Addiction Counseling is largely about spiritual healing…

Addiction Counseling is largely about spiritual healing…

This is a really good description. Recovery is really Spiritual Formation.
For me, this is specifically Christian, but my mission remains, to show (first- by how I live) and tell (second) what a relationship with God and Christ can do in a life.

Addicted to Words

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Most people make the mistake of assuming that addiction treatment is about eliminating substance use.  As a matter of fact, many clinicians who don’t have familiarity with substance abuse also believe that substance use must be contained before “real” therapy can begin.  But it is those perceptions that interfere the most with healing.  The goal, really, of ANY healing program is to establish and build upon relationships with that which is sacred.

When people fall into addiction’s singular pit, they see their drug as the most important aspect of their lives.  When I got into addiction treatment, I knew that it would be difficult, at best, to make a living dong this work.  But i knew then and still know now that my role and duty is to help people find paths and connections with their spiritual consciousness.  This may involve religion or AA or NA (or some other 12-step…

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What Can I Do?

When I find myself in times of trouble – I don’t listen to The Beattles. I listen to Praise and Worship!

What Can I Do? from Paul Baloche and Graham Kendrick is one of my favorites, because it asks (and answers!) the simple question I am usually struggling with in those moments. (Except, of course, I’m not able to see the simplicity until I sing it out a few times…)

What Can I Do?

When I see the beauty of a sunset’s glory
Amazing artistry across the evening sky
When I feel the mystery of a distant galaxy
It awes and humbles me
To be loved by a God so high

What can I do but thank You?
What can I do but give my life to You?
Hallelujah, hallelujah
What can I do but praise You?
Every day make everything I do
A hallelujah, a hallelujah, hallelujah

When I hear the story of a God of mercy
Who shared humanity and suffered by our side
Of the cross they nailed You to
That could not hold You
Now You’re making all things new
By the power of Your risen life

What can I do but thank You?
What can I do but give my life to You?
Hallelujah, hallelujah
What can I do but praise You?
Every day make everything I do
A hallelujah, a hallelujah, hallelujah

What Can I Do? (YouTube)

Obstacles, Then and Now

Obstacles, Then and Now

My 1-year-old grandson is fearless. He toddles headlong towards the stairs – with no knowledge of how to go down them. Watching him, it occurs to me that we humans learn fear as part of growing up.

We learn to fear many different kinds of things. Some of these are physically painful like lions and tigers and bears, flames, and running with scissors. Some leave emotional scars like rejection, being lost and alone, not being loved. Some are are just really, really scary like failure and the unknown.

At first, we learn from first-hand experience, but then we cleverly get to seeing what others go through and can transfer ourselves into their shoes. Perhaps this is one of the marks of maturity: a sense of Rational Deductive Cautiousness.

But as with everything I do, I found the danger in the extremes. I tend to get obsessive. And, in my past, this led to the strangest fear of all: the fear – not of failure, for I was overly comfortable with that – but of success.

Is this the hardest of all fears to find? Perhaps. It certainly takes the longest time to develop. This is because it is the result of conditioning – a seeming lifetime of negativity. I arrived at a point where I expected misery and loss, and therefore kept minimal expectations.

And I even put obstacles in my own path. I self-sabotaged, self-condemned any attempt before it even began.

I discern two reasons for this happening. First, the root cause of fear of success is the idea – what I thoughtknew – that I was not worthy of succeeding. I did not deserve it. Feeling unloveable went hand in hand with that.

Another long-term effect of being afraid of any happy ending is that I just “got used to less.” Success became a strange and foreign thing, something completely different, unfamiliar and potentially uncomfortable (or so I thought).

“What do you fear, my lady?”
“A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them
and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.”
LotR

The solution, which I continue to discover in my journey of healing and transformation, is
#1: accepting The Maker’s love for me. “For He so loved the world...” He created me. He knows my name, and everything about me. And this is a very good thing!

#2: Quite plainly, the evidence of my life backs this up. I remain alive – for something good. I am clearly blessed – in spite of all the material things I lack.

#3: My fear is the result of leaning on my own understanding and abilities, instead of trusting in the Lord with all my heart (Proverbs 3:5)

#4: 1 Corinthians 10:13:

…He will also provide a way out…

I’m guided to that way out by ‘landmarks’ carefully placed in my everyday routine. These are obstacles – not to my success, but the means of blocking my falling and failure. That was then. This is now.

In valor there is hope.
– Tacitus

In other words, these days I work to put obstacles in the way of relapse, to prevent old habits and patterns from returning. These are things that I would very consciously have to step around in order to do ____. Their presence gives me pause, a chance to think carefully about what I am thinking about doing. I have a moment “to test and approve what God’s will is” (Romans 12:2)

And, sometimes, these days, I am “strong and courageous… not afraid or terrified… and I know God is with me… will not fail or forsake me” (Deuteronomy 31:6, 1 Chronicles 28:20) and I can pray, repent, turn back to Him.

Obstacles to relapse will be different for everyone. Here are some examples of mine:

– we keep no alcohol in our house
– in the early days of recovery, I changed my driving routes to avoid old haunts
– computer monitoring apps/software keep me away from tempting sites
– I deleted all RPG video games
– I cleaned house of adult entertainments and toys

And, what I call OMKIP: On My Knees In Prayer.

As I’ve recently written about, nightly I get on my knees in prayer, thanking God for His blessings and mercy, and begging His protection from thoughts, visions, dreams, fantasies, and memories which would entice me away from how I offer my body as a living sacrifice, whole, holy and pleasing to Him. (Romans 12:1)

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, STAND FIRM.
Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves FULLY to the work of the Lord,
because you know that your labor is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58

Christianity Is: Divine Paradigm Shifts

My friend, Jim, often refers to being in a Christ-based 12-step recovery program as more a journey of basic “Spiritual Formation” than of a single act of miraculous healing from broken living. I like this point of view, because I think it definitely offers something for everyone – even those who don’t have (or admit to) hurts, habits, and hangups.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Romans 3:23 NLT

For myself, the growth I’ve experienced is both: While the big picture is a life completely transformed, the day-by-day process is an on-going baby-step-by-step migration from chaos to order.

The spiritual piece is, of course, divine. The formational part is simply learning and accepting what has heretofore been unknown or stubbornly unacceptable. Together, a divine paradigm shift. Actually, it’s one awesome adjustment after another, each of which is increasingly inspiring and amazing. Who’d have thunk it?!

Let me share some examples:
One of the first changes in attitude I received was regarding “P.T.” which can stand for ‘Present Tense’, ‘Positive Thinking’, and, later in my recovery from health issues, literally ‘Physical Therapy’. It began when I committed myself to stating, “I am” instead of “I was” or “I want to.” Keeping my plans present and positive made me more able (and likely) to carry them out.

Next, an absolutely huge revelation: acceptance. First, in my acknowledgement of God, the Great “I am“, and then in finding (being given?) the ability to embrace life – my own and the world’s, exactly as it is. This is what allows me to say, “I am a grateful child of God, in recovery, healing, and transformation from ____ (what I was).”

I am what I do today, not what I did in the past.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV

Grant me the ability to accept the things I can not change…
Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it…
The Serenity Prayer

Only when I was able to face the whole of “what is” was I able to identify what I could change, and then gain the courage to change it.

Grant me… the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference…

Then, there was The Law. At first, I focused on what I should not do, but, as I’ve said before, “Thinking about not thinking about something is, in effect, the same as thinking about it.
Instead, I needed guidelines that directed me toward what to do.

Specifically,
Don’t Think, Don’t Look, Don’t Touch

became
All thoughts to praise
On Christ to Gaze
With hands a-raised
Heart and mind amazed (an added bonus!)

Now I was getting somewhere! I’ve heard that to be in recovery is to be in the process of letting my sinful urgings die from neglect, which doesn’t mean I won’t be tempted. I pass the test by not giving into temptation and by not dwelling on the temptation as something I must avoid. Am I dismissing the temptation? Perhaps, but I’ve begun to specifically ask for protection in my nightly prayers. (And it works!)

The most recent development is really exciting, and has made a big difference in decreasing how often I stumble and fall. Early in my journey, I looked upon my obsessive pursuit of things that physically felt good as my burden; my cross to bear. This weighed me down. I was heavily laden. But turn that around, to where that addiction is instead, a gift to offer; a sacrifice made by a living body, voluntarily given up in order to be kept whole, holy and pleasing to God.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Romans 12:1 NIV

It might even be that I’m regifting right back to God. He gave me the gifts of the (sometimes beneficial) effects of a wee bit of alcohol, and of sex (and more!) But instead of selfishly hoarding them for myself, I offer them to Him as my way of remaining pure.
Giving of ourselves, especially those things we cherish, to others is a sign of love, is it not?

If You “Build” It…

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circa 2013

I had a blogging idea as I was waking this morning. It started with the old saying, “If you build it, they will come.” (I don’t really know how old this is – I remember it from Field of Dreams, which IMDB tells me is 1989. 28 years is a while ago – for me. Someone happened to remind me of it a few days ago.)

Anyway, I was thinking that each piece I write is like a brick, crafted from the mud and straw of my memories and experiences, carefully placed to form a house for me and mine to live in. Of course, I want it to be a beautiful structure to look at as you pass by, with serene landscaping and clever lighting, a fresh coat of paint – even on the window trim, and a late-model car in the wind-swept driveway. I want it to show how witty I am; how goodly and righteously and prosperously I deal with grammar and living.

But that’s not my real estate, is it? (I suspect it might not be for most of us.) My life has a very much lived-in look and feel. It’s that slightly dilapidated three-bedroom ranch with too many trees dropping their leaves and broke-off branches all over the lot, with the porch light that never goes off – even on the bright, sunny days, and some kids’ rain-stained toys, long-neglected, laying about in the side yard.

Because the bricks I build with are quite transparent, aren’t they? The materials I use in my construction are solid and real enough to me, but they are actually made only from my aged thoughts and worn-out dreams. There’s ‘nothing’ to see, yet everything to view; a house of glass. There’s no fiction here, except for the denial with which I outsmart myself.

I suppose the beneficial part of being clear is that I’m constantly reminded of my Dale Carnegie: to never criticize, complain, or condemn; to try and say your name enough to remember it, and to always smile – at you and, I hope, with you.

If you know that “How-To” book, I want to tell you about this other, much older one, and it’s my mission to urge you to simply read it for yourself. Now, if you have visited me before here at my see-through dwelling, you do know which book I mean, don’t you?

“Accept” Is An Action Word

God,
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change.

082
I used to think life was me against the world. Back then, I had absolutely no idea how to deal with things I had no control over – nor did I even realize how little I actually could manage. I spent most of my time intentionally looking any other way, trying to see only what I wanted, and making big, dreamy plans. Problem was, I never got around to putting them in motion because my delusion convinced me everything was just fine.

My fondness for “Role Playing Games (RPG)” is a perfect example of this. These are basically alternate reality adventures in which I play the totally customizable main character, every attempt has unlimited do-overs easily handled with a mouse-click from the comfort of my favorite chair, and every virtual step contributes to a sense of great accomplishment. If you can picture that, you know there’s not a lot of real action taking place.

272So, when I finally did awaken -and it was mostly a dawning of spiritual awareness – one of the very first things I learned was this concept of “accepting”. Accepting my circumstances in a black-and-white sort of way; accepting my limitations in abilities – for example, I don’t have a great singing voice which doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make my joyful noise, but it is definitely a drawback to being a rockstar; accepting “as Jesus did, the world, this sinful world, as it is, not as I would have it.”

18 God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. 19 If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? 20 As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.
1 Corinthians 12 (NIRV)

084The challenge, of course, was the “unfairness” of being cast in what I saw as a less-than-glamorous role. The key in my attitude change was beginning to understand that the lack of importance of my part in God’s eyes is a false impression – a lie from the enemy.

I’m reminded of my Dad, a music teacher, who worked summers on local youth drama productions. When we were kids, we got bit parts – kind of by default, because we tagged along with him and my mom sewed the costumes. I remember I even had a line to say once in The King and I. It was a big deal to me and my parents, even if it wasn’t vital to the plotline or the success of the play.

315God, my heavenly Father, has cast every one of his children in the same way. I might not be a big player on any the world’s most popular stages, but, in God’s story in my life, mine is a very necessary subplot and it just might be that sharing it will have a major impact for someone.

That’s what the verse Colossians 3:23 talks about:

In all the work you are doing, work the best you can [do it heart and soul; from the soul]. Work as if you were doing it for the Lord, not for people.
EXB

I became aware of why I was and found the motivation to give it my all when I found out how God felt about me. He created me, exactly as He wanted and needed. And if my part is that important to Him, I want to accept it so fully that it exists at the very center of my being.

My life has been an incredible, exciting, interesting drama and comedy and action adventure. I really don’t know what my Father has in store for me next, but I rest in His promise that all will be good and ultimately have the happiest of endings.

Christianity Is: The Greatest – Comeback – Story Ever Told

Christianity Is: The Greatest – Comeback – Story Ever Told

I’ve said before that believing the Gospel is like seeing a live sporting event – but with the feeling of watching a recording of a victory for your team. No matter how bad it gets – even late into the game – you just know it’s going to come out all right. Last night’s Super Bowl LI was exactly such a win for my team, the New England Patriots.

Late into the 3rd quarter, they were down by 25 points. That’s four improbable scores- and things had looked bad and getting worse all evening. (For you non-American Football fans, it’s like being down 4-nil at the 68th minute.)

467I’m known as a big Facebook game-time poster (sheepish emoji), but all I had put as my status so far (at 21-0) was, “Well, this is disappointing.” (Honestly, win or lose, I’d rather witness an exciting, well-played game, rather than a blowout. Long-time Patriots fans remember the team’s crushing first Super Bowl, 1986’s 44-10 loss, even if the rest of NFL fans do not.)

BUT, even when the score last night was 28-3, I felt an assurance that this game was not over. (Granted, I was very nervous and twitchy, but that could have been the coffee I drank just before kickoff. Either way, I was not going to bed early!) In sports history, there are some legendary years of dominance by particular teams: the NHL’s Canadiens; MLB’s Yankees; NBA’s Celtics and Lakers. The Patriots have been such a dynasty in the NFL now for 16 years. The players have the experience, faith, and confidence of this streak, as well as the successful coaching staff, behind them. Their simple motto is, “Do your job.” If any team in history could make this greatest comeback, it was this one.

And this is exactly how I feel in my faith in Jesus Christ as the redeemer of the world. (Well, most of the time – sheepish emoji.)

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.
John 16:33 NIV

Christianity as an organized religion does have some deserved black eyes, such as in the Middle Ages. Certainly, some very un-Christian things were done in the name of God, and these types of actions have contributed to criticism. Likewise these Patriots committed some unlikely blunders that led to the huge deficit.

I have commanded you, “Be strong and courageous! Don’t tremble or be terrified, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9 GW

243I’ve also said before that true Christianity is based firmly in the individual relationship its believers hold with God, The Creator (as opposed to relying on the trappings and ritual showiness of ‘religion’). Consider that 1986 Patriots team. They’d made an unlikely run through the playoffs, with games of huge import (and payback). But without the calmness of having been on football’s biggest stage before, when things got tough early in the game, they couldn’t hold up under the pressure. That team’s faith could not be more different than that of this year’s team.

399Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
Revelation 14:12 ESV

If any verse could be translated as, “Do your job,” this one’s a great candidate.

The verse I thought of when I woke up at 3am after just three hours of sleep, however, was

We have this confidence as a sure and strong anchor for our lives.
Hebrews 6:19 GW

It’s earlier in the chapter that I can imagine the substance of a halftime speech from the coach:

014Then… you will imitate those who are receiving the promises through faith and patience. (:12)
God made a promise to Abraham… (:13)
So Abraham received what God promised because he waited patiently for it. (:15)
God wouldn’t change His plan. He wanted to make this perfectly clear to those who would receive His promise, so He took an oath. God did this so we would be encouraged… those of us who take refuge in Him hold on to this confidence we have been given. (:18-:19)

I know it’s a stretch to compare the fate of creation with a fickle game, but, when I consider the faith, belief, patience, calm, and continual effort to live day-by-day, play-by-play, I see nothing but similarities. And I am grateful!