Friday, December 23, 2011

Complacency and Overconfidence

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

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing. Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.
- Philippians 3:12-14, NLT

“As an insurance against “big-shot-ism” we can often check ourselves by remembering that we are sober today only by the grace of God and that any success we may be having is far more His success than ours.” - Alcoholics Anonymous, page 92, The Twelve and Twelve

Complacency and Overconfidence

We do our recovery work everyday because our addictions threaten us everyday. They never take a day off. Looking back, we’ll see that we’ve never really known when or how our addictions might strike. How many times have we found ourselves suffering a bout of addictive self-destruction and at the same time asking ourselves how did this happen again, what did I do wrong this time? Usually, the answer to this question was not that we did something wrong, but it was because we were not doing the simple but essential things that keep us from the slippery slopes of relapse.

Complacency and overconfidence are probably the most common reasons why people relapse. This is why we need to guard ourselves against pride, arrogance and overconfidence. We need to stay in close honest contact with our sponsors, our counselors and our recovery partners in order to keep our heads clear and free from the complacency and overconfidence that is so dangerous to us. As we humbly accept and admit our failures, our failures will increase our motivation for change and growth. As we maintain the habit of continuously sharing the good, the bad and the ugly parts of our lives, we will continue to become the men and the women that we have always wanted to be.

On our bad days, we tend to think about our failures. On our good days, we tend to think about our successes. But, on our best days, we tend not to think about ourselves at all because we are too busy thinking about God and other people.
Our Journey home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

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

This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God. - Matthew 5:24, The Message

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift someone else up.”
 - Booker T. Washington

Actions Speak Louder than Words

As we start to make our amends, we should make every attempt to offer ourselves to others in a sensitive and thoughtful way. We need to deeply consider the thoughts and feelings of others. Let us make the commitment to speak wholehearted words of grace and compassion. Where in the past we have shown disregard and selfishness, today let us reflect the image of God’s love. In recovery and making amends, it is our job to honor others and to give back to them what we have taken away. We should acknowledge to others that they never deserved to be treated the way we treated them. They deserved better. It is vitally important that we come right out and tell them that we want to make things right and that our restitution begins with a change in our attitude toward them, reflected by the way we interact with them in the future. Our message is simple: Today we see things differently. We are less important; God and other people are more important.

There may be times when we feel like people are out to get us. Maybe they are and maybe they aren’t. (We are, after all, not the only ones who are susceptible to resentment and who sometimes want revenge.) When we are willing to be open-minded about the attacks we perceive from others, it’s likely that we will see that these attacks were aimed at our addictive thinking, our selfish actions and our sin, not really at us. So, when we feel attacked, let’s do our best not to defend ourselves. If we have done something to warrant an attack from another person, we can apologize and ask what we can do to make things right. Then, above all else, let us change our actions. Actions really do speak louder than words.

Building healthier relationships with others requires that we address the ways that we have harmed ourselves, and as we begin to make amends to ourselves we will begin to create the necessary spiritual momentum that helps to move us forward in making amends to others. Many of us needed to make changes in our eating and exercise habits (or lack thereof). When we had hurt ourselves financially, we faced it and with the help of our sponsors and counselors, we made the changes that were necessary for us to begin developing financial integrity. When we had hurt ourselves emotionally, we talked it over with others. Sometimes we even wrote ourselves letters, addressing them to ourselves at specific ages from our childhood. Sometimes, sitting in front of a mirror, we privately read these letters to ourselves. We always read these letters to our sponsors, to our counselors and even to some of the people in our recovering fellowship. Following the example of others, we learned to give ourselves grace and understanding because we realize now that no one has it all together except for Jesus.

Recovery is not a straight line from Point A to Point Z. No matter how good or how bad things get, one thing is for sure: things are going to change.
Our Journey home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Poison of Resentment

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

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14, 15, NIV

Don’t carry a grudge. While you’re carrying the grudge, the other guy’s out dancing. - Buddy Hackett

The Poison of Resentment

It is very important that we keep our focus, remembering that we are working our own recovery program and not someone else’s. Our faults are our responsibility and the faults of others are not our concern. Our recovery necessitates that we recognize that while others have accidentally and even sometimes intentionally harmed us, any resentments that we entertain against them will handicap us spiritually and emotionally. Resentment poisons our hearts. Then it circulates into every part of our lives. It’s like taking poison and expecting someone else to get sick and die.

When we hold a grudge against someone else, we are actually bringing misery back onto ourselves. Resentment creates a kind of attitudinal foul odor that keeps others from getting close to us. Resentment can be intoxicating, and then we get hijacked by unhappiness which further alienates us from others. But, honestly recognizing the hurt others have done to us and giving those offenders our undeserved forgiveness will help to cleanse us from the stagnating resentment that will destroy us. Allowing others the freedom to be wrong helps us to see life, most notably our own life, more clearly. We will be better able to objectively acknowledge and embrace our shortcomings as well as our strengths. Thinking and living this way is a relational kind of humility that frees us to receive God’s strength coming to us through the holes that our weaknesses create, which then results in an increased freedom to love other people without barriers. As we learn to care for others, both the good and the bad, we learn to better care for ourselves with increasing aptitude and insight as a child of God. Forgiving others and being forgiven go hand in hand. We can’t have one without the other.

Our Journey home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

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.
Our Journey home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books

Monday, December 19, 2011

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.

Our Journey home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books

Friday, December 16, 2011

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.
Our Journey home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books

Thursday, December 15, 2011

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?
Our Journey home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

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.
Our Journey home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

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.
Our Journey home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books

Monday, December 12, 2011

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.
Our Journey home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books

Friday, December 9, 2011

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

Possessed by God
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.
Our Journey home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books

Thursday, December 8, 2011

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, Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ

Prayer Changes Us

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.
Our Journey home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

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." - Patrick Carnes, Ph. D.

The Everydayness of Progress
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.

Our Journey home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

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.
Our Journey Home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery

Monday, December 5, 2011

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.
Our Journey home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
     By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books

Friday, December 2, 2011

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.

Our Journey Home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
     By David Zailer
     Copyright 2011, David Zailer