Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Salt Lake City

This week I am in Salt Lake City for a conference on addiction. I really had no idea what it was about when I signed up to come (still not sure I totally understand), but it's been a decent experience so far.

Regarding SLC, it's a beautiful city--nice weather, beautiful scenery, nice people. It's like Denver without all the hippies and commercialism. Even though I haven't ventured out into the city much, I feel like it's one of my favorite American cities that I've visited. The most wonderful thing is that it's been 70 degrees, when it was approaching 100 back in Arkansas.

Regarding the conference, there's apparently all sorts of people that are here--not only doctors, but pharmacists, nurses, students, and just everyday people who wanted to learn more about addiction. Most of the courses that I attend are geared towards docs--detoxing, diagnosis, coding--the stuff that docs need in order to deal with addiction clinically. But also there are presentations about AA--the nature of meetings, sponsors, the text, etc.

I can tell you that it's among the most hilarious things that I've seen to watch these really smart, inquisitive docs asking the simplest of questions about AA. "What if it doesn't work?", "who pays for it?", "which meetings are the best?". In fairness, I guess that no one knows this stuff until they experience it. But they could probably ask a thousand really good questions and not understand it. At moments like that I am grateful to be an addict. I'm grateful to know how 12 step programs work, and I'm grateful to know that some medical problems CANNOT BE SOLVED WITH A PRESCRIPTION PAD.

I think that some doctors are skeptical about AA because it's not well-regulated and difficult to characterize. But there are so many variables that contribute to and complicate addiction, that I think it's exactly the type of program that is necessary: one that provides support, education, mentorship, and a place to go without using. I should be kind to these doctors, because I'm glad that they care enough about addiction to want to learn more about it. And I'm grateful that many of the lessons I've learned are not in vain.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I have been thinking lately about the limits of our Faith. That is to say, is there a line past which our Faith no longer applies? At some point can we just abandon our Faith, and more effectively employ our logic? The question was raised to me in terms of child molesters and their relationship to God. How hard it must be to love a child molester....that must be the bane of humanity, right? Could God love someone as horrible as that? Should I love them and are they worth ministering to?

In this scenario, a grown man (probably) has committed a truly horrible act upon a defenseless young child. That child will certainly suffer many emotional and psychological consequences of an action that someone else forced upon them. Without a doubt, this is an unjust act that should be punished and prevented from happening again. But has God turned His back on the perpetrator? And has the child been harmed beyond the point where God can heal him/her from this experience?

My contention is this: while the child molester may have committed a particularly heinous act, who among us is worthy of God's grace and the Salvation He offers? I think that it is tempting to impose a man-made ranking system whereby we can establish what people are "better" than others. But I don't find any justification for such a system in the Word. Sin is sin is sin. The cure remains the same. The punishment (by God) remains the same. You could even argue that, by punctuating the "badness" of others' sins, we are merely downplaying the depth of our own sins--how palpable they are, how hurtful they are to God, and how they separate us from Him. It may be very difficult for a pedophile to change his ways and come to God. But it is not impossible--I think it's insulting to God to say that He cannot do something.

With regards to the child, undoubtedly they have been put in a bad spot that they never asked for. Protecting children is a near-universal value of humans. But again, I must cite the power of God in contending the point that no one is incapable of being healed. Certainly that can be a difficult process, but I thank God for the extent of His power--where He is willing to provide for us in any way that we are humble enough to ask Him to. And it's been my pleasure to meet several adults who were abused in various manners in childhood, and to see that God has been able to heal their hearts and make them whole, good people. This is definitely a hard situation. But God exists and is powerful in every situation, whether we can see it or not.

In general, I believe that bad things happen in the world, have always happened, and will always happen in the future. Great injustices have been the norm among all human societies. In a philosophical sense, the New Testament is clear about the sin nature of man, how he cannot help but sin without Christ in his heart. More explicitly, the Old Testament is full of injustices and downright creepy acts. An in-depth study of figures in the Old Testament is a study in derelicts and deviants. But I think that we can all agree that Abraham, Moses, and David were ultimately men of God. I cannot help but believe that we should not give up on people--because I am supremely grateful that God did not give up on me. I think that it's somewhat simple-minded to believe that God cannot reform a wicked soul...if you need more evidence, look in the mirror.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


This statue is in a prayer room that I used a lot in Atlanta.  Some honest & earnest prayer occurred in there.  I would pretend these hands were Jesus's hands, and it comforted me.  They reminded me of His strength and His ability to protect me.

Atlanta: Me and God

So a couple of weeks ago I went to Atlanta. I have tons of memories wrapped up in that place. I was fascinated with the city when they hosted the Olympic Games in 1996, and I became intent on attending Georgia Tech there for college because of their engineering school. Most importantly, the soundtrack of my life consists largely of live recordings of John Mayer shows when he was getting his start in Atlanta. To me Atlanta seemed like a southern New York--like an accessible place where big things happen.

I got my chance to make "big things" happen when, in May of 2007, I was required to receive treatment at a substance abuse facility in Atlanta. I spent four long months there...but there's no way to quantify what happened to me there. When I went back to Atlanta in early March, it was the first time I'd been to the city in nearly a year and a half. It was so exciting! I had intended to visit many times before--I couldn't wait to relive those crucial moments in my early recovery when my life changed so much!--but this was the first chance I'd gotten to return.

So I went back, and guess what happened? Nobody cared. Firstly, I returned to church at First Baptist Atlanta (Charles Stanley's church). During treatment this was my solace--hearing a great message from an amazing man, then spending time with the only "normal people" I knew in town. I let some of my old friends know I was coming and met them at church. I hadn't seen these friends in a long time, and when they were around me it was under very strange circumstances. It was great to see them and return to that church, but there was no magical reunion that I might have imagined at returning to an important place.

But that's OK, because I returned to my treatment center on Monday for a "return visit". Many alumni were in town for this event. Not only did I not know any other alumni, I was further embarrassed by the fact that certain staff didn't recognize me and couldn't remember my name. How could they forget me?! This huge miracle happened in my life right under their noses!

When I was in treatment, I was transferred to a community facility because I could not afford the original one. Translation: I went from a place where celebrities might go, to a place where crazy people off the streets go. I realized that, because of this move, maybe I needed to check with the community facility to receive the honor and distinction that I'd come for. I went; no one was there. Then I went to the car wash where I'd worked during my treatment; they were closed. I went to the recovery house where I lived; no one answered the door. This was so sad for me! I suppose that I just wanted to relive some of those moments and show my sobriety to someone who might care. I was really sullen for much of the day. What a letdown!

I started thinking on this, trying to process my emotions and thoughts. What was wrong? I began to pray and then I realized: God was there, and He remembers my name. My Father was present for every day of my recovery, and He was with me in Atlanta. I was comforted to remember that it did not matter where I'd been or who I'd met, that the most important factor in my whole story consisted of me and God...that's all. Certainly God puts people in our lives to help us along, and I am so grateful for those that I've met. But for me to want some sort of glorious homecoming from others was just unrealistic. And the emotional letdown that I experienced helped to remind me of the only required elements of this experience: me and God. When I cried, He heard me and when I was lonely, He was my company. When I was scared He comforted me. When I needed wisdom He led me and when I was guilty, He exonerated me. I am so glad that I get to take Him with me wherever I go.

Monday, December 15, 2008


I thought that I might want to further discuss my experiences with online dating with this post.  What an adventure that has been.  There are lots of people out there that are searching for a mate.  And a large percentage of them are also Phillipino and looking for U.S. citizenship.  Another time.

What has largely been on my mind lately has been my applications to residencies, and my response to how this process has been going.  My experience during medical school has been a very difficult one, largely due to my addiction to alcohol.  Because of this I had often looked toward residency application to be a time when I could shine--when I could enter into an interview and let them know how good a man I am, how my addiction is in remission and well-controlled, and that I'm going to make a fine resident physician.

One thing that I did not plan on, is that most of the programs to which I had applied declined to give me an interview.  I have only completed one interview thus far (from MY school, which is essentially a gimme), and have been declined by six programs.  The remaining 10 schools to which I applied have not responded at all--I don't know WHAT that means.  The lack of response from these programs has been devastating to my self-esteem.  I poured my heart into my applications, believing that people who see the promise that I have--and the toughness I have for enduring all of my struggles.  I believed that I would finally receive "my due" and be accepted into the residency of my choice.  I have been down as of late, as I wonder whether any residency program will accept me at all!  This has been extremely disappointing.

As I have finally been processing this turn of events, several things have come into my mind.  For one, I do have some responsibility with regards to what has happened.  I have not been as diligent as I could have been with regards to my school performance--namely, passing my second board exam.  Though I believe that I will ultimately pass the exam (when I re-take it in January), residency programs are skittish about accepting students who have not passed this exam (because it means that they may not be graduated when residency starts).  It is important that I own up to where I have failed so that I don't make the mistake of blaming God or others for the natural consequences of these failures.

More importantly than the above, no matter what I think that I have earned or if I believe that I've "done my time", God remains in control and His will for me is perfect and absolute!  I have learned this lesson before, learned it in a very big way.  Yet it seems that, after I have jumped through a certain number of hoops, I begin believing that I am due something from God.  IN MY LIFE, I WILL NEVER EARN THE RIGHT TO DICTATE GOD'S WILL, NOR DESERVE THE GRACE THAT HE HAS ALREADY SHOWN ME.

How easy I forget the grace that God has already shown me--He doesn't owe me anything else.  Moreover, God has already determined a future for me, though I cannot see it at this time.  As James 4:8 says, if I draw near to Him then He will draw near to me.  By drawing nearer to Him, I will not change what He has for me but I will enjoy the comfort of knowing that it has come from Him.  I am grateful for the provision He has repeatedly show me, and the promise to always do so.

Friday, December 12, 2008

You've Got Mail

So I have been trying my hand at online dating lately.  I'm not ashamed of this, because you've probably tried it too.  I doubt than anyone ever enters an online match haven and finds that they're the only one there.  No, people are doing this en masse because I see there little faces every day!  It makes me laugh whenever someone's profile starts out "I can't believe I'm actually trying this"--what, you think you're better than me?!?  No, we're both lonely enough to throw down $29.95 for a little peek, so don't pretend you're above it!  That's funny.

Creating your profile is a craft you must master.  You have to try and summarize your entire essence in a beautiful little blurb--it's like high-stakes Facebook.  And then you have so many questions to ask yourself:  WOULD I date a 19yo?  Or a 38yo?  What IS my favorite food?  I ran track in high school--so my body type is "athletic", right?  It's pretty exhausting.  By the end you've created some distorted, Frankenstein representation of your best features.

Pictures are important.  You must look good in your pictures, because everyone knows you're using your best ones!  If you don't look good in your cover photo, then you're ugly--FACT.  So you start scanning through old albums, cropping out ex-girls and whatever.  You need just a small collection of photos where someone accidentally caught you looking like a movie star.  You find the Big Three, with at least one where you're holding a puppy, and now your Franken-profile has a face.

And now you're OK, because it's time to lay down some cyber game.  It's e-business time.  Well it's late and I'm tired (i.e. I need to go search for chicks online for a couple hours).  I've got some stories brewing, I can feel it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Welcome to my blog.  This is the first time that I have done so, though I've often considered it.  I have so much to say, and I would love to get it off my chest whether anyone reads it or not!

I am trying to establish an over-arching theme to my banter.  But I have a feeling that it may meander outside any given boundaries.  The crux of my intentions, is to recount my thoughts and experiences in the world, the conclusions and philosophies that I develop.  Basically I just want a forum where I can spout off, and maybe say something significant that I want to remember later.

Who am I?  Well I'm a 29yo man from Arkansas--a medical student, an alcoholic, a Christian.  It's during these last few years that all of these roles have converged to create a beautiful disaster that only God could sort out.  Let me set the stage:  As a medical student, I have a lot of demands and expectations in my professional life; as an alcoholic, I have inherent flaws and heaps of wreckage in my past--including relational, social, financial, and emotional; as a Christian, I have access to the Maker of the world, and the only One who I can really turn to.

It may seem obvious with all this said, that I should just turn to God and let Him fix everything.  Anything that HAS been fixed is a result of this; God has allowed for so much healing in my life.  But as a human, I have naturally made things more complicated.  I am flawed and often don't make the best decisions.  But I have been learning a great deal through this all, and the resulting adventures make me feel blog-worthy.

While all of you digest this and ponder how exciting this might get, I will take some time to realize what exactly I have to say.