Confessions of a Food Hoarder in Pandemic Pandamonium

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Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

Greetings from The House of Greene, where we now eat unsalted peanut butter, because on our last visit to the grocery store, that’s all that was available.

Now that I write that, how FIRST WORLD does THAT problem seem? And it’s because they ARE first world problems. But I have a funny little quirk about food. Well, MANY quirks. But this one is especially relevant.

It started in my single mother days. I’d been a stay-at-home mom for years when my daughters were little. I was room mother in their classes. I made wholesome dinners every night. Even in the hardest times, when I’d have to get food from the church pantry, we were well-fed.

And then my divorce happened. All of the sudden, it was all on ME. Two children, no child support, no help from family, NOTHING. It was all me and I had to work four part-time jobs just to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. The girls that I had ‘helicopter parented’ became ‘latch-key’ kids, which made me feel horribly guilty. We ate a lot of hamburger helper, minus hamburger. Instant mashed potatoes. Boxed mac and cheese shaped like Spongebob characters.

I will never forget the evening I put the girls to bed and took a bleak inventory of our week’s food supply. There was NO WAY we were going to make it. You know that feeling you get when anxiety comes on real sudden-like, and your blood turns to ice water? Your heart starts racing? This was a normal anxiety attack times 100. Something went awry in my brain that day.

Now, we all made it through and somehow, Jesus pulled a ‘loaves and fishes’ on me. He did THAT by some of my wonderful friends, who (much to the dismay of my pride) showed up with a meal or a $20 bill or something. Let the record show that we were NOT fed by the scriptures that other friends threw at me. Nor the lofty platitudes about if I only had more faith, “claimed” a scripture, or “believed” that our needs are already met.

(If you don’t meet a person’s basic fundamental rights, do me a favor, and DON’T preach at them. A Bic Mac and a couple of kids meals were a whole lot more effective than an “I’m praying for you.” But I digress.)

At some point in my single motherhood, I became a bit of a food hoarder. If I had some around, I felt great. So if I had MORE around, well…you know. I also recalled my old trick of soothing myself with food. I was only a handful of years sober back then, so it was all I could do not to pick up a drink. I picked up ice cream instead. Fast food is hella cheap and filling.

It became a way to reward and punish myself. Then I discovered that I could experience the comfort of stuffing my face, and then throw up to get rid of the calories. This is a HORRIBLE practice and I DO NOT RECOMMEND IT. But I hooked up with bulimia for a bit and thought I’d found the best of both worlds. Eat yummy food. Barf. Repeat. I lost 80 pounds during my divorce. The whole bulimia issue is a blog for another time (and I’ve touched on it before) but I’m telling you the whole story so that you can fully appreciate how f-cked up my relationship with food truly is. It’s WHACK, I tell you.

So fast forward to when I met my now (and forever) husband in 2006. He was so kind and loving. We didn’t have to worry about running out of food after we married, but old habits die hard. For years and years (and up until TODAY, ACTUALLY) it’s kind of a family joke that we always have stuff falling out of the freezer because it’s too full, and we can’t find anything thing in the pantry because I have this sick thing about having it COMPLETELY FULL to feel secure, and in order to fit anything in our fridge, I have to play “fridge Tetris” to make things fit.

It’s super annoying to my family, and honestly – to myself,  but I can’t seem to stop it because WHAT IF we run out. It’s not just about the food. It’s some primal holdover from when I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to feed my kids or something. It’s like a COMPULSION. It IS a compulsion, actually.

But today I opened the fridge and there is an empty shelf. AN. EMPTY. SHELF. I can actually see the back wall of the fridge (hey, it’s WHITE!) which never happens.

Over a week ago, I’d taken a fall due to my POTs and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome symptoms, and it was a bad one. Nearly broke both my arms and was bruised from fingertips to elbows. People thoughtfully brought meals over, since my arms were useless for a while. We had a REALLY full fridge (there are between 3-5 of us living in this house at one time, so it’s not just my belly I’m worried about) and it was glorious.

My first thought was: “I’ll run to the store.” Except I WILL NOT run to the store, because I have virtually no immune function and there is an actual PANDEMIC (another fear formerly referred to as “irrational,” but pretty damn rational now) and I am staying home to avoid germs.

It’s not that we are anywhere NEAR running out of food. It’s that if we were, there is nothing we could do about it. I’m thinking that this whole pandemic is going to be a HUGE re-boot for all of us. I can’t let an empty refrigerator shelf throw me into an emotional tailspin, although that is my habit. Habits are gonna have to be tweaked, as are knee-jerk emotional responses, which are kind of my forte.

I cannot afford to be ruled by my many, many compulsions. But I CAN come here and drone on about how different things are now, and be honest about how I’m freaking out on the regular in spite of my best effort to use my “tools.” Applying my emotional coping tools feels like using a regular screwdriver on a screw that requires a “Phillip’s head” screwdriver (I’m using this analogy because those are the only two tools I can differentiate…) It kind of works, but not really.

It’s like there is a Woody Allen (sans perversion, of course) Me, and a Brene Brown Me. Woody Allen Me’s hair is all askew, he is neurotically pacing, displaying nervous tics, and generally running in circles exclaiming “THE SKY IS FALLING!” while my inner Brene Brown interjects with Ghandi-esque, rational quotes about walking inside your story and owning it, and not standing outside your story and hustling for worthiness, and what not (which, frankly, isn’t even helpful at a time like this.) She is calm. She is at one with the Universe.

Why am I both these people at once. (I’m thinking maybe we are all a little of both right now?)

So for the foreseeable future, I’m planning on coming here to blog about empty refrigerator shelves, and one-ply toilet paper. But also about the very real crossroads of anxiety and faith in an unprecedented time. It’s an opportunity for me to dust off the ol’ 12 steps and revisit “surrender” mode, lest I revisit self-destructive behaviors (which will only make things worse.)

One of the scary things about all of this, if we are honest, is that it’s a leveler. We all feel far less “first world.” But that’s not a bad thing, spiritually. Spiritually, we are all One – all the same. We bear one another’s problems, even when they are more severe than unsalted peanut butter. Seriously, though. Not one of us is less precious than another, and sometimes we get so wrapped up in our privilege, we forget that this is the NORM for so many people across the globe – doing without. I know I forget.

I don’t know what else to do but write about it. Eating my feelings isn’t suitable, since food is more or less rationed, but my feelings are not following suit. All I know for sure is that we will all get through this together. Woody, Brene, me, and you. ❤

Be Still and Know that You’re Not God (Whew – What a relief!)

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By: Jana Greene

“Be still and know that I am God.” – God

Yeah, but it’s HARD to be still!

Sometimes it’s almost unfortunate that our Creator has endowed us with this thing called “free will.”Free will has gotten me into a lot of jams.

God, if you knew me, you totally wouldn’t trust me to me.

You know, the will that keeps telling you that you don’t have a disease called addiction.

That you can stop anytime you want.

That you have a plan and it looks like doing what you’ve always done.

But if nothing changes, nothing changes.

Recovery in real time doesn’t look like a baby-steppable feat, but a free fall. Every single day, I surrender my will to my Father’s, because I know he only has my best interest at heart.

Every single day, I don’t drink today. No matter what happens, I don’t have to take a drink on this very day.

And tomorrow, I will wake up and surrender my free will again, just for tomorrow.

Bite-sized pieces, you see. Bite off enough recovery today to nourish yourself today. Then free fall into the love of a very real Father.

So often we try to do the opposite. Bite off more than we can chew by declaring we can never, ever drink again and poor pitiful us! And we chase it with ‘babystepping’ just to make it through the day.

This is not the life your Father desires for you!

You don’t fail God when you fail, dear one! That’s an old trick of the enemy. He wants you to feel like a failure. Don’t give that rat bastard the pleasure.

Instead, surround yourself with other people whose free wills are also prone to malfunction. Find as many as you can and watch what they do to just NOT drink. Take what you need and leave the rest, as they say in the Rooms.

Here’s the thing – God totally does know you. He isn’t tolerating you and your janky free will. He is madly and passionately in love with you, in all of your jankyness. He gave us free will so that when we choose to receive His love, it comes from us mind, body, and soul.

Be still and trust in His perfect will for you….

That He has only your best interest at heart.

That He knows you intimately and loves the bejeebers out of you JUST AS YOU ARE.

That He has the most amazing adventures for you to enjoy, and to enjoy SOBER so that you can be mindful of the  miracles as they unfold.

If you can’t be still and know that He is God, be mad that He is God. Let Him know that you relinquish trying to push Him out of a job, and if you can manage it, surrender your will to Him.

You’ve got this, daughter of the Most High, because He has YOU.

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God, Grant me the Complacency?

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By: Jana Greene

At the end of the day, bad things are going to happen and there’s nothing any of us can do about it. That’s the truth.

If Jesus wasn’t spared suffering, we aren’t getting out of it either. I’m not here to feed you a line about everything happening for a reason, and God opening a window when you could really use an actual open DOOR, etc. etc.

A lot of bad things happen this side of the Kingdom that I don’t understand.

Nothing irks me more than Christians who talk of God as if he easily figured out. As if he is Russian gymnast coach, watching your every stance to make sure you stay perfectly aligned on the balance beam, or a lottery god who increases the odds of your winning the jackpot if you buy more prayer tickets.

Stop glossing over the sovereignty of the Almighty God in order to try to understand why the world isn’t a fair place. Of what use is a god your mind can figure out?

It would be much simpler if he were that god, easier to understand. I can grasp the concept of statistics and unattainable perfection. Those are human ideals. The odds are not in our favor.

But God is. In our favor, I mean. No matter what the extenuating circumstances dictate.

God Jehovah, grant me serenity!

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

I struggle at times. I have a void, maybe you do, too. I was born with mine, like a birth defect – a life defect. A character defect, as they say in The Rooms. The void is a greedy and cavernous hole. Sometimes it is lined with depression or anxiety, sometimes frustrations and disappointments. I have, at various times, tried to pour alcohol in the hole, over eating, self-pity, various forms of people-pleasing … you name it. It eats the lining away for about five minutes (or until I finish the 12th brownie) and then just ends up being a bigger hole.

God heals it up every time. He tells me it isn’t a defect. He tells me the scar is beautiful. But sometimes I pick at it until it bleeds again.

I worry too much for the past, try to figure out the future, and totally forget to live TODAY in the meanwhile.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;

I want the world around me to be a calm place, steeped in a lavender vibe, full of shalom.

I want to fall asleep easily at the end of each day, to feel the sweet cream of drowsiness anoint my spastic mind and soak into my every fiber until I can really finally, you know, rest.

I want people to be excellent to each other. And if not excellent, just shoot for not being a total jerk, for crying out loud.

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

I want the void filled. I have faith in the sense that I know God is not a merciless taskmaster and that all things will work to the good of those who love him. But I still get frustrated with the status quo.

And I just wish more people loved him. Oh that they KNEW him, they couldn’t help but adore him.

I think maybe the void is supposed to be there. Like perhaps always having it with me keeps me desperate for Christ in a way that facilitates my very intimate relationship with him. If so, it is a defect I am glad to carry.

Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;

Not as I would have it. Not as I would have it. Not all lavender sweet cream and shalom. Not when the GOP and the Democrats align views and sing Kumbaya together. Not when people stop cutting me off in traffic. Not when I lose 20 pounds, become a legit writer, balance perfectly on the beam. Or win the lottery.


Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will;


I surrender all. God grant me the serenity – not the complacency – to surrender all.

That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely 
happy with Him forever in the next.

Bad things will happen and this world is a mess. We don’t have to understand why it isn’t a fair place, we just have to carry a message of love to the broken world.

Maybe we should agree with the world that YES, terrible things that make no sense happen and there is no denying it. But there is a Force of Life called Divine Love, and in the end, LOVE always wins. That’s all I know.

But that’s a tall order. It’s a really hurting world.

God, grant me the serenity. At the end of the day, help me to trust your sovereignty in this world…this messed-up world that you SO loved that you sent your only begotten son. Take the space in my void and fill it with Holy Spirit so that some of that sweet insatiable unconditional love spills out of me and into the world. And keep pouring. 

Amen

(The Serenity Prayer)

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Celebrating 15 Years Sobriety

By: Jana Greene

Hello, Dear Readers.

I don’t really have a story or a pithy piece of sentiment to accompany this blog entry. That will come later this weekend, God willing and the creek don’t rise…

But I’m so excited to share my evening with each of you. What a supportive, amazing, wise and compassionate group of readers God has blessed me with.

So it will be short and sweet.

Earlier this evening, I attended my  Celebrate Recovery home-group at a meeting to pick up a chip.
My 15 year sobriety chip.
Fifteen years of recovering from alcoholism.

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I never thought my recovery would ‘stick,” but I keep surrendering my will to God’s (it is sometimes still a struggle), and He keeps bolstering me in supernatural ways, and somehow….here we are. If I am not vigilant and committed, it could become un-sticky. I respect my disease.
Had I not gotten sober, I would be dead. No doubt about that.

But through Christ, I am an OVERCOMER.

Not only was I given a lovely 15 Year chip commemorating my continuous sobriety, but this nifty bracelet (read the backstory, it is SO cool….) – THE JESUS NUT. Yep, that’s me!

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I keep sobriety by letting others know it is available to them, too.
One day at a time. Still, always…one single day at a time.

Thanks, Jesus.
I’m so grateful.

God bless us, every one.

And THANK YOU for your readership.

Happy New Year!

Why Does Everything Have to be About Recovery?

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By: Jana Greene

There are some things that normal people just don’t understand … like an active recovery life.

You can’t really blame them. If I hadn’t the experience with making everything about drinking, I wouldn’t understand either. Recovery Warriors are a hard-core bunch, making everything about getting and staying well.

Recovery, recovery, recovery.

I’m absolutely certain that many people – even those who love us dearly – harbor the secret thought “Get over it, already! You’re sober now….why the obsession with recovery?”

What they don’t know and cannot understand is that we addicts and alcoholics have two speeds only: Active disease or active recovery.

Those are our two only choices.

Yes, you can stay sober without putting a recovery spin on all areas of your life. You can be dry and clean. But in order to grow and thrive in a spirit that you’ve previously pickled and poisoned, you need to find alternate ways of dealing with Life on Life’s Terms, which I think we can all agree is brutal.

Our disease affected everything!

Because everything was about alcohol when I was active in my disease and something had to fill that empty space when I left it’s sorry ass.

Every day you wake with breath in your body, you have two choices.

ONLY TWO.

You can:

A) Obsess about your drug of choice – Keep everything about your addiction.

If you are drinking or using and are an addict, this is your default setting. You do it without thinking, even though it’s all you think about. Woven into choosing this choice are the possibilities of destruction, irreparable shame, sickness, and self-hatred. It is too often the route to death, spiritually, mentally, emotionally and even physically.

Most every minute of the day is spent either partaking in your drug of choice, feeling shame for having partaken in your drug of choice, and spending all available energies on obsessing about when you can do it again, which you swear you will never do again each and every time. And then you wake up the next day obsessed with doing it again.

B) Obsess about Recovery – Keep everything about becoming WHOLE

When you make the right choice, you lose your relationship with the abusive spouse of drink or drug. But that is ALL you lose, and when you get far enough away from it, you will more clearly see how abusive your default setting really was.

Doing the work of recovery is a life-long pursuit – just as active addiction was.

It is not a 90-day long stint in rehab, or an event you can attend and then move on to other things. If your sobriety is not nurtured and tended to, your spirit will turn back to it’s default setting of using.

In a victorious recovery life, most every minute of the day is spent maintaining that beautiful gift, learning new and healthy coping skills for dealing with issues, celebrating your clarity and ability to appreciate who God has truly intended you to be. It is time well spent, I promise.

Gratitude fills the space shame used to occupy. Clarity spills into the cracks where denial used to reside.

Recovery affects everything!

There is no magic pill to fix addiction. But there is an antidote to it:

It is active recovery.

It has to become what you are all about.

Life instead.

Who in their right mind would bring their deepest, darkest secrets out into the light for all to see?

Someone who has a story to tell that might help others out of the pit of despair that is obsession with using.

And somebody somewhere needs to know about your recovery story, Recovery Warrior.

What will be your obsession?

12 Step booklet to be released in November

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Hello, readers!

I’m working on releasing a collection of essays exploring how the 12 Steps have played out in my own life and how to apply them to life in a practical manner.

It will be a very informal booklet – easy to read one bite at a time – and includes the biblical comparison for each step, a study verse for each, and a simple prayer at the conclusion of each essay. Just something simple to bless you on your own recovery journey…whether you are recovering from alcohol or substance abuse, co-dependency, or any other hurt, habit or hang-up (I think that’s just about ALL of us!)

“Practical to Tactical – Lessons from a 12 Step Life” will release on Amazon and for Kindle in November.

I will post more details when it is published.

A thousand thank-yous to each of you for your readership.

God bless us, every one.

Recovery Option “B” – Have Faith Anyway

bBy: Jana Greene

Very recently, I came across the prayer journal that I  kept before I got sober on January 3, 2001. That is my D.O.S. (date of sobriety) which has become far more meaningful to me than my birthday or any other anniversary.

In this particular journal, the entries began about a month before my D.O.S. (the date in which my sobriety ‘stuck’) and continues only through about six months into recovery. There are about ten entries, total. It would not seem to be a very in-depth journaling exercise if, say, I were being graded on it. But I wasn’t being graded on it, of course. The number one key to keeping a journal, in my humble opinion, is remembering that nobody is going to grade you on it. It is for the benefit of you own tender spirit, and no one else.

I sat down with a cup of coffee to read my old, cringe-worthy journal just the other day.

On an entry dated December 11, 2000 – about three weeks before I came to the end of myself in my addiction – I am hopeful at the top of the page:

Reflections/notes: “I am saving this space to write in tonight when I am tempted to drink.”

And then scrawled in the center of the page many hours later …

Drank anyway.

Even today, nearly 15 years later, I can feel the collapse of my heart as if it just happened. Oh how vividly I remember that sensation of disappointment. I hope I always remember it, it helps keep me sober today.

In between those two writings, a full-on war was going on inside of me. Picking up a drink was, for me, setting down a portion of my faith that God was in control and could handle my problems. Drinking was my way of sitting out the game. Not only did I relinquish my part in saving my own ass, but I was shaking my fist at God for not helping me save it. By continuing to pick up, I was in essence tying the hands of God. He is a gentleman, you see, and will coerce by force. There must be surrender.

I don’t know why it took so long for my sobriety to become ‘sticky,’ I only know that it took what it took. And I know that I had to do the work to put my disease in its place. Meetings. Prayers. Surrender every minute of the day. Strategy. Every war requires expert strategists or it is doomed to fail.

Part of the strategy in very early sobriety was to give myself only two choices. Any more than two were completely overwhelming.

Today will be challenging in the same old ways. It will also be challenging in some brand-new ways. You have a choice. You can …

A) Drink/use anyway.

or

B) Have faith anyway.

The latter is so much more difficult than the former. But choosing the second option saved my life.

“Having faith anyway” looks messy! It means believing that which seems completely impossible. It means accepting THIS, one day at a time, one hour at a time, one SECOND at a time, if need be.

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:28 (MSG)

It’s interesting to read the journal entries that followed. They were desperate. Here is the entry from five days sober:

“I cannot drink today, not today. Maybe not ever again. Nobody knows the extent of my disease. My hands are trembling, holding this pen. I feel toxic, inside and out. The alcohol is bad for my body but worse for my soul. It’s like acid and sweet nectar of oblivion, all in one. I cannot serve two gods anymore. I can feel the hand of Jesus reaching to me, I know He is with me, even now. I used to boast that Jesus was my crutch. I used to be embittered by all that happens in life, and talked to him every day. Over the years, the wine instead became my crutch….just a ‘little something’ to relax me, and then a few more, and then I don’t even remember, until an empty bottle or box. And so here I am on this cool January morning, trembling and calling out the demon. I want God back at the helm, and it’s not because I ‘deserve’ it, but because of this amazing, impossible-to-comprehend gift of Grace. I don’t want to feel the constant shame, the uneasy and bewildering guilt anymore. I’m ready to change, with His help.”

Lots of other notes in the journal follow.

“Okay, God….what is the DEAL with my LIFE?”

and …

“Help me, God, I cannot do this!”

But I COULD choose option B…Have faith that if I surrender to the will of God, I will survive it – and thrive, even.

And so I chose Recovery Option B, no matter what.

Is everything falling apart and you can see no possible resolution? Choose faith anyway. He’s Got this, if you only surrender your will to His.

Are you hurting – mind, body, and soul?

Choose faith anyway. NOTHING has ever been healed by drinking / using the toxins.

Angry, bitter, fed-up?

Don’t pick up and HAVE FAITH ANYWAY. Have faith that your D.O.S. – that glorious, meaningful GIFT of a date – is yours to keep, but you’ve got to work to keep it.

And surround yourself in a healthy recovery community. Journal, if it helps, and remember nobody is grading you! Don’t sit out the game of your own life. Don’t tie the hands of God. He has SUCH good plans for you. He knows you far better than you know yourself. And He is madly in love with YOU. When you get tired, ask for His Spirit to help you along. It’s a messy thing, recovery. But oh how your tender spirit will rejoice on the journey, one single day at a time.

It can save your life.

It saved mine.

 

 

Step Twelve – Carrying the Scent of Heaven

IMG_3775STEP TWELVE

Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1

Of all the steps, the twelfth is my favorite. It is the “Hey, me too!” step, the one that is practiced just by sharing your own experience, strength and hope with another human being who believed they were truly alone.

Have you ever been anointed in oil? The first time one of my sisters in Christ prayed over me and anointed me with oil, I wanted to stop her and tell her that she was wasting oil on the wrong girl. But then I remembered that Jesus similarly washed the feet of his favorite twelve common sinners, and not those of the High Priests. He is just the coolest that way, always rooting for (and honoring) the underdog.

I love the anointing with oil. Unlike water blessed by priests that evaporates quickly, oil blessed by Holy Spirit lingers and lingers.

It is messy and difficult to control.

It releases Heavenly fragrance all day long.

If it gets on your clothes, they are stained. It cannot easily be washed out.

If it gets in your hair, forget about it. You are a greaser straight out of the 1950’s until the next shampoo.

If you touch another human being with the same hand that has been anointed, they too carry the softness and scent on their person.

Step Twelve is a blessed, oily step.

Having worked through steps 1-11, we have become ready to receive our divine appointment to serve other addicts, and by doing so, serve Jesus.

We have faced down demons, cast them out, learned more about ourselves, owned our own mess, and made amends whenever doing so would not harm us or others. We worked hard, but frankly, recovery work without Step Twelve is a practice in Dry Drunkenness.

And Spiritual awakenings are not dry affairs. They are drenching discoveries that open us up to truly love others – the underdogs.

We cannot ‘fix’ anyone. We are simply beggars showing other beggars where we found bread.

If you are walking with the Rabbi Jesus in your recovery life, you are already anointed.

He hasn’t blessed the wrong person by reaching you. You are the only one who can carry your experience, strength and hope to the hurting.

Do you remember how hard it was to content with Step One? Somebody right this minute is cowering against it.

It’s messy, isn’t it? But quenching, life-affirming.

You reek of Heaven. It’s all over you, lingering. Touch someone else with the same hand that was touched by the disciple who loved you when you couldn’t yet love yourself. Really that’s all it’s about. But it’s everything.

Pay it forward.

Step Eleven – Connecting with God Picture-Imperfectly

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STEP ELEVEN
“We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and power to carry that out”
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” – Colossians 3:16

This post took me forever to write, and that is not coincidence. I really struggle with how to best illustrate Step Eleven.

I struggle with it because I have a preconceived notion of what conscious contact with God is supposed to look like.

And it looks all Instagram-y.

You know ….

I wake up refreshed in the morning hungry for the Word of God. The very first thing I do is make a picture-perfect cup of coffee in the Keurig (for extra effect the coffee cup should be emblazoned with the words “Hope” or “Faith” or “Love” and – in finer print – a scriptural reference.) Taking my place on the sofa, I pray for God to expand my understanding during this special time with him as the kitty cats snuggle in next to me. I open The Message, and hey, looky there! I flip open my Bible and it ‘just happens to’ turn to a verse so very pertinent to my current circumstance. It is already highlighted even!

Thank you, Lord! Your will be done.

Amen.

It’s so tidy. So picture-perfect.

Tidy, yes. But not an improvement over my current contact with God. And in recovery, improvement trumps tidiness every time.

I have ADD to a pretty good degree, and I find it hard to focus long enough to even make a cup of coffee on some days. It is easy to lose the essence of Step Eleven when we allow our preconceived notions of what conscience contact with God looks like.

How do I even know what to ask for? God is the perfect parent. He knows what I need before I even ask for it. Seeking Him isn’t about knowing what I need when I sit down to a perfect cup of coffee!

Going into my fifteenth year of sobriety (all glory to God, still one single day at a time) a more accurate illustration of my Step Eleven work might be as follows:

I wake up grateful for another day sober, but perhaps a little bit frustrated about a given circumstance. I Say, “Good morning, God. Can you help a sister out today? I need you.” Make a cup of coffee in the Keurig (most likely in either the “Life’s a bitch and then you die” or – my personal favorite – “I thought I was having a hot flash, but my boobs were in my coffee” cup). Accidentally piddle around too long on my way to the sofa doing stupid stuff around the house  (Sorry, God.) Get to the sofa, only to find the cats in my spot unwilling to share the space. Hump back to the kitchen table, sloshing coffee on the floor. Pray for God to expand my understanding of Him this day, and open The Message. Hey – LOOKY!

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:9 (NIV)

It’s highlighted even!

And the more I delve into what God has to say in His love letter, the more His message becomes apparent.

I want to help you.
I want you to know Me.

I LOVE YOU.

Step Eleven in recovery isn’t about getting it right. It’s about seeking right exactly where you are today.

Be a seeker. He will take care of the rest.

Thank you, Lord!

Your perfect, pleasing will be done.

STEP TEN – GPS: God Positioning Self

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STEP TEN
We continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
Biblical Comparison: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”  Corinthians 10:12
I like to call Step Ten”The GPS Step” because it is so directional. It reminds us that recovery is not a destination but a journey.
Taking my personal inventory is much like plugging in my address to a GPS system. There are many possible routes, but only one destination.

One of the first times I used my GPS was on a trip to visit my cousin in another state. I am a late-comer to this technology. My two adult daughters were accompanying me, and before we departed, they showed me how to pull up the GPS and ask the Very Knowledgeable Lady who lives in it how to get to our destination.

“How?” I asked my tech-savvy offspring.

“Just ask Siri,” they told me.

I did ask Siri, and – wonder of wonders – a magical map appeared that pinpointed my exact location (which was kind of scary.) I then told her the address of my cousin’s house and the entire 200-mile route to her house appeared with my journey clearly marked.

“Take a left on Highway 17,” The Very Knowledgeable Lady helpfully chirped. “And take exit 12 in 70 miles.”

I laid my cell phone down on the console and drove in awe as we traveled the thick blue route line. We were the little digital thumb tack on the screen, chugging down the road! Here’s where it got interesting.

Several times on the trip, I picked up the phone to make sure Siri knew what she was doing, even though I did not know the way myself! And although I had no reason to distrust the voice telling me where to go to arrive in the most efficient manner, I even stopped at a fast food place when we arrived in the destination city to ask for directions to her street!

My kids kept telling me, “Mom, just follow the route already mapped out.”

It has to be more complicated than that, I thought.

Have you ever trusted Siri to get you someplace and ended up somewhere else? That happens too. Once I drove six hours to attend a Blogger Conference in the mountains of North Carolina and instead of taking me to my Hampton Inn late at night, it led me down a dark road to what appeared to have been an old, abandoned sock factory. Really. It was in middle of nowhere! When I pulled in to reboot the GPS, The (not so) Knowledgeable Lady tried to save face with her response.

Rerouting.” Like she meant to do that.

Although she had mistakenly taken me someplace else, she then had to re-route because my starting point was different from where I’d left six hours prior.

There are many, many routes to take on the recovery journey. Re-routing is always a possibility. The two important things to remember when continuing to take your personal inventory is to keep moving in a forward direction and don’t back-track and return to bad places. Promptly admit when you are lost.

In the GPS analogy of the tenth step, you can replace the Very Knowledgeable Lady in the cell phone to God Himself, who is more than happy to direct your path if you allow him to.

But you have to ask. And keep asking. He will not take you to a dark place (or an abandoned sock factory, for that matter) You have to ask, and you have to trust that His direction is perfect.

Throughout the previous work of Steps 1-9, you have pinpointed your exact location (and that can be a little scary, too.) The tenth step is insurance that we don’t revisit the dangerous places that led us down the wrong paths, even though our journeys are not always so clearly marked out.

It has to be more complicated than that, right?

Only it isn’t.
It is plugging your coordinates back in. Being honest with yourself about your stinkin’ thinkn’. Reaching out. Spending time in self-reflection. Going to meetings. Asking  for directions. And when wrong, promptly admit it.

When do you arrive?

That is of less importance, everyone’s route is different.  Don’t you see? We were absolutely built to travel –  collecting wisdom and experience and fellowship and memories along the way.

And to walk in joy every step of the way.

Step Nine – Hurt People Hurt People (but healing is possible)

296878_3625876817927_1688681910_nSTEP NINE
We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Biblical Comparison: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24
Step Eight is taking your inventory – making that list of those whom you have harmed as a result of your addiction.
Step Nine is organizing that list into a manageable chunks of  manifesto to present to those you have harmed, so that the clutter takes up the least amount of space in your spirit.
It does not mean that rainbows and butterflies will invade the space between you and another person.
It does not mean that you will break bread on a regular basis with this person.
It does not mean that the person your actions have harmed will necessarily forgive you.
But it can mean that those things become possible.
Step Nine is difficult because we mire our transgressions in one of two thick muds of thought:
Denial – “I didn’t hurt anyone but myself in my active drinking and using.”
Shame – “I can never make things right, the damage is too deep.”
I’m not sure where you are in your process of making amends, but I can tell you with reasonable certainty that neither one of these two extremes are true.
You and I did hurt others with our behaviors.
And the damage is never too deep to repair while doing Step Nine work. The step is more about your accountability than reconciliation, and repair begins by your very admission and asking for forgiveness.
Step Nine goes something like this:
“I drank a lot more than you think I did all those years ago, and I know I hurt you by disrespecting you when I was drunk.”
Or
“I’m taking back control of the parts of my life that drugs hijacked. Those times when I bruised your feelings with my words, I’m sorry.”
Or just
“Please forgive me.”
When I got to Step Nine in my own recovery,  I had two very important direct amends to make to each of my daughters. They were five and eight years old when I got sober. The youngest claims not to remember very much about Mommy’s drinking, but my older remembers more than I’d like – especially the fights between their father and I, the shadow alcohol cast over my spirit, and the sickness and sloppiness toward the end of my active disease. My kids are everything to me – they were the one single thing I was going to do right in my life and not screw up like everything else. (Expecting perfection from myself in any area – and combining with with living in addiction – is a recipe for disappointment.)
With the clarity of new-found sobriety came light and sharpness, but also illumination of the damage I’d done to my beloved children by not making them top priority.
They were still young. How to make amends?
I started by educating them on an age-appropriate level about alcoholism as a legitimate disease; but not as an excuse for my behavior. Mommy has a sickness to drinking and drugs and it is my responsibly to get well and stay well, and that means staying away from drinking and drugs and working the program.
I followed up by staying sober, no matter what.
As I grew in recovery, I said things like:
“I know there was a time in your life when I did not stay away from those things; I wasn’t strong enough. I didn’t trust God enough to help me, and I was very unwell as a result. I never meant to hurt or embarrass you, but I did those things all the same.
I am making the changes now to become stronger.
I am staying away from the poison that affected our relationship.
I am trusting God to help me now and forever, one day at a time.
Will you please forgive me?”
A funny thing happened on the road to redemption. My daughters are now 20 and 23, and they are not ashamed of their mama and her (now 14 years of) recovery. As a matter of fact, the are proud of my clean time, and our relationships are closer now than they have ever been. They have a compassion that they might not otherwise have for people in the throes of addiction. They are spectacular young ladies and I’m so grateful to Abba that they accepted my amends and have forgiven me.
It was hard admitting I’d hurt them, but restorative that their complete forgiveness has transcended a disease I once thought would take me from them altogether.
Step Nine does not invade the space between you and the person you harmed with rainbows and butterflies. But it does make space for healing.
And that’s ever more beautiful still.

Step Eight – Your First Amendment

IMG_0889STEP EIGHT
We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Biblical Comparison: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:31 
Protected behind presumably bullet-proof, fire-proof glass, there it was – one of 14 original official copies of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution of the United States.
My husband had surprised me by taking me to our local museum where it was   showcased as part of a national tour. I’m a hopeless history nerd; it was a very thoughtful surprise.
Leading up to case that displayed the bill were velvet ropes with tassels on the posts. It was all so fancy. You knew you were headed for something special just walking towards it.
The Constitution was an incredible and liberty-bestowing document, but it needed amending to increase the freedoms in America. It doesn’t take away from the original document to be amended. Rather, it adds value.

The definition of ‘amend’ is: 

Change, modify, reform.
Remedy. Revise. Alter.
Correct. Enhance.  Improve.
Mend. Reform. Repair.
The definition of ‘amendment’ is: An alteration or addition.
Making a list of persons we have harmed is hard enough, but being willing to make amends to them all is even harder. By taking pen to paper and making your list, it’s important to include each:
  • Person who has been harmed as a result of your active addiction
  • Memories of harm done
  • Thoughts resulting from the harm – perhaps the thoughts that are continuing to haunt you as a result
  • Intentions you now have in making things right
  • Amends that you can make to help repair the damage

 

Making amends with those you’ve harmed is not a privilege for the more spiritually enlightened among us, but a right as a person in recovery. Making amends increases your freedom.

It’s easy to get stuck here on Step Eight.
There might be relationships that survive addiction that will not survive recovery. Step Eight work is not about extending the amends yet, but about becoming willing to make them. You are setting up the velvet ropes to healing relationships, and letting others in on making history in your recovery.

Step Eight is change, modification, revision or correction to bring about an alteration or addition to your spirit.

It’s not about taking away from what’s been done to you, but owning what you’ve done to others.

It doesn’t take away from your recovery, but adds value.

Amendments modify our existing plane to create a higher existence.

You are heading for something special, just by walking toward it.

Change, modify, reform.
Remedy. Revise. Alter.
Correct. Enhance.  Improve.
Mend. Reform. Repair.

Make history.

 

And prepare your heart for liberty.

Step Seven – Walking Wounded and Reaching Out

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Franken-ankle

Step Seven

We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.

Biblical Comparison: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,” – 1 John 1:9 
Once upon a time, there was a very stubborn woman who woke up at night to use the bathroom, stepped out of bed, and heard a terrible and loud ‘crack’ in her leg.  She collapsed on the floor, writhing  in agony from the pain in her right ankle. The pain seared through her entire body. This was no ordinary boo boo, she could tell. But when she was finally able to stand, she told herself it was sprained, and she believed that to be true.
“Walk it off,” she thought. “Walk it off and don’t be a big baby. You just turned your ankle, that’s all.”
This woman is me.
The next day, it was worse. It looked like some kind of poorly-trained circus balloon animal maker had tried to make an ankle out of black and blue balloons. The pain was beyond excruciating.  Still, for eleven full days, I wrapped it in an ACE bandage and acted as though it were business as usual.
I’ve heard it said that “if you can walk on an injured leg, it’s not broken.”  But whoever said that does not appreciate my capacity for denial. I walked on it, doing everything I normally would, just with a bit of a limp. It kept swelling. I walked more. It’s not broken, I thought. Or I wouldn’t be able to stand the pain.
If I’m honest about it, I can say that over the span of nearly two weeks, I developed a  twisted sense of pride that I could carry on with this OBVIOUS, swollen, throbbing issue attached to my leg. I felt like a badass, almost. Look what I can withstand!
The mind is a very powerful thing.
I had to become entirely ready for medical intervention. And eleven days after the incident, I could take no more, badassery or not.
“I think I’m going to the doctor to have it looked at,” I told my husband. “You know, just in case.”
The doctor looked at it, with a series of x-rays. It was broken, and there was no fixing it without surgery. I was sent directly to an orthopedic surgeon, who confirmed it and asked, “How are you even walking on that?” The funny thing is that on the way to the surgeon’s office,  I drove myself to the grocery store and hobbled around for ONE LAST TRIP for things we “needed” before I might be told I couldn’t drive. Keep in mind that I am blessed with the most helpful and supportive husband of all time, who would have been glad to go for me. Stubborn.
My inner control freak cannot be reasoned with.
But she can be beat down, which is what happened. By going to the surgeon’s office, I was ready to have this defect fixed.
By the morning of surgery, I was asking – BEGGING – for it to be remedied. The pain was too much to bear.  I humbly asked the surgeons to just do this thing already. They did, and it took a metal plate, five screws and a large pin to fix it.
Because I had walked around on it broken for so long, it was fractured in TWO places, not just the one original break. Stubbornness rarely pays off.
That was three years ago. Since that time, many things have changed, inwardly and outwardly. I don’t feel invincible anymore; I know I am a Spirit poured over breakable bones and under fragile skin.
The ankle has healed beautifully, although it will never be the same. You can feel the metal just under the skin, and it still swells at odd times. It has to be babied. It is affectionately referred to by my family as “Franken-ankle” now.
Step Six is admitting your unmanageable pain and knowing it’s not “just a sprain.” Step Seven is asking for help, and asking is an action word of the highest order. Ask God to remove your shortcomings.
Contrary to popular belief, you can walk around damaged and broken. Most of us are.

You cannot be prideful and humble at the same time. Handling it yourself isn’t working. Step Seven is all about humbling yourself and actively reaching out for help.

Just because you can stand the pain doesn’t mean that you have to.
You know what’s wrong now. You’ve identified it. It is obvious to yourself, and most likely others that you need forgiveness and purification. Okay, so you can withstand the character defects and their pesky behavior sidekicks….
But why? That’s the question. Ask yourself why you feel you need to withstand it.
Our broken parts are often manifestations of our war parties, and they are far less interesting than we believe them to be. I broke my ankle getting up to pee at night, not in a glamorous way such as skydiving or horse-back riding. What bad-ass trophies are you holding on to?
Now, ask The Great Physician to do a healing work in you to mend you back together.
Anything less – especially ‘walking it off’ under your own power –  is needless suffering.
You will never be the same.
But you will be whole again.

Step Six – Character Defects and the People they Cling to

Character defects are the barnacles of the spirit.
Character defects are the barnacles of the spirit.
STEP SIX
We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Biblical Comparison: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” – James 4:10 
Many years ago, when I was a boat owner, I learned the adage “a boat is a vessel that you keep pouring money into.” It seemed like the maintenance for a salt-water vessel was never-ending. Each season, there was barnacle-scraping to be done.
The thing about barnacles is that if you never lifted your boat out of the water, you may never know they were even there. You would only be able to tell because every little barnacle affects the ‘drag’ of the vessel….making it slower and less reactive, and steering less accurate. Even though you cannot always visibly see them, they are disruptive and – if unchecked – can multiply in number and destruction.
They have to be dealt with every season. Not only are the little critters unsightly when a boat is lifted out of the water, they have a horrible stink.
And scraping them off is a very unpleasant experience. They seem glued to the surface and have to be scuffed off one-by-one. Work on too many at a time, and you don’t get them fully removed.
The stench makes you wonder if you shouldn’t have just left the boat in the water and pretended not to notice them. But the boat is on dry land now, there is no turning back.
Barnacles remind me a lot of Sixth Step work. They are much like our defects of character. If you are in recovery – even for one day – your boat has been lifted from the water. The cleaner your vessel becomes, the more you realize how encrusted it had been and how much it had been affecting your ‘drag’ – your life force.
Is it your season to scrape off the barnacles? The hard-shelled, parasitic character flaws that are slowing your recovery down?
Are you entirely ready to be free of those hangers-on of stinking thinking?
Ask God to remove your defects of character and he will lift you higher. Ask him to be gentle but effective, and ask him to make you mindful of destructive thoughts and behaviors. Sometimes they have been hitching a ride in us for so long that we don’t even realize they are there.  Own every single one of your issues; you can’t work on what you don’t own. Pray for peace in the process. It will take time. That’s okay. There is no turning back now.
The scraping might be unpleasant and stinky, but there is nothing like the smoother sailing experience when you are seaworthy again.
If you had never been lifted from the water, you might have never been able to sail so free. There will be maintenance. But there will be a season to deal with those in due time.
A spirit is is a vessel that you keep pouring love into.
It is your season to be free.

Step Five – The Exact Nature of our Wrongs

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STEP FIVE
We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” – James 5:16 

“There are some secrets I will take to my grave.”

Have you ever said the statement above? I have. It is a sentiment that keeps sickness active and recovery stunted. Step Four helped us form an inventory and delve into the wrongs done to us and done by us to others. What to do with the indiscretions laid bare by the hardscrabble work of the fourth step?

Step Five is clear about taking action.

Words have power. What you speak from your mouth can change the trajectory of your healthy recovery, even change the world around you. Speak light and life over people, and their lives change. Speak darkness and it attracts darkness. Let’s not confuse admitting the exact nature of our wrongs to another human being as speaking darkness. To the contrary, as our searching and fearless moral inventories, they can be cleanly dealt with. It’s hard to see in the dark. But whatever the light touches is seen. And can be grasped to be fully put behind you.

Some items on our inventories might be harder to admit than others. Some may seem impossible to own before God, much less a sponsor or accountability partner. But our wrongs – our sins – stay powerful unless confessed to those we trust. Confessing them deflates them so that we can step over them and move forward.

The exact nature of our wrongs, taking responsibility for those things so shameful we vowed never to admit them on this side of the dirt. You really are only as sick as your secrets.

The problem with taking secrets to your grave is that it requires you to lead a grave-tender’s life to some degree. It forces you to spend your lifetime keeping something destructive underground, making sure it stays covered up. Part of you is always tending to that, protecting it. Digging it back up to make sure it is still there so that you can flog yourself with it’s shame, reburying it twice as deep. It’s a lot of work to keep secrets.

You don’t know what I’ve done,” you might be saying.

And you’re right, I don’t. But I do know that – in order to live victoriously in recovery – you must not keep it to yourself. All the things you’ve done in active disease and otherwise are covered under the blood of Christ Jesus if you accept Him and His love.

You see,  God already knows what you’ve done, and is crazy in love with you anyway. If you are in a 12 Step program, you already know people who are equipped to help you admit the exact nature of your wrongs.

“I’ve done bad things” doesn’t cut it when working Step Five. Share your heart with someone who is trustworthy and then burn or bury your past indiscretions in the place of the secrets that have required you to tend to your grave as you are in the living.

So that you can say “Grave? What grave?”

So that you can get on with this big, juicy life you’ve been given and ask “What’s next, Papa?”

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!” – Romans 8:15-17 (MSG)

Step Four – Sh*t Just Got Real

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By: Jana Greene
STEP FOUR
We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Biblical Comparison: “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” – Lamentations 3:40 
If Step Four had a tagline in the current vernacular, it would be: “Shit Just Got Real.” Apologies for the profanity, but really….there is no other way to say it to get my point across.
No longer are we just admitting that there are issues, but we are exploring what led to our active disease  in a “searching” and “fearless” (and MORAL!) way.
This one takes time, deliberate work, and a “letting it all hang out” with your sponsor or someone you trust in the program who you can be real with.
Left to my own devices, my Step Four work might be a light inventory such as one might engage in when counting boxes of cereal at the grocery store. But no, that will never do for a true Step Four experience.
Step Four calls for searching my heart and asking my spirit the really hard questions.
It requires fearlessly moving forward in taking that inventory, no matter what that looks like.
And not being intimidated by taking such moral inventory of ourselves.
There is nothing to lose but the secrets that keep us sick, after all.
Here are 7 practical tips to working on Step Four:
1) Write your Fourth Step Inventory. There are many ways to go about this. You can use columns or spreadsheets (If you are really savvy,) but I use the journaling approach, and I do so old-school with a pen and paper. When I free-style write, it flows more easily. There are no hard-and-fast-rules to tracking Step Four progress. The idea is to write a record of who has wronged you, and whom you have wronged, and to make amends to those people you have harmed, except when doing so is destructive to you or others.
2) The Big Book in AA instructs participants to inventory three “common manifestations” of self-will that often precede inventory items: Resentments, fears, and harm done to others. Working within the parameters of these categories has helped me many times. Sometimes there is an over-lap, and that’s okay too. Life is a messy endeavor, and recovery is certainly a fertile ground for that messy factor.
3) Don’t forget to list yourself as part of your inventory.  You need addressing and forgiving, too. Are you your own worst enemy? Yeah, me too. Include the self-destructive habits you engage or engaged in, and explore deep enough to expose the root cause for that behavior. Self-harm is a slippery serpent, and you must chop it off at the head. Sometimes the same harm that you inflict on others, you regularly inflict on yourself and without realizing it.
4) Pray throughout the process. Talk to the Almighty like He is your best friend. Because He is.Ask God to reveal people to your heart whom you need to make amends with. Sometimes, the Father reminds us gently, and other times people who sincerely traumatized us are brought to mind. In those times, remember that the past has no power over you when you are working the fourth step. The idea is not to dredge up pain, but to bring it to the surface enough to be dealt with.
5) Remember to list all others who have hurt you – physically, mentally, spiritually, sexually, or emotionally. Do not confuse this with taking THEIR inventory. Remember, you can only handle taking your own.
6) Remember to list all those whom you have hurt – physically, mentally, spiritually, sexually, or emotionally. Ask them for forgiveness if you can. Write a letter, if need be. You are responsible for your efforts to make amends. The OTHER person is responsible for how they respond to you. You cannot control another person’s reaction.
7) Think of your Step Four work as attending the birth of a new baby,  and not a funeral. The old ways (the ones that never worked for you anyway) are being addressed so that NEW ways can be instated. And with new ways comes new life. YOUR new life.

You are probably realizing by now that Step Four is not a “quickie” step. At all.  Seek through prayer and meditation the most honest inventory you can take. And then camp out there for a while. Step Four cannot be rushed.

Examine your ways honestly and return to the Lord.
He is waiting for you with open arms!

STEP THREE – A Time to Turn

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STEP THREE

We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.
Biblical Comparison: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” – Romans 12:1

Standing at the counter of the DMV among the throng of other vehicle owners  at the License Plate Tag Office, I was feeling more than a little stressed out. I’d formed an emotional attachment to the car whose tags I would be turning in today. In turning in the license plates, I was essentially saying, “She’d been a good little car, I’ve  had lots of good memories with  her. But she isn’t safe anymore. The car was no longer getting the job of getting me where I need to be reliably anymore. It was time to turn in the tags.

How do you know it’s time to turn in your way of living? Is your life unmanageable? Turning can be hard, but a life driven by peace and love under the care of God is so much better than one driven by our own devices.

Step Three assures us that God is worthy to turn to. In much the same way you would turn license plates in to the DMV after a car has stopped working for you, you can turn your life and will over to the care of a loving and redeeming God if it isn’t working.

We often form emotional attachments to things, making “letting go” difficult.

“Well, my situation may suck, but at least it’s familiar to me.”

“How do I know sobriety will ‘stick’ this time? I’ve turned my will over to God Before, and I am using again. (Answer: Put that thing down and don’t pick it up again no matter what happens…and trust Him to help you!)

Turning away from the hurts, habits, and hangups that have put you in this despondent place? Well, they just aren’t worth going back to look for and picking back up.

God is a gentleman. He will allow you to choose what you hang on to, and what you lose. He will not keep you from turning back around and resurrecting the addiction or pain you are trying to overcome. It’s your choice to turn your life over to His care.

If you desire a lifetime driven by peace and love, make the conscious decision to turn your will and life over to the care of God is yours and yours alone. Turn in those tags! The vehicle isn’t keeping you safe; in fact, it is causing you harm.

And don’t look back, my friend.

 

Musicians The Byrds had a great song, pulled from the book of Ecclesiastics about this very thing:

To Everything Turn Turn Turn

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under Heaven.

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together.

A time to turn.

 

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you know the innermost parts of our spirits, and you long for us to be free of our hurts, habits, and hangups. We cannot do this alone.  We ask humbly for your help to take our character defects, and give us beauty for ashes for each one of our issues. Thank you for always being accessible. We love you. We trust you.

Amen.

STEP TWO – Taking off the God Pants

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STEP TWO
 We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Biblical comparison: “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” – Philippians 2:13 
There is a God out there. And I am not Him.
Seems a reasonable enough, right? I’m pretty sure YOU know that I am not God, that I didn’t mastermind the universe and place the heavenly bodies in orbit.
But at one point in my life as an active alcoholic – on some really deeply corroded level – I behaved as if I were perhaps God.
No, I didn’t create the universe, but I believed I was able to control my consumption from a liquid in a bottle.
Yet, over and over again, I made hollow promises to myself that tomorrow I would not drink. Period. After a period of thousands of ‘tomorrows’ and repeating the same behavior, I began to question my sanity. Isn’t the definition of ‘insanity’ doing the same thing the very same way over and over, expecting a different result?”
 Time, Higher Power, and that pesky Sanity
Step Two is an action step, in that it takes movement and time on your part.
It doesn’t say “We believe that a power grater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
It states “We came to believe a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Another way of saying “I came to believe” is that I have faith. How do you ‘get’ faith? We have long heard that you either have faith or you don’t, that you can exercise your ‘faith muscle’, and even that faith is ‘blind.’ I believe none of those things, actually. Because each and every one of those misconceptions places the glory of your faith squarely on you. Faith is not earned, it is a gift that our Father wants us all to know we have. Ask God to help you trust in the faith he has already planted in you – trusting Him to do what you cannot do for yourself – and your faith will grow.

He is a good father. If you ask for bread, He will not give you a stone.

“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?” – Luke 11:11 (MSG)

In Luke 17, the apostles came up and said to the Master, “Give us more faith.”  But the Master said, “You don’t need more faith. There is no ‘more’ or ‘less’ in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy-seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it would do it.”

Wouldn’t you like to tell your addiction to go jump in a lake?

Understanding that and really embracing it is a process. It’s a faith thing, not a ‘knowing’ thing, so I cannot open a text book and show you it’s true. It takes time to allow what you are wrapping around your mind to melt down into your heart and get gooey love into the deepest crevices of your spirit and what you believe.

What is the catalyst for making that happen in Step Two? Higher Power, of course. My Highest Power (and personal friend, and counselor, and Creator who masterminded the universe and placed the Heavenly bodies in orbit…yeah, that one) is Jesus Christ. I know that in many 12 Step programs, many different applications of a Higher Power are utilized – and in some, none is recognized at all. All I can tell you is what works for me, and Jesus is the ONLY way I’ve maintained sobriety for over fourteen years now (still, one day at a time.)

He is as real as can be – even more so than you or I. Ask Him for help every single day, and he will never forsake you. He loves the brokenhearted, the addicted, the desperate. And He is a Restoration Specialist, especially when it comes to Sanity. We are all a little crazy, right? I think that’s fair to say.

The sanity referred to in Step Two is not addressing our quirks and individual weirdness. It is speaking to rebuke the insane behaviors that we engage in as active alcoholics and addicts.

The insanity that spurs you to place your drug of choice above your children and family.

The insanity that manifests when you tell yourself, “never again” (and really MEAN it each time,) only to drink and use the next chance you get.

The insanity that keeps you down, telling you that you will NEVER be well. You will NEVER get clean.

The insanity that makes you a person that you detest, who does things you know are wrong and destructive.

There is a better way, and Step Two puts it at your fingertips. Take off the God Pants (they are an awful fit, anyway) and ask your Higher Power to restore you to sanity, to really living.  Ask Him to take that poppy-seed sized grain of faith you have and activate it so that it can expand and you can apply it to your recovery. He is the Restoration Specialist, and He loves you more than you can ever understand.

Prayer: Father God, fill us with Holy Spirit in all the spaces chemicals used to reside. Don’t let our faith lie dormant, but help us understand the power we carry that makes all things – sobriety among them – possible through you! We’ve done it our way….Jesus, do it your way now, and help us to trust you through every step. – Amen

STEP ONE – The Big Admission

By: Jana Greene

 

BlogSTEP ONE

We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable. – Celebrate Recovery

Biblical comparison: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” – Romans 7:18

I don’t know if you are supposed to play favorites with the Steps, but I am rather fond of Steps One and Twelve – One because it gives you the opportunity to admit “defeat” over a substance or habit, and Twelve because – having become victorious over an issue or addiction in Steps 2-11  – you actively become the person paying your new life forward by giving yourself to others. From “It’s all about me and what I cannot handle” to “It’s all about you and I think I can help!”

In some of my 12th Step work, I have been given opportunities to help others get involved in the programs, and nothing brings me joy quite like seeing someone pick up their “Surrender Chip” at a meeting. Each of the plastic chips designates a different amount of “clean time,” and the “Surrender” chip is the very first one taken as an act of letting go and letting God. I can feel the energy coming off of my friend, the Newcomer, who is here for the first time tonight.  Although I’ve seen it 100 times, the it’s all new to her. She is waging a war in her own mind about accepting the “Surrender” chip.

I cannot do this. There are so many people here. What if someone knows me? There is no going back once I stand up.

But I must do it. My way isn’t working. How many times have I tried to get sober on my own? I need to find another way.

If I surrender, I am giving it up. There will be a hole left where my drug of choice took up space…..a lot of space.

But these people seem to know another way. Some of them are even laughing and joking!

It’s all I know, drinking.

But it’s crushing my relationships and killing me from the inside out.

Every day I say NO MORE! But every day I find myself right back in the center of drunkenness and drama.

I think I need to surrender.

Yeah, I know I need to surrender.

And with legs shaking and heart palpitating, she rises from her chair and excuses herself as she walks past the people in her row. They are clapping and cheering, like surrendering her addiction was a GOOD thing.

A gentleman holds out the blue chip to her, and embraces her as she takes it. She didn’t realize that she was crying, but she was – tears streaming down her face. When she turns to walk back to her seat, all attendees are on their feet, applauding. They know how hard it is to surrender an addiction. They, too, are powerless over their addictions and compulsive behaviors, and as their lives became unmanageable, they had mustered the courage to walk up and pick up a “Surrender” chip.

Many folks get caught up on the powerlessness angle of the First Step. How DARE anyone refer to me as powerless?  We live in an age in which we are all  expected to be super heroes in our lives, figure it all out, and certainly be the conquerors of our own worlds. Being powerful is highly esteemed by society (although society holds equal disdain for the powerful among us, too)  because being “in control” is where it’s at, right?

Wrong. The only way for an addict or alcoholic to regain control of his or her life is to surrender. My Highest Power is Jesus Christ. When I surrendered my will to him in regards to getting sober fourteen years ago, it was not an occasion taken lightly. I was giving him my very own will, since my will was only serving to make me sicker and sicker. I tried many times to do it “my way,” with abysmal results. Like Paul wrote in the book of Romans in the Bible, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”

Ever tried really hard to do something you knew would result in destruction? I’ve tried thousands of times. Why can I not carry it out?

Because complete Surrender must precede the abstinence from alcohol, the drug. Not partaking in drugs and alcohol is a nifty concept, but it just doesn’t work. Unless you want to live the rest of your life as a “Dry Drunk,” it’s essential. Surrender to God has to stay strategy #1, or my life becomes unmanageable all over again.

Admitting “defeat” over the drugs and drink is the most powerful thing you can do.

And in the not-to-distant future, you will be paying your life and gratitude forward by helping a shaky-legged, tearful Newcomer take that First Step

 

 

From Practical to Tactical – Making the 12 Steps Matter in Your Life

1,000 miles
Everyone (even pop culture) seems to know that “admitting you have a problem” is the First Step proper. But does that admittance look like? And what about after Step One? And what does “Step Work” look like in practical living?
This series has been on my mind and in my heart for quite some time, because I know how confusing step work can be. The following blog entries will explore the traditional life-changing and oft-intimidating 12 Steps through observations made along the way. Each day will invite you to ponder a different step.  It is only sharing my own experience, strength and hope, nothing more. Take what you need and leave the rest, as they say in the rooms.  If the 12 Steps can help me, they can help anyone. I promise.
“A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” –  Lao Tzu
The first time I darkened the door of an AA meeting, I was a 20 year-old. I wanted recovery, but I wanted it yesterday, and my understanding of the program reflected my impatience. These are actual thoughts I experienced when I first walked into my first 12 Step meeting:
“Well, Step One…..check! I admitted I have a problem, so that one is done. On to Step Two.”
“And I believe that a Power Greater than Myself can restore me to sanity, on account of I’m clearly not in charge here. So, worked that step already. Next!”
“Turning my will and life over to the care of God? Okay, I’m down with that. ‘God, I turn my will over.’ This isn’t so hard…..”
“Step Four: Making a fearless and moral inventory of myself……yikes.”
And with this one, I was stuck. Trust me when I tell you that Step Four cannot be done in one afternoon, even if you have the whole day off. Truly. You can take an inventory haphazardly, but not a searching and fearless one. This is where the rubber meets the road, right here on Step Four. (And sadly, yes … I actually believed that I had ‘worked’ Steps 1-3 in the course of a one-hour meeting. Ta daaaaa! Of course I only believed that because of, um….denial reasons.)
It would be many years before I would get serious enough about working the 12-Steps to truly explore what they look like in ‘real time,’ how they play out as workable ways to live life on life’s terms. Now, in my fourteenth year of continuous sobriety, I am just starting to get it. Here are some of the stones that I picked up on my ongoing walks with God. With them, I am building a future; and a good future at that!
Musing on 12 Step programs:
You will work the steps more than once. If you had a flow chart that depicted each of your issues and where you are Step-wise on each, well, there wouldn’t be enough ink or paper on the planet to print it out. Seriously, there wouldn’t.  It is an overused analogy, but recovery really is peeling an onion. One layer gets addressed and another is exposed. I’ve employed the steps in a number of situations in my life and will continue to do so,  and personally, I think they are applicable for anyone – addict or not – to apply. Unless your life is perfect, in which case you can go ahead and stop reading now, because you will not be able to relate to me at all.
Our addictions may look differently, but the root causes that trigger them are almost always similar. Alcohol was my drug of choice, heroin might be yours. I really don’t care because it matters little what you drink, smoke, or shoot, because I would venture to bet that the core issues that drove you to do so are pretty identical to mine. The answer is the same for all of these problems, as well. Without my Highest Power Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t have survived my addiction to tell the tale.  One of the things I love most about the Celebrate Recovery program is that it is for anyone to experience the overcoming of any hurt, habit, or hang-up. In my estimation, if an issue or addiction is coming between me and God, it’s a problem worthy of applying the 12-Steps to. Alcohol, drugs, food, porn, gambling….you can learn a new way to live as an Over-comer with any struggle.
There is no schedule for working the 12 Steps. Oh how I wished for a timetable for the 12-Steps when I first got into recovery! Someone to say, “Okay, you will do A, B, and C, and then you will never want to drink again.” It does not work that way, at all. You will, if you are honest, become ‘stuck’ on a step.  This used to frustrate me to no end, until I learned to think of the phenomenon as “marinating” in step work. “Working the steps” alludes to  putting in time and energy and waiting for the quittin’ time whistle to blow. Marinating in a step brings to mind a soaking-up, a “take-your-time because it’s gonna be worth the wait” mindset.  A good marinade cannot be rushed. For it to become part of the meat, it needs time. But you don’t want to spend your entire life in a bowl of marinade either.
If you can find a Step Study Group, by all means, please explore it! It is not for the faint of heart, it is for the determined to survive.  But under guidance from a Step Study Leader and some very fine workshop materials, an in-depth study of each of the steps can be a game changer. No longer floating about in the Program of Your Understanding, but in a group in which everyone has Experience, Strength and Hope, and everyone brings it to the table in order to get well. You will bring ESH to your group that only you can bring. The value of having people delving into the steps one-by-one alongside you cannot be overstated. Find a group in your area and ask if Step Studies are being done. They are a separate animal altogether from the meetings, but incredibly worth your time.
There are no two recoveries alike. They are the snowflakes of the wellness world – each and every one is different. One of the slipperiest slopes out there is to see someone else’s recovery journey and decide they are not doing it right. Trust me when I say that your own side of the street is enough to keep clean. Don’t be passing judgement on someone else’s sidewalk, just stay on yours, keep it clean,  and lead by example. I have had people tell me that I’m not really sober because I don’t have a sponsor. I’ve been told a plethora of things by a myriad of people; people who are – just like me – learning to live life on life’s terms. You just do you, and I’m going to do me.
Put one foot in front of the other and ask God to bless your footfalls. And marinate in this new way of living.

 

Celebrate Recovery 12 Steps and Biblical Comparisons 
 
1) We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.
“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” – Romans 7:18 
2)  We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” – Philippians 2:13 
 
3) We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” – Romans 12:1 
4)  We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” – Lamentations 3:40 
 5)  We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” – James 5:16 
6) We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” – James 4:10 
7) We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,” – 1 John 1:9 
8)  We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:31 
9) We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24
10) We continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” – 1 Corinthians 10:12
11)  We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and power to carry that out.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” – Colossians 3:16
12) Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs.
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore them gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1