Tuesday, July 30, 2013

FROM SHAME TO GRACE - from OUR JOURNEY HOME

From Shame to Grace
 
“For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow. But sorrow without repentance is the kind that results in death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10, NLT

“We can accept God’s good gifts too easily. Grace can be accepted only when we face our own inabilities. Forgiveness can be embraced only when we lay bare our wrongdoing, and hope can be imparted only when we face the reality of our own despair.” - Charles Ringma

We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Humility is an awareness that we are both imperfect and worthwhile at the same time. Humility is a high ground that traverses the bogs and swamps of grandiosity and self-hatred. Humility chooses to follow God’s plan over our own. When we live humbly—which can be defined as consistently choosing God’s way of doing things over our own way of doing things—impossibly good things begin to happen to otherwise impossible people like us. We get turned inside out. Our attitude begins to change. Our outlook on life becomes healthier and more balanced. The destructive feelings we have had for ourselves will diminish. We will begin to see things differently. As we change on the inside, things around us begin to change as well. Life and the way we live it begin to make sense.

Humility is an acceptance of ourselves, sin and all. Humility helps us to see ourselves with one eye to evaluate and the other eye to appreciate. Humility admits shortcomings and wrongdoing, and then reaches out and accepts the help that is needed to make serious changes. Humility helps us to understand the problems that we cannot solve on our own. This is why Jesus becomes increasingly important to us in our recovery. For you see, God never expects us to solve all of our problems on our own. He understands that our character defects and our addictions are beyond our ability to change. So, God offers to do for us what we can never do for ourselves. He offers to transform us by taking our character defects and, in exchange, replacing them with the character of Jesus. All we have to do is give up our character defects to Him and humbly receive Jesus’ character as God, according to His plan, builds it in us. 

 
 
Copyright David Zailer, 2011
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REVERSING THE PAST - from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, not for men only

Reversing the Past
We know it is not possible for us to fix all our character defects on our own, but we can reverse the actions that reinforce our character defects. Letting go of character defects is never passive. Change within a man is a divine interaction between God’s grace and our choices. Like everything else we do in recovery, character change requires action. Changing our actions helps to interrupt habitual patterns of thinking, believing and feeling. Motion changes emotion!
            When we realize that we are reacting with a character defect, addicted feeling or thought, we can choose to do the opposite of what our addicted instincts were inclined to do. If the old way of thinking, feeling and acting didn’t work in the past, we know from experience it won’t work now. So we try something different.
            While we cannot change the past, we are never doomed to do the same thing time after time in the future. We can choose to do something different, avoiding the painful and destructive results that came from our addicted life. It will take some practice, but with a little commitment and a few failures along the way — which we shared with another person — the changes to thinking, feeling and acting can actually come quite quickly. Those of us who came from religious backgrounds will call this repentance, and that is exactly what it is. Grassroots, down and dirty, rubber meets the road, repentance. The simplest definition of repentance is to “change one’s mind.” It is an about-face. It is turning and going in the other way. Whatever you call it, it works. 
 
And so I insist – and God backs me up on this – that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion. But that’s no life for you! You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything – and I do mean everything – connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life – a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.
Ephesians 4:19-23 MSG

 
 
This is an excerpt from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, not for men only  ~ Copyright David Zailer, 2011

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dissatisfaction and Desire - from OUR JOURNEY HOME

Dissatisfaction and Desire

 
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness… “
Matthew 5:6 NLT

 
“Discontent is holy when it compels us to dream of redemption."
- Dan Allender, Ph.D.



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

Being part of a recovery fellowship on an ongoing basis will provide us with many opportunities to hear others tell about how they have suffered because of their addictions, and what it has been like for them to find recovery. One of the most incredible and amazing things that we will ever experience in a meeting is when someone shares how he or she has become grateful for having had addictions. In recovery, it is possible for the pain of our addictions to become a great motivator in our lives. Pain keeps us moving forward, compelling us to keep reaching out to find answers for the pain and troubles of life. As we recover, we find a very simple but profound solution. The solution for us is to want God—to want what He has to give us, more than we want what we, or our addictions, can provide us. This new kind of God-given desire helps us to see that pain is not our enemy, and we don’t need to run from it anymore. As we become wiling to face the day-to-day pains of life, our pain and difficulties are transformed into powerful avenues of learning and growth. Embracing pain as a learning opportunity brings us face-to-face with God’s work of redemption—a work that is only available to those who have the deep, pliable humility that leeches out of a desperate and dying pain.

We all seem to want more out of life than what we can provide for ourselves. Not only do we fail to supply ourselves with the things that we think will make us happy; our addictions prove that we fail to provide ourselves with a satisfying level of interpersonal and spiritual connectedness, too. We all fall short. We all fail to meet our own needs. By recognizing how we have failed to meet our own needs, no matter how hard we tried, we can see that the things that we’ve been addicted to are not our biggest problem. Our real problem is who we are. We are all in need of a complete, interpersonal overhaul, starting with the very core of our minds, our hearts and our innermost character.

Our addictions grow from a deep personal longing inside of us that silently cries out to be touched. When our deep longing goes untouched, we cry out all the more in ever deeper ways, craving with increasing intensity for more of the things that brought us relief in the past. This is how our addictions take hold of us. Deep-rooted painful feelings of uselessness, worthlessness and loneliness can be the triggers that send us back to our addictions time after time. With our longing unsatisfied, and after numerous and repeated attempts to do the right thing, invariably we fail, once again, falling deeper into our addictions. Desperate, over time, we become wholly and completely dissatisfied with who we are and with the way we have lived our lives. Our good intentions and our failures have simmered together until, finally—with God’s help—we become entirely ready to be recreated into a fundamentally different kind of person. We are sick and tired of being sick and tired. We are convinced that we will never satisfy our own innermost needs. Staying the same is no longer acceptable to us. We want to be different. Deep in our hearts we know that if we do not humbly make the choice to change, we will eventually die still wallowing in our addictions.

This profound misery and discontent is the birth point of a new healthier desire—a desire based not on our previous loves or lusts, but on a healthy and compelling longing to experience new life inside of us. The pain of our addictions helps us to understand that we really don’t need things to change; rather, the “I”, the “ME”, and the “WE” need to change. We are no longer satisfied with just being healed from our addictions. We want to have our complete and total self reformatted and changed by the perfect design of God. 
 
Copyright David Zailer, 2011
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Never Forgetting - from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME - not for men only

Never Forgetting
As we progress in our recovery, it is easy to feel as if we are “recovered,” which can result in us becoming complacent and blind to the insidious nature of sexual addiction. Perhaps your spouse has returned to you, your boss is happy with your work again, and your bills are getting paid on time. These are all good things of course, but to keep recovering from your addictions, you must not lose sight that there is still more work to be done. There are more questions to be asked and more answers to be revealed.
 
            Monitoring ourselves thoroughly and recognizing our character defects honestly and consistently provides life-giving insight for our lives. How have our character defects impacted the lives of others? Have our selfish actions ever turned out well for us or for anyone else? Do we display kindness and goodness to others sincerely, or is our kindness just an act that hides our selfish desires? Forgetting important lessons we have learned along the way is catastrophic.
 
Good friend, don’t forget all I’ve taught you, take heart my commands.
They’ll help you live a long, long time, a long life lived full and well.
Proverbs 3:1, 2 MSG
 
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.
Dr. Dan Allender, The Healing Path pg 85
 
         Do you think about how God is working in your life? Do you ponder the progress you’re making, the fellowship you have discovered and the better life that you have today? These are all gifts from God who, even before you ever first admitted your need for help, has been working to bring you the help He knew you needed.
 
            Keep a remembrance journal, or carry a small notebook to record your thoughts. Share your thoughts — good or bad — with those who support you in your recovery work. The journal notes you make will be an exciting real time history of the growth of your new life. And this will enable you to see the work of God to be amazingly, miraculously more than anything you could ever have done on your own. Thanksgiving and gratitude will become even more alive in you, further strengthening you for your continuing journey to healing and wholeness.  The best is yet to come!!
 
I am filled with awe by the amazing things you have done. In this time of our deep need, begin again to help us, as you did in years gone by. Show us your power to save us.
Habakkuk 3:1, 2 NLT
 
 
 
This is an excerpt from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, not for men only  ~ Copyright David Zailer, 2011

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

ADMITTING TO GOD - from Our Journey Home

Admitting to God
 
 
“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Blessed is the man who always fears the Lord, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.” Proverbs 28:13-14 NLT


"My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love – outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion."

- Thomas Merton
 

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

 
Getting honest about the details of our lives is the most powerful thing we can do to strengthen our intimate connection with God. Honesty puts us on the same page with Him. Knowing that He knows everything about us, there is no reason to hide what is inside of us anymore. When we get honest with God, we “cash the check” so to speak; we open ourselves up and receive the grace that He has already provided for us through Christ.
 

Step Five is not a religious exercise, so it’s important that we don’t over-spiritualize this aspect of our recovery. We are just admitting, with as much detail as we can, what God already knows. We acknowledge that we have never benefited from minimizing our weaknesses and shortcomings. We admit our pride and our stubbornness, with as much clarity as possible, most notably all of our silly attempts to solve our spiritual and emotional problems. We confess that we have been self-righteous in covert and creative ways. We admit that we have never fooled God and that we rarely fooled anyone else, only ourselves. We tell the details about how we have judged other people and, with as much humility as possible, we admit how our religiosity has kept God—and the goodness that He intends for us—at arm’s length.
 

God has known us in a deep way. Now we will begin to know ourselves in a deep way, too. As we are willing to admit the exact nature of our wrongs to God, we will be able to embrace the acceptance that He gives and then begin to accept ourselves in the same way—even the worst about us. The more we admit our shortcomings to God, the more we slice away at the fears that have ruled us from the inside. We will learn to be at peace with the mysterious ways of God. Embracing His deep acceptance, we will no longer be obsessed with trying to figure out the hidden streams and currents of God. We will lose our inhibitions. We will want to strip down, reveal ourselves completely and swim in the power of goodness that God offers to us. We will never sink or get lost when we are honest with God. He’ll do the navigating for us. Realizing that we are known by God in this intimate way, we can live at rest. We will be buoyed in His grace forever, floating and moving with the currents of His guidance and care. There is no need to fear the oceanic mystery of God anymore. No matter where His currents lead our lives, the ultimate destination for us is more than very, very good.
 


This is an excerpt from Our Journey Home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery, by David Zailer  Copyright David Zailer, 2011

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BECOMING AWARE - from When Lost Men Come Home, not for men only

Becoming Aware
 
 
One suggestion I found helpful was to refer back to my personal inventory and review the journaling I produced after I admitted the exact nature of my wrongs to another man. When doing this, my journaling showed me how my beliefs resulted in patterns of actions and reactions. The more I understood these patterns, the more my character defects appeared in bold print. These questions helped me:
 
·       Have I had difficulty admitting to others my need for help?          Pride
 
·        Have I been in debt or preferred my desires over someone else’s?        Greed
 
·        Have I gotten mad because someone else was more privileged than me?             Envy 
 
·       Have I lived out my life in a fearful way?             Trusting more in myself than God
 
·        Have I compared my insides with the outward appearance of others?              Self-objectification
 
·        Have I looked at outside appearances, ignoring the feelings of others? Lust & Objectification
 
·        Have I felt compelled to please others more than God?           Approval seeking
 
·        Have I been frustrated when others have not lived as I wanted them to?          Codependency
 
·        Have I feared to be alone?    Emotional dependence on others
 
·       Have I or my family suffered from my work schedule?   Being a workaholic
 
·        Have I felt the need to keep certain facts about myself secret?       Dishonesty
 
·        Have I had habits of unhealthy eating?              Personal self-abuse
 
·        Have I procrastinated doing things I know should be done?             Laziness
 
·        Have I believed my life would change without me changing?         Fanciful Thinking
 
Facing our character flaws in this manner shows we are seeing ourselves in a more honest way. Appreciate the deeper level of personal self-honesty you are capable of. You are heading in a good direction!
 
This is an excerpt from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, not for men only  ~ Copyright David Zailer, 2011

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

GETTING A CLEAR VIEW - from Our Journey Home

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
“God is in charge of human life, watching and examining us from the inside and out.” 
Proverbs 20:27 The Message
 

“It is not your diligence; it is not your examination of yourself that will enlighten you concerning sin. Instead, it is God who does all the revealing… If you try to be the one who does the examining, there is a very good chance that you will deceive yourself.” -Jeanne Guyon

 
Getting A Clear View

Every form of addiction is unique in that it has its own challenges and difficulties that must be addressed. On the other hand, every form of addiction will share some things in common with other addictions, too. For you see, addiction is really just one disease. It just happens to show itself in many, many different ways.

 
Those who suffer from one form of addiction can often relate very closely to those who suffer from other forms of addiction. Here are some examples:

 
· Alcoholics can understand the pain of withdrawal that many drug addicts experience when they attempt to stop using drugs.
 
· Someone who is obese because of an addiction to food can relate to the shame and self-hatred that many anorexics or bulimics feel.
 
· A man or woman who has been addicted to gambling knows quite well the obsession, and the pain, that a man or woman who is addicted to sex or pornography feels.

 
The common ground we share will amaze us, when we are willing to see it. Also, when we are willing, God can use our addictions to teach us compassion for others. Because, you see, our addictions have less to do with what we do, than why we do it. What is it that we experience that keeps us doing the destructive things we do? When we are willing to see the full spectrum of our addictions, we will see why addiction is sometimes called the most human of all diseases. We all have it, to some degree.
 

Addictions are about escape. When we act out, we are attempting to avoid uncomfortable feelings like fear, hopelessness, loneliness or the feeling of being unloved. We often have worked so hard to avoid our feelings that we have lost connection with what is really going on inside of us. Here is a simple fact that we must accept in order to recover from our addictions—we must face the truth about how we feel and how we have lived our lives. Our job in Step Four is to cultivate an increasing self-clarity of who we are, what we are about, why we think the way we do and why we do the things we do. If we want to recover from all of our addictions, the place to start is with the truth and the reality about all our lives. It is important that we understand that God is the God of truth. He is the God of reality. If we procrastinate or try to avoid the truth, we will, in effect, be trying to avoid God. And no one can do that for long.
 

Addictions are often a mosaic. When we act out in one way it often leads to acting out in other ways, too. To recover, we must accept the truth regarding all of our addictions. As we work through the following questions, let’s try to see the big picture. Honesty, openness and willingness are required.


This is an excerpt from Our Journey Home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery, by David Zailer  Copyright David Zailer, 2011

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THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE - from When Lost Men Come Home, not for men only

The Gift of Gratitude

During this time of my recovery I began to experience a deep untangling of the pressure and stress I had felt inside me. I was learning new and healthier ways to cope without taking drugs, drinking alcohol, or being sexual in ways that made me feel bad about myself. I was trading in my troubling and self-destructive emotions for the simple gift of gratitude, often without even knowing I was doing it. Gratitude posts a loving guard at the door of our lives, insuring that bitterness and resentment and anger will no longer dominate us as they have in the past. Gratitude helps us to be thankful for life as it is not how we wish it, expect it or even need it to be.

 
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 MSG

 
            As gratitude inside of us increased over time, it became more apparent that we had to continue taking effective actions to avoid a relapse back into active addiction. We needed to be ever alert, because sexual addictions interact with, set off and build upon other addictions. The dual diagnosis of addictions is becoming more and more common in rehab centers and Twelve Step fellowships. So with this in mind, we stay closely connected to other recovering people who have more experience than we do. We look to our sponsors, our mentors and our counselors for help and guidance. They help keep us moving away from our addictions, or unknowingly picking up new addictions along the way. Common co-addictions can be food and compulsive eating disorders, destructive spending, gambling, alcohol and other drug addictions and even prescription medications.  Religion and religiosity can be addictive, and we can become so obsessed with certain people that we become addicted to trying to control them or their life. Fact is, not recognizing any destructive behavioral pattern can potentially trigger sexual addiction. This is because, at their core, addictions are simply a destructive relationship with a mind or mood altering substance or experience that expresses itself in destructive behavior. Virtually anything that is mood or mind altering and destructive can potentially be addictive.

            If you think you may have a problem with a substance, even the use of prescription or ‘legitimate’ drugs, it is essential that you stop and get help today. If you are drinking destructively, seek professional help and call Alcoholics Anonymous at once. And the same holds true for any addictive behavior. You and your loved ones will suffer more if you don’t ask for the appropriate help today. 

            Today and every day we stand at a crossroad. But, we are not alone. When we are ready to ask for help, a fellowship will be with us. Even better, The Source of all power has already joined the battle for our lives, helping us live a new way and become new people, to be free.

 
Your God is present among you, a strong warrior there to save you. Happy to have you back, he’ll calm you with his love and delight you with his songs. The accumulated sorrows of your exile will dissipate. I, your God, will get rid of them for you. You’ve carried those burdens long enough.

Zephaniah 3:17, 18 MSG

This is an excerpt from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, not for men only  ~ Copyright David Zailer, 2011

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Monday, July 1, 2013

DESIRE, from OUR JOURNEY HOME

Desire

As we battled our addictions alone, it seemed like we were always failing. The harder we tried to overcome them on our own, the more they stole life and dignity from us. Over time, our addictions even began to erode the greatest of our God-given dignities: the ability to make clear and correct personal choices for ourselves. Time and again, our addictive obsessions promised freedom but instead they gave us an ever-increasing load of guilt and shame. Burdened by guilt and shame, we often chose to follow our addictions where we fell, once again, deeper into addiction. But no more! Things can change for us now. Today we stand at a crossroads. In one direction are the addictions that we’ve loved so much. In the other direction lies a new kind of life where our addictions will no longer be the center of our world.

In Step One we admitted just how stuck we really were. Then it was in Step Two that we realized that our lives could change if we were willing to rely on a power that was greater than we were. The place where Step One and Step Two meet is a kind of spiritual intersection, an intersection of choice for our lives. With addiction in one direction and faith in a Higher Power in the other, the only thing left to be decided is which direction we are going to go. Do we want to live or die? This choice no one can take from us, or make for us. For you see, the real battle of recovery is won or lost in the battle of our will. Will we be self- directed—which is how our addictions have taken hold of our lives—or will we be God-directed and recover from our addictions? The battle for recovery is won or lost in the private places of our will, where only we and God really know what is going on with us. It’s never in full view of the world. Even the empowering desire to recover that we are experiencing is a gift from God, who has already grabbed hold of us, compelling us to get alone with Him and surrender our lives to Him. Until we do this, we will lose every time.

Remember our friends from Scripture, Paul, Bartimaeus and Esperanza? All of them, at the point where their own sense of powerlessness intersected with their hope for healing, found within themselves the desire to put their faith in God who, through Jesus, had made himself available to them. Empowered by the desire for change, they made the decision to trade in their powerlessness for the powerfulness that Jesus had displayed to them and to others. This was not a religious decision for them. We doubt that they even considered it as anything more than a desperate appeal for help, which is exactly what it was. After all, they really were not “doing” anything. They were simply making the only reasonable decision that could be made when everything else had failed. And the same is true for us, too. In light of the combined desperation that we feel in Step One and the hopefulness we begin to experience in Step Two, the decision to surrender ourselves to God’s care becomes the most simple and sane thing we can do. Like our friends from the Scriptures, the record of our own addicted life will give us many good reasons to want to trade in our own powerlessness for the powerfulness that Jesus has displayed in the lives of people as historically recorded for the past 2,000 years.

If we want to recover, all we have to do is decide in whom we are going to put our trust and confidence. Will we continue to trust only in ourselves, or will we decide to put our life in God’s care? What we choose to do with our will is the single most significant and personal decision we will ever make. We are ultimately responsible for making the choice of what our lives will be like, what kind of people we will be and to whom we will belong. This decision can never be taken from us. We can no longer escape it. We are forever responsible for it. It’s a simple question really, one that we face everyday. Who will you trust? Who will you follow? Will it be your addiction or will it be God?

This is an excerpt from Our Journey Home - Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery, by David Zailer  Copyright David Zailer, 2011

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EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS, from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, NOT FOR MEN ONLY

Emotional Triggers

While doing my Step Four personal inventory work, I started to see how the difficult emotions I experienced could be powerful triggers for my addictions. As emotions are triggers, character defects are the building blocks of addiction, and self-centeredness is the cement which holds the addicted nature together within me. So, finding the freedom to recover and live in a way that was healthy long-term was impossible without removing these addicted structural components from me.

            I know today how my character defects started innocently when I was a child. They were my means of survival. I learned to manipulate to get my needs met. I lied to protect myself. I hid my emotions to avoid embarrassment and shame. I rationalized to escape ugly truths which were too much for me to handle. My character defects were really nothing more than broken and ineffective tools I used for coping and control. They were my methods of minimizing pain, and diffusing perceived threats. They were my strategy to care for myself when I believed that no one else would. At times I feared what life would be like for me without my character defects. When I felt that a character defect — like my lying — was necessary to survive, I would mourn the thought of having it removed from me. Fortunately, my sponsor and counselor and recovery partners helped me see how fearing the loss of one of my coping mechanisms was understandable, but it was also critically important for me to grieve these personal losses without complaint so I could move on down the path of my recovery.  

            I knew I had made the decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God daily and, as I did this, the self-centered cement holding my addictions together began to slowly erode. There was little I could do to avoid the difficult emotions I felt. They came and went like the wind. All I could do was recognize them and speak honestly about them to a trusted recovery partner or spiritual guide. And while I could make the decision cognitively to get rid of the addicted building blocks of my character defects, my best efforts seemed to actually reinforce them. So, like everything else in my life, I turned them over to God, asking Him to remove them in a way that fit His plan for my life. Then I began doing whatever I could to live without them in the future.


This is an excerpt from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, not for men only  ~ Copyright David Zailer, 2011

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