The biggest thing I took away from Camp Scabs is focusing on the important things in my life and loosening up on the rest. I know this might be a funny thing to take away from Camp Scabs, but I came home and made some major changes with my children and myself and some minor changes with my husband (which I'll write about in future posts...). I have a bunch of boys, ages 11 to 5 who have addictive tendencies with video games. I recognized this as an issue long before the word 'addiction' became a part of my daily vocabulary. As a family we have tried all kinds of things to temper the video gaming in our house, to no avail. I have tried being very strict, scheduling out when and how long it could be played and being very lenient, given them a certain number of hours and letting them try to moderate themselves. What I've discovered, is that at least in my family (and it appears many others as well) little boys- and sometimes big boys- aren't born naturally knowing how to moderate fantasy worlds. We had 'gaming days' and 'gaming times' and even if it worked for a period of time, it seemed that it was always progressing to more time. They'd end up 'reading' or 'watching' gaming strategies on the computer to learn more about how to beat or build the current game they were working on. They didn't know HOW to regulate themselves. And inevitably, although they would start playing happy and getting along, they always walked away frustrated and fighting and contentious. I went to Camp Scabs with this on my mind, knowing it was a problem but knowing that sometimes (ahem* often times) I relied on this 'babysitter', as unhealthy as that was. I wasn't ready to give that up.
It was amazing how sitting in a group of 15 awesome women and listening to the struggles of image, pornography, self esteem, fear, hookers, safety and masturbation for 60ish hours can put life into perspective. I walked away realizing that if I wanted this problem in my home to change I needed to change. If I wanted my home to be full of life and light and laughter, I had to foster it. Not that it was all my fault or all on me, but holding on to MY crutch hasn't been healthy for anyone.
I spend my days studying and writing about "Porn Brain" and "Detoxing" and I realized that we would never be able to "fix" the problem by cutting back hours, it could only be fixed by rewiring our brains. And that would take a major intervention. A new way of life. And I knew that could be met by my children with resentments and frustration. The last thing I wanted was for my children to feel punished. As the parent, I had allowed this to happen. They were innocent.
I boarded my plane home from Camp Scabs knowing that things were about to change but not knowing HOW to change them. I sat on Row 5 in between Mrs. Lady and Mr. Man. I pulled out "From Heartache to Healing" and didn't care if Mr. Man or Mrs. Lady wondered if my husband was a porn addict. (who knows, maybe they needed to read it too...). I read and slept and read and slept on and off for the entire 3 hours (staying up until 3:30 am every night talking to Alicia (or anyone for that matter- Alicia was my midnight buddy though) will do that to you.) And suddenly, with 30 minutes left of my flight, I woke up with a start! I knew as clear as day what I needed to do. The Lord spoke directly to my heart and I sat there between Mr. Man and Mrs. Lady with tears streaming down my cheeks. And I didn't care.
When I got home, I spoke with Paul and told him my plan and he whole heartedly agreed. So, last night for FHE, we sat the children down. I asked them if they knew where I was that weekend. "Arizona?" "Yep, for what?" I was met with blank stares.
"I went and stayed with a group of women that lived with addiction. Someone they knew, or maybe it was themselves, had an addiction. For some of them it was food, some alcohol, some pornography, some fantasy. Maybe it was their dad or their brother or their husband or their sister. Everyone was a little different."
"who was it for you mom?"
"It doesn't matter. What does matter is what I learned. I learned that when there is an addiction, people change. They do things they normally wouldn't do. They are unkind, impatient and argumentative. Their brains don't work in a healthy way. Can you think of something in our home that causes us to act that way?"
Three little (and not so little) hands shot up. "Video games."
"That's what I thought too."
I explained to them to concept of "Porn Drunk" and drunkiness with alcohol. I taught them about detoxing and how hard it was at first but how happy and healthy you felt afterwards. I told them that to give up video games would be hard and it wouldn't have to last forever, that once their brains were rewired, we might be able to find a healthy amount, but in order to really detox, it had to be long enough that they forgot about playing it.
I told them that the Lord had guided my path to understanding this.
I expected them to fuss and argue and try to negotiate. They did so little of that. Mostly they listened, and nodded.
Then I told them that I didn't want this to be a punishment, that they have done nothing wrong. And that while I was on the plane, the Lord told me what I needed to do. I told them that He said that I should make them a trade. If they would bring me all of their video games, then I would give them myself. I would play ball with them and jump on the trampoline with them. I would ride bikes with them and take them to the library, the park and the lake. I would buy kits and build things with them and research and do experiments. Sometimes that meant they might need to help me with chores; weeding, laundry, cleaning and dinner, but working together it would go really fast and then we could all play together. Sometimes I would need to do work on my computer, paying bills or reading (or blogging) but that I would use my time wisely and effectively and they would have plenty of books and toys to fill those times.
I cried. Paul cried. My 8 year old cried and my preteen stared at me bright eyed and hopeful. My preschooler said, "so we won't play video games but you will play with us?" in 4 year old words. "Yes."
And then my oldest looked at the rest and said, "Let's go get our video games."
I was floored. I went into the conversation hopeful but was blown away by the spirit of confirmation in our home. We used the opportunity to talk to each boy and show how the Lord had confirmed what we had said, individually and in different ways in their hearts.
I am excited for the summer. We still have 2 weeks left of school, but this morning, instead of watching tv, my boys were out jumping on the trampoline before school and they all left for school happy.
Camp Scabs renewed my Courage to do hard things.
According to Webster's Dictionary, the word 'redeem' means "to free from the consequences of sin." Although, it was not my sin, I still desperately need to be freed of the consequences.
"Redeemed women of God have tender merciful hearts, backbones of steel, and hands that are prepared for the fight." - Staci Elderidge
"Even though my heart has been broken at times, I want to retain a tender merciful heart- the kind of heart that is vulnerable, open to all emotions, and engaged in honest, intimate relationships. If my heart is hardened, no matter the cause, I cannot live to my fullest potential.
By setting and holding emotional, physical and spiritual boundaries and standing up with courageous determination to what I know to be right, I continue to forge my backbone of steel.
As women, I believe we want to fight against evil, and we have power greater than we've ever imagined to aid us in that fight."
- Rhyll Croshaw