My life as always been an adventure, certainly never boring. As my husband, Bill, and I prepare for our upcoming move to California, God recently revealed some things to me about what he has brought us through these last 2 years.
We lived in Houston for about ten years; where our addictive lifestyle began and praise God, also ended; but it remained a place of painful reminders and sometimes dangerous triggers. Early in the Summer of 2006, an opportunity came up for us to move to the New Orleans area to help with the Hurricane Katrina restoration efforts. Bill was between jobs, so we decided to go and see what God had in store for us there.
Amidst the widespread destruction, God placed us in a small town, on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain, called Abita Springs. What was once a Choctaw Indian village, is now recognized for its attractive historic district, beautiful gardens and country stores. We found a house that was built in the 1880’s with wood floors, high ceilings, glass door knobs and wavy glass in the windows. The town setting was forest-like with nature and creatures abounding… we had birds of all sorts with squirrels always after their food. In the evening we had our own personal hoot owl, actually a Barred Owl, but it really did say “Hoo Hoo-tie Hoo!” God graciously gave me the chance to snap his photograph just as he looked down at me high in the tree. (see photo above) Amazing! I was awestruck for months, watching and listening to him. At night the raccoons would play under our bedroom window, talking back and forth to each other with their strange chatter. But then I would hear the hoot owl call out and the raccoons would change their talk immediately as if to warn each other. I learned later the Barred owl is a predator of raccoons.
After a year we out grew our assignment in Louisiana and God returned us to Houston for a 6 month pit stop that would allow me to learn that I can live anywhere even among old memories and triggers as long as I keep my eyes on Jesus! While there I was still able to find beauty all around–in our apartment complex as I walked the dogs each day, on a scenic drive to my part-time job at Curves, in the new friends I made at church and in just being as I strove to stay in God’s will and presence while we awaited our next assignment.
In February this year, God quickly plucked us up again and brought us to Dallas/Ft Worth for Bill’s new job. We landed in Colleyville to a neighborhood of older 70’s ranch style homes surrounded by old oak trees, tall pines, rolling hills — peace and quiet. No more noises of the city, here, like in Louisiana, we had animal adventures everywhere — a rooster crowing and foxes crossing our path on morning dog walks, homes with horses down the way, a nearby pond with proud swans swimming, hawks crying out as they soar high above the trees and a cute family of guinea fowl running free just around the corner. But our best animal entertainment was what Bill calls “the squirrel rodeo” each day in our back yard as the dogs played chase with the squirrels trying to raid the bird feeders!
Since God delivered me from narcissism, while living in Abita Springs incidentally, I see the world in a completely different way. No longer is life revolving around me and what I can get out of life and those around me. I can see God and all of His creation: trees… birds… fish… dogs… squirrels etc… As I see these creations I see them praising God when they are doing what they were each created to do. The tree sways in the breeze praising God as the wind rustles the leaves… the hawk praises it’s Creator as it rides the wind currents above… the swan in the pond praises God as it floats gently with such ease… and we, what are we created to do? When we spend time in fellowship with our Creator we are doing what we were created to do. God wants to be with us and for us to be with Him. That is where we will find the love that can fill our hearts and change our ability to see the beauty that is all around us.
These last couple of weeks I’ve been reflecting on where we’ve been since the Summer of 2006. It seems the trip has taken us from one level to the next, always a promotion of sorts, each with its own beauty to be found. Yes, there is beauty all around, but for it must be found. We have to make our own effort to see the beauty. I think it must start first with having the love of God living in your heart, for once you have love living inside you, it is far easier to see love all around you.
We thought we had landed to stay when we came to Dallas, but God had yet a better plan for us —northern California! We are still awaiting final instructions to our next landing place, but our stay in Texas will be short lived now. We have out grown our assignment here and now must be promoted. God showed me the other day while sitting on the back porch enjoying the sunset, this is but a preview of what is to come. I don’t know what God has in store for us in California. What I do know is Beauty is truly in the eyes of the Beholder. If we are filled with the Holy Spirit and walking in love we can and will find God’s beauty everywhere!
He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. -Deuteronomy 10:21
This link will give you a taste of my experience with the Barred Owl in Abita Springs, La. Enjoy the wondrous beauty of God’s creations! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fppKGJD3Y6c
Start your perfect day with a few simple ingredients:
- Make a daily plan.
- Be conscious of daily spiritual growth.
- Always make each day productive.
- Walk in love with those around you.
- Find a way to mark your life-time passing.
Turn off the TV, put away the computer and the video games, read a book, start a new hobby, befriend someone who needs help, visit your grandmother, ask her about her life… Have a family dinner around the table, look each other in the eye. Do you even know who they are? Really? Talk to the ones you love, have stimulating conversation instead of searching for stimulating events.
At first glance the title of this post might seem out of place on a blog dedicated to addiction recovery. But as you read on I think you will be surprised to find it will truly benefit your sobriety to get a dog!
We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
I think this step for me was one of the most challenging. Getting to the place where I could openly discuss all the terrible things I did was really hard. The shame attached to my behaviors was very painful and could have easily given me an excuse to not follow through. Fortunately, I worked this step with a wonderful Christian counselor, so it was a little easier than it could have been with someone else.
If we have properly worked Step 4 we have a balanced inventory of not only our mistakes but our strengths as well. This will provide a good foundation on which to build our recovery. In preparing for Step 5 schedule some uninterrupted time with God to prayerfully search for the person with whom you will share your inventory. Admitting our wrongs to ourselves is one thing but sharing them with another human being is quite another. We have worked very hard in our addiction to hide these truths from others so this will be a huge step towards healing. Step 5 is our path out of isolation and loneliness toward healing and peace. It is very humbling to get past the pretending and to reveal our true selves to someone else. Telling our story to others can be a frightening experience and may cause fear of rejection. But it is essential that we take the risk and confess our wrongs. God will give us the courage if we lean on Him.
One of my favorite recovery resources The Twelve Steps for Christians has some great insights for working Step 5 that I would like to share with you.
- Begin with prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in what you are about to experience.
- Choose your 5th Step listener carefully. Find someone who is accepting, patient, sympathetic and understanding. Possibly a clergyman, counselor, another Twelve Step member, trusted friend or family member.
- We are only asked to admit the nature of our wrongs. Don’t discuss how the wrongs came about or how changes will be made. You are not seeking advice.
- After completing your fifth step, take time to pray and reflect on what you have done. Thank God for the tools you’ve been given to improve your relationship with Him. A cornerstone in your relationship with God is you commitment to honesty and humility.
- Congratulate yourself for having the courage to risk self-disclosure and thank God for the peace of mind you have achieved.
Having admitted our wrongs to another human being is no guarantee that we will not slip up again. But we have the assurance, in those moments of weakness, that God will be with us and give us the strength to overcome. If we truly want to change God will continue to give us the courage and the strength to persevere down the path of sobriety to wholeness and healing in Jesus Christ.
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results. –James 5:16
What does it mean to be free? Where is freedom? Can we find it? How do we find it? Who is a free person? What do they look like? How does a free person live their life? I want to take a look at this word Freedom and talk about what it really means to be free.
Freedom can mean many things to many different types of people. Whether it’s freedom from political persecution, freedom from physical restraint, immunity and civil liberty or simply the power to exercise choice and decision without constraint; freedom is a powerful state of being which we all crave and for that matter deserve.
I’ve lived the life of a people-pleaser for most of my 51 years; to the point that I was living my life for everyone else. I was a social chameleon trying to be all things to all people. I sacrificed a college education to be a stay at home mom, committed to home school my three children rather than subject them to the failing public school system. In early adulthood my husband and I were in a denominational church that put a lot of emphasis on service. My husband and I taught 4th grade Sunday School for years, I taught preschool choir and sang in the adult choir, not to mention caring for aging family members. I worked hard to be the ideal wife, mother and citizen. All while my husband was climbing the corporate ladder of success; working 60+ hours a week with a 3 hour round trip commute to our suburban home. We were practicing Christians living a “Christian” lifestyle, but were we free? Was I free? Looking back, I would say no. I was in deep bondage to what I thought others expected of me and of the expectations I had on myself. They weren’t real expectations, but they felt real to me and I lived my life accordingly. Where does a person go from here to find true freedom?
Not long after this, my life took a dark turn that led to a lifestyle filled with sin and addictions. The “selfless” people-pleasing life I had been living built up so much resentment that I exploded into a monster no one who knew me would have ever dreamed I could become. I was lost in my own pain with no where to turn. Searching… but what was I searching for? Freedom. Freedom for me began to mean I could do whatever I wanted to do, no matter how it effected the people around me. The freedom to be myself on my terms. The freedom to be who I wanted to be no matter what anyone said or thought. It was all about my freedom. A very narcissistic mindset, but one in which many of us live today. In reality, my “freedom” brought with it a bondage that ultimately destroyed my life, my reputation, my family and my marriage. Where was this true freedom I so desperately desired? I ended up having to spend time in jail to find true freedom. Ironically, there are people behind bars today that have more true freedom because of a relationship with Jesus Christ than many people walking the streets in the darkness of their own personal bondage.
Jesus Christ says, ” You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free… I assure you everyone who sins is a slave of sin…if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free.” – John 8:32,36 NLT
The note in The Life Recovery Bible to this verse states:
To be “set free” is to know the truth– the truth about ourself and about Jesus our liberator. The truth is this: We are a slave to sin and powerless to manage our life effectively. With God’s truth as a standard for our moral inventory, we can recognize and confess our needs and struggles, our sins and addiction. As we confess these to God, to ourself, and to at least one other person, we share the truth about our life. When we turn our broken life over to God, who alone can make us whole, we are again acknowledging the truth. These different applications of the truth can combine to set us free from sinful habits, chemical dependencies, and emotional bondage.
It is my prayer that in reading this column you can find your way to true freedom in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. God Bless You.
Something important that I don’t see dealt with enough in recovery groups is the issue of disappointment. It often leads people into addictive lifestyles and running from reality. Whether it is disappointment in ourselves, others or circumstances; how we deal with that disappointment is key. This is a trap I fell into several years ago that led to the destruction of my family as I knew it.
In the mid 90’s my husband, Bill, had an opportunity to partner with a start up company. It just so happened all the business partners were, like us at the time, professing Christians. We felt safe; believed they were men of integrity and could be trusted. Several months past, Bill had put in endless hours of work and invested thousands of dollars towards the new business goal. When out of the blue, the other partners gave Bill the boot for no reason at all, other than pure greed. This was devastating to our family. We thought these people were our friends. It sent my faith whirling… ‘How could God allow something like this to happen to us?’ I dwelt on the offense so much, that it got deep into my spirit and totally destroyed my faith in Christian people, the church and ultimately God.
This heart breaking disappointment along with other family life issues — my father’s death, a major move to a new city, life with three teenagers, demanding jobs– were all stresses that kept us walking further and further away from God. Until one day He was no where to be seen in our home. While trying to find desperately needed time together for dates; Bill and I got caught up in the Swinging Lifestyle. We began living for the weekends; for whatever party we would attend or give. Not only alcohol and cigarettes but drugs crept in, then the infidelity began. Over a period of seven years our kids witnessed their parents marriage self destruct before their very eyes. I became a full blown narcissist…living my life only for me and my addictions. I didn’t care anymore who it hurt or what I had to do to numb the unending pain in my heart. Then I found myself in jail for domestic assault of a family member (my husband).
Ultimately, we are all searching, deeply thirsting for one thing…a relationship with God. When we allow ourselves to put anything, even anyone in that place and expect them to fulfill that need, we are going to experience disappointment. The higher the expectation the deeper the disappointment. When was the last time you were deeply disappointed in someone? In yourself? In the outcome of a particular situation? In God? How did you react? How can keep ourselves from that downward spiral that leads only to destruction?
Larry Crabb’s book Inside Out speaks specifically to this. “When we learn to accept people who disappoint us by no longer requiring them to satisfy us, then we’re free to love them, to reach toward them for their sake without having to protect ourselves from feeling disappointed by their response to us.” This is what Christ taught about constantly. What’s seen all throughout the New Testament in the Apostle Paul’s writings. The love of Christ is to be shed abroad in our hearts.
Four years have past since that Summer in jail. God has graciously restored my marriage and our individual relationships with Him. It was hope that allowed my husband to believe that our marriage could be healed. It was hope I had that I could be free of the bondage of sexual addiction. It is still hope that gives us faith to believe our entire family will again be restored in Christ.
We need to acknowledge our disappointments, not run from them into denial. We can’t hide from them with forced love or cheap forgiveness; numbing the pain with drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, porn, etc… We should instead use these disappointments as a time of growth. We must reflect on our relationships and how others have let us down and allow this to drive us to hope. This is critical. For me that’s exactly how my downward spiral began, I lost all hope, in people then finally in God. We can’t allow ourselves to ever lose hope. For it is from the foundation of hope that true Faith is born.
There are three things that will endure–faith, hope, and love– and the greatest of these is love.— 1 Corinthians 13:13
We came to believe that a Power greater that ourselves could restore us to sanity.
We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.
In October 2004, my husband, Bill, and I attended a marriage seminar where Dr. Doug Weiss taught on Intimacy in Marriage. At this seminar, I became aware for the first time that I was a sex addict and saw my powerlessness over my addiction. (see Working Step One blog below)
Steps 2 and 3 go hand in hand for me. I can’t really separate them, because the time in which the changes took place is so closely related. For me Step 2 was really about coming to the end of myself. Realizing, that I could no longer carry the weight of my addiction/guilt/shame. Some people don’t like the part…admitting insanity…but like the saying goes… “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.” That sounds like the definition of addiction to me…so addiction and insanity must go hand in hand. Step 3 was finally getting to a place where I knew I had to give it all up and totally surrender to God’s will for my life, no matter what it meant. Anything could be better than what I had been doing for myself.
At this point in my life, I was a practicing Buddhist. Intuitively I knew I had a spiritual problem, but in my stubborn pride I wasn’t going to go to God for help. Instead I went the Eastern Philosophy/Indian Mystic route. One day in November 2004, I was upstairs in my prayer closet, reading and meditating on the Buddhist bible. I wanted so much for the teachings to sink in; to internalize them, for them to come alive in me. I even tried to memorize portions. But it simply wouldn’t stick. I’ll never forget, God spoke to my spirit at that moment and told me– those words won’t stick because they aren’t the Truth. I never read it again.
It was nearing Christmas season and Bill very sweetly, offered to take me around Houston to some local church celebrations. I cautiously agreed, but went with a good attitude. We went to a Living Christmas Tree choir program, A Christmas Antique Car parade, and finally a live reenactment of the Bethlehem city, where tour guides took us through the different events from the night of Christ’s birth.
Over that period of two weeks, God had been gently tugging at my heart strings, inviting me to come back home to Him. Softly whispering to me that He still loved me, no matter what I had done. Our son, John, had come home from Denver for Christmas, and Bill asked if we could all go to church as a family. John and I both reluctantly agreed.
I can’t tell you what Dr. Young preached about that morning, I just knew it was time to make things right. On the Sunday morning after Christmas, December 26, 2004, at 2nd Baptist Church in Houston, I was born again. Walking down the isle that morning was like an out of body experience. My body, just got up and went. Sobbing uncontrollably, certain, I wasn’t worthy to be received, yet desperate for God.
Since 2004, God has been so gracious to give me a deep hunger for His Word. Through the Bible and my different studies God has brought about incredible healing in my life, my marriage and my family. Sure, there is still some work to be done. But one thing I know for sure… I may not be where I want to be, but thank God, I’m not where I used to be!
God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases Him. — Philippians 2:13
I was at Celebrate Recovery the other night and met a woman who reminded me of who I used to be. She seemed so lost, like a piece of driftwood floating in the ocean of life. I began to reflect on how far God has brought me from the days when I had no idea who I was or why I was alive on this earth.
I’ve spent most of my life feeling completely inadequate and incompetent… unable to meet what I thought were the standards of others. I saw myself as less than and certainly not as smart as everyone around me. I desperately wanted others to approve of me, to give me a sense of value, to show me and tell me I mattered. I became a total people pleaser. Starting at a very young age, I was willing to do pretty much anything to make others like me. A peer pressure set up if there ever was one.
In Jr. High, I made friends with some girls at church. Why they liked me I still don’t really know. But before long they were all smoking cigarettes/marijuana and having sex with their boyfriends. I wanted so much to be like them. They were smart, intellectual and hip. So, of course, I started doing everything they were doing, not because I really wanted to, but, because they were. My friends all seemed to have strong convictions about politics and the world. They were reading J. R. R. Tolkien and listening to Woodstock. I didn’t really understand what life was all about, but I pretended like I did. I was immature and gullible.
Through high school and early adulthood, I continued to search for my significance through the eyes, words and actions of others. I was so desperate for love and acceptance, I would have sex with anyone who even showed a little interest in me. One night stands abounded, numbed by drugs and alcohol followed by a continual feeling of disappointment. I couldn’t stand to be alone. I was afraid to be alone. Not because I was afraid of something or someone harming me, but because, I couldn’t stand to be with myself. So I stayed busy with multiple jobs, and/or endless entertainment.
I married my husband, Bill, in 1979. He was much like my teen friends, very confident, smart and assertive. No fear. One of these too smart for his own good, kind of people. Breezed through college on an Academic scholarship and up the corporate ladder with a resume that reads like an interesting novel. I lived in his shadow for years. Not because he lorded anything over me, but because I resented how smart he was. He could do anything he put his mind to, and not just do it, but be successful, and not just successful, but so qualified that two Fortune 500 companies would spend a 4th of July holiday weekend negotiating a deal, competing to get him to work for them! Incredible!
Yet, here I was, just a housewife, with a beautiful home, three precious children and a husband who would do anything for me. But I never really appreciated my life… my kids, my home, my husband. What was missing? We were going to church, doing all the “right” things… But deep inside, I was a miserable person and the funny thing is, I didn’t even know I was miserable. I just thought this was the way life was supposed to be.
Mid-life crept in with it’s different crises…my father died, children began to leave the nest, sexual identity issues, marriage problems. I found myself again using sex to find love, but this time outside my marriage. I was falling deep into a pit of despair. Using drugs and alcohol to numb the increasing internal pain. Who was I? Why was I here? I wanted to die, but I was too vain to commit suicide.
But God in His infinite grace, reached down from heaven and picked me up, out of the garbage that I deserved to be thrown in, and showered me with forgiveness and mercy. Some days, I wonder why me? I get overwhelmed with gratitude to the point that some see my happiness as delusional.
It’s been 4 years since I was born again. God has graciously restored my marriage of 29 years. He has put me on the path of ministry, to reach other women who struggle with the same issues I fought with for 47 years. Now I can honestly say, I have true confidence; not in myself, but in Jesus Christ. I can’t take credit for the person I’ve become. I am who God has allowed me to become through the saving blood of Jesus Christ. I see life through the filter of God’s Word. I no longer have to prove myself to others. I no longer search for the constant approval of others. Finally, I have peace with myself.
Now the mind of the flesh [which is sense and reason without the Holy spirit] is death [death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the [Holy] Spirit is life and [soul] peace [both now and forever]. -Romans 8:6 The Amplified Bible
As addicts we sometimes confuse remorse with sorrow. Because sex addiction includes activities that are kept secret, often times guilty feelings and remorse only come about when we’ve been caught. Many of us grew up in a shame based environment and because of that, shame is usually felt even before guilt or remorse. But we must go beyond these feelings to get to true healing.
Once our sexual sins are exposed, our lives will never be the same. We may have lost our job, our home, maybe even our family. Family members who have been hurt by our sexual sin may turn from us even when we try to make amends. We may tell them we are sorry, but that doesn’t mean we have changed. In the bible, God did not respond to the people when they were sorry for their wrong. He only responded when their remorse led to a change in their hearts and behavior.
We must take a sincere and honest look at ourselves. The sin in our heart that causes the outward behavior must be exposed. Any secret sin kept hidden will continue to hold power over us. When we finally expose our sinful hearts to the Light of God’s healing Spirit and Power He will reveal to us our inner wickedness. Only then can He heal our hearts, minds and soul. Then we will experience true godly sorrow, not just worldly remorse.
David spoke from a truly repentant heart when he wrote:
Have mercy on me, O God because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sins. For I recognize my shameful deeds–they haunt me day and night. Against you, and you alone have I sinned. …Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me…Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise.— Psalm 51:1-4; 10, 12, 17 NLT