Step One

We travel any path better when we travel together.

I read my story of addiction to the fellowship today. It was not that hard in the moment to get through it, but when I listened to the responses, one of the only times that meetings allow cross talk, I was reminded how shocking my story is to those who are hearing it for the first time.

I was completely honest about my character defects. My acting out stems from my lack of self-confidence and my inability to “feel” manly. I’m not effeminate, but I do wish I had the constitution of a stronger man and I mean that much more than simply being strong physically.

I was surprised that a number of the people present commented on how much courage it took to tell my particular story so well. This seemed to have to do with my ability to articulate various aspects of my addiction as well as that I had already shared much of my addictive behavior with my family.

I am fully known and accepted into the fellowship. My hope is that the wounds of addiction would continue to heal, that I will grow in recovery and be able to share my journey in a way that is helpful to others.

Hope – The Need to Wake Up

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:18-25 ESV http://bible.com/59/rom.8.18-25.esv

“”Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”” Matthew 22:36-40 ESV http://bible.com/59/mat.22.36-40.esv

What do I hope for, a life without suffering, a love for my neighbor. My love for myself seems shallow, like I’m wading in a kiddie pool while all along the deep blue ocean is steps away. Is my hope deep enough and wide enough to include that which I do not yet see? “Hope that is seen is not hope.” So I long for the day when my body is redeemed, when I am set free from the addiction that keeps me captive.

Every day is a struggle to stay sober. Words and images gush into my head calling me to do that which I do not want to do. I am agitated like a trapped wild animal licking its wounds. I am vulnerable to attack. ““But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”James 1:14 ESV I am lured into jumping from the cliff into the abyss. It is deep and dark. I am tempted to be alone in the darkness, to hide from contact with others.

I grown inwardly to be adopted into the household of God. There is great inner conflict. My natural state is to medicate loneliness with isolation. But, I know the way to healing leads through relationships. There is pain in the open wounds produced by confession. But the healing balm is honesty, first with myself and then with others. Greater love has no man but this, that he lay down his life for another. Am I able to accept this deep love from another? My embarrassment overshadows my ability to accept such love as this. Knowing that I am weak and in need, that I am powerless to do anything about my own addiction, that I need God and others in order to be free keeps me from full surrender.

Yet, not my will but thy will be done. I will wait for hope with patience. I do not see the end where I will be made perfect and complete lacking nothing, but that is what I will hope for, a time and a place where I am a new creature, the old has passed away and everything is new.

“The battle against inertia. In the life and in myself. This is the great thing. The constant struggle to break through illusion and falsity and come to Christ and freedom. How often we fail . . . The conviction that I have not even begun to write, to think, to pray, and to live, and that only now am I getting down to waking up.”– Thomas Merton, June 22, 1958

Beloved Father, I am in your hands, I bow myself under your correction and discipline. – Thomas A Kempis

Contentment

“With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.” Psalms 142:1-2 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.142.1-2.esv

“Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!” Psalms 143:8, 10-11 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.143.8,10-11.esv

“My friend, allow me to do with you what I wish. I know how you view life and what is important from a human perspective. You think and make decisions based on what is beneficial to you right now. . . My friend, even as you desire to walk with me [Christ], you must also be willing to both suffer and rejoice. You must be as willing to be poor and needy as you are wiling to be full and rich.” – Thomas A Kempis

The sun is shining and I’ve had a good night’s sleep so why am I still feeling so low? I wonder if my life is skewed toward my need to feel good. Certainly the last eight months have taught me how to suffer. But I’d still rather be full and rich than poor and needy.

God works more in my great need because I am more open to his teaching. “To you I lift up my soul” would seem to indicate that my soul starts out in some lower state. I have thought that this lifting up is meant as a sacrifice of praise. But today, I wonder if it is a way to get ready for what God will do. If my soul is normally laid low, maybe through suffering, I may not be fully alive to what God has in store. “In your righteousness, bring my soul out of trouble.” Maybe this is a way to have God set my soul up for receiving what He has in store for me today.

“For to you I lift up my soul [so that you can make me know the way I should go].” It’s like waking myself up to what God has in store for me. It begins with fully trusting in him and in his steadfast love. Love that he whispers to me in the sunshine and in the bird’s songs first thing in the morning. “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love.” It is a matter of trust to see this as the call of God on my life today.

When my soul is lifted up, I am ready to suffer and rejoice in the same day. Then like Paul, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Philippians 4:11 ESV

Distress

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” Psalms 107:13 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.107.13.esv

“Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”

Psalms 33:18-22 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.33.18-22.esv

I’m miserable. I cannot do the next thing. I sit in distress like it is some comfy chair, but it is hard and my body aches from it. Still, I don’t get up. I have lost all hope. My addcition keeps me low, without energy. I stew in my own self-pity. I disconnect from others, as if iosolation will heal my wound, but it only deepens the pain. I long to be free, but I am trapped in my own selfish funk.

I am willing to be willing to hope in the steadfast love of the Lord. That is what I can do in this moment. I have only the strength to turn toward His face. I have no words, no wisdom. I have only enough resolve to surrender. My life is unmanagable without God. I am powerless to follow him so I simply surrender. I will wait for Him to lead me. I will wait on the Lord, and He will renew my strength.

Presumptous Sin & Healing

“Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!”Psalms 66:16-20 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.66.16-20.esv

“Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalms 19:12-14 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.19.12-14.esv

“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Psalms 32:3-5 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.32.3-5.esv

I have been a wicked person. Presumptuous sin, that which I knew to be wrong but kept doing anyway (that’s addiction), gradually over 50 years, drained my life away. My soul was shriveled up like a prune. I was powerless to stop and my life was completely unmanageable. I was in bone deep pain. My physical and spiritual strength was gone, and I was an emotional weakling. But, God would not let me go. He kept bringing me back to Himself. His grace surrounded me like warm coat on a cold day.

Then by God’s grace alone, I acknowledged my sin to Him and no longer hide my iniquity. I confessed my transgressions to the Lord and he forgave the iniquity of my sin. I also confessed my sin to another person and then another and another, and my healing began. “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” James 5:16

Finally, I am a whole and a free person. And, for the first time in my life, I can fully and completely praise God. I can pray knowing that truly God has listened and has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.

Recovery Fellowship

Today is the last day of the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life program that I joined last September. Praying an hour a day has been a great, no an awesome, disruption to my life. Because of it I recognized for the first time I am an addict. I have come to realize my life as an addict is unmanageable and my only recourse is to surrender myself completely to God. As I have done that before, at least I thought I had, I have to ask myself what is different this time?

Shortly after disclosing my addiction to my family, I started going to a therapist and I joined a 12 Step program. My therapist is great and is doing me a great service, but it is in the 12 Step program where the real recovery work is done. It was after attending meetings for a few months that I felt, but didn’t understand, the magic of the program. It was a great mystery to me that I was feeling better in some way.

It took more meetings over more months for me to discover what I think is the mojo of being in a recovery group. It is the connection with other addicts. Here is where we work on our recovery. Even the 12 Steps themselves are not taken in isolation. It is all about we and us and our. There is no “I” in the program. We are embarking on this recoverery as a fellowship. The fellowship of recovery includes confession, accountability and comraderie. Connected in fellowhsip, I know I am not alone; other’s have my back.

So the difference in my surrender this time is that I am not alone. The third step of recovery is we surrender our addiciton to higher power as we understand him. Paul also understood the principle that we do the Spirit’s work together as he wrote to the Galations about it. (5:25-26, 6:2-3, 9-10) “If WE live by the Spirit . . . let us not grow conceited . . . and let us not grow weary of doing good . . . so then as we have the opportunity let us do good to everyone.” We cannot do life alone. We’re in this together whether we realize it or not.

Surrender

It is hard for me to stand atop the mountain of my pride and wave the white flag of surrender. I would rather help my self, solve my own problems, and rest in my own strength. But when I’m weak enough to surrender, then I’m a stronger person because God is my rock of refuge.

I’ve been an addict for fifty some years. That’s a long, long time to have programmed my body to seek comfort in all the wrong places. I choose my addiction over accepting my emotions. I give my heart over to my addiction instead of offering it to be close to other people. Intimacy frightens me because I have hidden myself behind my addicted self. These are my darkest days.

How can I rejoice in all my days? I cannot without God because I am poor and needy. Hasten to help me, O God. You are my help and deliverer. Your slow and methodical work in my life is a great and deep blessing. Help me to not take it for granted. I offer myself to thee, to build with me and to do with me as thou wilt.

God, I confess that I have resented you because of my addiction. I blame you for making me the way I am. Yet it is not your will but my own that get’s me into trouble. My bondage is my own self-centeredness. Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do thy will.

Thank you for hastening to my side. You stand beside me to comfort me, to hold me up when my strength fails. You alone are my help in times of trouble. When I am weakest in myself, I am stronger in you.