Tuesday, November 25, 2014

BECOMING AWARE - from OUR JOURNEY HOME








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


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



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








Becoming Aware



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

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



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



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



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









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

NO HAND-ME-DOWN FAITH - from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, NOT FOR MEN ONLY









NO HAND-ME-DOWN FAITH


There is no such thing as "hand-me-down faith." Ultimately, every one of us will stand before God with our future literally in our own hands, deciding for ourselves what kind of person we will be and what our life will stand for. Some of the men in the recovery group I attend, when they made their decision to entrust themselves to God, experienced immediate and profound gratitude with dramatic emotional outbursts. Others experienced only a quiet sense of relief that their life would change for the better. Whatever the experience, each of us knew it was far better to make the decision to surrender and trust than continue on the way we were going. It was very simple, really; we could no longer trust ourselves to manage our lives alone.


Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek His will in all you do and he will direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT


Everyone is affected by external influences. We are influenced by our social environments, by our friends, our families and our coworkers. And we are commonly identified by our appearance, profession, and social status. While our external circumstances may appear to be the most dominant aspect of our lives, it is really our will that is the true center point of every man and woman.

My will is always central to who I am and who I will become. Behind everything I say or do is my will. It is the doorway of decision through which I give and take in this world. The will is what initiates and dictates the actions of one’s life. The will is where the one and only real question of life is asked: Will you be self-directed? Or, will you be God-directed?


In my addictions, I was blind to see how I had been a slave to my own agenda. The self-centered ways I thought and lived both triggered my addictions and increased them at the same time. Without realizing it, my goal in my addictions had become very simple — to get what I wanted. Every decision I made was simply determined by whatever made sense to me at the time. I was my own god and I did not even know it.

So, in order to find a new and better way to live, I had to make a new decision. And in making this new decision I also made a new goal. My new goal is to ask — continually ask — God to manage and care for that part of me that is made in His image. The part of me that is personally unique: my will. My goal
then became the pursuit of an honest and open relationship with God. To a sex addict like me, anything else is death.


We had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, we are His children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom.
Alcoholics Anonymous, The Big Book pg 62



God, I offer myself to Thee – to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy love, and Thy way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Alcoholics Anonymous, The Big Book pg 63



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.
Romans 12:2 NLT


Once I made the decision to turn my will over to God’s care, I quickly learned that it is impossible to do this without turning my life over to God’s care as well. We simply cannot do one without the other. This is because the way we live our lives is the truest indicator of our will, and until we are willing to give our life to God entirely, we have not surrendered our will, either.


My problem had been that I had considered my personal wants and wishes as if they were necessities, making demands in ways I was not even aware of. I wanted my way and I wanted others to agree, cooperate and assist me in obtaining what I wanted, with little regard for the impact on others. When I failed to get what I wanted, I became angry and resentful, which proved just how selfish my motivations really were at the time, regardless of how good I thought my intentions were. And often, without realizing it, I would punish others in one way or another, and in so doing, I became intolerable to an extent that those around me would leave me or reject me. Then, my misery would grow all the more, making my addictive inclinations seemingly irresistible once again.


Are you like I have been? Are you at odds with the world and the people in it? Sometimes, with very little provocation, we can be like mercenaries. We fight to get what we think is important. If pushing and shoving doesn’t work, we "kill ‘em with kindness" to hide our selfish motives. We sometimes claim victory. And other times we politely admit defeat — faking surrender — in order to regroup and try to win once again.











Thursday, November 20, 2014

TAKING THE NEXT STEP - OUR JOURNEY HOME





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



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




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





Taking the Next Step



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



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



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

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



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








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

THE MOST SIGNIFICANT DECISION - from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, NOT FOR MEN ONLY










THE MOST SIGNIFICANT DECISION


Addictions diminish one’s ability to make effective personal decisions. And as a consequence of our addictions we can also lose opportunities to make certain decisions. But, there is always one opportunity for choice that will forever be ours. What I do with my will is the single most significant and personal decision of my life. It can never be taken from me. I can never escape it. I am always responsible for it. We all have the opportunity to choose what our lives will be like, what kind of people we will be and who we will belong to. It’s a simple decision that we face every day. Who will I trust? Who will I follow?


Always — or at the very least, most of the time — my intentions were honest, my goals seemed clear to me, and I absolutely never intended to become the kind of person who would make a disaster of one’s life. But I did. My personal willpower and ambition not only abandoned me, but also propelled me to become a prisoner to the very things I once felt entitled to. My addictions cost me the mental clarity I needed to make certain specific choices, and they caused the loss of opportunities to make others.
The decision to surrender myself to God’s care is a different kind of decision — one that is far more personal and practical than religious. I surrender my will and life to God and His care or I continue as I was and die. God is a life-and-death decision for all of us. In one way or another, and sometimes without consciously realizing it, we all decide whether we are willing to trust God or continue our journey alone. Personally, I recognize that failing to trust God with my life leaves me spiritually alone and unprotected against my own progressing addictions — a potentially fatal mistake for any addict.











Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A CHANGE OF HEART - from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, NOT FOR MEN ONLY










A CHANGE OF HEART


I spent the first forty years of my life trying to overcome one thing or another, and failing most of the time. I tried to make good grades in school and make good decisions for my life, and to be a success in my work. But in one way or another I so often failed. When my best efforts ended up badly, I struggled and felt hopelessly abnormal and out of place. Just being me was painful and the pain I felt triggered powerful desires to escape what I was feeling, which opened the door to addictive temptations over and over again. This is how my addiction to sex slowly eroded the greatest of my God-given dignities: the ability to make clear and healthy choices for myself. My addictions always promised me so much, but they gave me less and less until, ultimately, they began taking from me. Time and again, they led me into deeper and darker forms of slavery.


But no more — things have now changed. Every day I stand at a crossroad. In one direction are the addictions that I have loved so much with their allure and destruction; in the other lies gut-wrenching openness and rigorous honesty. Sooner or later, we will all find ourselves standing here, and only honesty will enable us to know which way to choose.













INNER REALITY- OUR JOURNEY HOME


We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

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





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




Inner Reality



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


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


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



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



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

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



Look Inside

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


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

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

GOD UNDERSTANDS US - from OUR JOURNEY HOME



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





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






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





God Understands Us



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





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





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





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





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





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

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





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





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



Are you ready to say…



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

Attributed to Brennan Manning







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

GOD AS WE UNDERSTOOND HIM - from WHEN LOST MEN COM EHOME, NOT FOR MEN ONLY







HIGHER POWER — GOD AS WE UNDERSTOOD HIM

We asked for God’s help, guidance and protection every day. In prayer, we admitted our distance from Him and that we suffered because we misunderstood Him and ourselves. In prayer, we began to see that God would meet us wherever we were, revealing His true nature and personality to us. Knowing that our addictions come from places deep within us, we asked God to touch us at the innermost place of our hearts and minds. And we discovered that God would do for us internally what others could only help us do externally. Ultimately, we came to realize that no external actions will change the internal, but internal changes will always change our external actions. In the past, nothing had been more powerful than our addictions, but with God’s help we could see this was going to change. Some of us felt that we had good reason to question God about the seeming inequities and unfairness about life. And so we did. Having honest questions and seeking honest answers from God is perfectly normal. Tough questions should never be ignored. Personally, I have found God always ready and willing to give real answers and real solutions when I am ready to listen and accept answers I may not like. Your Faith need not be perfect or without doubt to work. Be honest with God. Admit to Him the doubt you feel. Ask Him for His help. He will hear you. And He will help you.


Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!"
Mark 9:22-23 NKJV

Medical professionals have told us that addiction is a learned and inherited disease. I call it the family dis-ease. It’s progressive, incurable and even potentially fatal. I’ve also come to believe that addiction is the most human of all dis-eases; a phenomenon that reaches entirely across the human earthly experience. It destroys bodily health, soundness of mind, emotional well-being, and spiritual development. If a person develops a physical disease such as cancer, there are treatments that may cure the cancer. If there are mental or emotional difficulties, there are effective treatments through medication, psychotherapy and support groups. If you want to recover from sexual addiction, you’ll have to address all of these with priority on the development of a personal and authentic spiritual faith. If you are willing to seek and discover the gift of spiritual renewal and wholeness, the physical, emotional and mental problems begin to heal as well. I know this from my own experience. I heal a little more every day.


So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.
Hebrews 11:6 NLT