security-masking behavior of drug and alcohol use, what some commonly call, “Liquid Courage”.  Tragically, this dependence on a false security stifles one’s growth and keeps them stuck in a self-destructive quitter pattern always deathly afraid of failing.  Like a pilot who remains in a constant holding pattern for fear of the judgment of landing.  Eventually they just crash.  Addicts quit before the result, in fear that the conclusion will be failure.  Though they may be only one step away from success, they quit.  Thus, they never come to know real success.

Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx and first female billionaire, shares that her father challenged her and her brother to fail.  In fact, she says that the question around the evening dinner table every night was, “What did you fail at today?”  Her father believed that not being afraid to fail was the key to success…that failure is the building block of success.  Thomas Edison, famously said, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  And thus came the light bulb!

The winningest golfer in the world, Jack Nicklaus, lost 81% of the time.  The best hitters in baseball fail over 2/3 of the time.  Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time stated, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games.  Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”

I have heard it said that “Winners never quit and that quitters never win.”  But remember all winners fail.  Don’t be afraid to fail.  Land your plane!

Ask yourself, “What have I failed at today?”

Tom Reynolds

AA & Me

After a good meeting, I was inspired to write a few things. One person in particular sparked a part of me that needs to listen at this time. On speaking of going through the steps, this man repeated that if you are having trouble with a particular step, it is probably not that step that’s the problem, but the step prior. The steps are in fact numbered and in order for a reason. Hmmmmm! With that in mind, I’ve been contemplating my life as it is at this time. And, I’ve come to compare myself to a child with toys.

When raising a child, we tend to get them as many playthings as we can because we love them and it makes them happy…thus, making ourselves happy. We try to teach the child to take care of these playthings, keeping them in repair, organized, and in order. I have to look at my life in terms of my “playthings” – work, recreation, material things to sustain a lifestyle of my choosing.

When we see that our child is overwhelmed to the point of not maintaining their toys and such, it becomes necessary to perhaps trim down the quantity to a level where they can properly take care of these things with diligence and care, so that they may have more as they grow in responsibility.

I too must trim down my things at times less they too become overwhelming to me, causing unnecessary strife…perhaps leading me to “solutions” not conducive to my sobriety. Back in balance with Good Orderly Direction, can I now move on like the child and achieve more.

Like a parent, God gives me all…including myself, to take care of and maintain, just as we do with our own children. Today, I will take care of my blessings from God, so that I can live and enjoy a happy, joyous, and free life in sobriety.

Steve Hughes

Steve, a His Way graduate, passed away on June 8th, 2013, at the age of 55. This article was taken from one of his writings while he was at His Way in 2011. 

A Father’s Affirmation

My 87 year old father had just put out an email request to the family.  He recently had to change his vehicle license plate and received a new number, AOF 0073.  In my father’s always creative way, he wanted the letters “AOF” to mean something.  He had decided that the “OF” would best represent him by standing for “Old Fogey”, but he wasn’t sure about the “A”.  He requested that the family submit suggestions for the “A” for a vote.

A number of email exchanges followed suggesting such thoughts as “Active, Alert, Abominable, Aberrant, Absent-minded, Alive, Almost, Animated, Aviator (my father was a WWII pilot), or Awesome.”  A late suggestion came in, “Accellerando”.  It was admitted that it probably wasn’t a word, but sure captured the spirit of my father’s driving habits.

I watched everyone jumping into the discussion, but I had not ventured in.  After a few days and no thought on my part given to it, I felt as though my family and particularly my father deserved my investment in this discussion.  So I cracked open a dictionary to the “A’s” and began jotting down ideas.  I then put out an email mentioning a number of suggestions.  Some were obvious like American and Authentic.  Others emphasized certain aspects of my father’s personality or experience, such as, Artistic (since he still is a very active and passionate musician) and Ambulatory (since he has been and still is a very accomplished and active walker).  But the one I finally settled on as my personal submission was “Aspiring” because of its double meaning.  On one hand it captures his very active and youthful spirit by not committing him to total “Old Fogey” status yet. He’s an “aspiring” Old Fogey. On the other hand, this description emphasizes his most admirable trait – his zeal to keep aspiring to new challenges even at 87.

Later that evening, my father broadcasted throughout our family email network that he had selected my submission of “Aspiring” as the winner.  As silly as this whole process seemed, and as insignificant as the meaning of letters on a license plate are, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride over this selection.  It wasn’t the license plate or the family debate or my winning nomination that mattered. I realized that what welled up inside was the significance of my father’s approval even at 55 years old.

I realized that like most of us, we never outgrow a desire to be the apple of our father’s eye, the exhilaration of having our Dad’s approval.

It brought me back to a passage in Matthew when after Jesus’ baptism by John in the River Jordan, the clouds parted and the Spirit like a dove lighted upon Jesus and a voice from heaven spoke saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  Even Jesus needed his father’s approval.

The great news is this – even if your father is never able to express his approval, you can have a Father in heaven that is ready and willing to say of you, “This is my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.”  This is the most significant of all approvals.  One that can well up a confidence and joy within you that will carry you into eternity.  We all need our Father’s affirmation.

Tom Reynolds

A True Anointing

Sims was sharing his testimony of deliverance through Jesus Christ with the other residents at His Way.  Every resident before they graduate the first six months of our program must teach a graduation class.  Usually the class is a personal testimony accounting the ravages that addiction brought their lives, what they have come to understand and live over the past six months, and encouragement to the others who are on a similar journey…encouragement that there is hope and better days on the horizon.

As Sims revealed his pain filled story of personal loss, the death of dear friends, and his own numerous brushes with death through overdoses and accidents, he began to talk about God’s purpose and calling through these tragedies.  He shared that he believed that God was calling him into some type of ministry through these experiences.   He believed that these painful experiences were not in vain, but to prepare him to help others.   He particularly felt a pull toward reaching out to teens to alert them to the dangers before it is too late.  As he shared these revelations in his life, he then turned to a passage that he had just read days before that he called “fire”.  It was a passage that he believed summed up best what he believed God was calling him to, a passage of true personal inspiration.  He then proceeded to read to us with impassioned fire Isaiah 61:1, 2, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

As he closed his Bible tears filled his eyes as expressed how this best summarized his calling.  My jaw dropped and heart leapt.  I quickly flipped in my Bible to Luke 4:17-21 with my heart bursting with joy.  Sims without knowing it had just read the same passage Jesus had selected to read in his own hometown synagogue to announce his ministry and purpose.  This was not just some random inspirational scripture that Sims had run across, but in fact his own Savior’s personal calling to ministry and summary of his purpose.  This was no random incident, but in fact a true anointing of God’s call on a young man’s heart.

I shared the Luke passage with the class, and Sims in particular, and just for a moment, I felt I was truly on the holiest of ground as God was corralling a young man’s heart into a life calling.

A true anointing!

Tom Reynolds

What God Cannot Do

In this journey that we call the Christian walk, I have experienced the indescribable joy of being on the mountain top, enjoying intimate fellowship with my Creator. I have also known the fear, doubt, guilt, and shame of enduring seemingly endless valleys when God seems to be far away. Through all of this, it has become increasingly clear to me that there are many things that God simply cannot do.

Through his own declaration, the revelation of His Word, His nature is revealed to me. At the very core of His nature is love (John 3:16, 1 John 4:16). He is merciful and full of grace (Ephesians 2:4-5, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Hebrews 4:16). He is forgiving (1 John 1:9), generous (James 1:17), and kind (Luke 6:35). This is but a glimpse into the incomprehensible nature of God revealed in His Word.

His Word also tells me in 2 Timothy 2:13 that “even when I am faithless, He remains faithful, for he cannot deny Himself“.

But maybe most importantly, Hebrews 6:18 tells me that it is impossible for God to lie, specifically in regard to His promises and His nature. It would follow then, that it is impossible for God not to love, and to not be merciful and gracious. It is impossible for Him to be unforgiving, greedy, unkind, unfaithful, or anything else that is contrary to His nature.

So, precious Savior, when I am on the mountain top, let me never cease to thank you and praise your name for all you have done for me. But, when I am in the depths of the valley, when my faith is fading, and you are difficult to see, even then…especially then…let me never cease to thank You and praise You for the things You cannot do. Amen.

Scott Camper, His Way Resident

Happy Thanksgiving!

In sailing, one sets his sail to catch the wind. The set of the sail is sometimes called the attitude. If one sets their attitude to capture God’s wind of grace, this combination of an attitude set to catch God’s grace fills a life full of Gratitude (Grace + Attitude) and propels them into God’s will. I Thess. 5:16-18, “Pray continually, rejoice always, in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Enjoy a thankful life!

Tom Reynolds

A Thanks For Suffering

One of my great family Thanksgiving traditions is going to a church member’s log cabin up in the hills of rural Alabama. Several of us that are living too far away from our biological families gather there every year to enjoy an old fashion Thanksgiving fellowship.  Right before we eat, we form a large circle around the entire living area of the cabin, join hands and share what we are thankful for this year.  As the food gets cold, we hear words of gratitude for wives and children and parents and jobs and health and salvation and the church and so on.  But even after the prayer there always seems be something deeper, more profound left unstated.

It wasn’t until I went through my greatest personal tragedy (up to this point), the breakup of my family due to divorce,  that I came to experience the most precious of all gifts, the Lord’s presence. I was facing incredible uncertainty about my career path, insecurity about finances, and the loss of my most precious dream, an intact family.   It was in the face of this suffering and loss that Psalm 124 spoke to my void – “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side. . .” No matter the difficulty that came, this  thought carried me through.

Suffering thrusts us into a level of spiritual maturity like warp speed sends the U.S.S. Enterprise into new, unexplored galaxies.  And for this we should be most grateful.  We should be grateful to God for the opportunity to grow and mature.

Imagine thanking God for the cancer. Not it’s cure but the cancer itself…for unemployment, for the breakup of a relationship, the loss of a parent, or deteriorating health.  These are all things that thrust us into His arms with greater dependency.

Last November, I was in Union Beach, NJ helping families clean up after the devastation of Super Storm Sandy.  I entered into person after person’s unique story of pain, suffering, and loss.  But I couldn’t help but pray quietly, thanking God for the blessing of significance.  He was giving these victims a window into their fragileness and therefore what is truly significant.  As Jesus would warn us in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”   I prayed under my breath and in my private moments that this suffering, as well as all sufferings, would loosen our grip on this world, so that we could grasp more tightly to Him.

Habakkuk takes us through the faith journey of suffering as he queries God as to why He is allowing all this devastation to come to God’s people.  In it, three kinds of faith are outlined. First,  Conditional Faith, an “If, then” faith that says if you, God, do this for me, then I will be loyal, devoted, generous, and grateful to you.  The second is a Thankful Faith, that says, “Because of”.  Because God has done this, I will devote myself to Him loyally out of gratitude.  But the third is a quantum leap from both of these, the one Habakkuk finally concludes in Habakkuk 3:17, 18, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”  Habakkuk concludes An Unconditional Faith, an “even though” kind of faith.  A faith that allows loss to cause us to cling even tighter to God.

So this Thanksgiving as we go around our circle sharing our blessings, let’s include the traumas that God has allowed that have drawn us ever nearer and more dependent upon Him.  So that we may learn to loosen our stranglehold grip on this world in order to cling to Him more securely.

Tom Reynolds

You Are A Son Of God!

At His Way, we teach that the life of recovery is living out the kingdom character of the beatitudes.  Jesus states that that character begins with realizing your poverty of spirit, the bankruptcy of your own spirit.  This beatitude begins our journey in the kingdom of heaven while the remaining beatitudes reflect the pattern of discipleship that Jesus calls us to.  It culminates with blessed are those persecuted for Jesus’ name because “theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.  So it all begins and ends and exists in the kingdom of heaven.

I have never seen this spirit more maturely lived out than at a resident’s recent five-month family meeting. As part of our program at His Way, we facilitate family meetings for each of our residents. Due to the ravages of multiple divorces, as well as years of family discord, this particular family was fractured.  So when it came to the five-month meeting, as our resident was nearing his time to graduate from His Way, there was tension among  all the participants.  Though they were all extremely supportive of the resident, they were not so supportive of one another.  A meeting with “one family” became divided into three separate meetings because one part of the family would not even interact with another part. It became clear that if the resident was going to reenter the family successfully after graduation, the family was going to have to attempt to heal the divisions. So, the resident insisted upon family reconciliation, and the divisions within the family agreed to meet together again to address these issues in order to fully support their son in recovery.

The meeting began with some polite courtesy, but quickly devolved into an argument about who did what when…and how that made them feel.  Accusations began flying. Tensions began rising. Fingers began pointing. Voices began elevating, and almost led to family members storming out, but the son of the family, the resident of His Way, began taking charge and calling the family to order.  He began taking control of the situation and calling out attitudes, addressing decade long resentments, demanding honest admission, requesting expressions of forgiveness, and expecting reconciliation.  By the end of our tension filled session, a drug addict who had always been the center of the family problem was now expressing his personal reconciliation through Christ…and bringing healing to a generation of family hurts.  As the session came to a close, the family was gathered arm in arm in a circle. And the resident, their son and grandson, led them in prayer.

After he finished, hugs were shared,  tears shed and healing was being experienced.  Plans were even made in order to keep the unity advancing.  I declared before the entire group that our resident, their son was truly a “son of God” because he had now expressed and accomplished the very purpose of Jesus, to heal broken people and mend fractured relationships.

I was blessed to witness the Kingdom of God come as every beatitude was expressed toward the ultimate goal of peacemaking.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”  (Matthew 5:9)  God had transformed an addict into a son of God!  Now that’s God’s kingdom at work.

Tom Reynolds

A Summertime Romance Ends

We met her at the beginning of the summer.  My sister-in-law called

her, “Natasha”.  I first met her in a crepe myrtle tree near our house, a beautiful black and yellow garden spider that had spun an intricate and beautiful web in our tree.  But when I went back again during my next weekend yard chores, she was gone.  At first I thought it would have been just a brief and passing encounter, but then a few days later as I was watering the flowers around the mailbox, I saw her again having formed another amazing web.  I was fascinated as I watched her simply wait unflinchingly for a guest to enter her web.

My first thought when I see bugs is to exterminate them, but she was very large and stunning in appearance.  She seemed in my perspective to have exceeded the size limit as an annoying insect into an animal, a creature of God’s beauty.  My wife and I agreed to leave her undisturbed and just watch her.

This fascination became a daily event.  Daily conversations about whether we had seen Natasha, what she was doing, and what she had caught and consumed in her web. We noticed her growing size, eventually her laying of eggs into a nest, and awaiting the birth of her next generation.  Natasha had become a family member, though I don’t think she ever knew of her adoption.

As I would stand every morning watering the flowers and watching and wondering of her life it occurred to me that she had no idea how significant she had become to us.  She did not know that our bug exterminator had asked if he should eliminate her and we had come to her defense sparing her life.  She did not know that we had investigated spiders on the internet to understand more about her identity.  She did not know that we had daily conversations with our friends and family about her.  She did not know that we had taken pictures of her, posted them online, and even tweeted about her.  And she certainly does not know that today I am writing an article about her absence as her web hangs empty after the cold fall weather has driven her away.  I have considered clearing the web from our mailbox, but it feels too much like destroying a friend and family member’s house.

As my wife and I have pondered over Natasha, my greatest musings have been, I wonder how much I’m like Natasha.  As ignorant as she is about our interest in her, I wonder if that is how ignorant I am of God’s interest in me.  Am I here because God has chosen not to allow me to be exterminated?  Does God talk about me every day?  Has He named me like we named Natasha?  Does He watch with fascination over my daily adventures and smile at my fulfillment of His purpose expressed through me?

As Natasha’s web hangs empty today, she has filled me with a summer full of daily meditations that God cares for and is more interested in me than I could ever be of Natasha…and most of it without my realization.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than my ways and His thoughts than my thoughts.  (Isaiah 55:9)

Natasha was a daily reminder of how much God cares for me in ways I will never know or realize.  Thankfully I’m part of a romance that will never end, an eternal romance.

Tom Reynolds

“Sweet 16″

What did you want to do for your 16th birthday?  Line up at the Department of Motor Vehicles to get your license?  Your ticket to freedom and independence.  Your right of passage into adulthood.  Did you want to go to Disney or the beach?  Did you want freedom to do fun things with friends without supervision?  To stay up as late as you want?  Did you expect the big party?  Lots of fan fair and celebration?

This past week, Laura Nance’s parents asked her what she wanted to do for her 16th birthday.  Her response, she desired to cook dinner and lead a devotional for the men at His Way.  She wanted to share her favorites – spaghetti and meatballs , God’s Word and songs of praise.  So her family came this past Friday and overwhelmed our men with joy and generosity.

Laura experienced the most blessed of birthdays, because she experienced Jesus’ promise that “it is more blessed to give than receive.”  She gave a great gift by demonstrating God’s love through service and sacrifice, but in return experienced the greatest of God’s gifts – Giving.  What a perfect 16th birthday present!

And for those who will chase the world’s exhilaration for their 16th birthday and find disappointment, emptiness, embarrassment, or even another forgettable day, check with Laura.  I’m sure her 16th will be a day she’ll never forget.  I know it’s one we will not soon forget.

And for all those who are concerned for the next generation and what this world is coming to, I offer Laura Nance as evidence for a bright future.

Thanks, Laura for allowing Christ’s love to shine brightly through you.  I’m sure her parents and grandparents are extremely proud of her.  What a gift for all.

Tom Reynolds