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.

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.

Fine Wine

But when He uses someone we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, to crush us, then we object. Yet we must never try to choose the place of our own martyrdom. If we are ever going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed—you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed. – Chambers

There are many things that make a wine a fine one to drink. The grapes, the harvesting, the crushing, the fermentation, the storage – all these have a role in the fragrence and the taste of wine. Riding through wine country in the Yakima this past weekend always reminds me of the fragrence of the grapes on the vine and the bouquet of a fine wine.

Chambers says, “If we are ever going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed.” The crushing comes in some set of circumstances to which we vowed never to submit, never to be crushed. But the exact nature of our crushing is not ours to control. All we can do is submit to the process of being made into wine. Our role is simple submission. “When we finally decide to submit our lives and our wills to God’s direction, our burdens will become manageable.” – The Recovery Bible

Our wrongs hold us in bondage, both the perceived and the real ones. Surrendering is the only way beyond the resentment we feel. When we hang on to resentment, we separate from the person in our heart. – White Book, p. 50

I see know how this was activated early in my relationship with my wife. The only way I could be emotionally superior was to win. The only way I could win was through resentment. At first, it turned her into the perpetrator of the wrong. Holding on to resentment eventually made her the wrong I experienced each time I could not deal with my own feelings. I became addicted to the exhilerating feeling of winning the emotional battle until the wrong attitude itself became the addiciton. I became the sin I was trying to escape.

God have mercy on me. Create in me a clean heart. Releive me of the bondage of self that I may better do thy will.

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.

Come unto me . . .

Matt. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Self-consciousness is the first thing that will upset the completeness of the life in God, and self-consciousness continually produces wrestling. Self-consciousness is not sin; it may be produced by a nervous temperament or by a sudden dumping down into new circumstances. It is never God’s will that we should be anything less than absolutely complete in Him. Anything that disturbs rest in Him must be cured at once, and it is not cured by being ignored, but by coming to Jesus Christ. If we come to Him and ask Him to produce Christ-consciousness, He will always do it until we learn to abide in Him. – O. Chambers

When we are caught up in our addictions, it’s common for us to deny the truth about our situation with grandiose thinking. We may believe that we’re above it all, a god unto ourselves, accountable to no one. – Recovery Bible

I am amazed that I believe that I can fix my problem of addiction. It is pride and certainly not humility that keeps this lie alive in my life. I am learning to live with emotions that I used to aviod at all costs. I would run and hide from the way I was feeling. I’d isolate myself from others, from my wife and family, and soothe myself by acting out. This insane, destructive cycle is being broken in my programs of recovery. For this, by God’s grace, I am forever grateful to the One who gives me rest.

This past week my wife shared some difficult news with me. We were having one of our regular check-in times and at the end she said, “D. and R. have said the same thing to me. They report that I’m better when I’m not around you. I think you should think about where you might go to stay a week a month or so.” I told her that her statement made me sad but also that I was in some way at peace for her. Our converstation ended and I went for a walk.

In the past I would have allowed the resentment I felt to well up into anger and rage. I remember some of my walks in the past to be so full of furor that my breathing would seeth from me. This time was different. Although, I didn’t initially identify my resentment, it did not produce deep anger. I walked for a while and went to bed.

The next day I went to a support meeting and afterwards a friend asked how I was doing and I told him about my conversation the night before. He listened and shared some insight that gave me resolve to talk again to my wife.

That evening my wife and I reopened the conversation from the previous night. She explained more about what she was feeling, and I was able to better express how I felt, and also how, in the past, I would have responded very differently. It was a great example of how my recovery was influencing my life and making me a better person.

This morning I shared this story at another support meeting. I shared how recovery was making me a better person, how I could look my resentment in the eye and not let it overtake me, and how I was grateful that I was learning new and better ways of handling life’s difficulties. I am so grateful that I handled this situation without isolating myself, entering a dark space with my addict, and acting out.

Instead of trying to be god, I was able to surrender and come unto Him. This was at a subconcioius level. I did not think, Oh, I need God right now. But that is exactly who I did need, and only because God’s Holy Spirit is in me, instead of being self-conscious, I became God-conscious. I’m glad that through my readings and prayer today that I became aware of my progress in recovery. I pray it will lead to more sobriety.

When I am God-conscious, trials produce steadfastness and the full effect of steadfastness is a completness so perfect that it lacks nothing.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4 ESV http://bible.com/59/jas.1.2-4.esv

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.