Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Source of Our Strength

We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for. I John 5:14,15, NLT

A great turning point in our lives came when we sought for humility as something we really wanted, rather than as something we must have. It marked the time when we could commence to see the full implication of Step Seven. - Alcoholics Anonymous, page 75, AA 12 & 12

The Source of Our Strength

We have, albeit unintentionally, created the problems that we have in our character. Now we are asking God, with as much humility as possible, to resolve the problems that stand in the way of us experiencing all that God has for us. Before, we had spent much of our lives and energy attempting to overcome what we could never overcome in our own power. But today, as we surrender our lives to God and humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings, we discover a strength that is unlike anything that we have ever encountered before. Only in God, and through the help of others, will we receive the strength and the endurance to continuously let go of our character defects and our addictions.

Nothing in our recovery work is magical or unreal. We will forever be human and prone to all of our human inadequacies. As much as we may wish it to be different, not all of our character defects will be removed from us. The work that God is doing in our hearts and minds will be part of His overall purposes. So, we will help ourselves the most when we accept the consequences that we have created for ourselves without complaint so that we can enjoy the benefit of lessons learned once and for all.

There will be times when we try to get rid of our character defects and fail, sometimes repeatedly. We will inevitably find ourselves in situations where we have to choose between trusting God amidst our repeated attempts of trying and failing, and the certain penalty of failing to try, which is in and of itself a failure to trust God. What we choose to do with failure is perhaps the most profound indicator of who we are and who we will become. Failure with effort can be a frustrating setback. The setbacks and disappointments create the sad feeling inside of us that we may never overcome our problems. This is where we will need help from our friends in recovery and from God himself. We will have our setbacks. We will try and fail sometimes. But, let us stay honest and let us stay motivated because our own fatal failure is giving up. Failure to try is suicide. It is here, in our failures and setbacks, that we learn to keep turning to God, time after time, and in so doing we learn to experience Him to be our Source, our Strength and our Joy.

Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Seven Segment Five
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Monday, June 28, 2010

Emotional Triggers

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

You're blessed when you get your inside world--your mind and heart--put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
Matthew 5:8 The Message


No matter what we do or where we hide, we can’t escape our essential design. We long to be free of shame’s restraints, immersed in the passion of giving and receiving. We long to live a sacrificial life that matters today and tomorrow.-- Dan Allender Ph D

Emotional Triggers

It is a good idea for us to review our Step Four inventory along with our sponsor or counselor. When doing this review with an open mind and heart, we can begin to see how difficult emotions can be triggers for our addictions. While emotions can be our triggers, our character defects are the building blocks of addiction, and our self-centeredness is the cement which holds our addictive nature together. We will never find the freedom to recover and live well until we remove all of these addictive components from within us.

In reviewing our inventory, we can see how our character defects began innocently when we were children. They were our means of survival. We learned to manipulate to get our needs met. We lied to protect ourselves. We hid our emotions to avoid embarrassment and shame. We rationalized things in order to escape ugly realities that were too much for us to bear alone. Our character defects are really ineffective tools for coping and control. They are our methods of minimizing pain and diffusing threats that we see coming our way. Without realizing it, our character defects have become a kind of strategy to care for ourselves when are afraid that no one else will.

We may feel afraid when we think of losing our defective coping mechanisms. After all, we have, at least to some degree, subconsciously thought that our character defects were important for us to survive. Thinking this way, we will subconsciously mourn the thought of having our character defects removed from us. Because letting go of our character defects can be painful, it is important that we lean on those who have been working at recovery longer than we have. Those who have more experience will understand our pain and fear. Fearing the loss of a coping mechanism is understandable, but it is essential for us to grieve these losses without complaint so that we can effectively move on down the path of recovery.

Exercising courage makes it possible to learn new and healthy ways to live our lives without resorting to the addictions that we have relied on in the past. With courage, we trade our destructive emotions and addictions for the simple gift of gratitude. Gratitude posts a guard at the door of our hearts, which is to be accessed only by God and those whom He allows. Gratitude will help us to be thankful for life as it is, not how we wish it or expect it to be. Today and every day, we stand at a crossroad. But we don’t stand alone. Our recovery fellowship stands with us. Even better, the Source of all power, God, has joined the battle for us to live a new way, to become new people, to be free.

Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Six Segment Five
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Friday, June 25, 2010

Being the Real Deal

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

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, I will confess my rebellion to the Lord. And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Psalm 32:5

We hide what we know or feel ourselves to be (which we assume to be unacceptable and unlovable) behind some kind of appearance which we hope will be more pleasing. We hide behind pretty faces which we put on for the benefit of our public. And in time we may even come to forget that we are hiding, and think that our assumed pretty faces is what we really look like. - Simon Tugwell

Being the Real Deal

Honesty is the best investment that we can make in our recovery. No one can do this for us. We have to do it for ourselves. When we invest ourselves, honestly, it will always pay off for us in very, very good ways. We will discover an authentic goodness about ourselves that we never knew existed. We will find an inner confidence that is unlike anything we have ever known before.

Most of us, like our friend Marie, have gone through our lives attempting to solve problems that were not ours to solve. Focusing on other people’s problems keeps us from facing the reality of our own lives. It’s been this kind of avoidance that has kept us from experiencing the happy, joyous and free life that God has to give. Marie’s growing honesty, while still in progress, gives us a wonderful picture of how we can, like Marie, make peace with ourselves by accepting the reality of our failures and shortcomings and then openly and honestly sharing them with God and another person. By recognizing and admitting the painful reality of her splintered heart, Marie was able to find the quality of life and personal relationships that she had been searching for all of her life. This kind of openness and honesty transforms our perspectives. It changes how we think and feel about God, ourselves and other people. It breaks down the walls of isolation. Having the experience of being heard, observed, known, included, loved and embraced, in spite of our addictions, sins and mistakes, radically changes everything about us. When we receive the power of love that someone else gives to us through their listening ear, compassion and understanding soak into us deeply. The poison of self-hatred and condemnation get washed away.

Like Marie, we need to recognize and admit the ways that we have been trying to control our lives by manipulating others. We need to admit how we have been selfish, even when we have hidden it within religious practice or good appearances. The masks we wear will suffocate us. Without honest confession, we will begin to believe our own deceptions. We will begin to think that we really are the actors and pretenders that we have portrayed ourselves to be. On the other hand, getting honest with another person is the foundation of healthy, trusting relationships. If we don’t do this, we will have no one to trust but ourselves and we will make ourselves a prisoner of our own fear and deceit. We’ll become all the more alone. Inevitably, we will become more foolish and less capable of making solid decisions for our lives. We will want relief from our pain, but we won’t have it because we are unwilling to open ourselves up to God and get honest with others. To not be open and to not share ourselves honestly puts us in the horrible position of being our greatest abuser and our greatest victim, as well.

If we are not willing to share all that we are with God and another person, we will not move toward wholeness and integrity. Establishing a trusting relationship with God and another person creates an environment where spiritual and emotional wholeness will flourish inside of us. In Scripture God says that we are all sinners and that we are all loved by Him. God also says that we can all be saved by the grace He showed us in the life of Jesus Christ. All that God requires of us is that we become honest about our sinful condition and honestly ask for his help.

If we think or claim anything more than this, be it good or bad, we will deceive ourselves. If we deceive ourselves we will never enjoy the life that God has to give to us. God gives real life to real people. If we want to have the real life that God has to give us, we will have to get real ourselves.

Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Five Segment Five
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Seeing the Big Picture

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

… First! Wash the inside of the cup, and then the outside will become clean, too. Matthew 23:26 NLT

I am not good, only God is good. However, as I get to know God better, I am being made better. --Anonymous

Seeing the Big Picture

It is vitally important that we recognize all of the possible ways that addiction has become part of our lives. Tragically, many people begin their recovery journey only to become derailed by other addictions that they didn’t recognize and address. Addiction, most often thought of as related to alcohol, food, drugs, sex, and gambling, is most accurately thought of as any kind of destructive dependency. Addiction is almost limitless in the way that it can destroy our lives.

Today, it is becoming ever more common for treatment centers to diagnose their patients with co-occurring addictions that parallel and commingle with the originally identified addiction. For the sake of our recovery, it is important for us to evaluate all aspects of our addictions(s), the best we can. If we don’t, our most pronounced addiction cannot be healed.

The list of common addictions includes:

• Mind and mood-altering substances like alcohol, nicotine and other drugs
• A burdening need to work, achieve or succeed
• Overspending, gambling, or hoarding money
• An unhealthy view of sex, craving pornography and/or romantic relationships
• Approval seeking and having unhealthy dependencies on family and other people
• Unbalanced desire for exercise, the need to look good or pursuing unnecessary medical procedures
• Addictions related to food and/or the aversion to food
• Unhealthy view of religion, and/or over emphasis on religious practice that reduces the intimacy of personal spirituality

Honestly addressing all of our addictions helps us become more open to God. Exercising the humility to recognize and admit our most subtle addictions enables us to experience courage like we have never experienced it before. In this way, God will make it possible for all of our addictions to be transformed into healthy and powerful assets. With this in mind, let us not blind ourselves to any of our addictions. Whatever addiction we ignore can potentially reignite our most powerful addictions and this can bring great harm to our lives and to the lives of our loved ones.

Things to Think About

• How would you describe your most profound addiction?
• Write down some of the various ways that you have been triggered to act out in your primary addiction?
• What are some of the social environments that tempt you to act out?
• Who are some of the people who tempt you to act out?
• What are some of the things that you do under the influence of your addiction that you would not otherwise do?
• What foods do you crave when you are sad, lonely or tired?
• Name some things that you have done while acting out that you would not had previously thought you would never do.
• When you think about your addiction, what are some of the other things you crave that you know are not right for you?
• How have you “accidentally” found yourself acting out in your addiction when you just meant to have some fun in another way?

Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Four Segment Five
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

God As We Understood Him

We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave His Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. John 3:16-18 The Message

God, I offer myself to Thee, to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of Life. May I do Thy will always! Amen
Third Step prayer from Alcoholics Anonymous


God As We Understood Him

I am not God and neither are you. We must fully accept this simple fact if we are to ever have an effective and workable understanding of God.

As children, seemingly from birth that is, we tend to think that everyone and everything around us is connected to us. As we grow up a little we come to realize that we are separate from the world and only part of a larger context, but we still tend to think of the world in relationship to ourselves. It’s like we are the center of our own universe. We feel good when the ”world,” the people, the places and the things around us, give us what we think we need. But when the “world” doesn’t cooperate we tend to feel bad and then we try to change the “world” so that we can feel better. This has never worked for any of us. No matter how hard we’ve tried, we cannot control the people, the places, or the things around us all of the time. Because we believed that it was so important for us to be in control of our world, and because we invariably failed to control this world of ours, we could never provide any sense of security or well being for ourselves. No matter how hard we tried, we could not do what only God can do.

No matter how good or bad we feel, or what degree of success or failure we experience, one thing is for sure: things are going to change. God is the only constant. He is The Only Reality. The lives that we know are only temporary. The only way that we will ever experience any relevance or permanence in our life is through a relationship with God. As we understand that no one is God but God, we can begin to experience life in a way that not only transcends our addictions but all of our other failures and shortcomings, too. This is because our life, including all of our addictions and failures, becomes lost into the life that God will give to us. We’ll no longer be the center of our world. That job belongs to God and no one else.

When we really think about it, understanding God is a contradiction in terms. He is beyond our comprehension, after all. But, because of the way God made us, our hearts can know what our minds cannot. God, who is the ultimate above and beyond and more than us - actually, through the working of his Spirit - meets us within us, in our spirit that is. As God comes from the outside of us, and works within us we receive on the inside of us what it was that we needed in order to move up and beyond the addictions that have kept us down for so long. In short, God is the complete other than and more than what we can do in our own efforts. God will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

In our addictions, we had become attached to things in ways that are destructive for us. When we rely on our attachments (whatever they are) to make us feel okay, we expect more from them than they can ever really give to us. God, however, is the perfect attachment because He is not addictive in any way. While the attachments that we made in our addictions end up taking more than they give, making an attachment with God will always give to us more than we can ever need. Besides, all that we are really giving to God is our addicted life and He gives back to us a life that is free, complete, and eternal in every way. When God is the center of our world, our life and world get put right, in order, complete, and powerful. Our relationship with God is the only relationship we will ever have that cannot become addictive or unhealthy in any way. This is because God is totally good. He cannot corrupt us because there is no corruption in Him. He cannot become unhealthy for us because He’s not unhealthy in any way. Sometimes, religious pride or indoctrination masquerades as God. This happens when it is based more on human intellect and reasoning than on faith in God himself. When this happens, religion becomes nothing more than religious posing and faking which is both highly destructive and addictive. If it is unhealthy or addictive, it is not of God. Sadly, religious addiction is perhaps the most insidious of all addictions.

Scripture is a rich history that tells us that God loves people who have addictions. God not only loves people like us, he likes us, too. He delights in the way we yearn to experience life in the most full way. Individually, He loves us and wants us no matter who we are or what we’ve done. We know this because there are people who’ve been addicted like us and who have discovered God’s love for themselves. Thankfully, an authentic relationship with God is not a matter of how smart we are, but how sincere we are with Him. He takes care of the rest. It’s simple, it’s effective, and it’s the way God is.

All of us, whether we recognize it or not, need God. We all need to know that someone is loving enough and powerful enough to perfectly love and care for us in the ways that we really need. Jesus is the One Person who has always known God in this way. Jesus reveals to us who God is and what He is like. God will never be exactly what we want Him to be, but He will always be what we truly need Him to be. Throughout history, as recorded in Scripture, there has been only one person whose life displayed perfection of purpose, whose death exemplified the perfection of love, and who had the power to live again after death, which has changed the course of world history and our own addicted lives. This is Jesus. Unlike all other human beings, Jesus was not addicted to anything in any way. Jesus had all of the same human attachments that we all have, but He never became addicted to his attachments because He put His full confidence in God and God, alone. Because His life was fully centered around God the entire scope of Jesus’ life was free.

Through Jesus, God embraces everyone who wants to be embraced. Showing this through the scriptural record, God, as He was living through Jesus, even forgave those who were attempting to destroy Him. Scripture tells us in Luke 23:34 that he even expressed love for those who were killing Him, because He knew and understood that they just didn’t know or understand who He was or what He was all about. After giving up His life, Jesus lived again and as He appeared to His followers, He declared once and for all that He is The One who is capable of giving life to addicted and dying people like us.

Jesus lived His life close to those who were, just like us, in desperate need of Him. In so doing He calls us to himself, to his love and to his God our Father. It is in Jesus that we can have confidence for life and recovery. Through Him we are empowered to live.

Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Three Segment Five
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It’s An Inside Job

We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

The Spirit can make life. Sheer muscle and willpower don't make anything happen. Every word I've spoken to you is a Spirit-word, and so it is life-making. John 6:63 The Message

This life therefore, is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it: the process is not yet finished but it is going on. This is not the end but it is the road; all does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified. -Martin Luther

It’s An Inside Job

When we talk about recovery, what we are really talking about is a deepening of a person’s integrity. In Webster’s dictionary, integrity is defined as a completeness, a unity, soundness, personal honesty and independence. For the purposes of recovery, let us think of integrity as a healthy condition of the soul. Integrity is sanity. A condition of sanity that incorporates completeness, unity, soundness, personal honesty and independence in that we are not dependent on any person or thing in a way that’s destructive for us.

Ultimately, addiction and integrity cannot exist together, although they do exist to some degree in the reality of each of our lives. Where addiction takes root in the small cracks and crevices of our hearts and minds, and then splinters us even more, recovery heals this split, bringing integrity and sanity back to our lives. Recovery is an interpersonal coming back together; a re-integrating of our heart and our mind together, as one.

To illustrate this let us tell you about a friend of ours named Mike. Mike restores old pickup trucks for a hobby. What he does with these old trucks is an example of what we do in our recovery. First, Mike starts by considering the overall condition of the truck, evaluating the best he can as to what needs to be done to make the truck new again. Then, with help from others, he begins the process of dismantling the truck, cataloguing each part as he goes. Every piece is closely inspected by Mike and his restoration partners. Broken or damaged pieces are either discarded for new pieces, or they are repaired as necessary. Because Mike has learned that he can’t do it alone, he’s had to learn where to go to get the help he needs when he needs it. Sometimes it’s a welder, sometimes a painter or a mechanic or an upholster. Whatever help he needs, he asks for it.

Now, there comes a time where the process begins to reverse itself. Mike, with help from his friends, begins to put the parts back together again. Each part and piece are reconnected together according to the original builder’s design. When the work is done, an incredible process has been undertaken, more than any one man could ever do on his own. The old has been made new again. All of the originally designed pieces have been renewed and re-integrated back into proper alignment with one another. The process was restoring an old truck but the end result is a new old truck. For you see, no matter how good a job that Mike and his friends have done, it could never be more than the original designer had intended. Furthermore, without the original designer’s intent, Mike and his friends, and all of their combined efforts, could never make what the truck has become in its restoration.

Here is where Mike’s hobby can guide us. We are solely responsible for doing our recovery work. It is our job to reach out and ask for help. No one can do for us what only we can do for ourselves. Just like Mike with the truck, we have to learn where to go to get the help that we need when we need it. This is where our “higher powers” come into play. We all have “higher powers” in our lives. Employers, parents, family, doctors, governments, law enforcement, each has power to control and influence our behaviors. These are external powers that can effectively influence what we do and how we do it. In the recovering community there are 12 step programs, medical and mental health professionals, plus there are sponsors and recovery mentors who have experienced their own restoration of sanity. Each of these can help us in the “heavy lifting” of our personal restoration. And while this help is essential, it will not be enough. It should be noted that even the best of helpers can only do so much for us. They themselves will still lack some degree of integrity. They are only human after all.

So, this is what it looks like. We, with help, do our recovery work, but it is God, working through people, that restores sanity and integrity to us. In recovery, we can say that today we are better integrated than we were yesterday or the day before. And, the greatest indication that integrity is growing in us is that we develop an increasing inclination to admit where and how we lack integrity. We can never make this kind of growth on our own. It only comes from The One who made us. Similarly, what Mike and his friends do is great but even with all the work they’ve done in the restoration process they did not make the truck. That was done before they ever came along. There was an original Master Planner and Builder who made the truck to begin with. Really, all that Mike and his friends have done is to bring the truck back to what it was originally made to be.

And so it is with our lives. We are an original. A one of a kind that is described in the Bible as being “created in the image of God.” Believing that we can be restored to sanity means to live out our lives in a spiritual way. In times past, we lived like we were physical beings trying to become spiritual, or religious as some would say. In reality, we are spiritual beings first and we are living out our lives in physical ways. Being spiritual obviously does not make us perfect as proven through our ever-present good intentions that so often end up in ways we did not intend. In the balance of this spiritual and physical life that we live, we are ultimately responsible for our own work of recovery and at the same time we can only be restored to sanity by the work of an ultimate “Higher Power” that we call God.

At the end of the day, sanity is an integrated life that is lived according to an authentic faith in God. This authentic faith is born inside of us as we are, in our spirit that is touched by God’s Spirit. It’s simple really. We do what we can and God does the rest. As we are willing to work and trust, which is faith in action, God gives us the Spirit of Life who brings life to our efforts and sanity to our lives. After all, it was God who formed us.

Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Two Segment Five
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Monday, June 21, 2010

Moving From Dis-Integration to Integration

We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, that our life had become unmanageable.

My bones are brittle as dry sticks because of my sin. I'm swamped by my bad behavior, collapsed under gunnysacks of guilt. The cuts in my flesh stink and grow maggots because I've lived so badly. And now I'm flat on my face feeling sorry for myself morning to night. All my insides are on fire, my body is a wreck. I'm on my last legs; I've had it - my life is a vomit of groans. Psalms 38:3-8 The Message

“What helps at this point is to see your consequences as your teachers. You have been sent a lesson to learn. If you don’t learn the lesson this time, it will manifest itself again, and probably in a more painful form the next time. -Patrick Carnes, Ph.D.

Moving From Dis-Integration to Integration

As we battled alone against the progressive nature of our addictions, we experienced a general disintegration of our lives. Our lives get worse, never better. Many of us have expressed how we’ve felt that we were getting sicker and sicker every day that we battled our addictions alone. No matter how valiant and determined we were, and still are, the war has continued to rage. And, much to our chagrin and embarrassment, we have been losing the battle.

In Scripture, which is the historical backbone for everything that we believe as Christians, there are examples of people who suffered because they lived selfish lives and the result was a life that became destructive for them. For example, the Psalmist David, who was called a man after God’s own heart, gives us an example of someone who, even though he had previously experienced deep intimacy with God, found his life disintegrated because of his selfish way of life.

In Psalm 38 that we reviewed above, David’s words speak to us regarding the physical consequences, the guilt and the resulting shame and self pity that come from living life in a destructive way. We don’t know exactly what it was that was causing David’s distress and that’s really not so important right now. What is important is to realize that we, along with David and everyone else, will experience inevitable consequences as a result of the way we live our lives. The consequences of a destructive life, as much as we would like to deny it, manifest themselves in failing health and an overall loss of life, especially in our relationships.

David found that it was time to ask for help. He did this by admitting that he was powerless over his problems and that he was not qualified to manage his life. A little later in the same chapter from the Psalms, David continues to say in verses 21 & 22, “Don't dump me, GOD; my God, don't stand me up. Hurry and help me; I want some wide-open space in my life!”

The lesson for David, as it needs to be for all of us, is that we will bring calamity upon ourselves when we run our life independent of God and contrary to what we know is right. Also, David helps us to see that when our lives are shattered as a result of our own mistakes, it is never too late to ask God for help and mercy.

As Christians, we know that God created us. But, God did not create our addictions. Our addictions are a result of the way we have lived our lives. This is not to say that we are totally at fault for becoming addicted because none of us ever meant to become addicted to anything. Sometimes addictions can be a genetic misfortune that when coupled with the first taste of an overwhelming temptation take hold of a person with a life consuming power. While we are not totally at fault for having an addiction, we are wholly responsible for our addiction and for reaching out and making the most of the help that is available to us. Neither God nor anyone else is responsible for our addiction or for our recovery. None of us will ever recover if we expect some one else to do it for us. Complaining and pointing fingers will never help us recover from our addiction or in anything else. To recover, we have to be willing to surrender our life and no one can surrender our lives but us.

For most of us, surrendering our addiction and asking for help has been the most difficult thing we have ever done. No matter how hard it was, we had to. We really didn’t have any other good choices left. If we wouldn’t admit that we needed help we could not move from the disintegrating life of addiction into the integrating life of recovery.

Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter One Segment Five
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Friday, June 18, 2010

Possessed by God

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.

Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, ‘How can I help? Romans 15:1, The Message

“The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.”
- Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer


Our new life should be considered a gift, but it is not without cost. It carries with it a responsibility that, if left unmet, proves that we do not really appreciate the opportunity we have been given. Since we have admitted how unmanageable our lives had become, we cannot honestly claim ownership of our lives anymore. Our addictions have owned us in the past, but in recovery our lives are given over to God. Our worthless and tattered lives have been bought through the death of God’s Son, Jesus. And, the opportunity we have for a new life has been assured through His resurrection. This is, in a nutshell, the very basis of our faith. And this is why God is free to care for us in whatever way He thinks is best.

As we become assured of God’s active redemption, we will increasingly receive the most life changing of all good gifts - the gift of gratitude. Gratitude nourishes all of our God-given desires. It makes every area of our life an act of worship and praise. Even our shortcomings give glory to God when we are grateful for them. With gratitude, we return to God a portion of the goodness that He continually gives to us. For we need to always remember that the gifts that He gives are not ours to own. They are not to be used for our benefit and prosperity. The gifts that God gives to us are only ours to hold, to appreciate and to pass along to others.

What started with Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, two alcoholics helping each other, has resulted in a movement that today helps millions of people recover from alcoholism and drug addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous has also spawned the Al-Anon movement, which helps millions of co-dependents and families of alcoholics worldwide. Additionally, AA has inspired the development of numerous other Twelve Step programs that help countless numbers of people recover from many different forms of addiction. Just like Bill Wilson and Dr. Smith, our lives can be multiplied many, many times over when we are willing to share them with others. Once again, this is because God’s power is without limit. If we are willing to do our recovery work faithfully, we will become a gift to the whole world one moment, one situation, one person at a time.

The greatest needs of our day will not be met by counselors, by doctors or by experts, politicians or professionals. The greatest needs of our day will be met by recovering people like us. We are grateful leaders in pain suffered and humble leaders in recovery gained. We are men and women who, having fought the fight for our own lives, now, more importantly, are willing to join the fight for the lives of others. The greatest need in our world today remains the same as it has always been: godly men and women who display a quality of character and life that ignites in others a desire to know God in a way that changes them.

And, on top of it all, each of us has a special role to play. God has given each of us, individually, a message to share and a story to tell. Yes, we are called to tell our story. We are called to tell how we had been blind and desperate and lost in our addictions. And we are called to tell about how God answered us when we, having gotten to our wits end, humbly asked Him for help.

Everyone needs to know that their secrets, struggles, problems, addictions and sins do not need to keep them from God. They need to hear that Jesus has solved all of these problems as far as God is concerned. Our job is to simply share the basic facts of our life and how God has given us our recovery experience. We don’t have to go into great detail or feel any pressure to perform, either. God is responsible for the results, not us. And, the people with whom we share are responsible for what they do with whatever we share with them. We just have to share, that’s all.

So, let us get up and reach out. Let us extend a hand to anyone and everyone who is dead and dying in their secrets, their struggles, their problems, their addictions and their sins. Let us say, “Come with us, we are going to God. We are going to life.”

Everyone needs what we have been given.

Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Twelve Segment Four
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Prayer Changes Us

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

And yet the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your motive is wrong – you want only what will give you pleasure. James 4:3, NLT


“Drawing near to God is, in fact, the beginning of union!”
Madame Jeanne Guyon


Prayer is the most relevant thing we do. If we are to be free from our addictions, free from our compulsions and free from self tyranny, we will have to become people who pray consistently, without stopping. Prayer must become part of us much like eating or breathing, bathing and sleeping. The kind of prayer we need is a personal, open and ongoing interaction with God - the type of interaction that brings insight and understanding, helping us to resolve the catastrophes of our past and increase our hopefulness for the future. Ongoing prayer helps us know exactly who we are and what we should do at any moment in time. It builds integrity in us, making us well-balanced and whole. Prayer keeps us alert and ready to live well during any difficulty that may come our way.

Prayer helps us to work with God to build our future. It plays a huge role in determining what kind of people we will be and what kind of impact we will have on the world. It may be helpful to pray for others to change, but it is always more important to pray that we will change. Prayer changes us and as we are changed, the influence we have on our surroundings will change too. Prayer gives us new perspectives. It changes our priorities. Instead of praying for things we want or for things we need, we should pray that we will be increasingly motivated to bring ourselves closer to God.

If we pray for anything less than God Himself, we may go away disappointed, having learned just how idolatrous we still are. But when we pray seeking a closer walk with Him we will always find our deepest longings fulfilled, often before we know what our deepest longings really are.

Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Eleven Segment Four
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Everydayness of Progress

We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.


We justify our actions by appearances; God examines our motives. Proverbs 21:2, The Message


"What helps at this point is to see your consequences as your teachers. You have been sent a lesson to learn. If you don’t learn the lesson this time, it will manifest itself again, and probably in a more painful form the next time." - Dr. Patrick Carnes


We need to practice our recovery principles every day. The daily monitoring of our motives helps us to have an honest view of ourselves and this helps to insure that we continue to recover from our addictions. God doesn’t tell us to bring our failures to Him just once. He tells us to bring our failures to Him continuously, day in and day out. For you see, recovery is a continuous process of character development. We can’t be what we’re not, but with practice we can make progress and move closer to the ideal example that God gave us in Christ. This means that we need to have a well-balanced understanding of our real needs and our most honest feelings. We also need to be ruthlessly honest about the health of our relationships, and the way that we live our lives when no one is watching. To whatever degree we have been guilty of playing to the crowd, so to speak, will be the degree that we place ourselves in jeopardy, risking a relapse of addictive destruction. We have to be real, everyday. We have to quit pretending.

When we lack character, we need to admit it to ourselves. We need to admit it to God and we need to admit it to someone else, too. When we lack integrity we need to admit that as well. As we admit our lack of character and integrity, we open ourselves up to an infusion of God’s transforming grace which is the most fundamental building block of character and integrity. This kind of construction is very personal. It is more intimate than anything we can ever do on our own, even with or without the help of other people. It is a gift from God and not something that we have earned on our own. The work we do is essential for our growth and recovery and we certainly need help from others, but in the end it is God who changes the condition of the human heart and mind.

As we continue to admit our wrongdoing and as we continue to correct our mistakes whenever and however we can - the best we can - we continue to live within the framework of God’s character. God’s character continues to be built into us and His character will help us to think and live more effectively in the future.

Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Ten Segment Four
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

An Alcoholic Speaks to his Family

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

What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ's body we're all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself. Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry--but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry. Don't give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life. Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can't work. Ephesians 4:25-28, The Message

“It is not possible to love others unless our hearts are growing in faith and hope. Faith and hope birth love as we live out our calling in anticipation of his coming.” - Dr. Dan Allender, page 164, The Healing Path


The following is an excerpt from literature that is produced by the Al-Anon recovery fellowship. Al-Anon is a sister organization to Alcoholics Anonymous. It is a program that helps those who are closely related to alcoholics and drug addicts recover from the destructive effects that addiction has on families. We can learn a lot from what this writing expresses. It is a powerful example of how we can initiate the healing process.
An Alcoholic Speaks to His Family

From Three Views of Al-Anon

I am an alcoholic. I need your help.

Don’t lecture, blame or scold me. You wouldn’t be angry at me for having tuberculosis or diabetes. Alcoholism is a disease, too.

Don’t pour out my liquor; it’s just a waste because I can always find ways to get more.

Don’t let me provoke your anger. If you attack me verbally or physically, you will only confirm my bad opinion of myself. I hate myself enough already.

Don’t let your love and anxiety for me lead you into doing what I ought to do for myself. If you assume my responsibilities, you make my failure to assume them permanent. My sense of guilt will be increased, and you will feel resentful.

Don’t accept my problems. I’ll promise anything to get off the hook. But the nature of my illness prevents me from keeping my promises, even though I mean them at the time.

Don’t make empty threats. Once you have made a decision, stick to it.

Don’t believe everything I tell you; it may be a lie. Denial of reality is a symptom of my illness. Moreover, I’m likely to lose respect for those I can fool too easily.

Don’t let me take advantage of you or exploit you in any way. Love cannot exist for long without the dimension of justice.

Don’t cover up for me or try in any way to spare me the consequences of my drinking. Don’t lie for me, pay my bills, or meet my obligations. It may avert or reduce the very crisis that would prompt me to seek help. I can continue to deny that I have a drinking problem as long as you provide an automatic escape from the consequences of my drinking.

Above all, do learn all you can about alcoholism and your role in relation to me. Go to open AA meetings when you can. Attend Al-Anon meetings regularly, read the literature and keep in touch with Al-Anon members. They’re the people who can help you see the whole situation clearly.

I love you.

Your alcoholic.


Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Nine Segment Four
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Monday, June 14, 2010

Making It Real

We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.


“My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!” I John 4:11, 12, The Message


A critical component of recovery is recognizing and admitting personal responsibility in relationships. - Anonymous

Making It Real

We waste our recovery efforts when we forget our failures. Forgetting our failures can lead us into the most self-centered and insidious of all sins, self-righteousness. With a short memory and a little complacency, we become piously religious, self-satisfied and woefully unaware of the difficult world that we’ve created for ourselves and others. This is why one of the most critical components of recovery is to recognize and admit our personal responsibility in our relationships. And, this is why it is so important for us to acknowledge the people that have been harmed by our selfish attitudes and actions. We must, for our own sakes and for theirs, see how they’ve been affected by us. The opportunity and possibility to recover from our addictions compels us to ask for forgiveness, to help those negatively impacted by our lives and -- when it’s available -- accept reconciliation from them while forgiving others, so that we can all grow in freedom.

Let us set aside any remaining selfish or prideful motivations that we are aware of. Starting with our recovering fellowship, let us begin to make personal investments in others, working to expand and heal the world around us. Let us take this momentum of love to our families, to our communities, to our work places and to our churches. We want more today than to just have our lives and our circumstances improved. We want to see other people healed and their lives and circumstances improved, too. We are taking on a new ways of thinking, new personalities, becoming more concerned with loving others and honoring them as people who’ve been created by God to know Him and His love.

Name some people who would benefit from a healthier expression of your love.Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery


By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Eight Segment Four
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Friday, June 11, 2010

Humility Through and Through

We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will is.” Romans 12:2, NLT

“My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen.”

- 7th Step Prayer from The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

Humility Through and Through

There is a terrible fear that we will all feel at sometime in our life. This is the fear that we are alone and that no one will care for us in a way that will make us feel secure and meaningful. This fear, this aloneness, can feel spiritually fatal. This kind of fear cultivates and facilitates our addictions. It reduces us to shame-filled and fearful little boys and girls.

As we admit these intimate and painful feelings of ours, we begin to realize that God has been wanting us and waiting for us all along no matter how we felt or what we feared. We discover, through His grace coupled with our faith, that He has been working to make a transforming connection with us. Realizing this, we are better able to lay hold of a life and a goodness that was impossible before we admitted our need for His help. Pursuing this strength and freedom that He gives, we willingly let go of the character defects that have kept us from “knowing the measure and stature of Christ” (please see Ephesians 4:13).

Where we had once been ruled by our lusts, by our addictions and by other people, today we are becoming men and women who admit our character defects and, in the same breath, we are uncovering the treasure of God’s imminent presence in our lives. It is through humility and faith that we receive the transforming spirit of Christ. Christ empowers us with a love that is our only ruler today. It is the rule of God’s love.

Our relationship with God must always be more important to us than career, hobbies, church, even family and friends. Character building and spiritual values must come first if we want to continue to recover from our addictions. This is because without recovery nothing else will matter, because nothing else will survive our addictions. All that is good stays good only with God’s love and care coupled with our humble heart. Without Him, there is nothing worth having.

Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Seven Segment Four
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What We Really Need

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

"If you will throw away your detestable idols and go astray no more, and if you swear by my name alone, and begin to live good lives and uphold justice, then you will be a blessing to the nations of the world, and all people will come and praise my name." Jeremiah 4:1, The Message

"To admit discontent and hunger for redemption requires that we face our part in the problem and compels us to yearn and dream of more."
- Dan Allender, PhD

What We Really Need

Very often we get confused about what we really need because we are obsessed with what we want. As addicted and self-centered people, we tend to have distorted perceptions of our own personal needs. One of our great challenges is to understand that our God-given instincts for intimate love, relational security and eternal acceptance are all that we really need, and that only God can meet these needs. Part of the psychological insanity of any addiction is that, at least at some level, we believe that we need, rely or depend on things that are unreliable and destructive. In almost every case, we’ve been at fault for either denying our needs, or for demanding that our needs be met in ways that are inappropriate, given God’s design for our lives.

Our destructive reliances blind us in such a way that it makes it very difficult for us to see how our self-centeredness is the cause of all our character defects and all of our sins. Worrying and feeling sorry for ourselves will destroy us. Self-pity and self-idolatry are deadly. Self-centered thinking gets us into trouble because self centered thoughts tend to be prompted by fear, even when we are not aware of what we are feeling. Because of this, it is very important that we learn not to impulsively act on our first thought. It is important that we learn to think through things in order to think clearly and act appropriately. Part of recovery is learning to think faith-fully, not fear-fully. Just because our head sits on our shoulders does not mean it is our friend.

Feelings of personal inferiority or superiority, grandiose beliefs of entitlement, self-centered motives and priorities are all symptoms of the deeper problem of self-centeredness. When we believe that our demands must be met, or if we believe it’s bad or wrong to feel discomfort or have difficulty, or if we believe that others are here to make us happy, we reveal ourselves to be the selfish center of our own lives. In recovery and faith, God allows us an ever-increasing abundance of choices for goodness and personal prosperity. There is only one true wrong, and that is to make ourselves the center of our own world. God has never shared His position of authority with anyone, and He won’t share it with us. All of our character defects and all of our sins come from our silly attempts to rule our own “kingdom.” On the other hand, as we learn to focus our mind, our heart, our desire and our intention on God, we will find the willingness to let go of our character defects, to let go of our addictions and even to let go of the habitual sinfulness that has held us back in life. Even the smallest example of faith, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential, pleases God. Once the seed of readiness and change is planted inside of us, (no one can do this for us, we do it for ourselves) our recovery partners and fellowship will help us to identify, nurture and grow these seedlings of positive change. “Faith as small as a mustard seed”( Matthew 17:20)

At the end of all things and considerations, only God will prove to be completely reliable. Only God will prove to be completely healthy and life-giving. Any reliance that is not centered on God is potentially idolatrous, destructive and addictive. On the other hand, a healthy reliance on God can never be idolatrous, it can never be destructive and it can never be addictive.

Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Six Segment Four
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Marie’s Story

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

“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.” -James 5:16 The Message

"By getting real and being honest with others, we make ourselves available to be loved by them." -an anonymous recovering addict


I began my 12-Step experience hoping to deal with my extreme worry over my two adult sons and their use of alcohol. I also have a grown daughter, but she has never done drugs and she doesn’t drink. I drank and did a lot of drugs myself, when I was in high school and early college. I went to a large Catholic university, where I met my husband in my junior year. My partying slowed down when I met him and it stopped once we graduated and got married. My husband drinks occasionally, but he never gets drunk. In fact, he doesn’t like the “buzzed” feeling. I think my sons got the alcoholic gene from my side of the family. My dad and mom were both functional alcoholics and I think I would have become an alcoholic too, if I hadn’t quit drinking when I did.

My addiction is the way that I try to control the lives of my children, mainly my two boys. I am a control freak. For as long back as I can remember I have feared the worst for myself, my husband and my children. I have feared that they would lose control of themselves and get hurt. I have feared that my family would suffer calamity and shame. I have feared that my two boys would grow up to be like my dad and my mom were with their drinking.

My recovery started when I joined a women’s support group at my church. The lady who ran this group was married to a recovering alcoholic. Her husband had been sober for years and she had been involved with Al-Anon for years herself. I loved her attitude and her cheerful strength. All of us in the group were attracted to her transparency and her confidence. Through her encouragement I began working the 12 Steps and attending Al-Anon meetings with her. I worked the 12 Steps dutifully and I enjoyed the Al-Anon meetings very much, even though I felt embarrassed at the thought of others finding out about me going to Al-Anon. I’ve always feared that people would find out just how dysfunctional my family and I really were. I guess I should only speak this way about myself. My husband is a wonderful man, after all. I love him dearly and I so enjoy the time we spend together. My daughter is smart, lovely and strong-willed. My two sons, while I do worry about their drinking, are grown with successful careers and nice families. They both maintain their lives with dignity and responsibility. I guess I can say that I am proud of them, even though they are not all that I wanted them to be.

As I worked though my Step Four inventory, I realized that I had unknowingly been more committed to maintaining my own reputation within my community and my church than I was to benefiting my family. I learned that where I thought I was being a good mother and wife, I was actually being manipulative and selfish. Without realizing it, I was dominating my family, mainly my two sons, all in an attempt to get them to act and live the way I thought they should. Instead of helping them, I was hurting them. Instead of being a loving mother, like I thought I was, I was being a tyrant. Instead of letting them live their own lives I was trying to get them to live the life that I was not able to live. I admit that most of my attempts to control the lives of my children had really never helped them, in fact it hurt them. I admit that the anxiety I have felt for so long has been the result of me trying to control things that are beyond my ability to control, my two sons. I admit that I have dumped my anxiety onto my family. It hurts to admit these things.

When it came time to talk it over with another person, I sat down with my sponsor, the lady who ran the support group at church, and I read to her all that I had learned about myself while doing my Step Four inventory. It took a couple of hours and she was very patient. We sat at an outdoor cafĂ© in the afternoon. We had lunch and then we drank tea. We took breaks when we felt the need. When I had finally finished reading to her all that I had written down in my Step Four, she looked at me and she said, “Is that all?” Before I could say yes to her question, my mind jumped back to something that happened 30 years before when I was a sophomore in college, something I had forgotten about. Immediately I felt a hot flush come to my face. I felt embarrassed and afraid because I had just remembered a secret that I knew that I needed to get off my chest. After a moment’s pause, I spilled my guts. I told her about having a sexual experience with a female friend in my dorm. I knew that I was not a lesbian and I had never really been promiscuous. Other than my husband I had only had sex with two other people, a boy I dated as a freshman and this other girl in my dorm. I don’t know why I had forgotten about this for so many years, but I had. I don’t know why I remembered it when I did, but once I remembered it I knew that I needed to tell someone about it.

After I told my sponsor about this memory, she sat back in her chair, took a sip of her tea and then, looking me straight in the eye, told me that she had a similar experience that she kept secret until she did her Step Five with her sponsor. Hearing her tell me this made me feel like someone had just thrown cold water in my face. I was stunned. I know I imagined this but I thought I heard the sound of glass breaking in the distance, as if someone had just broken through. It had never occurred to me that someone else may have done the same thing that I had done. I don’t mean to imply that I am judgmental about other people’s lives, but because I have always had deep moral convictions, I felt guilty about having this experience with this other girl. Having my sponsor share her experience helped me to better understand that we all make mistakes and that our past mistakes do not necessarily dictate who we are today. Health and happiness have less to do with our past than they have to do with letting go of our secrets. In my case, it was not the past that was troubling me, it was my secrets. They were my problem all along. In order for me to have the kind of life that I had always wanted, it was necessary for me to recognize and admit that I could not control my life by controlling the lives of others. And I needed to recognize and admit that my failures could be accepted by others if I would be willing to get honest about them. Admitting my shortcomings to myself and another person has released me from a burden that was silently killing me and hurting those who I loved.

Getting honest has freed me in other areas of my life, too. I have come to understand that my co-dependency is selfish and that it works against my faith in God. I now see that my “sinfulness” is the result of me not trusting in God’s power and love. My lack of faith has hurt me and it has hurt others. By learning to trust God in a more personal way, I can admit that my greatest fear was that I would be embarrassed and ashamed. Not because my family was bad, because they aren’t, but because, co-dependently, I wanted everyone to think that I was so good. This is what was really hurting me all along.

My Step Five experience has done more for me than I ever anticipated it would. It’s helped me to let go of my need to look perfect. I can be real now. My life is more relaxed because I am more relaxed. The little struggles I have don’t get me down so much anymore. Before, while I didn’t drink or smoke like I did in college, I always missed the drinking and smoking, and on occasion I would slip up. Mostly, I had stayed away from these things by willpower alone, but I missed them at the same time. Now that I have become more honest about who I really am on the inside, I hardly think about drinking and smoking at all. And when I do, they just don’t appeal to me like they once did. I feel as though I have shed fifty pounds of excess baggage that I have been carrying around for as long as I can remember.

I am learning to be content with who I am. I am at peace. I thank God for my Step Five experience, for my wonderful sponsor and for my imperfectly delightful family.

Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Five Segment Four
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Truth in Relationship

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” Galatians 6:4,5 The Message

“Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom.”
-Thomas Jefferson

The people around us get hurt by our addictions. But in recovery we can benefit the lives of others, too. Step Four is as much about people as it is about addiction. What we do in Step Four is personal, both to us and to others. This is because of the personal nature of our relationships. Relationships are personally organic because people are organic. We all impact the lives of others. We can’t help it; it’s the way we are. People are both blessed and cursed by one another.

Next to God, our relationships with other people are the greatest influences in our lives. This doesn’t mean that everything will be great all of the time. When we look at other people in a realistic way, we’ll see that they are tremendous sinners. And we’ll see that they look a whole lot like us because we are tremendous sinners, too. Above all of this, what becomes amazingly clear is a subtle yet profound goodness in each of us. As we come to grips with our profound sinfulness, and the fact that God loves us anyway, we are able to recognize a God-given dignity and worth inside of all people. We’ll recognize that no one can really be defined in terms of good versus bad. We all have an original worthiness that is completely human, as shown through our obvious flaws and shortcomings, and more than human at the same time. Instinctively, it seems, we all want more out of life than what we can provide for ourselves. We fall short. We are sinners who are reaching out for something that we cannot get on our own.

Step Four is not about making judgments. It is about getting an honest awareness of who we are and how we have lived. We want to see how we have damaged our relationships with other people. Working through Step Four will help us learn to live in such a way that we won’t be so easily influenced to do things that hurt us or others. God is our strength. He is working to build us up according to His will. So we don’t need to worry about what other people say or think about us. It’s not like we have any control over them anyway. We just live our lives with God, honestly. We let God take care of others. We don’t need to feel pity for them, or for ourselves. However, we do need to develop a keen awareness of how we have allowed others to influence us in the past, sometimes for good and other times not so good.

We can approach our personal and moral inventories in different ways but there will probably be some common characteristics. We bring our willingness to the table and we face some tough questions about how our attitude and our behavior have affected those around us. Then we write down what comes to mind. We write down everything about our families that we think is important. We write down every thought, every memory and every feeling, the best we can. We write about the people who have harmed us and we write about the people who we have harmed. We write a great deal about our sexual experiences as well as any experiences that we have had with drugs, alcohol, money, gambling, food and/or anything else that has been a problem for us at any time in our lives. We write about why we did the things we did. We write about how we felt when we were doing them, and how we felt after we did them. We write about love, what we desired for love to be like and how we have been disappointed by those we loved. We write it all. We write everything.

Questions That Need to Be Answered

• How have you disregarded or abused those weaker than you?
• Who were the people that you hurt in this way?
• How have you envied the talents and resources other people had that you did not have?
• How has your addiction affected your relationship with your religious family?
• How have you been selfish?
• What makes you feel entitled to do things that you know are wrong?
• How have you valued your addiction more than your spouse and your children?
• How has your family, your employer or others been hurt by your moral failings or your insensitivities?
• What are some of the things that others have been denied because you were absorbed in your addiction?
• What are some specific ways that you have exhibited selfishness?
• How have you been careless with your spouse, your children, your employer and your neighbors?
• In what ways have you put your own needs and interests above the needs and interests of others?
• How and why have you lied to your loved ones?
• How has your employer been hurt by your addictions?
• How has your family been ashamed because of your attitude and behavior?
• When and with whom do you feel self-pity?
• What do you feel guilty about?
• What do you like about yourself?
• What do other people like about you?
• Why do you lie?

Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Four Segment Four
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Monday, June 7, 2010

Turning Over Our Life

We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1

The world is not to be put in order, the world is in order. It is for us to put ourselves in unison with this order. -Henry Miller


Once we have made the decision to turn our will over to God’s care, we’ll quickly learn that it’s impossible to do so without turning our life over to God’s care as well. We simply can’t do one without the other. The way we live life is the truest indicator of our will. Until we give our life over to God, we have not surrendered our will, no matter what we think or say.

This has been our problem: we’ve considered our personal wants and wishes as entitlements and necessities, and because of this we’ve been making demands on God and others in ways that we do not realize. When we fail to get what we want, we become angry and resentful, which is proof that we have not turned over our will and life to God’s care. Anger and resentment exposes us for the self centered people that we are. Sometimes, even without realizing it, we punish others in one way or another, and in so doing, we can become so intolerable that those around us will leave us or send us packing. When we create these kind of situations for ourselves, our personal misery grows all the more, making our addictions attractive once again.

In one way or another we’ve fought the world and everyone in it. We have, at times, become like mercenaries. We’ve fought for what we thought was important. If pushing and shoving didn’t work, we kill ‘em with kindness in order to hide our selfishness. Sometimes we claimed victory and gloated in ever-so-subtle ways. Other times we politely admitted defeat, apologizing for our behavior just to regroup and try again. Attitudes like these are indisputable evidence that we have even become addicted to our own self image, the image of what we think our life is supposed to be like. Without knowing it we had even become addicted to what we thought our life was supposed to be.

With all this in mind, the next order of business for us is to give to God our hopes, our dreams, our expectations, all of our agendas, even the way that we have thought about ourselves and our life. After all, whatever we thought our life was supposed to be like in the past hasn’t really been working, has it?

In true surrender to God, we quit fighting anyone or anything. We recognize that the only battle worth fighting is within ourselves. We turn our hope over to Him and make it his hope. We give Him our dreams. We give Him our problems and we allow them to become his problems. We make our expectations the expectation of God’s gracious working in our hearts and our minds with all other considerations as secondary. We determine ourselves to act, the best we can that is, according to what we know to be acts of love for God and love for others. We give up our agenda in order to live according to his agenda. Everything about us becomes His. Our life is no longer ours to run. We have given it over to God and our life will be what He determines it to be. Not easy but simple.

Because we are powerless over people, places, and things, we make it our own only goal to live out a faith that longs for God and hopes for His care. With this “turning over” we fulfill our eternal calling. It’s the ultimate decision of faith, the most dignified thing we can do in this life. It’s not just another image we’ve made for our lives because we no longer claim ownership of our lives. It’s bigger and more open minded than that. It’s a decision that acknowledges all of our own efforts and resources are insufficient. The turning over of our life is our personalized declaration, a God-given dignity, in which we state, unequivocally, that we are worth far more that we can ever give ourselves credit for. And yet, we have no need to claim any importance because with this decision, this dignity that is, we realize that we are made for bigger things than we could ever think or imagine on our own.

In the dignity of faith we are now consciously saying what we have been unconsciously saying to God in countless areas of our lives. We want Him and we know that we cannot live without Him. God has always known this and now we know it, too.

Serenity Prayer (attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr)
God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; and the Wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it: Trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with you forever in the next. Amen

Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Three Segment Four
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Friday, June 4, 2010

Healing Hope

We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

He was teaching in one of the meeting places on the Sabbath. There was a woman present, so twisted and bent over with arthritis that she couldn't even look up. She had been afflicted with this for eighteen years. When Jesus saw her, he called her over. "Woman, you're free!" He laid hands on her and suddenly she was standing straight and tall, giving glory to God.
Luke 13:10-13 The Message


“Hope is a risk that must be run.” - Georges Bernanos

Faith is the antidote for and the antithesis of addiction. Where addiction kills, faith gives life. Coming along with our deep desire to survive our addictions, hope came alive inside of us. This hope brought with it an openmindedness that we had never had before. As we looked to others in our fellowship who were recovering, and combining that with our own desire to survive our addictions, faith was born. It took root inside of us. Even before we asked for it, a hopeful faith appeared quiet and close. Coming from outside of us, but connecting and working within. As we saw others recover from their addictions we came to believe that we could possibly recover, too. Our hopelessness changes to hopefulness as we honestly connect with others.

In Luke 13 there is a story about an amazing woman whose suffering was healed as a result of her hopeful faith coming in contact with God. We don’t know a lot about this woman. We don’t even know her name. So, to help us become friends with her, let’s give her a name. We’ll call her, Esperanza. Esperanza suffered for eighteen years with what was apparently a very painful and deforming illness. From the story, we know that her illness was increasingly robbing her of her ability to function in life as she normally would have. Her body had become so bent and mangled from her illness that she had lost the ability to look up. Do you know how that feels?

We can imagine that, along with her bodily illness, Esperanza suffered unrelenting sadness, depression and anxiety as a result of the ongoing pain she felt from her illness. We can surmise that, under the crushing weight of mental and emotional fatigue, Esperanza was unable to raise herself up emotionally and spiritually. And we can assume that our friend Esperanza also suffered deep regret over the loss of many opportunities, shame due to her deformities and self loathing due to the feeling that she was no good to anyone any more. Does this sound familiar to you? Whatever hopefulness and fortitude that she had had on her own was obviously not enough to help her. Her reality was that she was stuck and things were getting worse, not better. Can you relate?

While our addictions have probably not brought on the degree of physical suffering that Esperanza endured, it is important for us to identify with her suffering. After all, addictions are physical diseases just as much as they are emotional, mental and spiritual diseases. Our addictions, over time, erode us physically. Sometimes to the degree that our bodies will never be the same again. And, we suffer in more than physical ways too. These sufferings will include among others, shame, regret and self loathing. When all is said and done, pain is pain. No matter what form that the pain comes, it hurts. And, in our addictions we were, like Esperanza, stuck and painfully waiting for help.

Referring back to the Scripture in Luke we will notice that this story takes place in or around one of the meeting places that the religious people of the day frequented on their day of worship. Specifically, the Scripture tells us that Esperanza was ‘present’ in this location. This is an interesting insight for us recovering addicts as it is important for us to remember that it is essential that we keep ourselves in places, both physical places and spiritual places, where God is the center of our attention. By being present in the meeting place on the Sabbath, Esperanza was keeping herself in a place where recovery was possible for her. She was doing all that she could do, all the while waiting for and being present to the possibility that a savior and healer would come along. There was nothing more that Esperanza could do to help herself. So, she did what she could do. This is how Esperanza displayed her faith.

This is what is important in our Step 2. First, we come to believe that we can be restored to sanity. Then, we come and be part of a fellowship with others who are recovering from their addictions. Most of all, we stay alert. We stay emotionally and spiritually present to every opportunity to reach out and touch back to the hand of healing when it comes our way. All the while remaining as open minded as possible because we are not exactly sure when the healing touch will come or through whom it will come. Like Esperanza, we stay open in our faith, being as “present” as we can to fellowship and hope. Simply said, we maintain an attitude of hopefulness the best we can. We stay ready to receive the touch that will make a difference in our lives. We stay, like Esperanza, emotionally, spiritually and physically present. In this way we become ready to be touched, connected, integrated and healed. It will not likely be a physical touch like the immediate healing Esperanza’s experienced. It will more likely take the form of help through our recovering fellowship, a doctor or a counselor but it will be a healing, nonetheless.

By the way, Esperanza is a Spanish name that when translated into English means hope.

An excerpt from Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Two Segment Four
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Thursday, June 3, 2010

You Are Not Your Enemy

We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, that our life had become unmanageable.

“I live in disgrace all day long, and my face is covered with shame.” Psalms 44:15 NIV

“Growth begins when we accept our weakness.” -Jean Vanier

If we want to recover from our addiction, we will have to be willing to undertake a new journey. Starting out, it’s not very likely that we will know exactly where this new journey will take us. Certainly we will have hopes, and probably a few expectations too. It is, however, very important that we maintain an open mind regarding our hopes and expectations because it is very easy for us to put ourselves in charge of our recovery, without even realizing it. At this point, to take charge of our own recovery would be just another extension of our addictive and self-controlling ways and they’ve always gotten us into trouble. So, as we set out on our journey, it’s important that we stay focused on the day-by-day and step-by-step process. Doing this will help us to stay away from our addictions and, by putting one foot in front of the other, move a little further down the recovery path each and every day.

Our recovery journey starts with getting honest. It is essential that we get honest about how we think and feel about our lives, ourselves and other people. When we get honest with ourselves about our lives it becomes possible for us to see healthy changes in our relationships, most specifically our relationship with our own thoughts and feelings which will in turn affect, in a healthy way, our relationship with ourselves, our lives and other people too. As these relationships improve they will, over time, help to build healthy and affirming thoughts and feelings inside of us which will help to displace the destructive and self condemning thoughts we have suffered up to now. As this begins to happen we will begin to see everything about us change for the better beginning at the most personal and intimate level of our thoughts and feelings.

As we got honest, most of us expressed how we have often suffered deep feelings of shame. Shame has been described as a feeling that one is fatally flawed and undeserving of happiness. Some have described their feelings of shame as the feeling and belief, as in conviction, that they were just one big mistake. In shame, we think and feel like everything about us is horribly wrong or fatally flawed in some way. In shame we can feel like the world would be better off if we weren’t around.

Shame can be one of the most destructive feelings a human being can experience and shame is often a catalyst for our addictions. Much of the power of our addictions comes from an internal drive that seeks to overcome, to escape from, or compensate for feelings of shame. Unhealed shame guarantees that our life will be unmanageable.

Shame is nothing new, it’s been around as long as people have been around. Even in the Bible, written thousands of years ago, the Psalmist wrote from his heart, “I live in disgrace all day long, and my face is covered with shame.” (Psalms 44:15 NIV) So you see, we are not the first to suffer shame and we will not be the last. Fortunately, shame can be addressed. It can be made a useful and helpful but probably not an enjoyable part of our lives.

One man who we know from Operation Integrity described his feelings of shame in this way.

“From my earliest childhood, whenever I would see a picture of myself I would immediately feel sick to my stomach. When I looked at myself, I would see someone of great disgust. I thought I was s _ _ _. Sometimes I could barely keep myself from throwing up. It didn’t matter what the picture was, who I was with or what the event was, seeing myself I would get sick. These feelings continued until I was in my mid forties. Then, thank God, I got help. It was in about my second year of my recovery from my addiction and working the steps that I realized that I was no longer feeling as I had felt before. Somewhere along the way of the process I realized that I was okay. Today I feel good about having my picture taken. I can see myself, and even when it is a ‘bad’ picture, I’m okay with it all.”

Step 1 is the place where we can put on the brakes and begin to turn the corner and find a new direction for our lives. Not only for our addictions but also for the pain, the shame and the suffering that has given power to our addictions.

As we honestly work through our 12 step journey with others in our recovery fellowship, we will begin to understand the components which have built the deep shame that’s troubled us. Recognizing shame and getting honest about it and accepting it for what it is is the first step to effectively deal with it. Dealing with shame is similar to dealing with our addiction. We accept our weakness, we admit it and we ask for help. In doing so we discover the key to changing it. We move from shame to grace and from death to life.

An excerpt from Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter One Segment Four
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Living Life for Others

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

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.

Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Twelve Segment Three
Copyright David Zailer, 2008
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net