Velcro and Living
Velcro Shoes and Living
My friend Jay wore Velcro shoes every day for five years straight. He assumed he’d never be able to tie his shoes again after a work accident took his right arm five years prior. When he was taken to the hospital, he was unresponsive with no pulse, but by some miracle, he lived.
After the amputation, Jay, a strong man with years of recovery, sat in a chair with a pistol by his side for a month, debating whether he wanted to live or die. Then one day, Jay sensed God say, “I saved your life for a reason.”
So Jay put away the pistol, got up, and decided to live.
It wasn’t an easy road. He struggled with the psychological and emotional ramifications. He had to navigate the social difficulties—knowing that people saw his arm before they saw him. He faced unemployment when potential employers were unable to look past his disability. He dealt with the neurological challenge of trying to open a door with his right hand and the shock that it was no longer possible.
There were countless moments of deep discouragement.
One night, Jay stumbled across a YouTube video of a little girl demonstrating how to tie a pair of shoes. As he watched this girl’s determination, he realized that she only had one arm.
He was again face to face with the choice of moving forward or giving up.
He watched the video over and over and over again, and the next morning, he bought a pair of shoes—this time with laces.
Jay is a survivor. He’s not only survived death and significant emotional and psychological pain, but he’s also survived the slavery of addiction.
Yesterday, Jay pointed out to me that all of us in recovery are survivors: “How many times do we have to pick ourselves back up? Chris, God let us live.”
Jay is a picture of both determination and surrender. He can’t change what has happened. He can’t fix his permanent loss. But he doesn’t have to live within the confines of what could easily be a consuming limitation.
In the same way Jay practiced tying his shoes with one arm over and over and over again, we can practice new recovery behaviors. We don’t start our recovery journey with 10 years of experience and completed step work.
With God’s strength, we can learn a new way of life, realizing we aren’t limited by what we lack or what we wish we had. We can be happy, joyous and free. And we don’t need an ideal past or present in order to experience peace.
We can learn to rely on a Power greater than ourselves. We can learn through honesty, openness and willingness how to live every day in light of the reality that we’ve been spared death. Others may not be able to see past our former addictive behavior, but we don’t have to buy into the shame and fear of outside opinions.
“The only things I’m afraid of,” Jay says smiling, looking at his prosthetic limb, “are woodpeckers and termites.”
Jay has decided to live, despite his addiction and despite what others might consider a deal-breaking limitation. He kept applying for jobs. He kept practicing new ways of living life. And his thinking has changed.
Sometimes it takes our weaknesses to put us on the path to real life, a life that can only be lived as we let go of self-reliance and turn our wills and lives to the care of God.
But we must allow ourselves to be taught. A video of a little girl tying her shoes showed Jay what was possible. In the same way, our friends in recovery show us what’s possible. They, too, had to learn a new way of being and fight the urge to give up.
But we are survivors. We’re alive for a reason.
This truth can shift our thinking away from self-pity and toward a God who is for us.
And even in the midst of struggles, we can practice a new way of life, even if it means learning to tie our shoes.
-Chris Gibson, M.Div