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.

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.

Holiness

We may have already chosen to follow God, letting him define the overall direction of our life. Even so, many of us still try to keep parts of our heart hidden from God. We have devoted these parts of ourselves to gratifying our addiction, to doing things that are contrary to the will of God. This sets us up for living a double life, which can fill us with guilt, shame, and instability. – Recovery Bible from Single Minded Devotion

“Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let 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. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” James‬ ‭4:8-10‬ ‭NLT‬ http://bible.com/116/jas.4.8-10.nlt

At all costs a man must be rightly related to God . . . Never tolerate through sympathy with yourself or with others any practice that is not in keeping with a holy God. Holiness means unsullied walking with the feet, unsullied talking with the tongue, unsullied thinking with the mind — every detail of the life under the scrutiny of God. Holiness is not only what God gives me, but what I manifest that God has given me. – Chambers

I have caused sorrow, deep grief, sadness and gloom in my life and in the lives of those who love me. I have devoted part of myself to gratifying my addiction and to doing things that are contrary to the will of God. Because I have lived this way for years, I have trapped myself in a double life, living with guilt, shame and instability. Only God can forgive me and make me holy. At all costs I must be rightly related to God.

Unsullied walking, talking and thinking are practical ways to lean into God’s will and holiness. Being a holy person is not only about what God gives to me but what I make clear about what God has already given to me. You will know me by my fruit. My recovery is only a process by which I submit to God and to others. Through submission I am able to see myself more clearly and understand more fully how to be a better person. The principles of twelve step recovery are inherent in God’s will for me, and when they are lived out each day in my life, I will become a better person.

I am thankful, not for my addiction, but for the person I am becoming through the gift of recovery. Without addiction there is no journey of recovery. When I surrender my will to this journey and ultimately to God, I am able to receive instruction and put it into practice. Everyday is an opportunity to submit to God’s will and to walk the path that He makes known to me. It is my path and to fully walk it in His presence brings fullness of joy that is unattainable by any other means.

God, I submit my self to you. Make me an instrument of your peace that where there is wrong, I may bring a spirit of forgiveness. I cannot persuade others to forgive me, I can only by grace and through humility and prayer bring a spirit of forgiveness into every relationship, conversation and difficulty. May my difficulties and my victory over them bear witness of thy power, thy love and thy way of life. May I do thy will always.

Crisis

Suppose God has brought you up to a crisis and you nearly go through but not quite, He will engineer the crisis again, but it will not be so keen as it was before. There will be less discernment of God and more humiliation at not having obeyed; and if you go on grieving the Spirit, there will come a time when that crisis cannot be repeated, you have grieved Him away. But if you go through the crisis, there will be the psalm of praise to God. Never sympathize with the thing that is stabbing God all the time. God has to hurt the thing that must go. – O. Chambers

“He changes rivers into a wilderness And springs of water into a thirsty ground; A fruitful land into a salt waste, Because of the wickedness of those who dwell in it. He changes a wilderness into a pool of water And a dry land into springs of water; And there He makes the hungry to dwell, So that they may establish an inhabited city,” Psalms 107:33-36 NASB. http://bible.com/100/psa.107.33-36.nasb

I’ve always thought of wickedness as a really, really bad thing, something I would never do. But according to Chambers, it seems that wickedness disguises itself as some choice I need to make. When God brings me up to a crisis, I’ve got a choice to lean in or run. For fifty years, I have run from the crisis of addiction in my life.

Leaning in means that I need to get help but my addicted personality believes it can handle everything on its own. My addict is very self-centered, very self-absorbed, cunning and crafty. When I submit to God, it means I must also submit to someone else by sharing that which I do not want to share. This is bringing to light what my addict wants to keep hidden. Staying in the light is the only way to stop the addiction.

And living in the crisis takes time, especially when I have done everything I can to avoid dealing with it for fifty years. Rivers were turning into wilderness and fruitful lands into a salty waste. My focus was on managing my secret and it was taking more and more time and energy. I would feed the addict and sanitize my surroundings so no one would know.

Finally I admitted to myself and to God what was going on, then to my family and friends. I pledged to be honest on September 24, 2017, and I’ve been keeping that promise. It is still really hard to tell my therapist everything and I mean everything. Keeping short accounts is almost impossible. I’ve said things to people that I fully believed I’d carry alone to my grave. Honesty brings freedom but also the pain of responsibility and recovery.

In recovery, God begins to change the desert created by addiction into springs of water. I have confessed the iniquity of my sin to God and He has forgiven me. “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, in whom there is no deceit.” Ps 32 I am truly blessed in this way.

God will clear the wreckage of my past. I’m getting more and more used to who I am as created by God, while living into the pain I have caused my wife, my family and my friends. I doubt if the pain will ever completely subside, but by God’s grace, I believe it will diminish more and more if I stay in recovery and in relationship with God and others.

So I’m willing to walk in my crisis. I’m not happy about it. Some days I’m just willing to be willing, and somehow because that’s being honest, it is enough. I’ve got a long way to go in recovery and I’m waiting on the Lord, trusting in the slow work of God. I’d rather skip to the end of the story, past all the intermediate steps. But I’m learning that is not God’s way of doing things.

Sobriety is not recovery.

If addiction is an illness to which there is no absolute cure, then healing is more of a process than a finality. Sobriety is only a part of the daily surrender necessary to recover. There is so much more to my healing, like abandoning myself to God, offering myself to Him, finding and doing His will, and doing the work of each of the twelve steps.

When I suffer under the bondage of lust, I may not abandon all that I know will help me stay sober. At that point sobriety is an anchor. To yield to my temptation is to cut the anchor line. Then I am free to float aimlessly in the darkness back toward the pit of self satisfication. My own self interest is the only thing I Iook after and helping others becomes a mere platitude.

The way through lust is to surrender, not by giving in but by admiting I am powerless to control the temptation. I can’t turn back from its enticingly sweet pleasure. I can’t go around its grip on my heart nor my mind because when I resist in this fashion, it is like quicksand pulling me deeper toward my compulsions. But I can move through it as through a wisp of smoke when I recognize it for what it is, a temptation that I cannot resist on my own. Only by humility in complete surrender to God will I pass by to the other side.

We came to to realize that we were powerless over lust. This is a communal act we must do in fellowship. Going on alone does not work. Keeping secrets starts the snowball rolling down the hill and before long it is too big to stop. We end up crushed in the deep snow having to pick ourselves up to start once again on the path of recovery.

Staying Sober Today

Draw near to my soul, redeem me; ransom me because of my enemies!” Psalms 69:18 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.69.18.esv

“When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalms 73:21-23, 26 ESV http://bible.com/59/psa.73.21-23,26.esv

Addiction is as much a spiritual condition as it is a physical longing. When I long to take a drink of lust, I should realize that I need to seek God more intently. My flesh, the temptation that ensnares me, and my heart, the center of who I am, may fail, but God is the strength through which I keep my sobriety.

Even when I respond from instinct, when I’m drawn to look with intent at people or pictures to titillate my craving, God holds my right hand. He does not forsake me even when I make a selfish decision that sends me down the slippery slope. My heart is pricked with the longing to act out. I become like a starving animal hunting for food. I am brutish, carnal and sensual. I choose to be ignorant of that which I know will help me overcome temptation. My mind plays tricks on me with the intent to trap me in the hunt. My heart pounds in my chest. My breathing is fast and shallow.

I sip the salty nectar of the pleasure that haunts me. Even now it is hard for me to stay calm and focused on God. I yank my hand away to break the trance. I inhale, hold in the life giving air and exhale deeply to release the grip that lust has on me. I must turn toward God and receive his life giving will. God grant me the serenity to accept myself as you accept me. God is my portion. He is just the right amount of everything I need to stay sober.