Athens Now Pg 24

By: Tina Cook
This past February after a long week of work, I was glad to plop into my easy chair to relax in front of the tube. I’m a fan of shows that allow me to do things like scroll the internet, answer emails, miscellaneous paperwork, or study for my upcoming certification exam. Shark Tank fits nicely into that category. I became intrigued and began jotting down information when a sock company was looking for a SHARK to invest in their unique philanthropic tagline: One pair purchased, one pair donated. That resonated with my never-ending desire to expand the Family Resource Center’s reach in our community, and I wanted in on it!

The following Monday, I pulled out my list of scribbles that I most always end up with over any weekend; evidence of my on-going hopes and dreams to bring a vision I hold in my heart into reality. I felt pretty good about emailing that request. Bombas founders Randy Goldberg and David Heath had gone into the tank seeking $200,000 for a 5% stake in their company. They left with a deal from Daymond John who was getting 17.5% for financing their inventory; not too shabby!
Honestly, I was compelled to ask for these socks on behalf of my fellow residents. As a woman who has experienced tough times and homelessness, I know the importance of shoes and socks from a different perspective. I can assure you that folks who spend time in a homeless or near-homeless state count their shoes as priceless treasures. I dare say that many would fight you if you tried to take them away. Furthermore, it is a statistical fact that socks are the most requested item at homeless shelters! I wanted to do something to provide that #1 request in my hometown. It also felt good to put the philosophy that FRC tries to instill in our clients to work in my own professional life. We encourage clients to stop relying on the same friends, family, and local organizations to fund their lives, and this sock endeavor was allowing me to reach past the normal network of generous donors. It was empowering to seek items that will help residents outside our own borders and pockets.

When I received word 8 months later that FRC was receiving a shipment of 250 Bombas socks, I did the ultimate goofy happy dance. You see, in spite of all the many blessings…all the provision…all the evidence that God is pleased with the good works being done in local lives, it still overwhelms me to see the hardcore evidence each and every time! Hopefully, this is also evidence that genuineness has taken root inside my own heart…an essential shift from entitlement to gratitude.

Athens-Limestone County will have lots of happy feet sporting nice, warm, new socks. They will be available in our Shepherd’s Closet donation area on Tuesdays & Thursdays from 9 to 11:30. I will also include one pair for each teen enrolled in our 4th Annual Teen Christmas Program*; every parent who comes for a class in that program will get a pair too. That leaves 150 pair of socks for other residents…well, actually only 149 since I had to make sure they were satisfactory! You can believe me when I tell you: BOMBAS ARE THE BOMB!!

(*To donate to the Teen Christmas Program, please contact me by December 1st at alcfamilyrc@gmail.com)
By: Tina Cook
Director, Athens-Limestone County Family Resource Center

By: Tina Cook
September is Gynecological Cancer Awareness month. In memory of my mother, Mildred Ann Davis-Grisham and in honor of all those who suffer alongside addicts, I humbly allow my sister, Angie Cook-Norwood to share THE FLIP SIDE…

We are all affected when we love an addict. Yes, those of us not choosing the lifestyle can go on with our lives, but there is always a nagging void, helplessness we can’t describe. The person we love is choosing to destroy themselves and we can only watch. Of course the watching comes after you realize the begging, the pleading, the negotiating, the money and the tears do not work. It really comes down to the addict’s choice. As with all things, there are two sides to every story; the flip side.

Our family struggled with Tina and her addiction on and off for over thirty years. The range of emotions we endured during those years could fill a novel. It is during times of strife we learn the true meaning of everyday words such as like and love; we all came to terms with the fact we loved Tina but we did not like her. The highs and lows were unbearable, but more unbearable was the realization there was never a ‘normal’ between the highs and lows; we could not find comfortable ground in our relationship with Tina, with addiction.

I truly believe as I look back on the events surrounding 2011, God had a plan for our family. We lost our dad June 2011; it was sudden and most unexpected. Tina was in jail for drug related charges. I was so angry she was not with us, with me. It took a few days but I finally got the news to her; she was devastated. I recall wanting the news to impact her to the point of recovery; it did not. We lost track of her until late in 2011. Tina was incarcerated yet again. I did not care; my heart could not take anymore. I hated drugs and at the time, Tina.

In February 2012, the world came crashing down on our family. Our mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, stage III-C. The mental and physical fatigue of facing such a devastating illness began to take a toll on our family. In February 2013, my mom and I knew we needed help. The travel to Michigan to be with my mother was increasingly more difficult; my children and a job needed me in Alabama. During a trip to M.D. Anderson in Houston, my mother, realizing her health was swiftly declining, initiated the conversation of bringing Tina from Florida to Michigan. Although our communication with Tina was brief and limited, we did know she’d been living in a group home and was working; she’d only been sober outside of jail 9 months. After much discussion, my mother and I realized Tina was the answer; she could easily leave her job and her home. The call to Tina was strange; rules were outlined and we all agreed Tina would come to Michigan. My mother was hopeful; I was thankful; we both were apprehensive. Our love for Tina did not erase the fear of trusting her.

We lost our mother April 2013. Although the months for Tina and my mom were brief in number, the healing between them filled years of unanswered questions and doubt. Tina’s devoted care of our mom touched my heart to the core; Tina was not only helping care for our mom but she was allowing me to care for my children. Those two months built a bridge between the years of the addiction that plagued our family. I finally had the sister my heart ached to have in my life, the sister I knew was out there in the harsh world of drugs longing to come home.

Tina and I are closer now than ever before in our lives. We often smile as we recall our mother, an only child, reminding us having a sister is a gift; a sister ties together our past, present and future. And, yes, as usual, mama was right; a sister is your best friend. Out of the loss Tina and I shared, Mildred’s Angels was birthed; an Ovarian Cancer Awareness, Advocacy and Resource group. Together, we continue our mother’s journey and wish to empower women against this whispering disease.
They say a mother’s love can overcome all obstacles; I believe it and I now know it definitely can change one’s life. They also say when God closes a door, He opens another one. And sometimes we are open to the possibilities and we take a leap of faith; wisely, we run through the open door and discover God’s plan filled with Grace and we bask in all His Glory.
By: Tina Cook
Director, Athens-Limestone County Family Resource Center

By: Tina Cook
There’s a quote I heard that resounded in me: “Religion is for those who don’t want to go to hell; spirituality is for those who have already been there.” I dug a bit deeper and learned the following: In the dictionary, religion is described as an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to the supernatural, and to spirituality. Spirituality is defined as that which is set apart from the ordinary and worthy of admiration.

According to the dictionary definition of religion, addiction is to be looked upon as shameful, sinful, and encompassing those who lack self-control. In my opinion, this helps more sanctimonious people feel better about themselves by placing sin safely within categories, levels, degrees of, and ranks. One could easily feel superior as simply a prescription taker and a secret adulterer when compared to a strung-out addict and a known prostitute. Someone could hide behind words of condemnation blasted loud and long about how those sinful folks are going to hell for their apparent sin. They could spout scripture and verses to support all their rantings, even spread gossip galore to keep focus on the shameful life of those people and off the sin of self. And, why not, since most people do a form of it every single day? One would just be part of the organized collection in the cultural system by doing so.

But, that is not the road Jesus calls His followers to walk, because it is not the road He walked. He calls us to walk along the road of spirituality, not religion. He did not condemn those whose sins were obvious to all or whose lives were filled with outward shame. He offered them grace, mercy, and a way out! The Bible tells us over and over that we are to be like Jesus, and Jesus Himself was set apart from the worldly views of religious folks. The story of the tax man and the Pharisee found in Luke 18:9-14 assures us that the humble will be made right with God, not the proud. James 2:10-13 states that if anyone is guilty of even one sin, he is guilty period. That is why we are instructed to be merciful, because we will ALL be judged by the measure of mercy we have shown to others.

As a practicing addict, I did shameful and sinful things that make me cringe at times when I think of them. I have succumbed to desires seemingly greater than my ability to withstand. The same is true for me as a young girl before drugs ever entered my body, as well as since 2011 as I have been a recovering addict living for Christ. And, so I shall always fall short. Therefore, I will continue to walk the path of humble spirituality as Jesus commanded, not the road of religion as others may choose. I am thankful that I walked the hellish road of addiction so that I can view the world as shameful and sinful instead of judging people that way; that I know true strength is not found in holding on but rather in letting go. We are all in need of a graceful, merciful Savior because by default we all sin. In 2 Corinthians12:10, it states plainly: “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Though this passage focuses on the sufferings endured as a result of living for Christ, it makes clear that weaknesses develop humility, which is key to embracing the true strength needed to face the troubles of this world. Perhaps this paramount truth is best phrased by John the Baptist: “He must become greater…I must become less.” (John 3:30)
By: Tina Cook

Alcoholics and addicts are not polar opposites of what society calls “normal” people. We all have inside us conflicting desires that compete to see who is going to win. The crucial difference between those who are chemically addicted and those who are considered ordinary lies in the extreme persistence of the battle raging within.

Often times the use of an analogy will help me to better understand something that I am not fully wrapping my mind and, perhaps more importantly, my heart around. In this case, I will use the common New Year’s Resolution that so many people make year after year. Each year, a vast number of people around the world make vows and promises to be more: more organized, more disciplined, more loving…much more. At the Feet of Jesus devotional author, Joanna Weaver, always sets out on a new self-improvement program. She says it goes like this, “This year I’ll: get in shape…keep my house clean…send out birthday cards and on time…be the loving, forgiving, obedient woman of God I want to be instead of the willful, stubborn, disobedient Christian I sometimes see staring back at me in the mirror.” Why does she do this? She states the truth that she is much more at peace when her house is clean, and genuinely happy when she lives close to God and obeys Him. She laughingly states, “There’s a skinny woman inside me just struggling to get out! Unfortunately, I can usually sedate her with four or five cupcakes.” Each year, she tries again without her life having fallen apart even once from the multiple preceding years of resolutions that have failed to launch.

Not so with the addict and/or alcoholic on so many levels! Not just once a year but every day is a constant mantra of “You should: be more…do more…have more.” More is an elusive place; a destination that is always just one more ‘thing’ or ‘deed’ out of reach. Furthermore, when the destination is not reached and/or we become exhausted from the endless effort of our own steam to attain it, our lives crumble into the escape of quiet we find in a drink or drug. This action takes us further and further and further away from the place we dream of being. Finally, it is so far away we know longer even remember that we were trying to get somewhere or what the big deal was about getting there anyway. We drown in our bottles and more…much, much more!

I know what it is like to live with this battle constantly going on inside my head. I know exactly what it is like to never have enough while living in the midst of having more than I know what to do with. The only reason I am not there now is that I lost everything including and most importantly my own self! It took me coming to the end of me to find The Supplier of all my needs. I count gratitude among one of the greatest assets I now have. It keeps me humbly right-sized and satisfied with the provision God has for me instead of constantly seeking to acquire more. I like the following quote by GK Chesterton, “There are 2 ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” I have found that only through Christ am I able to quench that desire.

Today, I am blessed to work with others struggling with this constant battle. I am now uniquely qualified to help them begin to tear down the lies that perpetuate a cycle of destruction in their lives. By guiding them toward truth with compassion and gentleness, perhaps I will spark hope in them that will catch fire and become a vision of life that will abundantly satisfy.
By: Tina Cook
Director, Athens-Limestone County Family Resource Center