Blog

Recovery Basics

“Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to words of knowledge.” Proverbs 23:12

The recovery basics are simple: ‘Trust God, clean house, help others.’ The Lord knows that only a simple formula will work for so many complex and complicated people. And we know that these instructions are tried and true because millions of recovering alcoholics have never found it necessary to have another drink.

Life is meant to be enjoyed, not endured. These principles are the path from endurance to enjoyment. Just ask anyone who’s tried it.

“I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God; in him I will trust. Psalm 91:2

When we trust God as the source of all things needful, we have our priorities in order. Trace anything in our universe to its source, and there we invariably find, God.

Recovery is the journey home. It’s an addict’s path to God. And, like any important relationship, a relationship with our Lord requires an investment of time and energy. The greater the investment, the greater the return.

To build trust we take a small step towards Him with an offering of faith. We bring ourselves into His presence through our prayers. Jesus then moves towards us, in whatever ways we are open to receiving His goodness and mercy. Truly, when we ask for specific blessings, he seldom responds in the ways that we think he ought to, and yet He always responds with compassion and love.

When we do not understand His ways and works, He invites us to spend time with Him until we do understand. Seeking knowledge of His will through prayer, and meditating on Scripture brings us into safe harbour, under the protective wings of the Almighty. Our relationship with God gives us ballast, and puts wind in our sails for the journey of living life on life’s terms. Every day clean and sober is a miracle, no matter what happens.

“Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24

After the initial recovery thrill is gone, and the early relief of abstinence fades into a daily routine, we find we must learn new ways of living, or return to old habits. The skill set we so carefully honed to survive our years of substance abuse will not help us in recovery. Being dishonest and manipulative, with a profound distrust of others in isolation with our substance of choice, belongs in the past.

And so, if we want all that recovery has to offer, we begin ‘cleaning house’. Our house: both inner and outer. The blame thrower has to go. We learn the value of considering our part in our problems. Habitually blaming others for the conditions of our life kept us locked in a cycle of fear, pain, and denial. If there is no change, there is no change; the way out begins with willingness.

We grow into spiritual maturity as we hold ourselves accountable for the choices we make. We see others in recovery living the kind of life that we want, and learn to imitate their ways. As God determines our spiritual fitness, opportunities arise for us to correct the mistakes of the past. Pride, fear and rebellion are replaced with humility, faith, and obedience to God’s will.

The freedom recovery offers comes with responsibility. By accepting the gift of recovery, we also learn to accept the limitations that come with it. When living by spiritual principles becomes more important than self-gratification, we come to understand what recovery really means.

With persistence and dedication to this new way of life, we discover God’s awesome plan for each of us. As Jesus becomes the North star on our compass, His teachings illuminate the path to greater freedom from the bondage of self-obsession. Sobriety is a gift from God. The essence of this gift is the peace, the serenity that surpasses all understanding. From a life of chaos and destruction, we enter the life of the Spirit.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves.” Matthew 11:29

Whatever our chosen profession, however humble our livelihood, serving others as Jesus serves us, transforms our experiences from the mundane to the magical as we live each day with an attitude of gratitude. Ask anyone who is enjoying life in recovery how they came to find that happiness and they’ll tell you, “I let go, and let God.” We surrender what we think we know, and accept humility as the path to peace.

When troubles arise, as they always do, we trust that if God has brought us to it, He will bring us through it. We begin to notice how challenges are opportunities for growth. To live well in recovery there are no complex theories to understand, and there is nothing to figure out. Reading a library of self-help books will not bring about the change we need: only surrender will do. God doesn’t really want all of us, He just wants the 10% we haven’t given him, yet.

“…we have set our hope on the living God, who is the saviour of all, especially of those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:10

Recovery is an inside job. Our lives improve because we no longer avoid responsibility. Living by spiritual principles such as honesty, open mindedness, and kindness to others and ourselves, bears the fruit of knowing real security within the safety of God’s love. We grow in faith. The results of our efforts are unmistakable. We become the person we’ve always wanted to be, and this feels good. We are a beacon to those who still struggle, both in and out of recovery.

With our new found integrity, we ask for God to reveal the ways in which we ought to be of service. Sharing our gift strengthens our recovery. Our life takes on new meaning.

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.
To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit;
to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit;
to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.
But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as He wishes.” 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11

God does not ask us to have faith in our faith, He asks that we have faith in Him; and His promise is that when we do a few simple things on a daily basis, we can have as much sobriety and clean time as we want.
Through trusting God we find a strength not our own; by cleaning house we are relieved of the bondage of self; and by helping others we find happiness in a life of service. We exchange the living hell of active alcoholism and addiction for the great adventure of a life well-lived, under the care and guidance of the greatest Master who ever walked the Earth.
Our Lord, and the freedom recovery offers, no matter how long we’ve been abstinent, waits on the other side of a door that only we can open.
Maranatha. Peace be with you.

“Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing…” John 15:4-6

Becoming ‘Entirely Ready’

“I gave you a land which you had not tilled and cities which you had not built to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant. Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve him completely and sincerely.” Joshua 24:13-14

Becoming ‘entirely’ ready (to have God remove our defects of character), is similar to ‘rigorous’ honesty, or ‘true’ love. There’s not really a need for an adverb or adjective to describe ‘ready’, ‘honest’, or ‘love; we’re either ready or not; honest or dishonest; in love or, not really. We know. And yet when we’re entirely ready, rigorously honest, or truly in love, it’s an enhanced state. It’s more intense; ’up’-levelled. 

In Step Six we are asked to be more than just ready. It’s ‘ready’ with no back door. We want to be ready: to get on with it, to move into tomorrow with a sense of urgency. We want what comes next: for God to remove our defects, and could He just get on with it, please? And yet God makes it clear that what He wants is for us to slow down, and notice the benefit of an enhanced state of readiness.

He wants us fully prepared to receive His grace. When we allow ourselves to really feel the pain, the grief, the discomfort of change, we soften in the process; we offer less resistance to the awareness of His presence in our hearts. Only when our defences are exhausted, do we become ready to let God do for us, what we cannot do for ourselves.

“I dwell in a high and holy place, but also with the contrite and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, to revive the heart of the crushed.” Isaiah 57:15

It’s been said in the rooms of recovery, “God doesn’t want all of you. He just wants the 10% you haven’t given him yet.” We want the liberation, the security, the love that can only come from God; we crave it, long for it, plead for it. Yet we insist on dictating the terms of the negotiation. God wants to bless us with the freedom that comes when our defects are removed, but we cling to the self-importance that prevents it.

Much of the pain we want to avoid is self inflicted. Not only do we suffer by our defects of character, our suffering is increased by the need to be at the end of our proverbial rope, before we give up control. 

For folks in recovery, the problem is not intellect, desire, ‘stick-to-it-iveness’, or ability. The problem is that we want to convince God that He should come around to our way of thinking. It is this tug of war, the struggle with control, the attitude of ‘my way or the highway’, which puts the recovering addict on the slippery slope leading to relapse, and often death. 

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.”
Matt 16:24

It was our complete surrender that opened the door to recovery. We relinquished control; God’s divine intervention removed our obsession and compulsion for chronic substance abuse. As the miracle of sobriety unfolded, we came to believe that God could and would restore us to sanity. Our growing faith and the willingness to turn our will and lives over to His care, helped us with our living problems. 

Our searching and fearless moral inventory made it clear that we could now choose to put down the emotional baggage caused by the anger and resentments we’d been holding onto. When we admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs, we took a chance that it might be OK to trust one or two people: a radical departure from how we lived for so long. 

Today life is better than it’s ever been, and more freedom lies ahead. Like every great adventure, there are places along the way that test our commitment. Do we want to turn back now? Or are we all in? Step Six is a crossroads. 

We say we want the more freedom, and then we haggle over the price. Surrender is the key, but the landscape looks so much better than when we first began, that we sit on the fence of indecision and ask ourselves if the risk will be worth the reward.

The good news is that God understands how we’re always looking for the angle, the work-around, the short-cut that gets us to where He can just go ahead and work His miracles. And so He waits until we are entirely ready. There are no short cuts, and the only way out is through. 

“If we sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth,
there no longer remains sacrifice for sins.” Hebrews 10:26

Why not just surrender to win? All that we are, and all that we do, belongs to God, anyway. Recovery is an inside job. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Trying to recover alone has always been a dead end street. Today, maybe for the first time, we see the sign.

Becoming ‘entirely ready’ offers us an exit strategy. We get out of our own way, and take a chance on this new way of living that is working for countless others. A good life in recovery is a partnership between the recovering addict, and God. When we give our best, we open ourselves to unimaginable blessings. 

Taking suggestions from those who have gone before us pays off. We have lots of evidence, if we know where to look, that God keeps His word, and will come through for us when we do our part, and leave the results to Him. The best is yet to come. 

“…God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. So submit yourselves to God…” 
James 4:6,7

Photo credits:
top: Priscilla du Preez at Unsplash
bottom: Ludomil Sawicki at Unsplash

Source, Setting and Symbol

“God is faithful, and by Him you were called to fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”          1 Corinthians 1:9

To be transformed from a seeming state of utter hopelessness and helplessness, to the joy of being clean and sober is an unmitigated miracle of God. Called out of the darkness, the recovering addict and alcoholic now stands in the Light of recovery. 

Like all miracles, it occurs in a place. It happens somewhere: under supervision at rehab; in the rooms of a 12 Step fellowship, or by a direct spiritual experience during a worship service or prayer meeting. Miracles need a setting, and symbols to concretize the experience. 

Symbols such as therapeutic conversations and alumni programs at treatment centres; the principles for sober living outlined in the 12 Steps and other recovery literature; and the Christian creeds, prayers and Holy Bible, are all outward manifestations of God’s goodness.

Most importantly, the setting and symbols flow from a source: the presence of the omniscient, omnipotent,  loving, caring, God who is greater than any manifestation of the obsessions and compulsions which plague the afflicted. God is the source; the settings and symbols are evidence of His devotion to the sick and the dying. 

During the early months of recovery, every minute of every day is dedicated to maintaining abstinence. During the early years, the habits which support a recovery lifestyle must be learned and practiced, until a wellness foundation is built. Despite the ups and downs, the initial joy of the emancipation of slavery to substances bathes everything in a golden hue. 

“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” Psalms 118:8

Over time, the drastic, erratic lifestyle and emotional turbulence subsides. The recovering person’s perspective on life becomes more realistic. The bloom fades from the early magnificence of simply being clean and sober. The old habit of fault finding returns. What was overlooked in the beginning: the chipped paint or the untended shrubbery at the treatment centre, the chronically relapsing attendees at the 12 Step meetings, the human failings of the people who were the strong support at the beginning, are now seen in a different light.

When the early acceptance of everything recovery related, sours into resentment because of unmet expectations, God’s unconditional love and strength are needed in a more profound way to soften the emotional blows of disappointment. 

Hopelessness, broken hearts, and dark nights of the soul will arrive long after substance abuse has ended. The dis-ease is progressive; it continues to worsen with or without abstinence. (Just ask anyone who has relapsed). Recovery must always be sought, just like it was at the outset, and the settings and symbols are best reinforced by a personal relationship with God, to prevent a relapse or worse. 

To be happy, joyous, and free on a good day, and to get through anything clean and sober on all the other days, God must be the strong foundation: the source of provision for all emotional, mental, physical and spiritual needs. 

When God is rightly acknowledged as the source of recovery, humility, wisdom and understanding flow from Him through the recovering person. With Jesus Christ at the centre of the recovery experience, the setting, the symbols, and the people so crucial for long term success can be respected and loved for what and who they truly are: expressions of God’s mercy and beneficence.

The adversary waits with enduring patience and hidden cunning to reclaim all unsuspecting souls. Evoking the presence of Jesus Christ, through prayer and thanksgiving will provide the counsel, strength and guidance needed to navigate every joy and every challenge faced in recovery. 

Relying on the source, and respectfully recognizing the setting and symbols, enables anyone to have as much clean time as they want. 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not;
In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

brandon-jarman-BDJaznM8eG0-unsplash

Photo: Brandon Jarman at Unsplash

So, What’s the Problem?

“How many alcoholics does it take to change a light bulb?”
“Ten. One to change the bulb and nine to go to the meeting and say, “I wouldn’t have done it that way.”

The problem is terminal uniqueness, regardless of how compliant the addict or alcoholic seems under certain conditions. The problem is not one of being too weak to say, ‘No’ to that next drink or drug. It’s just the opposite. Addicts and alcoholics are some of the most strong willed people God has placed on this earth. Just ask anyone who has ever been in a  relationship with one; and herein lies a glimpse at the foundation of the problem. 

Non-addicts and alcoholics generally know when to ask for help. When a problem becomes too great, they stop trying to do it alone. Not so with the afflicted. 

Like getting in the fighting ring with a heavy weight boxer, the addict or alcoholic will return to drinking and drugging again and again, and again, and never admit defeat. Convinced beyond all reason that under different circumstances they’ll be able to ‘lick this thing’, they’ll die trying to prove that they’re right. 

So it’s not a problem of self will, it’s a problem of humility. Consequently the solution is not an application of will, it’s one of surrender. The understanding that surrender simply means, ‘moving over to the winning side’ does little to move the alcoholic off their mark because they’d rather be right than be happy.

In addition to the belief that they can handle anything and everything on their own, is the unwillingness to compromise (unless it’s on their terms). This insistence upon being in control alienates those near and dear to them who would like nothing better than to somehow be of help.  

We all know people who insist on having their way and calling all the shots. The difference with an alcoholic or addict is that if they don’t come around to a more collaborative way of living, they will die trying to prove themselves right. 

Even after years of continuous sobriety, the need to be right, and to have others understand their way of seeing things, is the underlying cause of the addict’s pain and confusion. 

The path to wellness can only begin with the realization that something has to change, and it’s probably them. The blame thrower has got to go, and this understanding must come from within. No one can convince them of this.

Recovery begins with the desire for change, and the willingness to act on that desire. It begins with a chink in the armour, a little crevice into which the unconditional, unfailing love of God can enter to soften the resistance. 

Such love usually finds its way into their lives because God will use just about anybody to carry the message that the suffering and self-loathing of active addiction can end; and that by doing a few simple things on a daily basis, anyone seeking recovery can have as much sobriety or clean time as they want.

The first step is quite literally one of asking God, in all humility and with a sincere desire, for a miracle; and then to do whatever is necessary to stop.

“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7

Jesus Christ is standing by right now. At this very minute, He is waiting to help anyone who asks. Whether the alcoholic is trying to draw their first sober breath or the addict finds themselves at the brink of hell, surrender is the lynch pin that swings wide the gate to freedom. Surrender and ask God for help.

“.. ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9

 

It’s Time

“Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He shall exalt you.”   James 4:10

Success in recovery is eminent when we recognize our need for God’s help to live clean and sober lives; including abstinence from addictive behaviours like disordered eating, gratuitous sex, reckless gambling, and compulsive smoking, retail therapy and/or technology addiction. Because addicts find the best sport in high risk stakes, and have little sympathy for how our habits affect the lives of others, our need for complete dependence upon God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, is greater than for non-addicts.

We may be long past the time when anything about our destructive behaviour is fun, and the affect we have upon our friends, family and employers causes us deep pain and embarrassment. We barely remember the relief we used to feel from our addiction, and now find ourselves desperately longing for a way out.

Surrender, and an admission of defeat swings wide the door to new possibilities. This is as true for the alcoholic desperate for their first sober breath, as it is for the man or woman with many years of recovery looking for a way out of some other manifestation of obsession and compulsion.When the pain of not doing something, becomes greater than the pain of change, we are ready to take action.

The moment of our readiness is a great mystery. If we’re on an elevator going down, we can get off anytime we want to, we don’t have to take it all the way to the bottom. Even with partial readiness we can make a beginning. A 180 degree turn can be made by 180 one degree turns, consistently over time. Our willingness to surrender can deepen with practice.

When we finally see our addiction as a lousy movie in which we have cast ourselves as the major player, we can stop hitting the ‘repeat’ button to watch it again and again. Whether it’s our first admission of powerlessness or our twentieth, a turn for the better always follows complete surrender, asking for help from God, and other trustworthy recovery support friends..

“Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ The chains fell from his wrists.” Acts 12:7

Like the angel who broke Peter’s chains and released him from prison, God will break our chains when we believe, and act on that faith.  We tend to give over the parts of ourselves which we think will be pleasing to God, when what He really wants is the 10% we haven’t given him yet. Admitting complete defeat, and sincerely offering up our fear, pain, and denial sets us on our feet to begin anew. Surender means moving over to the winning side.

“For you have been called to freedom….” Galatians 5:13

Imagine! We have been called to freedom! Praise Jesus! The years of self-loathing, self-destruction, and causing a train wreck every time we give in to our compulsions can end here and now! We are given the power to change by God. We are saved from further destruction because He calls us to freedom.

When we set our compulsions ahead of our reliance on the Lord, we place the reins of  our lives into the hands of the adversary. Step away from the problem. It’s that simple.

When we sincerely ask, and listen for God’s answer, He will direct us to partners in faith, and others who can help us. However much we want to do it alone, we cannot recover alone. Isolation is a symptom of addiction. When we become willing to pursue our recovery the way we pursued our addiction, all will be well. We have transferrable skills like commitment, determinism, willingness, and single minded focus, that canbe used to our advantage, under God’s direction. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6