I am working as a LADC (Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor) at a chemical dependency treatment center in Minnesota. Each day, I lead a three-hour group therapy session with clients in early recovery. Of course, I am not revealing any confidential information, but I want to put the spotlight on one of the more interesting and sometimes effective defense mechanisms that can keep people at arms length and sabotage recovery.
I call this the “Tears Of The Clown Syndrome”. If a person is participating in a group and they are fearful or insecure about sharing issues that are sensitive to them and are filled with emotion, then in their minds, they need a way to hide. They fear being exposed emotionally to the group. The person may be protecting pain or trauma that was pivotal to their personality development and how they view the world today.
Lately, I have seen this phenomenon displayed in group sessions and it has been holding people back. So here’s what it looks like: A person presents a happy, joking face, like everything in their lives is just great and there are no problems or worries or fears. Everything is great! When asked a serious question, for example about emotions or past pain, they immediately fall into the role of the clown and deflect the question with a comical diversion. The person is fearful that if they reveal their true selves with all of their insecurities, fears, vulnerabilities, sadness, anger, hatred, confusion, betrayal from others, disappointments, hurt and pain from past traumas or a feeling of being lost in the world. Secrets abound.
Many people are hanging onto, protecting and have vowed to never tell anyone about their secrets. There is an old saying which states, “People are only as sick as their secrets.” Many human beings are being poisoned by their own tightly held secrets and often times they are not aware of their own self-deception.
Back to the Tears of the Clown. When people do not want to reveal their true self, they lie about who they really are and what their real emotions are. They do this to put up a defensive wall against anyone who might get too close. This produces isolation and fear and loneliness, but somehow they believe that this sacrifice is worth it, to keep people at a distance.
The Clown is full of pain, going back years, but it is their pain and they hold onto it like a baby in their arms. It is like trying to swim with a heavy anchor around your neck.
It takes slow and delicate communication with the person, along with love and trust to build a positive relationship. Small steps toward sharing secrets and past pain and traumas can, in time, lead to relief, healing and peace of mind for someone showing signs of the Tears Of The Clown Syndrome.
About The Author
During the 28 years that I was addicted to the chemicals, marijuana, alcohol and crack cocaine, I could not see into the future to experience the Grace that God had planned for me once I got sober. Jesus has been calling me all of my life, but it was not until I surrendered, that our relationship started.
Jesus has given me the precious gift of 18 years sober and my life has never been the same since I surrendered my life to Jesus and truly reached out for help with my disease of addiction.
At the end of my journey and nightmare of addiction, I was sleeping in a utility closet in an alley behind my favorite bar, because I would rather spend my money on alcohol, pot and cocaine than spend it on rent. I was destroyed mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically, and I had five near-death experiences. I had pancreatitis and I had contracted Hepatitis C from sharing needles.
I had many losses and here are just a few:
- I lost my marriage.
- I lost my career.
- I became homeless.
- I had five near-death experiences.
- I lost my dreams.
- I lost all the important relationships with family and friends.
- I lost my dog.
- I lost my drive and ambition.
- I lost my self-confidence and my self-respect.
- I lost my connection to God.
- I violated my values and became a thief and a predator.
- I was arrested 15 times, spent ten months in jail, and was in 13 treatment centers.
- I lost the love inside my soul, and was filled with anger, rage, fear, desperation, terror and hopelessness.
- I lost my faith and my trust in people and in myself.
Today, I understand that Jesus allowed me to experience the pain and horror of addiction, so that one day, I could share my love, experience, hope and faith with other suffering addicts. I have been called to make a difference in people’s lives. I am a public speaker to high schools and treatment centers and I am working to expand my reach.
I have published a book about my addiction and recovery called, “Saved By The Prince Of Peace—Dungeon To Sky.”
My website is: dungeontosky.com
In my experience, addiction is the most urgent and serious threat to the health of our nation and we must fight it.
Now I understand what Jesus was talking about when He said,
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to enable them to fulfill the purpose for which they are called”. (Romans 8:28)
If there was just one spiritual song that perfectly describes my life, it is “Amazing Grace”:
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.
If I can get sober by the power of Jesus Christ, then anyone can get sober!
Peace and blessings to you.
About The Author
What is better, to depend on God or to depend upon ourselves?
The October 1st reading from the Twenty Four Hours A Day book teaches us, “Whatever spiritual help you need, whatever spiritual help you desire for others, look to God. Seek that God’s will be done in your life and seek that your will conforms to His. Failures come from depending too much on your own strength.”
I have created a simple prayer that helps me to keep focused on Jesus. I keep this taped to the front of my computer at work: “In every hour and in every day, I am focusing on Jesus and asking Him for help”. It is true that when I rely on myself to run my life, I make mistakes because I lack power. Jesus invites us to tap into the His power. Jesus is the Creator of the Universe, He cares about us and loves us enough to help us with our lives.
Have you ever heard a quiet and calm voice that is calling to your spirit? The October 1st reading from the Twenty Four Hours A Day book reminds us of an invitation from the Bible, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will remain with him and him with me.” “The knocking of God’s spirit, asking to come into your life, is due to no merit of ours, though it is in response to the longing of our heart. Keep a listening ear, an ear bent to catch the sound of the gentle knocking at the door of your heart by the spirit of God. Then open the door of your heart and let God’s spirit come in.”
You know, it is amazing to think that what we see, that is the material world here on planet Earth, is not what we should be pursuing to truly live a vibrant life. It is almost like we are on the wrong TV channel and do not know that the Truth is just one click away. All of us are massively distracted away from the spiritual world and become focused obsessively on the material world. We live in the material, physical world like fish in a fish bowl. We can never receive eternal life and true fulfillment in this life.
The October 23rd reading in the Twenty Four Hours A Day book shows us that, “Though it may seem a paradox, we must believe in spiritual forces which we cannot see, more than in material things which we can see, if we are going to truly live. Relationships can only survive if they have a spiritual foundation. “Between one human being and another only spiritual forces will suffice to keep them in harmony. These spiritual forces we know, because we can see their results although we cannot see them. A changed life—a new personality—results from the power of unseen spiritual forces working in us and through us.”
So how does all of this apply to my life and to yours? 22 years ago, when I was blessed with a new life of sobriety and freedom from addiction, I did not even recognize the spiritual changes that were developing inside of my heart and my mind. Before my surrender to Jesus, I had survived homelessness, violence on the street and I had become filled with anger, rage, fear and an aching loneliness that I could feel in my bones. I isolated myself from other people emotionally, and spiritually, I was like the walking dead. I was dead spiritually and running scared.
My spirit was crushed and there was no love on the streets. In fact, I had to become mean, just to survive. I became a stranger to myself and I used alcohol, cocaine and marijuana to become numb to who I had become and deal with my environment. The disease of addiction had stripped me of every standard, every moral belief that used to be the foundation of my conduct. I left no room for Jesus, and in fact, I was running away from Him. I was fearful that I had gone too far and that there was no hope left for me.
I was on the edge of death, looking down over a huge cliff as death smiled and encouraged me to jump. Death promised me final relief from the torture of addiction. There was nothing left for me in my addictive world, and I was so terribly tired of fighting the disease of addiction. I was minutes away from giving up and losing all hope. I saw several other homeless people walk to the edge of that cliff of no hope and they died. They never came back because with no hope they had nothing to live for. Their spirits were completely crushed and they died. Hope is everything and without it, addicts die.
Some of you may be thinking, “Well, I am not that advanced in my addiction and I would never get to the point that Bob did.” I have a wake up call for you! The disease of addiction is an evil train that will kill you quickly or kill you slowly, but it is determined to succeed. The train from hell will faithfully take you from Point A to Point B whether you like it or not. The only solution is to get off of the train, surrender, and ask Jesus for help! You can find help at treatment centers, hospitals, churches and recovery meetings.
Even if you stop using chemicals for ten years, if you go back to it and relapse, it will be like you never stopped using. Why is this? Because the disease of addiction is progressive whether you are using or not using. So a person who stops using for ten years and then relapses will experience this phenomenon. When they relapse, it will be like they had been using chemicals for all of that ten years that they were sober. They will find themselves not where they were ten years ago, but they will find themselves where they would have been if they had been using for all of those ten years. So it is possible that they could be right at a “bottom” that they have never experienced before, because the disease of addiction is progressive. The disease of addiction continues to progress whether we use chemicals or not.
Can you imagine where I would be if I relapsed after 22 years sober? Since my particular bottom was homelessness, jails, 13 treatment centers and spiritual bankruptcy, it is most likely that I would die soon after relapsing. I have no intention of relapsing, but this is a disease that is “cunning, baffling and powerful” and it is vicious and very patient. I have a lot of respect for and healthy fear of the disease of addiction, because I almost lost my life five times, until I said a very special and simple prayer.
When I was at the end of my addictive rope and when I was sick with pancreatitis, and overwhelmed with fear and rage and an all-consuming loneliness and sleeping in a utility closet in an alley behind my favorite bar, I cried out to Jesus with this powerful and simple prayer: “Jesus, please help me”. Finally, I made my surrender to Jesus. A few days later, I found myself in chemical dependency treatment at Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota. This is where I found my freedom from addiction and started my new life, because of what Jesus did for me. My first surrender was the prayer in the alley that I said to Jesus and my second surrender was at Hazelden when they said, ” you are devastated emotionally, mentally and spiritually, You may not make it. Are you willing to commit to nine months of treatment? I surrendered a second time by saying, “Yes, I am willing to do whatever it takes not to go back to the hell of the streets”. I was on my way to my new life.
Yes, there were spiritual forces that blessed me with freedom from addiction, and a new personality and a new life. I had recovered from addiction and my old life was finally destroyed—thank god! I had become a new creature. This is the quote that I shared earlier: “These spiritual forces we know, because we can see their results although we cannot see them. A changed life—a new personality—results from the power of unseen spiritual forces working in us and though us.” If I can get sober after such a low bottom, and after facing certain death, you can recover too! If I can do it with the help of Jesus, so can you! I pray that my story will give you hope, a hope that will save your life! Peace and Love to you!
About The Author
From First Corinthians , Chapter 13:
“If I could speak all languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it, but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever.
Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
Three things will last forever—faith, hope and love—and the greatest of these is love.”
About The Author
One of the founding fathers of AA was doctor William D. Silkworth. The good doctor gave us this critical insight as to what the disease of alcoholism is, why it is so serious and why it can be terminal.
The doctor writes, “ Alcoholism is an obsession of the mind that condemns one to drink and an allergy of the body that condemns one to die.”
In the Big Book of Alcoholics anonymous, Doctor Silkworth wrote a very important chapter called, “The doctor’s opinion”. The doctor shares with us some of his knowledge about alcoholism. Anyone who wants to begin to understand alcoholism and addiction needs to know this:
The doctor states, “We who have suffered alcoholic torture must believe—that the body of the alcoholic is quite as abnormal as his mind. The action of alcohol on chronic alcoholics is a manifestation of an allergy; that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class and never occurs in the average temperate drinker.”
The doctor continues to enlighten us: “Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks—drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope if his recovery. One feels that more than human power is needed to produce the essential psychic change.”
Talking about alcoholics, the doctor said, “These men were not drinking to escape; they were drinking to overcome a craving beyond their mental control.”
Herbert Spencer writes this about members of alcoholics anonymous: “With few exceptions our members find that they have tapped an unsuspected inner resource which they presently identify with their own conception of a power greater than themselves. Most of us think this awareness of a power greater than ourselves is the essence of spiritual experience. Our more religious members call it “God consciousness. We find that no one need have difficulty with the spirituality of the program. Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery. But these are indispensable.”
It is good to know and understand the character and intentions of our common enemy, the disease of addiction. Hundreds of thousands of alcoholics and addicts have found a spiritual solution and have recovered from their addictions.
I survived 28 years of active addiction, 13 treatment centers, untreated manic depression, multiple near-death experiences, jails, violence on the streets, homelessness, broken relationships, intense fear and overwhelming loneliness. I was lost like a cork in the ocean, steadily losing my mind.
At the very end of my addictive journey, I said a simple and desperate prayer to Jesus. I said, “Jesus, please help me!” You can say that prayer right now if you want to. Jesus is the answer. By the grace of God I have been given 18 years of grateful sobriety. If I can get sober, you can get sober! Love, Peace and Blessings to you!