Wednesday, July 29, 2015

HUMILITY THROUGH AND THROUGH - from OUR JOURNEY HOME



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.











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DISSATISFACTION AND DESIRE – GIFTS FROM GOD - from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, NOT FOR MEN ONLY









DISSATISFACTION AND DESIRE – GIFTS FROM GOD

Dissatisfaction and desire are gifts from God. They are unique human qualities that reveal much of what is in our heart. For an addict, dissatisfaction with himself can be a gift from God because it can create the profound desire to change. Dissatisfaction and the desire it brings motivate us to take action; they are required if we want to recover from sexual addiction.


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



The dissatisfaction I felt within motivated me to do whatever I could do to stop living out my addictions. No longer could I be satisfied to just sit in the center of my problems alone, looking up and hoping or expecting things would change. I knew I had to change, too. I was ready for things to change in my heart, my mind, and in my character. I wholeheartedly wanted to escape my addicted life and become the kind of person who could live life well — someone who would make valuable contributions to the lives of others.


Until we become discontent with the rigors of trying to escape our powerlessness we will live locked into the present status quo. If we are fully at home in our situation, then we will not ponder a better tomorrow. Discontent is the mother of invention. Discontent is holy when it compels us to dream of redemption.
Dr. Dan Allender, The Healing Path pg 84

The real desire for real change grows up and out from the soiled reality of our corrupted life when it is examined and compared side-by-side with something better. If we are not dissatisfied with our "status quo," our hope for change is only a pipe dream — a fantasy — a merry-go-round of addictive make-believe. Dissatisfaction is a good and authentic emotion. It ignites a desire for a better future, not only recovering from sexual addiction, but as people who are truly free in every way. We don’t just want to be healed, we want our entire sexually addicted personality and character reformatted and changed by the perfect design of God.


No matter what we do or where we hide, we can’t escape our essential design. We long to be free of shame’s restraints, immersed in the passion of giving and receiving. We long to live a sacrificial life that matters today and tomorrow.
Dr. Dan Allender, The Healing Path pg 107


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Monday, July 13, 2015

WHAT WE REALLY NEED - from OUR JOURNEY HOME



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.



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DISCOVERING NEW DESIRE - from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, NOT FOR MEN ONLY









DISCOVERING NEW DESIRE I consider myself more fortunate than most for having had so many addictions. My addictions have enabled me to enjoy a perspective many people cannot see. The complex and multi-faceted nature of my drunkenness, drug use, and the generally pathetic way I lived my life proved to me beyond any doubt that I was in need of a complete personal overhaul. It also had become clear to me that the way my addictions to things changed back and forth confirmed that things like alcohol, drugs, or sex were not my most core problem. My biggest problem had been me; namely the way I thought about myself, about my life, and about God and others.


With this reality coming into focus, I could see that for as far back as I could remember, I was deeply unhappy and dissatisfied with who I was and the life I lived. My best intentions and heartbreaking failures fused together over the years until I was entirely ready to be made into a fundamentally different kind of person. And I must confess I was also deeply concerned I might soon die because of my addictions if I did not change. Staying the same was no longer acceptable. I wanted to be different. I needed to be different.
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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

MARIE'S STORY - from OUR JOURNEY HOME



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.

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NEXT STEPS - from WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, NOT FOR MEN ONLY









NEXT STEPS

You might be wondering at this point, "Who is the person I’m going to get real with and make my admissions to? Where do I find them?" Here, I will share with you the suggestions I followed and was glad I did.

Pick someone of the same gender, perhaps from your list of "higher powers." A local pastor or clergyman often works well, but not always. A competent counselor or medical professional can be very helpful in matters related to recovery from addiction. Above all, seek a person you believe to be trustworthy, someone who is able and committed to keep your confidentiality. I was fortunate to find someone who exemplified the love and acceptance of Jesus. I suggest you do the same because your listener will become your advocate in recovery just like Jesus is your advocate with God. Look for someone who expresses confidence in your ability to recover based on the power of a loving God. Someone who has suffered from their own addictions and is recovering is most always a good choice. You want a person who is capable of looking past whatever self-deception that is still inside of you, one who can intuitively see your truest self, seeing you as God
sees you — someone who will not ignore personal dishonesty, but who will be understanding and patient with you. Look for someone who can and who is willing to offer you advice, someone whose advice you would follow.


Once you find the person you are going to get real with, share with them what you are intent on doing and why you feel they have something to offer you. It is imperative that you let them know you have become addicted sexually and you know you need help from others to recover. Respectfully ask them for their time, explaining that it may take more than one appointment. (These conversations can’t be rushed if they are to be effective.) Share with them your desire to develop a growing faith in God and more honest relationships with other people, and pledge to them your commitment to be as honest as you can be.

I suggest you share with them what you have thought about yourself, others and God. But leave the faults of others out of the discussion. The wrongs of others are not your most pressing concern right now and obsessing on them may deepen your resentment and anger. Stick with the facts about yourself, avoiding unnecessary drama, exaggeration and minimization.

"Tell the truth. It will confound your enemies and astound your friends."
Mark Twain


Once I spoke honestly with another person about my life and my addictions, I found it helped to take some time for personal reflection. So, I spent time alone and I thanked God for the courage and opportunity I had experienced. I realized God had been there in the midst of conversation I had with this other person. I was reminded once again that God is always there when I show up honestly, with the truth about myself. He is always one step ahead of me. I also wrote down what I experienced, and I shared it with others in my recovering fellowship.

Having had this "first of its kind" personal experience, I enjoyed an amazing time of sitting, quietly and peacefully experiencing my body, my mind and my heart at peace and at rest with one another. The angst, the personal resentment, and the distrust I had felt since childhood was gone. And in its place was a feeling that the world we all live in is a good world and I was a good part of it. I thanked God for the experience. I asked Him to help me continue to grow in honesty, and give me strength to consistently surrender the bondage I had lived in for so long. I felt that my experience of living with other people had been changed, and I had been changed too. I knew my recovery was not complete and that I still was very capable of addictive self-destruction, but I also knew I was no longer alone, and I did not have to bear the burden of my faults alone, but they were shared. I felt alive in a large way, part of a world of
imperfect and wonderful people, who when honest with God and others, will know the strength and capability of giving life amidst all hardship and sorrow. Sharing is caring. We become a living miracle in the lives of others when we share.

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