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Grief and Addiction: Our Story: Ron and Nan Deal

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
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December 1, 2022 3:00 am

Grief and Addiction: Our Story: Ron and Nan Deal

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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December 1, 2022 3:00 am

Ron & Nan Deal began marriage with issues that spiraled after the loss of their 12-year-old. Hear their story of grief, addiction, & the road to hope.

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Regeneration Recovery: Get Help Now with the Same 12 Step Program Nan Used

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I would look at myself in the mirror and say, you're a mess. I would just think about what's happened to you. Who are you? I know my heart is as black as coal. I know it's as hard as a stone, God. I don't even know if you would take me back at this point or if you could even create a clean heart in me.

I have no clue. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson.

And I'm Dave Wilson. And you can find us at or on the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. So I think every marriage carries quiet, silent hurts. And disappointment. Yeah. I mean, we don't always talk about them, but I know I was disappointed and I carried around hurt that I never verbalized.

I had no idea. I actually thought you were good because I'm such an amazing husband that you're carrying around for decades hurts. Just wounds from the past, not feeling worthy and not realizing because we get so busy in our marriages and our lives and many of us are parents or we have blended families and we're just trying to get through the day, not realizing some of those disappointments, pain, and hurts are being hidden or pushed down and they're affecting every part of our lives. And when they come out, it can go one of two ways.

It can split the marriage up or it can bring a bond that's deeper than it ever would have gotten to if it was always hidden. But it's hard to get there. Yeah. And so we're going to jump back in with Ron and Nan Deal with their story that we began yesterday. But again, I'll say welcome back.

Thank you. It's always good to be here. It's good to be here. I mean, you guys went places yesterday. I think our listeners, I mean, we ended. We're like, well, we're not even, I don't know how far were we? Halfway?

Not even halfway through your story. But if you didn't hear it, please go back and hear the beginning because you want to hear the whole thing. You guys, we love your honesty. Thank you for sharing this.

I think we all need to hear it because we're all living in places that it hasn't been easy and in the church sometimes we don't always say that. Right. Yeah.

I mean, Ron, you're known as the director of Family Life Blended. That means I'm perfect. That means you're perfect. We all have you in a pedestal. Perfect marriage. In some ways, that's what people think, even though you never said that as I pastored.

And we, I mean, I would always be amazed. People come up to me and say, we want your marriage. I'm like, do you not listen to what we say? Oh, it is telling you the problems. But because there's a mic or because you're on stage or you wrote a book, people think, well, your marriage has struggles, but nothing like ours. Now, yours was really struggling.

Again, I'd say, listen to yesterday. Okay, so here we are. I'm guessing. You're married.

I don't know how many years. You've got three boys. You're living sort of separate lives. I mean, Ron's killing it in ministry, Nan, you're at home stuffing away and feeling unseen. And yet you still love one another. We do.

But you are angry, Nan. And I think there were seasons where Ron would really try. I would go to some conference or I would be in some Bible study. I think I tried to break free at least six times. Break free of? In a Bible study. Yeah. You know, doing this Bible study called Breaking Free or Finding Freedom.

Oh, Neil Anderson stuff. You know, just trying so hard and leading in some ministries myself, you know, in children's ministry or VBS or what have you. And I would really think, okay, I want to do better.

I want to be better for him. And I'd always get back into that same rut. Like I said, we had this ugly dance.

Yeah. And likewise, I felt convicted doing the work that I was doing, constantly looking at myself going, okay, I need to alter this, change this. And I would say, you know, first 10 years I was really blind to me. The next five years I was, oh, wow, I got work to do. I need to start recognizing some things that I've come out of my family with. Why do I think that?

Where's that coming from? Like doing a lot of self-analysis. But we never really kind of put all the pieces together. And I don't think I ever really owned my pride and just how much I was driven and how that became, you know, the other woman, so to speak, was my work and my drive. We moved to Amarillo and same thing, going and blowing, even harder.

Then we had financial demands, so I felt like I had to travel, work harder. And the boys are on the cusp of preteen, and I remember going to another one of those conferences, a ladies' conference, and feeling convicted to say something to him again. And maybe he'll hear me this time, Ron, this is too much. This is off the chain.

We're here. And I'd always get that, I'm doing this for God. What do you mean? But this weekend was different. I had packed a bag and I waited until the boys were asleep. And I said, it's you or me, buddy.

It's you or me. I'm not doing this anymore. And he fell to his knees and said, I'll do whatever it takes. How old were your kids at that point?

Eight, 10, and 12. So he calls a friend, Terry, in town, but he's got a two-year waiting list. And I said, I don't care, you or me. So he calls him and the next day we're in his office. That is God's grace and mercy. We're evidences of God's grace over and over. And that was one of those moments.

Because this is two years before our son passes away. And so we go in and that first session I looked at Ron and I looked at Terry and because Ron picked him out and I said, okay, we're going to go in here, but no funny business between the two of you, layman's terms, layman's terms. And it was a beautiful thing because Terry nailed Ron's patootie to the wall during that first session.

It was so beautiful to watch. What did he say? What do you mean by that? What happened? May I tell that?

Please do. We walked in the first session and Nan started talking and for 20 minutes talked about how lonely she was. He allowed me to go first, which was so kind. She laid it out.

I sat and listened and even then in my head I was doing the yeah but, the yeah but defensiveness that I'm so good at. Terry just looked at her and did a simple little reflective statement. Number one, he pinpointed what we talked about yesterday, Nan's deepest bruise, abandonment. And number two, he showed me how arrogant I was. He just simply said, so Nan, what you're telling me is the reason Ron threw you under the bus, abandonment, is because God told him to.

And instantly I was cut to the heart because I knew in that moment God would never tell me to do that. But that's what I've been claiming. That's what I've been falling back on. And I am really wrong. I don't even begin to know how I've got to wrestle with this whole thing. And that led me down a road of studying pride and humility, which is something we still talk about every single day of our lives. And I was deeply convicted.

I had no idea where to go at that moment. And you cried that session hard. And I had been so hurt that you would think that that would have melted my heart. And I just sat there and in my pride thought, good, now you're getting yours. Finally.

Finally. But that was the beginning of Ron's humbling. Did you apologize, Ron? Oh yeah, over and over and over again. But you know, even, I mean, fast forward another 15, 20 years from that moment and I still apologize. Like I still am finding those parts of me.

I think we both are. That I'm like, oh man, there it is again. Like, you know, it's not over. This journey's not over.

God's still sanctifying us. But I mean, the story isn't, okay, that one session did it. Well, it was a healing moment and it began to turn a corner. But we still had trust issues. We still had hurt and anger and resentment and a lot. Terry worked with us and he looked me straight in the eye and said, man, this brokenness, this woundedness, this family of origin, these wounds that you have. Because one day I said, you know, I hate that passage in Psalm 139 for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. You knit me together in my mother's womb. I said, okay, I got the wrong womb. I wanted Mrs. Burns.

I mean, why did God choose that one? I've been trying to scrape this whole deal off for my whole life. And Terry said, if you would allow God to heal that, it will be the most beautiful part of you. And I sat there and I said, what are you saying?

I don't understand what you're saying. And then two years later, our son Connor passes away. The bottom drops out and I've never felt more abandoned in my life.

By God. So I've got a truckload. I mean, I really feel like it was a straw that broke the camel's back for me. And it was a truckload of abandonment on abandonment on abandonment.

And I mean, we did everything right. This is the son that I'm connected to. This is our life here. I'd never known such pain. I'd never known such anguish. I've never known such heartache and I didn't know how to do it. So you went from my family's abandoned me, my husband's abandoned me, but now God has abandoned me. And you've taken something so sacred, something that I was really good at and something that brought me so much joy. And I would cry out to him and I'd hear nothing.

I'd feel nothing. There were times when I wanted to take my life. You know, it's just one of those heartaches like none other. And at the beginning, we grieved together. We were thrust together. And for four years, we were just like together.

And it was like, I felt like I had in some ways gotten my husband back. Yeah, and I want to add, think about the significance of that in hindsight. We were reeling from the loss of our 12-year-old son and the gap between us had been closing. But now out of pure survival, it had to close.

It had to just completely close. And everything else in the world stopped mattering. We talk about how grief recalibrates you. And it's like, so all the things that we kind of selfishly pursued in the world, all of a sudden seemed stupid and dumb at that point in time.

And other people were dumb because they're worried about their little flat tire. Well, that's not a problem. You want to talk about problems?

We can talk about problems. And so it sort of like pushed everything in the world away from us and thrust us together. And for four years, we grieved together. We were saying the same things. We were feeling the same things. I mean, I would say something very angry and upset.

And he'd go, yeah, me too. And I'm like, really? I didn't know you could feel that way. And I just felt like I had a partner in this. But I also need to say that we'd had some very well-intentioned friends that had left alcohol in our home after the funeral and said, hey, if you ever need to just take the edge off, we left you something. We weren't teetotalers, but maybe be an anniversary or a birthday, but in one glass. But it wasn't a regular thing for us. But what started out as, okay, I think that might help. I want to try that because the pain was so intense. And prescription medication to help sleep, help the anxiety, help the depression became a full-blown addiction for me and an abuse of all of those substances.

So what started out very innocent was a 12-year numbing problem for me. Ron, did you have any idea? Yes and no. Yes, I knew she would have a glass of wine before going to bed at night. No, I didn't know. After I went to sleep, she'd get up and have three more. He didn't know the extent of all the medication I was taking on top of that. And we didn't know. Neither one of us knew the drug interaction between the alcohol and the prescription meds, and that was a really toxic sort of thing.

I mean, if anybody that has dealt with substance abuse knows, once you do a certain amount, you have to up the ante because once you get to a certain level, the tolerance is there. And unbeknownst to me, I didn't know that alcohol and these prescription drugs and other things that I was trying to take to sleep was causing that vicious cycle of you can't sleep. Your anxiety is worse.

Your depression is worse. And honestly, after four years, our grief journeys took a turn. And Ron went another way, and I was still ruminating and circling in my grief and angry.

And there was a day, one day, when Ron just said, you know, babe. I don't know what to do. Yeah, I don't know what to do with this.

I don't know. You keep going. You've got to not keep doing this. And I heard. You're doing it wrong.

You're doing it wrong. Which is what I said to her for years and years and years early. So it sounded very much like the exact same thing.

And let me run this by you. And I think how our grief separated was, I don't know, this seems a little simplistic, but I was trying to figure out how to move toward God. Yes, you were. After year five or so in the grief and sadness, and you were resentful and angry and felt abandoned by Him. And so He was unsafe, so why move toward Him?

Right. And so that just inherently put us in very different places, where we kept trying to close that gap and love on each other and serve each other well. There became antagonisms in the midst of that and challenges.

And then the escalation of behavior. Frank, he took the job here, which was a huge platform, a big stage. Everybody loved him. He's the expert.

And my, don't wake that dragon. Because, you know, Terry had kind of calmed that down. And I started to see Ron change. And then he was at my side at a very heartbreaking time. And then it's, you're not doing grief right.

And I've got a platform and everybody in this building loves me. And let me just tell you, it got ugly. The drinking got worse and the bitterness and the anger. And really, I had my hand up to God. I didn't want to hear scripture. I didn't want to hear songs. I didn't. I closed myself off to everything that had any light in it.

And I believe that's the season when the enemy took a foothold, not just a foothold. He took up residency. Because anything Ron said, anything that was done inside of me, I am just angry. Tell me what was going on in your head. Like, what were the thoughts that would come to your head?

If only you all knew. What he had done, what he was capable of. What he's capable of, how he's hurt me. And what were the thoughts that you were feeling about yourself? You're a mess.

I mean, there are a couple of times that I tried to quit and I had so much withdrawal. I thought, okay, great, Nan. Your husband's got this huge platform, this big ministry. He's this, I mean, everyone loves him and you're going to have to go to rehab. You'll ruin his career.

You'll ruin his name. And ironically, I just have to add, you know, earlier in our marriage, I would have been so angry and devastated about that because it would have reflected negatively on me, I think. That's the way I graded myself, right? But ironically, at this season of our marriage, I could care less. I wasn't worried about any of that. And yet, we couldn't come together around what was needed. Did you know it didn't matter to him at that point? No. Because you kept it quiet.

Right. And you know, my boys, I'm empty-ness. I've got one that's moved off and one that's college. And you know, if he did travel, I'm at home with the dog and I can drink as much as I want or I can just numb. Totally hiding. Totally hiding.

Totally hiding. And I would look at myself in the mirror and say, you're a mess. You either need a mental hospital, you need rehab. I would just think about what's happened to you.

Who are you? And it was about 2019 when I was white-knuckling it to work and I was just like, I know my heart is as black as coal. I know it's as hard as the stone, God. I don't even know if you would take me back at this point or if you could even create a clean heart in me.

I have no clue. I was spiraling in 2019. It got ugly. And you know, it's just the amount that I was drinking and taking was awful and I wasn't eating a whole lot and I know I just wasn't. I just felt like I was just a toxic mess.

And no, there were times when I wanted to say something to Ron but I just didn't even know. I felt so ashamed. I hated myself. I hated myself for thinking those things, saying those things in my head, ruminating over those things and it's like I couldn't unhook from the pain and I felt it 24-7 of the grief and the loss, the abandonment. I mean, I felt like I had made a mess of my life.

And I didn't know how to stop and I tried a couple of times and I didn't know how to stop and I didn't know who to turn to for help. On my side, I was wrestling constantly with how do I love her, how do I serve her, what can I do and I don't want to be near this person. I don't like her at all. I could feel that. I loved her.

I've told her I never stopped loving her, even in the worst of those moments, but I didn't like her and I didn't know what to do. You didn't know there was an addiction? No, I didn't know there was that drug interaction thing that was going on that was, I just knew she wasn't sleeping well and memory loss. There were things she was doing that she didn't have conscious awareness of because of the drug interaction.

And so neither one of us were really keen to all that was going on below the surface in this period of time. And then something great happened. COVID. COVID.

COVID. Ron goes on a five-day trip. He prefaced, which I took it wrong, of course. He prefaced, hey, I'm going on this five-day trip.

I've got this, this and this. I'm not going to be very much available to you. And that was me trying to serve her and let her know what was coming because- And all I hear is, so, hey, I'm not going to be available because I got to serve all these other people. And you're not as important. And that day he leaves, I get sent home from school and I'm good at what I do.

And I love teaching and I'm really good at what I do. And I get sent home. And when Ron travels, I get all of my dinners set up and I get all of my people lined up so that I'm not alone because Nan can't be alone with herself because she can't trust herself. And everybody's canceling on me because of this COVID thing. Oh, I can't come to dinner. No, I can't come this weekend. My sister can't come. A friend can't come. And I am left alone.

And he's unavailable. And I go on the biggest bender. I am bottoming out. He calls me at one point on one night and we get about five minutes while I'm in between things. And I put a hole in the wall that night.

And like he alluded to earlier, there were things that I was taking and amounts that I was drinking that would cause me to not remember certain things that I would do. So I'm calling him multiple times, leaving messages, calling him over and over and over as he's trying, like 51 times at one point. I'm calling my boys. I'm threatening to hurt myself. I'm getting a call from one of our sons saying, Mom, you're scaring me to death. My daughter-in-law's saying, You need to go up there and take care of your mom. And I'm totally unaware of all of it. And then I wake up that Sunday morning and the boys are calling me and I totally have tortured my family all weekend long.

And Ron comes home from that trip. And the look he gave me was... I don't know who you are. And I thought it was over. And I knew myself it was over. I just didn't know what to do. I was just at the bottom.

I was at the bottom. You're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Ron and Nan Deal on family life today. When life seems almost unbearable, I can feel like what Nan was saying.

I have no idea what to do. Well, we want to live with honesty in those impossible times, but we also want to have hope. And David Robbins, the president of family life, and Meg Robbins want to help steer us toward that hope and how we can help other people find that hope as well.

Let's hear their thoughts. You know, Meg and I both know that some of the best learning times have occurred while the fires of life are raging. It's so true. And when things are getting harder and harder and it begins to feel impossible, oddly enough, those are the memories we end up cherishing the most.

It's so crazy. But here's the thing. In those tough days, God was faithful and we love Him for it. And make no mistake. He is faithful to you too, even when the heat feels unbearable.

And the reality is right now, there are men and women, husbands and wives, moms and dads who do not know His faithfulness. When you give right now, your gift will stretch twice as far to these families. And here's the best part. God will use your gift to speak into the life of someone who's feeling the heat in the crucible right now and trying to crawl out.

Yeah, crawling out can feel impossible. And it's amazing that something as simple as giving can tangibly aid that person who's hurting out of the crucible and into the hope of the gospel. And you could partner with us right now by giving to Family Life. And when you do, your gift will be matched dollar for dollar up to $2 million. You can give today at or you can also give us a call at 800-358-6329. That's 800 F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today.

You know, diving deep can hurt, but it could also be healing. And you can dive deeper on this topic with Ron and Nan by joining them on Valentine's week for Family Life's Empowered to Love Beach Resort Getaway in Sandest and Florida. It's happening from February 13th through the 17th next year in 2023. Head over to for more details.

So you might be wondering, where is God in your grief and your dark past? Well, tomorrow on Family Life Today, Dave and Ann Wilson will finish their time with Ron and Nan Diehl. They're gonna share their story about how God answered them more clearly than they ever thought was possible. That's tomorrow. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-01 09:54:50 / 2022-12-01 10:05:49 / 11

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