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.

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.