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Michael’s Reflections Upon NLB Graduation

Michael’s Reflections Upon NLB Graduation

Michael L’s entrance into No Longer Bound 13 months ago was, essentially, a plea deal. His other options could be considered shock therapy.

“I was either going to prison, or I was going to die,” he indicated.

Michael graduated in January, but has remained on campus as an intern in the Resident Tech department. His drug-addiction odyssey features influence and abetment from, or through, sources from which you’d expect the opposite:

  • First his older brother contributed by inviting a 14-year-old Michael to join him and friends in the family’s basement to smoke marijuana and drink alcohol.
  • Then, unwittingly, his surgeon prescribed an over-abundance of pain-killing opiates following a knee repair, enabling Michael to over-indulge.
  • A court-ordered rehab stint connected an 18-year-old Michael with some deplorable mentors: older, more seasoned drug users who planted a desire for heavier drugs that would emerge after a drug-free interlude of about nine months.
  • Treatment in drug court, an alternative to incarceration, although completed successfully gained Michael a female companion, whose relapse may have precipitated his own – with tragic consequences.

Michael’s first drug bust came as a high school senior, somewhere between the football scholarship he turned down in hopes of landing an offer to play baseball, and foregoing his senior baseball season out of resentment for a coach he believes turned him into the law.

Some of Michael’s reflections,
in his own words.

The 10 years between high school and No Longer Bound included ruptured family relations, homelessness, drug dealing, brief periods of sobriety, lock-ups in county jails, escalation into methamphetamines and heroin, and the aforementioned barely survived drug overdoses.

“I found myself down in south Florida treatment hopping. From one treatment to the next, getting kicked out, trying another one. That was tough. I never had a stable place to live, never had any stability in my life at all. It was hard to live like that.”

An NLB grad then dating Michael’s sister suggested No Longer Bound, and the grad’s mother helped get Michael to Atlanta, while an attorney persuaded a judge to give a year-long, faith-based program a chance.

“At first, I went through a lot,” said Michael. “I actually came in fresh off of drugs, so I had to detox. I’d say the first two to three months were probably the toughest for me. I didn’t know anybody; I wasn’t sure how to acclimate. But the thing that stuck with me was I knew I couldn’t leave because I’d have a warrant out for my arrest.”

A pinnacle moment occurred when Michael fulfilled a class assignment by writing a grieving letter to his deceased girlfriend, then reading it at her grave site while accompanied by a counselor and classmates. He described the episode in a social media post last October:

The night before, I sat on the stool during house church and asked for prayer. TJ prayed, ‘God take him by the right hand and lead him where he needs to go.’ Austin prayed, ‘Be not afraid, because that’s what God tells people in the Bible when something big is going to happen.’

prayed for help and guidance, making it known I wasn’t even sure if God was listening or out there.

next morning, standing in the cemetery, the engraving on her grave marker said,

em>For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13)

at campus, Austin wrote me a letter saying “… I know God heard us last night and heard you today, because I prayed for you Be Not Afraid and TJ prayed that God would take you by the right hand and guide you.”

was in shock, realizing God was doing something for me I could not do for myself. This was enough for me to know, without a doubt, something is out there listening to us and that it is time I allow it into my life.”

Apparently, God proved Himself to a once-doubting Michael.

“I would say the peak at No Longer Bound is establishing a good relationship with God, and having counsel around me to help guide me do so. Once I wrapped my head around that, I really just sold out.”

Michael will apply his life experiences in a Philippians 3:13-14 type of way …. forgetting what lies behind … pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Offering encouragement at his graduation, Bill Eubanks, one of the senior recovery specialists, put the heart-wrenching assignments that brought about Michael’s transformation into perspective for the one-time high school football star.

“It was like two-a-days,” said Eubanks, referring to grueling preseason football training, “and now it’s game time.”  

Your financial supports helps NLB continue to transform lives.
In many instances, the transformation ripples
not just throughout this life but for eternity. 

To Whom It May Concern

To Whom It May Concern

To Whom it May Concern,

In January 2021, I was a few planned steps away from killing myself. A few days later, I put my head on a pillow at No Longer Bound. If they couldn’t fix me, they said God could.

I arrived as a drunk who no longer had the will to fight. I was told I was crazy for choosing a one year program for my first try. The thing about me is, I don’t do things half-heartedly. When I drank, I drank everything. When I smoked, I smoked it all. When I ruined relationships, I ruined them completely. When I burned bridges, there wasn’t ash left for the wind to blow. 

Did I need a one year program to save my life? Absolutely. I need more. Given the opportunity, I would start over on day one. I need a community where accountability and transparency are the goals. I’m not ready to go my own way yet. I do not have the tools in place to keep myself healthy.

Thinking back, I was a walking, sometimes stumbling, sometimes crawling mess of a man. I was lost, literally and figuratively. I was angry and confused, in constant need of being drunk. Drinking decided when I would talk, who I would be with, how I would feel, when I would work, when I would sleep, and how much money I had. The fact that I had a problem for so long without getting help disappoints me to this day.

I could lie and say I came here for myself, but I won’t. I came because I was afraid of where I would end up, if I killed myself. I came to save a relationship with a woman. I came to save relationships within my family.

But I am staying for myself! 

I was mad at the world because, at eight years old, a man chose to abuse me. I was angry because alcohol made me feel better (until it didn’t.) I was mad because every relationship ended, when I disregarded the feelings and well-being of others. 

I could not love myself, let alone anyone else. I could not understand how to be a decent man. I was broken when it came to showing and receiving love. It is something I have struggled with since that day when I was eight.

I was angry at God for taking my daughter. I still am. I am angry when I think about laying on her mother’s stomach, feeling her kick. I become angrier when I think of no longer feeling her kicks or movement anymore. Without warning, my daughter’s life was taken.

I was mad at myself for everything I’ve done in my life, as well as the things I have been too cowardly to attempt. I was angry God woke me up in the mornings, when I had consumed enough alcohol that would have killed other people.

I am staying at No Longer Bound because I am tired of hating myself and the world. And, I am learning that I actually like people. And I like what they like about me. I like that I am a man worth knowing. I know I still have work to do, and I know this is the place to do that work.

I will be here. I am not leaving. I am staying.

I am stubborn and God made me that way. I will do what it takes to keep healing. Until I can say that I love myself and the people God puts in my world, I will put my head on a pillow here at night, and I will sit in the dining hall each morning

I was a jobless, disappointing pothead, alcoholic. I was a man in pain with fears I have carried since I was a child. I thought God was a mean “cloud man” who hurt people in situations they could never handle, one day, judging them for their mistakes. 

I am here because I now know that is not correct. 

I am here because this place fixes people.  

I am here because I want to be fixed.

I am staying, because I’m not done yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judgments and Vows

Judgments and Vows

We all judge other people. It’s human nature. 

The definition of the word judgment is the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions. In Revelation phase of No Longer Bound’s curriculum, we are asked to look into our judgments—why we make them, as well as the vows we make in response.

For example, if someone makes you feel less than for asking too many questions, you might say, “I would never make people feel stupid like that. (judgement) I will never ask so many questions again. (vow)

The judgement is towards the other person’s motive, and the vow is the promise to ourself.

The problem is—both the judgement and the vow are based on a lie. Example: “Asking questions means a person is stupid.” And sometimes our judgments can be a response to a lie we believe about ourselves.

I am better than that. I’m more honest than that. I would never do such a thing.

Press and Print

Our judgments are often a response to a lie we believe. We use these judgements to guard ourselves from fear or irritation we feel towards someone else.

The problem is, both the judgement and the vow are based on a lie. Example: “Asking questions means a person is stupid.” And sometimes our judgments can be a response to a lie we believe about ourselves. “I am better than that.” “I’m more honest than that.”

When our “lie button” is pushed, a judgment is printed, and our self-defense is activated to guard our self-worth. 

I don’t Have The Power, But God Does

In our humanness, we are not effective judges.

God said to Samuel, “The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

With the direction given to Samuel, the Lord was trying to change our beliefs. We skew our feelings based on half-truths, mix assumptions and the desire to make ourselves feel important. We work to feel better about ourselves by protecting the lies we believe.

Every judgment is passed through an internal filter of predetermined beliefs. Beliefs either learned early in life, and they are important tools we use to break others down while our vows build us up.

But vows and judgments separate us from others and from God’s help. 

partners with god

As we ask God to help us renounce both our judgements and our vows, we set ourselves up for partnership with Him. Resentments foster unhappiness, and decreasing our resentments towards others (as well as our vows) will bring both happiness and more opportunities to connect with others.

I challenge you to look into the judgments you pass on others. Also, examine the lies you are protecting with your judgments. Perhaps your judgements are deeply rooted as a coping mechanism from childhood or newly learned. Either way, I challenge you to ask God to show where the lies within yourself dwell and ask for them to be changed.

 

  “Do not judge, of you will be judged. For with the same judgment you pronounce, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.…” (Matthew 7:1)

-Austin, No Longer Bound Resident 2021

Returning To Treatment

Returning To Treatment

Written By: A No Longer Bound Resident, Austin

Take a look around No Longer Bound, and you will notice many returning faces. These men are not returning for the help you may expect (although that does happen, at times). But rather, many men return to help others.

As a resident in a year-long faith-based program, it is helpful to see others in active recovery succeeding in their sobriety. We have many people on staff at No Longer Bound, who are in active recovery. Some are graduates of the program and others are not. They all, however, share a common refrain: The men in the program help them, as much as they help us. 

Seeing Successful Sobriety

A person making it in the outside world, spending time with us and sharing the hope that we can be in their shoes some day, is the encouragement we need to keep moving forward. I am grateful these returning men are willing to be honest and vulnerable about life’s dirty lows and its unimaginable heights.

We Can Have That Too?

Before seeking help, many in addiction believe having a good life is not possible. A good life seems fabricated, something we don’t deserve, or only available to the good “unbroken” people. But seeing men coming back to No Longer Bound, giving their time In fellowship, ears to hear, shoulders to cry on, and experiences to grow upon—there is nothing more impactful in showing us addicts just how inaccurate our false beliefs actually are.

A Faith-based Perspective: God Likes How We Talk

These returning men also serve as a sounding board for our good and bad ideas. Addicts are not afraid to tell it like it is—that trait doesn’t go away with sobriety. If an idea is bad or likely leads down the wrong path, they will tell us. And, more times than not, they have a personal example, a story ready to share, or their phone is full of people who do.

 Recovery Networks

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)

With the vast number of No Longer Bound alumni peers comes an intimate network of recovering addicts, all with a common goal of keeping each other sober. This network of people are available to hear our daily struggles, talk us through our cravings, work us through our problems, or simply help support us through the challenging situations where relapse is possible—all without judgement or criticism.

Motivation For A Possible Future

Simply put, as someone in recovery, these returning peers are people I can turn to for accountability, honest, faith-based dialogue, and encouragement of where I currently am. We are all rooting for each other’s victory, because we have all seen and experienced big loss. These returning men are the motivation we all need, and they are an example of a good future, delivered in the form of a friend.

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”  (Romans 12:10-13)

-Austin, No Longer Bound Resident
#faith-based treatment