LAST RIDE WITH BIG MIKE

LAST RIDE WITH BIG MIKE

Dealing with Covid-19 has been hard on all of us, but especially those with mental health issues. Since today is the tenth anniversary of his passing, I thought I would re-post this story about my brother, who fought a great battle for his mental health and won.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Heb 12:1 NIV)

Nitrogen fumes from the Shell premium gas Mike burned in his Honda CBR 1100 XX drifted back to us, threading their way into our helmets along with the mountain aromas of cool granite, green laurel, and fresh-cut grass. I kept pace with Mike and his passenger, my daughter Mikeala, on a borrowed BMW, railing the tight curves and slowing to a walk on the switchbacks of Georgia SR 180 as we wound our way up Brasstown Bald, the highest point in the state.  It would be our last motorcycle ride together before he died on August 5th, 2010—and one of the best—climaxing as it did with a view of the world from 4,784 feet. He had already covered 200 of the 350 miles he would ride that day and wasn’t even tired.

My older brother Mike suffered from atypical bipolar disorder. This disease, or something like it, was not new to our family. Our aunt suffered for years before taking her own life. Our grandfather was also disabled by it. It hit Mike in his 39th year, brought on (we believe) by a reaction to a blood pressure medication that works fine for millions, but not for him.

Big Mike, his nickname in the neighborhood, was always bigger and stronger than most of my friends and me. He was also a rock when I needed him most. Watching him break into a thousand mental pieces was almost more than I could bear. But watching him climb up out of that psychological black hole, a place from which few men return, was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever witnessed. We talked about writing a book on it. I’m writing this today to encourage you and anyone else that you know who has a mental disorder.

Three things marked Mike’s journey from the pit of despair back to mental health.

Humility. Mike was a proud man, a strong man that submitted himself to hospitalization under the care of competent professionals who prescribed medication and psychotherapy. Once out of the hospital, Mike took responsibility for himself and worked the program. It took years. And like many bipolar patients, along the way, Mike decided he no longer needed the meds. Stopping the meds led to a relapse and another hospital stay. But the second time was the charm. He humbled himself by taking his medicine every day and visiting a counselor every week for years. Even when he no longer needed the counselor, he stayed on the medication and visited a therapist now and then to keep a check on himself. He knew the disease too well and as strong as he was, knew he couldn’t handle it alone.

The second thing was his faith. In all the years of his suffering, Mike never turned his back on Jesus Christ. I never heard him blame God or use his illness and disappointment as an excuse to quit worshiping or neglect his devotions or stop fellowshiping with other believers. He wanted to be well, and he knew that in the end, only walking with Jesus would give him the strength to get there.

Perseverance. Sadly, many suffering people give up and let their illness define them for the rest of their days, or take their life. Mike never gave up. Even after two years of unemployment due to his disease, he kept his courage up. He was as healthy on that day at the top of the world as I have ever known him, enjoying the good gifts God gave, enjoying the ride, and discussing plans for his new business. No one knew that even though his mind had healed, his heart was diseased. He was working on a motorcycle in his garage on the day his heart stopped.

So, if you know someone who is struggling with a mental disorder, tell them about my brother. Tell them they can recover. And tell them there’s a big guy in that great cloud of witnesses, cheering them on.

THE PORN PANDEMIC And How to Escape

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18 NIV).

If you are a man or if you are married to or dating one who has learned the truth of that statement the hard way please read on, I have good news for you.

Decades before the Ashley Madison website hack and the very public falls of Josh Duggar and Jared Fogle we were hearing from men, Christian men, and their wives, about the havoc their pornography addictions were wreaking. But never have the words of Scripture been so thoroughly validated by a non-religious source as they have now been by the April 11, 2016 cover story in TIME.

First, a note to the men who are struggling with this: I do not condemn you and you are not alone. This post is not about making you feel bad. I’ve counseled enough of you to know that many of you feel terribly ashamed, and isolated, and helpless. I’m offering hope.

Let’s start by being real about the problem.

A few, a very few, of the statistics TIME reports are: 46% of men and 16% of women ages 18-39 intentionally view pornography in any given week. From February of 2006 to January 2016 monthly visits by U.S. citizens to porn websites increased from 58 million to 107 million, according to one web-tracking company. Yes, that’s 107 million visits per month.

Christians are not immune. Covenant Eyes website reports that about 64% of Christian men and 15% of women access porn every month. And as the Apostle Paul warned the Corinthians, it’s damaging their bodies.

TIME confirms that, citing a 2014 fMRI study from the Max Planck Institute which revealed that habitual porn use may have an effect on the brain. Repeated exposure to porn appeared to cause the brain’s reward center, called the striatum, to be less and less responsive. In other words, the brain becomes desensitized, requiring more and more stimulation to achieve the same level of pleasure. This is somewhat like the way cocaine and other drugs effect the brain. It’s no surprise then that porn addicts often progress from plain vanilla porn to harder, more violent, or simply more bizarre forms. Many also end up frequenting prostitutes and some become predators.

Scientists have long known that the brain is our primary sex organ, but it isn’t the only one suffering from the effects of porn. Young men, Christian and non-Christian alike, are increasingly reporting PIED, porn-induced erectile dysfunction. Their bodies have been so desensitized by porn that they cannot respond to normal sexual stimuli.

Enough of the bad news, I’ll provide links to more information at the end if you’re interested. Let’s talk about redeeming what’s been lost.

The Bible teaches that we are three-part beings, body, soul, and spirit. Dealing effectively with this or any other addiction requires addressing all three. Some of you who aren’t Christians, and even some who are, don’t have any problem with sex outside of marriage. But the Bible calls that sin and I encourage you to do the same. The first step to freedom is calling slavery what it is. Even if you can’t yet see it as a sin against God or your own body, an honest look at the underbelly of the porn industry will reveal that the whole thing is one massive assault on the dignity of women. That’s why businesses like Hilton Hotels have eliminated pornography channels in their hotel rooms in 85 countries. They have a company policy against participating in sexual exploitation and recognized the link between sex trafficking, prostitution and porn. Christ died to free us from slavery to sin. Agreeing with God that pornography is sin frees the Holy Spirit to help you do away with it.

Second, understand that your mind, will, and emotions, what we know as the soul, have been damaged by porn. You were created to be a thinking, choosing, feeling and relating being. Porn addiction, like others, pulls your soul into a spiral of sickness. Your thinking is clouded, your will is weakened, your feelings are misleading, and your ability to relate in healthy ways to other human beings, especially women, is damaged. You’re going to need some help sorting out your feelings, strengthening your will, straightening out your thinking, and reshaping the way you relate to others. Happily, there are many different kinds of help out there for this, from books to websites, to support groups. I’ll list some at the end.

Finally, your body is going to need rewiring. One of the most fascinating and hopeful things I’ve learned from counseling men with pornography addictions is the power of simple behavior-modification techniques. Pastors and counseling psychologists often assume that all problems stem from within the soul and can be effectively addressed by talking, teaching and prayer; correcting the wrongs of the psyche. I’m not discounting any of those, but the fact is that not everyone becomes addicted because they have issues with their upbringing. The neurology of our sexuality is incredibly important. Repeated exposure to porn trains the brain and the body to react a certain way by burning deep neural pathways. Think of it as a kind of sexual muscle memory that won’t go away just because you wish it would. The good news is that it is possible to burn new pathways and let the old ones die off. It takes time and training, but it is possible.

If you find yourself or a loved one a victim of the porn pandemic there is hope. Christ died to set you free from sin and give you full access to the redemptive power of his Spirit. God in his mercy has provided all kinds of aids, secular and spiritual, to help you break free. I’ve listed all the ones I’m aware of at the end of this post. May God bless you as you pursue freedom, forgiveness, and healing.

Resources for Recovery from Sexual Addiction.
Christian
https://www.faithfulandtrue.com/About-Us.aspx
http://restoringthesoul.com/we-specialize-in-healing-addictions-to-porn-and-sex/
http://www.purelifeministries.org/about#leadership
http://www.fredstoeker.com/book/everymansbattle.shtml
http://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/divorce-and-infidelity/dealing-with-pornography/maier-on-pornography-recovery
http://www.covenanteyes.com/
https://www.shelleylubben.com/home

Non-Christian
http://www.nofap.com/
http://www.yourbrainonporn.com/