Tag Archives: addiction

The Courageous and Wise Naghmeh Abedini

Abedini_Statesman_Jones

“I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.” – Jesus

Emotional abuse systematically degrades, diminishes, and can eventually destroy the personhood of the abused.  Most people describe emotional abuse as being far more painful and traumatic than physical abuse.  One only has to read reports of prisoners of war to begin to understand the traumatic effects of psychological warfare using emotionally abusive tactics–and this is when the behavior is perpetrated by one’s enemy.  When the abusive behavior is perpetrated by someone who promises to love and cherish you, it is even more devastating and destructive.

Leslie Vernick, “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage”

Naghmeh Abedini, wife of Saeed Abedini, campaigned vigorously for three and a half years for the release of her husband from an Iranian prison.  She has always displayed tremendous grace and a brave, beautiful spirit.  Saeed’s imprisonment was unjust, cruel and horrifying, and thousands were praying and advocating for him.  Iran finally released Saeed on January 16th and early this week he was back home in Idaho and has been reunited with his parents and children.

But not Naghmeh.

In November, Naghmeh wrote a personal email to prayer partners explaining that she would be halting her advocacy of Saeed on grounds of emotional and sexual abuse and his addiction to pornography.  Her confidential message was leaked to the press and suddenly their marriage has been put under the glare of public scrutiny.  I have been following this story all along and have seen support and love expressed to Naghmeh on her personal Facebook page, and also disgusting, cruel comments on articles from unsympathetic Christians who are disappointed that Saeed’s reputation has been tarnished.  Even ugly speculations that she has fabricated this story so that she could move on to another romantic relationship.

I am so proud of Naghmeh.

It is not easy for a victim of abuse to speak up.  I can only imagine that she has brought her abuse to the attention of others from time to time over the years only to receive minimal or no help.  She was not trying to “out” Saeed as an abuser.  She was desperate for relief from the emotional torture.

Sadly, much of Christendom continues to operate under the oppressive system of patriarchy.  Men are given privilege and women are subjugated and the conditions become ripe for abuse.  Yesterday, Wheaton College professor Michael Mangis said, “I have stated publicly and in my classes that white patriarchy reigns virtually unchallenged in cultural evangelicalism….Patriarchy has evolved to maintain and protect the illusion, for men, that we are entitled to be obeyed and served.”

In Rachel Held Evan’s post, “Is patriarchy really God’s dream for the world?”, she says,

If scripture is not enough to convince you that patriarchy is a result of sin, you need only look at the world to observe its effects.

  • Worldwide, women ages fifteen to forty-four are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined.
  • Every 9 seconds, a woman  in the US is assaulted or beaten. Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. I wish I could say that all complementarians categorically condemn female submission to male violence, but John Piper has said that, in order to model godly submission, a woman may need to quietly “endure verbal abuse for a season” or “getting smacked one night” before “seeking help from the church.” (He says nothing about contacting authorities). Similarly, in Created to Be His Help Meet, Debi Pearl advises a woman whose husband pulled a knife on her to “stop complaining” and focus instead on not “provoking” her husband’s anger. This is destructive advice and reveals something of an assumption that the preservation of male hierarchy is more important than preservation of a woman’s dignity.
  •  At least 3 million women and girls are enslaved in the sex trade.
  • Study after study shows that societies characterized by the subjugation of women are more violent, more impoverished, and more unjust than societies that empower women.  In their excellent book Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn argue that “in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality in the developing world.”  Empowering women increases economic productivity, reduces infant mortality, contributes to overall improved health and nutrition, and increases the chances of education for the next generation. Several studies from UNICEF suggest that when women are given control over the family spending, more of the money gets devoted to education, medical care, and small business endeavors than when men control the purse strings. Similarly, when women vote and hold political office, public spending on health increases and child mortality rate declines. Many counterterrorist strategists see women’s empowerment as key to quelling violence and oppression in the Middle East, and women entering the workforce in East Asia generated economic booms in Malaysia, Thailand, and China. (You can find all of these studies cited and analyzed in Half the Sky, which I highly recommend.)

There are women in your church who are victims of domestic violence.  If your church doesn’t talk about domestic violence, it is probably even more prevalent.  Is your church a safe place where victims are heard, violence is condemned, and brothers and sisters in Christ are encouraged to love and submit to each other mutually?  Would Naghmeh receive support or shame if Saeed’s abuse came to light in your faith community?

Are you being abused by your partner?  You are worthy of safety and sanity.  Please look to Naghmeh’s courage and follow her example of seeking the help that you need.  It is not on you to protect your abusive spouse from the consequences of his sin.  It is not on you to hold a marriage together that has already been broken by abuse.

Yesterday, Naghmeh released this statement that is both gracious and honest:

Dearest Friends,

Saeed landed in Boise yesterday and had a wonderful reunion with the children. They will be spending more and more time together in the coming days. I am so happy for this long waited reunion and for the joy that I see in my children and in Saeed. Nothing can make me happier than seeing those whom I love be happy and free from the pain that they had been under for the last 3.5 years.

I am so thankful for the thousands of people who have responded to my pleas… and helped work toward Saeed’s release. His imprisonment was unjust, and was an extremely difficult ordeal for him and all of us who sought for his release. I worked tirelessly night and day toward that end for three-and-a-half years. Nothing has made me happier than seeing Saeed freed from his chains and in American soil. Thank you for all of you who stood with us and made this happen.

Tragically, the opposite has occurred. Three months ago Saeed told me things he demanded I must do to promote him in the eyes of the public that I simply could not do any longer. He threatened that if I did not the results would be the end of our marriage and the resulting pain this would bring to our children.

I long more than anyone for reconciliation for our family and to be united as a family. Since Saeed’s freedom I have wanted nothing more than to run to him and welcome him home It is something I dreamed about the last 3.5 years. But unfortunately things did not work out that way and our family has to work through reconciliation. I want our reconciliation to be strictly based on God’s Word. I want us to go through counseling, which must first deal with the abuse. Then we can deal with the changes my husband and I must both make moving forward in the process of healing our marriage.

In very difficult situations sometimes you have to establish boundaries while you work toward healing. I have taken temporary legal action to make sure our children will stay in Idaho until this situation has been resolved. I love my husband, but as some might understand, there are times when love must stop enabling something that has become a growing cancer. We cannot go on the way it has been. I hope and pray our marriage can be healed. I believe in a God who freed Saeed from the worst prisons can hear our plea and bring spiritual freedom.

I love you all. God will see us through. Thank you for your prayers and support. We need them more than ever.

Love

Naghmeh

Please pray for Naghmeh as she walks this difficult path to healing and freedom.  Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).  As Saeed has broken free from the chains of an Iranian prison cell, may Naghmeh break free from the chains of emotional abuse and move forward into living an abundant life with Christ.

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If your marriage is emotionally destructive and you need “to establish boundaries as you work toward healing,” here are some resources:

Immediate Help:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.  Crisis help or to develop a safety plan.
Family Renewal Shelter: 1-253-475-9010 (24-hour crisis line) or 1-888-550-3915 (toll free).  A Christian resource for crisis help and assistance developing a safety plan.
American Association of Christian Counselors

Support Resources:
Document the Abuse: Assists women who fear for their safety in developing an Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit.
Women’s Law: Provides state-specific legal information and resources.
VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday): Allows crime victims to obtain timely and reliable information about criminal cases and the custody status of offenders.
Lighthouse Network: 1-877-562-2565.  Assists individuals and their loved ones in finding effective treatment for drug, alcohol, psychological or emotional struggles, 24/7.

Books:
The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope – Leslie Vernick
Why Does He Do That?  Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men – Lundy Bancroft

Other:
The Emotionally Destructive Marriage:  Free resource page
Self Centered Spouse:  Series of blogs by Brad Hambrick
A Cry for Justice: A blog addressing the needs of the evangelical church to recognize and validate the reality of abuse in the Christian home.
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Destroyed In the Destruction of Addiction

She stumbles onto the clinic floor with eyes glazed and pupils dilated, with hands shaking and body pacing. Words coming out in incoherent sentences as she tries to give the sweetest, elderly lady a haircut. My heart breaks. She’s high again. Heroine wins again and there is nothing I can do. I feel so helpless, so powerless, and so angry. Angry at her, angry at whoever supplied her, and angry at society.

I am no stranger to dealing with addicts. Having been in the entertainment and beauty industries for over ten years, it seems like every artist I know has struggled or is struggling with some form of addiction. We all have family members, friends, or ourselves that struggle with addiction to porn, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, food, caffeine, etc. What never ceases to amaze me is how faithful we are to our addictions, how we sacrifice greatness and ultimate satisfaction on the altar of the immediate. Obviously the root of all of this is sin, but simply saying that is both unsatisfying and unhelpful. There is so much more to addiction than just “sin makes me want to do everything I can apart from God so I choose heroine, sex, porn, food, gambling, gaming, meth, cocaine, pills, weed, alcohol, fill in the blank to fill me and complete me and make me happy.” There is a society full of government, organizations, churches, hospitals,  and people who SUCK.

Yep, I’m being extreme.

In a society where money and trade is everything, we fight a war on the import and export of drugs. It’s fast money. Dangerous but fast. I know a friend of a friend that netted $250,000 in one year selling pot. We see it glorified and idolized in shows like Breaking Bad, where healthcare costs become so high Walter is chooses to cook and sell meth to pay his hospital bills and make sure his wife and kids have savings for life and college if he dies. Because, as a high school science teacher, his salary in the good old USA can’t provide for his medical bills and save for college or emergencies. You find yourself sympathetic with Walter.

For one 30 minute walk-in clinic visit where they took no blood or pee or X-rays I have a $200 bill to pay because I have no insurance. I can’t even begin to imagine the medical bills for someone with chronic/terminal illnesses that need hospitalization or ongoing treatment, let alone addicts that need to be in hospitalized detox and an inpatient rehabilitation centers. Trust me. I’ve looked into it for loved ones. Rehab can cost a whole years salary for some people.  So our government comes up with The Affordable Care Act, a half-hearted, ineffectual band-aid. Healthcare is charity, in that old school King James way. Charity, from charis, love, generosity, devotedness. Not a money-making endeavor.

So addicts, if they are lucky, get put into hospitalized detox and then get bounced to maybe 2-4 weeks of inpatient rehabilitation, and then a life long commitment to attend outpatient rehab? WHAT A JOKE. Most addicts have spent years in their addiction but are expected to be able to function back in a society with drugs available at the touch of a finger and alcohol available everywhere within a month? You need time to replace your addiction and learn to live life in a rhythm and community without your addiction. TIME. Until we as a society start valuing human life instead of work and the mighty dollar no movement is ever going to be made to lifelong change.

Create a therapeutic culture, USA, that glorifies and highly prizes being a whole and healthy person, not how much money can be put into your pockets. We as a society have devalued human beings into machines. Stop glorifying that party lifestyle, Hollywood, to justify your shattered view and treatment of humanity. Stop dealing primarily with the supply side of the War On Drugs, Government, and deal more fully with the demand side. And let each of us support government leaders and organizations that are really trying to affect positive change by valuing human life and the planet we live on.

She vomits in the bushes and is finally asked to leave school. Crying and ashamed she packs her things defeated and hopeless. I pray that I never forget that image. I pray that her tear-stained face and hollow eyes burn so deeply within me that I will do whatever it takes around me to educate, empower, and support. So that the story of being destroyed in the destruction of addiction will end.

May the cycle be broken.