This week we attended our granddaughter’s school Christmas concert where she wowed the crowd with a solo of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Around this time twelve years ago, her impending arrival changed my heart forever by teaching me to release my expectations of how life should be to make room for all the adventures God has in store for me.
For a couple of minutes on Tuesday, the world around me grew still and everyone was quiet as 11-year-old Chloe sang:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appears.
A holy moment in a cafeteria of 400+ people.
God with us.
Several of us headed over to a Mexican restaurant after the concert to celebrate Jonah’s 21st birthday. He’d gotten a pass from his rehabilitation program to join us for the evening. There was no margarita, sombrero, or rousing staff rendition of Happy Birthday, but he enjoyed two bottles of root beer and one very fat chimichanga.
For a couple of years, I wasn’t sure Jonah would see this milestone. I questioned whether he would be alive on December 13, 2022. My son used drugs for four years. We knew he had a problem, but I had no idea how bad it had gotten. I had no idea he was addicted to opioids.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave.
207 days ago, I heeded an urgent, inner prompting to check on him.By night’s end, Mike and I were helping Jonah check into a long-term detox and rehabilitation facility. Did he want to go? Not really, but he went because he knew it was the end of the line. He was tired of living a life he was never meant to live. Something had to change. He reluctantly chose to relinquish the control he thought he had over his life and get help.
Seven days in, after detoxing, he had to choose it again when he thought he was ready to go home. At 21 days, he had to choose it yet again when his counselor and I advised him that 30 days wouldn’t be enough. And again at 60 days when he was growing weary of all the groups and meetings and counseling. Jonah has been choosing the path toward the life he was meant to live for over 200 days, one day at a time.
My son is going to live. Not only is he going to live, but he is also going to change lives with his story. He already is.
O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Why am I writing this for the world to see? Because we must start talking about the things nobody wants to discuss. There is a very real threat to our children at every turn. It’s in our schools, in our churches (yes, you read that correctly), in the Walmart parking lot in broad daylight, at the “safe” party where adults are home.
All it takes is one Xanax laced with fentanyl. The pill your child takes to relax his social anxiety could end his life.
Never say, "It won't happen to my child." Talk to your kids, your grandkids, nieces, nephews, and other people’s children. Share real-life examples of what can happen—what is happening. If you suspect someone you love is in active addiction, talk to a substance abuse counselor to understand how you can help.
For a long time, my hands were tied. There were many factors that prevented me from stepping in before I did. And even then, I believed that treatment wouldn’t work unless he wanted help, a thought I expressed over the phone to the rehab intake personnel who talked me through what to pack while Jonah was outside on another phone with a counselor. He told me that wasn’t necessarily true—especially for teenagers and young adults.
If you can leverage them into at least 30 days of rehabilitation, they will begin to see more clearly and understand the life they are being given.
O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavn’ly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
If the situation is completely out of your control, don’t stop reaching out. Even when they don’t answer your calls or reply to text messages, keep pursuing them.
I can’t tell you how many times Jonah flaked out for a family event, caused a scene at a holiday gathering, said awful things to me, or made me feel invisible. So many times I wanted to say f—k it and wash my hands of him, but I thank God for giving me the ability to keep forgiving and to get back up after each blow.
Keep actively loving them.
Get in your car and drive until you find them. Knock until they open the door. Hug them until their hardness melts into tears, even if only for a moment. They can ignore a text, but there is something powerful in presence—human-to-human contact.
An embrace becomes a miracle.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
On December 25—Christmas Day—Jonah will celebrate seven months of sobriety.
God is doing a new thing in my family, and He can do a new thing in yours too. Never stop praying for a life to change.
Some Words of Thanks
If you are a substance abuse counselor, a paramedic, a nurse, or anyone else who helps those fighting addiction, thank you. I know you grow weary of seeing the same people relapse over and over again.
A friend who is a paramedic once shared with me how numb he and his colleagues can become from administering NARCAN to the same people regularly. The work you do can seem futile, but for the scores who relapse, there’s that one who won’t. Don’t stop fighting this fight. There are more Jonahs out there.
Read that story here:
Some call it mother’s intuition; I call it the Holy Spirit.