Tag Archive: addiction


Broken but not severed

tree-callingWhat an evolution of thought plagued me while en route to my recovery meeting this morning! I didn’t want to go, but I knew I need to be involved. I almost gave into the impulse to do what I wanted rather than what I knew. Then it hit me like a big bang: I have to go to a recovery meeting, because when I begin to think I don’t need a meeting or the program, my thoughts betray that I am the sickest one in my head, and maybe even the sickest one in the meeting room I’m trying to avoid.

“Abstinence” in Overeaters Anonymous (or anywhere else, including the dictionary) is the action of refraining. (Technically, OA’s official definition of abstinence elaborates, but I shortened it for emphasis.) My personal declaration of abstinence has several food types and behaviors, but the primary point of my abstinence is that I will refrain from the “F- it, I’m eating!” response. (“F- it” is shorthand for “Forget it!” If you thought otherwise, get your mind out of the gutter. If you didn’t think otherwise, get real!) That’s the nature of my disorder – to know what I should do but do what I want in a given circumstance. If I am not careful, I can live in any number of “F- it”s that have nothing to do with my primary addiction of food.

“That’s the nature of my disorder – to know what I should do but do what I want”

I’m in good company according to reliable historical documents. My great-to-the-Nth-power grandparents, Adam and Eve, had one ordinance to follow in Eden. Wouldn’t you know it was a food-related abstinence rule! (Who says God doesn’t care about what we eat?) The sticky part of this bun is that when what they wanted conflicted with what they knew, they chose to block God out and indulge in the ripe, juicy succulence of the tree of “thou shalt not.”

I don’t know if it’s every human’s experience, because the only human I’ve ever been is me. I know, though, that the dysfunction caused by this tug of war between what the higher self knows and the lower self feels like is so powerful that it took the Creator of Earth coming down from Heaven to pay for the discrepancy and remind humans of the priority. So it must be more common than rare.

“…tug of war between what the higher self knows and the lower self feels like…”

The epiphany dawning on my cranial committee today is that if I am living in half of my “thou shalt not” statement then I’m 50% across the line already, whether I’m stuffing my face or not. When I permit myself to say, “F- it, I’m watching TV instead of studying,” or, “F- it, I’m buying that expensive item even though I’m out of money,” or, “F- it, I’m sick of caging my rage, I’ll let the fur fly this once,” I’m doing just as much spiritual damage to myself (and those around me) as if I had stopped by the bakery for a dozen doughnuts and destroyed the evidence down my gullet before arriving home. In fact maybe even more since, in the process, I’m lying to myself about how “recovered” I am and how little I need a recovery program in my life  just because my bathroom scales don’t groan when I get on them anymore.

“…if I am living in half of my “thou shalt not” statement then I’m 50% across the line already…”

The pretentious me (okay, more pretentious me) used to look at addicts of other substances or behaviors and say, “At least I don’t have it that bad.” The truth is, I have it worse than anyone when I’m thinking that way. Jesus observed two similar people in Luke 18:11, when he condemned the Pharisee who thought he was shiny stuff compared to the “sinners” around him. Frankly, the comparison is lopsided in my direction anyway, since the alcoholic or drug addict have to go to special lengths and pay tariffs or drug dealers to get their teeter to totter and it only takes a sandwich to make me crazy. Clearly, I’m still in need of a Savior. Daily. Hourly. Ok, each breath is a do-over. I’ll get the next one right.

 

“I’m a very important passenger car following at exactly the right distance from my Higher Power, the only Engine that can…”

Truth is I’m not The Little Engine that Could, but I’m not the caboose either. (Don’t you dare call me a “Bozo on the bus!” I have a problem with clowns.) Instead I’m a very important passenger car following at exactly the right distance from my Higher Power, the only Engine that can, and He is faithful to provide exactly what I need to follow in line as long as I stay connected to Him. Want on this train? Hitching in is optional, progress is our destination, and anytime you want off your first dozen doughnuts is on me. Okay, not really. Considering the train wreck I have been, I’m just happy to be on a track at all and linked with such fine people as those in recovery from various addictions. Thanks for sharing the journey, for going ahead or falling in behind. We make this thing go when we link together and drag each other along.

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bible-studyThe following Bible verses met me in my morning devotion today, and prompted reflection that I was compelled to share:

 

“The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God.” Daniel 6:23 NLT, http://bible.com/116/dan.6.23.nlt (emphasis mine)

“And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him—” 2 Peter 3:14-15 NLT, http://bible.com/116/2pe.3.14-15.nlt (emphasis mine)

My nearly constant state of disturbance proves that I am generally not living in a state of trust. Daniel’s miracle was attributed to his trust — his faith. It is by that faith that Christians find the ability to live peaceful, pure, blameless lives. I step outside pure, blameless peace when I grow discontent with circumstances, fearful of outcomes. That’s not faith! Our Lord is patient, so I should be too. If He’s not getting uptight about things coming unwound, why should I?

 

When anxiety grips me, sometimes it helps me to work it out to its end and be done with it. In practice this takes the form of several questions I answer in series:

  1. What is the worst case scenario? Usually whatever fear torments me it’s not even close to the worst case scenario. So this gives me some sort of scale. When I’m sweating a low grade on an exam, it helps to recognize that even failure of the whole class won’t trigger a global apocalypse.
  2. Even if the worst possible outcome happens, won’t God still be sovereign over the universe, and big enough to guide you through? This one’s easy — the answer’s always “yes.” Through persecution, meteor showers, pestilence, and apocalyptic insurgence, I will still be a child of God, purely and dearly loved. Dead or alive, I’m still God’s prince, priest, and bride.
  3. What is the likelihood of the outcome I fear? This brings the scale back into a manageable perspective. It helps to recognize that fear is the anticipation of something that might not even happen, while conceding that it is somewhere on the plane of possibility, almost always lower on the scale than it feels. I might not be forfeiting my occupation of earth, but the critiques I am subject to are far less predictable and administered by far less holy people than the terrorists who might only saw my head off once. I acknowledge the chance, however small, of responding to a perceived failure in my very near future.
  4. If God is big enough in the worst case scenario, isn’t He big enough to see you through this medium sized catastrophe in the event it does come about? Another easy “yes.” And I’m feeling better about my position in the universe.

 

It also helps to recall who and what I am in relation to the fearful obstacles around me. Remember Star Wars’ lonely, afraid astro-droid R2D2 traveling alone through the Gungan Wastes of Tatooine, in a classic cinematic representation of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. R2 slowlyr2d2-on-tatooine propels forward, looking about, humming and chirping to himself, to achieve his higher purpose. Armed Gungan “sand people” on Banthas, Jawa pirates, and mysteries of the rocks be hanged! He’s on a top-priority mission from the princess, so he presses on.

I, too, have a higher purpose, and it is far outside the view of those who seek to assault me or sell me for used parts. My Creator is not finished creating me. He’s shaping me even with the obstacles I now face. He’s forging and hammering my character into the precision instrument I will become. It’s hot, and it hurts, but it’s going to be worth it when the Master is finished and he hears my blade sing.

It’s been said, “This too shall pass,” but I add to that, “No pain is permanent,” and, “This is for His glory and my refinement!” From these statements come resolve, and from resolve courage to stand firm.

God, rebuke the destroyer from my mind, life, family, and estate. Make me slippery to his footholds, and frustrate all his assigns. Cast away every remnant of his authority, and clean my mind of any tendency to repeat his lies after his removal. Consecrate me, my family, and my estate to Your purposes, and use them at Your pleasure. All I am, have, and do is Yours. By Christ Jesus, whose blood bought me from death, amen!

Photo credit: Woman's Day

Photo credit: Woman’s Day

Confession time! The transformation of recovery isn’t complete when Self keeps taking charge.

For the last couple weeks, I have moved, for the most part, into a guest bedroom in my house, partially to study without disturbing my precious bride, but mostly to hide from disappointment. I have repeatedly told the one who loves me that I was giving her “space to have her own way.” The truth is I have grown increasingly impatient, even intolerant, with her decisions lately. I have judged her actions as being based on her whim and emotion, when they are more than likely only lacking what I would deem an appropriate level of consideration of my own will, wish, and way. Either way, I am using isolation as a shield for disappointment, whether the expectations that feed it are realistic and fair or not.

Last night, while I fell asleep alongside her for a change, my mind and mouth were engaged even in the twilight of wakefulness. In the mental fog where the lies that support justifications begin to buckle under the weight of truth, I had some profound thoughts that escaped by way of mumbled, almost hypnotic, verbal expression. I confessed to my precious bride that, more than anything else, I am afraid of her. Not that I am afraid of her intentions or convictions, but that her intellect is not behind the wheel. After acknowledging my fear that her emotional navigation would run us, or more accurately – me, amok, I was forced to acknowledge that isolating myself from her to prevent injury puts my own emotions at the helm of my life, and so, constitutes me becoming the monster of which I was afraid.

The last thought I remember uttering before drifting off was that she is worth whatever pain I may experience, whatever it takes. As I recall what Christ endured for His Church (Ephesians 5:25), I am reminded that I have “not yet suffered to the point of shedding (my) blood” (Hebrews 12:4). I have not done everything I can. I have avoided pain by disengaging. I have behaved according to my own self-interest rather than sacrificing myself “as an act of worship” (Romans 12:1) giving preference to those around me. “As a dog returns to his vomit” (Proverbs 26:11) I have put Self on the throne of God yet again!

“Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity…” (AA, 62).

Holy Father, rescue me from the bondage of self!* I have wandered back into my old cage, and it is dark and lonely in here. Deliver me so I can be relevant to those You have placed in my path, and that You, not me, may be glorified. Make Your light shine on me and reflect onto others, that they may be attracted to You and discover for themselves that You are able and willing to deliver us from our prisons, no matter how comfortable we have made them. Empower me to do Your will only always. Through Christ our Lord, amen!

 

* (a variation of AA’s Step Three Prayer, Alcoholics Anonymous, page 63)

Ground Zero

  
The connection between me and addiction was reaffirmed yesterday when a class assignment brought me into the rooms of an AA meeting. Though I already attend OA meetings regularly, attending this meeting as a clinical assignment, forced me to look at things from a different perspective. By listening to unfamiliar people, with a different addiction, struggling with the exact same manifestations of self will run riot, I was reminded, again, that I have a cunning and baffling disease, and that no matter how much progress I make, I will always need a Savior. I’m watching a stupid television show, and one of the characters who is addressing a woman in rehab, said the following:

“Your kid… She’s your ground zero.”

I thought of my daughter and the rest of my Step 8 list, and was overwhelmed with grief and remorse. I have lived the best amends I know how, and I still do not think I will ever make up for the damage I have done. The uncontrollable nature of the way I have lived my life has been as destructive as a terrorist’s bomb, and my children are my ground zero.

The harm I have done is reason enough to step outside my pursuit of self satisfaction. How can I seek to please myself, when I, myself, have done so much damage?
God, every broken, incomplete, inadequate thing I am is yours. Please put me back together and make me useful to You!

No Regrets

Time swirlMy precious bride and I recently watched a film in which a character, who will not be named to avoid a spoiler, had an opportunity to return to his past to change his circumstances and reclaim a life he thought he lost. At great cost and peril, he achieved his goal, but as he stood in the targeted moment, faced with the gravity of what he was about to do, he let the moment pass unaltered, convinced he had all he was meant to have and all he needed. As the closing credits rolled, my bride and I discussed the moments that had become turning points in our lives. We concluded there was not one moment in our painful histories either of us would change if we could. Content with the whittling and massaging of the Master Crafter, we found ourselves able to offer every broken moment to God’s care and found ourselves grateful even for the darkest hours, for by them He has crafted us into what we are becoming.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6, NASB)

“We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 83)