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Recovery Hack - Write About the Future

When working the steps in 12-Step programs, we do a lot of writing. The first step requires us to write about our sordid past (and often current) behaviors in order to drive home the concept of powerlessness. Step 4 requires a written inventory of our past and current resentments and character defects so we can surrender them to God. In step 8, we make a list of all of the people we have harmed—and that can require a lot of writing—to prepare to make amends to them.

These are very valuable exercises with great outcomes, but it occurred to me that not much writing is done about the future. What are my desired outcomes and what kind of a person do I want to be? I know where I have been, where I am now, but where am I going? Where do I want to go? Who do I want to become?

I am particularly concerned about this because I am aware of the stalled progress I sometimes see in my 12-Step program. There are people with decades of recovery that still seem to be stuck and give the...

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Identity - Part 2

In Identity - Part 1, I talked about the importance of “I am” statements and how they relate to personal identity and behavior. I have given a lot of thought to my own identity and what is really true about me.

For me as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, it has to start with my identity in Christ and how God sees me. If you aren’t born again spiritually, this approach may not make sense to you, and I suggest that you read the posts on salvation.

Most of these are personalizations of scriptural statements that I have written in my journal. Because of the power of “I am” statements, I have tried to phrase them that way. The idea isn’t necessarily for you to take my statements as your own, but just to give you an example of what I see as my true identity. However, these things are as true for any believer as they are for me.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in...

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Step Four: The Moral Inventory

Step 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

The picture is painful. The homeowner and insurance adjuster walking around a tornado-ravaged home, assessing the damage and loss. The insurance man has done this before and feels sympathy for the homeowner, but he doesn’t know the extent of the loss and damage because much of the debris has been scattered for miles. But he can be an expert and gentle guide in making an inventory of what was lost and damaged.

We recovering addicts have to do the same thing: take a thorough inventory of ourselves.

This is the step where we go below the symptoms—the actions of the addiction—and look at what drives and feeds the addiction. This is the dirty, painful step, where we look at things like selfishness, pride, anger, bitterness, lying, and deceit. Then there are the more subtle things that we hide behind: denial, blaming, and rationalization. There is the realization that we have sinned against a holy God...

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Step Three: Surrender

Step 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

I stood in the parking lot of our local community college over 35 years ago, listening to a preacher gently urging me to receive Jesus Christ as my Savior. Life was good at the time: I was doing well in school, I had stopped using alcohol and drugs, and I was engaged to a beautiful, loving woman. But there was unrest in my soul that I knew was deeper than circumstances and human relationships. And what this radiant believer was telling me was being met with agreement deep in my soul: yes, I was a sinner; yes, I deserved judgment and punishment for my sins; and no, I did not want to die and go to hell. And most important, Jesus Christ had died to pay for my sins, not just the sins of the whole world. So there on April 6, 1984, I repented and received Him as my Savior and was born again.

Surrender

What really happened on my part? I surrendered. I gave up. I couldn’t save myself...

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Step Two: God’s Power

Step 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

For most Christians, this is the “no brainer” step: of course there is a Power greater than me and His name is Jesus Christ, not “higher power.” But this is not the place to get hung up and bail out because of terminology. Believe me, the whole Higher Power thing rubbed me raw at first. I was even told by a member that I was being “divisive” by referring to Jesus Christ as my higher power. Then I realized that knowing Jesus and His name hadn’t helped me stay sober. My Bible knowledge and doctrinal purity had not kept me from continually ending up in a ditch. I decided to stick around the 12-step world and give it a try.

I actually think that the last part of the step became more important to me: “restore [me] to sanity.” I mean, what was more insane than the way I was living? I had a beautiful wife, great children, a church that I was involved...

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Step One: Powerlessness

Step 1. We admitted that we were powerless over lust—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Powerlessness. It can be a dreadful word because our experience tells us that it is true. We have tried again and again to stop lusting and acting out, but we haven’t been able to. As believers, it can be more frustrating because we should have the power of God to help us overcome lust. But why don’t we stop?

Powerlessness is a biblical concept as seen in Romans 7:

For that which I do, I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I (Romans 7:15).

The writer here is basically expressing powerlessness; he does things he doesn’t want to do and even does things that he hates. Sound familiar? He repeats himself in verse 19, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”

Some say that this chapter represents a lost man before salvation, but based on the verb tenses and its position in Romans, there is...

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