Monday, September 13, 2010

Made in Vermont/from detox to rehab to life

Made in Vermont
A story of one woman’s journey from detox, to rehab to life
Part one

The street signs were mere blurs as Jay maneuvered his car through the hustle and bustle of the city. He was a man on a mission. It had been ten years since he saw his adopted sister. Family misunderstandings and pride had kept them apart. He had begun raising a family, risen in his finances and grown grey around the temples without seeing her. He wondered and hoped. He had thought of her many times and wondered what road she had taken.

As a child she had been a smiling happy girl. He banished the hard realities of life away and concentrated on the phone call he had received. “I need help, I don’t know who else to turn to.” His heart had stopped dead and he’d wondered how he made it to the chair while listening. Her voice was the same except he’d not remembered ever hearing the tremble in it.
“Just tell me what happened. How can I help?” He had listened for half an hour as she told of a recent suicide attempt. He had tried to remain silent while sitting with his head leaning against the backrest of the chair and swiping tears from his face with one hand and holding the phone next to his ear with the other.
The years had not been good to Marie. She had run away after Jay had found her with her boyfriend in the back of his car. Jay had yelled for over an hour after sending the boy packing. He had found a plastic bag of coke in the back seat. Jay remembered how furious he’d been and scared as well. He wouldn’t admit it but he was a mess thinking of his sister with that guy. Now, ten years later he wished he had been better equipped to deal with the situation. For this was a whole new area for him.
“I’m in the hospital. They wanted to know my next of kin but I only have you.” Jay sat still with a chilling feeling washing over him. He had searched everywhere for Marie. Over the years he had become a wealthy man and used what resources he had in trying to find her. He had given up recently, thinking she had died. Jay took down the name of the hospital and was on his way to Nebraska to see what he could do for Marie.

When the hospital was within view he suddenly felt nauseas and could feel his heart pounding. He stumbled into the hospital and went to the information desk. After gathering the information he needed; he took the elevator to the seventh floor and located her room. He stood in the doorway a moment to collect his breath.
Marie lay still with her arms crossed over her stomach and eyes closed. The blanket and sheet did not disguise the short frame of the woman beneath the covers. He walked quietly and stood next to the bed. Scars could be seen on her wrists. Some of the scars were white and old while others were red and newer attempts at suicide. Her inner arms held track marks where the needles had been injected over the years.
Jay tried to remember how old Marie was. He remembered she was twenty six. Yet, her face seemed much older as her eyes were closed and he could see the dark circles around them. Gently, he touched her face and her eyelids fluttered open.
She lay staring up at him and he watched her for almost a minute without either of them speaking. Then, her lips began to tremble and she lifted her hand to his.
Jay took her hand in his carefully. She had tubes and IV’s and he didn’t want to pull out anything. He felt bad that he had to wear gown and mask when he wanted to take his sister into his arms and tell her everything would be all right. But, she had a staph infection combined with some other unknown things and he had to gown up just to go in to see her.
‘I don’t know what to do Marie. I know that I should do something but I’m at a loss here.’ Jay turned and pulled a chair over to sit next to Marie’s bed. ‘I’m a minister now. I have a wife and three girls. I still live in Vermont. How on earth did you know my phone number?’ Jay realized he was throwing out questions too fast but his mind was reeling.
He needn’t have worried that it would bother Marie though. Marie was drinking in her brother’s presence like a breathless swimmer struggling to get air. Her eyes blinked and she coughed. ‘I saw you on television one time while I was at the clinic waiting room. There you were, bigger than life. I looked you up on the internet. I go to AA and they have computers. Are you happy Jay?’ Her voice was fading and she was struggling to stay awake.
Jay realized her condition and spoke calmly to her. ‘I’ll say I’m happy. I just found you. Go to sleep Marie. I’ll be here when you wake up.’ Marie’s eyes closed and she was asleep.
Jay went to the lobby and out the doors. He sat on a cement bench outside of the hospital and used his cell phone. “Hi princess, is your mommy there? Yes, I’m fine. Yes, I found Aunt Marie. Keep praying sweetie.’ His wife came on the phone and soon Jay was explaining all that he knew. “I took a hotel room nearby. I guess I’ll just spend a day or two and see what the Lord says to do next.” His wife Amy hung up the phone after wishing him well.
Later that evening Jay went back to visit his sister. He walked in just as his sister was throwing a water jug across the room. “I want the doctor. I need something for the pain.” The nurse ducked just in time and left the room. On her way out she spoke to Jay. “She wants drugs and doesn’t care what kind. She’s addicted to prescription Oxycontin at the moment. But, the doctor is weaning her off of it. You might want to talk to him, he’s on the floor.”
Jay nodded and went over to the bedside. ‘Marie, do you know who I am?’ He waited a moment and Marie blinked.
‘I don’t even know my own name right now. Just give me the pills I need.’ Marie thrashed in the bed. She had been restrained because she had tried to remove her IV. Jay knew he wasn’t going to get through to her that night. He walked to the nurses’ desk and asked to see Dr. Benton. A few moments later he was ushered into a small room at the end of the hall.
Dr. Benton recognized Jay from the televangelist channels. ‘Rev. Price is it?’ he asked.
‘Please, just Jay will be fine. So what is going to happen here?’ Jay crossed his legs and uncrossed them. He did that when he was nervous. He tried to sit still while drumming his fingers on the desk. When he realized he was making noise he stopped.
‘Well, you might not like to hear what I’ve got to say but I have no choice. Your sister has a bad staph infection along with being very addicted to hallucinogens and will take any drug available to her. It’s like she wants to hide from life by remaining comatose. I want to send her to a rehab unit and dry her out. But, that is not the only thing she needs. Marie has been here before. She knows the system quite well. She knows what has to happen in order for her to obtain certain prescription drugs. When she doesn’t get the right drug here, she will go elsewhere. We have a record of the amount of times she has been in this very ER.’
The doctor stopped and went through some of Marie’s charts. ‘Are you aware of her problems?’
Jay shook his head. ‘Ten years ago Marie ran away from me. I was single and trying to raise an adopted sister after our parents died. She was sixteen and I was twenty two. I caught her with drugs and went nuts. She packed up and ran away. I tried to find her and even hired a person to locate her but it was like she disappeared. I thought she had died. The next time I heard from her was two nights ago when she phoned me.’
‘Yes, I forced her to do that. I lied to her actually by telling her that I wouldn’t help her unless she contacted a family member. I had no idea it was you of course. There is no one else?’
‘No, we didn’t have aunts, uncles etc. So, do you know where my sister has been?’ Jay was hoping to get a clue of the last ten years.
‘Your sister has traveled a bit according to her records here. She has a business degree and worked at the college until last fall. Her addiction became evident then I guess. She wrote down Montreal Canada as her place of birth. I take it that’s not true.’
Jay swallowed and shook his head. ‘Canada? No, she’s from Vermont. We used to always laugh and say we were made in Vermont. Silly saying, I know. So, from here she goes to rehab?’
The doctor hesitated and then turned to Jay. ‘I think it would be better to get her out of Nebraska all together. I’d like to put her into a place in Vermont. Is there a rehab center near where you live? I just think she needs family as much as she needs to dry out.’
Jay agreed with the doctor. Here in Nebraska she has connections to get drugs. Perhaps in Vermont she would get better quicker.
‘Listen, can I go and make some calls? I’ll be back as fast as I can. I need to make arrangements.’ The doctor nodded and Jay went back to his hotel room.
Before Jay did anything, he knelt next to the bed. He was exhausted and his mind went blank. He took a deep breath and prayed. ‘For years Lord I asked for your help to find her. I gave up on ever seeing Marie again. I prayed that you would watch over her. Father, she looks so awful. Thank you for putting us together again. But, what do I do now? I can’t bring her home. I have three girls who are too young to understand this. I know where she needs to go, I’ve been waiting for this it seems. Guide me Lord.’ Jay stayed on his knees for a while longer without praying or thinking. He finally got up and phoned his wife again.
Amy took down the information and tried to encourage her husband. “God can heal her Jay; I know He wants to do that. Don’t think of anything but what to do today.”
Jay hung up and made more phone calls. Soon he was back at the doctor’s office. “I think the place in Rutland would be wonderful Jay. I will phone over there and make arrangements.”
A few days later Marie was being registered into a rehab center in Vermont. It was ten miles from where Jay and his family lived. Marie wasn’t coherent enough to do anything but be angry and yell for more drugs. There was very little Marie could do for her treatment until she was detoxified. The doctors in Nebraska had saved her life from a suicide attempt but now there were more issues to deal with.
Amy and Jay spent hours in the chapel praying for the process to get over quickly. The doctors in Vermont had given them a grim outline. Marie had spent years with addiction. Detoxification might take a few weeks. Getting the poison out of her body was dangerous. She needed supervision. Marie was not in good physical condition and it might make the going rough. Marie was a diabetic on top of all of her other problems.
One of the reasons a drug user might not want to quit is because of the fear of withdrawal. During the withdrawal phase of an addict, the individual could fall into a diabetic coma, cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, or experience gran mal seizures and other ailments all related to their addiction.
Jay watched as his sister screamed in pain. She did not recognize him most of the time. Her hands shook and she needed to be fed. Later, she vomited up most of what she had eaten. Her palms sweat and she had an unstable blood pressure. The doctors gave her medicine to help stabilize her.
The doctor explained things many times to reassure Amy and Jay. ‘Her body is going to need time to adjust to not having the poisons in her body. Even if she had tried to quit on her own, and go cold turkey it wouldn’t have worked. She needed medical assistance. It was good that you intervened.’ Jay shook his head. ‘I just made the arrangements. I couldn’t do anything before she called me. I didn’t know where she was.’ Jay’s voice began to shake and Amy took hold of his hand.
‘It’s all right Jay, come and sit down.’ Jay sat with his head in his hands and his elbows on his knees.
While the couple was busy with Marie, the assistant pastor took over the duties at their church. Church members took turns taking their three girls to spend the night and make meals for them. Jay and Amy were given free access to the facilities’ cafeteria as well.

On the fourth night, Marie had a gran mal seizure. She was in a deep sleep for the next two days. Amy kept the church updated and hundreds of people began to pray for a miracle for Marie.
The doctor performed many blood tests on Marie. He found out she was not infected with HIV. Jay thanked God for that. She was free from STD’s and Hepatitis as well. He also found out that Marie had a bacterial infection. He started antibiotics. All of this information was given to Jay and Amy.
Two weeks went by when Marie suddenly began to be aware of her surroundings. She spoke to the nurse and asked where she was. When she didn’t recognize the name she suddenly panicked. Her anxiety level was very high. The doctor came in and sat down with her.
‘Am I in a loony bin?’ She asked. The doctor was gentle and told her where she was.
‘Your brother and sister in law will be here soon.’ He wanted to prepare her before she became hysterical. He had seen that before.
Marie’s eyes went wide. ‘My brother? What is his name?’ The doctor told her. Marie realized the doctor wasn’t lieing.
Just then her brother and Amy walked into the room. The doctor excused himself and left them alone. The room was surrounded by glass so it wasn’t too alone. Jay sat down next to the bed and realized that Marie was alert. ‘Hi’ was all he could think to say.
‘I’m sorry you had to see this. You can go now if you want to.’ Marie put her hands up to her face. She was too ashamed to look at him. Gently Jay took her hands down.
‘Marie, I love you. I want to stay.’ Marie turned her head to see her brother for the first time face to face in ten years. His blue eyes looked tired with lines around them. His once blue black wavy hair was cut short now and Marie noticed a hint of gray.
It was hard to see him through blurred vision but she recognized him. ‘I’m sorry …I don’t know what to say.’

‘Vermonters make up words when they can’t think of what to say. Come on now, we were made in Vermont weren’t we?’ He reached out to hold her hand. Her infection wasn’t contagious anymore.
Marie suddenly scooted out of bed and hugged her brother. He had forgotten how tiny she was. ‘I can’t believe you are really here’ she said.
Jay looked up to see Amy wave. She blew him a kiss as she left. Jay sat still holding his sister for several moments in silence. When at last she stood up, she was dizzy. Jay helped her back to bed and tucked her in. ‘Boy, this takes me back. Remember when I used to tuck you in years ago? Being five years older I thought I was so much older than you.’
Marie laughed. ‘Yeah, I thought you knew everything back then.’ The smile left Marie’s face as she realized how serious her situation was.
‘What is going to happen now?’ Jay took a deep breath. He was hoping that he’d have more time before telling her.
‘Well, that is up to you. I have arranged for you to go through a program here to help you stay off drugs. But, you have to agree to it. It’s not a picnic. The worst part is over now that you are detoxified Marie. But, the battle rages on.’
Marie had heard about clinics like this. She looked out of the window and thought of the past ten years. She decided to tell her brother.
‘Do you have time to hear my story? It’s ok if you don’t, maybe you don’t really want to hear it anyway. I do want to try this program. But, I think you have a right to know a few things.’ She sat back and waited.
Jay nodded and relaxed in the chair. For the next half hour Marie told of her life for the past ten years. She had pedaled drugs at first and then made it to Canada only to be dumped by her fourth or fifth boyfriend. She’d been pregnant twice and had one abortion and one miscarriage. The guilt from the abortion made her think God punished her when she miscarried later. Jay didn’t respond as she spoke. He knew she needed to get it all out.
Marie had worked as a cleaner in a hospital and found out how easy it was to get drugs. She was caught once and sent to jail. In jail she found it was even easier to obtain drugs. She had gotten a business degree while in jail for a year. She’d been beaten, raped, and lied to by most all of her friends. That is why she’d wanted to die for so many years. She explained she later got work at the prison laundry.
She ended up in Nebraska by accident. She fell asleep on a bus one day after doing a line of coke and the bus driver didn’t see her. She spent the night in near a trash bin at a local Kentucky Fried Chicken and woke up face to face with a rat. That was when she knew she couldn’t help herself. She just wanted to die. She started working in the office of a local college but couldn’t stay clean long enough to keep the job.
Jay’s composure was gone when she was half way through. He sat crying silently and praying for the right words. Marie watched him and felt worse. ‘I’m sorry I hurt you. I just didn’t want to lie to you. I’m trash Jay. I don’t know if I can change. ‘
Jay got up and scooped his sister off the bed and held her again. ‘We are in this together Marie. I won’t lie to you ever. I just want you to promise never to run away. No matter how bad it gets, I won’t yell at you. Only, don’t run away. We were made in Vermont. Vermonters don’t run away!’
Amy found her husband and sister in law like that. She was settled on his lap and they were hanging on to each other as if one were going to disappear. She smiled and thanked God. ‘You are a God of wonders’ she said silently.
Jay smiled at his wife and said, ‘Marie, I want you to meet someone very special.’ Marie sat back and noticed Amy. Her first impulse was to hide from the beautiful strawberry redhead. Her brother’s arm around her made that impossible.
‘Hello Marie, I’m Amy’ Amy stood still waiting to see what to do next. ‘Marie, Amy and I got married eight years ago. I have three daughters.’
‘I’m so glad to meet you Amy. What are your children’s names and ages?’
Jay smiled and said ‘Let’s see Maria is seven, Heather is five and Danielle is 2 yrs old. I’ll bring them to see you one at a time if you like.’
Amy laughed. ‘He can’t handle all three by himself. Plus, the clinic won’t allow it right now. Here, I have their pictures.’ Amy took out her wallet and handed the photos to Marie.
Marie sat and stared at her nieces. So many emotions went through her. She could have been an aunt but not now. Her brother had a wonderful life except for having her as a sister.
Jay’s voice broke into her thoughts. ‘I love you Marie. You don’t have to see them right away, but you are their aunt and I’d like for them to know you.’
Marie spoke softly and carefully. ‘No Jay, they are too precious to have an aunt like me.’
The supper tray was brought in and Marie stared at the plate. ‘I will leave you with your supper and I’ll see you tomorrow. OK?’ Jay said. Marie smiled and nodded.
Jay leaned down to kiss her forehead. Marie reached up and hugged his neck. ‘You are a precious brother Jay. Thank you.’ Part two
Jay and Amy walked to the elevator hand in hand. Through all of their years together, Amy had been Jay’s strength and guidance. He knew he could lean on his wife. Amy was a physical therapist as well as a minister’s wife. Jay himself was an accomplished writer as well as being the minister of one of the largest evangelical churches in Vermont. He never forgot where he came from. The profits from the books and speaking engagements added up to him being a millionaire but he knew that he couldn’t get drawn up in the idea of being wealthy. His main interest was Jesus Christ.
Many times he had preached that it was not a sin to have wealth. “It was the love of money, not the money that is the root of all evil. If we panic when we lose our possessions and money, than that has become our God. “Amy was a point of grounding for him. When he got caught up in the cameras and lights of the pulpit preaching, she was in the side lines with a simple glass of water when he got thirsty. When the ministry began to take the place of the Lord himself, she would gently remind him that the Lord can do just fine without him. ‘He chose you to be a representative of Him, not to be Him’ she would say.
When the couple got home, their friend opened the door and said good bye to the children. Amy and Jay were left with three bathed and fed girls who wanted to say good night. Soon, the big house was quiet and Amy sat next to Jay on their glider on the porch.
‘How many people are members of Church on the Way?’ he asked. Amy answered after a few moments.
‘Oh, I am not sure anymore. I think seven thousand. Why do you ask?’ She rubbed Jay’s arm absently as she leaned against him.
‘When I was working and going to school to get my doctrine degree, I kept praying that someday my sister would come to the church where I ministered. No matter how many people the Lord sends to this ministry, I always asked for just one. Someday, she’ll walk through those doors. ‘
‘You used to tell me that she was always in church with you and your parents. What happened?’
‘Dad found Marie when she was just two weeks old. He was a firemen and this house was all in flames. Someone had set this baby on the back steps and took off while the fire raged on. At first Marie was in foster care, but Mom and Dad kept going to see her. Next thing I knew she was my sister. They never told her she was adopted until she turned fifteen. I just couldn’t believe how she changed after that. Mom kept telling her that they loved her just as much as me, but she didn’t respond at all. When my parents died in the plane crash, I got custody of her. She was just sixteen though and went wild.’
They sat and rocked back and forth a moment. It was autumn in Vermont and the trees were crisp and blowing off of the trees. The air was chilly at 56 degrees but they were in sweaters and jackets so they didn’t mind it. ‘We had always gone to this church. It was smaller then, about 300 people on a good day. The elders of the church gave me the money to start college before my folks died. I was in my third year of seminary. I went home to be with Marie. Some of the ladies at the church tried to help us too. Marie was the most rebellious girl all of a sudden. She had a sunny disposition until then. ‘
‘Jay, I think I can help your sister if you will let me. I’d like to visit with her alone sometimes. Would that be all right?’
Jay reached over and kissed his wife on the top of her head. ‘Of course Amy, that would be great. It’s nice to know I have help in this.’
As Jay was relaxing that evening with his wife, his sister was talking to a counselor.
‘Hello Marie, my name is Nancy. Can I sit and visit with you a while. I have to go over several things with you.’ Nancy waited to receive an invitation.
‘Oh, do you work here? Yeah, well sit down if you want.’ Marie was nervous and wondering what to expect next.
‘Thank you. Well, first of all I want you to know that I have been assigned to be your counselor. I will be made aware of all your steps while you are here. I know the past few days have been like a blur. Do you have any questions about how you came to be here or anything at all before I begin?’
Nancy was forty one years old and had worked at several crisis centers before becoming a patient advocate and drug intervention counselor in the Rutland Rehab center. She was a doctor as well as counselor at this facility. Marie asked how it all was going to be paid for.
‘Your brother has given us a blank check so to speak. He only asks to be informed from time to time. Is that all right with you?’ Nancy took out her small notebook.
Marie nodded her head. ‘I guess it’s pretty expensive here. I mean, this is a very fancy place.’ The walls were painted a soft brown and the bedspreads were gold. The halls were carpeted and instead of hospital fluorescent bulbs, there was soft lighting everywhere. Gentle sounds of rainwater and soft saxophone music could be heard when the door was open. It was found to have a calming effect on the people.
‘All right then, I will get right to it Marie. I have a large folder that was sent to me from four different hospital ER’s and also some doctor’s from Canada, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska have sent me information that alerts me you are a very smart girl. You are quite aware of the system for obtaining prescription drugs. I’ve seen the list of illnesses and after seeing the doctor’s evaluation from here, I can guess you know how to make people think you have illnesses that would necessitate narcotics. You have a fractured wrist, diabetes, staph infection and some bruises. However, there is no reason that we can find for you to need narcotic prescription drugs. Right now, you are detoxified from the poisons that were in your system.

In this program we deal with more than just detoxification though. Now, we deal with the habits that have been formed. We deal with the side effects of ten years of drugs. We deal with mind games and manipulation here. The habit of taking a pill or injecting yourself with drugs to escape is overwhelmingly tempting. That is why we need to get to the real reason you began this dependency in the first place. Then you must learn how to cope with a life without drugs. You will always have help here. You are not allowed to leave the premises unless you are with your brother. I’ve said you are smart but are you also brave enough to go through this phase of treatment?’ Nancy knew she had hit on several sore spots but it was her job to be firm.

‘What do you mean I can’t leave? Well, I have no place to go right now but why can’t I leave?’ Marie was starting to not like this lady.
Nancy was ready with this reaction. ‘This is not a clinic Marie where you can get drugs or flop for the night. The people who come here are serious about making life changes. Your brother knows that we can’t keep you against your will. But, if you want a chance to live a normal life this is the place to get help. This help is not cheap and it costs for both your brother and you. You have to understand that in order to get over this addiction there are no shortcuts. This is a four month process, and longer if need be. You have spent 10 years doing things your way, are you ready to try a different route?’
‘What is the name of this joint anyway?’ Marie asked.
‘It is called, ‘Redeemer’s Rehabilitation Center’ It’s a Christian sponsored home that deals with severe drug addicts like yourself. I am correct in saying that aren’t I?’
Marie thought about that and said ‘Yes, I guess you’re right. Will I have to go to church while I’m here?’
‘Yes, you will be expected to do that and several other things as well. Your days will be spent in counseling sessions with just me, and group sessions with others like yourself. You will be expected to go to physical therapy and attend diabetes counseling as well. By the way, how long have you been a diabetic?’
Marie’s eyebrows went up. “I didn’t know I was a diabetic.’
Nancy took note of this. ‘Perhaps it was a mistake. Let’s see, we have fun things to do as well. It’s not all work. There is a small gymnasium where we help you with muscle strengthening. You are quite emaciated now and we’ll work on regaining your muscle mass. You will be taking your meals in the main dining room too. Private dining is only for the first two days after detox. You need to be monitored to make sure you eat. I know it sounds like a prison but it truly is the next step to freedom. I have to warn you, I am a tough counselor. I won’t pull any punches. It’s for your own good. Now, do you wish to think about this or leave now?’
‘Leave? No, I will stay.’ Marie was in no condition to go anywhere. She had no money.
‘Well then, I need for you to sign yourself in. Your brother registered you in for detoxification. But, for the rest of the program, you need to be responsible for signing yourself in.’ Nancy held her breath. She so wanted to help this little waif. Marie took the pen and signed all of the papers and initialed where she was asked to do so.
When Marie was finished with that, Nancy explained that she needed to examine her and do what was called a body check. Marie was shocked and said, ‘What?’ Nancy smiled. Now, don’t worry I just need to make a note of what bruises you came in with or received during withdrawal. So, if you get any new ones we will know something is amiss.’
‘This is outrageous.’ Marie sputtered as she removed her clothes for the body inspection. ‘Are you going to check my ears nose and mouth too?’
Nancy had heard it all before and ignored it. Marie did as she was asked and Nancy put her papers on the end table. She was quick and thorough too. ‘I guess we are all set Marie, go ahead and get dressed. Marie was feeling like a convict. She had been checked like this and more so when she went into jail. When Marie’s shoulders slumped and her demeanor showed shame, Nancy quickly spoke up.
‘I know you were in jail. This was not done to shame you or accuse you Marie. I need to know if you suddenly come down with any new bruises. It might mean there is something else wrong in your system. Plus, in the event you fall; I need documentation to refer to. This was not meant to hurt you. I am your counselor and I know it will take time but you can trust me. No one else is allowed to check you like I just did. I am also a doctor Marie. ‘
‘No one else will do that?’ Marie asked.
Nancy took hold of Marie’s shoulder. ‘That was an initial body scan that is done with every person who comes in. It’s done in nursing homes and hospitals too.’
That information made Marie feel a little better. It made it feel less like a prison routine. Nancy took Marie on a tour of the facility. It looked more like a country club. They ended up in Nancy’s office. ‘This is my office Marie.
Part three

Marie woke up at seven a.m. when her phone rang. She rolled over and heard a recorded message. ‘This is your friendly wake up call. Breakfast is at 8:30. You are required to get ready and come down. Today’s schedule will be given to you when you come to breakfast. ‘
Marie rolled her eyes and sat up on the side of the bed. Her head felt a bit of a buzz. Out of habit, she reached in her purse for a plastic bag. ‘You jerk! There are no drugs in there.’ Marie slowly came to her alert self and readied herself for the breakfast room.
She was a bit light headed but she made her way down the hall and took the elevator to the first floor dining room. The bright lights nearly blinded her as she went through the double doors. Her counselor was ready to meet her and directed her to a table with four other women. She sipped her coffee as everyone introduced themselves and she in turn told them her name.
Nancy did not sit with her, but handed her and the rest a folded piece of paper. ‘Around here, we don’t give out weekly programs. It’s one day at a time, and it’s enough to get through that. Right Angela?’ Said Nancy.
Angela nodded and scanned through her program for the day. Soon, the buffet table was open and everyone stood and walked over to fill their plates. Marie was surprised to see such a feast. There were bagels, oranges, strawberries, bananas, cereals, oatmeal and scrambled eggs. Bacon and ham were also on a platter. ‘Is it like this every day?’ she asked.
Angela and another woman named Donna both spoke at once. ‘Yes and no. There is always food, but it’s different each day. ‘Donna was a thin wiry woman and Marie had an idea she had gone without food many times just as she had. She had foregone food in order to get her fix.
Marie dished up some strawberries, scrambled eggs and toast. ‘I’ll be lucky if that stays down’ she said to no one in particular. Donna smiled a knowing smile. Soon, the five women were back at their table.
‘It’s my turn to say the blessing.’ Said Donna. Marie had no idea what the routine was so she waited. Donna stood up and asked the Lord to bless their meal and guide them through their treatment. Marie looked around and quickly added an approximate 50 people in this dining room. Men and women in their 20’s-70’s. She remembered that no teens were allowed in this facility. There were other places that did work directed totally to that age, but this was for the older crowd.
Donna spoke to Marie, ‘Each morning one of us is assigned to say the blessing for one meal. It’s written on our daily program. See?’ Donna handed the program to her and in the front she saw that Donna’s name was on the front under breakfast blessing. ‘I see’ she said.
After breakfast Marie was scheduled to go to group therapy. Her small group consisted of herself and two other people. They were the newest to be at the facility. She soon found out the background of her therapy group. She listened as they talked. Margaret was a drug addict and the wife of a prominent lawyer. John was a prescription narcotic junkie. He was the night auditor for a famous hotel in Lake George. Unfortunately, that left him alone to take his drugs. He had started out with a torn ligament that required pain medicine. He’d become addicted to it and hid it from all. His wife had given him an ultimatum, either get help or he would lose her and his job. John wanted to get clean.
Margaret was manic depressive and had wanted to check out on life. She was frightened of the world in which her husband’s work surrounded her. She had been from a blue collar working back ground and the fast pace of the wealthy class overwhelmed her. She spoke through her own take on the world and Marie quickly realized that she had some wrong ideas.
When it came time for Marie to talk, she wasn’t sure what to say. Nancy asked some questions and Marie spoke easier when coached. She explained her life as a rebellious run away who had been introduced to drugs as a way of getting away from the world. Nancy asked, ‘What were you running away from?’ Marie couldn’t answer, she didn’t consciously know. It had been hidden so far back that even she did not see it.
Nancy realized it was too soon to delve too deep for any of these people. They needed to relax with each other first. She took a different approach. ‘Can you tell us some positive things about your childhood?’
Marie told about her life with her adoptive parents in Vermont. She explained the camping week ends, the barbecues, and the picnics. She told how her brother had taught her how to fish, ice skate and ski. She spoke about her brother for almost fifteen minutes. She suddenly stopped talking and burst into tears.
John and Margaret weren’t sure what to do so they sat quiet. Nancy could see that a break through had happened. ‘You missed him these past ten years didn’t you?’ Marie could only nod her head.
‘Would you like to explain why you stayed away?’ Marie spoke through a choking voice. ‘I didn’t want him to see me like this. I couldn’t fix myself up good enough.’
Suddenly John and Margaret understood Marie. She was no different than they were. They began to speak about their own experiences with trying to fix themselves and the hard life of secrecy on top of that.
‘I hid bottles of pills in the attic and the cellar. Our washer and dryer were in the cellar and I’d sneak down on the premise of doing the wash. Jim found so many pills stashed everywhere.’ She wasn’t able to go on.
John spoke quietly, ‘I know. My wife had no idea I was seeing all sorts of different doctors to get more pain meds. I ended up passed out behind my desk at work one day and rushed to the ER.’
The therapy session lasted for only an hour but it was a foundation for these three. It encouraged them to talk to others like themselves. ‘There will be larger group sessions but you three will keep this small one together each day with me.’
They each smiled and left going in different directions. Marie was scheduled for a hair appointment. This surprised her. ‘How is this going to help me get better?’ Nancy smiled. ‘You will see’. Marie noticed soft Christian music playing as she walked into the hair salon on the fourth floor.
Marie sat with her head back as a smiling older woman washed her hair. “Would you like a haircut or dye job? It’s no cost to you. I could put highlights in if you like.” Marie smiled and accepted the offer. The hair dresser was gentle and spoke much encouragement as she worked. ‘What a pretty girl you are. This is going to bless me more than you to see the results.’ Her hair was naturally curly. The hairdresser layered it and put soft highlights into her golden blonde hair. The results made her look much younger and brought an astonished smile to her face. The hairdressers name was Marge and Marie got a hug and a prayer from her before she left the salon.
Next on her schedule was lunch. She found her table and spoke with the other four women. Angela was tired from her work out at the gym. ‘I can’t believe I’m so out of shape. One mile on the tread mill and I was so tired. Then, I went for a walk with the other folks around the park.’ Marie found that there was 3 acres of park out back and a small walkway through it. She looked forward to that walk tomorrow.
Lunch consisted of crescent roll sandwiches with chips and pickles. Donna was quiet as she nibbled on her lunch. Her family had come to visit and it was hard for her to see them. Another lady named Sarah was always quiet. She didn’t trust anyone too close. Tina rounded out Marie’s dining companions. Tina had been a part time actress. She’d come from a very wealthy home in Hollywood. She starred in bit parts of movie roles but never made it big. Marie envied her long legs and pretty features. Yet, she was not friendly at all. She was simply a person at the table. She used one word to answer most questions.
Marie began to think of these people as a sort of family. They had a common enemy and that was addiction. The mood swings of each person only solidified them. There was a common understanding among them. At times they would question one another during the meal and learn about the lives of others. Yet, for the most part they were struggling within themselves to get through each day without the drugs.
Jay went to see Marie after lunch. They were to have a family meeting with Nancy. Marie went to her room after lunch to wait for her brother. She was flipping through her program for the day when he entered the room. “Hi there!” he said.
Marie looked up and smiled. “Are you ready to have Nancy pick our brains?”
Jay smiled and walked over to hug his sister. “Marie, you have a way of getting right to the point. How are you today?”
“Oh, I guess I’m all right. I’ve been body searched, woke up at the crack of dawn, handed my program papers and aimed in every direction so far. I’m tired. You sure you want to do this with me?” She had a nagging feeling of impending doom.
Strong arms held her in place. “I want to be here. I want my sister back. I’ve missed you every day. I know this sounds like a prison but it’s to help get you focused to take a new road. Come on, let’s get going. I have a surprise for you.”
“A surprise?” She stared up at Jay. He stood six foot 2 but to Marie’s 5 foot frame, her brother was a mountain of a man. She didn’t fear him as she did ten years ago. He was much more gentle and she hoped he’d stay that way.
“I wonder Jay, if I goof this up are you going to explode at me?” She kept watching to see if he was going to get angry.
Jay had a sad expression on his face. “No, I’ll be disappointed though. See, I remember my sister as being a strong fighter. Are you getting cold feet?”
Marie shuffled her feet and looked at the floor. “I just know how I get. That’s all. Well, let’s get this over with.”
Jay put his arm around Marie and they walked to the elevator. Soon they were seated on two cushioned chairs with Nancy behind her desk. She had a notebook and pen. “Are you going to write down everything we say?” Marie asked.
“Actually, no I’m not. I just take down anything that might be important to you. I’m going to ask some questions here and I want to get your answers first and then your brother’s side. Is that all right?”
Marie nodded. Nancy didn’t hesitate but asked her first question. “I know that you were adopted and after your parents died you ran away. Was Jay abusive to you?”
Marie’s mouth flung open. “No, he was just bossy. Of course, I was a terror a that age though.”
Nancy nodded and asked another question. “Was he the reason you ran away?”
Marie sat quiet for a while. “I don’t blame anyone for my addiction. I know I made the decision on my own.”
Nancy directed her questions to Jay. “Do you know why she left?”
“No, I thought I did but now I’m not sure. I thought when I screamed at her that day I found her in the back seat of my car that I caused her to leave.” Jay looked over at his sister. “I’ve lived that day over and over.”
Nancy directed her next question to Marie. “I understand that you didn’t know you were adopted until just before your parents died.”
Marie nodded and shifted in her seat. “Yeah, I guess I was a throw away. Dad found me wrapped in a burlap bag on the back porch of a burning building. I was among the ashes, like a piece of junk. My guess is, they wanted me to burn with the house.”
Jay spoke up. “You weren’t junk though Marie. Mom was thrilled when they brought you home. Dad cried like a baby when he told Mom how he found you. You were so beautiful with silver blonde curls and you smiled all the time. I was jealous at first. I was the only child. But, then you kept crawling to me and I just loved you to pieces. You were never junk!”
“I felt like junk when I was a teen and found out I wasn’t really a member of the family. Just a throw away they picked up.” Marie stated.
“But, you were loved as much as I was. There was no distinction between you and I. They loved us totally equal Marie.”
Nancy asked Marie another question. “When did you first take drugs?”
“I took my first drag of weed after my parents died. I was left in Jay’s custody only he was busy with work and school. He was studying to be a preacher. I felt like I didn’t belong anymore. A couple guys in school offered me some weed so I took it. I started hanging out with this one guy and well, there’s no easy way to say it…I got pregnant and he paid for the abortion. That day you found me in the car, I was doing drugs to make the horror of it all go away. You yelled for so long that day. I just felt I had to get away. So, I ran.”
Jay was thankful she had all ready told him about the abortion. He still winced but he was prepared. He wasn’t prepared for Marie’s tears though.
She sat in her chair and covered her face with her hands. Jay reached over and scooped her up. “I’m so sorry Jay. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was so young and stupid.”
Jay rocked her back and forth. Nancy realized this was the conclusion of their first session. “Well, we will stop for today. I’m sorry this has been hard Marie. I hope you know that you are loved.”
Jay held her in the chair as Nancy left the room. Marie calmed down a bit and Jay remembered his surprise. “Are you going to be all right for my surprise?”
Marie smiled. “I love surprises if they are good. What is it?”
“I brought you something. Let’s go back to your room and I’ll show it to you.”
“I didn’t see you carry anything in my room?” Marie said.
Jay laughed. “That’s because it’s in the car. You just wait in your room while I go get it. OK?”
Marie nodded and went back to her room. While she was washing her face, Jay came back with a box.
Marie’s eyes narrowed and she couldn’t imagine what her brother was up to.
“This is some of your things when you were little. I’ve kept them and many more things of you. But, I thought you might like to look at them. I’ll take them home if you want.” He set the box down on her bed.
Marie peered inside and saw her old Raggedy Ann doll. It was worn and missing any eye. She laughed as she remembered how it lost it’s eye. “You pulled that button off when we had a fight one day. I remember you threw it in the river and Dad beat your butt over it.”
“Yep!” Jay said. He smiled and was glad she remembered it all.
Marie then took out a small photo album. She had pictures of her and Jay when they were kids. Her parents and the camping trips they took were in pictures too. “Oh, thank you! I’ll go through them tonight!”
She reached back in and saw her pink catcher’s mitt. “Oh, I remember when you gave this to me. I was so upset cause I couldn’t be on the same baseball team as you! So you and I played pitch and catch in the back yard!”
Jay laughed. “I have a confession to make though. It was Dad who bought the mitt. He wanted me to give it to you to show that I loved you. I did love you, but so did he.” Marie sat on the bed fingering the old mitt.
“I can’t believe it. He must have looked everywhere for a pink one. It’s my favorite color!”
“I know, and so did he!” Jay sat on the chair and watched as his sister unwrapped memories.
She found her children’s picture bible, her teen youth notebook, school pictures of the two of them, and a package of old birthday cards. On the bottom of the box was an unfamiliar object. She picked it up and discovered a jewelry box.
“Oh, I forgot about this! On the top of the box it read “He exchanges beauty for ashes”. Her father had made this in the garage. He had engraved this with his own hands. Marie’s tears started up again. Her adopted father thought she was a beauty.
Jay kissed her on the cheek and spoke very softly. “Marie, you were the beauty Dad found in the ashes. You had burns all over your little hands and feet. He paid for your care even when he didn’t know if he could take you home. He fell in love with you as soon as he saw you. This was his last present to you on your fifteenth birthday. I had been working and I never gave you what I’m about to give you now. It was to put in your jewelry box. “
Jay pulled out a small velvet box from his jacket pocket. Marie’s eyes grew wide. Her hands trembled as she tried to open the box. Inside nestled against white satin was a ring. It was her birthstone. Inside the ring was inscribed “From you brother who loves you”.
Marie reached up and squeezed her brother for a long time. Wordlessly, she let him go and kissed his face. She put the ring on her finger. “I’ll never take it off!”
“Well, I have to go home now. I’ll see you in a few days. I love you!”
Marie was so astonished with the box, the gift, and seeing her brother so close. “OK, thank you Jay! I love you too!”

Part four
Marie sat on her bed after one week of being in the Rutland Rehab facility. She had found that life within these walls was not always glum. She had enjoyed the gymnasium. She was signed up for aerobics five days a week. She worked the treadmill for a half hour on three days a week and the other two was spent in the indoor pool. The counseling sessions were scheduled three ways. She met with family members twice a week. She was being reacquainted with her brother and meeting her sister in law. She had met her three nieces one at a time for a half hour with Jay and Amy. Jay visited each night for a half hour to an hour after supper. She smiled as she recalled her niece’s inquisitiveness. As much as she liked seeing them, they had tired her out. The emotional ups and downs were always there too.
One moment she was elated to have a chance to meet them, and next she was pushing them away thinking she wasn’t good enough to be their aunt. The thirst for a pill to fly into oblivion was ever present. Marie sometimes felt physical pain even though she had gone through detox.
She ached for a fix. Just then Jay wandered in with his wife Amy. Nancy was also with them. “Hello Marie, I came along with your brother for just a moment. Amy has a wonderful idea and we wanted to present it to you. I endorse it entirely.”
Jay gave his sister a hug and sat next to her on the bed. Nancy and Amy took the chairs. “Well, as I told you before Marie,” said Amy; “I am a massage therapist. I’d like to give you a massage a few times a week to help reduce stress. I found it is helpful to relieve pain and anxiety as well as some withdrawal symptoms. Although you have no toxins in your body right now, your body is still going to have cravings. I have done this here for two years. What do you think?”
Marie wasn’t sure she’d like anyone putting their hands on her. She was a bit skittish. Jay took her hand in his and smiled. “If you like, I’ll be in the room for the first session.”
Nancy again spoke her consent. “Amy has been coming in for one or two days a month so she is acquainted with us. I’d recommend her even if she wasn’t your sister in law.”
Marie agreed to try the massage. “I want to give you some pamphlets to read up on it too.” Amy said. Nancy smiled and said good bye. Jay and Amy took their time and spent an hour with Marie. They talked about the children, the church, and anything light to gently spend a relaxing moment with Marie. When it was time for them to go, Marie was happy they had come.
She sat in her room and read over the pamphlets. She read how massage therapy helps promote healing in individuals with certain health conditions, immune systems, enhances sleep quality and improves circulation.
She read how the soft tissues would be manipulated. The tension in the muscles, tendons and even skin would be relieved. During rehab it is used to release endorphins-amino acids that work as the body’s natural pain killer. It reduces spasms and cramping. It also eases medication dependency.
Marie was excited to try it. She was glad it was Amy though who would do it and not a stranger.
The smaller group sessions were the place where Marie would speak more openly. John and Margaret had become close with Marie. John was struggling with his addiction and sometimes would sit and stare into space. Margaret had her off days too. It was only seven days but all ready Marie was getting to enjoy these people. She spoke this out to Nancy after supper.
“These are people who understand me.” Nancy smiled and said, “It’s good that you can be with those who are walking the same road, and see also those who have walked the road to recovery just a little longer. Part of our therapy here is for you to be able to have a family setting. Never forget though, that you have a true family with your brother, Marie. He loves you dearly. Plus, you have a sister in law and those three beautiful nieces.”
Marie hung her head. “I’m glad they’re in my life again, but I’m scared I’m going to let them down. “
Nancy reached out and took Marie’s hand. “You have gone through three weeks of detox and now one week here. It’s a long road Marie, and you have only started. Don’t be so quick to think you will not win this battle. Come with me, I am the speaker tonight for the large group therapy session.” They walked to the gymnasium and Marie took a seat. After a few moments everyone was seated and Nancy went to the podium. As usual, the evening started out with a prayer to God. When Nancy was finished praying she spoke into the microphone.
“We realize that you are all in a battle here. I want you to know that you have many warriors on your side. Not to mention Jesus himself. One thing I want to emphasize to you is that we are here to help, but not be a crutch. Our main goal is to aim you to Jesus Christ. He alone can heal your mind, body and spirit. He is the one who is healing this addiction. We don’t want you to have to keep coming back here because we are a crutch for you. Our goal is to get you ready to get on with your life in the world. ”
Marie listened to what Nancy was saying. “What this facility stresses is to be dependent on God. It doesn’t have a main goal of kicking the habit of drugs. The focus is to be on Jesus and not yourself. When we focus solely on ourselves, we become critical and the goal of overcoming the addiction becomes insurmountable. The truth is that you can not do this yourself. You can’t even overcome drugs with just us. When you look to your peers please know that they can not help you overcome it either. Only Jesus Christ can do that.
That is why we have daily bible studies. That is why we have so many different kinds of therapy here as well. You need to develop skills in speaking, interacting with others and finding your way back to the real world. Jesus never prayed that His people would be exempt from the world. In fact he said “In this world you will have trials. But be take heart! I have overcome the world.” That is found in John 16:33. What you are going through right now had a plan for recovery at the cross. That plan was Jesus. Focus on Him throughout your day and you will find yourself not thinking about the next trial coming.
Now I am hoping you will develop lifelong friends here. However, we don’t want to create a society unto ourselves. This is a place to get a better focus. It would be very easy to slip into a pattern of only allowing those in rehab to be your family. You have familiar problems. However, God made us very unique and has a plan for our life. That means He intends to use you in the world around us, outside of these walls.
This facility is unique in that we do not get government funding. It is paid for by Christians all over the nation. The plan is for you to be whole. We want you to be able to converse with each other and become friends. But, not to cling so close to each other that you do not reach out to family and find new friends in the outside world. Our goal is to aim you to the King.”
There was a loud applause and Nancy continued to speak.
“Tomorrow is Sunday. I know you will enjoy Pastor Mike. He’s quite funny and his wife is a beautiful person. I must warn you though, she loves to hug people.”
Several residents got up with something encouraging to say. Some had problems to discuss as well. It was ten p.m. by the time it was over. Marie’s head was buzzing but she was happy. That night as she lay in the darkness on her bed she prayed. “Lord thank you for letting me come here. Thank you for my brother Jay. Thank you that they want me in their family. Help me sleep and not crave drugs tonight.”
part five
The second week of rehab was exciting for Marie. She found that after a month of not having any hallucinogens in her system that she could focus and understand a little more clearly. She found that her brother had changed enormously since she had left him at sixteen.
He became a source of comfort and challenge as well. Sometimes he would sit and go over scriptures with her. She hadn’t picked up a bible in years. Her brother’s visits soon became a bible study. Jay and Marie sat together out under the trees as he gave his sister his testimony.
‘You know Marie; I had head knowledge of who Jesus was back when I was in seminary. But, I didn’t have a relationship or an experience with the Lord back then. I had to mature and go through some things to humble me.’ Jay waited to see his sister’s reaction before he continued on.
Marie’s eyes always told what her heart was thinking. She opened them wide as she listened. The cool breeze swept her hair back and Jay was astonished to see the Lord had suddenly swept away the years in her face. He smiled as he saw a whisper of the sister he once knew.
‘It was very easy for me to learn the bible Marie. I had grown up with it of course, but I have a photographic memory as well. It’s not something I cultivated; it was a gift from God to be used to magnify him. Yet, that isn’t how I used it when I was in my twenties. I became arrogant and prideful because I could learn quicker and retain knowledge more than my classmates and I was without patience for one such as you. I recall how I used to yell at you. I am truly sorry. I know you think that your addiction is the worst sin ever. But, I want to point out something here. It’s important that you get this. OK?”

Marie nodded and her brother leaned over and took her hand. “There is no sliding scale of sin in the Father’s eyes. I Corinthians 6:9-10 says this.
‘Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.’ All sin is the same to God. My pride and arrogance could have made me unacceptable to the Kingdom of God had He himself not put me through the fire.”
Marie was confused. “But, you were studying the bible back then. Didn’t that count for something?”
Jay hugged her shoulders and snuggled closer. “No Marie. I was studying that is true. But, I was doing things with the wrong motives. I wanted to be the best preacher. What I should have wanted was to be more like Jesus. When you left, I was brought very low. God showed me some of my own sins and it was a bitter time for me. No, it’s not your fault. You had your own issues, but God used this time to discipline me too. I found after I got my degree that I wasn’t allowed to preach. I had to undergo counseling for anger issues. Pride kept me back for quite some time. I refused to admit that I was not delivering the word of God in a loving manner. I was badgering whomever I met, not encouraging them. You were hit with my wrath and pride. I was more concerned with what others would say if they knew my sister was in the back seat with a known drug dealer; than with my sister. Do you understand what I’m trying to apologize for?”
Once again Marie nodded her head. Jay had never spoken to her this way. “I forgive you Jay.” Once again Jay squeezed his sister’s shoulders to him.
“Thank you Marie. Do you understand that my sin was just as bad as yours?”
“Yes, it’s hard to imagine how God would think though. But, if it’s in the bible then it must be true.” Jay hugged her again.
Jay got up and held out his hand to Marie. “Let’s get some walking in. I haven’t seen such a pretty day in weeks. Have you seen the duck pond?”
“There’s a duck pond on this property too?” Jay laughed and they strolled through the grounds. It became quiet for a while. The two were absorbed in the peaceful surroundings. The sun streamed through the trees and the colors of gold and red were illuminated. Fall was beautiful that day. The birds were chirping and the smell of the leaves filled the air. Jay broke the silence with more news.
“There is a reason why I chose this place for you Marie. I am on the board of directors here. I don’t want you to think I am hiding anything. But, for years I have mourned the loss of my sister and when I finally became useable to the kingdom of God I vowed I would do something to help those with drug addictions. I got involved with people with problems and found a new perspective. The challenge of putting this place together became a part of my life. Many times I’ve had to step back though, my emotions were too strong. I knew it had to be a God thing and not a Jay thing. The money I make from guest appearances and books I’ve written have been useful in this project. It is totally a God driven place though. My funding is actually a small part, compared with the money that was donated anonymously from all over the world.”
Marie was astonished. “Really? This is how you use your money? I thought maybe you had yachts or went all over traveling. I saw a picture of your home, it looks like a mansion.”
“I have a beautiful home here, and I also have homes in other places for vacationing. The Lord has prospered me and I am aware that anything I have is to be used for His glory. I share my vacation homes, they are seldom empty. My house is one that Amy designed and it was funded partially with her parent’s money. They too died a while ago, and gave her a nice inheritance. It has six bedrooms and three bathrooms. At times when the girls are at full energy though, it still seems too small.”
Marie laughed. “I can imagine three girls can get into a lot of mischief.”
Jay pretended to look shocked. “No, really? Ha! Sometimes, I think that they are actually six girls not three!”
Soon they were back inside the facility and Jay was kissing his sister good bye. “I’ll see you in a few days Marie. I have to go to Boston. Amy will be by though. Is that all right if she attends the family therapy sessions in my place?”
Marie said yes. She was growing to like Amy more and more. “When is she going to start the massage thing?’
“Oh, I almost forgot. That is going to start Tuesday. She plans on doing it at ten a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. How’s that?”

Marie was excited. “Oh wow two days a week? I guess that’s fine.”
Marie stood near the windows as Jay drove his motorcycle out of the parking place. It had been years since she’d seen him on a bike. He’d always had one when he was a kid. He waved and drove off.
He couldn’t help the permanent grin on his face. ‘Thank you Lord. She seemed to take in everything I said and I didn’t see her eyes cloud over in confusion once. She looks so good. I can’t wait to tell Amy. Even when I explained I Corinthians 6, she seemed to understand. I know she got it. She’s like a sponge. More Lord, more. Let her be more than healed. Let her be whole!’
Marie sat in the lounge thinking about her brother when Nancy walked out of her office. Marie didn’t see her until she sat down quietly. “How are you? You seem to be miles away.”
“Oh, hi Nancy. I just can’t believe Jay is my own brother. I’m just now getting to know him as a person. I like him. He’s so easy to talk to and humble too. He explained how God doesn’t see one sin worse than another. I don’t feel like I’m on the bottom of the sin list anymore. I can’t explain it, it feel s so good to know that I’m not the worst there is.”
“You are blessed to have a brother like Jay. Many people have been through what you are going through without anyone who loved them the way your brother loves you. “
Marie smiled. “He told me that he is on the board here. I would have thought he’d be embarrassed to have me here. It’s amazing.”
“He has told you, well…that is good. I knew he would when the time was right. It’s important that you reestablish your relationship. It’s one more step to you being whole.”
“Oh, I know I’ll always be an addict.” Marie said.
Nancy shook her head as they sat in the lounge. Let me show you something. She took out her pocket bible to I Corinthians 6:9-11. Marie recognized the first two verses that her brother had all ready read.
“Jay read verse 9 and 10 today.”

“Well, here is what it says in verse eleven. ‘And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.’ It says WERE not ARE. Some of those people had been in the sins that were described but the Lord brought them out of it. He is bringing you out of it.

Like I said last week, our mission statement is to help the people focus on Jesus Christ. That is more important than getting off drugs. Without Christ you can’t be delivered from drugs. Have you heard the verse John 8:36 ‘So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’? Well, when you focus on the son of God you are being set free. He meets every need. Here at Redeemer’s Rehab we want you to be aimed at the Father. We don’t wish for you to be dependent on us, or fellow addicts. We don’t wish for co dependency. Total dependency on God is our mission statement.
“You see, we don’t see addiction as a disease but a choice. You chose to take those drugs right?” Marie said ‘Yes’.

Nancy crossed her legs and sat back. “Well, sin is a choice. Drug addiction is also a choice. You become addicted slowly but you do it yourself. Now, God is delivering you from that addiction. Once delivered you no longer have the addiction unless you choose to take it back. Our job is help you adjust to life without the addiction. As God leads us, we find out what caused you to want to escape life through drugs. We help you to face life’s challenges without drugs. So, you won’t always be an addict needing us. You will be a child of God…needing Jesus Christ. We all need Him.”

Part six
The following week brought Amy to Redeemer’s Rehab center for Marie’s massage therapy. She and Marie talked a bit before she started the massage.
“Where are you going to do this massage?” she asked. Well, I have a room on the fourth floor that I think you will like. Do you want to go see it?”
Marie was excited, worried and wondering all at the same time. She followed Amy to a room at the end of the hall. On one wall the windows were very large and there was a soft blue sheer panel drape that was hung in a gentle slope across the top. The greenery in the room was illuminated by the sunlight coming through the windows.
The saxophone music from the hall was piped into the room as well. Marie noticed hanging chimes placed near the air vents so a soft tinkle could be heard. Amy showed Marie the cushioned table with a hole cut out for her face to go in.
Amy lit some candles that she placed on shelves lining the side walls. The smell of jasmine was in the air. “This is real nice in here.” She said.
“Thanks, your brother painted that wall over there.” Marie was shocked to see an entire wall looking like the ocean. Small seagulls and pelicans were painted against a sea of light blue. All together, the room was a place of peace and serenity. Bible verses were scattered here and there as well.
In white letters inside the scenic ocean wall there was scripture written. I Corinthians 10:13 “There hath no temptation taken ye but such as is common to man. But God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able but will with the temptation also make a way to escape that ye may be able to bear it.”
“Wow, the words look like waves until you get up close. What a creative way of painting.” Amy was very proud of her husband. “Yes, he paints when he needs a mini vacation. It takes him away. I have lots of smaller paintings in the attic. When you come over, I’ll let you take one if you like. Or, he might even paint one just for you.”
Marie smiled. “So, what do I have to do here? Do I have to wear a gown?”
Amy said, “Well, most folks prefer to wear a Johnny and leave their shorts on. I usually massage the legs, and feet, back, arms and neck and shoulders. It’s going to take about an hour but you will find it goes by fast. Do you want to try out the table?”
Marie climbed on the table and lay face down with her head in the hole as directed by Amy. “Hey, this isn’t too bad!”
“Good, now I’m going to turn on the lighting. It is a soft lighting and will help you to relax. You can go behind that curtain and get ready if you like.”
Amy turned down the fluorescent lighting and adjusted the soft lighting. When Marie came out she felt like she was in a tropical paradise.
“Man, this is neat!” she said. She lay down and Amy opened her Johnny from the back. She was started to see white scars on her back. Saying nothing, Amy began to massage. Marie listened to the saxophone music and could pick out the melody of ‘Change my heart of God’ coming through. “I never knew that music was Christian. I just thought it was sax music.”
Amy smiled and continued to massage. She asked if it would be all right if she sang. ‘Sure, just keep doing what you’re doing. That feels great. My back hurts awful sometimes. “
“Change my heart oh God, make it ever true….change my heart oh God, I would be like you.” Amy continued to sing in her alto voice as she massaged the arms and legs. She prayed silently for healing as her fingers skimmed over scars from needles and past suicide attempts.
The hour passed quickly and Marie was sorry to have it end. “I like that! How did you learn that?”
Amy explained her training and her desire to work for God as well. “I incorporated your brother when it came time to find this room. He said it reminded him of your mother’s prayer room.”
“Oh, yeah! I remember that. We used to tip toe around that room. It was just a spare bedroom really. But, Mom had it decorated in soft pastels and had a book shelf of bibles and Christian books. She had this little table with 2 chairs too. She’d bring tea and Dad and her would sit and pray together over a cup of tea. She had nice pictures too and lots of plants. We’d hear the stereo playing soft piano music or gospel tunes.” Marie sat back as if in a trancelike state.
She spoke again, “I went in there too when I asked to go. The only stipulation was that I pray with her. ‘This isn’t a play room’ she’d say. Prayer is serious business with God. We aren’t looking for our inner peace but the Prince of Peace.’’
Amy brought out two cups of chamomile tea. “Would you like to have some?”
“Huh? Oh, yes I’d love that.” Marie reached out and took a cup of fine china filled with tea. “You remind me of Mom sometimes. Did Jay tell you that?”
Amy smiled and nodded her head. “I’m sorry I never got to meet her. You both have given me great descriptions though. Your mother must have had some faults though. Please, I’m desperate here. Just give me one so I’ll know she was human.”
Marie laughed. “Oh, sure she had lots of them. She couldn’t crochet but for some reason she thought all wives should crochet. She’d sit and make knots for half an hr a week and then throw the ball of yarn in a box. She was terrified of mice and our home was old and sometimes we got them. Dad and Jay had to hurry and catch them and then hide the evidence. The only thing she hated worse then mice was dead mice. She screamed so loud once that Dad came rushing in thinking she was on fire. It was only a dead mouse in a trap!”
Amy and Marie bonded as the massage session ended in tea. It was Marie who wanted to pray before Amy left. “Lord, I always wondered what a sister would be like. I thank you for this. I thank you that you gave my brother someone like this.”
Amy was glad that things were going well. That night she and Jay sat outside on their glider swing and talked about the day. Jay had been busy with a speaking engagement for the week and just got home. He rested his head on top of Amy’s. ‘She has two more weeks and then she is released. We have to find her a small apartment. This will mean new issues.”
Amy would have loved to have her move in, but she knew Marie still had a few roads to travel and the children needed stability. “I wonder if that apartment over the store is vacant. It’s not far, walking distance really. Plus it is so nice out there. She would enjoy Neil. In fact, I bet he might hire her. He’s looking for a store clerk a few days a week. What do you think?”
Jay was silent for a while. “I think it’s a good idea. Let’s pray about it and if the Lord seems to be saying yes; we’ll go speak to Neil.”

Made in Vermont

Part seven

Marie was excited as she laughed and talked with her friends upon entering the gym for the evening’s meeting Friday night. The speaker was none other than Marie’s brother Jay. Everyone was excited to have the world renowned evangelist at the rehab center. Most were aware that his church was in the next town.
The praise music began and soon everyone was up on their feet dancing and singing to the music. “A New Hallelujah”. Some of the people clapped and moved to the drums while others waved flags. It was a wild time of high praise and worship to Jesus Christ.
The music suddenly quieted with the song ‘Jesus All for Jesus’. Marie listened to words carefully.
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.

All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into your hands.
All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into your hands.

For it's only in Your will that I am free,
For it's only in Your will that I am free,
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be
Written by Robin Mark
When the music quieted and everyone sat down, Jay stepped up to the podium. Without a moment’s hesitation, he lifted his right arm and began to pray. “Lord God Almighty King, lover of my soul and the healer of the breach, I thank you Lord God for who you are and who you’ve been and who you will always be. No one can take your place. No one can be transformed without your touch and tonight I ask that your will be done here in this room. Let your voice be heard and let my own words be few. Take over my tongue and release your power. For, I love you most of all and we came here tonight to praise your name and hear your words.” Jay stopped praying a moment and yet his head remained bowed and everyone was quiet.
When he looked up he had a smile on his face. “Good evening and thank you for being here with me tonight. The spirit of God is powerful here tonight and I can barely stand with His spirit so heavily on me, but with His strength I will tell you what I feel the Lord would have me to say. First of all, I know that many of you know who I am. It is God’s will that I have been anointed to preach the good news to several countries and throughout the world. I pray though that you will not be impressed by what ‘I’ do or by the ‘anointing’ I have. Rather, be impressed with the knowledge that you know the one who it is that anoints’. Years ago I spent a summer near the ocean and I became impressed by the enormous waves. Then I realized, ‘Wait a minute! I KNOW THE WAVEMAKER!’ So, for tonight I want to be just Jay. I am always ‘just Jay’, but for God’s purposes I am given a podium and words to speak. Behind this suit and tie though, I am still just Jay.
Several of you are soon to be leaving this facility and with some help we are excited to see you go from ‘Detox, to Rehab to Life’. This final step is the end of this facility’s life but the beginning of your freedom. ‘Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. Amen?’ The applause was heard throughout the room.
‘Now, I know it might be a bit frightening to you at first. This two month rehabilitation life has so many good things. Do you remember how you hated all of the rules though when you got here? No smoking, lights out at 10 p.m. and up at 6 a.m.? You were required to attend several group therapy sessions and bible studies. If I’m not mistaking, after a while those rules cradled you in a safety net though didn’t they?’
Several people including Marie nodded her head. ‘Well, you won’t be sent out unless your counselor thinks you are ready or you sign yourself out of course. But, in order for this facility to be a success you need to get out of the ‘cradle’ and into the world.
Tonight I am going to explain our final phase. It’s a transition stage really. Tomorrow at breakfast you will be getting your schedule for the week. In it you will see that you are all going to your new homes. That’s right; from the group of fifty people that came in on the same week…we now have a plan for your next phase. Your sponsor and a family member [where applicable] is going to introduce you to your new surroundings. For some of you, we will be introducing you to a place of employment. Employers throughout the area have volunteered to be a part of this project since its beginning.
Pending your approval of course, we have found jobs that fit the criteria of what you had said you were qualified for and wanted to do during your counseling sessions. If it’s not a good fit, please feel free to let us know. You will be given two weeks to work with us on this. It’s going to be a fun phase of your rehabilitation. You will be given help in setting housekeeping. You will have scheduled check ups with our out patient doctors and counselors as well.
Now, I’m sure you have many questions and I want to try to answer some. Nancy and two other counselors will come up here and the rest of this meeting is for questions and answers.’
The questions came fast and it was with much patience that the counselors assured everyone that this was a good thing. Several of the local employers were there as well. Many gave testimonies of how they themselves had been in trouble with drugs and alcohol. Others were simply glad to have good employees from this facility. “I have hired four people in my cement company and they are still with me and some of the best workers I’ve ever had.”
Jay ended the meeting with a final word. “Tomorrow, you will be meeting with your counselors and brought to your new homes to visit. Much more will be explained. Some of you are going to be going home to your families and those situations will be addressed as well. There will be further counseling sessions and help being reintroduced to your former lives. One point I want to make clear. You are not being sent out to fend for yourselves. You are not going to be left alone. But, you will be directed towards a new life that includes Jesus Christ.”
When the meeting was over, Jay went to his sister and took her hand. “Come with me” he said. He walked her to her room and sat down with her. “I know you have a lot of trepidations and I want to clue you in on some ideas I have. Do you remember that grocery store called ‘Triple Decker? “
Marie thought a moment. “Oh, yeah we used to get ice cream there. Why?”
“Well, that store is only a mile from my home. It’s still the old country store it was when we were kids. The son owns it now and makes a fortune with tourists who love to visit Vermont in the fall. He sells hand sewn quilts, homemade jam, and has his chairs set up outside for the old timers to come and sit and shoot the breeze. He’s looking for a helper. Do you think you’d like to work there? It comes with an apartment upstairs out back. I’ve seen it Marie, it’s really nice.”
Marie thought a moment. She remembered the old time farm style place. “Yes, I think that would be nice. But, what would I do? I’m really scared.”
Jay anticipated this and reached out to hold his little sister. He pulled away after a moment and sat down next to her on the bed. “Did you like that song ‘All for Jesus’?”
Marie nodded. Jay said, “Marie, this is the time where you have to start making choices. I can guide you and everyone here can help, but you need to surrender all your hopes and fears, dreams and everything to Jesus. He’ll take care of you. He’ll bring you into a new day. In that place you will have many new friends and be reconciled even more to your family. Your future is in God’s hands as well. But, it comes down to your choices and not mine. Are you ready to step into the final phase of this trip?”
“You make it sound so easy. What if he sees what a mess up I am. I don’t know. Tell me what it is I’ll be doing at this job.” Marie was calming down.
Jay smiled. “Well, Neal needs someone to sweep floors, stock shelves and greet customers. It’s a slow paced job most of the year but when it’s fall, he hires extra. You’d be a year round addition though. I spoke to him last week.”
‘Does he know about me?’ Jay took her hand.
“He is downstairs waiting to meet you. Do you want to meet him?”
Marie suddenly became sick to her stomach. Jay worried when he saw her glance around and check her clothes. ‘Do I look all right?’
“Why of course you do! Too skinny, too short for much and you giggle a lot though.” Jay teased her as always.
Jay took his sister down to the elevator and to Nancy’s office. There, sprawled out in a chair was Neal. Marie’s mouth opened wide. She remembered him from being one of Jay’s old friends. She began to get nervous.
Neal got up and came over to shake her hand. “Hi, do you remember me?”

Part eight

Marie looked at Neil and couldn’t believe her eyes. Neil was the gawky computer nerd friend that her brother used to bring to the house when they were young. He had been skinny with big thick glasses and long boney arms and legs. His smile of recognition made Marie painfully aware of how long it had been since she was in Vermont. He no longer was gawky and the glasses were replaced by contact lenses. His once straggly hair was cut short and revealed a receding hairline. He had put on some weight and looked like his father used to look.
“Yes, I do remember you. Thank you for coming.” Marie wasn’t sure what to say exactly. Her brother motioned for his friend to sit down in one of the chairs. Marie and Jay sat on a couch and Jay began to speak.
“I want to be sure you and Marie know each other. Marie, would you like to tell Neil anything about yourself?”
Marie’s head went down a moment. She began to look at her hands. “Well, I’m sure you know that I am not here to clean the carpets. I have just been through detox and am finishing up this phase of rehab. “ She lifted her head and looked over at Neil. “I was on drugs for almost ten years. If you have agreed to help me, I am thankful. I just don’t know what to expect . “
Neil reached over and took her hand for a moment. “Thank you for telling me Marie. I really want to help you. I’ve been friends with Jay for many years. I know what’s happened to you. I also know that you have worked hard while in here. What I need is a store clerk who is willing to do things without being asked. I’m really busy with ordering and receiving stock. My other employees are older folk but have been there since Dad ran the place. I have a part timer that works the soft serve ice cream counter. But, I need someone to help with displays and stock the shelves. Someone who can easily work as a cashier or help on the floor. I would really like to show the place to you. Do you want to come over and see?”
Marie was scared but excited too. The three of them rode in Jay’s Benz to the country store. First, Neil gave Marie a tour of the store and introduced her to Joe and Sandy. Marie remembered them from years ago. Their smiles were friendly and warm. Sandy was a woman in her sixties with bright light blue eyes and snow white hair. Her wire rimmed glasses made her look almost like the pictures of Mrs. Santa Claus. Joe was older than Sandy and wore bib overalls that fit in with the country store look.
When the tour was finished, Neil and Jay led the way to the apartment upstairs in the back of the store. Marie was surprised to see the nice wooden porch with a light next to the door. Two wooden Adirondack chairs sat on the porch. She gazed off and noticed the scene from the porch encompassed the many trees and a stream that went all the way to her brothers house a mile away.
Inside the apartment Neil showed her the kitchen dining room combined. It was a cozy kitchen with white cabinets against a knotty pine wall. The floors were pinewood with a finish on it. The apartment was fully furnished from dishes to linens. The furniture was a rustic design that fit in with the rest of the décor. Marie liked the small bedroom with the skylight. “I put that in when I used to live here. I got a little claustrophobic in here at times.”
Marie was amazed at the way she felt so at home. Jay watched his sister as she looked over the hooked rug in the tiny living room. “I have a tv for you if you want Marie.” He said. In fact, Amy wants to go shopping with you and buy whatever odds and ends you might need. A welcome home present from us.”
Marie smiled and Jay saw that she was truly pleased. Neil shuffled from one foot to the other. “So, do you want the job? It’s going to be from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. That’s the hours of the store. I don’t stay open at night. Dad never did and that gives me all of my evenings free. What do you think?”
“I want to try it. I have counseling sessions though so I might not be …” Neil interrupted her. “I will work with any schedule you need.”
Marie’s eyes widened. “Well then, yes.”
Jay and Marie thanked Neil and were soon on their way back to the rehab center. “We have an appointment with Nancy when we get back Marie. Tomorrow, if you agree to it; you will be discharged. Now, you are going to be moving in to the apartment but also you are going to be having dinner at my home. The kids want to see you all at once tomorrow night. Also, I have a surprise waiting for you there.”
Marie was silent for a long time. Jay knew what she was thinking. “Marie, let’s take one day at a time. I don’t know what it’s like to crave drugs. But, with God…all things are possible. On Tues. night I have a small group that meets at my home. It’s not a public thing, it’s a close friend thing. I want you to join us ok? We are studying the book of James. You won’t be feeling left out. I promise. I want you there because you are my sister and I want you to be with me.”
It was a moment before Marie could grasp what her brother was saying. “You mean, you want me near you?”
Jay nodded. He kept his eyes on the road. Marie’s hand slowly moved to his arm. “I want to be near you too Jay.”
Jay kept silent as he smiled and drove. He prayed silently and thanked God for the gift of reconsilliation.
The meeting with Nancy took longer than anyone expected. She had several papers to be signed. She explained that Marie’s care would be transferred to the discharged patient phase. She would have monthly out patient appointments to talk to Nancy and explain any problems. Jay explained what he expected as well. “I want to see you take an active role in your life. Church is a good choice. I have all ready invited you for our Tues. night bible study. You start work Monday. Each night is a possible chance for you to get challenged still though Marie. The devil comes in when we are least expecting it. Amy is going to continue to give you 2 massages a week. It will be at our home though. Also, I’d like for you to think about volunteer work either at the church or in the community. I have a list of ideas. I know you had a driver’s license. I will not be able to help you with a car until I’m sure you will be safe. “
Marie nodded her head. She hadn’t even thought of having a car and her brother had just told her that he’d help her when the time was right. She was in a surreal state. “I can’t believe this is all happening.”
Jay smiled and Nancy spoke up. ‘Marie, it’s the start of a new life. Yet, you are still shedding off parts of your old life as well. I suggest you have a prayer partner other than your brother. You need to be accountable in your vulnerable state.”
Jay thought for a moment. “What do you think of Amy being that prayer partner?”
“What is a prayer partner?” Marie asked.
Nancy explained. “Well, it’s someone who prays with you once a week or each day. You meet with that person or phone them. Just keeps you connected so that when you start to dip..someone else is there to help.”
Marie nodded. “I think that would work well. At least at first. I don’t know anyone as closely as Amy so far. I’ve all ready shared with her. If she’s willing, I’d like that.”
The next day Marie packed her small bag of belongings and Jay and Amy drove her to her new apartment. Amy looked around and made a mental note of little things she might need.
“Well, are you ready to come meet my kids all at once and let me give you my surprise?” Marie and Amy laughed at Jay’s impatience.
Soon, they were headed north along the path of the stream. Marie held her breath as she saw the huge old house up close. She was surprised to see horses in the distance. “you never told me you lived on a farm.”
“Oh, I am not a farmer Marie. Those belong to some neighbors. I told them they could board their horses in my barn as long as they take care of them. It’s fun to watch them out on the pasture though.” Jay turned the Benz into the driveway.
Part nine

The following day Marie went down the stairs and met with Neil in the office. "This won't take long. I just have a few forms I need you to fill out. You will be full time and I want to get everything legal. I do have health benefits here. Did I tell you yesterday?"

Marie's head was in a spin. "No, but that would be great."
Soon, Neil led the way to the store. "This old cash register is actually a newer model made to look old. It is attached to a alarm system. If too much cash is taken out at once, it has a sensor that alerts the police." Marie looked at him questioning how he gets the money out himself. "I know what your going to ask. I phone them myself and it's another system that you don't need to know."

Neil had always been a computer geek and this did not surprise Marie a bit. Quickly, she became familiar with the store's ways. She began working the cash register for a few hours and then Joe took over while she had lunch.

Later, she helped with stocking the shelves. Peach, Strawberry, black berry and apple pear jams on one shelf. Honey and maple syrup on another. Then, an assortment of maple sugar candies in all shapes and sizes. Marie was amazed to see all of the merchandise that Neil's store sold.

Home made breads, bisquit mixes, Christmas packages of jams and bisquit mixes were sold as well. The quilts were lined up on one wall. Marie remembered some of the locals hand made these quilts. She looked at the names and was proud of herself for remembering who they were.

The front porch sported Adirondack chairs such as were upstairs on her porch. There were a few wooden rocking chairs too. By ten a.m. a few of the locals had come in to buy a cup of coffee and a cider donut. They sat on the porch with their purchases and talked. This was an age old custom.

Marie knew who made the donuts. A bakery downtown had sold donuts at this store for as long as she could remember. Still, she was surprised that Neil had so few people working for him.

Then, she turned as saw a group of about 15 people standing on the back porch unloading merchandise. "Marie, I want to introduce you to the rest of the gang. These folks help out with the maple sugar factory, gathering quilts, and sometimes help out in the store too."

Marie went out and was introduced to several people who also worked for Neil.

Now it all made more sense to her. The people were friendly and eager to help out. Later, Neil came in and spoke to her again. "I could never handle this place alone and those people don't really want a full time job. But, they like to have something to do. So, I manage to fit them all in here and there. The maple sugar factory has seven full time employees. It's a seasonal job but it's a lot of work. Yet, those guys make it look easy. I know it inside and out and I know it's hard work."

The customers began coming in droves and before she knew it, Marie was helping to close up for the day. She went upstairs and threw on her sweats. She did three miles on the excersize bike and then showered. She sat on the couch and watched the news until the phone rang.

"Hi sweetie. How was your first day?" It was Amy. She spoke for ten minutes with her and then they prayed together.

This became a routine for the next few weeks. The fall and winter season was heavy on the country store but it was fun too.

Then one day Marie saw someone that made her freeze in her tracks. Her old drug dealer walked in to the store. Marie had been having a few cravings but had managed to avoid the urge to go looking for drugs. Now, here standing not ten feet away was a man who had all the drugs she'd want.

He walked over to Marie. "Well, fancy seeing you here." He was as arrogant as ever. He knew Marie was an easy target before. Now, he saw no difference. Yet, he did see something different. Marie was clean and working. "So, you got any money?"

Marie shook her head. "No, I just started here. What are you doing here?"

"Aww now, that's not any business of yours. I'll see ya in a few weeks when you have money." The man walked out of the store without a backward glance. He was sure he'd found an easy target in this old acquaintance.

Marie was shook a bit but finished her work and didn't speak to anyone of the visit.

A few weeks later the man reappeared. It had been a long day for Marie with customers and stock to put away. She was tired and Neil had left her alone for most of the day. Joe and Sandy were there to help out. Marie was just getting ready to see if Neil was back when the drug dealer stood in front of her. He seemed to come out of no where.

"You look so lost. Here, take this as a gift. I'll be back next week if you want more." He dropped the plastic bag on the counter and left.

Marie scooped it up fast so Joe and Sandy wouldn't see it. Neil walked in just then. He noticed that Marie looked agitated and went to her. "Everything all right Marie?"

"Yeah, sure. I'm just a little frazzeled is all." She gathered up her coat and said good night.

After she got into the apartment she took out the bag of drugs. Her feet hurt, her back hurt and this was an easy way to just relax. She kept telling herself, "It's just this one time. It can't hurt anything."

The following day Neil and Jay found her on the floor wearing the same clothes she'd worn the day before. She was in and out of conciousness. Jay took her to the emergency room where he was told she'd had an overdose of Oxycontin. Her respirations were slow and pulse low.

"I don't get it. How did she get the drugs?" Jay kept saying this over and over.

When Marie became coherent, Jay sat next to her and asked her himself. "How did you get these drugs?"
Marie wouldn't answer at first. When she looked up at him, her stomach lurched. Jay's eyes were beet red and he had gray circles around them.

'How long was I out?' she asked.

'Two days Marie. We nearly lost you. Now, I'm asking you where did you get the drug?" His hands were shaking and Marie suddenly saw Amy standing behind him.

"I'm sorry I messed up. My old drug dealer came into the store. I don't know how he got there. I haven't had contact with him. He's coming back next week." She layed back down. Just that little bit of talking had exausted her.

Jay got up and hugged his wife. Amy sat with Marie while Jay went to the police. The arranged for a plain clothes cop to be working inside the store.

Neil came and went to see Marie. "Hi there."

Marie began to cry. "I guess I lost my job huh?"

"No, you have to go back to work tomorrow in fact. I have extra work for you now. You aren't getting away with anything. Do you understand? Plus, I'm keeping the rent, electric and heat money from your pay. You will only have money for food and clothes." Neil gave her his sternest look. He was there for the long haul but she didn't need to know that yet. Jay had been there for him and he was not going to fail Jay or Marie now.

Marie was surprised but nodded her head. "That drug dealer is coming back Neil. I'm bad for business."

Neil replied quickly. "Is that what you wanted Marie? To destroy my business?"

"No, you've been nice to me. I never wanted this to happen. I just screwed up." She began to sob and put her head into her hands.

Amy went to her and held her. "Lisen Marie, we are family here and we aren't going to let you go that fast."

Neil agreed. "Let that drug dealer come around Marie. He'll have a surprise waiting. I'm not leaving you along in that store again. Plus, unless I miss my guess; that brother of yours has some ideas too. You just get yourself back to work in the morning."

Jay, Amy and Neil prayed with Marie before Jay took Marie home to her apartment. "I want to leave you with this Marie, when you chose to take that drug it was your choice and not because of any disease. It was a sinful choice. I know you have asked the Lord for forgiveness and us too. But remember this from Deuteronomy 30"19

'This day I call heaven and earth as witnessess against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live...'

Tuesday night came, and Amy and Jay brought Marie to their home. The children were upstairs with a babysitter while the small group of 14 prepared to have their small bible study. Each week Marie had gone and enjoyed learning more about what the bible actually said. She was reminded that for some people in other countries, small groups like themselves had to hide their faith for fear of being persecuted.

Jay showed pictures of some of the people who had lost fingers and other body parts because of their open faith in Jesus Christ. He also told of others who were publicly murdered because they professed Jesus as their savior. "This is happening now, not just in bible days. There will come a time when many will have to choose between their very lives and Jesus Christ. That is why it is so important for us to really know whom we believe in. It's been a nice fad for many to say "I'm a Christian". It was a social status for the 'nicer folk' in fact.

But being a person who stands for Christ is not a fad. What we have in this country can be taken away. We take it for granted that the churches will always be there and that their help for the poor will always be there. I tell you the truth, with our economy the way it is; even my huge church has felt the impact with less titheing and less giving."

Marie sat quietly as her brother led the group. She was thinking about how little she knew of the world beyond her own issues. Yet, she was convinced that her brother was right.

Amy brought in tea and coffee with cookies and laid the tray on the buffet. The group took turns and poured their drink and resettled around the dining room table and in the extra folding chairs. Marie was the first to ask a question.

"The bible says that joy comes from the Lord. What you are saying isn't really joyful Jay."

Jay was glad for his sister's question. It led along the same theme as he was leading to. "Let's turn to the book of John chapter 15." He waited a moment as the sound of bible pages were turned to the right place. "The sound of bible pages is a sound like no other." He commented.

"Now, go to verse 11 and Marie, would you read it aloud?"

Marie cleared her throat and read. "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full"

One of the group spoke up. "Jesus wasn't talking about a happy feeling there. I believe he meant the joy of doing what the Father wanted."

Jay smiled at him and said, "That's exactly right Amos. The joy of which Jesus spoke was his absolute surrender of self, the self sacrificing kind. No one chopped off fingers on Jesus as they are doing today in some countries for following the Lord's will. The cross was where Jesus knew he was headed. He spoke of despising it, but for the JOY set before him....that joy was that he was doing what he was sent here to do. He knew that when he was lifted up on that cross, many would come to know Him and the glory of God would break through the chains of darkness."

Nancy was a part of Jay's group. She sat thinking about that kind of self sacrifice and the true joy that Jesus spoke of. "It was the everlasting that Jesus thought of, not today."

Jay reached over the lace tablecloth and snatched one of his wife's jam print cookies. He took a bite and waited to see what the others would say. He enjoyed Tuesday nights. He looked up at the chandelier that shined against the bone white ceiling. The mint green walls matched the colors of the cloth on the antique mahogany chairs. He saw nothing of this though as he prayed silently for the Lord to reach out to the group.

When several had spoken about the everlasting joy, Jay continued with the night's main message.

"Do you know what the main stealer of joy is?" Several answers came to the table. "Sin", "Disease", "Financial ruin". "All are good answers but the real reason we as Christians lose our joy is because we allow the circumstances of this world to take over our constant thoughts. It starts out with small irritations. Then before we know it we are murmering and griping about life. We are not focusing on our life as a Christian at all. We are being led away from the joy of the Lord by the cares of this world."

Marie thought of her last two nights at the hands of drugs. Her own poor choices had led her to step away from the joy she had from the past three months. She had been thinking of her sudden urge to take a pill rather than to fight it off. She could have called on any one of these people to help her. Yet, the pill had been her choice.

Jay noticed his sister's downcast face. He was sitting next to her and reached over under the table and took hold of her hand. "My sister has asked if she can speak to you. Are you still wanting that?" He looked over at her.

Marie took a deep breath and nodded. "Well, half of you all ready know this but I took some pills a few days ago. I ended up in the hospital. I wasn't thinking of the joy that my brother spoke of. I was only thinking of me. You know, for years my world consisted of a small place just around the perimeters of me. Now, I'm like a kid who has been given a key to step inside a whole new world. Yet, for a brief moment I took a step back into the old familiar one. I could have died. I just wanted to say I'm sorry. I could have phoned or alerted any of you. I just hid and made the decision to take those pills."

The group got up out of their chairs and hugged Marie. A few prayed over her. "You are forgiven, and it's a whole new day" someone said.

Amy put her arm around Marie. "I really want you to know that we are family here. We have our faults and yet we know how to forgive. You are right in that you said 'I just hid and made the decision to take those pills.' For so long people have blamed 'the addiction' or 'the disease' but sin is a choice we make."

Jay relaxed as everyone sat back down. "I want to continue along the message of tonight. Just remember that it is easy to allow the cares of this world to steal our joy."

Mike spoke about how sometimes he got depressed with his job. "I go home and yell at my kids or my wife because I'm frustrated. Yet, I am really allowing the cares of the world to get to me and eat at me."

Neil also spoke up. "I fight the urge to get depressed when the sales go down and I've no idea where I'm going to be next year. I usually shrug it off because I know what the Lord can do. But, all of us can get bogged down."

Amy added to the group discussion. "You know, even though I have a wonderful family and nice home...I can get depressed. I think of the many things I have to do or the errands that I need to run. I don't go to the Lord but I go on my own strength and then wonder why I'm depressed half way through the day. My focus begins to point to me and how I feel. I think that's how my joy gets stolen. I forget that I can do nothing in my own strength. I get puffed up with what I am able to do rather than thank God for giving me the strength to do it."

Nancy agreed and said, "Pride can often take the place of our focus on Jesus Christ. We often reason with ourselves 'well, this won't be so bad' and then we goof up.

Amos closed the night out with a final word. "Jesus spoke about this. He said in this world we will have trials. But he said to be encouraged. He said 'I have overcome the world'.

Marie sat on her chair that night and looked at the stars. She huddled in her blanket and thought about what she had learned from Jay's house that night. It was a new day. She remembered hearing that. She also kept remembering Jay's message about the cares of this world taking away the joy of the Lord. The sound of footsteps alerted her of something downstairs. It was a deer walking in the woods.

She sat still and sipped her decaf tea. "Yes, this is a new day." The End

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