Tuesday, September 12, 2017

LIFE LIBERATED

We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Pay all your debts, except the debt of love for others. You can never finish paying that! If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill all the requirements of God's law.
Romans 13:8, NIV

“Honest men fear neither the light nor the dark.”
- Thomas Fuller, M.D.

Life Liberated

Learning to love ourselves the way that God loves us will give us an ever increasing freedom to live our lives. This freedom to live is not just a freedom from our addictions; it is a fully liberated life that begins on the inside of us and then it moves out into all of the ways that we express ourselves. 

The liberty that God gives is not subject to the limitations and demands that we experience in our day-to-day lives, and while this freedom is bigger than our everyday lives, it does not make us immune to feeling fear when we are faced with uncertainty. God gives the kind of freedom and liberty that empowers and equips us to act with courage even in the face of uncertainty, when we feel fear. And, in the same way, we may feel pain but we can act with kindness even when feeling pain. The gift and responsibility of freedom is most evident when we address the negative consequences we’ve created, and when we make amends to those who have been hurt by the way we’ve lived in the past. When speaking with those to whom we owe amends, we will want to share with them that we recognize that we have had an addiction, that we know that our past actions have been hurtful and that we want to make things right to the best of our ability. Sharing the facts of our addictions and our mistakes in a general way allows us to communicate with others from a standpoint of humility and honesty. We don’t have to share every gory and ugly detail with them. We don’t need to air out all of our dirty laundry either. This is not about the past; it is about the present and about the future. We should only share what will be helpful to them and to others. Being forthright in this way, we begin to establish healthier communication with those that we’ve hurt. It will also help to put them at ease and it will put us in a place where we can more effectively make the amends that we need to make. Sharing in this way will also open the door for others to honestly share their feelings with us. Dialogue must be an honest two-way street. We must be willing to listen – honestly and openly listen -- in order to understand how we have hurt them and what we need to do to help them.

Some amends can and should be made face-to-face. Some can never be made directly. Others will have to be postponed for a better time. We’ll be of little benefit to anyone, if in our attempts to clear our own conscience, we offer ourselves as sacrificial lambs. We should consult with our sponsors and our counselors about situations where we face serious consequences. We never want to run away from the reality of our past mistakes but we also do not want to be shortsighted, disregarding our current relationships or responsibilities in an attempt to be a hero to the past. Our sponsors and counselors helped us to know how to handle each situation. When we face situations where people demand certain answers from us that we do not want to give, we consult with our sponsors and counselors. Sometimes a three-way meeting between us, our victim and our counselors is necessary for things to get going in the right direction. There is rarely a good reason to hurry. It is far better to do recovery well than to do it fast!

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

LIVING LIFE

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry the message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

"Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out." - Galatians 6:1, The Message

“You can’t keep it unless you give it away.” - Alcoholics Anonymous

Living Life

We have good reasons to be proud of our growth, and we should also be proud of those who are growing alongside of us. Not proud in a boastful or self-confident way, but in a way that acknowledges and appreciates the role we have played in our own recovery. We have, after all, been desperate enough and smart enough to partner with God in the building of our new life. With His power and our willingness, we are ready and well equipped to give goodness and love to whomever we encounter. This doesn’t mean that we have fully recovered from our addictions, because we haven’t. We must remember that overconfidence and complacency can set us up, and then we easily become our own greatest downfall. We must never forget how we have been addicted in the past, and we must never think that we cannot be addicted again in the future.

God, in His loving way, will give us our reminders. Every now and then, our brains will make a spontaneous wrong turn and we will once again experience the conflicted impulse and desire of addictive thinking. Every one of us will have our temptations and mental lapses, especially when we are tired or stressed or hurting or afraid. So, let us never forget that we are people who are at risk of relapse. Our challenges start with our thinking, but it is not our first thought that gets us into trouble really. A first wayward thought is nothing more than a temptation and temptation is nothing but a fork in the road. It is a place where we have to make a choice. The real concern is what choice we will make when we’re tempted. What we do with the first thought will make all the difference for us. It’s with our second thought that we choose to continue to walk with God and enjoy the life that He gives, or go the way of sin and relapse, suffering the inevitable consequences that come with sin and relapse.

The only way to ensure our ability to make good choices in times of temptation is with our ongoing spiritual submission to God’s way of living through faith and obedience. He alone has the power to keep us safe from our selfish nature, but He cannot help us unless we obey Him! Sometimes, the temptations will be uncomfortable and other times they may be miserable. So, let us continue to admit that we are powerless over our addictions and that our lives are unmanageable without God’s care and control of our lives. Every time that we feel the urge to go back to our addictions and we don’t, the obsessions and compulsions associated with our addictions will lose some of their power. They will never go away completely, but new attachments for goodness are being made inside of us every moment that we walk with God by doing our recovery work. Ultimately, if we persist, these new good attachments will gain strength over the old bad ones. Increasingly, we will lose interest in our own life compared to the expanding thrill of giving God and His life to others. We’ll want to share the spiritual revolution that God is giving to us with the whole world.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

BECOMING OUR FRIEND

Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins – make a clean break of them – he won’t let us down, he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we've never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God --make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.  I John 1:8-10 The Message

“Tell the truth. It will confound your enemies and astound your friends.” ~ Mark Twain

Becoming our Friend

Jerry does a great job of telling us what it was like for him to get honest and admit what he was really thinking and feeling on the inside. As he became honest with himself, he was better able to get honest with God as well as those who were close to him. Jerry discovered that self-honesty was required for his good intentions to become reality. This simple principle holds true for all of us.

Trust, is a byproduct of honesty. It is essential for all healthy relationships, whether it’s a relationship with someone else or our relationship with ourselves. We all have people in our lives that we don’t trust because they have not been honest with us. When we can’t trust someone, we can’t feel at peace with them, comfortable with them or have a real friendship with them. It’s the same way with ourselves. When we are dishonest with ourselves we won’t feel comfortable, and we won’t be able to be at peace with ourselves. This is why we so often resort to some kind of mood- or mind-altering experience. Knowing this helps us to better understand how our addictions have become entrenched inside of us. We will also better understand why we have felt lonely and isolated for so much of our lives.

In the past, we’ve seen ourselves through a lens of deception and secrets. Now, we throw off the blinders so that we can see ourselves more realistically. By admitting the truth about ourselves to ourselves we become better integrated with the reality of life. The holes inside of us get plugged up and the bleeding stops. The broken pieces of our hearts and minds start to find their right places again. We become ready to receive God’s compassion and care, which will take root in the very places where our personal deceptions have lived. This blows the lid off the box that our addictions have placed us in. Our identity, that we were made in the image of God, finds new life as we become connected with God in this way.

We become the most blessed of all people when we get honest with God and ourselves. We go from being our own worst enemy to being one of our most intimate friends. In purging the dishonesty from our lives, we purge the things that have been destroying us. We will see our future will be good, irrespective of the difficulties that come our way. Our days will be brighter, the sun will be warmer, the breezes of life will be cooler and fresher. We will find that life that is well worth living.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

REVERSING THE PAST

We became entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

I'm single-minded in pursuit of you; don't let me miss the road signs you've posted. I've banked your promises in the vault of my heart so I won't sin myself bankrupt. Be blessed, GOD; train me in your ways of wise living. Psalm 119:10-12 The Message

“When our desire is focused on loving God and others, we will realize our deepest longings for life fulfilled." - A Recovering Alcoholic

Reversing the Past

None of us will ever eliminate our character defects on our own, no matter how hard we try. While it is not possible for us to remove our character defects on our own, we can learn to change the way we think, the way we act and the way we live our lives. Letting go of character defects is never passive. Like everything else we do in recovery, character change requires action. Personal growth and change is a divine interaction between God’s grace and our choices. When we change our actions, we interrupt habitual patterns of thinking, believing and feeling. Motion changes emotion!

If we are willing to change, we will not make the same mistakes time after time. It takes some practice, but with a little commitment and a few failures (which we will want to share with another person), the changes to the way we think, the way we feel and the way we act will begin to come quite quickly. People from religious backgrounds call this repentance and that’s exactly what it is. Grassroots, down and dirty, rubber meets the road repentance. The simplest definition of repentance is to “change one’s mind.” It’s an about face. Turning and going in the other direction. Whatever you call it, it works.

Scripture offers an overwhelming abundance of practical insight and guidance for those of us who are looking for renewal and strength. There are some things that just cannot be said any better than the way Scripture has already said it.

“And so I insist – and God backs me up on this – that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty- headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion. But that’s no life for you! You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything – and I do mean everything – connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life – a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” Ephesians 4:19 - 23 The Message

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