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

lovedsign

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.

Save

Why a Chip isn’t ‘just a Chip’

By: Jana Greene

Greetings, readers – I want to wish each of you a very happy new year!

Earlier this week, something earth-shattering happened. I attended my 12-step home group and picked up my 16 year chip. Sixteen years! I didn’t even know they made chips in that denomination, but alas, here it is. It’s made of metal, even. Isn’t it beautiful?

16

To others, it may look like a regular token, but it’s actually much more than that. In the 16 years I’ve been in recovery from alcoholism, I cherish picking up every single one each year. From the blue, plastic surrender chip that began the whole journey, to all of  the AA and Celebrate Recovery chips collected in between. You might wonder – what’s the big deal about a little chip?

Let me just boast about my weakness for a moment:

A chip represents an entire 365-day span of time in which I felt every single one of my pesky feelings without reaching for a drink.

It’s a keepsake that reminds me to boast on my weakness, because God’s grace is enough; it’s all I need. HIS strength comes into its own in my weakness.

It commemorates another entire trip around the sun in which my craziness did not defeat my sobriety. And my craziness can be very persistent, believe you me.

It is a tangible totem of what the Grace of Almighty God looks like.

It’s a little, round harbinger of possibility. I made it another year without picking up. I can do it again.

It’s a metal manifestation of tribal-ness. Picking up a chip is cause for rounding applause from others in the meeting (who are also feeling every pesky feeling and understand, but are doing it one day at a time, too.)

It’s a trophy for devil-slaying. And no, I don’t think I’m being a drama queen by making that statement. Seriously, ya’ll.

It’s a souvenir of a life led a little more manageably.

It is a reminder that God is still in the miracle business, because in some of the tougher years, I held on by the skin of my teeth.

What might appear to be a silly little token is so much more.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 [Full Chapter]

“Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

I may have wanted to drink several times over the past year, but as I hold this chip in the palm of my hand, I’m so glad I didn’t. I’m so glad that I asked God for help. I’m especially grateful that I have learned not just how to ask for help, but to ACCEPT it, as well.

It’s a big deal because it represents hope and accomplishment and another solid year of learning, and lurching, and learning again. A year of (largely) moving in a forward direction.

I am praising God for this little chip that’s not JUST a chip. Grateful.

And grateful to share these musings with you, dear readers.

God bless us, every one.

Save

Save

Recovery is Like a Baby Elephant

xing

As I approach fifteen years of continuous sobriety from alcohol (still, always, one day at a time and glory to God)  I find myself in a pensive mood…going through old writings from earlier recovery and taking a deeper look into the challenges and triumphs of a life where my drug of choice doesn’t call the shots.

This is a journal entry from my 22nd month of sobriety.

Although YouTube didn’t exist at the time (or if it did, I surely didn’t know it) I’ve added some adorable videos to illustrate each point.

Just for fun (because recovery IS fun!)

I pray it blesses you today. As always, feel free to share the link.

God bless us, every one.

I just love elephants.

Before the first elephant had been brought into America, legend says that the gentleman importing it tried to describe the animal to his community. If you’ve never seen an elephant, it would be hard to picture one in your head from someone else’s description.

People simply could not comprehend that such a thing existed before they saw it themselves. I just couldn’t imagine a recovery life existed.

I have 22 months of sobriety today – exactly as long as it takes a mother elephant to gestate and deliver a brand new elephant into the world.

Yes, recovery  is like a baby elephant.

It needs it’s unit to survive, others of its tribe. It has a tendency to wander, but must not separate from the herd for it’s own safety.

There are threats to its very life, but staying with it’s tribe helps ensure it will grow up healthy and strong.

 

It requires nursing and attention. Not giving it adequate care increases the chances that it will follow in its brethern’s deep footsteps… the “Elephant in the Living Room” that I walked around and pretended wasn’t there in active disease.  That elephant’s name is Denial. It left piles of shit for me to clean up or step over.

It tried to trample my dreams of writing. Of hoping. Of living.

 

It comes into the world larger-than-life, and keeps growing:  Recovery must take up a lot of space in my life, that’s just the nature of countering the disease. Go big or go home.

Before you know it you’ll have the brawn and tusks and wisdom to live life on life’s terms.

 

It is a little clumsy and awkward at times: Who cares? We all stumble! It’s all part of learning.

The more you stand back up, the more balance you invite, and the steadier you get on your feet.

 

It’s playful: The thing I didn’t expect about sobriety is that it is FUN. It likes to be silly and whimsical. Alcohol deadened my playfulness, and stifled my big personality. Recovery meetings are sometimes somber affairs, but they shouldn’t be only somber.

Being clean and sober is a special opportunity to channel your inner youngster – the one you tried so hard to numb.

 

It is sensitive and tender: Elephants are one of the only animals that cry actual tears. From my expertise (which consists completely of watching  a lot of nature documentaries) the mighty beasts are very sentimental.

They are very emotional, especially when SET FREE from a lifetime of bondage!

 

It is also STRONG and able: A healthy one can come up against almost any obstacle and display appropriate assertiveness to protect it.

 

Yep. Recovery is a lot like a baby elephant.

Before we experienced recovery, people tried to describe it to us. But if you’ve never endeavored on the road yourself, it might be hard to picture it from someone else’s description.

Can you comprehend that such a thing exists?

It does.

Oh, and your new recovery is also full of surprises …

Why Does Everything Have to be About Recovery?

serenity

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?

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 TEN – GPS: God Positioning Self

IMG_0997
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

Franken-ankle
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

IMG_4392-001
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

RX-HGMAG007_Vern-Knows-Mirrors-041-b_s4x3
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 TWO – Taking off the God Pants

FullSizeRender-9
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

Getting There in One Peace – Recovery as the Road Less Traveled

11140393_10204060391262444_4263473477641854634_n

By: Jana Greene

A long time ago, when I was just a new human being, I decided that I wanted to go places. As I grew, I came to realize that I could not merely transport myself to that place called Destiny; I would need a vehicle.
I made up my mind that I would take the fastest route there. It would need to be sleek, and “smart” enough to get me around in unfamiliar places. I needed it to know where I was going, since I had no clue.
Fast modes of transportation are fun for a while, aren’t they? “Wheeee! I’m headed for Happy and nobody is going to stop me!”
The vehicle I chose was alcohol, and the disease it led to was addiction. For many years, alcohol fueled the fast rattle-trap that took me everywhere, and oiled all the bothersome squeaky parts.
It never really took me to Happy, of course, although I saw tons of directional signs claiming I was getting close. It always started off in the right general direction, promising to get me where I needed to go. But it  lost its way every single day. Sometimes it took me to places that could pass for Happy, if you squinted really hard and were in pretty deep denial. Sometimes it got me worse than lost, landing me in neighborhoods of darkness and despair. It even tried to kill me a few times. Every night as I lay my head down to sleep (or black out), I swore I would never ride in that vehicle again. Never. Never. Never.
Still, every new morning, I stepped into the same means of transport, chiding it to take me to Happy, and to  remember the way this time.

“My destiny awaits!” I would tell it, every single day. But it couldn’t hear me over the bravado of it’s own engine.
I was so cocky in my disease, so confident that I was calling the shots. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The transportation I stepped into every day by choice was addiction. And every day, for many years, alcohol fueled that fast, rattle-trap, and oiled all the bothersome squeaky parts.
If you choose not to disembark from your addiction, you will miss all of the amazing sights. And that’s tragic, because the scenery is breathtaking. The things you do manage see in addiction, you will not remember.
If you choose not to disembark, accept that your vehicle only seats one. It’s a lonely mode of transportation. You will crush many under your wheels while you self-destruct, but you will sit by yourself in active disease.
If you choose not to disembark, you will continue to delude yourself that you – and your addiction – know The Way.
“Wheee! I’m headed for destruction and nobody can stop me!”
Essentially, isn’t that what we do?

Nobody could stop me from drinking.
Except me.Backed by the power of God Himself.

Nobody can stop you from using, except you. Backed by the most Powerful Force in the Universe and His mighty angels, the gates of Hell itself cannot prevail against your recovery.
You have the power to get out of that vehicle. There is a handle on the door. You might have to feel around for it. You might mash a few buttons or pull a couple of levers accidentally. That’s okay. AH, there is, the handle! I know it feels as if you aren’t powerful enough to pull it, but I promise you that you are. Don’t worry about what will happen when you open the door to step out. The future is nothing to fear.
Is life not slowing down enough for you to step out? Open the door and jump out. It will be the first of many incredible, supernatural feats of faith you will employ. The Father will catch you!
By choosing Holy Spirit to take me where I need to go and surrounding myself with others who want to arrive at Happy, I am loving the journey.
The drinking and using life will never get you to your Destiny, only to Destruction. You can only squint so hard to confuse the two destinations. God is okay with the rattles and squeaks in our spirits. He isn’t bothered by them in the least. He is not impressed with sleekness, nor with getting there the fastest.
My first mistake was in choosing that particular vehicle in the first place.
My next mistake was choosing to get into it every day, expecting it to take me to a different place. (And that, folks, is the very definition of insanity.)

I had to kick around a few tires before I chose my new transportation. That’s okay, too. There is a huge learning curve to this Recovering Life. It isn’t about arriving at your destination all in one piece, but experiencing the journey in One Peace.
In recovery, you are a new human being again, with places to go, people to see, things to do. Don’t even entertain thoughts of your old ways and means. They literally took you nowhere but down. They have no part of getting you to Happy.

Daily ask God to direct you in all that you do.

Daily take the time to stretch your traveler’s legs.

Gather with others, who – like you – are on the way to Happy. And don’t forget to enjoy the views.

Your destiny awaits.

Before His Miracle Arrived: Robin Williams and the specter depression

williams

These days, I feel I could re-wire my entire blog to write about celebrities ensnared in deadly addiction and depression (after writing about Phillip Seymour Hoffman in “Skewer the Stigma” in February…) and that makes me really sad.

For every well-known person who takes his or her life – or dies from an overdose – there are mothers, fathers, siblings, and friends of “real” people who lose the battle every single day. And that makes me more sad.  They are your Hollywood icons and musical geniuses – yes…but they are also your family, community, coworkers and clergy.

God bless the brokenhearted, and let the awareness spread.

It could save a life.

The news of Robin Williams passing hit me hard. I was checking my texts while walking out of a 12-step meeting when my daughter messaged me. The tears were immediate.

It was only weeks ago that I offhandedly posted on Facebook about his latest stay in rehabilitation in June. “Go, Robin!” I think I wrote. “Go, Robin – get well!”
After all, I felt like I knew him. Didn’t you?

Didn’t he make you believe in interplanetary rapport, as an alien in “Mork and Mindy”?

Didn’t he inspire you as the wartime DJ in “Good Morning, Vietnam” who brought smiles to soldiers in the midst of misery?

Didn’t he make you secretly wish he was your father-slash-nanny, as Mrs. Doubtfire?

Didn’t you just swoon at his prose-loving, word-weaving portrayal of John Keating, in “Dead Poet’s Society”? (Okay, maybe that was just me…)

Even as he made flawless comedy, there was a sadness behind his laughing eyes. It was palpable. In the mind from which flowed such beautiful, authentic art,  he no doubt felt hopeless. The news sources say that “rehabilitation came too late for him.” And this breaks my heart anew. I am not sure I believe that.  It is never too late for hope to take hold, and I wish Mr. Williams  had been in a place to realize that.

Didn’t he know that things always, ALWAYS get better? It is a law of nature – things get bad. And then they get better. But his spirit just ran out of the patience for the better to come.

He was – by all accounts – a good person. Being a good person has precious little to do with suffering depression and addiction. If anything, sufferers of both struggle mightily, since they are generally sensitive to those around them, attuned to sadness and anger and joy – all of the empathetic humors. Addicts and alcoholics self-medicate with booze and/or drugs in a futile attempt to stop feeling hopeless. Of course, more hopelessness ensues as the addiction surges like dragon, breathing more fire on the already-scorched earth of your spirit.

I’ve never attempted to take my own life, but I have battled depression a few times deeply enough to consider it. At one point, I remember thinking – very nonchalantly – that I just didn’t want to exist anymore…that I would honestly be doing my family a favor if I just ceased existing. And the most terrifying thing about that thought was the aplomb with which these thoughts presented.

I was all cried out, all screamed out, all worn out. And really tired of being disappointed. I could not imagine ever being in a non-exhausted state and living with an ability to get up in the morning and dress myself without resentment for having to do so. It is a dark, lonely place.

I hated living in this flawed body, with chronic pain – both physically and emotionally. And Neverland is only a place where reality has been plundered and ravaged. The flat, casual tone of my suicidal thoughts alarmed me enough to seek help.

I cannot tell you what would/should/could have worked for Robin Williams. Or you.

I can only tell you what works for me. (Notice I didn’t say ‘worked’ – mental illness is often not a one-trick pony – depression can and does recur.)

When the demon of severe depression rears its fiery head, I work hard to employ the same 12 steps that saved my life when I got sober…particularly those that focus on faith, surrender, soul-searching, acceptance, and a willingness to get well – a willingness to press on for One More Day. Even though things seem pretty shitty in the moment. (I attend Celebrate Recovery. If you would like to see the 12 Steps and their Biblical comparisons, click here.)

Take one single day at a time, because the law of nature is that things do get better. You just have to ride out one more day and rely on the God who says he loves you even in those times (especially in those times.) No matter who you are, He has a plan for your life that would just blow you away. The old “don’t give up before your miracle arrives” platitude? It seems there is truth to it. I have lived it firsthand.

Hopelessness is an illusion. There is always hope.

The world needs me, and it needs you. It needs your message and your energy, the fingerprint of your love influence on the lives of those who love you. God knows we could have used more of Robin Williams on this earth.

Rest in peace, Mr. Williams. I feel like I knew you.

Rest in peace, knowing you brought joy to millions of people…knowing you endeared yourself to countless people in your 63 swashbuckling years here on earth. The world needed more of you – even so, rest now.

God be with you and give you shalom everlasting.

Go, Robin – and be well.

Be whole.