Grief: A Year of Firsts

3 Things Helping Me Navigate a Recent Loss

Every year on August 18th, I post on Facebook about my accident which occurred in 1986.

Kim Honeycutt - Overcoming Grief

Today, marks 30 years since that potentially fatal day.

It is the day God performed a miracle in my life, but it wasn’t until many years later that I was able to emotionally and spiritually comprehend the power of His presence.

On the day of my accident I was acutely aware, however, of what my father and my Uncle Joe did for me.

Super Uncle Joe

Welcome Home

When I was little girl I would cut through an empty field, walk a short distance down the road, and arrive at my Uncle Joe and Aunt Patti’s house within five minutes.

Super Uncle Joe Kim Honeycutt

One of the two of them would see me peering through the door and would always say, “Come on in.”

Dear Teenagers Who Keep Ringing My Doorbell:

I get it. Seriously, I have strong empathy for you. As a teenager and early young adult, I did not have the insight to realize how my “fun” behavior negatively impacted others. Really, I get it. I used to be you.

door-wooden-bell-old kim honeycutt PTSD trauma

You ringing my doorbell on a Friday night at 10:45 three times in succession seems incredibly innocent to you. I remember doing things as a teenager without any understanding of how my behavior affected people.

Con-Front-Ed

How Small Conversations Now Prevent Big Blow Ups Later

For eight months I knew something was wrong. We were best friends and I could feel the emotional incongruence between us.

female friends

What I did not know was what had caused the fracture in our friendship.

Conflict occurs in all relationships. An emotional violation may cause a hairline fracture, but most times that is not what causes the complete break.

It is the fear of intimacy that is the core reason why we are unable to step to the start line to confront a relationship infraction.

Start Line

Running is my thing. Strangely, my love for running isn’t always enough to get my feet to hit the pavement and start the run.

starting line image

My love of running keeps me running but doesn’t always get me started.

Good ideas seem to fall into the same category. Recently, my friend Jason said casually, “Why don’t you start a “Kim’s 5K” blog?”

Rise Up from the Messy Room

Trauma Has No Hold on You

Rise Up by Andra Day

rise above the messy room

You’re broken down and tired
Of living life on a merry-go-round
And you can’t find the fighter
But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out
And move mountains
We gonna walk it out
And move mountains
And I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousand times again
And I’ll rise up
High like the waves
I’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousands times again
For you

On the evening of January 8th, I couldn’t sleep. The familiar anxiety that I used to experience nightly was active.

In early sobriety, I fought sleep and buddied up with anxiety instead of rest.

Depressed Christian: The Struggle is Real

I am a Christ-follower and I suffer from depression, anxiety, and trauma. Actually, I could just photocopy at least half of the official clinical psychology book and that would give you a more complete summation of my many disorders. Nowhere in the Holy Bible does it indicate that I am less of a Christian if I struggle with depression, and nothing written in clinical literature claims that my being a Christ-follower exempts me from psychological disorders. However, Christians regularly tell each other that real Christians do not struggle. While preparing for a talk at Independence Hill Baptist Church (love those people) I did a poll of why struggling Christians do not seek professional help. Here are the results:

  • I am a weak Christian;
  • I don’t pray enough;
  • Satan took a hold of me; and
  • I lack faith

My decision to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior was the best I have ever made. My choice did not mean my life became easy, however. Life was still life but now there was purpose in pain. Some will tell me to cast my anxieties onto Jesus but I have no idea how to do that. I want to but when I am shamed for experiencing anxiety, my anxiety and shame increase. Even though the person who shares this advice with me may have good intentions, I still pull away and feel even further away from God. I do not believe He wants us to use His words or methods of seeking Him as a way to harm each other. We cannot reject each other and expect godly results. Rejection is life-threatening. Christ taking on all rejection is lifesaving.

I know He is the answer. I even understand the why. John 16:33 tells us the why, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” What escapes me is the how. How do I get better? How do I not drink? How do I not become startled and involuntarily scream when someone honks a horn?

In Alcoholics Anonymous, H.O.W. stands for honesty, open-mindedness and willingness. I was taught in AA it is my responsibility to be honest with someone about my thoughts. Yet, many times when I have shared my pain with a church member, the response has been to pray more, read more, to do something more. No one has given me this advice maliciously yet all I hear is that I am less. I am not good enough. I need to do more and be more. We do not to oppress anyone, but most importantly we should not oppress those who are already depressed. So HOW do we help each other?

Be honest. I cannot move from where I am unless I am honest. Before I am honest with God and can completely be honest with myself, I need to speak with someone. And when I confide in you, please receive me with love. Validate what I am going through. Do not suggest that I need to pray more, spend more time reading the Bible and the like. Instead offer me empathy. Empathy is an expression of togetherness. It is a reminder that we are not alone. It means you are willing to stand beside me as I carry my own burden (Galatians 6:4-5).

Be open-minded. Connecting with each other in a time of pain is far more important than anyone’s viewpoint. My opinion of Buddhism isn’t important when I am sitting with a Buddhist who is depressed. At this moment, my validation, compassion, and empathy will mean so much more to him than my telling him about Jesus. That would only meet my needs, not his. Jesus came and sought the lost. He healed them before He told them who He was. Simply offering kindness like He did will mean more and be more powerful than any instructional information I can provide.

Be willing. Be willing to let me be where I am. I do not need you to fix me. Please don’t make it about you. Many people have harsh responses about mental illness because they think it is somehow a negative reflection of God and of themselves. It isn’t contagious and I am not asking you to hold my burden. I only need to know you are standing beside me.

I am a Christ-following, God-praising woman who reads the Bible daily, prays on my knees each morning, and worships Him every day. And on some days I am overwhelmed with depression and anxiety. I am extremely grateful for the people who let me be who I am and where I am. They are my HOW and in that godly reflection I can once again see my Almighty Who.

“For God shows no partiality.” Romans 2:11

“Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.” Romans 14:1

Play That Funky Music, White Girl!

     I was sitting in my 5th grade classroom listening with excitement as my teacher told us about the next day’s Christmas activities. Then she asked for a volunteer who could play “Silent Night” on a musical instrument. My hand shot up. “Fantastic, Kim!,” she said as she nodded in approval. “What instrument can you play?” “Harmonica,” I replied. And with that it was decided that I would be providing the musical accompaniment for the other fifth graders the next day as we traveled from classroom to classroom spreading holiday cheer.

     Well, I did have a harmonica. That much was true. But I had never played a real song, much less my favorite Christmas carol. Yet, I was confident that I could learn this song in one night. I just needed a ride to the music store. That evening as soon as my father got home from a long day at the office, I asked him to take me. Being the exceptional man he is, he obliged. I got the numbered music sheet for “Silent Night” and I practiced and practiced until bedtime.

     The next day, well pardon the pun, but I blew it. I did the best I could but my desire for a perfect performance was not particularly in line with my actual musical skill level. I am sure that no one in my class or anyone we sang/played for that day remembers my butchering of this beautiful song except for me. The thing that still gets me about my 10-year-old self, however, is her vulnerability and self-compassion. I do not remember being frustrated or deterred by my lack of musical skill. I did not go home and cry or self-destruct. I did the best I could. When our caroling concert was over, I shrugged my shoulders, told myself “Good try!” and headed outside to play football.

     Fast forward to 6th grade and things were very different. Every day I swam in a pool of self-hatred, judgment, and debilitating shame. Some days staying above water was just too much for me. Where did all of my self-compassion go and how did it disappear so quickly? Dr. Kristen Neff defines self-compassion as treating oneself the same way you would a friend, even when you are having a difficult time, when you fail, or when you notice something you don’t like about yourself. Self-compassion is the ability to comfort and care for yourself instead of believing the lie that you are your own difficulty, your own failure, or your own mistake. Believing all those lies is shame. Many events occurred for me to transition from the confident 10-year-old girl who believed she could learn to play the harmonica in one night to an 11-year-old who wanted to hide in a locker because she said one silly thing in class. I am not positive why it happened so quickly but it happened. And this is many of our experiences. Shame is powerful. But God is more powerful. When I lose sight of His Power, I quickly become an 11-year-old in search of the nearest hiding place. My spirit truly needs self-compassion on steroids. I call this type of compassion God-compassion.

     God-compassion helps me to treat myself the same way God would. He does not deny my mistakes but He also does not permit me to believe I am my own mishap. I know that my Heavenly Father would never want me to engage in a mental tennis match with the negative, intrusive thoughts that sometimes fill my head. If so, He would have never sent His Son to take on our sin and shame. God-compassion is vital to “decreasing while He increases” (John 3:30). When I believe I am my own mistake, I only increase my self-pity and decrease my reach for God’s grace. Self-pity makes me “I am.” I am a mistake. I am a failure. I am inferior. I forget that He is the only I AM.

     God-compassion offers freedom from shame. It equalizes relationships. It frees the oppressed. God-compassion is acceptance of God’s grace. Without God-compassion, I become part of the world. With God-compassion, I am aware that the tomb is empty so I don’t have to be. His Power lives inside me (Acts 1:8). Some days He walks beside me, some days He walks behind me. Sometimes He prepares a path before me. But no matter what, He is always with me.

      I am so grateful to have God-compassion. I do not live in this compassion every day though because shame abounds in this world. Some days it is too easy to dip my big toe back into that cesspool of self-hate I lived with in 6th grade and for many years after. But there are many days in which I am able to embrace God-compassion. On those days I can take risks, I can fail without feeling like a failure, I can share His story, and I can be a terrible but proud harmonica player. I can be authentically imperfect.

 

“He must increase [in prominence], but I must decrease.” John 3:30 Amplified Bible

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 English Standard Version

www.self-compassion.org

Runners Keep Right

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Nearly every Sunday morning I wake up and put on one of my favorite Mosaic church t-shirts and head to church with a happy heart. On a recent Sunday morning, however, I humbly pulled my “I Fight for Sobriety” t-shirt over my sleepy head and began preparing for a race. But this was not just any race. On this particular rainy Sunday, I was on my way to run the Heroes in Recovery 6k road race.

Heroes in Recovery is an organization that works to eliminate the social stigma that discourages people with addiction and mental health issues from pursuing help. Even though I was about to participate in something that is a large part of my daily mission, the voice of shame still tried to convince me I wasn’t good enough to race. When that technique didn’t deter me, the voice reminded me that it was raining and humid. I just laughed. The weather never stopped me from drinking so it certainly wasn’t going to keep me from racing. Off I went to join the other runners.

Nearly a hundred alcoholics, addicts, codependents, and supporters of recovery were in the parking lot when I arrived. Many of the race participants and volunteers had spent years taking out their emotional pain on their bodies. I knew this practice all too well. But on this day, we weren’t sick, self-centered addicts. We were together in our recovery, living an active life, despite the addiction in our past.

The power of our collective years of recovery was palatable. As I stood at the starting line, I thought of all of those runners behind me and how many of them most likely spent years destroying themselves and hurting all those in their paths. Now these people are standing tall and running to support the recovery community. The announcer screamed “GO!” and people who, before recovery may have only cared about the next drink, took off and shouted words of encouragement to each other.

Well, it turns out, we definitely needed the encouragement. The race course was obviously designed by a low-bottom junkie because it was riddled with hills. About one mile into this brutal race, I saw a sign that read “Runners Keep Right.” I knew the sign was meant to provide physical direction to the runners but for me, it also was spot on emotionally and spiritually.

Sober running has kept me right. The sign reminded me of my expulsion from the track team in 8th grade after I brought drugs onto school property. The sign reminded when I had to leave the track team to check into inpatient alcoholism treatment when I was a junior in high school. It reminded me of achieving 10 years of sobriety sober but still being tangled up in my eating disorder. Running transformed my body from my enemy to a vessel. Running has kept me right.

Every run I complete redeems that 8th grade druggie; 11th grade alcoholic; and the young woman who refused to feed her body and would purge when starvation became too prominent. Running keeps me connected to the heroes in my life, past and present. Running rejects

self-abuse, silences shame, and has brought an addicted, bulimic, scarred, depressed body to recovery. Running shows me who I am not, who I am, and most importantly, Whose I am. Running keeps me right.

Running is not the sole reason I can celebrate 20 years sobriety today. Many heroes came into my life and changed it. The heroes from AA and from church have loved me enough so that now, my craving for self-harm is much less than my desire to be used by Him. These heroes showed me that when we take care of ourselves, it is not being selfish. When we take care of ourselves, a hero is born.

There are many heroes in recovery, and I had the privilege of running almost four miles of a very hilly race with many of them. And, it turns out the shame voice was once again wrong about me not being good enough to compete. I earned second place in my age group. To all the heroes in recovery working hard to stay right, keep running. Thanks to many of you I continue to “trudge the road of happy destiny,”and some times I even run on it. Runners Keep Right.

“Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.” Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book p.164

www.heroesinrecovery.com

A Penny for Your Thoughts

On July 28th the following story was posted on Facebook.
The response was very touching and has helped all of us grieve with a little more peace. Since my blog Authentically Imperfect is my heart exposed I decided to place
A Penny for Your Thoughts here with a few more words than originally posted.
Thank you for bringing His shining love to a dark place.

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Ten years ago I realized I was ready to move off my parent’s property. My father had allowed me to live in a home on his property to assist me in saving money as I established my career. Years had passed and the only thing that had accumulated was sober time but not one cent was in a savings account. However, it was time to grow up so I figured out a way and Operation New Home commenced. After visiting a friend and seeing the beauty of a Saussy Burbank home, I knew I had to be an owner of one. My initial attraction to this particular builder was the porch. Every home had a wide front porch, which gave me visions of friends and neighbors in rocking chairs swaying back and forth laughing. I knew the value and warmth of being in the middle of solid community. Alcoholics Anonymous, church, and the psychotherapy community had provided me with the power of having a sense of belonging. And as an AA member, I had become accustomed to people being willing to wait patiently just to get a chance to hug me. They did not do this because I was special but because we were in an empowered community and treated each other as such. I was ready for this level of connection in a neighborhood.
I found a Saussy Burbank home with an awesome porch and was ready to practice the second commandment: love my neighbor. But for some reason when I moved into this nice neighborhood, I didn’t find the southern niceness that I anticipated. People wouldn’t even wave back to me, so obviously a hug was out of the question! But there was one exception. There was Penny. Penny moved in two doors down from me. Our initial bond was knowing how different life is when you live alone, unmarried, and without children. We both worked long hours and knew the pressure that comes when there is no one else to help pay your mortgage. And then we learned we both loved Jesus. And our bond deepened even more.

For ten years, Penny had always talked to me, acknowledged me, and checked on me. And if you knew Penny, you knew you had to be a good listener because it was hard to get a word in sometimes. But I never doubted that she cared about me. I knew she prayed for me. And I prayed for her. Especially because at times I could hear shame in some of her statements. Penny would say, “Your yard looks better than mine.” “You are so much smarter than I am.” Everyone in the neighborhood knew and loved Penny, and we all heard self-deflating comments like this from her on a regular basis. These comments put Penny in the “not good enough” category. Many times I rebuked her comment and spoke truth over her. But I knew that I made many statements out of shame, that sounded as if I thought I wasn’t good enough. I assumed she was joking, just like I do so much. How could she believe her statements when everyone who knew her, loved her? I was very happy to call her friend.

Over the past decade, new neighbors came and the warmth I was looking for arrived with them. Holly and Bert Wilder, Peggy Barnell, and Michelle and David Church moved into our hood and took permanent residence in my heart. But it all started with Penny. From day one she extended her heart to me.

On July 21st, two hours before I walked onto the stage for ICU Talks to share about Toxicity, I received texts messages from Holly and Peggy informing me our neighbor and my first friend in the neighborhood, Penny, had taken her own life. And I learned with great sadness that my friends Michelle and David Church had found her.
Penny could not always see in herself what we did. She doubted her worth and questioned her own value. And sadly she may not have ever known how much I valued her. I am not saying Penny isn’t here because of her habitual self-degradation, however, this does reinforce my spiritual fire to help all of us understand the emotional danger of shame, comparison, and excluding ourselves from God’s love.

On July 28th, I posted about Penny’s death on Facebook and I cannot express to you the powerful comments via Facebook, text messages, and e-mail I received. I had requested on each Tuesday for the month of August that we take a second to let someone know that we care about their thoughts, their pain and suffering. To remind each other that we are all valuable in His eyes and that our thoughts matter. For us to honor Penny by asking people, “A Penny for Your Thoughts?” I could share a plethora of connections that came from the request but I will share just one.
A friend who I have not seen since high school read the post about Penny and decided to get sober. She went to her first AA meeting that day! Hearing about how many of you have taken time to check on friends, family, and yourselves have brought movement where the enemy wanted paralysis.

The irony of losing my first friend in the neighborhood is that this tragic loss has reminded me of my longing to sit on my front porch with my neighbors. If you are looking for me I will be sitting with Michelle, David, Holly, or Peggy and hopefully Bert on my front porch in chairs rocking back and forth and laughing. There is a chair for you there as well. And there will always be a chair for Penny. A Penny for your thoughts.
“And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works” Hebrews 10:24

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31 NIV