“What must I do?”

Recovery Lesson #6: ACTION

Celebrate Recovery, Principle 3:

Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control.
Happy are the meek. (Matthew 5:4)

Biblically-based Twelve Steps, Step 3:

We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy (wholly) and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)

So far, we’ve been kind of just preparing for this recovery journey – the things we’ve “done” have been more spiritual, mental, and emotional than physical actions. First, we realized and admitted that we have a problem, that we’ve been in denial about it, but that now we are ready to make a change, ready to try something new. Perhaps we’ve been stopped dead in our tracks by a revelation about or directly from something beyond ourselves – something that can only be attributed to a higher power.

frodoNext, we came to believe, to really, earnestly believe that there is a Higher Power, if not that that Higher Power is God, our Creator. The idea has been planted in us that, with this being’s power to remake us, we have hope of being restored to a life of sanity. If you are anything like me, you are now ready to fight back – you have finally, quietly yet desperately asked, “What must I do?” (Kind of like Frodo in the early part of The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring.)

The One Ring of (evil) Power is a great analogy for addiction. If you’re not familiar with the story, this very common and average guy, Frodo, is given this magic ring that can make him disappear. At first, this is terrific – being invisible has its advantages. But the ring’s power over him grows and grows until it has become his master, his precious thing to run to and hide in. And there’s only one way to escape and destroy it – to literally travel into the heart of the baddest of badlands and then choose to let it go into the volcanic fires of the aptly named ‘Mt Doom’. It’s an extreme expedition full of dangers that is not likely to succeed even if he were backed by an army of 10,000 trained soldiers. Instead, Frodo must accomplish the task himself, with the help and support of a small group of companions, who are more or less on the same journey, but who have their own paths to follow. In the end, it comes down to Frodo and the one faithful friend who has never left him, who literally carries him the final steps. (For us, that friend is Jesus.)

The point is that there is ACTION we can take, things we can do, steps we can walk to get started on this trip.

The acronym ACTION stands for:

Accept
Commit
Turn it over
It’s only the beginning
One day, (one moment) at a time
Next step

joyBut first, let’s look at what we have done so far and take a moment to celebrate recovery. We have accomplished a lot! We have taken action already!  We’ve admitted, realized, accepted, came to believe, and mourned. We have done a lot of work! Since these are sedentary, thoughtful actions, however, we’re ready to physically move. I found in my own recovery that I was amped up for some ‘physical activity’ by this time. I was asking, “What can I do?”

Let me summarize where I was. I’d had decades of descending levels of acting out. Then something happened – my mom’s death. It was a change to my status quo that set me off. Within a month I had taken acting out to a new extreme – my rock bottom moment. I sought help, and – finally open to the possibility of a higher power – I began to read and seek to learn more. But I didn’t truly believe until – still falling regularly to my addiction – I hit another, deeper bottom – a suicide attempt – and was literally saved by the divine intervention of Jesus Christ. (There is no other explanation for how it happened.)

The great thing about recovery is, that even though it took some time for me to earnestly believe God exists, all it really took to get started was my initial willingness to simply consider the possibility. Part of what I had been denying was God himself. To me, He just wasn’t “logical”. Theories like evolution and the big bang made more sense to me. This faithlessness was a part of what made me susceptible to addictive behaviors: along with my pride, fear, guilt, worry, doubt, pain, fear, and stubbornness – for which I had no help, there were feelings of life’s worthlessness, meaninglessness, and emptiness, and the hopelessness that comes with thoughts like “why bother?” and “why me?”

So, in a sense, all I had ACCEPTed at first was simply that I might be wrong in my disbelief. And at that point I became ready to consciously choose something different, to change my definition of willpower to: “the willingness to accept that there might be some being outside myself who has the power to save me.” It then became a question of how much I was willing to buy in to this possibility. And, when Jesus literally intervened to spare my life, there was only one thing I could do. I spent a week in the psych ward thinking solely upon this decision.

I had to go all in. I had to COMMIT fully. All my life and will. I made a decision to TURN it all over. Everything. To offer my whole life. Accept. Commit. Turn.

I want to say something quickly about not choosing, about not taking a side. The band Rush has a song called “Freewill” in which they sing:
geddy-lee

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice!

There are only two choices. With the celestial God or against Him. If I was not with God in everything I did from that moment on, then I was against him.

Proverbs 3:6 TLB
In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success.

In everything. Everything that I have left to give. Something hit me at that moment, that proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that God existed, that I mattered to Him, and that I was at long last on the path to new life. The crowning piece of evidence – which every one of us in this room can claim – is: I am alive! I am still alive, in spite of everything that I have been through, everything that has happened to me, everything that has been done to me or that I have done to myself. This ball game is not over! I was the 2004 Red Sox, down three games to none, losing in the ninth inning of Game 4. But it was not over!

red-sox-2004
I looked back at my life and saw other crucial moments and critical events that backed up the presence of God’s protecting hand. He was protecting me for this day, when I would return to Him, and then travel onward, fully with Him .

Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, and not as I would have it.

its-all-true
We all know this line from the Serenity Prayer. It speaks to the true reality. I now knew that God exists. That means “it’s all true.” (Just like in the movie Galaxy Quest.) The Good and the Bad. God is. And Evil exists – Satan exists – and he intentionally tries to make me fall!

But God has something better planned for me. An important part for me to play in this spiritual war.

Hebrews 12:12-13
You have become weak, so make yourselves strong again. Live in the right way so that you will be saved and your weakness will not cause you to be lost.

1 Peter 5:8-9
Be self-controlled and alert! Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in your faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Matthew 11:28-30 TLB
Come to me, and I will give you rest. Wear my “yoke” and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls, for I give you only light burdens.

There are three important things these verses helped me to realize. First, contrary to what evil had been trying to convince me, I was not alone. There are many others who understand what I was going through. Second, there was a way I could fight back. A way I could become strong again. A right way for me. For me.

Jesus says He is the way, and this is true, in general, but for each of us, there are specific, personal actions to take. I know that x, y, and z are not good for me – they are my weaknesses, so I must stay away from them – no matter what anyone else does. Everyone has their own weaknesses that they must work on.

The third thing I realized was that the way to combat my weaknesses was to learn about them, and to learn about Jesus and build a personal relationship with Him, and that this is something I must choose to undertake every day. It’s an ongoing process, a lifelong journey of seeking and following God’s will.

Let’s go back now to our acronym. We’ve Accepted, Committed, and Turned. The “I” reminds us that “It’s only the beginning” of our journey, and the “O” reminds us that we must take it One Day, One Moment at a time. Every day, every moment. This day. Today.

Matthew 6:34 TLB
Don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow, too.
Live one day at a time.

Living one day at a time. Enjoying one moment at a time.

img_3337I want to conclude with some specific, deliberate things we can do – things we must do – to stay on this path to sanity, and continue to build our relationship with God and Jesus Christ. These are concrete actions we can take.

First, we must go on the offensive! The best defense is a good offense. For us in recovery, being on offense means pro-actively getting ourselves prepared. We’re all already doing one thing that helps us do that: attending meetings. Building a list of support contacts. Getting phone numbers and email addresses.

Second, there is one sure way to get to know all about God and his purpose for us: dedicating daily time with Him, reading the Scriptures, journaling our thoughts and progress, recognizing what we have to be thankful for, and meditating and praying ceaselessly.

Third, when we are tempted – and we will be tempted, mercilessly – we must look for God’s way out.

1 Corinthians 10:13
The only temptations you have are the same temptations that all people have. But you can trust God. He will not let you be tempted more than you can bear. But when you are tempted, God will also give you a way to escape that temptation. Then you will be able to endure it.

That way out may be a phone call, a meeting, or even just falling to my knees in desperate prayer, crying out to God. But there is always a way. I can promise you that. And I can promise that eventually, it gets easier to resist temptations. They won’t go away completely, but they will get easier to bear.

Meanwhile, the “N” in ACTION stands for “Next Step”. We have only just begun this journey, and there is a long way to go. I have another acronym to help to make sure we are on the path. It’s B.A.S.E.
Ask yourself,
– Do I Believe in Christ and His resurrection
– Do I Accept God’s forgiveness for all my sins
– Am I Switching to God’s plan for my life
– Am I Expressing my desire for Christ

The next step is where we begin to get down and dirty: our spiritual and moral inventory. Establishing a daily practice of quality time with God will help us get ready for this.

Are you ready to move and fight for and with God?

All ability comes from and for you.

So many juicy, lush phrases I could use as the title for today’s blog!

“I love James Altucher.”

“Oh, So Trippable.”

“O.T.” Another Way to Spell “Ought”.

“Pridefall”.

“Desire Does Not Equal Ability”.

“Blog-Plug. AKA Name Drop”

“I Must Be Getting Better”.

Maybe starting at the beginning will help me to choose. It’s become usual for me to wake early. Can I call it “overwhelming desire to get together with the Lord?” Yes. Yes, I do nap during the day – OK, that might have something to do with it. But, in reverse. Which came first, the napping or the early rising? (With my myriad health issues, these are patterns that developed together. Note: did you know “myriad” classically means a unit of ten thousand? And, as an adjective, it means “countless or extremely great in number.” So, it would be correct to write “a myriad of issues,” or “myriad issues”. That’s some cool and useful knowledge, right there!)

Where was I? Oh, yes. I must be getting better. About getting up early. And napping. Less. Or more! Getting better at writing – ’cause I didn’t make it past the editorial intro, “Flexing Your Muscles“, to the May-June issue of Men of Integrity magazine before my brain was churning out blog ideas. I really love this publication. It’s full of week-long excerpts from relevant books, which really compounds your reading list. Please, check it out.

Blog-Plug two: a book I’m already tempted (in a good way) to get, and the subject of said editorial, Tim Chaddick’s The Truth About Lies. Such beautiful and true combinations of words, both in the intro and quoted from the book! (Including the word lush.) “Each time we choose truth in the face of a lie, we are, in a sense, flexing muscles in our spiritual life that grow stronger with each challenge.” “Ever since our first mother and father chose to indulge…” “…the empty promises of forbidden fruit, or, will we obey God and trust that his rewards are better?”

Obey. Trust. OT (pronounced “ought”). We OT to obey and trust. A new acronym! (We Celebrate Recovery people love acronyms!) (That was plug three, of course.)

“I want the pleasure of sin more than the reward of obedience.” “…When you reject temptation, your allegiance to Christ grows stronger” [like] “…athletes… fueled by a love for their sport that … gives them the resolve to reject… they grow a little bit stronger, faster, tougher.” Recently, when I was choosing video games over remaining abstinent, I could literally feel myself saying, in effect, I want this more. How humbling!  How great to be given the words to so aptly describe what I was feeling! (“Apt” is an excellent acronym word. Stand by for a good meaning.)

The only caveat I would add, though, is still, oh, so trippable. Perhaps, we become more able for our purpose (to compete in the sport). However, my pridefall warning bells were clanging at the thought that I could ever be – in my own strength – better able to lift myself out of harm’s way. It might be better (for me) to say it is my desire to obey that grows, but not my ability. I forever will depend on Jesus for that.

I’m reminded of my brother-in-law, Marty. Because he was in the Air Force, he would run a lot. One day, his foot hit a sidewalk slab that was uneven – and his femur snapped! All the training was as nothing, and he still limps today.

“Each test that temptation brings your way is another opportunity to affirm and grow your love for Jesus.” So very true! “… Use it as a reminder to praise and profess your obedience…”, to declare emphatically your belief and faith “… that his way is better.”

Wow, I feel like I didn’t actually do any of the writing of this entry – so much of it was quotes. But that leaves just one name-drop to explain: I Love James Altucher. James is a blogger and author and pod-caster, founder (if that’s the right word) of the Choose Yourself approach to life in this new era. I credit him as the one who finally got me writing and delivering – no, that’s the wrong word – pursuing my creative dreams and what I believe is the big piece of God’s vision for me, Sharing God’s Story in my life. James is famous for recommending the practice of “write 10 ideas every day.” In other words, just do it. That got me just writing, which has turned into a post almost daily for me. Thank You, James!

Thank You, Heavenly Father, Saviour Son, and Holy Spirit within. All ability comes from and for you.