A crisis of the will.

My will has been my own for so long that I don’t even recognize it as selfishness. Before recovery, I was so wrapped up in protecting myself and my secret that I could no longer notice or admit to the truth. Fantacy corrupted reality.

Surrendering my will is a daily challenge. Just to bring my self-centeredness to mind is difficult and I often skip that acknowledgement during my morning routine. “God I offer myslef to thee, to build with me and do with me as thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self.” These words are a great reminder to surrender everything to God.

A year ago I had a major relapse. I remember the incident now because I just reread what I wrote about it. I connected by text to someone from my dark past. I had blocked his number but somehow he made contact. It was easy to step into the soothing waters of pleasuring myself. The arousal intensified as we texted for over five hours. Lust grows through experiences like that until there’s no turning back, no stopping.

Lust kills love, love for self and love for others. Surrender is the only option to curtail addiction and connection with another person is the doorway to surrender. Victory from my difficulties comes from surrender to God. I need a power greater than myself to restore me to sanity. But keeping this truth to myslef doesn’t help. Only when I share with a brother, only when I am completely honest, only then, will the moment of victory arrive. Thy will not mine be done. May I do thy will always.

Impetuous Past

Isaiah 52:12 Yet do not depart quickly or leave in a panic. For the Lord goes before you; the God of Israel is your rear guard.

“You shall not go out with haste….” As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, forgetful delight, nor with the quickness of impulsive thoughtlessness. But let us go out with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ. Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.” – O. Chambers

My biggest challenge is self will. I want, what I want, and I want it now. I want to be relieved from the bondage of my sinful past, right now. I want to be completely healed from addiction, right now. I want to immediately handle all life’s challenges. I want to be rid of my destructive past, for good. I want to forget; my gut is impetuous; my first thoughts are selfish.

But God’s very nature provides a different, slower solution. It is true that my past conduct produced broken and irreversible consequences. I have lost opportunities and lived a good portion of my life in darkness and deceit. But God has not forsaken me. He is slow to anger and quick to love.

He can transform the destructive anxiety aroused from my dark past into a constructive thoughtfulness of the future. I do not need to be paralysed and inactive. I do need to let the past rest in His capable hands. I need to be patient and watchful for His direction. I need to walk into 2019 with the patient power of knowing that God will go before me. My daily prayer will be to “leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with him.” There is no need to fear, I don’t need to “leave [my past] in a panic” because God leads me, and He also has my back. “For the Lord goes before you; the God of Israel is your rear guard.” Is 52:12 b

Individuality

“Individuality is the hard outer layer surrounding the inner spiritual life. Individuality shoves others aside, separating and isolating people. . . Individuality counterfeits spirituality, just as lust counterfeits love. . .

The characteristics of individuality are independence and self-will. . . Watch yourself closely when the Spirit of God is at work in you. He pushes you to the limits of your individuality where a choice must be made. The choice is either to say, “I will not surrender,” or to surrender, breaking the hard shell of individuality, which allows the spiritual life to emerge. “ – Chambers

“No matter what wrong the other party has done, if we are disturbed, there is always something wrong with us, especially in the area of attitude. “ White Book Page 117

Often, it is easy for me to shove other people aside because I feel insecure and threatened. I’m learning to change my attitude, but it is taking time. My natural tendency is to defend myself and to fight back when I get disturbed. When I do, resentment gets a foothold and begins to grow.

I hope I can catch myself when I first begin to feel that someone has wronged me. At this moment I have a decision to make. Will I surrender my will and individuality to God or will I garner my strength to attack.

Surrender is not avoidance. Avoiding conflict leads to anger, and pent up anger leads to rage. Surrender is saying to myself, what part do I have in this drama. When I change my behavior to align with God’s will, clarity forms around the issue. I cannot change the way someone feels about me, and I certainly can’t change their behavior. I must leave that in God’s capable hands. Serenity is changing what I can about myself and accepting everything I cannot change. Wisdom is understanding the difference.

Reality Check

“Once you are rooted in reality, nothing can shake you.” – Chambers

Living in a fantasy world is one hallmark of an addict. We make up our own reality to suit our desire. Until we submit to God, surrender our lust and gain sobriety, we will do anything to get the dopamine fix our brains long for. Our brain will convince us that acting out sexually is the only way to feel better. We are powerless to leave fantasy for reality unless we cling to the fact that we are redeemed.

We are rescued out of addiction when we lean into sobriety. We continue to be delivered from lust when we do the hard work of recovery: surrendering our strong desires to lust, going to meetings, and working the steps. We don’t do this alone but in a fellowship of recovering addicts and only with God’s help. His grace is sufficient.

Reality for me is the moment by moment curiosity I have for what is going on in my heart and in my head. Do I pause and wonder what I’m feeling and how that is related to what I’m thinking? Do I realize when I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired? If I do, how do I react? Do I express my anger at someone else’s expense or swear at God? Do I get defensive or resentful? Do I get sad and isolate myself? Medicating loneliness with isolation never works. Checking in with a fellow in the program almost always does.

Feebleness

I admitted that I had a problem in September of 2017. I first had to admit it to myself. I recognized that God already knew, but I also admitted it to him again. I pledged to be honest about my same sex attraction that day and have not turned back, no more hiding, no more lurking in the dark. When I started in SA I admitted more specifically a third time that I was powerless over lust and that my life had become unmanageable.

Oswald Chambers says, “The feebleness of the church is being criticized today, and the criticism is justified. One reason for the feebleness is that there has not been this focus on the true center of spiritual power. We have not dwelt enough on the tragedy of Calvary or on the meaning of redemption.”

I’d like to keep this notion of feebleness at arms length. I don’t like to think of myself as a weakling let alone act like it. I needed to present myself as a strong person – someone to be respected. The irony is that I’m really not feeble when I turn my will over to God.

I thought I’d turned my life over to God when I was at church camp in junior high. But the addict in me was taking root at about the same time and a war between my will for acting out and God’s will began at age 14 and continued for 50 years. This battle of guilt, shame and powerlessness raged on and on and on.

At times I fought with all my might to rid myself of lust. I knew it was wrong and the guilt and shame I felt after acting out, especially that first time with another man, was extreme evidence. I tried to stop, over and over and over again. I even sought help and was relieved from the grip of addiction for a short time.

Chambers says our feebleness is in our lack of focus on the center of the spiritual power that is available to us. SA also says that the addict’s problem is essentially a spiritual one. “It [our addiction] got us high on ourselves, short-circuiting any meaningful connection with others and God.” White Book Page 52. “Most of us confused the personal with the sexual, as though only the sexual aspect of this union would satisfy what essentially is a spiritual drive.” Page 54. Ultimately, lust kills God. And finally, “The insanity of our delusion damns us to a condition where truth about ourselves cannot penetrate. We must finally ask, Doesn’t all this add up to spiritual death?” Page 56

So yes, I am powerless. I admit it. This first step of honesty before God, and now before others, is what is different this time. I tried to be honest with God before. He knows how trapped I was because he’s omnipresent, and also because I brought my trouble to Him over and over again. But I wasn’t ready, really ready, to receive the help I needed from others. Now I surrender to God daily, go to meetings and work the steps. Herein lies my only hope.

Believing

In what or in whom do I believe? If I examine my belief system closely, I must confess that the center of my beliefs is me. At least that’s the way I act. When a problem comes my way I believe I can solve it logically. If I simply apply good thinking to the issue, I can reach the appropriate conclusion. I will likely pray for God’s help but I won’t really believe he will solve my problem, at least not in the way that benefits me.

When I entered recovery, I came to realize that I am powerless over several, maybe many, things in my life. I was living an out of control life, insane and unmanageable. I had tried over and over again to stop bad behaviors but logic and self-will were insufficient. I pledged to stop and all that happened was that I’d be sober for a short time and then go back to acting out. Each time the frequency between my addictive cycles seemed to grow shorter and shorter.

Sunday marked three months of sobriety. The last month seemed particularly hard as I stepped close to the edge of oblivion several times, drawn there by memories and fantasies. By God’s grace I did not enter into the darkness although I certainly paced around the edges. I am realizing more and more how I need God and I need the help of my brothers in the fellowship. The way I will remain sober is working on it, one day at a time, believing I am powerless to stop but that God will restore me to sanity.

So I no longer believe in myself as a means to my survival. Today I am asking “God to direct my thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. “ – Big Book p. 86

God, I offer myself to thee to build with me and do with me as thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do thy will. My belief in God has switched from being something for my own self-interest and benefit to believing that he will help others through me if my own life is in order.

By Faith

“To turn head faith into a personal possession is a fight always, not sometimes. God brings us into circumstances in order to educate our faith, because the nature of faith is to make its object real. Until we know Jesus, God is a mere abstraction, we can not have faith in Him; but immediately we hear Jesus say — “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” we have something that is real, and faith is boundless. Faith is the whole man rightly related to God by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” – Chambers

Faith is a fight. That’s something I don’t often think about. I think faith in God is more like faith in a chair, that it will hold me up when I sit down. But spiritual faith is much different. It is the only means we have to be rightly related to God.

Faith is not something we can conjur up when something big comes up that needs our full attention and resources. Faith is a bit by bit proposition. God brings us into circumstances we cannot control to educate our faith. Then our mind goes to work to figure out how to get us out of this jam.

But herein lies the fight, to turn our thinking, not off, but into something that touches our heart. It is not a matter of thinking ourselves out of trouble, but by faith, believing God has the solution if we turn our lives over to Him and give him full control. We don’t turn our minds off when we do this. Neither do we avoid the issue by running away to hide from the pain. No, instead, we think ourselves into moving through it, into getting our gut to follow our mind, into having faith that the object of our faith is real.

God, in this moment, you have my full attention. I know I am self-centered and self-serving. I have faith in your power to remove lust from my heart. I unconditionally surrender myself to you, and to walk the path of sobriety you have made known to me for today. You have the power to restore me to sanity. I believe in your ability and desire to help me, help me in my unbelief.