Friday, July 30, 2010

Reversing the Past


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


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

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

Reversing the Past

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

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

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

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

Any questions?

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

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Light Shines Before Us

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

You can't whitewash your sins and get by with it; you find mercy by admitting and leaving them. A tenderhearted person lives a blessed life; a hardhearted person lives a hard life.
Proverbs 28:13 -14 The Message


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

Light Shines Before Us

Once we have been honest and real with another person we should take some time for personal reflection. Taking the time to reflect gives us the chance to look back over the spectrum of our recovery experience and absorb more deeply all that has been happening in our minds and in our hearts. We’ll want to thank God and our listener for the love and the acceptance they have given to us. We should also acknowledge ourselves for being courageous and determined in our recovery work. Reflecting back, we can begin to see that God has been there alongside of us all along. He was with us in the conversation that we had with our listener, and even before that. Now, we can begin to see that He’s been reaching out to us, even before our recovery began. For you see, God is always one step ahead of us. He is always there, waiting for us to show up, honestly sharing with Him the truths of who we really are.

The conversation that we had with our listener has been a real “first” for most of us. Now, having had this “first of its kind” experience, we can sit quietly, alone and at peace, experiencing our bodies, our minds and our hearts being comfortable and at rest with one another. The angst, the resentment and the ongoing distrust that we have felt for ourselves and others can now begin to slip into the past. We can sense a new kind of feeling. We can feel that the world that we live in is a good world and that we are a valuable part of the goodness that God makes. Thank God for our Step Five experience. Let’s continually ask Him to help us grow in honesty. Let’s ask Him to help us to let go of the remaining burdens that we place on ourselves and others.

Journaling what we have discovered is important so that we don’t forget the past. We are more likely to end up where we don’t want to be if we forget where we’ve already been. Also, sharing our experience with those in our recovery fellowship helps us to keep moving forward, too. With this kind of progress we will sense a new kind of confidence deep inside of us. We won’t be alone anymore. We have seen a glimpse of God’s accepting love and we have experienced the joy of having someone else know our secrets and not turn away. Knowing that we are accepted by God and another person helps us to change. We can accept ourselves, failures and all. Redemption has begun. To the degree that we recognize and accept the value that God has for us, we will recognize, accept and value ourselves, too.

We can see that our future will be different from the past. While still capable of addictive self-destruction we know that the downward spirals that we have known before are no longer inevitable. We can live large, in a world of imperfect but wonderful people who, when honest with God and others, make themselves available to be loved by a strength and a power that is capable of giving life amid all hardship and sorrow. Sharing is caring. We become living miracles in the lives of others when we share, honestly.

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

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

All Things Good

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

The time is coming when everything will be revealed; all that is secret will be made public. Luke 12:2 NLT

“To state the facts frankly is not to despair for the future nor indict the past.” --John F. Kennedy


All Things Good

Jesus Christ is the definitive break in what has previously been an unbreakable cycle of human effort, human trial and human failure; a cycle that has been repeated in every human life throughout history. But no more. Through Christ, God changes all the rules. In Christ, the new rule is human trial, human failure and redemption for every man and woman who trusts in the redemptive love of God. It’s very simple, really. God, through Christ, has done for us what we could never do for ourselves. So, we no longer need to be concerned with getting ourselves right with God. We need only concern ourselves with honestly addressing the reality of our addictions and our sins. For this reason, it is vitally important that we understand our shortcomings with as much clarity as possible. Because, we can accept God’s love only to the degree that we accept our personal shortcomings. God will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, but He will not do for us what only we can do for ourselves.

Looking back over our lives, we will inevitably see that we have made some bad choices along the way. Seeing things from an objective point of view, we can see that the choices that we made, even the bad ones, usually made sense to us at the time that we made them. Being objective in this way, we can give ourselves compassion and understanding which will help us to move forward and live our lives with more freedom. We don’t need to judge ourselves anymore. Judgment is God’s job, after all, not ours. For our part, we just let the facts be what they are. God makes perfectly enlightened judgments about the things we do and why we do them. For you see, God does not judge us solely on what we do. He does not define us by our actions alone. He defines us by the love that He has for us. He knows that we don’t know all that we need to know. He knows that we are not always in control of ourselves. He knows that we are instinctively fearful and self-centered and that sometimes we do bad things with good intentions and that other times we do things that look good on the outside but are done with selfish motives. Knowing all things, and with His perfect judgment, God does not define us in terms of good versus bad. Having created us as very complex creatures, God is fully aware, as proven through Christ’s compassion, that we live conflicted lives in a conflicted world. From God’s point of view, we are defined by the simple reality of His revolutionary love for lost and addicted sinners like us.

Because of Christ, it is no longer necessary for us to avoid or escape the pain that we experience in life. In Christ, we can find a good purpose in everything. In faith, we believe that He makes all things good. And because there is no limitation to the meaning of “all,” we can accept every pain and difficulty as an opportunity for goodness. Pain can be a great teacher and a wonderful motivator. Pain compels us forward, motivating us to reach out. It’s as if our past problems, fears, pains and sins become monuments along the road of our journey. They become memorable points of progress that help us, and others too, to journey deeper into the empowering love of God.

We want to be as thorough as we can possibly be and, at the same time, we want to recognize that our faith is in God and not in our own efforts. When we feel anger, we write about it. When we sense fear, we write about it. When we feel resentment, we write it down. We write everything down so that we can talk it over face to face with God, and man to man with another person, too. We don’t need to be perfect, but we do want to do the best that we can. As we get a better grasp about how we feel, we will get a better grasp of who we are and how we have harmed ourselves and others. Then, we become evermore ready to change. We become ready to live in this world in a new and better way.

Write down all that you think needs to be written down.

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

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Getting Intimate with God

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

As he went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, "Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?" Jesus said, "Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments: Don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, don't cheat, honor your father and mother." He said, "Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!" Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, "There's one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me." The man's face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go. Mark 10:17-22 The Message

“A saint is not someone who is good but someone who experiences the goodness of God.” -Thomas Merton

Getting Intimate with God

Scripture is full of people who can help us become more intimate with God. But it’s not always because they had such a good relationship with God themselves. One such person is the man we read about in Mark 10. Let’s call him Don. From what the Bible says, we know that Don rushes around in a big hurry, with all kinds of drama, all in an effort to do what he thinks he needs to do so that he can live forever. Sounds like some of us, doesn’t it?

From what we read we know that Don was intensely committed to his religious practice, rituals he had kept since childhood. Speculating a little, Don was probably the kind of guy who attended church without fail. We can almost see him, tall and well put together. We can bet that Don took really good care of his appearance, presenting himself to the world with great care and consideration. He knew he was doing good and it was important to him to impress others with just how good he was. He probably drove a nice car and, secretly of course, he was proud that he kept his car looking and running better than anyone else in his neighborhood. For sure, Don was well respected at church and at home. This made him feel important. Being the man that he was, Don was obsessed with learning all that he needed to know in order to get rid of anything that limited the life that he loved so much. It seems like Don thought of Jesus as little more than a means to an end. Because Don was committed to getting everything that he thought was important, he inadvertently treated Jesus as if Jesus was just an object that was there to give Don what he thought he needed. Don was in control, or so he thought. In the most subtle of ways, Don was playing God. This is what we do when try to use God to get our way. It happens even with our best intentions. None of us means to objectify God but we do, at least to some degree. It’s really not a question of if we have, but how often have we.

Jesus gives Don an amazing comeback. He didn’t directly confront Don’s religiosity and pride. He just suggested that Don should keep doing more of what he was already doing. Then, being such a hard worker and all, Don was apparently overcome with a deep, deep sadness. After all, since childhood he had been working harder and harder to get a better life and it obviously hadn’t been working for him. If it had, he wouldn’t have been so desperate for something more. So, deep in his gut, he knew it wasn’t going to work now. Do you know this feeling?

Here the story could have taken a great turn, but it didn’t. Jesus continued to respond to Don by challenging his attachments. (Don probably had some addictions mixed in there, too.) While challenging Don to detach and free himself from the things that he held so dear, Jesus extended an invitation to enter into the intimacy of living with Jesus on a day-to-day basis just like the rest of Jesus’ followers did. Sadly, Don could not make this decision. He could not find it within himself to let go of the old life of religion and take hold of this new life of relationship.
We need to be careful not to speculate too much because we can’t read Don’s mind. We can only know for sure what Scripture tells us. Perhaps Don just didn’t believe what Jesus was saying. Perhaps he couldn’t fathom the idea that gaining eternal life did not depend on him alone. Or, perhaps Don just didn’t really want what Jesus had to offer. Don seemed determined to think that his religious discipline and control would be enough to get himself right with God forever. He chose pride over life.

Don’s story will only benefit us if we are willing to learn from it. Sometimes we learn the most in observing the failures of others. It is important for us to relate ourselves to Don and his encounter with Christ, failures and all. For you see, Jesus is about more than just overcoming an addiction. He is about more than just going to heaven when we die. Any reason and all reasons are good reasons to come to Christ, but the only way we will continuously bring life to our sinful existence is to seek intimacy with Christ for the sake of God himself. Any other reason becomes sin sooner or later. Jesus is more than a religious icon. Jesus is how God identifies himself to us in a personal way. In Jesus, God shows himself as the perfect human so that all of us imperfect humans can enjoy a perfected relationship with God. It’s simple really. As we make the decision to surrender our will and our life to Jesus we get close, we get real and we get intimate with God. It’s a love story, not a religious story. God looks deep into us and no matter of what he sees, He loves us just like Jesus loved Don. What Jesus did for Don, God is doing for us. He challenges us. He calls us. He invites us to let go of the things which have been holding us back, most notably our religious attempts to prove ourselves worthy. God frees us from the demand that we get our act together. He knows that even if we did ever get our act together, all that we would ever have would be an act.

Christ, is here to give us His life if we are willing to let go of the lifelessness that we have known up to now.

He has done his part now. Let us do ours.

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

Monday, July 26, 2010

It’s a God Thing

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

I will love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:1-3

“The strength of a man consists in finding out the way in which God is going, and going in that way too.” -Henry Ward Beecher

It’s a God Thing

Medical doctors call addiction a disease because it embeds itself into our bodies physiologically, creating dependencies that have definitive symptoms. Psychologists will often refer to addiction as “attachment” because in addiction we become “attached” to things in ways that are destructive to us. Religious teachers often call addiction idolatry and sin because of the way that addictions skew our personal priorities. Because addiction can be seen from differing points of view it is important for us to understand that each viewpoint has merit because addiction affects the whole person. That is, physically, mentally and emotionally and spiritually. Addictions hook our bodies by creating bio-chemical dependencies in our brains. It takes hold of our lives by creating attachments to people, places and things that we addictively think are necessary for us when they really are not. And, our addictions keep us from having a meaningful connection with God because we value the things we are addicted to more than we value God. Whichever viewpoint is considered, the result of addiction is the same. Lives erode and people die in one way or another.

It has been said that addiction is the most human of all diseases. After all, addiction has been around since man has been around and in one way or another we are all addicted to something. In the past, addiction has affected us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. But we don’t need to stay addicted any longer. When we become willing to seek a spiritual solution to our addictions, we will begin to find solutions for the physical, mental and emotional problems as well. The willingness to look for a new kind of spiritual solution is a kind of grace. We say it’s grace because as we admit that we need help and in coming to believe that we can be restored to sanity, the downward spiral of our addiction has been interrupted. This is something that we could not do on our own.

Furthermore, it is grace that we have the opportunity to take steps that will help heal us. This is a decisive dignity that we had once lost to our addictions. Somehow, in grace that is at the precise point where our hopeless desperations collided with the hopeful desire to find sanity for our lives we’ll find a decisiveness that we didn’t have before. Because the pain of staying the same was more than the pain of changing, we decided, without even realizing it, which is grace, to reach out and grab onto what we’ve come to believe will restore sanity to our lives. Seeking to recover from our addictions, through the power of grace, we seek the Kingdom of God which means to simply make God the King of our lives. For you see, The Kingdom of God is nothing more than the place where God is King.

Remember our friend David from Psalms 38:3-8? Some believe that David had serious problems with addiction. We don’t know for sure but it’s possible that David may have been addicted to sex. Considering how he pursued a sexual relationship with Bathsheba, who was a married woman, and how he orchestrated the circumstances where her husband would be killed in order to hide his sexual impropriety, there is evidence to the real possibility that David was addicted to sex. Most poignant of all is that he seemed to be in deep denial of the consequences of his actions. David, like any addict, was blind to see how his actions where hurting others.

To David’s credit, when his wrongs came into the light, he did not waste a lot of time arguing. He not only realized how wrong his actions were but he also realized that he had unwittingly become, in his addictions that is, his own worst enemy. This helps to explain how David, as he wrote in the Psalms, “I'm on my last legs; I've had it - my life is a vomit of groans,” had found himself at a decisive crossroads. He realized, as we have, that his life was unmanageable and he needed to change in order for his life to change. David was, as we are, at the crossroads of faith and decision. The ultimate question for David, as it is for us as well, is what will the future be like. David, in Psalms 18:1-3 tells us how he expressed his willingness to reach out and connect with a Power that would make a difference in his life.

Our friend David would not allow his addiction to define his entire life, though there was no escaping the consequences of his past. He decisively committed in his heart and mind to seek out a relationship with God. In so doing, David began to find a new and healthy identity for himself. Ultimately, David came to be known as a man after God’s own heart, even in spite of his addictions. The same can happen to us. As we come to believe that we can be restored to sanity, we gain the opportunity to discover and live out a whole new identity. It’s an identity and life that is a perfectly scripted plan for our lives by the design of a loving and caring God. The possibility to live this miracle is here so the only question for us is, will we be willing to live it out?

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

Friday, July 23, 2010

Help is Available



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



He will rescue the poor when they cry to him; he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them. He feels pity for the weak and the needy, and he will rescue them.
Psalm 72: 12-13 New Living Translation

“People see God ever day. They just don’t recognize him.”
-Pearl Bailey

Help is Available

Those of us with addictions tend to be great actors. We attempt to keep our outsides looking really good so that no one would suspect that we’re all messed up on the inside. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth because in the final analysis, our secrets and addictions prove that we’ve been little more than pretenders. Mostly, we’ve been going through life acting like we are in control and that our problems happen because other people are not behaving as they should. We’ve generally had an attitude like we’ve got it all together and if the rest of the world would just cooperate with us then everything would be okay. Do you recognize the thinking here? We fake it. We pretend. We go through life with a head full of fanciful thinking. We are selfish.

Inadvertently, we have made ourselves to be our own god. We have worshiped our own lives, our own agendas, our own priorities and our own values. In short, we have valued ourselves above all else. And many of us have actually done this covertly by hiding ourselves in religion. Whatever we call it, the result has been the same; addiction. So, we find ourselves in a tough spot. We have to make a change in our thinking and in our attitude because the old ways just don’t work anymore.

Recovery from addictions will only come to those of us who can acknowledge and admit that we cannot manage our own lives. As long as we are too proud to admit our weaknesses we will never be able to change them. If we are going to live and recover we will have to find a belief and a faith in something that will work for us because what we’ve had up to this point hasn’t been working. Has it? We need to have help from a Power that is greater than we are. A Power that can heal us where we could not heal ourselves, from the inside out. In light of the destruction that addiction has brought on to us, we must know that we’ll be better off cooperating with this Higher Power instead of trying to overcome it or deny it.

While it is true that we will need help from other people along the way, our failures to heal ourselves prove that we must learn that only God will be the ultimate solution for our problems. Sometimes, as we ask for help we must make the simple and difficult admission of our fearfulness, as well as our powerlessness. On the one hand we fear God and his unpredictability and on the other hand we fear our addictions and their certainty.

Our problems have not really been our addictions, or even the painful circumstances of our unmanageable lives. We, our own self-centeredness that is, is really our major problem. Only God, who often works through people, can solve the “you” and “me” problem and give to us the liberation we’ve been created to experience. As we put our hope in God we find that our past humiliations become humility for today. As we hope and trust in The Higher Power, God can make the tragedy and weakness of addiction into a joy that positively empowers everything we think and feel and do with our lives. As faith in God becomes real for us we find that our addictions and our lives become helpful and encouraging to others as well. After all, everyone is addicted in one way or another.

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

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Steve Shares His Life

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

Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.
I Peter 3:15, The Message


“True ambition is the deep desire to live usefully and walk humbly under the grace of God.”
- Alcoholics Anonymous, page 125, The Twelve and Twelve

Steve Shares His Life

My family has owned a lumber business for over 80 years. My grandfather started it and my father and his two brothers continued to grow it. Even in childhood, I knew that my dad and mom planned for me to go to college first and then come back and work in the family business.

I was very active in high school, lettering in baseball and football, and I always kept my grades up too. And I did more than my fair share of partying at the same time. My friends and I used to throw really big parties out in the woods and fields around the area, where we would drink beer and smoke marijuana. Actually, I only smoked pot at the time because my granddad and my two uncles had had drinking problems. I never saw my dad drink. He told me that he had a drinking problem at one time, so he stopped. I decided pot would be safer because I didn’t want to become an alcoholic like my uncles.

My wife, Mattie, and I met when we were seniors in high school. For me it was lust at first sight. She was smart and beautiful, popular and determined to go to college. Almost immediately we became boyfriend and girlfriend. We were inseparable. Our plan was to get into and out of college as quick as we could, and then get married and start a family. But, something unexpected happened. Mattie called me one afternoon to tell me she was pregnant. She and I were sexual on several occasions, always practicing what we thought was “safe sex.” We used a condom each time we had intercourse, but the condom did not prevent her from getting pregnant. Needless to say, our plans for the future changed.

We married the summer after graduation. I went to work driving a truck for the family business, Mattie gave birth to our daughter and we settled into a pretty good life. I worked long hours and made good use of the accelerated opportunities I had in a well-established family business. Our daughter was healthy and joyful, Mattie worked hard to be a great mom, and she attended the local community college part-time as well. I continued to smoke marijuana after work and in the evenings. It took the edge off the day and relaxed me. Mattie had immediately stopped all of her partying when she learned she was pregnant. I think she assumed that I would give pot up too, but she never gave me too much grief about it. Still, I knew she wanted me to stop.

Our daughter was about four, when I got pulled over by the highway patrol as I was driving home after work. I was a sales rep for the business by then, and I would smoke a bowl or two of pot several times a day to relax and chill out. I had marijuana in the car and I had smoked some just a few minutes before getting pulled over. Well, you can guess what happened. I was arrested for driving under the influence and for misdemeanor possession of marijuana, and I was sentenced to a drug education and diversion program. The program required that I give regular urine tests to verify that I was no longer smoking marijuana. I wasn’t happy about this but I wanted to be a good father, a good husband and a good citizen. So, I gave up pot and soon realized that a few beers in the evening or at lunch did a pretty darn good job of replacing pot. I never smoked marijuana again, but I did pick up a pretty strong habit of relying on alcohol to influence the way I felt. It was not too long before alcohol began to cause problems for me.

Mattie and I had a second child, a boy. When he was about two-and-a-half, I realized that I had gone down the wrong road and become something that I never wanted to be. My two uncles still worked in the family business alongside my dad and me. In fact, as I had matured, I had become the spitting image of one of my uncles. We were the same size and shape, we talked alike and we had the same sense of humor. We also drank the same beer and went through each and every day being just a little drunk. Not too much, but just a little. When I was growing up, I had always felt a sense of loathing towards my uncles because of their drinking. I certainly loved them because they were good-hearted and reliable men, but their drinking made them obnoxious at times and it certainly was not what I wanted to become.

I was shocked the day I realized I had become like my uncle who had the habits I didn’t like. I caught a glimpse of him and me in a mirror that day as we were leaving a restaurant. I was shocked to see how much I was like him. Both of us had drinks with our lunch that day, and having seen how much alike we looked in the mirror’s reflection, I knew then and there that I had become the alcoholic that I never wanted to become. Instead of returning to work, I went home and told Mattie what happened. She could tell I was in a panicked state. I had been drinking for years by then, and alcohol had become more important to me than I knew. And, at the same time, I was desperately afraid that all of my good intentions and dreams for my family had been damaged beyond repair.

Now Mattie had been going to church ever since our daughter was born. In fact, she and my mom had been attending church together. Mattie suggested that I call a pastor she knew from there. Apparently this guy had some experience in helping people with problems like mine. That evening I found myself sitting in his office, where we chatted. He was very relaxed and confident. He seemed to understand the dire pain and concern I felt, but at the same time he didn’t share my panic. He explained to me how addiction is a disease and that my addiction probably didn’t start with alcohol, it probably started with the pot that I was smoking back in high school. He suggested that I get some professional help. Two days later I entered into a twenty-eight day detox and treatment program. This program had me going to AA meetings and I was surprised at how normal the AA people seemed to be. Actually, the people at the meetings were pretty cool.

Near the end of my twenty-eight days at the treatment center, I was visited by the same pastor from Mattie’s church. He told me about Jesus in a way that was different than how I had heard about Him before. The pastor told me how Jesus makes it possible for me to enjoy a relationship with God, and that a relationship with God was more of a personal interaction, not a religious endeavor. In fact, he said that I didn’t have to get religious at all; all I had to do was just be honest and open with God, and Jesus would take care of the rest. I guess I should confess by this time I was intrigued about God because of the great way the people from AA and from Mattie’s church would talk about Him. It was like He was their friend and helper, not like the big head-busting punisher I thought Him to be. I was thirty-seven days sober when I prayed to God, thanking Him for Jesus and asking Him to live with me and in me.

I completed the treatment program but I have never completed AA. I still go to meetings. I attend church with Mattie and I’ve gotten involved in the Restoration program for recovering people like me. On Tuesday evenings I set up chairs, make coffee, shake hands and help with the Twelve Step groups. I’ve been doing this for quite some time now, and I’ve grown to love the addicted people who come to visit us. There are several treatment centers around the area who bring their clients to visit us. I can’t wait to get there on Tuesdays to see them. I know the pain they feel. I know what it is like to have my ego crushed. When they cry, I cry too. I never promise them that their life will be easy or that it will be the way they want it to be. I just tell them about Jesus. I tell them that God does not hold their sins against them, and that His full love and forgiveness is theirs to have if they will just believe it, ask for it and act on it.

I am turning gray now. My daughter is in college and my son is heading that way. Almost every day I look back and fondly remember the day that I went into treatment. Even then, I sensed that my life was not going to be the same again. I was afraid and yet I was ready, too. I wanted to escape the addictions that had plagued my family and me. But, I never expected what I got. In sharing what God has done for me through AA, recovery and, above all, through Jesus, my life is complete.

As I examine myself further, I want to confess that I have often had the silly belief that I was “the king” of my own world. I don’t really know how to explain it anymore than that. Maybe it was because I grew up kind of spoiled, but I always thought that I should be immune to suffering, and that if I felt emotional or physical discomfort in any way, I was being treated unfairly. I bet this is why I learned to prefer being disconnected from life through pot and alcohol instead of facing life head-on. And, I think this is why I spent so much of my life flirting with women in very subtle ways. I never cheated on Mattie and I was never into porn or anything like that. I just had an insatiable need for attention and affirmation, which I would get by being charming to women. Having recognized this, I have admitted it to several of my recovery partners and I am working my Twelve Step program and going to meetings to help me deal with what I now know about myself.

In brief, this is how I see my life. I know that I was born into privilege and that I did not have the wherewithal to appreciate it. I have been loved all along, by my family, by my wife and by my children. Most of all and best of all, I have come to know that God has always loved me and that He has and will always love the whole world too. No one needs to be left out. I know, from my own experience, that God loves people who have addictions. And, on top of it all, I believe that those of us who have addictions and who are in recovery are well suited to take in and give out God’s love to all of those around us.

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

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Priority


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.


Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track. Proverbs 3:5-6, The Message

“We take our efforts seriously, while knowing that serious results are from God. We remain intent and dogged in pursuit of our disciplines, in the working of the steps, but dismiss at all times the notion that our work is enough. It never is. Our miracles come from God, and He offers them in conjunction with our work.” _ Oswald Chambers


Priority

Self-centeredness is cunning, it is baffling and it is powerful. We slip into it often without knowing it. And nothing will kill our recovery faster than when self-centeredness hides hidden in our religious activity. Our commitments to pray and meditate will not make us immune. We will trip up sometimes because we lost sight of the fact that we are not the one who brings good gifts to us. Good gifts come from God alone. We must remember that our best intentions and efforts got us addicted.

So, we must never rely on our efforts alone, no matter how good or well-intentioned they are. It is God who makes the difference in our lives. Yes, we are responsible for being disciplined and intentional in our responsibilities because we will not, after all, grow spiritually if we do not apply ourselves. But, discipline and hard work are never enough to overcome our addictions or conquer the self-centeredness that lurks within us.

All of the growth we’ve had so far has come from God, and the growth we experience in the future will come from Him too. Carving this simple principle onto our hearts and minds will keep us motivated to keep up with our spiritual disciplines. It will keep us moving along the path of God’s spiritual care.

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

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What God Gives

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

One day one of the local officials asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to deserve eternal life?" Jesus said, "Why are you calling me good? No one is good—only God. You know the commandments, don't you? No illicit sex, no killing, no stealing, no lying, honor your father and mother." He said, "I've kept them all for as long as I can remember." When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me." This was the last thing the official expected to hear. He was very rich and became terribly sad. He was holding on tight to a lot of things and not about to let them go. Seeing his reaction, Jesus said, "Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who have it all to enter God's kingdom? I'd say it's easier to thread a camel through a needle's eye than get a rich person into God's kingdom." “Then who has any chance at all?" the others asked. "No chance at all," Jesus said, "if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it. Luke 18:18-28, The Message

Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void. - Simone Weil

What God Gives

Luke 18 tells the story of a successful man and it shows us why he is a good example of how we can hinder our own growth. The man in the story enthusiastically came to Jesus seeking to increase his quality of life, but he walked away devastated with sadness and sorrow. Apparently, this man’s life included wealth, talent, social standing and religious excellence. But this wasn’t enough for him. He wanted more. Can you relate?

This man had confused personal success and having the good things in life with a satisfying life. Knowing this and knowing that having a good life alone will never satisfy anyone, Jesus did not give the man what he wanted. Instead, Jesus challenged the man’s virtue by questioning his lustful desire for more material, social and religious goodness which the man called “eternal life.” Scripture tells us how the man had no effective response to Jesus’ challenge because he wanted what he wanted more than what Jesus had to give. Let no one be confused here. The man had all the information that he needed to know. He had every opportunity to make the right choice. He was fully responsible for making the decision for his life and he was fully responsible for his own sadness. This is because his sadness was not a result of Jesus’ challenge; it was the result of his own inability to let go of the things he valued so much. It was not things that were his problem; it was his attachment to things that kept him stuck where he was. The man’s problem would have been easily solved if he had just been willing to let go and follow Jesus.

How many times have we been in a similar situation? How many times have we sensed that God wanted us to fess up and admit that we were holding on to well-polished idols? Perhaps God is pointing out certain things like personal qualities, talents, desires, interests, reliances or relationships that show that we are not as close to God as we would like others to believe. The message for all of us is clear. Jesus is calling us to let go of the things that we think we need or things we think we are entitled to. But, it’s more than that. The calling Jesus makes is not really about things at all; it is about the letting go. It is about our priorities, our relationships with things and our willingness to let go of things so that we can be free to be filled with the better things that God has for us.
“Sell all that you have and follow me.”

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

Monday, July 19, 2010

Proceed with Caution

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

I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You'll never – I promise - regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we're at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind. Luke 6:35-36, The Message


The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him, “What are you going through? - Simone Weil

Proceed with Caution

Most of our lives have been spent in a ditch of selfishness alongside the road of life. As we move forward, trying to get our life back on track, it is critical that we maintain a balanced perspective. It is very easy to overcorrect and end up in another ditch where we obsessively think that we have to right every wrong perfectly. This kind of perfectionistic thinking will hurt us. It is fanciful, make-believe, and it will stand in the way of our relationship with God. Perfectionistic thinking is of the devil. Even God, while He is perfect, is not a perfectionist and we should not be one either. Having a balanced point of view that recognizes both our responsibilities and our limitations will help us to make rational decisions and find workable solutions as we make our amends.

There will be times where it’s impossible for us to make amends because we simply do not have the internal fortitude that we need. There will also be situations where we lack the resources or the opportunity we need, so we will have to defer our efforts to another time. And, there will be situations where approaching certain people is not a wise thing to do because we may do more harm than good.

We need to be careful when contacting anyone that we have had inappropriate sexual relationships with, or when contacting anyone who has acted out our addictions with us. Old acquaintances, with no ill will, can easily derail us and we can derail them too. In light of this fact, it is essential that we keep ourselves away from situations where we may relapse and lose the freedom that we have worked so hard to gain. In addition to this, we must be vigilant to avoid situations where our best intentions may create more hurt and harm to other people, especially to the innocent bystanders that are close to us and to those whom we have hurt. If God wants us to see former lovers and acquaintances, He will arrange for us to meet them in a way where we can all be safe. We should ask our sponsors and our counselors what they think regarding these situations. They will have good advice for us as to how we can safely and reasonably, make these most difficult amends.

While it may not be wise for us to contact certain people directly, we can begin to make amends to them by assisting other people who essentially represent them in some way. Changing our attitude towards people in general, especially to those to whom we are sexually attracted, and giving all kinds of people appropriate and dignified respect is a great beginning. Making amends to former lovers and to people that we have objectified is vital for us to increase the integrity that has taken root in us. Letting go of titillating fantasies or memories of sexual conquest is a great place to start in making these kinds of amends. And we also must be willing to give up the notion that we need others to meet our needs, financially, socially, relationally or romantically. Making amends requires that we stop seeing others as objects for pleasure, protection or provision. People belong to God, not to us. Making amends requires that we redirect our memories and see the past with realistic clarity. Doing this will help change the way we think. One way to do this is to pray for those whom we’ve held hostage in our fantasies and memories. We just let go of our lusts, sexual or otherwise. This pays off for us in a big way because praying for others changes us at the most fundamental level of our mind and our emotions. Prayer, over time, changes the way that we see others and ourselves. As we pray for others, let us pray for their health, their safety and their happiness, praying that they would experience the fulfillment of their hopes and dreams and, more importantly, come to a place where they experience the ever increasing power of God’s love.

As we are willing to change the way we think and act, we will develop healthier ways of responding to the thoughts, the memories and the varying stimulations that have driven our addictive and destructive impulses in the past. And, as we make amends to others we will see a positive change in our current and future relationships.

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

Friday, July 16, 2010

Recovery is a Gift, But it is Not Free

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

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23, 24, NIV

Our privileges can be no greater than our obligations. The protection of our rights can endure no longer than the performance of our responsibilities.
- John F. Kennedy

Recovery is a Gift, But it is Not Free

The kind of work that we do in our recovery program helps us to better recognize the work of God in our lives. We can now begin to see that we have been made for supernatural purposes and that it is possible for us to fulfill the destiny that God has planned for us.

God created us with a plan. He has divine purposes in mind. As we prepare ourselves to make amends, God is preparing us to pass on to others some of the goodness that He has given us. Our life, addiction and recovery is all part of God’s plan. He is the master creator who specializes in bringing goodness out of tragedy. This is what our Step Eight recovery work is all about – turning bad into good. It is all about the turning of bad into good. We are now ready to begin directing goodness into the lives of others whereas before it had been directed into our own lives. Our personality, our talent and our charm will never be enough to do this. We will have to have God’s help and He will be sure to give it to us. Our friends and loved ones need a love that is not based on who we are. They need a love that is based on who it is that we are created for. Any attempts that we make by our own power alone, no matter how great, sincere or committed will inevitably become little more than co-dependency without the connection of real love, which only comes from God.

The power to love and live well is a gift from God and it comes with profound. spiritual and social responsibilities. God provides the power but we are totally involved; the part we play is indispensable. Our place in the universe begins to make sense as we begin to figure this out. As we develop authentic, God-centered relationships, we become whole and well-balanced human beings that are able to live out our responsibilities and fully enjoy the pleasure of giving and receiving.

Our job and responsibility at this point in time is to make a list of the people whom we have hurt. There are no excuses. No ifs, ands, or buts. Excuses, procrastination and delay for any reason are understandable, but unacceptable. Excuses stop our recovery dead in its tracks. There is no reason to delay.

List more names of people we have harmed.





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

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Changing the Way We Live

We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions, ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom. But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance for life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Galatians 5:19–23, The Message


“A fault which humbles a man is of more use to him than a good action which puffs him up.” - Thomas Wilson

Changing the Way We Live

It is dangerous to be unwilling to relinquish one of our character defects; it potentially sabotages our entire recovery effort. At the very least it limits our future. When we feel like we are hanging onto a character defect that we don’t want to let go of, let us admit our doubt, our fear, and the struggle and stubbornness that we know is inside of us. We admit these things to ourselves, to God and to another person. Let us pray while we admit these things, asking for God’s help starting with relieving us of the fear and the pride that weigh us down. Let us ask God to help us to let go of everything that stands between us and a closer relationship with Him.

Praying in this way assures us that we will receive what we ask for because we are praying for what we know to be God’s will for us. Knowing that God will be working in us in this way does not take away our responsibility for taking appropriate actions to deal with our character defects. We must always be people of action, effective action. When we have doubts about our conduct or character, we will find it helpful to speak with our sponsor or someone else who knows about our addictions and our desire to recover. Letting go of our character defects begins with prayer but it also includes acting and living as if God has already equipped us (and He has) to live well without them. Prayer without action is little more than mental, emotional and religious daydreaming. Our letting go of our character defects requires that we be willing to take the opposite action of the way we would act in the character defect. We reverse course, acting as if God has given us all that we need. This is called repenting in religious terms. If we want to be like Jesus, acting as if we are already becoming like Jesus is a great place to start. Over time, our honest and obedient actions will begin to change the way we think. If we want our life to change, we have to change the way we live it.

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

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Becoming Aware

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

Good friend, don’t forget all I’ve taught you, take heart my commands. They’ll help you live a long, long time, a long life lived full and well. Proverbs 3:1-2 The Message

“A fault which humbles a man is of more use to him than a good action which puffs him up.” - Thomas Wilson


Becoming Aware

One of the payoffs of our recovery effort is seeing how our previous Twelve Step work pays dividends. Our recovery work becomes our second best friend, (our best friend is God and His grace), when we persist with it. Referring back to the personal inventory that we did in Step Four and the journaling that we did after we admitted our wrongs in Step Five will give us a good bit of insight as to how the defects in our character manifest themselves. Our previous work gives us a platform from which we can see our emotional and mental landscape from a broader point of view. Our character defects will appear in bold print when we are ready to see them and do something about them. Recognizing our shortcomings shows that we are seeing ourselves in a more honest and sincere way. Identifying our flawed thinking, misguided believing and self–centered acting is vital for the future of our recovery and our lives. This is an incredibly important part of our recovery effort.

Here are some questions that can help us get a better view of how our character defects can be hidden away in the plain sight of our everyday lives.

Do I have difficulty asking for help? Pride
Am I in debt or do I prefer my desires over another’s desires? Greed
Am I upset because someone is more capable or privileged than me? Envy
Am I afraid? Fear
Who am I mad at? Resentment
What am I mad about? Entitlement
What is my first thought when I encounter an attractive person? Lustfulness
Do I feel the need to please someone other than God? Approval seeking
Do I get frustrated when others don’t act as I want? Controlling others
Do I fear being alone? Dependency on others
Am I uncomfortable around others? Isolation
Do I feel nervous for no particular reason? Insecurity
Do I prefer to be at work when I should be elsewhere? Being a workaholic
Do I feel the need to keep certain facts about myself secret? Dishonesty
Am I eating in an unhealthy manner? Gluttony
Am I upset when things I want are available to others and not me? Entitlement
Do I procrastinate? Laziness
Do I believe my life will change without me changing? Fanciful Thinking

It is quite easy to feel recovered, to get complacent and to forget the insidious nature of our addictions. We must never forget that there’s still some very important work that needs to be done. There are more questions to be asked. Monitoring ourselves and recognizing our character defects provides us with a very caring and loving insight for our own lives. How have our character defects impacted the lives of others? Did our selfish and prideful actions turn out well for us or for anyone else? Do we now display kindness and goodness? Why not?

Honestly recognizing real world outcomes will provide us with improved personal judgment for our present and future actions. Forgetting these important lessons learned is catastrophic for anyone who is attempting to recover from an addiction.

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

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Taking the Next Step

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

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let's not let it slip through our fingers. We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.
Hebrews 4:14-16 The Message


“Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets.” -Paul Tournier

Taking the Next Step

With whom are we going to get real? To whom will we get honest and make our admissions? Some general guidelines will help us find the right kind of person, who in turn, will help us make the most of our Step Five experience. It is important for us to understand first and foremost that there is no one particular person who can completely accept us, and all that we are, in total love. Giving total and complete love is Jesus’ job. No one can do that for us but Him. The purpose of getting real and honest with another person is so that we can experience redemption and restoration at a social level, with other human beings.

It’s been suggested that we choose someone of the same gender. This is not a hard and fast rule but, especially where sexual issues or addictions are involved, we will probably feel more at ease with someone of the same gender. Pastors and members of the clergy usually work quite well, but not always. Competent counselors, therapists or the appropriate mental health professionals should be considered. They can usually be very helpful in matters related to recovery from addiction. We want to find someone we trust, someone who is able keep all that we have to tell them in complete confidence. Above all, we want to find someone who exemplifies the love and acceptance of Jesus. The person we choose to speak with needs to be confident in our ability to recover based on the power of God’s love. They need to believe that Jesus’ love can help all people, especially those of us who are working to recover from our addictions. In many ways, our listener becomes our advocate at a personal and social level much like Jesus is our advocate with God. A person who has suffered from and is recovering from an addiction is often a very good choice. Most of all, we need to find someone who is capable of looking past whatever self-deception that is still holding us back. And, at the same time, our listener needs to see us for who we really are, like God sees us. It is important that they not ignore the remaining personal dishonesty that we still have. We need them to be understanding and patient with us at the same time, too.

Once we have found someone who we feel comfortable with, we need to tell that person the reason why we feel the need to have a serious discussion. Respectfully, we’ll ask him or her for their time. We need to tell that person that we are working to recover from an addiction and that we need help from others to do so. We should explain that it may take more than one appointment. These conversations cannot be rushed if they are to be effective. It is important that we express our desire to have a growing faith in God and trusting relationships with other people. It is also important that we explain that we are committing ourselves to be as honest in our conversations as we can be.

We need to tell our listener about what have habitually thought about ourselves, other people and God. Speaking to another person about our deepest reality means that we do not discuss the faults and mistakes of other people. Right now, at this point in time, problems and faults of others are not our concern. Focusing on the problems that other people have created for us will only deepen our resentment and anger. Let’s stick with the facts about ourselves.

Often, our greatest motivation will be the pain that our addictions have brought into our lives. Reaching out for all the goodness that God has, let us make the most of this opportunity, and this day, so that we can recover from our addictions and, best of all, experience all of the goodness that God gives.

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

Monday, July 12, 2010

Inner Reality

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Let's take a good look at the way we're living and reorder our lives under God. Lamentations 3:40 The Message

"If we want to know God personally, the place to start is with the truth and reality about ourselves." - Anonymous

Inner Reality

Being real about our emotions is one of the healthiest commitments we can make. When we deny our feelings, we deny the reality of our innermost lives; we reject a fundamental aspect of our own humanity. We reduce ourselves. We become objects in our own eyes. We lose the very dignity that we most desire.

Nicole was a wonderful young woman whose life had become paralyzed because she could not honestly address her feelings. Along with the rest of her family, Nicole suffered because of her father’s domineering abusiveness, an abusiveness that he called religious leadership. As a little girl, Nicole often felt hurt because her mother and father ignored her attempts to gain their affection. Her parents, mostly her father, were so absorbed in their own lives that they didn’t care for Nicole in the way that a little girl of her age needed to be nurtured. Because of this, Nicole grew up feeling unwanted. No matter how hard she tried, she was never able to connect with her father in a way that made her feel loved by him. He had a problem himself. He could not connect with his own feelings let alone connect with the feelings of his little girl. Nicole feared that she would never get her father’s love. By adolescence, Nicole was angry. By college, she had a deep resentment toward her mother, her brothers and sisters, church, God, and, most of all, herself. Blind to her own feelings, Nicole continued to love her father and, with a desperate heart, she held out hope that someday he would love her, too.

The greatest tragedy of Nicole’s story is how she began to self destruct in her own addictions even while she maintained all the appearances of a successful businesswoman. Because she was unable to recognize and admit how she really felt on the inside, it was impossible for her to get the help she needed. Nicole fell into a pattern of dangerous addictions and ultimately she died at the age of 34 from complications related to alcoholism and anorexia. Nicole died believing that she was at fault and that her mother, brothers, sisters and God had all conspired together in order to keep her father’s love from her. She never recognized the fear and abandonment that she felt. Nor did she admit the justifiable anger she felt for her father. The last words she heard him say to her were words of criticism because of her drinking and her emaciated appearance. But still, even with her deep wounds, she idolized him till she died. She never could see that he was the one who was wrong. Nor could she admit that she was mad at him for the way he treated her. Nicole’s life and death prove that unacknowledged fear, anger and resentment can be fatal.

Identifying, recognizing and admitting how we feel is a commitment to intimate truth. If we want to be healed we must first be known. Being known starts with knowing how we feel about ourselves, our lives, other people and God. We are responsible for knowing how we feel. If we don’t know how we feel, we will carry our pain and fears with us, into the future. Denying fear actually makes us full of fear. Fear, like anger, resentment and all other painful emotions, swell up inside of us when they go unaddressed, setting us up in a sort of psychic paralysis from which we cannot save ourselves. We get stuck, we are alone. This kind of isolation is perhaps the worst of human suffering and nothing will free us from our emotional isolation unless we get real about how we feel. We have to have help.

Failing to admit what we feel and failing to get the help we need is what killed Nicole. So, to ensure that we don’t suffer the same fate that Nicole suffered, we get real as we work our Step Four. The purpose of Step Four is to help us recognize specific thoughts and feelings that we have that are not effectively working for us. If we are going to make effective changes, we have to know what needs to be changed. Human as we are, we are going to feel fear from time to time. We are going to get mad and we will become resentful sometimes, too. Having these feelings is not a problem. Denying them and avoiding them is. So, in order to get healthier we must get real like never before. We must exercise courage in Step Four. Just because we feel fear doesn’t mean we can’t act with courage. In fact, courage never exists in the absence of fear. It’s more like courage and fear are two sides of the same coin of emotion. To find courage, we must first acknowledge our fear. Then, we take our fear and we turn it over. We admit it and we give it up to God just like we gave our addictions to Him. When we turn over our fear to God and become ready to take action, He will empower us to act with courage even when we still feel afraid. The courage that God gives helps us to know the reality of our inner life in a powerfully intimate way. With the courage that God gives we can take the most personal areas of our lives and give ourselves away in empathy to others. In this way we can touch the very souls of those who are closest to us, passing along the courageous life that we are discovering, helping others to discover it, too. Doing this makes our lives all worthwhile.

As you read through and answer the following questions, take a few minutes and pray that God will help you to understand how to make the pain of your past a blessing to others in the future.

Look Inside

• What have you done in the past that most troubles you today?
• Name and write about the person or persons that make you feel angry, hurt or afraid when you think about them.
• Can you identify how some of your anger at yourself or others has promoted your addictive behavior? How?
• What do you fear most?
• How do you feel about those who are stronger than you?
• How do you feel about those in authority over you?
• Are you mad at any members of your family? Why?
• What have others done that has caused you harm?
• How do you punish yourself today for mistakes you made in the past?
• What habits do you have that are destructive to your body?
• What habits do you have that are destructive to your relationships?
• What habits do you have that are destructive to your finances?

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

Friday, July 9, 2010

God Understands Us

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

O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!
Psalm 139:1-6


“So in terms of what every man needs most crucially, all man’s power is powerless because at it’s roots, of course, the deepest longings of the human soul is the longing for God, and this no man has the power to satisfy”
-Frederick Buechner

God Understands Us

Knowing that God knows us through and through can be very troubling. Nevertheless, our friend David from the Psalms didn’t seem to mind. He even expresses joy and amazement knowing that God is so aware of him. We might think that David would feel this way because of his self confidence. This may be partly true because David was a man of great success, but he was also a man of tremendous failure, too. It’s more likely that David’s joy came from his belief that God had a loving and careful interest in him. The kind of love and care that didn’t depend on whether he was a success or a failure.

David’s experience reminds us that no amount of virtue, religious or otherwise, will make us immune to temptation, to sin or to failure. To his credit, David honestly faced his failures, and as he did so he experienced an expanding relationship with God. David didn’t run, hide, or make excuses. He didn’t pretend and he didn’t minimize his mistakes. He accepted the worst about himself and openly surrendered his shortcomings to God right along with his successes. David, as he admitted his problems, used his failures as a lens through which he could get a better view of God’s forgiveness. As he did this, his failures became building blocks of growth and maturity. Knowing that God was a gracious and forgiving God enabled David to repent and find ever greater joy and health in life. David knew that there are no sins that are too big for God to forgive. He also knew that God was not impressed with his success and that, as he responsibly faced his failures, God would not condemn him.

God knows us in an intimate way just like He knew David in an intimate way. Like it or not, we are all naked before Him. As we acknowledge this, God’s love and power will heal our addictions and save our lives. Just like He did for David, failures and all.

For you see, God understands when we feel conflicted. And, He knows that we live in a conflicted world, too. He is aware that we are not happy ourselves much of the time. Because He understands this, He never holds our struggles and conflicts against us.

He sees that our intentions are good for the most part. But He also sees that we run into problems when we try to control things that are beyond our ability to control. It hurts Him when He sees how we create problems for ourselves and other people because we don’t ask for his help. But then, with compassion, God knows that there is a reason for everything we do, a reason that that we usually don’t know. When our addictions corrupt our motives, he knows it. He also knows that our motives are purified as we get honest. Feeling what we feel, He never loses sight of the fact that we pay a price when we get honest. But, nevertheless, He is always urging us to move deeper into honesty because He knows that the price that we pay for dishonesty is far greater.

In Jesus, God assures us that there are no sins that He is not willing to forgive and that there are no addictions that cannot be healed. With this in mind He wants us to recognize in a deep way that the desire of our heart and the direction of our lives go hand in hand. He has created a world where we always have a choice in who we will become and what our lives will be like from here on out. So, He holds us responsible for our lives. For you see, it is the subtle and intimate decisions that we make that will most profoundly impact our character and our lives. No matter what other people may say, God never laughs at us when we tell Him our plans. He never laughs at us, at all, in any way. God takes us more seriously than that. After all, He died so that we can have this opportunity to live.

God will, maybe, laugh when He sees how we try to make Him fit into the image that we make for Him. But then again, maybe not. After all, He knows that He is God and that we are not. Having expressed his love through Jesus, and having provided help for our addictions through people, God holds us fully responsible for our lives no matter of what we say or think about Him. At the end of the day, He knows that we have no excuses.

God is the ultimate “more than.” He is, in every way and at all times, more than we are and more than everything else, too. Only He can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. With all of this in mind, it stands to reason that we will only know the intimate power of God once we have come to the end of our own resources and realize that we still need more. Having expressed himself in Christ, God is now willing to express himself in our lives as well. The only place for us to find life is in The Life of Christ, God. This Life of Jesus can never be contained in a history lesson or a theological discussion. He is more alive than that. He is to be lived in us! Jesus’ life is now our life. His God is our God. Our lives are His. And now, we exist for God.

Everything will make sense for us when we are willing to look through the lens of eternity. The recovery that God gives is not about rule-keeping, religious moralizing, or self-imposed corrections. It is really the love of God that is changing our hearts and as our hearts are changed, our minds will be changed, too. We are experiencing a complete change of personal allegiance, coming to prefer an intimate relationship with God above our addictions, above our lives, above everything.

Are you ready to say…

God, I surrender my will and my life to You today, this very moment, without reservation and with humble confidence, for You are my loving Father. Set me free from self-consciousness, from anxiety about tomorrow, and from the tyranny of the approval and disapproval of others, that I may find joy and delight simply and solely in pleasing you. May my inner freedom be a compelling sign of Your presence, Your peace, Your power, and your love. Let your plan for my life and the lives of all your children gracefully unfold one day at a time. I love You with all my heart, and I place all my confidence in You, for You are my Abba Father.

Attributed to Brennan Manning

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

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Out of The Box Into The Light

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

I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won't have to stay any longer in the dark.
John 12:46 The Message


Pay attention to the external Source and the internal power will be there.
-Oswald Chambers My Utmost for His Highest

Out of The Box Into The Light

Most of us have had our addictions much longer than we first realized. Because of the destructive impact that our addictions have made on our hearts and minds, we’ve probably not known what it means to be emotionally healthy. It’s like we’ve grown up being locked away in a box. There, in our addictions that is, it would be impossible for us to see the light of freedom. Without light we could not see the future with any sense of joy or healthy expectation. Living in addiction is like being stuck in a cave for so long that we have forgotten what it feels like to have the warmth of the sun on our face. Because we’ve only known the dark up till now it’s been impossible for us to comprehend The Light.

But, as we get connected to a recovery fellowship we begin to see people who have seen “The Light” and the hopefulness that The Light brings with it. From the example of others whose lives are being changed for the better we can see that things can change for us: that the destructive patterns of our lives need not continue anymore. With what we can see in The Light, we come to believe that change can happen for us because we see it happening for others right before our very eyes. This is how God, The Higher Power, works. He works through people.

As God gives us The Light, through the guiding direction of others, we begin to see the pathway to recovery and change being illuminated right in front of us. We see that The Light for living is available to everyone. We find its usefulness not because we are special but because it is the nature of light to light up things around it. Our job is simply to put ourselves in the Light, which is another way of saying we put our confidence and trust in God. For many of us this was a radical but subtle departure from the ways we have talked about God in the past. Let’s get honest, simply talking about God really hasn’t helped us much in the past, has it? After all, many of us have spent much of our lives in religious exercise but have never really known God as any kind of real Higher Power. If anything, our addictions prove that in the past God, as we would refer to him, has been little more than a religious symbol or relic, impersonal words on a page of religious material, or possibly for some of us, a tyrannical overlord that demanded that we observe religious impositions that seem to be irrelevant and arbitrary.

For God to be The Light, our Higher Power that is, means to recognize God to be The One that we trust will show us the way to a life that is free from our addicted insanity. Then, in faith, God, The Higher Power, becomes our Protector, our Sustainer, and our Redeemer. If we think of God in any way less than this we take Him for granted. And if we take God for granted we waste this chance to recover from our addicted insanity. Either God is The Ultimate Higher Power for us or He is nothing for us.

Furthermore, as God works in our lives, we find that The Light that illuminates the way for us is not always pleasant. Not only does The Light shine the way to a hopeful future, it also illuminates areas of our lives that we have not considered before. Many of these areas will need to be changed just as much as our addictions need to be changed. In his loving care for us, God does not discriminate.

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

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

God Knows What You Are Going Through

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

As He saw many people, He had loving-pity on them. They were troubled and were walking around everywhere. They were like sheep without a shepherd.
Matt 9:36 New Life Version


To be alive is to be addicted, and to be alive and addicted is to stand in need of grace. -Gerald G. May, M.D.

God Knows What You Are Going Through

Step One of the Twelve Step recovery process requires that we get honest about how we have failed to control our addictions and our lives. This includes recognizing and admitting that we have lost control over our compulsive desires and that we have failed in all of our attempts to regain control.

To recover from our addictions, it is important for us to recognize that no human being, no place, or anything will solve our internal problems. In fact, even our own efforts will become problems for us if we rely on them alone to change the way we think and feel about ourselves and our lives. Even the little nagging personal problems that we have but don’t consider as addictions (mostly our bad habits, our secret fantasies and our illusions) will take on the qualities and destructive aspects of addiction when we rely on them. After all, addictions are nothing more than bad habits that have become both idolatrous and pathological. In the end, only God can do for us what we have been unable to do for ourselves.

At the center of everything we believe as Christians is a belief that God has the human face of Jesus Christ. Through the scriptural story of the life of Jesus we see how God reacts to people when they suffer. God, through Jesus, responds to suffering with compassion and empathy. Compassion, commitment to love and empathy are the displayed characteristics of the God-humanness that was and is the life of Christ. As God walked the earth through the life of Jesus, he never turned away from anyone who asked him for help. Now it is important to understand that not everyone that encountered Jesus came away from meeting him with the kind of help that they wanted. There were, after all, those who had violent reactions to Jesus and there were also those who came away disappointed and unhealed. But, to those who were willing to admit their hopeless suffering, Jesus gave a power and grace that changed the way they viewed themselves and their lives. In their sincere confession, they were given a power to change that had not been available to them before they met Christ. Hopelessness was made into faith and suffering made into strength. While God does not offer us an escape from inconvenience or discomfort, he does offer us a complete and total change of who we are, which in turn will change our life. To experience this change we must first admit our anguish and longing which then opens us to a desperate but powerful faith and hope in God’s love and care.

Step 1 is the prelude and preparation for a life changing faith and hopefulness. First, we must admit that we cannot solve our problems on our own, no matter how hard we try. As we do this, we get in touch with the center point of our pain and desperation which is the exact place where we became willing to ask God to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. With God there is hope and without him we’re screwed.

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