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I got my britches in a twist a couple weeks ago when I posted what I thought was a thought-provoking question on the social network page of a recovery fellowship to which I belong, but it got shot down with impunity as though I was a schmuck off the street who didn’t have a clue what recovery was. I was simply trying to be poetic when I posed the question:

Considering the term “recovered” do you think we are more like a found lost coin or a reupholstered sofa?

I, myself, am both, but I was surprised at how defensive many people got about the word “recovered.” Those who could apparently not relate to my poetic language were quick to point out that we suffer from a very real disease, and delivery from it is neither trivial like a coin nor trashy like worn out furniture. I thought maybe I threw gasoline on somebody’s lit match. So let me explain where my mind was when I penned the question.

Jesus told a parable of a woman who lost a coin worth a tenth of her life savings. The woman searched high and low, sweeping her whole house until she found it, then called all her friends and threw a “lookie what I found!” party. Christ said there is just such a party when a sinner repents. (Luke 15:8-10) I’m that kind of lost and found coin. God celebrates over me, because I was lost but now I am that kind of recovered.

My mother and my wife both are skilled in sewing and the art of upholstery. I have seen old pieces of furniture given new life with new fabric. It is a joining of “they don’t make them like that anymore” sturdy quality with the fresh look of a whole new covering. I am that kind of sofa. I’ve got something underneath worth redeeming. I’m not trash. I have no business on the street or in a garbage heap. God found something in me worth holding onto, but He loves me too much to keep me the way I was. He is gently recreating me, starting with the frame of what I was but clothing me in kindness, gentleness, and love, adorning me with all the wondrous fruits of the Spirit woven into a fabric of His mercy. I am that kind of recovered.

Also, I am a compulsive overeater, blessed with abstinence today, and fitting myself to be of maximum service to God and those about me, freed from the obsessions of my past, and able to walk through my kitchen, drugstore, or market without pouring or pouting over what is no longer my food, but have turned my attention to the help I can be. I have divorced myself resolutely from the cookies, cakes, candies, ice-cream, and nachos that once were my bedfellows. They have packed their bags and found someone else to haunt. I’m over them, and though I weigh and measure what is mine to keep from substituting God’s providence for my entertainment, I am that kind of recovered.

We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.” (Forward to the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous)

This is amazing! I just finished writing yesterday’s journal entry and posting to the blog that bit of 4th Step work regarding the Loss of Living Parents. Here are excerpts of what God gave me during my devotional reading just now:

“So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.” Isaiah 30:18 NLT

“What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” Galatians 5:6 NLT

“I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.” Psalms 63:8 NLT

“Listen to your father, who gave you life, and don’t despise your mother when she is old.” Proverbs 23:22 NLT

How packed with affirmation this is! God, through His Word, basically touched on every fear I brought up. God is faithful, even when I am fearful.

Experts tell us every human is born with only two fears: the fear of falling and of loud noises. We learn all the rest. The first and second ones most of us learn are the fear of abandonment and rejection. Basically, from the crib we begin to wonder what will happen if that nice lady with the warm milk doesn’t come back, and then that she might choose not to come back. Many of us have experiences that relate to those fears. We’ve been rejected or abandoned. Our trust has been betrayed, our expectations disappointed. Our earliest fears often relate to our most traumatic wounds.

In the wake of two unexplained binges, I am forced to acknowledge the reality that I have experienced a loss. The timing of each betrays their relation to a singular event. My parents have moved away from our home town, leaving me and my kids the last family remaining here. It is the first time I have ever lived in a city away from my mother and father. That nice lady with the warm milk has left. Though I’m grown up, walk on my own, feed myself, and don’t need to be held, rocked, or sung to, I still recognize that living in a town far from my mother and father is a significant loss. I didn’t recognize it as such, but my failure to address this loss with appropriate grief has likely had something to do with striking the match on the fuse of my relapse.

I thought I would 4th step my loss. I don’t know if it should go as a resentment or a fear so I’ll do both. I’ve never blogged on my 4th step work before, but it is a regular part of my continual inventory. I include it here for my own therapeutic catharsis, a sort of previewed 5th step, and in the hopes it may mean something to others who have or have not processed such a loss. The format is straight from the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, pp. 64-68.

I’m resentful at…

The cause

Effects my… (self-esteem, security, ambitions, personal, or sex relations)

My wrong (selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, frightened)

Mother and Dad

leaving town

  • Self esteem: I believed I was the one they counted on in crisis, the one who hadn’t moved away. I thought I was their security. (fear)
  • Personal relations: I will not know the closeness of their regular company. (fear)
  • Selfish: I have made plans to move to Africa that disregard my aging parents. They know this and are afraid of being alone.
  • Self-seeking: I have hoarded my parents’ attention and favor.
  • Frightened: I have kept close to family and home town for my own sense of security.


Why we had them

What trust in God would look like

Abandonment by Mother

I counted on her to be there for me, to comfort me when I am threatened or afraid.

God’s comfort is far more trustworthy and complete. His protection is far more secure.

Abandonment by Dad

I expected him to need me, and to finally approve of me.

God gives opportunity for service in every one of His children. His approval is not conditional.

Separation from those I know and who love me (This fear looms over my future missionary plans)

I have an expectation that life will be easier when connected to those I already have connections with. I am afraid of the rejection that comes with extending myself to new people. I am afraid of being alone.

I am never alone. God goes before me, seals my way behind me, and holds me in His very hand. He constantly enlarges my territory, giving me new people to love and by whom I may be loved. He promises that those who reject me or the gospel I bring rejected Him first, and that I am in good company with Him and the martyrs.

Get me off this crazy thing!

I can only describe what I just went through as a three-day binge. I’m not sure what, if anything, triggered it. I just found myself eating outside my parameters, then suddenly decided that if I was going to blow it I would blow it big. I went on sort of a “farewell to favorites” tour and ate just about everything on my “thou shalt not” list over the days before my birthday and finished it off — but good — with way too much ice cream and cake for any one person.

I remember going to my first OA meeting in 2010, and making a decision to become abstinent during that 7pm group session. When I came out, I was abstinent one hour, and I was afraid to let it slip away, so I built on it for nine years, until a one-night stressed-out binge ruined my streak, I quickly picked up my abstinence and diligently started over, but this time without the determination to lose the weight that made those first years so rewarding. This time, I didn’t have friends and family saying, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but you’re amazing!” This time I only had my selfish, or evil self-destructive thoughts echoing, “You never really got to say goodbye to nachos,” and, “a whole bag of donuts couldn’t possibly stay on your waist if you only binged for a day (then two days, then three).”  So I reminded myself what a 1,000-calorie cheeseburger tastes like, and polished off a whole carton of ice cream, then another. I bought sweetened breakfast cereal and ate the whole box at a sitting. I went out for donuts and did Waffle House on the way. At home I searched the house for binge-worthy items but settled for whatever health-food I could find and demolished it in mass quantities. I was insane.

I went to a dinner party, where I ate like a civilized normal person, then drove to the grocery store and supplied an all-night binge like a death-row inmate having a last meal, promising myself I would die to self at midnight and resume abstinent eating tomorrow. Day One. Again.

So today is resurrection day. I’m dying to self one more time. In a few moments I’ll go start my abstinent breakfast, free of the shame and self-loathing I’ve applied to myself for the past three days.  I’ll thank God for my provision, and ask Him to make it enough. I’ll try to remember that He loaned me this body and wants me to take care of it. I’ll fuel it properly, and try to use it wisely. I’ll seek God’s will for me and ask Him to help me carry it out. I’ll lay my toxic desires on the altar of sacrifice and allow God to shape me into my best self.

Then I’ll share this with you, because if my suffering can help someone else, then it wasn’t in vain. I’m imperfect. I’m a compulsive overeater, and no amount of recovery or duration of abstinence will change what I am and can be again when I let my spiritual condition slip. Every time I put what I want in the driver’s seat, I will turn to food. …Maybe because I won’t allow myself to get drunk, high, laid, or whatever else there is, but food will always be a stumbling block for me. So I will rely on the One who can help me tiptoe around it, the One who provides, the One who rescues, redeems, and recreates, the One who patiently waits for me to discover what a mess I’m in and then gently recovers me. I put myself in God’s hand, and there I am recovered.

“LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.” (Psalm 16:5, NIV)

Fit or Forfeit?

Recently a friend reminded me that what we in recovery actually have is a daily reprieve “so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition” (AA, p.85). That got me thinking about the word “fit.” 

I have a 10mm wrench in the trunk of my car. I keep it in my car because my battery leads require a 10mm wrench. It fits. I only know that, however, because I have applied this tool to that specific purpose. It could spend years being the right size wrench and still never “fit” until it gets applied to its purpose. Only in our application is our fitness tested. A tool, even a right-sized one, if never used, is just clutter.

A tool, even a right-sized one, if never used, is just clutter.

Am I spiritually fit or spiritually forfeit? That seems to be the main question as I start all over again. Even more important though, am I fit for a purpose? If I’m only fit for lying around, that can hardly be called fitness. In order to truly be fit, I cannot be content to be right-sized or in right alignment for no reason. Just as no wrench can call itself a right fit without a nut to tighten, I have to make myself available to the Creator to be used, to be applied to His purpose for me whatever that may be. I cannot content myself to be stashed away in some maintenance drawer or car trunk to do nothing but rattle around with the rest of the clutter. I have to find opportunities to share in something constructive. Then I’ll be fit.

Am I spiritually fit or spiritually forfeit?

God, I offer myself to You, to build with me and to do with me as You will.