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Isolation. Hiding. Secrets. “In our own heads.” These are familiar concepts to us. There is a sense of comfort in them because we feel the illusion of safety and protection.
But alone. And separate. There is loneliness and desperation in isolation and hiding. We long for connection to God and others because that is how we were designed. Many of us are around families, friends, co-workers, and church members, but still hiding. Hiding in plain sight.
That is the beauty of the 12-step meeting: you start to come out of hiding just by being there; you don’t have to say anything. The other attendees know something about you that your loved ones may not know yet. That can be the first step in breaking the chains of addiction.
Attendance is only the start. As difficult as it may be, there will be a time when you will need to speak. Healthy relationships require communication and this is something you will have to learn. A meeting is a good place because when you...
Sometimes I am amazed at the successful, accomplished men and women in my local 12-step groups. There are physicians, engineers, computer programmers, college professors, musicians, teachers, diesel mechanics, surgery nurses, business owners, and ministers. And those are just the people I can think of off the top of my head.
I don’t know why I am amazed. Maybe I expected a bunch of guys sitting around in trench coats when I first came into the program. I don’t know. While I wasn’t wearing a trench coat back then, the addiction had me feeling like I was down-and-out.
And yet, parts of my life were quite accomplished. I had (and still have) a successful computer programming business for over 20 years. I was basically self-taught and became one of the top experts in my field. I was earning enough for my wife to stay at home and raise and home-school 8 wonderful sons. I was logging thousands of miles on my bicycle every summer. I was teaching hundreds of people in a...
“Hello Mr. Q. I will be over in 30-minutes to take your bandage off.”
My visiting nurse was on the phone. It was June of 2012, just short of a week after open heart surgery. Instead of sewing up my chest with Frankenstein-like stitches like the old days, they used glue to close the incision in my skin and covered it with wide, semi-clear tape, sort of like packing tape.
“Is it going to hurt?” I asked her before she hung up.
“Oh no, it won’t hurt. See you in a half an hour.”
About 30-minutes later, I answered the door, only to see a different nurse. “What happened to my regular nurse?” I asked.
“She got stuck at her last call. I am here to take your bandage off.”
A few minutes later, she had worked her fingers under the top of the bandage and was getting ready to pull it off. “Are you ready?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “Is it going to hurt?”
In my experience, couples counseling is fraught with danger. Often it is just a formality before a breakup or divorce. The counselor is there to be an objective observer that can help us see though the emotional clouds of our conflicts. They will be the one to help us examine and correct our own contributions to the relational problems.
That is the ideal. But what if one partner has already given up on the relationship and is just going through the obligation of counseling? What about the situation where one party wants the relationship to work and proposes counseling—but the other person doesn’t see the need and attends reluctantly?
The natural consequence is that we each seek an ally in the counselor. We want them to help us “straighten out” our partner. Certainly, they are the problem, or at least most of the problem. So we lose the benefit of the counselor’s observations and objectivity and focus on our partner’s part of the blame.
“Why are you here?”
“I have a problem with [fill in the blank] and my spouse found out. I don’t want to lose my marriage.”
We can be thankful for “getting caught” if that is the beginning of recovery and freedom. Many of us actually wanted to get caught because we were tired of hiding and living a double life. Some of us were so burdened with our secrets that we confessed before getting caught.
But there is a subtle danger here. Getting sober for someone else is not going to lead to lasting change. Doing it for that reason is going to lead to disappointment because your focus is on the consequences of the behaviors and not their root causes.
Not only that, you have another problem on your hands. While the discovery has given you a temporary sense of relief, your spouse has been traumatized by the betrayal and deceit you have inflicted on them. You are relieved while their world has been turned upside down.
There is another potential trap:...
Earlier this year, I got on the roof of my house to install brackets for an awning. When I was up there, I noticed that the asphalt caps on my roof were cracked and decayed. Months have passed since I looked at them so I am not sure of their current condition. But one thing I am sure of: the condition of the shingles hasn't improved.
Entropy is a fixed law of nature. When things are left alone, they break down and decay. It's true of things in nature and our physical bodies. It takes energy and effort to maintain or improve them. Our non-material lives are no different; without work, they don't improve, they decay. Things left alone won't be better tomorrow. They will be worse.
You may be facing an uncertain future. Perhaps you have been caught in your addictive behavior and suddenly realize that your life has become unmanageable. You have awakened to the fact that meaningful relationships are on the verge of breaking up. Or maybe you have confessed to your spouse and feel that a...
If you are an addict, you need help. If you are an addict, you think you can do it all on your own without help. That is a big part of the problem. You may recognize that you need God's help and earnestly ask Him for it. But then you want Him to answer on your terms and with your preferred method. "Please heal me directly, in private, and without any human intervention." That is a prayer or wish that is not likely to be answered.
If you break your arm, you can pray for healing and God can certainly heal you directly. In the meantime, head to the hospital and let a doctor set the bone and put a cast on.
The truth is that God uses means, especially people, to heal us and provide for our needs. I can remember praying for rent money as a young believer and receiving a belated birthday card from my grandmother. It took me awhile to see the correlation between my prayer and the check from grandma that covered my need. I guess I expected a more "divine" answer like an angel showing up with...
Recovery is a process not an "event." Growth doesn't happen, it is happening. We have gotten so used to the acting out cycle of thrill then disappointment, creativity then shame that the new paradigm of recovery is difficult to adapt to.
We want sobriety and recovery to be a quick fix: get in, find the magic cure, and then get out. We crave fast food and not a healthy, slow-cooked meal. But it's time to put away the thrill-seeking and false comfort and instead seek for clarity, understanding, and wisdom. These are the things that last and bring growth and healing.
The good things come slowly and deliberately. We have to actively seek them with the same energy that we sought our drug. We can't expect instant gratification because there are years of negative patterns and chemical connections that have to be transformed. Renewing of the mind takes time but it will happen. "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."
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...
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.
What really happened on my part? I surrendered. I gave up. I couldn’t save myself...
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