What Matters Most

I am often distracted by my own self interest. Instead of living into the image which God has created in me, I manipulate my image to become important to others. I even consider my image to be of some import on its own. Masking my emotions is one way I try to manage my image, and this feeds my addiction.

On the other hand, I can also be absorbed by another’s presence. In a group I can fade into the background, become invisible. God does not want this either. With God’s help, when I am in touch with my centered, image-bearing self, I operate from a solid inner base from which I can speak and act without apologies – humbly and convincingly. When this paradigm is operating freely in me, I don’t even notice it.

So when I accept myself as image deo, that is fully an image bearer of the Almighty, then I am free to be me. Then I am completely me, no strings attached. Of course, this matters to God because he wants me to operate from this solid inner base that he has created in me. It matters to other people because when I am totally myself in relationships, I am differentiated from others and thereby act in a caring and a challenging way at the same time. God’s love in us is not anemic. It is robust. As a result I become more confident and that is why it also matters to me.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

“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

Two Roads Diverge, Part 2 Revisited

In His presence is fullness of joy . . .

I’m still figuring this one out and think it is one of those life long learning opportunities.

Sometimes I feel like I’m addicted to everything. I use stuff to avoid my emotions, especially the strong ones. I hide from fear with food. I suppress anger with gambling. For resentment or stress, there is acting out sexually. Sometimes I find myself even trying to ignore feelings of deep joy.

My counselor is helping me to understand myself. I’m in the middle of a formal presses of full disclosure to my wife about my acting out sexually. Talk about strong emotions. I was suggesting that I just have a beer before or after the upcoming session where I will be telling my wife the nitty gritty of my past. The counselor smiled, like she does, and said I don’t want you to drink before the session and I’d prefer you sit with your emotions after. WTF does sit with my emotions mean? We talked it through. Emotions won’t kill me; they are not good nor bad. They just are.

So for the second time today I sat – we’ve got this great new chair that is perfect for this – through my emotions. Funny thing, today I felt a rush of an emotion that I identify as full joy. I was thinking about a couple. They are some of my best friends. We have cycled across the country together. Tomorrow is Steve’s birthday. Tears ran to the corners of my eyes and down my cheeks. My breaths were deep like the ocean. Complete gladness welled up inside me. And I sat there. Before, I think I would have tried to shake the feeling off, like there was a spider on my hand. Instead, I sat with my own feeling and bathed in the joy. I was surrounded by water that was soothingly warm and my muscles relaxed. It was refreshingly cool and exhilarating at the same moment.

This is another example where I’ve come to believe, “Above all, trust in the slow work of God . . . Only God [can] say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ

Grace and peace to you in Christ who gives mercy sufficient for today,

Henry

Living with Myself

Can I live with myself today, just as I am? This is a learning process. I do not accept all of who I am. God does, but I find myself too complicated, too self absorbed and too confused to fully accept I am who I am.

I find it interesting that when Moses asked what he should call God when others ask, God said, “I AM WHO I AM.” God fully knows himself and he’s not afraid to name and accept all that he is. If I am made in his image, then I wonder if I can accept I am who I am?

A new day of recovery brings with it the mystery of a pilgrim making progress on God’s path, the path of life that God makes known to me every day. When the rhythm of my life syncs with the pulse of the path of life, then I am who I am. My ups and downs become copacetic to me when I keep in step with the Spirit. I do not hike too slow or too fast. The periods of rest are refreshing, not annoying, because I’m not in a hurry to get somewhere. I pause to take in the view. Each breath is a deep, cleansing breath. After a long breath that raises my chest and expands my rib cage, I can say to myself, “I am same sex attracted” without shame. And somehow in that pause along the trail, I can live in peace with who I am in the context of a heterosexual marriage. These are miracles because my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak.

So today is another hike down the path of life, the path of recovery. I hope to have the curiosity to discover more about who I am in God’s image and the courage to act accordingly.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Recovering Henry

 

The Valley of the Shadow

I want this blog to be my honest story about recovery and not simply hopeful bullshit. Yesterday and today have been really hard. I’m looking for pleasure in the wrong places. My eyes are hungry, starved for a hint of naked flesh. I want to release the pressure on my own, without God. My heart yearns to return to my addiction, to a mindless euphoric state. I’m distracted, off track. I’m supposed to be writing a disclosure statement, but all I do is play Texas Hold’em online, feel guilty and then stare at a blank screen trying to write down the specifics of my addictive behavior.

This morning I wrote down ten things for which I am grateful. While I was doing it the soupy fog lifted outside exposing the sun and blue sky. Sunshine was number nine on my gratitude list. Slowly, very slowly, writing the list and now blogging in the moment about the struggle is creating a gap in my soul just big enough to allow the warmth and light of a single ray of sun to massage my heart. My attitude is less bad but far from good. I cling – no my bloody fingers dig into the earthy edge of the precipice of recovery – to hope that God really can help. I don’t want to believe it. I’d rather let go and Fuck Everything And Run. But today, in this moment by God’s disruptive grace, I will haul myself up over the ledge of recovery once again.

Grace and peace to others on the journey of recovery,

Henry

Sobriety

Today is my hundredth day of sobriety. These past three months have been the hardest of my life. Leaning into my own pain is one thing, but watching the lines of pain crease the faces of my wife and sons is heart breaking.

I have come to know the steadfast love of the Lord differently. The cry of my heart is:

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit . . . I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover my iniquity . . . and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

My journey on this rugged path began when I was finally honest with myself about my condition. I want to live a life of honesty. I realize that Jesus is the Truth and that truth is something I must practice each day.

“Jesus is the light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”

Until one hundred days ago, I lived in the shadows. Like the older brother in Rembrandt’s painting of the Prodigal Son, I was lurking in the shadow. I believed I was obedient and working hard for the Father, but I was hiding part of my life from myself, from others and from God. I tried over and over to break out of the darkness, but I was always lured back. I know now I was powerless to control my addiction. On September 23, I stepped fully into the light, first with myself and then with others. On that sunny fall day perched on the steps of an old Capital Hill home amidst trees draped in golden leaves, I pledged to be honest to myself. I understood that God knows me completely, loves me completely, and by His disruptive grace, forgives me completely. I hope and pray I will also be able to love and forgive myself.

I am a pilgrim on the path of recovery. This will be my journey for the rest of my life. I am surprised by the unique challenges and joys of each new day. I live under God’s “severe mercy” and am thankful that I am able to share my experience with you.

Grace and peace for today,

Resentment

I read today that resentment is fueling my addiction. I am “addicted to resentment as a spiritual attitude.” I remember a time when the opportunity to direct a choir at church was taken from me. It was an honest blunder on the part of the pastor in that he thought I wasn’t really interested in the work, that I was only doing it out of a sense of responsibility. There was another person ready and willing to take over the position.

I was livid when I found out. I paced the streets around our home snorting obscenities to myself. I became more agitated with each step. I resented the pastor and the person who would be taking on the role of choir director. My mind was racing and my heart was pounding out the rhythm of rage. Why was I so worked up?

Resentment was my drug. I was trapped by a response elevating my own ego to a place of power and control over others. I marched into the pastor’s office on a Sunday morning before the service and expressed my anger in a way that shocked and hurt him. Eventually, I was given the position but several bodies lay along the path of my seething aggression.

I see now that my addiction to an attitude of resentment is masked by my addiction to sex. When I am sexually sober, then resentment wells up inside me. I resent people who have opportunities that I don’t have, I resent God for not healing my addiction, and I resent myself for not being able to control myself. I must confess and repent from resentment to break the pattern of self-obsession. When I am self-absorbed, I deny God in my life and turn to self-pleasure. I think I deserve the feeling but it is fleeting, over in seconds, and I’m left with deep shame and overwhelming guilt. The twin companions with which I have been trapped for most of my life.

Breaking the cycle of addiction means breaking the pattern of resentment toward others. Only then can I continue down the path to recovery.

Addiction Recovery

I am a pilgrim on the road of recovery. The journey is rugged, full of rocks, valleys, and crevices. Yet, looking toward the horizon, there is stunning beauty. So far I’ve joined a twelve step program, and I’m currently seeing a therapist. When I revealed my addiction to my family on September 22nd, 2017 my life changed forever. From that day forward I pledged to live an honest, one person life. Since I was a teenager, I had been living a Jekyll-Hyde existence. Over a fifty year period, my addiction had grown stronger and darker. I began to cherish the darkness over the light. Hyde was overcoming Jekyll. I was powerless to quit. I was lurking in the shadows and hiding from those closest to me. My only way forward was to be completely honest about my behavior. When I did, I became one, whole person for the first time since taking my first, lustful drink. I was born again.

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. Night and day your hand was heavy upon me and my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgression to the Lord.’ And you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Psalm 32

This journal will recount the story of my recovery. As I reflect and write about my own experience, I hope it may give you hope in your own journey whether you are in recovery from some addiction or not. I suppose in some way, we are all recovering from that part of our life that has kept us captive. I want to lean from the shadow into the sunlight. I want to stay sober. I want to be in the will of God.