Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Turning Over Our Life

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

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


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

Turning Over Our Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, May 27, 2011

Healing Hope

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

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


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

Healing Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 26, 2011

You Are Not Your Enemy

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

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


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


You Are Not Your Enemy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Living Life for Others

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

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


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

Living Life for Others

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Prayer Makes Us Real

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."

Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking and you will find. Keep on knocking and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.
Matthew 7:7-8, NLT


“Instead of all these, the answer that he gives, I think, is himself. If we go to him for anything else, he may send us away empty or he may not. But if we go to him for himself, I believe that we go away always with this deepest of all our hungers filled.”
- Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat

Prayer Makes Us Real

Everyone prays. We all pray in way or another, often without realizing it. Instinctively, we have the need to connect with permanence, and prayer can be considered as our personal attempt to reach and touch eternity. Prayer helps us make sense of our lives. It helps us sort through tragedy and heartbreak and locate the treasures that are hidden inside of misfortune.

Many of us have been trained to think of prayer as a religious activity or duty. Somewhere along the way we were sold a bill of goods. Someone convinced us that prayer had to be done in a certain way that was scripted or traditional according to certain previously defined standards. This is not true. Prayer is never limited in any way because God is not limited in any way. Prayer may be well planned or it may be spontaneous. It may be formal or it may be casual and conversational. It may be traditional and religious or it may be radical. Prayer can be expressed in many different ways and it is always real and effective as long as we are real and sincere with it. Prayer is not a matter of technique. It is a matter of attitude and openness.

The impact of prayer is reduced if we think of it as a demand or a duty that is required of us. We objectify prayer, we objectify God and we objectify ourselves if prayer is ever reduced to anything less than an act of intimacy. When reduced, prayer becomes nothing more important than washing dishes or making beds. And while these are obviously very good and very necessary things, they are not the things that help us, heal us or bring us into closeness with God. Prayer is more of an opportunity. It is a calling. It is a picking up of the ringing phone and completing the connection that God has made available to us through Christ. Prayer is the way we engage God at a personal intimate level. And while we are engaging God through prayer, we are engaging ourselves at a personal and intimate level too.

Prayer is a dialogue. It puts us at the kitchen table with coffee mug in hand, ready to enjoy a special closeness with our loved one. It is cognitive and intuitive. It’s a spiritual openness that increases our oneness with God and with ourselves. Prayer ushers us into private communion with The Perfect Father - God. And while He is perfect, our prayers don’t need to be perfect. The only thing prayer needs to be is real. What we don’t know how to say, God’s Spirit will say for us. He understands everything, even the things we do not know or cannot express. Prayer, in essence, breaks the silence. It closes the distance between God and us. It heals our splintered hearts and our broken minds. It helps us to know what we feel and it helps us to think better. Prayer fulfills our need to be known. Prayer teaches us to accept God’s unconditional approval and it teaches us to accept ourselves at the same time. Prayer teaches us to recognize treasures that we have not noticed before. We will be able to make sense of difficulties and hardships. Praying privately helps us to be more honest and more true to ourselves. It opens us up. It is the sound we make – the spiritual sound – when we don’t know what to say or how to say it.

Prayer catapults us into the frontier of an authentic spiritual life.

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

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Breakthrough for Gary and His Family

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

Don't be so naive and self-confident. You're not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it's useless. Cultivate God-confidence.
1 Corinthians 10:12, The Message


"The power to honor the truth – to speak it and be it – is at the heart of true masculinity."
- Leanne Payne


A Breakthrough for Gary and His Family

I began my personal Twelve Step recovery program about 3 years ago as a way to get a grip on my workaholism. For years my wife had been bugging me about not being home enough. She also complained that when I was at home, I was “not really there.” It wasn’t until I was in my early fifties and facing divorce and the loss of my family that I started to take her seriously. So, my wife and I went to see our local pastor and he suggested that I had a problem with my attitude and priorities about my work. (I thought he was full of BS.) He also suggested that I meet with a professional counselor who told me flat-out that he thought I was addicted to my work. (Bummer, I thought. I love my work.)

Fearing that my wife would leave and take the kids, I joined the men’s recovery group at my church and slowly I began to see that I really was addicted to work. I realized this not because of the ridiculously long hours I put in but because I was doing my work for all the wrong reasons. I was more than passionate about my work. It was how I defined myself. The only way I thought of myself was in relationship to work. If work was good, I was good. If work was bad, I would feel like everything in life was bad. No matter how I sliced and diced it I knew that I was a workaholic.

Following the guidance I got from the recovery group, I enlisted the help of a man who had been a longtime participant in the group. He is a recovering alcoholic and seemed to know what recovery was all about. I asked him to help me do the Twelve Steps and he agreed. We become close friends as he helped me work the steps for myself. While I was doing my recovery program, I continued to see the same counselor about once a month.

When I got to Step Ten, my sponsor suggested that I spend a month keeping an ongoing journal of my days, noting my schedule, my activities, my thoughts and my feelings. This seemed like a strange thing to do but I knew that my sponsor had done it for himself years before, and when I discussed it with my counselor he thought it was a good idea too. So, not being quite sure of what this was all about, I began to keep an ongoing journal that inventoried my life in real time. It was like recording my life while my life was taking place.

Much of my work responsibility has to do with travel. I am all over the country, spending 10-15 days a month away from home. Occasionally, but not very often, I will succumb to the temptation to look at an adult movie at the hotels I stay in. I know it’s not the right thing to do but sometimes I just get overwhelmed with temptation and I do it anyway. One of these situations happened during the period of time that I was doing my Step Ten daily journal. I had an unexpected delay in my travel due to weather and I ended up spending the night in a hotel instead of flying home like I had planned. You guessed it, I ordered a pay-per-view porno movie from the privacy of my hotel room and I viewed it for about 20 minutes while entertaining myself, if you know what I mean. Of course I felt bad about it. I knew it wasn’t right. But I don’t believe in beating myself up so I just wrote it down in my journal and then I tried to put it behind me.

I got up bright and early the next morning to catch my flight home. When I got home that afternoon I was happy to see my wife, but I was also tired and felt somewhat uncomfortable being with her. My daughter, who was 13 at the time, got home later that evening and immediately she came running up to me to give me a hug and a kiss. I felt uncomfortable about seeing her, too. My daughter seemed to be more aware of the discomfort between us than I was. She said to me, “Daddy, why don’t you want to be with me? Is there something wrong with me?” This shocked me, but I quickly regained my wits and I assured her that everything was okay. She didn’t question me but I could tell that she didn’t believe me either. She went off to her room and I made note of this exchange in my journal. Late that evening, as my wife and I were preparing to go to bed, she said, “Gary, what’s wrong? You seem distant like you used to be.” I assured her that everything was good, we crawled into bed and I tried to go to sleep.

Two hours later I was still awake and my mind had started to race. I got up, went into the kitchen and began to make some notes in my inventory journal. Then, clear as day, some of the events of the last couple of days jumped right off the pages of my journal at me. I realized that my careless actions of looking at the porn movie had impacted me much like my workaholism had affected me in the past. In the past I had used my work like a drug addict uses drugs. I worked to escape the challenges of life -- especially the challenges of intimacy -- and now I realized that I had also used the porn movie in much the same way, and it was affecting me negatively just like my workaholism had done. As these things came clear to me, I was writing them down in my journal. The more I wrote down, the more clear-headed I became about the diabolical subtleties of my addictions. I could see that my attempts to “escape” were triggered by the simplest of things like being too tired, feeling lonely or sorry for myself, or being upset about something that I could not control. I also realized that my escapes, i.e. workaholism and porn, had a terrible effect on the people who I loved the most. My workaholism and porn use had been like an invisible poison that was slowly killing me and my family. Even though my family didn’t know about the porn movie, its negative impact on me created a negative impact on them. It kept us from having a close relationship with one another. Finally, I realized that the opportunities God was giving me to recover would never exist if I lived indiscriminately. There is too much at stake for me not to dig deep and identify the weak points in my character and my life. Not only too much at stake for me but also too much at stake for my family.

My wife is a very early riser and so early the next morning - it was a Saturday - I sat down with her before the kids got up. I apologized to her for being distant. I acknowledged that I did feel very self-conscious when she tried to be close to me the day before. I told her that I had looked at a porn movie at the hotel and I explained to her what I had learned through my journaling. Amazingly, she didn’t shoot me. Now, she wasn’t happy at all about me looking at porn, but I think she was very relieved to hear me acknowledge how I get diverted and distracted by things. Interestingly and much to my surprise, she seemed to recognize that I had made a breakthrough in my growth; I’d had an experience that would make my heart more accessible to her.

Later that day I spoke to my daughter. I apologized to her for being distant. I acknowledged that she deserved better from me and I told her of my desire to interact with her in a more relaxed, honest and faithful way. I told her that she was my greatest delight and that I was aware how my past actions had not always conveyed my true love for her. I told her of my commitment to do a better job of being her Dad. I didn’t tell her about my use of porn because, as my wife and I had discussed, I knew it would hurt her; she was just too young and she didn’t need to know. I may tell her more about my struggles when she is older, but I’ll wait until then to decide.

Looking back, I don’t think things would have turned out this way had I not been continuously taking my inventory. The things I notice about myself now are different than when I first began the Twelve Steps, but they are no less important for me to deal with. My relationships with my wife and children are much better now. I never dreamed we would laugh so much. My wife will occasionally point out that I am being distant or aloof but I really don’t mind her telling me this anymore. It doesn’t feel like nagging the way it used to. My kids and I are now better at expressing ourselves to one another. I think they feel better with me and with each other because I am better able to express my love and delight in them.

I am thankful for my sponsor and my counselor who have helped guide me in this experience. Even more, I thank God for being there for me and I thank my family for not giving up on me. I still keep a journal because I am still working Step Ten.

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

Friday, May 20, 2011

True Forgiveness


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


Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Philippians 2:3,The Message


“The people who gave you the consequences are not your enemies. By seeing those who give you consequences as the enemy, you keep yourself stuck in justifying your behavior. Your real problem is your denial and self–delusion.”
- Patrick Carnes, Ph.D. Facing the Shadow, page 16

True Forgiveness

True forgiveness is something that we can give and something we can receive but we can never force it on others or demand it from others. Forgiveness does not condone, excuse or minimize wrongdoing. Forgiving simply means to look directly at the wrongdoer, knowing full well the destructive impact of their actions, recognizing them for who they are and what they have done and then offering to them a mercy and grace that is completely undeserved.

The giving and receiving of forgiveness is an act of humility. When we forgive, we see others, even the most disturbed, with a kind of empathy that is fundamental to our deepest humanity. It is the way God created us to be. With empathy and forgiveness, we see others as people whom God loves. We see them as people God wants to be close to. We honor God by seeing the people He created, no matter how undeserving they are, as worthy of love and respect. This doesn’t mean that forgiveness guarantees that all of our relationships will go back to the way they were before. Forgiveness, after all, does not excuse inexcusable acts. It sees the facts and sets healthy parameters for the future. This is needed for both the offender and the victim to move forward and live a better life in the future.

We need to be careful not to “ask for forgiveness” when what we really want is to be excused for our wrongdoing. Wrongdoing is never an accident. Accidents can be excused, but selfish people that do selfish things need forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness is an act of repentance as well as an act of confession. Repentance doesn’t debate; it never bargains or rationalizes. Confession makes no claim, nor does it minimize or argue. We are not here, after all, to make excuses. We are here to make a simple request for undeserved mercy. We should never dispute the facts when confronted about wrongdoing we have done. Let the criticisms and the charges be what they are. We are responsible for the way that we forgive others. How other people forgive us is their business, not ours. We may never again experience the same respect and freedom we had before. We may never again enjoy the unmitigated trust of our families. Other people will invariably adjust to how they relate with us in the future. The boundaries that they impose on us are a direct result of the pain and hurt we have caused them. Being committed to love others unconditionally, we should accept these limitations, committing ourselves to respect the lives of others in the same way that we would like to be respected.

If we struggle to forgive others, we should pray for those who have hurt us or let us down. Prayer helps us to overcome the resentments that inhibit our emotional growth. We should pray, asking that God will give both our enemies and our loved ones hope for their life, help for their difficulties, grace for their struggles, and the courage to live abundantly. We should pray for our enemies in the same way that we should pray for ourselves.

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

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Forgiveness- The Way of Healthy Living

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

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32, NIV


“To err is human, to forgive is divine.”
- Alexander Pope

Forgiveness - The Way of Healthy Living

Forgiveness brings us home to be with God, spiritually. Forgiveness is God’s standard practice for healthy living, and where we live spiritually affects where we are emotionally and psychologically. This is why forgiveness is so important to our overall mental health. It is the framework of compassion and empathy upon which our future healthfulness is built. As we breathe in and breathe out forgiveness, we are inhaling and exhaling God’s most life-giving antidote for sin and destruction. Why do we forgive others? Because God forgave us first. Why does God forgive us? He forgives us so we can have life. God knows that nothing is more important for our emotional, psychological and spiritual health than forgiveness, and nothing will help us to make the most of God’s gift of forgiveness like forgiving ourselves.

Forgiving ourselves begins with understanding our own human frailties and shortcomings. This will help us to have a more compassionate perspective. After all, our addictions did make sense to us at the time that we were doing them, didn’t they? God understands this, you see. He understands why we have done the things that we have done. He understands that, as silly and as stupid as our actions were, they somehow made sense to us at the time that we were doing them. God understands the insanity of addiction. He understands that while we are responsible for making good use of the help He provides, we are not completely at fault for all of our insane thinking. We don’t know everything and our decisions and thinking have suffered from faulty and misguided beliefs. Because of His complete and total understanding, He is willing to forgive us for the things we have done. For example, even when Christ was being crucified, He didn’t hold anything against the people who were killing him. In Luke 23:34 Jesus, while being crucified, is quoted as saying, “Father, forgive these people for they don’t know what they are doing.” Our attitude should be the same. As God forgives us we are called to forgive those who have hurt us. This begins with a compassionate understanding of our failures and addictions.

Many sponsors and counselors will encourage us to include our own names on the list we make of the people we have hurt. After all, no one has been more hurt by our addictions than we have. Unless we forgive ourselves we will never fully enjoy the forgiveness that God and other people offer to us. Forgiving ourselves connects us more closely with God and the world around us. As we forgive ourselves, like God does, we will be better able to escape the resentment we have had for other people, for God and for ourselves, too. Self forgiveness helps to increase our appreciation for just how connected and interrelated to all of God’s creation we are, ways that we will never fully understand until we are with Christ in eternity. Forgiving ourselves helps us to participate with God’s creation in healthy and dynamic ways, ways that will far exceed our greatest expectations and assumptions.

Steve and Mattie are a young married couple who had previously lived lives of addictive sexual immorality, until they made the decision to give their lives to God by pursuing an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Together, they began working a 12 Step recovery program which included long-term counseling. Their counselor gave them an assignment, which was to read some Christ centered recovery literature after which they wrote this statement.

We struggled to survive life for many years. Everyday we felt like victims because we had both been severely abused when we were children. But now, we don’t think of ourselves as victims anymore. With God’s help, a change is underway inside of us. We think differently than we used to think – our attitude is different. We don’t need to destroy ourselves or each other with anger and hate like we used to. We don’t need to think thoughts of revenge anymore. God knows what has happened to us and He is in the process of making it all turn out good. He knows the truth. He will make the correct judgments and He will give mercy as He sees fit. We leave all of our hurts and mistakes in his hands.

We now know that God will not judge us for what happened to us, but we will be judged by how we live our lives and how we treat others. We are responsible for our actions. We are responsible for what we do with what we know. We have no power to change the past, but as God is our strength we can change our future. So, we have decided to make the most of the opportunities to experience healing and grow. As we experience God’s power working within us, we will pass this healing onto our children, our family and to others, even to those who have hurt us. The ripples of healing in the pond of our lives will spread throughout future generations.”
-- Steven and Mattie, 2007 In recovery for 2 years


How have we hurt ourselves through self-resentment and self-destruction?



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

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Humbly Asking

We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.


God’s kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field for years and then accidentally found by a trespasser. The finder is ecstatic – what a find! – and proceeds to sell everything he owns to raise money and buy that field.
Matthew 13:44, The Message


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

Humbly Asking

How many times have we asked God to give us patience only to get mad with ourselves or God when “patience” didn’t show up when we wanted it? Perhaps we really weren’t interested in being more patient. Maybe, what we really wanted was relief from the tension and discomfort that we were feeling at that time. With what we are learning now, we will probably find it to be much more helpful to simply admit to ourselves, to God and to another person that we are impatient by nature and that we want to change. We want to learn to think and to act differently - patiently. This is real world humility. This kind of openness helps us to have a more natural willingness to ask others for direction and then to responsibly follow whatever good advice we get.

Saying, “Dear God, I want to be more patient” sounds good, but we may miss the subtle demand that we are making, holding God responsible for our impatient character and problems. But when we say “Dear God, “I am an impatient person,” we offer the truth about ourselves and we accept responsibility for being impatient. Humbly asking is asking for changes to our character and thinking with no demand for changes in the external circumstances of our lives.

The ultimate purpose of all prayer is to get hold of God. To do so we have to let go of our pride, inviting God to act according to His purpose in our lives. Changes in our circumstances are optional; changes in our character are necessary. We become the changes we desire. God will be our strength and He will empower us to do what we are responsible to do.

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Becoming Ready

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

When the Lord saw that he had caught Moses’ attention, God called to him from the bush, “Moses! Moses!” Here I am!” Moses replied.”
Exodus 3:4


"Since most of us are born with an abundance of natural desires, it isn’t strange that we often let these far exceed their intended purpose. When they drive us blindly, or we willfully demand that they supply us with more satisfactions or pleasures that are possible or due us, that is the point at which we depart from the degree of perfection that God wishes for us here on earth. That is the measure of our character defects or if you wish, of our sins."
- Alcoholics Anonymous

Becoming Ready

The way that God deals with us on a personal level will be as unique as we are as individuals and as mysterious as God is himself. While we all share common ground with one another, we will all have some very specific and unique experiences that will prepare us for the life that God has planned for us. What God uses to get hold of one person may not work for another. No matter how it happens, each of us will be led, if not already there, into a wilderness experience. Our hopes will be lost and our dreams will be destroyed. We will be reduced to the helpless and dependent state of a child. As painful and difficult as this may sound, this is all good news because it is only in a childlike experience of dependency that we are made ready to receive the best that God has to give us.

Our friend Moses, from the Scriptures, is one example of how God pulled someone into a life changing encounter with himself. As a young man, Moses had a difficult time staying out of trouble. Conflict seemed to follow him wherever he went. He seemed to be at his best and at his worst when he was responding to the people and the circumstances around him. Moses had a strong desire to change the things that he thought were wrong, but very often his best intentions, combined with his misguided reactions, made things worse. Moses used his God-given talents in ways that were both bad and good. Moses was, in himself, conflicted, just like we are.

The story of Moses’ life is told in the biblical books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. These books paint a colorful picture of a man who had all the best intentions, and at the same time they also show us a man who had a painfully difficult time putting his good intentions into healthy and productive action. Moses’ character defects often blocked the good outcomes that he intended. We need to read the biblical record in order to see the complete picture of Moses’ life, but here are a few low and high points of interest that will help us to see how God worked to change Moses’ thinking, which in turn changed Moses’ way of living.

Born an Israelite and separated from his parents as an infant, Moses was raised by the daughter of the king of Egypt. He was educated by the best that the culture of his day had to offer. One day as a young man, seeing one of his Hebrew countrymen being beaten, Moses went to his countryman’s aid and killed an Egyptian citizen. Later, when Moses was confronted about the killing, he fled into the wilderness in order to escape prosecution for the murder that he committed. There, in the wilderness, he married and started a family, and he lived in obscurity. In his running away, Moses abandoned himself to the wilderness. He abandoned his lost hopes and his broken dreams. But, God did not abandon Moses. After many years, the king of Egypt died. Moses, who was now tending sheep for his father-in-law, had given up and maybe forgotten all about his grandiose ideas of heroic escapades. But God had not forgotten, and God had certainly not given up on Moses. God was at work deep in Moses’ heart and mind during this time of obscurity. God was preparing Moses for the future that He had in mind for him. When God’s work of preparation was fulfilled, He reached out and made contact with Moses in the form of the burning bush. When God spoke, Moses, having been made ready in ways that Moses was not even aware of, answered back to God. Then, because he was ready and willing, Moses set out to become all that God had prepared him to be. As a result of God’s work of preparation, coupled with Moses’ humble willingness to change, Moses returned to Egypt where he led his Israelite brothers and sisters out of a captivity they had suffered for over 400 years. (Please read Exodus Chapter 3 for a more detailed account of how all this happened.) Like Moses, we all have spent years living in obscurity and pain, as proven by our addictions. We never meant to end up the way we were, but we did. We never intended to get sidetracked, but we did. Our addictions prove how we had given up on ourselves, how we had lost our hopes and our dreams. But, and here is the good news, God has not given up on us. He is at work. He is sustaining our lives and He is waiting for us to be ready to have the defects in our character removed from us.

Our good intentions and our character defects are like two sides of the same coin. They live together, side by side, until we become entirely ready to have the character defects that corrupt our good intentions removed from us. This means that we are ready to be made into fundamentally different kind of people. Staying the same will no longer be acceptable to us. We want to be different in order to move on and experience the life that God has to give us.

Feeling dissatisfied with who we are creates a deep desire for change. Dissatisfaction and desire go hand-in-hand much like our good intentions and our character defects. The kind of dissatisfaction that leads to desire for change makes us intentional about our recovery. It motivates us to take action. The desire that we feel for change is a gift from God. It is a quality that is unique to the human experience. It reveals the redeemable condition of our heart. Godly dissatisfaction and the desire to change create a vision for how we will live, not only recovering from our addictions, but as men and women who are truly free. Godly desire is about becoming ready to have the entire panorama of our inner life reformatted and changed by the perfect design of God. Godly desire makes us ready to set aside our own demands for personal satisfaction. It makes us ready to be the kind of people who love other people in ways that only God makes possible. Our old nature will dry up and it will begin to fall away. We will bloom from the inside out. We will realize that we are prepared, or maybe it is better to say that we are being prepared, to live life in a way that only God can give. Just like our friend, Moses.

The story of Moses’ life is a wonderful example of how God makes good use of our failures. It is safe to say that Moses was better prepared by God during the time that he spent living in obscurity than in any way that Moses could have ever prepared himself. Just like with Moses, God is doing His most intimate work inside of us during the times when we feel the most broken and hopeless. It is during times of difficulty and failure that God whittles away at our ego and prepares our character to become more like His own. We can’t always see or feel this most intimate work of God, but its reality is proven through our own willingness -- the willingness to change that we now have but did not have before. Nothing is ever wasted if we are willing to give it to God. The more God rules our minds and our hearts, the more our failures and addictions will become assets to us and to those around us.

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

Monday, May 16, 2011

Becoming Our Friend

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

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


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

Becoming our Friend

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 13, 2011

Who's to Blame

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

People may be pure in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their motives.
Proverbs 16:2 NLT


“Whatever games are played with us, we must play no games with ourselves, but deal in our privacy with the last honesty and truth.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Who’s to Blame?

Life is hard. Troubles come at us from every direction. Sometimes our troubles appear to be so big that it feels as if life itself is conspiring against us, keeping us from succeeding in the most important areas of our lives.

Perhaps more than most, people who struggle with addiction know what it’s like to feel as if God and the whole world are against them. Sometimes, we can even get a strange and sick kind of satisfaction from feeling this way. Succumbing to self-pity is an unhealthy way of trying to escape the reality of how we have lived irresponsibly. This is because when we are under the influence of self-pity, we alter the way we feel, all in a delusional attempt to sidestep the deep interpersonal convictions of truth that we do not want to face. Usually we won’t directly tell others about the perceived injustices that we think that God, and life, have imposed on us. It’s more likely that we’ll just go through our days with a negative disposition, politely mentioning the undeserved troubles that we have. It is common to blame God for things that are not his fault, and as part of our Step Four inventory, we need to understand how we have blamed God for our troubles in the past. We need to get honest about this. Everyone blames God for something, and we certainly are no exception.

We know that God is all powerful but at the same time it is critical that we understand that He is not all controlling. God creates people, not robots. He creates us with the dignity and the ability to make choices. Then the choices that we make impact our life and the lives of others. The effects of some choices will be good and others will be not so good. The choices that people make, and their effects, are not God’s responsibility. The relevant question for us is this: How can we cooperate with God in such a way that the bad things that have happened to us in the past can become things that are good for us today and in the future? For you see, in the past we have been our own worst enemy. In using self-pity and self-delusion, we have conspired against ourselves. In the past we would rather blame someone else for our troubles than to change ourselves and the way we live. We’ve hurt ourselves in ways that no one else could ever do. Remember, after all, that addiction is a self-assault.

Seeing things from God’s point of view, we’ll begin to recognize that God’s plan for our lives is a kind of conspiracy, too. It is the conspiracy of grace and love. Scripture reveals how God has planned and intended, conspired that is, to bring all people into a relationship with Him. This is the greatest conspiracy of all time. The only one that will succeed, forever. It is ongoing. No one can stop it or defeat it. In the end, no one will doubt that God’s love will rule. For us, the only thing in doubt is whether we are ready and willing to act in a manner that will help us experience God’s love in the here and now.

As we work through this section of questions, let’s look at how we have inhibited God’s love in our lives. We all have blamed God for things that were not his fault. He knows it and He is not holding it against us today. This is our chance to get in better touch with our inner reality and in so doing we’ll get in touch with God in a more honest and realistic way.
Let’s Get Real

•What difficulties do you have that cause you to blame God?
•How have you expressed unwarranted pride and anger when people and the world did not cooperate with your plans?
•How have you tried to manipulate your feelings through self-pity?
•How and when and with whom do you feel excluded and deprived?
•When did you first think that you may have an addiction?
•Who hurt you? Was it parents, other family members, people from church or school, neighbor, enemy, friend?
•How have you blamed God for the hurt that others have done to you?
•How have you violated or objectified others sexually, personally or socially?
•How have you defied your spiritual convictions as a result of your addictions?
•Who is the target of your jealousy and why?
•How have you been greedy?
•How has your addiction affected your relationship with God?
•How have you been determined to get your own way?
•How have you confused God with church?
•How have you confused religious activity with an intimate relationship with God?
•When and why do you feel self-pity?
•What do you feel guilty about?
•Why do you lie?


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

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Turning Over Our Will

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

With all your heart you must trust the LORD and not your own judgment. Always let him lead you, and he will clear the road for you to follow.
Proverbs 3:5-6 CEV


“We deify our independence and self-will and call them by the wrong name. What God sees as stubborn weakness, we call strength.”
- Oswald Chambers

Turning Over Our Will

Everyone is addicted to something. While some things are more addictive to some people than others, the potential is always there for all of us. This is because of the bio-chemical connections that happen in our brain and our bodies. In fact, we can potentially become addicted to things that are not even thought of as addicting because addiction really has more to do with the insides of us, than it has to do with things that are outside of us. For example, let’s say that we have become addicted to jelly beans. Now we all know that jelly beans are not generally considered as addictive, but, nonetheless, it is possible that we may be so profoundly affected by our love of jelly beans that we begin to think and feel, at least to some degree in our psyche, that we “need” jelly beans. Being addicted to the jelly beans, means that we’ve come to believe that they are necessary for us. We think that we need them to in order to be happy and to maintain what we think is normal for us. This is the way that addiction corrupts our priorities, misplacing other things that are truly more important.

Just like with jelly beans, we can potentially become addicted to any person, to any place and to anything. The addictions we’ve struggled with have embedded themselves into our priorities and our intentions and in doing so they’ve hijacked our desires. When we add up the sum total of our priorities, our intentions and our desire: it equals our will. This means that ultimately we get addicted in our will.

The will is best described as what we intend on doing and what we plan to do. Perhaps we can best understand the term “will” if we think of it as our focused desire, our commitment to pursue, the giving of our attention, what we most deeply desire. Our will is what we want, what we pursue, with what and how we devote our attention. It’s what we are committed to doing. It’s what we really want. It connects us to everything we hope and dream for. It’s connected to our personal history including family, career, love interests, even religion and politics. Our will reveals everything we really think and feel about ourselves, other people, and the world in which we live.

In the past we have lived by our own will-power. And, as our addictions prove, our self-determined willpower has entangled us, getting us attached to people, to places and to things in ways that are not healthy for us. If we become attached to people, to places or to things in ways where they become more important to us than God’s will, our willpower is weakened accordingly. The more we exert our willpower for our own self centered desires, the less effective it becomes. This is where the bondage of addiction gains its deadly toehold in our lives. Even though we often don’t realize it, the root of our addictions, and our sins, too, is pride. Willpower alone will never be enough. It must be empowered by God.

The antidote to our pride, and our addictions, is humility. Turning over our will to God’s care is the ultimate, and intimate, humility that only we can do for ourselves. What we are really doing is turning over every thought, every feeling, every desire, and every intention. We don’t try to change them ourselves, and we certainly don’t deny them. We just admit them and then turn them over to God. It doesn’t matter whether they are good or bad, we turn them over either way. As we turn over our will, even in the smallest of ways, our struggle with addiction begins to be, to the degree of our surrender, consecrated by God. As we turn over our will and our life to God, our personal will begins to be made holy.

Let us never forget that God is fully connected to everything we think and feel. He knows it all and He doesn’t turn away. In knowing all, He calls us home to health and recovery. This journey home begins with a letting go of our attachments, which is a way of allowing God to become fully involved in our thoughts and feelings. As we turn over our thoughts and feelings to God they begin to become transformed by God. The power of God’s grace flows into us most freely when we decide to align our will with God’s will. As we do this, God will become more important and we will become less important. This simple decision is the most powerful way that any human being can exert his or her will. It is our choice for our recovery. It’s evidence of the initial transformation of everything we are, beginning with what we want and hope for, our will.

Some of us prayed in this way…

Dear God,
I pray that I will learn to desire obedience more than blessing or comfort and to know that the greatest blessing in life is to live obedient to your will. May I learn to better give up my will and find my complete and total satisfaction in your will. My self-centeredness destroys me but seeking You and doing your will brings life to me. Realizing this, I have decided that my mind, my heart, and my will, will be directed to You. I will find my purpose and identity in knowing You more personally and living more powerfully according to your Spirit. Amen

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Power of Imperfect Faith

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

What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!
Mark 9:23,24 NLT


“When I was driven to my knees by alcohol, I was ready to ask for the gift of faith. And all was changed. Never again, my pains and problems notwithstanding, would I experience my former desolation. I saw the universe to be lighted by God’s love; I was alone no more.
-Bill Wilson founder of Alcoholics Anonymous

The Power of Imperfect Faith

Coming to believe that we can be restored to sanity is an expression of faith. Faith, which is often confused with religious tradition, is more of a trust and confidence than anything else. Faith is more personal than religious, although faith may be a part of one’s religious convictions. Whereas many of us have previously experienced religion as a controlling set of rules that masquerade as belief, faith is more of a fundamental confidence that leads to effective life giving action. Religion is doing things in an attempt to make ourselves right. Faith is believing that God is making us right and this leads us to doing what is right. This is not to say that faith doesn’t play a necessary role in religion because it does. Religious people of all kinds express their faith in ways that help keep them mentally and emotionally balanced. The ways that healthy people, religious or not, live out their faith are lessons that are essential for us to learn as recovering addicts.

Faith is a trust; a trust and confidence that can be known as a deep abiding conviction of the heart and the mind. A deep abiding conviction of faith is the foundation of a healthy and happy life. It integrates the heart and the mind. Faith that is real is the abiding belief that God can and will do for us in our recovery what we have been unable to do on our own, no matter how hard we tried. Faith is a reaching out, an opening of the mind and the heart to possibilities that we had ignored or opportunities that we had refused in the past. In faith we trust in God and we trust in the people that God brings into our lives who can help us in our recovery. In faith we come to believe that God will provide all that we need to recover and that our responsibility is to simply supply the honesty, the openness and the willingness to do the work of recovery. In faith, God provides everything that we need to recover. In faith we know that if He doesn’t provide something that we think we need, we accept that we don’t really need it after all.

Real faith is honest and in touch with reality. It never defies the facts. Our friend that we read about in Mark 9, verses 22 and 23, gives an honest expression of his heart and his mind. On the one hand he cries out desperately, hoping for help for his son and at the same time expressing the weakness of his faith. He seems to be torn but really he’s just being human. Jesus recognized that amidst his struggling expression of faith he was really expressing a faithful struggle of hope and belief. Jesus knows that our honest faith is never without doubt. From this story we can learn to have faith in God’s empathetic care. We can have faith that Jesus, who the Bible says is God in human form, understands what it means to be human. He understands the struggle of faith, the faithful struggle to believe that God will connect to our weak faith all the power and resources necessary to accomplish His healing love and care in our lives. Our friend in this story seems to understand this, and it is necessary for us to understand this as well.

In Step 2, we are putting our faith in God and not in ourselves, which would lead us back to our addictions. Nor is our faith in our own faith which is nothing more than wishful thinking and superstition. In Step 2 we just believe, as faithfully as we can, that God will come through for us. It’s really very simple. A weak faith that trusts in a loving and powerful God is more than sufficient to meet any of the demands that we will face in our recovery. And, as we struggle faithfully to believe in God’s care and love we can know from this Scriptural record that Jesus will carefully give us all that we need just as he did for our friend in the scripture. Our faith doesn’t need to be perfect because our faith is in God. He takes care of the rest.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

We Admitted

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

If you think you know it all, you're a fool for sure; real survivors learn wisdom from others. Proverbs 28:26 The Message

“When we have accepted the worst, we have nothing more to lose. And that automatically means – we have everything to gain.”
-Dale Carnegie

We Admitted

Everything that we do in a worthwhile recovery effort begins with “we.” We cannot allow ourselves to be alone if we hope to have a worthwhile recovery experience, because no one recovers from their addictions alone. We have to have help. While each of us will have a different story to tell, all of our stories end up pretty much the same way; addicted.

In our addictions, we become isolated by our secrets and by our shame. We feel guilty about the things we’ve done and we feel shameful about the secrets we’ve kept. We often feel like we are little more than a huge mistake that must be kept hidden from others at all costs.

In our efforts to combat our sense of aloneness, many of us have participated in various groups that were based on commitments of religion, social service, virtue, promise keeping, and faithfulness. We participated in these groups with full sincerity, always working with great diligence so we would not fail. We thought that if we could make ourselves to be of great importance we could solve our own internal pain. But we could not. Our best efforts were never good enough for us. No matter how much we excelled in our good works, our own sense of failure continued to grow. Whatever we did, no matter how good or worthwhile it was, it was never good enough. We thought we had to be perfect. It seemed to us that if we could get it right, whatever it was, then we could get ourselves right too. We always worked harder. To us, things were never good enough. We became perfectionists. Then, we would even find failure in our greatest achievements. Strange as it sounds, no matter what the successes we achieved, or the failures we experienced our addictions seemed to become ever more attractive. And, paradoxically, the harder we worked to overcome our addictions on our own the more our addictions ruled our lives.

Left with few, if any, viable opportunities for change we admitted we needed help. And, we took the first step in getting help by seeking out a recovery fellowship, a place where it was safe to admit that we were not in complete control of lives. Desperate, we admitted that we had been unable to overcome some very serious problems with our behavior and that our life was beyond our ability to manage. In making our admission we began to set aside our own ego-centered independence in order to seek out a connectedness and fellowship that could do for us what we had not been able to do for ourselves.

Alone we are dying, but together we can recover and live.

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

Monday, May 9, 2011

A New Purpose for Our Lives

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.

But Jesus said, "No, go home to your friends, and tell them what wonderful things the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.”
Mark 5:19, NLT


“If you will agree with God’s purpose, He will bring not only your conscious level but also all the deeper levels of your life, which you yourself cannot reach, into perfect harmony."
- Oswald Chambers

A New Purpose for Our Lives

Pain and fear are often two of our greatest motivators. Pain grabs our attention and fear either paralyzes us or it shakes us into doing things that are usually destructive. This is how our impulsive attempts to avoid pain and fear that have deepened our addictions. But, thankfully, things have begun to change. Hope and humility give us the willingness to go through pain instead of escaping it, and the ability to address fear instead of running from it.

We become the kind of people who can face fear and endure pain when we see that a more intimate walk with God lies ahead for us. This intimacy with God that motivates us to keep moving forward and leave our addictions behind. God teaches us to not fear pain like we used to. He teaches us to handle fear in healthy ways. We learn to benefit from our pain and fear as we accept them as opportunities to exercise our faith in God. The strength of our faith is not the issue at hand, because walking with God is not a matter of how big or how small our faith is. If we have faith in God, in whatever amount, we have enough. Our faith, after all, is in Him, not in ourselves. This faithful thinking moves us to the place where our addictions just won’t make sense to us anymore. Our addictions never really helped us, you know; they only distracted us. We don’t want that old life anymore. So, why would ever want to go back to them again? We want God’s best now, and we are willing to do whatever it takes to have His best, even when it is painful and even when we feel afraid.

In the past, most of us have thought of ourselves as physical beings who were trying to have spiritual experiences, but now we think of ourselves as spiritual beings who are having physical experiences in ways that are uniquely designed for us, individually, by God. We will enjoy some of these experiences and not others. We will laugh sometimes and we will cry sometimes. No matter what the circumstances are, and no matter what emotions and feelings we have, things for us have become wonderfully simple. We are people who have suffered terrible addictions, but now we are people who enjoy God’s best today and everyday. We don’t judge our lives by our circumstances; we judge them by the freedom of our heart. For you see, through God’s grace coupled with our surrender, we become the most blessed of all people. We know this because God only judges us by the standard of His love and righteousness that’s been displayed through Christ. We, on the other hand, judge ourselves more harshly. We judge ourselves by our willingness or our unwillingness to respond to His love through our obedience.

Recognizing how blessed we are gives us gratitude for our addictions. A grateful heart helps us to look back and see our addictions as a kind of training ground. They have prepared us to become the kind of men and women who can share God’s grace with others in very dynamic ways. More than most, we embody the progressive prodigal experience of hopelessness, selfishness, disaster, desperation, whimpering cries for help, grace given, grace received and life resurrected. By God’s design, there is no better plan for us than what we have experienced. Our purpose in life going forward is to seek, discover and experience God as Jesus Christ knows God, and as we receive the benefits of knowing God, we will encourage others to seek, discover and experience God for themselves.

We are all prodigals in one way or another. And, understanding this is at the core of our transformation.

Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer and The Men and Women of Operation Integrity
Chapter Twelve Segment Two
Copyright David Zailer, 2010
Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
1-800-762-0430
operationintegrity@cox.net

Friday, May 6, 2011

Soul Yearnings


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.


Show me the path where I should walk, O Lord; point out the right road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. Psalm 25:4-5, NLT

“In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God’s thoughts after Him: to desire the things he desires, to love the things he loves, to will the things he wills. Progressively, we are taught to see things from his point of view.”
- Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Soul Yearnings

Our sponsors, our mentors, spiritual directors and our counselors have helped us and will continue to help us grow in our recovery. While they help us, they are not the resource or the power that gives us growth. That is done by God’s Holy Spirit. As our “new man in Christ” grows within us, we will develop a personality and identity that is much more suited to what God created us to be than anything we could have hoped ourselves to be. This new identity is much more from the influence of God working deep within us than it is from what we have learned or observed from others. The examples that others have given us are very good, but we are called to something more personal and more unique to who we are as individuals. We must not confuse a teacher with The Teacher. Human teachers come and go, but God will never leave us and He will not forsake His commitment to work His best into every area of our lives.

Our joy in recovery will suffer if we don’t exhibit the humble diligence that leads to intimacy with God. The bigger our ego gets, the smaller God gets and, on the other hand, as God’s presence in our life grows, our ego will shrink correspondingly. Only after, and never without the intentional application of hard disciplined work, will we grow up. Growth will not remove our human imperfections, but it will enlarge us spiritually, molding us to be more like God intended us to be. We are responsible to be diligent in our pursuit of what God wants us to be. We are responsible for living out the miraculous purpose for which He created us.

One of the great things that will come out of our walk with God will be the stories that come from our life experience. When we share them, our life experiences will encourage others much like we have been encouraged by those who’ve shared theirs with us. For you see, God takes all the broken pieces of our lives and He creates something worthwhile for everyone. While the details of our stories will be different from one another, the fundamentals will be the same. In recovery, we all admit how our failures and our addictions proved how alone we had been. We accepted our need for God and then His love broke through to us. He reached into our aloneness and we reached back for Him. We had been like adulterous lovers, awkward and embarrassed, sneaking in the back door, not knowing what to say. But God made the first move to listen to us and get close to us and now, because we want to get close to Him too, we make the second move which is to pray.

Prayer takes us out of our aloneness.

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

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Lifestyle of Vigilence

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

So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.
Galatians 6:9 -10, The Message


"If the Spirit of God detects anything in you that is wrong, He does not ask you to put it right; He asks you to accept the light, and He will put it right. A child of the light confesses instantly and stands bared before God; a child of the darkness says – “Oh, I can explain that away.” When once the light breaks and the conviction of wrong comes, be a child of the light, and confess, and God will deal with what is wrong; if you vindicate yourself, you prove yourself to be a child of the darkness."
- Oswald Chambers

A Lifestyle of Vigilance

We must never forget that we are powerless over our addictions and that our lives are beyond our ability to manage on our own. We also need to remember that we have come to believe that we can recover from our addictions because we have encountered other people who are recovering from their addictions. Then, wanting to survive our addictions and live, we made the decision to trust God with our lives the best we knew how, while at the same time we recognized that our trust in Him and our relationship with Him needed to include trusting the people that God brought along to help us.

As our trust in God and other people grows, we begin to admit to ourselves, to God and to certain trustworthy people who we really are, what we think about ourselves and how we feel about the world around us. We realize that we cannot get rid of our character defects on our own and that the only worthwhile thing to do is to ask God to remove our character defects from us. Then, as our character defects weaken over time, we become more aware of how we have hurt others in the past. By offering our apologies and assistance to those that we have hurt and by forgiving those who have hurt us, we accomplish something that no one else can ever do. No one can make our amends or our apologies for us. Doing this work ourselves is a very effective part of healing and integrating our hearts and our minds together as one.

The growth we experience motivates us to continue on. Maintaining a trusting relationship with God and, at the same time, considering other people as more important than we consider ourselves, helps insure that we will continue to grow away from our addictions. A lifestyle of obedience to God draws us, step by step, on a continuing journey where our faith is increased and our hopefulness is expanded. We begin to see a new character form within us and a new life take shape ahead of us. But we won’t stop now. We can’t stop now because there is no middle road in recovery. We continue to grow, or our addictions will begin to overtake us once again. It is critical that we recognize that even the most subtle of our thoughts and our feelings lead to action, in one way or the other, good or bad. We never just stay the same. Complacency puts us at risk of losing ourselves to our own addictions once again. So, it is critical that we know what is going on inside of us. We must be willing to surrender our counterfeit appearances, even at the most personal and fundamental level. Our future requires that we have an honest grasp of who we really are; it requires that we prefer God’s plan more than our own.

What benefit do we gain, or what good can we offer if we abandon our recovery incomplete?

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Feeling and Doing

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

This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step by step. He never did one thing wrong, Not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. I Peter 2:21–23, The Message

“It is not until we love a person in all his ugliness that we can make him beautiful, or ourselves either.”
- Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat, page 42

Feeling and Doing

Let’s be honest about the deep anger and resentment that we have held against some of the people to whom we owe amends. All of us have suffered to some degree because of the anger we have stored up on the inside. If we take a moment to honestly consider this, we will see that there is really no question that we have felt this way. Anger and resentment are some of the core feelings that drive our addictions. The only real relevant question now is, Can we – will we face our anger honestly, with integrity, and not let it stand in the way of our recovery?

Recovery and future growth will not allow us to sidestep our feelings. We have to be willing to confront the destructive feelings that we have felt for certain specific people (this may even include a group of people or a particular demographic) if we want to recover and make healthy changes to our relationships in the future. Feeling the way we feel does not excuse us from taking the important steps that we need to take in order to make amends to the people we have harmed. Feelings are feelings and nothing more. They are like lights on the dashboard of our lives. They tell us about important things that are going on under the hood but they are not intended to dictate the actions we take nor do they excuse our procrastinations.

There may be times when we realize that some of the people who are on our amends list have caused us harm and the wrongs they’ve done to us far exceed anything we’ve done to them. It is vitally important that we keep our focus here. The wrongs that other people have done to us are not our concern at this point in time. We need to make the decision to no longer hold their wrongs against them. After consulting with our advisors, let us contact these people and apologize to them for our inappropriate actions, offering to do whatever we can do to repair the damage we have caused. These particular people may have never acknowledged the hurt and pain they have caused us, and maybe they never will. Nevertheless, let us continue to forgive them everyday, not because they are innocent or because they deserve forgiveness, but because we need to do so in order to continue to recover from our addictions and to heal from the damage they did to us.

Occasionally feelings of anger and resentment will return. Because of this, we should diligently monitor our own thoughts and feelings and be willing to let go of any renewed anger that comes up. While we may not have a future relationship with these particular people, our attitude toward them, ourselves and others will be radically improved only to the degree that we are willing to forgive them and make amends to them. We can be honest about how things really were in our past relationships. We don’t need to make excuses for our friends, our families or for ourselves anymore. Things simply were the way they were and, today, they are the way they are. We can hope and even pray that someday things may change, that we can have a healthy and happy relationship with all people and that all people will recognize that our new life and values are worth appreciating. But, in order for us to continue to grow in God’s plan for our lives, we must remember that other people’s attitude toward us are none of our business. It is between them and God.

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