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

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