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.

Bit by bit.

“The proper perspective of a servant of God must not simply be as near to the highest as he can get, but it must be the highest. Be careful that you vigorously maintain God’s perspective, and remember that it must be done every day, little by little. Don’t think on a finite level. No outside power can touch the proper perspective. . . But Paul said, in essence, ‘I am in the procession of a conqueror, and it doesn’t matter what the difficulties are, for I am always led in triumph.’ Is this idea being worked out practically in us? Paul’s secret joy was that God took him as a blatant rebel against Jesus Christ, and made him a captive— and that became his purpose. “ – Chambers

It is difficult for me to “vigorously maintain God’s perspective” in my addiction. I am so very distracted by myself, my desires, my need to be on the hunt for another dab of pleasuring. In my best moments, I surrender my thinking and my desiring bit by bit as it is playing out in my mind. I surrender it to God and ask for his help to deliver me from a mindset of lust and then immediately report it to a fellow in the program. But I do this very inconsistently because I believe deep down that I can handle it myself.

But Paul through Chambers reminds me that “no outside power can touch the proper perspective . . . I am in the procession of a conqueror, and it doesn’t matter what the difficulties are, for I am always led in triumph.” My new purpose is to stay sober through captivity to Christ, and through real and intimate relationships with my brothers in Christ and in SA.

God, 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.

Damn It!

Damn this addiction. A very nice barista at Starbucks just delivered my drink to where I was sitting and then brought my spinach feta wrap to me a minute later. The addict in me turned on my lust. I started to objectify him. I’m fucked up.

But I recognize that I need help and that I am powerless to change left to my own devices. God, deliver me from the lust that is in my heart. Show me through this time of reading and reflection how to stay sober.

“Don’t give up because the pain is intense right now— get on with it, and before long you will find that you have a new vision and a new purpose.” – Chambers

I do have a sense that my life’s purpose is changing. The vision for my life has always been to do God’s will. But, now I am developing the resources and the right thinking to actually begin to do it. I have been so self absorbed that God’s will has always been secondary to my own. I wonder if my new purpose is to help others deal with addiction?

I also wonder, why in this moment, I am drawn to look lustfully at people. I guess recognition that this is a problem I have is the first step in overcoming it, but I’ve looked three or four times at another dude ordering a drink. The second step is surrender. God grant me the strength to surrender to you and your will. Keep my addict in check. Thank you that I feel more focused on you just writing about what’s going on.

“When we set out to face the pain and sadness of making a moral inventory [or of just taking the steps of recovery in general], we will need the “joy of the LORD” to give us strength. This joy comes from recognizing, even celebrating, God’s ability to bring us out of bondage and care for us as we pass through the sadness toward a new way of life.” – Recovery Bible

Yup, I’m in bondage! Step one: we admitted we were powerless over lust and that our lives had become unmanageable. The path out of bondage is through deep sadness. It takes God’s joy to buoy me up out of sadness. I have no joy of my own, only sadness. I will look unto the mountains, where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord who made the heavens and the earth. He is always watching over me. The joy of the Lord is my strength. This has never been more true for me.

Hypocrite

Most of my life I’ve lived in a zone of hypocracy. I’ve made myself different on the outside to mask what was going on inside. I’ve longed to be pure and right before God, but I’ve always felt I’ve not been good enough. I’ve not measured up to the expectations I imagine others have for me and ultimately to the one’s I thought God has for me.

I tried coming at my self from a different perspective. I’m not perfect but no one is and we’re all sinners after all. This way of thinking became a protective covering over my heart and my conscience, so when my addict showed up, I’d follow him once again into hiding who I really was from everyone important to me. Of course shame and guilt were part of this cycle for me, but as my heart grew harder and my thinking more entrenched, I brushed off shame and guilt more easily by some sort of faulty rationalization. I thought because I was working so hard for God in helping His Christian organizations, that I deserved to act out. It became a reward for hard and extremely difficult work.

At the time though, I did wonder why I did not have the capacity to continue on in leadership positions. I would last 3-5 years and then feel beaten up and unable to continue. I now believe that, because of my addicition, I operated in mostly a self-centered way when dealing with tough relationships. I was not what my pastor calls, self-differentiated, and I think in some weird way, I was taking on ther characteristic that I so wanted to fix in the other person. I was the ultimate hypocrite.

Thank God I am in recovery, not just from a wicked addicition, but from old ways of thinking about myself. I’m slowly beginning to recognize when I’m having an intense emotion, or maybe just any ordinary one. I still find myself getting worked up about something, usually something I see in someone else. But I can say to myslef, “Oh, it’s happening again.” I can change my thinking to be about myself and what is going on inside. I can ask God for help. Instead of getting angrier and angrier at someone else, I can “sit with” the emotion I’m having and know it won’t kill me. I can write about what just happened, and I can leave Starbucks without having already connected with someone to schedule a time to act out.

This is liberty, this is freedom, this is life relieved from the bondage of myself that I may better do the will of my higher power.

Thanks be to God.

Willing

Recovery starts with a willingness to do the hard work of God’s will. God, I offer myself to thee to build with me and do with me as thou wilt.

John 7:17 If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.

Man I got worked up this morning. I’ve been sitting here at Starbucks after a short conversation with a friend about teaching biology at a nearby Christian school. After he left, my mind raced with memories of my challenges there as superintendent. I began to feel rage and anger towards some of the people with fundamentalist mindsets. I replayed the tapes of conversations, decisions and meetings. I was trapped in the venom of a vindictive mindset, thinking about how I could have taken them down through persuasive speech and pronouncing judgements of my own.

As I think back, my downward spiral seemed to start with my reading of James 4. I saw myself clearly in the first portion,

“9Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” Verse nine speaks poignantly to my life this past year, but I confess, that for me, the humbleness of verse ten is illusive.

Then I read on and thought about the judgement of conservative Christians toward their fellow believers.

“Warning against Judging Others – 11Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters.* If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. 12God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?

I thought about the trouble the school principal experienced at the hand of a strong fundamentalist woman for his first year as school leader. And I became full of rage toward people in my past.

God forgive me. I am not automatically a humble person. It is often not my first thought to be humble but to be protective of my own viewpoint and of my need to be affirmed.

I am caught in the loop of not being enough, not being perfect, not living up to the expectations form others that I conjure up in my own faulty thinking. I have deceived myself and my addict has controlled my behavior and my erroneous thinking. I used to soothe these negative thoughts and the strong feelings of anger with an organism. Thank God, now I can sit here for a time, realize what is really going on, know that I am not going to die, and express myself more appropriately, as in this journal entry.

Instead of leaving Starbucks in a huff, succumbing to lust, and looking for someone to act out with, I came to realize what was really going on. Note to self, strong emotions continue to be an incredibly deceptive trigger for me. Thank God that by his grace I was able to take a different route today. I am willing to do work like this, which I believe is the will of God for my life.

Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do thy will.

Facing the Facts of the Valley

Humiliation is a stern teacher. Faced with my own addiction, I have swallowed hard and deep to take an honest look at myself. I wasn’t the person on the inside who I presented myself to be on the outside. In that way I was like the Pharisees, a white washed cup with a grossly dirty interior.

This past year I have had to rely on others to regain reality. I’ve faced facts about myself that I never wanted any other human to know. My emotions have been intense as I’ve walked the path of recovery. Emotions I have ignored in the past were near or on the surface most of the time. I’ve learned to sit with my emotions and process them with time. I’ve spoken about them to friends in the program, to therapists and to my wife. Unexposed emotions fester into a raging infection of resentment and despair. Naming them aloud doesn’t stop the pain but it allows the hurt to subside with time.

“After every time of exaltation, we are brought down with a sudden rush into things as they really are, where it is neither beautiful, poetic, nor thrilling. The height of the mountaintop is measured by the dismal drudgery of the valley, but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God. We see His glory on the mountain, but we never live for His glory there. It is in the place of humiliation that we find our true worth to God— that is where our faithfulness is revealed. Most of us can do things if we are always at some heroic level of intensity, simply because of the natural selfishness of our own hearts. But God wants us to be at the drab everyday level, where we live in the valley according to our personal relationship with Him.” – Chambers

I’m a stronger person after being “brought down into things as they really are, where it is neither beautiful, poetic, not thrilling.” Life is earthy and real in the valley. Honesty dwells there and relationships hold grit like the clothing of a traveler on a quest. My own understanding of purpose is superseded by God’s will for me.

When I remain in humility long enough, His will rushes over me like water at the exact right temperature and buoys me up with his grace and love. I don’t need to swim hard to get where I am going because the current He provides takes me to the places He has prepared for me. There is peace and serenity here along with the uncertainties life brings. Only one thing is certain, God’s love for me a sinner.