How to Start National Recovery Month (An Addiction Survey)

It’s National Recovery Month, a month dedicated to educating and bringing awareness to issues of drug and alcohol dependency. Awareness, recovery, dependency–aren’t these words so overused that they’ve lost their punch? Did you let the bold-faced predicating sentence slide through your auditory canal, rattle against the porcelin walls of your cranium for a nanosecond, and slide out the other auditory canal? Have you already clicked away?

“Recovery-shmovery; yada, yada; I don’t have a drinking problem or a heroin habit, but I feel sorry for those who do.” These are things implied by a number of well-meaning and upright folks. Maybe by you?

Stop. Take a breath. Consider these questions:

Do you lust after the next thing, Jones for the seasonal item of stylish flimflam pushed by the material-pushers?

Are you consumed with food, with thoughts of sugarplums dancing in your head? If not, when the sugarplums come dancing across the plate, can you eat one and stop? Do you eat to stuffed on every occasion?

Do you stare at yourself in the mirror? Do you carry your ideal body image like a photo in your wallet (or on your iPhone) as motivation to avoid the sugarplums, or any food altogether? Are you clinging to the body image of a Greek goddess? No? How about Gisele?

Have you constructed theologies so sturdy you don’t need God anymore? Do you talk about God to avoid talking to him? Are you so reformed that you’ve forgotten the presence of God in the Eucharist, in the thanksgiving?

Approval, performance—are these things your bag? Are you run ragged from all manner of people pleasing? When you can’t deliver, do you doubt your worth? Do you self-flagellate with the whip of “I wish I were more; I wish I were more; I wish I were more.” Forty lashes minus one. Day in and day out. That last round was a stinger, a real flesh-scorcher.

Does your anger boil over at the drop of a dime. “Why in the ever loving bejimminies did you drop that dime after I told you–FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING THAT WAS RIGHTEOUS–not drop that dime?!?” Do you turn fire ant mounds into Olympus? Do you resort to nuclear warfare against your well-meaning husband, wife, or children?

Is there something here I’ve missed? Have you been waiting, thinking, “I hope he doesn’t write about [fill-in-the-blank]?” Have you been holding your breath through this this piece? Remember when I told you to breathe? I meant it.

Do any of these scenarious ring true? Do these addictions distract you from the very real abiding presence of a God who wants you to know and understand love? (Really. Stop. Reflect. Ask yourself this question.)

It’s National Recovery Month and the way I see it, we all have some recovering to do. Let’s start small and simple. Ask yourself this question: “what’s my bag of addiction?”

*****
***

This month, I’ll be writinga thing or two about recovery, how we all need it. I hope you’ll come along.

And while you’re at it, would you consider pre-ordering my upcoming release from the good folks at Zondervan, Coming Clean. (Barne & Noble, AmazonDue in October, Coming Clean is an uncensored account of how I found an abiding God in the midst of doubt, pain, and addiction. If you pre-order, let me know in the comments below, and I’ll add you to the Coming Clean Insiders group on Facebook. There you’ll receive updates, and perhaps find a freebie or two along the way.

Thanks for supporting Coming Clean! Now, let’s get to work.

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Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In the first of edition of the July newsletter, I’m discussing growing young. I’m also giving away Chapter 3 of Dear Little Brothers, a serial eBook. Sign up in the box below to receive Chapter 1 and look for the July Tiny Letter in your inbox to download the other chapters!

 

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The Places I’ve Been

Oh, hey there.

It’s been a crazy season here in world Haines, and if I went about the business of explaining it all, I’d bore you to tears, or at least to clicking off to your favorite online retailer. There’s business to be done, children to raise, and a to-do lists that stretches from the Ozarks to the Rockies. In all of that (and more to be sure), it’s the little things–like keeping up this little writing space–can fall by the wayside.

But in 400 words or less, allow me to catch you up on team Haines. Take a deep breath. Ready?

Amber took a break from raising children and chickens to birth her debut book, Wild in the Hollow. We threw a raucous book-release party on the hottest day of the summer; the air conditioner was on the fritz; everyone sweated buckets while Amber read. There was cake, though. Cake makes everything cooler.

Friends

girls

 

Music reading Cake

Good folks came in for the book release, so there was a weekend of entertaining. We sat around the big table and talked life. We laughed a little too hard, which is always good medicine. Austin listened to his wife without interjection or contradiction, only love. The world could use more conversations like the ones we had.

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A week later, our little church gathered on a Sunday and sent a girl to college. She was our first to fly the coop. God bless her. Everyone cried, especially her mother and father.

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In all this hustle and bustle, Amber and I bought a house. Ironic? Sure. (You understand this irony if you’ve read Wild in the Hollow.) But hey, things change. Right? To everything turn, turn, turn. Those Byrds (and King Solomon) had a few things right.

Under the cover of night, my little book, Coming Clean,  started its own giveaway on Goodreads. It was an awkward move on its part, and we had a little conversation, the book and I. “You can’t go launching yourself to the world without my permission,” I said. “Watch me,” he said. Looks like I have a teenager on my hands. (While you’re at it, though, would you consider entering the giveaway?)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Coming Clean by Seth Haines

Coming Clean

by Seth Haines

Giveaway ends October 06, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Amber wrote about the Ashley Madison scandal, but not before calling to make sure my name wasn’t on the list. (Hey, we’re all human here.) It was a gutsy article to be sure. Take a gander. I wrote a few words about doubt, and boy did they hit home. I followed up that little Facebook post with a TinyLetter on the same subject. “A TinyLetter?” you ask. Yes. A TinyLetter. You can sign up here (or click the photo to redirect to my TinyLetter). 7a082db7-48c1-48ec-b33e-d99f897eeb7c We’re running, running, running, and I’m not sure whether we’re going or coming. At least we’re still breathing, which is some testament of grace. What kind of grace? Who knows. But we’re living into it. I’ll be back regularly next week. It’ll be September, which is National Recovery Month. I might have a few things to say about that. Thanks for reading along, and carry peace today. While we’re all here, let’s shut this down the way we shut the Wild in the Hollow release party down; shall we?

  Closing down the #wildinthehollow book party. Thanks for a special evening, all.   A video posted by Seth Haines (@sethhaines) on

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Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In the first of edition of the July newsletter, I’m discussing growing young. I’m also giving away Chapter 3 of Dear Little Brothers, a serial eBook. Sign up in the box below to receive Chapter 1 and look for the July Tiny Letter in your inbox to download the other chapters!

 

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7 Things to Tell Your Sons About Anxiety

1.

Twenty-some-odd of us sat in the living room on plush chairs, recliners, and an elegant sectional. Conversations among friends began to have the feel of a twelve step meeting, what with everyone confessing all manner of anxious thoughts. On a whim I asked, “how many of you struggle with overwhelming anxiety, like the need-to-breath-into-a-paper-sack-and-tuck-my-head-between-my-knees kind?” The hands shot up, nearly all twenty, to which my only response was, “whoa.”

Some said the breakneck pace of life was wearing them thin. Others spoke of work pressures, or material need. Some noted that the stress of weddings, or house moving, or the yada-yadas of life had upended them. The world loads us down with external pressures, I thought, and we pack it on. It’s what humans do.

Pack it on.

After our impromptu group therapy session, I stopped to consider how to train my children about the pressures and anxieties baked into their one little life. And so, writer as I am, I jotted a simple list–7 things I want my sons to know about anxiety.

1. In this world, there are neither winners nor losers; there are only brothers and sisters.
2. Stress and anxiety do not make you weak; it is part of the human condition.
3. The well-adjusted men are not those who stuff their anxieties; the well-adjusted men are the ones who face their fears.
4. Find a good therapist. Talk to her. Tell her about your daddy issues, even though your daddy issues relate most directly to me.
5. Materialism breads anxiety; don’t give in to the myth of scarcity.
6. Lying about your own anxiety creates a barrier to presence; it keeps others from knowing who you really are.
7. Perfect love casts out fear; learn to accept perfect love and know you are perfectly loved.

Granted, the list has subparts, and so perhaps it’s more than seven things. Let’s not dwell on the minor details; deal?

The point, more succinctly, is this: I want my children to grow into authenticity, truth, and the tenderest expressions of manliness. And so, I’m training them to know their anxieties, to speak them to the wind, to pray about them, to accept them as part of their humanity. I think it’s only fair.

2.

I jotted that list, and then I turned to poetry. It seemed, perhaps, a more permanent solution for sticking these principles in my kids’ craws.

To My Sons #3

The world of men will try to classify
you as one of two types:
winner-winner-chicken-dinner or
loser-looser-skid-row-boozer.

The winners, says the world,
have an appetite for anxiety,
and they choke it down
like brussels sprouts
or year-old protein powder.
No pain no gain, says the world.

The others? They wear anxiety
like mustard stains on frumpy frocks.
They sit on therapist couches
and talk about their daddy wounds,
says the world.

There will be days these falsities
feel truer than any shooting star.
Your boss tossing an aloof air
of success around the trading floor.
“Never let ’em see you sweat.”

Your brothers who buy the
shiny this-and-thats or
zoomy such-and-suches
on credit–buy today,
pay from the grave–
say, “work hard; play hard;
die hardboiled.”

There is nothing to see here,
no flip-floppy anxiety, says
the world, hiding tenderness
under a bushel.

“Never trust a man selling
a horse with two names,”
my grandfather used to say.
“She’ll likely answer to neither.”

“Never trust a man who
doesn’t name his own anxiety,”
I say. “He’ll likely answer to no love.”

3.

Do you struggle with anxiety? Do you feel upended by the stresses and pressures of life? If so, welcome to the human condition. The real questions, though, are these: 1) what are you doing about your own anxiety; 2) what are you teaching your children about their own anxieties?

 

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Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In the first of edition of the July newsletter, I’m discussing growing young. I’m also giving away Chapter 3 of Dear Little Brothers, a serial eBook. Sign up in the box below to receive Chapter 1 and look for the July Tiny Letter in your inbox to download the other chapters!

 

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Let the Babies Live and the Lions Die

1.

There’s nothing like a good social media meltdown, is there? The issue du jour comes down the pipeline and the folks choose a side. Some gather their facts like bullets to a munitions dump. Lock and load. Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes. Ready! Aim! Others enjoy the view from the cheap seats, watch as that-guy-I-could-have-sworn-was-conservative comes out of the closet as a liberal so-and-so, or as Suzie-liberal defends the historically orthodox position of such-and-such. Social media churns and churns, issue after issue, and the good folks at Facebook laugh all the way to the bank as we splash our opinions across their pages. Chop, chop; line, line; snort, snort. We’re addicted to these sorts of online debates.

2.

The latest debate–the by-golly debate upon which all of the prophets and saints hang–is some Moreauian amalgam involving Planned Parenthood and Cecil The Lion. The sides look something like this:

Side 1–Planned Parenthood is selling baby parts from abortion-on-demand clinics, and yet folks care more about a stupid Lion killed on another continent.

Side 2–Planned Parenthood provides a viable service, which include abortion education,  and animals shouldn’t be murdered by midwestern capitalists armed with a gun and a because-I-can attitude.

What one has to do with the other I’ll never know, and yet I’ve seen too many Planned Parenthood and Cecil the Lion mashup social media posts. (Oh, for the days when opinions were reserved for a section of the paper called, simply, Opinions!) Lions, and babies, and social media, oh my! Let the babies live and the lions die!

3.

Don’t get the wrong impression. I have firm opinions about life, the meaning of it, where it begins, and how it should end. I could spin those opinions for you here, back them up with facts, or at least anecdotal hypotheticals. I could come out swinging, but I choose to refuse. Why?

The people, yes. The people.

Allow me this anecdote.

3(a).

I married a beautiful woman from Alabama. Amber was a do-right girl until adolescence, when she grew out of sundresses and do-rightness. She made a few life choices that culminated in her lying on a doctor’s table in a Little Rock clinic where she terminated her first pregnancy at the age of 18. (The account is detailed here.)

We’ve been married over 15 years, and I’ve watched Amber as she’s dealt with the pain of that decision. She’s carried guilt and shame from it, but over time, she’s learned to overcome both. I think that’s what they call grace. Grace notwithstanding, whenever folks spin up the anti-abortion machine, when they rant and rail about life, life, life I wonder how Amber feels. I wonder if the old haunting shame comes wooing. I wonder if she bears under the weight of the judgment machine.

3(b).

Sure, folks mean well with their pro-life and pro-choice sentiments. But when these sentiments are filled with rhetorical vitriol and splayed across the internet, when they swing the sledge hammers of how-could-you or how-could-you-not, I wonder how the women who’ve had abortions feel.

There are humans behind our debates see. Are we human enough to see? Let me write it again so as to leave no doubt–there are humans behind our tiny debates, see.

4.

I wrote this on Facebook last week, but I’m writing it again. It’s a reiteration, a redundant array. I’m writing it again less for you and more for me. Or perhaps I’m writing it more for you, and me, and some of them. I’m writing it because I believe that a pro-life ethic is not so simple as choosing to protect unborn babies. It’s an ethic more encompassing than the myopia of our own politics.

Today I’m choosing to live pro-life, and by that, I do not mean I’m choosing to live a political ideology that bleeds itself out over Facebook, or Twitter, or in the local coffee shop. Instead, I’m choosing life wherever I find it.

Pro-life

At the Little Bread Company, across the table from a friend who’s bearing the weight of the world like Atlas and needs only a spare set of shoulders for an hour;

While I spin the Coltrane classic “A Love Supreme,” and drink dark coffee over a desk-load of work, over phone calls to heavy laden clients;

When I consider the unborn, babies whose mothers are torn between motherhood or not, when I pray for them;

When I consider the mothers who carry guilt like designer handbags stitched with names unborn to them, unborn by choice, or circumstance, or poverty, or convenience, or shame, or whatever;

When I consider the mothers, the babies, the babies, the mothers;

Over the lunch hour “Our Fathers” for the men imprisoned for trying to keep bread on the table, or for the murderers whose lights will go out when the chair is lit up;

At tonight’s birthday party, the celebration of the certain and North-Star-constant wife of my youth, the one who gave me four carbon copies of myself;

While I watch debates over lions and babies devolve into amoebic arguments, our infintesimal hatreds of each other, how we call names because it’s easier than self- examination.

Pro-life: this means more than good people think, means more than left or right. It means being: human, prayerful, present, alive.

 

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Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In the first of edition of the July newsletter, I’m discussing growing young. I’m also giving away Chapter 3 of Dear Little Brothers, a serial eBook. Sign up in the box below to receive Chapter 1 and look for the July Tiny Letter in your inbox to download the other chapters!

 

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Wild in the Hollow: A Birthday Bash!

I was told once by a bunch of Calvinists that all things were predestined before the foundations of the earth. Death. Salvation. Destruction. The weather on May 21, 1996. The toast I ate for breakfast this morning, a touch burned. All of these things were chiseled in a stoney timeline even before God thundered “Let there be light!” over the void. All things planned. All means spinning toward the ultimate ends of God. These are the things once said by that Calvinist bunch.

Perhaps its an oversimplification of some grander theological truth. I’m not sure. I’m a lawyer by trade, and I have no letters behind my name vouching for my theological prowess. I’m a simple layman, one who uses spiritual intuition and a sometimes confounding set of scriptures to understand the workings of the cosmos. But as untrue as this sort of hyperactive, robotic predestination construct feels most days, there are other days when I wonder whether we’re not all just running down the record groves.

This isn’t so much about building a case for pet theologies, so don’t curse the screen just yet. It’s an exercise in recognizing a thing. The thing is a pulling or maybe a pushing. It’s about things ordained.

On a September Saturday in 1998, I sat in a stiff plastic chair in the Marie Hammon Student Center of Harding University. Marie Hammon was some long lost relative of mine–a great aunt, or fourth cousin, or some such. She was a wealthy Floridian spinster who’d made her fortune by virtue of marriage to a fortunate man. As the story goes, she was brutally murdered by her gardener on account of dispute over money or cocaine–depending on your perspective on the matter–and she’d left a sizable sum to the school on the stipulation that my sister and I attended for free. I never met Maria Hammon. She didn’t much care for children, I was told.

I sat with Christy, a senior who had a thing for my best friend’s brother. She was a short shot, full of fire, vivacious. She could have been a thing, I’ve always thought, but she was off limits according to the Bro-Code, which is a lamentable but very real thing. Christy and I were were making small talk, wasting a cool weekend morning when Amber walked in the Student Center, loose tee sweats and a tee shirt.

I looked at my short shot, said, “I think I like that girl. Met her last week here and I’m thinking about asking her out.” Christy smiled, tousled my hair like I was a little brother and said, “what are you waiting for, Sport?” She nudged me from my chair. The rest is history. (See how the pushing works?)

It could have been like any other of my first dates–a concert, a movie, some little triviality that drove me so crazy that I bolted. It wasn’t. We were in sync from the beginning, found our rhythm from the minute she stepped down into my tiny black Mitsubishi Eclipse. In that silly little car–almost sporty–Amber told me she was a poet with supreme confidence. She wasn’t going to be or hoping she’d grow up into like so many of the other girls on campus. She was, she said. A present, active, confident verb. She would write books, she said, or maybe lyrics. Who knew.

Tides to the moon, we were pulled, and pulled, and pulled. It was the first date in a continuum of togetherness. Engagement on a snowy day in December. Marriage in an orange Indian Summer in Alabama. A bad stint in ministry. Graduate school programs–a Master’s of Fine Arts for her; law school for me. A trip, maybe a fall. Maybe one for each of us. Whatever. A child, then another, then another, then another. Dark seasons. Seasons of light. Dream seasons; seasons of dreams. Through it all, Amber was a poet. A present action verb living and collecting experience. All of it was writing fodder, pen fuel.

Today is the culmination of all the pushing and pulling. Over the last two years, Amber has worked on what would become her first book–Wild in the Hollow. It’s a memoir about smallness, weakness, and finding the broken way home. It tells her story and a sizable chunk of our story. It’s true, at times heavy, but never heavy handed. There’s a poet’s touch to the pages.

We’re still looking for the way home, Amber and I. Or perhaps the way home is looking for us. Who knows. I suppose it depends on how much Calvinism one can stomach without tossing one’s theological cookies. Either way, today marks a step in Amber’s journey into her fit; dare I say her calling? Who knows. I suppose time will tell. But today, we’re celebrating the official release of Wild in the Hollow. Will you celebrate with us?

You can send Amber congratulations on Facebook, or Twitter. And if you haven’t picked up your copy of Wild in the Hollow yet, visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Givington’s, or other fine book sellers. Join me in making this a special day for Amber.

 

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Cover.FrancisThanks for stopping in! If you enjoy reading here, sign up to receive my bi-monthly Tiny Letter. In the first of edition of the July newsletter, I’m discussing growing young. I’m also giving away Chapter 3 of Dear Little Brothers, a serial eBook. Sign up in the box below to receive Chapter 1 and look for the July Tiny Letter in your inbox to download the other chapters!

 

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