Wednesday, May 30, 2012

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What We Really Need

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

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

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

What We Really Need

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

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

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

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

Our Journey Home
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, David Zailer

Friday, May 11, 2012

Marie's Story

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

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

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

Marie’s Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am learning to be content with who I am. I am at peace. I thank God for my Step Five experience, for my wonderful sponsor and for my imperfectly delightful family.
Our journey Home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, David Zailer

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Truth in Relationships

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

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

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

Truth in Relationships

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

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

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

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

Questions That Need to Be Answered

• How have you disregarded or abused those weaker than you?
• Who were the people that you hurt in this way?
• How have you envied the talents and resources other people had that you did not have?
• Who were the people that you hurt in this way?
• How have you envied the talents and resources other people had that you did not have?
• How has your addiction affected your relationship with your religious family?
• How have you been selfish?
• What makes you feel entitled to do things that you know are wrong?
• How have you valued your addiction more than your spouse and your children?
• How has your family, your employer or others been hurt by your moral failings or your insensitivities?
• What are some of the things that others have been denied because you were absorbed in your addiction?
• What are some specific ways that you have exhibited selfishness?
• How have you been careless with your spouse, your children, your employer and your neighbors?
• In what ways have you put your own needs and interests above the needs and interests of others?
• How and why have you lied to your loved ones?
• How has your employer been hurt by your addictions?
• How as your family been ashamed because of your attitude and behavior?
• When and with whom do you feel self-pity?
• What do you feel guilty about?
• What do you like about yourself?
• What do other people like about you?
• Why do you lie?
Our Journey Home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
By David Zailer
Copyright 2011, Homecoming Books